Category Archives: Middle-Eastern Union

Iranian President Ahmadinejad: Regional integration would help create ‘New World Order’ | Jun 8, 2012

TEHRAN – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the promotion of regional integration among members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) would help create a “new world order”.

Ahmadinejad made the remarks during a speech at the SCO summit in Beijing on Thursday.

He said that the expansion of economic, cultural, and political ties among the SCO member states and the establishment of monetary and financial institutions outside the dominance of hegemonistic powers would definitely help independent countries to establish a mechanism for a “just world order” and to come through “current unfavorable situation.”

“We all want to change the world to a better and lovelier one,” he said, adding that “inefficient and discriminatory system,” which is dominating the globe, has led the world to face economic crises.

He went on to say that the economic crises will lead to social and political crises.

Ahmadinejad, at the head of a high-ranking delegation, arrived in China on Tuesday evening to attend the SCO summit meeting, which opened on Wednesday and closed on Thursday.

The SCO is an intergovernmental security organization that was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Iran, India, Mongolia, and Pakistan are observer states of the organization.

Syria unrest: Saudi Arabia calls on ‘killing machine’ to stop

Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Damascus for consultations, King Abdullah has said, in a statement calling on Syria’s leaders to “stop the killing machine”.

Telegraph | Aug 8, 2011

By Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent

More than 250 Syrian tanks and armoured vehicles laid waste to the country’s biggest eastern city, as the regime began a fresh offensive to crush dissent that left scores of people dead and raised fresh fears of civil war.

Impervious to international condemnation, even as the Arab League spoke out for the first time, Mr Assad’s regime widened its Ramadan offensive against the increasingly emboldened protest movement seeking to overthrow him.

Activists said that at least 41 people were killed in Deir al-Zor, Syria’s oil capital, after a vast column of tanks and armoured vehicles advanced on the city from four directions before dawn.

A further 19 people were killed in western Syria after tanks shelled the town of Hula in Homs province, bringing yesterday’s death toll to at least 62.

“Saudi Arabia announces the recall of its ambassador for consultations,” the king said in the statement released in Riyadh in which he urged Syria to “stop the killing machine and the bloodshed… before it is too late.”

“The kingdom does not accept the situation in Syria, because the developments cannot be justified,” the Saudi monarch said urging Damascus to introduce “comprehensive and quick reforms.”

“The future of Syria lies between two options: either Syria chooses willingly to resort to reason, or face being swept into deep chaos, God forbid,” he said.

The US envoy to Damascus, Robert Ford, who returned to Syria on Thursday, also said in a US television interview on Sunday that Washington will “try to ratchet up the pressure” on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The Saudi king’s statement came the day after the Gulf Cooperation Council urged Syria to “end the bloodshed” as the international pressure mounts.

In taking on Deir al-Zor, one of Syria’s most restive cities, Mr Assad is raising the stakes in his battle against the five-month insurrection.

Far more so than in the more cosmopolitan region of the west, Deir al-Zor is populated by armed tribesmen who, in an ironic turn, were provided with weapons by the state to counter the perceived separatist threat posed by Kurds in neighbouring areas.

The inhabitants of the city have already been prepared to use their weapons, fighting back against regime forces last week after five protesters were killed.

Although it was unclear how much resistance Mr Assad’s forces encountered yesterday, the threat of a bloody confrontation that could spiral out of control prompted an unprecedented intervention by the Arab League.

Largely silent until now, the group demanded an immediate end “to acts of violence and campaigns by the security forces against civilians” in Deir al-Zor and in Hama, where more than 100 people were killed last week at the beginning of the Ramadan offensive.

An Arab League appeal for international intervention in Libya laid the ground for Nato’s bombing campaign against Col Muammar Gaddafi, but the movement has been reticent about criticising Mr Assad, a much more important power broker in the region.

