Abdel Bari Atwan

It appears that US foreign policy is increasingly designed to promote arms sales to the Gulf States by spreading fear and alarm about the region’s many dangers but mostly focusing – for the moment at least – on Iran, the latest paper tiger. Let us not forget that the Gulf states have treasure troves – sovereign funds – containing upwards of 3 trillion dollars.
The Gulf States must be kept in a state of high anxiety, whether worrying about the presence of US war ships and aircraft carriers in their waters or, more recently, that the US is making friends with Tehran.
We could understand that the United States would persuade the Gulf States to spend billions of dollars on modern aircraft and advanced missiles to defend themselves against Iranian nuclear ambitions if the US and other major powers have not signed a framework agreement with Iran which makes its nuclear industries subject to international scrutiny for the next ten years at least. Why should the Arabs be squandering their national wealth on an arms race with no real enemy in sight – at least not one who is a state actor requiring such sophisticated defence provision?
If these weapons were to be used to liberate the holy places in Palestine from Israeli occupation, that would be different. If Arab missiles were to be trained on Tel Aviv as a permanent warning not to humiliate and persecute the Palestinians for a second longer this would be an encouraging move and one that we would heartily endorse.
Instead we learn that President Obama is polishing his smile in advance of next week’s summit with Gulf leaders at Camp David where he will persuade them that they need to purchase a highly sophisticated (and highly expensive) missile shield to protect themselves from hypothetical Iranian missiles.
The US has also been pressing to extend a similar missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Ostensibly (and ludicrously) to defend Eastern Europe against Iranian missiles. Moscow objected on the more feasible grounds that it would weaken Russian military power by hampering its massive nuclear capability – concerns Obama dismissed as ‘entirely unfounded’. The point here is that the threat from Russia’s sophisticated weaponry is much more severe than anything Iran can come up with at the moment.
In addition, US defence systems in Eastern Europe – in Romania and Poland for example – are funded by the US via grants and investments.
If Iranian missiles pose such a threat to the security and stability of the Gulf, what is the use of the foreign Army bases dotted throughout the region – the US has massive installations in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, and the French (who are also selling tons of military hardware to the Gulf) have bases in Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi?
And what is the point of the Gulf countries purchasing trillions of dollars worth of sophisticate arms – including the Patriot missile system – and up to the minute fighter jets? If the missile defence system does its job and if the US and French army are already at hand to defend their hosts, why build up such expensive arsenals?
It is simply a form of blackmail to plunder the financial assets of the Arabs and recycle them into Western treasuries and banks. Assets that could be used to better the lives of the region’s citizens – the gilded ostentation of the region’s rulers and princes can obscure the terrible poverty that many endure in these countries. Last year a group of Saudi vloggers were imprisoned for making a documentary about poverty in their country.
One must also question the effectiveness of existing missile defence systems. The ‘shield’ in Poland and Romania did not prevent Russia invading and annexing the Crimea and encroaching on Eastern Ukraine.
The Gulf’s sovereign funds are meant to be a financial reserve for the next generation and a cushion against a time when the petro-dollars do not gush into its treasuries at the rate they have become accustomed to. And indeed, that time may well have already arrived, with the price of petrol falling due to oversupply – a situation that can only get worse when the embargoes on Iranian oil are lifted.
Western governments intent on selling arms to the Gulf scarcely bother to conceal their hypocrisy and guile. In a recent interview with Thomas Friedman, President Obama volunteered the opinion that ‘the biggest threats that the Gulf countries face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries’. He enlarged upon this theory describing the masses of unemployed Sunni youths who are frustrated and ‘nihilistic’ and, with no ‘legitimate political outlets for grievances’ turn, instead, to the Islamic State. Yet these very governments, whose state apparatus does not provide a political forum in which all can participate, are the ones the US and France (and the UK) are arming to the teeth to ensure their survival. And while the US scares the Gulf leaders to death about Iran, the path from Washington to Tehran and vice versa is strewn with flowers and sweet music.
Do they take the Arabs for fools? The answer, I am afraid, is quite simply yes!
Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for inciting a show of force and violence, arresting protesters and physically abusing them, outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace in December 2012.
Twelve other defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood leading figures Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian, and ex-presidential aides, also received twenty-year sentences on the same charges. Ali Gamal Saber and Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Rahman received ten-year sentences.
Morsi and all 14 other defendants were acquitted of committing premeditated murder and possessing ammunition.
This is the first verdict issued against Morsi since his ouster in July 2013.
The verdict can still be appealed. However, Abdel-Monem Abdel-Maqsoud of Morsi’s defense team told Ahram Online they are still undecided on the issue as Morsi does not recognise the court. The team had previously filed a report stating the court does not have jurisdiction to conduct the trial, a request that was rejected.
Morsi and 14 others were on trial over the 2012 Ittihadiya clashes in which ten people died and dozens were injured in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace on 5 December 2012.
Morsi faced charges of inciting his supporters and aides to commit murder, use violence and thuggery and illegally detain protesters and torture them.
El-Beltagy and El-Erian, in addition to Islamist preacher Wagdi Ghoneim who is at large, were accused of incitement to commit the aforementioned crimes. The rest of the defendants, including ex-presidential aides, were faced with committing the crimes themselves.
The pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) said in a statement Tuesday it rejects the trial and regards the verdict as “null.” It also said it shall continue to revolt against the current government that it regards illegitimate.
Morsi arrived by helicopter at the court inside the Police Academy on the outskirts of Cairo where his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, ousted in 2011, was also tried.
Morsi still faces four other trials: over charges of “collaborating with foreign organisations to commit acts of terrorism in Egypt,” leaking documents to Qatar, breaking out of prison in 2011, and insulting the judiciary during one of the trials, according to one of his defence lawyers Montaser El-Zayat.
Morsi, formerly head of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, became the party’s candidate in the 2012 presidential election when the Brotherhood’s original first-choice candidate Khairat El-Shater – also now in jail – was disqualified by the Supreme Elections Committee.
Morsi won the election in a tense run-off with ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq, when many voters, though with some reluctance, saw him as the lesser of two evils against Shafiq, a face from ex-president Hosni Mubarak’s unwanted old regime.
Criticism of Morsi’s rule quickly began to surface, not only over the ambiguity of the Brotherhood’s influence on him, but also for his introduction of a constitutional declaration in November 2012 which immunised his decisions against judicial review.
He was ousted by the army and opposition forces amid mass public demonstrations against his rule on 3 July 2013.
The United Nations has called for holding accountable those responsible for an air strike targeted the Mazraq camp for displaced people and killed at least 40 people north Yemen.
The Mazraq camp for displaced people near Haradh district in Hajjah province was struck on Monday, humanitarian workers said. Some 200 people were wounded, dozens of them seriously, the International Organization for Migration said.
"We have not identified who is responsible for this attack," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said on Tuesday said. "Whichever forces are hitting them are in violation of the law, there should be accountability for that and ultimately all such attacks have to cease."
"Whoever is responsible, this is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. This camp, as well as the hospitals that have also been hit, are under protected status and should not be hit," Haq added.
Worth mentioning that the number of displaced families living in the Mazraq camp are estimated at 1,100 families, who had fled from a series of conflicts that took place in the province of Saada during the years 2004-2010.

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