Category: Middle East

Jordan Country Overview

Jordan Country Overview

According to Countryaah, Jordan is a state in southwestern Asia, in the Near East; the territory borders to the North with Syria, to the NE with Iraq, to the SE and to the South with Saudi Arabia, to the West with Israel. Until 1967 it included Transjordan (E of the Jordan River) and the West Bank, which then came under the control of Israel; since 1988 the Jordanian government has interrupted the residual legal and administrative ties with the West Bank, although without reaching a formal repeal of the act of annexation (April 1950) of this territory, whose future status juridical will depend on the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and more specifically on the Palestinian question.

  1. Physical characteristics

The vast plateau of Transjordan is an integral part of the Syro-Arabian desert and sub-desert region. These tabular expanses are separated from the western highlands by the Palestinian tectonic depression, the section of the Great Rift Valley that runs from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqabah, encompassing the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.

The climate is subtropical, warm and dry with little rainfall, concentrated in the winter period and which decreases as you proceed towards the E and towards the S: while on the West Bank reliefs, 600 mm of rain fall, and 400 mm of rain in Amman, in the extreme eastern and southern regions there is conditions of almost absolute drought. Axis of the very poor hydrography is the Jordan which, before throwing itself into the Dead Sea, receives, among others, the Yarmuk and the az-Zarqa; its regime is very variable, with significant winter floods and strong summer lean periods. The vegetation is mainly steppe, with the exception of the wetter areas where the Mediterranean scrub flourishes.

  1. Population

G.’s demographic structure was heavily affected by the difficult political situation created in the Near East after World War II. It is estimated that the population amounted to 200,000 residents in 1920, to 300,000 in 1938 and to 450,000 in 1947. With the successive immigration waves of Arab refugees, after the establishment of the State of Israel and the Arab-Israeli war and, then, following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the population it has multiplied dramatically (1.3 million residents in 1952, passing to 1.7 ten years later and more than 4 million in Transjordan alone at the 1994 census), up to over 6 million in the first decade of the 2000s. Excluding desert areas, about 80% of the land area, the density is very high and in some governorates it exceeds 300 residents / km2. The urban population has experienced an accelerated and disordered growth, mainly linked to the high concentration in the cities of residents of Palestinian origin. There is also an intense sedentarization of the nomadic population, favored in recent decades by government intervention. Main cities are, in addition to the capital, az-Zarqa and Irbid. The other centers are basically just rural villages.

Regarding the language ➔ Arabi.

  1. Economic conditions

The Jordanian economy has long had to face the consequences of the difficult political situation in the Middle East: on the one hand, the territory and the scarce resources present have suffered for many years the strong demographic pressure of the numerous Palestinian refugees; on the other hand, the country was heavily penalized by the embargo decreed by the United Nations against Iraq, which drastically reduced transit trade, a fundamental component of the economy. In the last years of the 20th century. however, Jordan has recorded important economic progress, thanks to the launch of modernization plans that have led the country to integrate effectively into world trade (entry into the WTO in 2000) and to the huge funding secured by foreign aid.

Since the primary sector occupies a prominent place among the productive sectors, a large part of the available resources has been directed towards the enhancement of agricultural productivity, with the aim of reducing food imports. The main products grown are wheat and barley and, to a more limited extent, sorghum and maize; followed by lentils, tomatoes, citrus fruits, grapevines, olives, bananas and dates. Sheep farming is widespread, traditionally practiced by the Bedouin tribes, which offers a valuable contribution to the population’s diet.

Jordan is a country relatively endowed with phosphates (about 5.7 million tons extracted in 2007) and potassium salts (1.100.000 tons), which together make up a large part of exports. The presence of petroleum, copper, manganese, iron ores, not yet exploited, is reported. The shortage of energy sources represents one of the major limitations for industrial development. Until the 2003 war, Iraq ensured the satisfaction of almost all of its oil demand at a preferential rate; today, to produce thermal energy destined for internal consumption, Jordan uses part of the crude oil which, from Saudi Arabia, is conveyed to the coasts of the Mediterranean through an oil pipeline. The manufacturing sector, which participates with just under 15% in the formation of national income,

Annually the Jordan is visited by over 2,013,000 tourists, attracted above all by the ancient historical cities of Petra and Gerasa and by the seaside resources of the coast on the Red Sea.