Although the Arab League specifically called on the West to stay out of Syria’s domestic affairs, its criticism will increase pressure on Mr Assad, who is likely to have interpreted earlier silence as tacit validation or indifference to his brutal suppression of the uprising.

Turkey, which has invested considerable diplomatic capital in recent years in improving once strained ties with Syria, also stepped up its criticism of Mr Assad, warning that Ankara has “run out patience” with his regime.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, arrives in Damascus to deliver that message on Tuesday. Syrian officials said he would receive a brusque response.

International and regional alarm is growing not just because of fears of a bloodbath in Deir al-Zor, or over the mounting death toll in Syria as a whole, which is believed to stand at more than 2,000 since the protests began in mid-March.

On the fringes of the uprising, which has remained largely peaceful, there is growing evidence of an armed insurgency being waged by disparate groups, some with an Islamist bent.

Opposition activists admitted that one such militia, believed to consist of Syrian fighters who were involved in the insurgency against US forces in Iraq, carried out an ambush on Syrian troops in Hama last week, killing several soldiers.

As the civilian death toll mounts, fears are growing that bereaved and desperate members of the opposition will be drawn to these groups’ violent creed. With anger among the Sunni Arab majority, which dominates the protest movement, growing towards Mr Assad’s privileged Alawite Shia minority, there are also concerns that violence could take on a sectarian hue.

But Mr Assad brushed off international criticism as he vowed to press ahead with his assault on Deir el-Zor.

“To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorise residents is a duty of the state, which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians,” he said yesterday.

In Deir el-Zor itself, streets were deserted as the echo of tank shells and automatic gunfire echoed through the city, which had been besieged for nine days before the assault began.

The suburb of al-Jura bore the brunt of the violence, with at least 20 people killed, according to the opposition.

Residents of the city spoke of snipers on the rooftops of hotels and other buildings, picking off any civilians that dared to venture outside.

“I can see several bodies on the road near a roundabout,” one resident said. “But no one dares to go out to bury them because they are afraid they will also get killed.”

In its latest overture to the protesters, the Syrian government yesterday promised to hold “free and transparent” parliamentary elections before the end of the year — an offer that was unlikely to placate the opposition, which says it has lost complete confidence in Mr Assad to implement any meaningful reforms.

Albright: Libya Problem Requires Arab League Reaction, African Union Solution

“Voices are going to be released that we don’t like and we don’t like hearing,” she said. | Mar 11, 2011

By Peter S. Green

The U.S. needs support from the Arab League and the African Union to halt the burgeoning civil war in Libya, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today in New York.

Both Albright, who became the first woman to lead the State Department when she was named to the post in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice, who served in the same role during President George W. Bush’s administration, said the region’s turmoil is likely to unleash voices Americans don’t want to hear.

“What you have in Libya is a place that is run by a nut,” Albright told guests at the Women in the World conference organized by Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown. The matter is further complicated because intervening in Libya would mean “the U.S. taking on one more Muslim country,” Albright said.

Rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt toppled governments in those counties in the past two months, and protests have spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Fighting raged around Zawiyah and Ras Lanuf, Libya, today, the latter a key location because of its tanker terminal, storage depot and the country’s largest oil refinery, said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the opposition’s transitional national council.

Libya Unrest

It wasn’t clear whether Qaddafi loyalists, who took control of the city’s center yesterday, were able to hold their gains. Ghoga said Qaddafi is engaged in “a desperate attempt to get his hands on the oil,” and urged foreign powers to impose a no- fly zone to limit Qaddafi’s military options.

Uprisings in the region may not initially produce results the U.S. would like to see as Arab countries evaluate the role Islam will play in politics, society and individual rights, Rice said.

“Voices are going to be released that we don’t like and we don’t like hearing,” she said. “It’s going to be quite turbulent and very difficult.”

Both former diplomats said a no-fly zone over Libya is a policy option that requires careful consideration.

