Monday, October 15, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 10/15/2012: Arab Spring and Arab Shakedown

From DG:

1) Funding the Arab Spring

The New York Times (or, more specifically, the International Herald Tribune) has an odd article, Arab Countries Waiting for Promised Aid:
Data from Thomson Reuters in June showed that of the $60 billion in aid pledged to needy Arab countries last year, around $15 billion had actually been disbursed. Egypt was expecting over $10 billion, but received only about half of that amount. A planned $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund was inconclusive last year and is currently under negotiation.
Part of the reason for the delay, analysts say, is that recipient countries are in political transition and have not had time to implement changes in economic policies. 
“For aid to flow, it needs both donor and recipient to be ready, with new governments in place with a clear economic program and plan,” said Alia Moubayed, an economist in Dubai for Barclays. “Some countries were simply not ready yet, without newly elected leaders or planned reforms.”
Then this delay in aid is at least, in part, due to the failure of the new governments to implement necessary policies to ensure transparency and accountability. But the reason last year's IMF loan to Egypt was not made wasn't because of the IMF, but because Egypt rejected it! (Later in the article it turns out that foreign aid reaching Egypt has grown by nearly 600% since 2007.)
Another reason is the financial and euro zone debt crisis that has made lending tougher for Western donors that have been generous in the past. 
“Both Europe and the U.S. are inward-looking, focusing on domestic concerns and weak economies,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. “The sad reality is that as Arab Spring countries transition from authoritarianism to democracy, they find themselves alone without much assistance from the world.”
This is the only explicit mention of the West in the article. The article mentions the Deauville Partnership, which appears to be the mechanism through which the West (and a number of Islamic states) are contributing to the Arab spring countries. (One of the targeted recipients of this aid is Jordan, which is not, technically speaking, an Arab spring country.)

What's not clear from the article is if the West is failing to meet its pledges. Furthermore, just because $60 billion was pledged this year, doesn't necessarily mean it was meant to be disbursed this year. Apparently the terms of these pledges was unspecified.
For the Deauville Partnership, the U.S. led the push for ratification of the amendments to the Articles of Agreement as required to expand the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco. With the changes to the EBRD Charter, the EBRD will activate the “special fund” with up to $1.3 billion in lending and investments this year, and, with full ratification of the charter amendment, up to $4 billion over the next three years.
This sounds like a pretty ambitious plan (above and beyond the Asset Recovery Plan and other initiatives) for nations that are "inward looking."

Finally the Times reported:
There are big incentives for donors to pledge aid. If Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan, do not tackle their growing unemployment problem and huge budget deficits, they risk spreading political instability across the region.
This makes the pledges sound less like foreign aid than a shakedown. Note that this paragraph doesn't say "there is a big incentive for donors to meet their pledges as it will help Egypt and Jordan develop healthy economies that will in turn create new economic partnerships in the region."

Given the title and some of the information provided, it sounds like deserving nations are being deprived by shortsightedness. But a closer look at the facts suggest that the article is a brief for increasing foreign aid to these nations, whether they adopt necessary reforms or not.

Another reason I wonder who is at fault (if anyone is) for the lack of aid, to the Arab spring countries is the regular ritual of Arab countries stiffing the Palestinians.

According to Michael Rubin, in contrast to the Arab spring countries, it sounds like Iraq (with its oil wealth and some caveats) is recovering.

2) Lara Logan in retrospect

A number of people have commented on Lara Logan's recent comments about the Arab spring.

When Logan first talked about her assault to Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes, there was this:
Logan: And I'm screaming, thinking if I scream, if they know, they're gonna stop, you know. Someone's gonna stop them. Or they're gonna stop themselves. Because this is wrong. And it was the opposite. Because the more I screamed, it turned them into a frenzy. 
Someone in the crowd shouted that she was an Israeli, a Jew. Neither is true. But, to the mob, it was a match to gasoline. The savage assault turned into a murderous fury. 
Logan: I have one arm on Ray. I've lost the fixer, I've lost the drivers. I've lost everybody except him. And I feel them tearing at my clothing....
The second paragraph is Pelley's narration. Note how little attention he paid to the charge that Logan was Jewish or Israeli. At the end of the segment, Logan mentions the prevalent threat of sexual harassment in Egypt. But nothing else in the segment refers back to the charge of "Israeli/Jew." I don't blame Logan as she was the interviewee. But why didn't Pelley spend some time to understand why the charge of  "Jew" evoked such hatred?

3) All the news that's three weeks late

Barry Rubin in The Syrian Tragedy: Is the Proposed Cure Worse Than the Status Quo? from September 21, 2012
The Obama Administration is backing (Islamist) Turkey as the distributor of weapons supplied by (opportunistically pro-Islamist) Qatar. Turkey and Qatar want to give the Muslim Brotherhood a monopoly over receiving weapons even though most of the rebels are non- and even anti-Islamist. As this happens, the Obama Administration is thus working directly to install a revolutionary Islamist regime in Syria that will disrupt the region, help shred, U.S. interests, and battle with Israel for decades to come. A number of Republican senators see no problem with this strategy.
Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria by David Sanger in the New York Times, October 14, 2012:
Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.
(Sanger's report de-emphasizes Turkey's role in this problem.)
The article later raises a political question:
The assessment of the arms flows comes at a crucial time for Mr. Obama, in the closing weeks of the election campaign with two debates looming that will focus on his foreign policy record. But it also calls into question the Syria strategy laid out by Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger. 
In a speech at the Virginia Military Institute last Monday, Mr. Romney said he would ensure that rebel groups “who share our values” would “obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.” That suggests he would approve the transfer of weapons like antiaircraft and antitank systems that are much more potent than any the United States has been willing to put into rebel hands so far, precisely because American officials cannot be certain who will ultimately be using them.
The question would then seem to be how strictly Governor Romney would adhere to his qualification of  "share our values." (Barry Rubin raised a similar question here.)

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