There are few communication routes, the route of which largely follows the ancient caravans. Overall, the road network counts 7601 km (2005), while the operation of the railway network, which is represented by a single line that crosses the country longitudinally, connecting it to Syria, is reduced to a minimum (293 km in 2005).

Jordan Country Overview

Qatar Geopolitics

Qatar Geopolitics

According to Countryaah, Qatar is one of the most dynamic and innovative realities in the world. Fifty years ago it represented a small and semi-unknown realm, considered the ‘little brother’ of the Gulf oil monarchies. Although Qatar already boasted a per capita income of more than 35,000 dollars, it did not enjoy the same political and diplomatic weight that surrounded the Saudis, and the country seemed destined to remain a satellite of Riyadh for a long time. Things changed in the second half of the nineties when the former emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani decided to support projects aimed at exploiting the huge gas field (an energy resource then considered inexpensive) located off the Qatari coast., the largest in the world. In the 2000s, Qatar became the world’s largest exporter of liquid gas and its own GDP went from 8 to 192 billion dollars.

By exploiting his huge financial resources, the emir has therefore initiated a transformation of the country’s image abroad which has gradually led to the association of the name of Qatar with luxury, innovation and sport. The emirate has become one of the largest investors in the world, with assets held by the sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, estimated at between $ 100 and $ 200 billion. The funds were directed on high profile choices, from Barclays to Shell, passing through the City financial institution in London and for brands such as Chanel, Valentino and Porsche. A sports lover, al-Thani has also embarked on sporting adventures, buying the football teams of Paris Saint Germain and Malaga. Doha has also managed to become one of the most important artistic centers in the world within a few years. The small emirate achieved a great return in image and soft power with the opening of the all-news satellite channelpan-Arab, al-Jazeera. Since its birth in 1997, the television broadcaster has offered for the first time a space in which commentators from all over the Arab world could meet and, especially in the period of the second Intifada (of which al-Jazeera was able to offer an exemplary report coverage), has become the symbol of Qatar in the world.

Symbol of the influence acquired by Doha is the assignment to Qatar of the organization of the 2022 World Cup, an important international showcase. On the international scene, Qatar has also managed to establish itself for its diplomatic activism, sometimes with ambiguous contours. Over the years the emirate has tried to mediate in the hottest international conflicts, from Sudan to Afghanistan via Palestine. In 2008, Doha was also the site of the most important summit for the resolution of the internal political crisis in Lebanon and, subsequently, it mediated in the internal confrontation in Yemen, between the Shiite factions and the central government of Sana’a. Qatari diplomacy went as far as the African continent, where Doha was the guarantor of the talks for the definition of the borders between Eritrea and Djibouti. During and after the ‘Arab Springs’, Qatar became one of the major sponsors of the International Muslim Brotherhood, supporting its various local ramifications from Egypt to Syria. On the domestic front, Qatar is structured internally as an absolute monarchy, in which power is concentrated in the hands of the ruling family, the al-Thani. Following the resignation of Hamad, an unprecedented event in the history of the Gulf monarchies, since 25 June 2013 his son Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has been in power, whose succession was far from obvious, being the fourth son and not of the firstborn. The emir exercises the functions of head of state. Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani also belongs to the ruling family. In 2008, a new constitution came into force which for the first time provides for the popular election of two thirds of the parliament, whose members are now appointed by the emir. However, the elections for the renewal of the Consultative Assembly – which should simultaneously increase from the current 35 members to 45 – have not yet been held and the parliament continues to exert a completely marginal influence on the life of the country.