“No-fly zones are no small matter,” Rice said. “We flew a no-fly zone over Iraq for 12 years and almost every time we flew, he shot at our planes,” she said of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Before serving as secretary of state, Albright, 73, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she was director of the Women in Foreign Service Program.
No Role Models

Albright had no real female role models as a young woman pursuing a foreign policy career, she said in a 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“People said initially that a woman could not be secretary of state, primarily because I was dealing with patriarchal systems or some of the Middle Eastern countries,” Albright said in the interview. “But I didn’t have any problems, because I arrived in a large plane that said United States of America and they also knew that I had to be the one to talk with them.”

Rice served as national security adviser to Bush from 2001 to 2005. Before joining the administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where she served as provost. She returned to Stanford after her tenure in Washington and is now a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday she will go to Egypt and Tunisia next week and will meet with members of the Libyan opposition.

Al Jazeera Forum: Arab revolts herald a New World Order

The Peninsula | Mar 13, 2011


The revolutions taking place in the Arab world could herald a new international order and change the relations between countries, the sixth Al Jazeera Annual Forum here was told yesterday.

This year’s Forum held in the backdrop of the mass revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and several other Arab countries is aptly themed “The Arab world in transition—Has the future arrived?”.

Several leading thinkers, intellectuals and politicians from the Arab and Islamic world are attending the three-day event, along with experts from the US and Europe.

A major attraction of the Forum is the presence of a number of youth activists from Egypt and Tunisia who played an active role in the successful mass uprising in those countries.

The opening session of the conference featured a prominent Islamist leader from Tunisia, Rachid Al Ghannouchi, president of the Al Nahda Party, who returned to his country last month, after spending decades in exile in Europe.

The session titled “Winds of change in the Arab world” also saw leading writers and intellectuals from the West and the Arab world including Abdel Bari Atwan, Oliver McTernan and John L Esposito. The interactive session was moderated by Dr Abdul Rafeeq Salam.

Ghannouchi said the revolution had changed the image of the entire Arab nation, who had been branded as passive and backward.

“The revolution became a necessity because people had no other option to get rid of their corrupt and dictatorial regimes, who had made the countries the private properties of the ruling families,” said Ghannouchi.

He said the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia underestimated the value of the people and the youth. The conflict was not between Islamists and secularists. It was a struggle between the people and the regimes. The revolution became a success because all the people united under a common goal.

“The revolution has changed the momentum all over the Arab world. Some regimes are now talking about changing to a constitutional monarchy. A change from absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy itself is a revolution. It is not just a reform,” said Ghannouchi.

He said there was no need of worrying about the future of the revolution. The youth who has brought the revolution are also capable of guarding it.

Key element

A key element of this revolution is that it had united all segments and ideological groups in the Arab society. New democratic institutions will emerge in these countries based on justice, trust and pluralism. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups are also realising the importance of such a political framework, noted Ghannouchi.

McTernan said the depth of the changes in the Arab world was not yet realised.

“This marks the end of the colonial era. The neo-colonial structure in Arab countries is crumbling. This will redefine relationships and bring a new international order,” said McTernan.

He said the revolts represented an innate quest for dignity by people who suffered from decades of grievances.

Atwan was vehemently critical about the western attitude toward the Arab revolts, which he termed hypocritical.

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Tahrir Square and declared solidarity with the protesters. His next stop was Abu Dhabi, where he visited an arms exhibition and negotiated arms deals with governments in the region. This is ironic, said Atwan.

During the days of the revolution, the US used its veto power to defeat a UN resolution calling for a freeze of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

He said a military intervention by the US or the Nato in Libya would have grave consequences on the region.

He felt that the Libyan people were capable of defeating their regime, if they get support from other Arab countries.

He urged the Arab League to come out with an aid package to support other Arab countries in the same way the Gulf countries announced a $20bn development aid for Oman and Bahrain.

Atwan said the US and Europe were looking at the developments in each Arab country from the perspective of their national interests.