Qatar Geopolitics

Yemen Country Overview

Yemen Country Overview

According to Countryaah, Yemen is a state of Asia, at the southwestern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders on the N with Saudi Arabia and on the E with the Sultanate of Oman. Pertaining to the Yemen is the island of Socotra, at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, as well as Perim, Kamaran, Hanish and other smaller islands in the Red Sea.

  1. Physical characteristics

The territory of the Yemen is located on the edge of the Graben which is part of the larger fracture system of the Rift Valley African. Proceeding inland, from the side of the Red Sea as well as the Arabian Sea, a narrow and flat coastal selvedge abruptly gives way to steep escarpments that lead to the central plateaus; these appear engraved by deep valley furrows such as the wide beds of the uidian, streams with a typically torrential regime, or by pits of tectonic origin and from intermontane basins. The morphology then becomes less harsh and the reliefs slope gently towards the NE, plunging into the great desert of ar-Rub al-Khali. The area is notable for its strong seismicity and, in its outermost part, the outflow of magma along the fracture lines has given rise to numerous volcanic systems that are now extinct. Physiographic entity in itself is the eastern part of the country, the Hadramaut region, a set of plateaus interrupted by important valley formations, which extends as far as Oman.

The country it is characterized by a dry tropical climate, with high temperatures that gradually mitigate due to the altitude. The reliefs, capturing the humid air masses of monsoon nature in the summer and Mediterranean cyclone residues in the late winter, allow rainfall which, in their values ​​(up to 900 mm per year in the internal mountain), are absolutely unique in the Arabian context. Very diversified landscapes derive from the interaction between orography, temperature and rainfall: the coast along the Red Sea (Tihama), while not lacking in settlements, is generally repulsive, with high temperatures, high humidity rates but little rainfall. The central area, the morphologically more uneven one, is climatically the most favored and its reliefs, terraced and adapted to agriculture, bear a high anthropogenic load. On the other hand, the transition zone to the east, downwind and therefore less affected by the rains, is drought, sparsely populated and a prelude to the desert landscape itself. Hostile is also the environment of the Hadramaut, where life abounds only in the oases and in the depths of the uidians.

  1. Population

The Arabs represent almost all (93%) of the residents of the country; in the Tihama and in the Aden area there are Nilo-Hamitic communities, which arrived in the Yemen in successive waves, the last of which occurred in 1992-93, following the civil war in Somalia. The demographic increase rate is high (2.7% in 2010), as are the birth rate (34.3 ‰) and the fertility rate (4.8 children per woman of childbearing age). The social conditions of the population are characterized by a great backwardness, as evidenced by infant mortality (56.7 ‰), which remains high, albeit declining in the last 20 years, the illiteracy rate, just under 50%, and life expectancy at birth which stands at 63 years. The prevailing form of settlement is centralized in small nuclei gathered around the oases, close to a wadi or in an elevated position. The weight of the urban population is modest, equal to 31% of the total (2008). The main demographic and economic center is the capital (1,947,139 residents In 2006). After Sana, the major centers are Aden, with an important port in an excellent strategic position (at the entrance to the Red Sea) with respect to the large currents of maritime traffic, Taizz and Hodeida.

Largely dominant religion is the Sunni Muslim, which reaches 99% in the north of the country; in the south, 45% of the population is of the Shiite rite.

  1. Economic conditions

Listed as one of the poorest countries in the world, the Yemen has found a response to the high demographic pressure and scarcity of resources with a massive migratory exodus, which lasted until the 1980s, to oil countries, notably Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. In 1983, the peak of the phenomenon, emigrant remittances constituted about 40% of the gross national product of the two countries (North and South) as a whole. Unification did not solve the chronic problems of the new state. With perestroika the Yemen of the South had lost the advantages that the USSR guaranteed for various reasons, and inherited obsolete productive structures and a hypertrophic bureaucratic-military apparatus. The discovery and commercialization (since 1987) of oil seemed to herald better times, but the Gulf War, due to the ambiguous position taken towards Iraq, led to the suspension of aid and a dramatic exodus from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to over a million Yemenis. Reunification, opposed by powerful neighbors, still appears more formal than substantial today, and was marked by bloody episodes of civil war.