“In Libya, their concern is oil while in Egypt, it is Israel and the Camp David Accord. When it comes to Yemen, their problem is Al Qaeda,” he said, concluding that the policies of the West toward Arab revolutions had not been driven by respect for human rights or democratic values.

Esposito said the changes in the Arab world had stressed the need for a new framework and a new mind set for the US and the Europe. He, however, added that current leaders would not be able to change the paradigms that they had been used to for several decades.

“If a miracle happens in the Arab world, as result of the current developments, it may lead to a miracle in the US policy toward Israel and Palestine,” said Esposito.

In the question and answer session, several participants shared their concern about the future of the revolution and wondered how stable democratic institutions would develop in the Arab world in the absence of a clear political ideology and leadership.

If Gaddafi succeeds in crushing the revolts in Libya, it could have a negative impact on the momentum that the mass protests have been gaining  all over the Arab world.

A youth representative called on the Arabs to go and support the Libyans, instead of wasting time on meetings and deliberations.

Arab League asks U.N. for no-fly zone over Libya

Egypt- and Tunisia-inspired protests spread through Middle East, North Africa: Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change. | Mar 12, 2011

By Richard Leiby and Muhammad Mansour

CAIRO — The Arab League called on the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to immediately impose a no-fly zone over Libya and announced that it was recognizing the rebel movement as that country’s legitimate government.

The move could significantly raise pressure on the United States and European nations to act in response to the conflict that has erupted in recent weeks as rebels have seized half of Libya and Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s security forces have struck back with massive firepower. NATO has said an Arab endorsement of the no-fly zone was a precondition for taking such action.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa announced the league’s decision in Cairo on Saturday evening, describing the no fly-zone as a “preventive measure” whose chief goal is to “protect Libyan citizens.”

“The main priority right now is to stop the deadly situation,” Moussa said.


In a statement, the White House said Saturday that “we welcome this important step by the Arab League, which strengthens the international pressure on Gaddafi and support for the Libyan people.”

“The international community is unified in sending a clear message that the violence in Libya must stop, and that the Gaddafi regime must be held accountable,” the statement said. “The United States will continue to advance our efforts to pressure Gaddafi, to support the Libyan opposition, and to prepare for all contingencies, in close coordination with our international partners.”

The Arab League’s decision came after 51 / 2 hours of closed-door deliberations by the foreign ministers of 21 nations. Representatives of Gaddafi’s government, which the league had suspended this month as a member, were not invited.

Addressing a packed news conference at the league’s headquarters, Moussa also said the Arab League would begin working immediately with an interim council established by rebels in the eastern city of Benghazi.

To buttress their extraordinary request for international military action against one of their own members, the ministers issued as statement saying the measure was also needed to “maintain the safety and sovereignty of neighboring nations.”

In declaring Gaddafi’s regime illegitimate, Moussa referred to a section of the statement that cited “the fatal violations and serious crimes at the hands of Libyan authorities that make [the government] illegal.”

Moussa, who this week declared he would run for president of Egypt, seemed determined at the briefing to avoid describing the no-fly zone in military terms, although such an operation could require aircraft enforcing the zone to engage Libyan aircraft in combat.

Gaddafi is just one of the autocratic leaders who have become targets of popular uprisings throughout the region. But taking action against him does not open the door to other military intercession, said Oman’s foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi Abdullah, who joined Moussa at the briefing.

“We refuse any foreign intervention in any Arab affairs,” he said when asked whether the resolution could be applied to other Arab states.

Outside the league’s headquarters on Tahrir Square, Egyptians and Libyans waved signs describing Gaddafi as a genocidal butcher and displaying grisly photos of dead Libyans. But they also expressed wariness about any Western military involvement in the conflict. “We are not calling for American intervention,” said Omar Mohamed, a 21-year-old student. “But they should give weapons to the rebel fighters.”

Officials of Libya’s so-called government in waiting welcomed the Arab League’s endorsement of a no-fly zone and said they hoped the United States and other Western powers will follow, adding pressure on the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone. Western powers have stressed they would not take military action unless they had the approval of Libya’s neighbors.

“We hope the Europeans will deliver now. This changes things a lot,” said Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the Libyan National Council, the provisional leadership running eastern Libya. “We hope it will change the American position, but most of all the European position.”

Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, vice chairman of the Libyan National Council, said that if a no-fly zone is imposed, the rebels will prevail over Gaddafi’s forces. But he warned that if Western powers do not take military action, the rebels were prepared to purchase more weapons from other countries to protect their revolution.

“If the international community chooses to play the role of bystander, with Libyan cities being destroyed and Libyan people being killed, then we will have to defend ourselves on our own,” Ghoga said. “If no steps are taken, we have to take the decision to arm ourselves as best as we can.”

Ghoga said the rebels have made contacts with other nations that might provide them with weapons, if needed, although he declined to name those countries.

A “New World Order” to emerge from Middle East chaos | Mar 1, 2011

A new world order is going to emerge from the Middle East and North Africa through the efforts of the existing regional powers and the future generation of Arab governments, a senior Hezbollah official says.

“I believe a new regional world order is going to emerge and this is going to represent the will and determination of the people of the region, not the pro-American governments,” said the Director of Hezbollah’s Media Relations, Ibrahim Moussawi, in a Press TV interview.

The future is going to fulfill “all the historical wishes and hopes of the people in the region, he pointed out.

“There are very important and strong powers in the region, if we take Iran, Turkey and the future Arab world … who reflect the general interests of the people in the region,” Moussawi argued.

“This is going to make the future of the region and we should do everything possible to support it,” he added.

In recent weeks, pro-democracy movements have been spreading across the Arab countries.

Last month in Tunisia, nationwide outrage at the government’s suppressive policies sparked a massive revolution that ended the 23-year-long rule of its despotic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and forced him to flee to Saudi Arabia.

On February 11, millions-strong nationwide revolution in Egypt, which started on January 25, ended the three-decade-long rule of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Other pro-democracy uprisings have also flourished in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Oman, as more Arab countries are expected to stage similar popular revolts.

Iraq to lead Middle East into EU-style Union

EU Observer | Dec 10, 2008


Iraq has unveiled plans for the creation of a regional economic and security union for the Middle East explicitly modelled on the European Union.

Official government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh announced the proposal on Tuesday (9 December) in Washington at the Institute of Peace, a US government-linked think-tank, saying that talks on the plan with the country’s neighbours were already underway.

Mr al-Dabbagh said there was “great interest” in the project, according to AFP.

Informal discussions on “Regional Economic Partnership” have reportedly been launched with Kuwait, Syria and Turkey, though not yet Iran. The aim would also to be to bring on board Jordan and Saudi Arabia and – in a subsequent phase – the Gulf states of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, but not Israel.

The proposed bloc would look to lower trade barriers and develop joint economic projects, as well as sharing water resources and electricity. Resolving border disputes and common perspectives on combating militant extremism would also be on the agenda.

Iraq’s plan, a”vision” of Mr al-Dabbagh’s government, would also aim to improve oil and gas transit and construct roads between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

“The new Iraq could convert the region into the EU model,” the UK’s Daily Telegraph quotes the Iraqi official as saying at the meeting. “Iraq is going to play a major stabilising factor,” he added.

Iraq sees a “necessity for regional security and economic co-operation,” Mr al-Dabbagh said.

The proposal is the latest in a long line of regional groupings modelled on the European Union.

The African Union, a confederation of 53 African states was established in 2002, growing out of the earlier Organisation of African Unity. The grouping is still at the very earliest stages of approaching anything like the EU’s level of joint governance and integration.

The Union of South American Nations, or Unasur (Unasol in Portuguese and Unasul in Dutch) is an intergovernmental union founded in May this year and integrates two existing customs unions: Mercosur and the Andean Community. It too is still undergoing its birth pangs.