The primary sector occupies 33.9% of the assets (2006), but only 9.7% participates in the formation of the gross product (2009). Just 8% of the territory is arable and 2/3 consists of parcels of less than 1 ha. On the highlands, minor cereals and fruit trees prevail. Also produced is a high-quality coffee, widely exported, and qat (Catha edulis), a plant whose buds, when chewed, secrete alkaloid substances, and of which the Yemenites are major consumers. The qat is not only a social problem, but also an economic one, as just under 50% of the arable land is destined for the cultivation of Catha edulis, which absorbs 30% of the country’s water resources. On the coast, investments are made in industrial crops such as cotton, tobacco, dates and bananas. However, the agricultural trade balance remains strongly in deficit and the phenomenon of de-naturalization is serious. Fishing is expanding and in al-Mukalla, on the Gulf of Aden, there are product processing plants; the livestock patrimony is also substantial.

The industry – apart from the oil sector (almost 15 million tonnes in 2008, with refineries in Mā′rib and Little Aden), however affected by regional tensions and market fluctuations – is underdeveloped and not very diversified (in addition to the traditional types (textiles, food, tanning, tobacco processing), there are factories for the production of plastic materials and building materials; the secondary sector occupies 18% of the assets and makes up 46.2% of the gross product. Natural gas reserves are substantial (480 billion m3), the exploitation of which began in 2004. Tourism has good development opportunities due to the charm of the desert environments and the architectural heritage of the ancient Yemeni cities, but is struggling to establish itself due to the conditions of serious insecurity in the country. The trade balance is strictly dependent on the trend in the price of crude oil, which constitutes over 90% of exports. Main trading partners are China, Thailand, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Land communications can count on 71,300 km of roads, of which 6,200 are asphalted. The railways are completely missing. International airports in the capital and in Aden.

Yemen Country Overview

Egypt: on the Edge of the Precipice?

Egypt: on the Edge of the Precipice?

Two years after the “Arab Spring”, it may look as if Egypt is now back at the start. The military is left in power, protesters are shot in greater numbers than under the old regime, and opposition figures are imprisoned.

  • Who are the actors in the Egyptian power struggle?
  • What do the actors stand for?
  • What really happened?
  • Has the revolution in Egypt suffered defeat?

2: The actors

The revolutionaries who in 2011 stood shoulder to shoulder behind the demand that the old government must leave, were actually an alliance of quite different political forces . They all claim the “legacy of the revolution” even though they are now on either side of a bitter conflict .

The clearest distinction is between Islamists who want religion to have a greater place in politics and society, and the “liberals” who do not.

ISLAMISTS. Between the Islamists we must distinguish between two directions:

  • The Muslim Brotherhood, which has banned us for almost all of its eighty years. It has a strong and disciplined, nationwide organization, clearly the best organized movement in the country with perhaps one million members. Since the 1970s, the Brotherhood has invested in peaceful parliamentary work and gained support through the pursuit of social welfare.
  • The more conservative Salafists (see facts), who until 2011 turned their backs on political work and only focused on the mission of “right practice” between the threatening. After the revolution, they changed their minds and threw themselves into politics with several different parties.

LIBERAL. Those we call liberals, or “non-Islamists”, are at least as composed. They include Socialists and Social Democrats, Nasserists (cf. former President Nasser), traditional liberals and others who held office in the old Mubarak regime but resigned in time. In this group we also find some Islamic groups that have broken with the Brotherhood and people from the Coptic Christian minority. Some of these liberals call themselves ” secular “, most do not want to go that far.

3: First step towards democracy

When President Mubarak was pressured to resign on February 11, 2011, it was after massive protests that liberals, youth and the Brotherhood stood together . The direct reason for his departure, however, was that the military leaders pushed him out. The old government was at its core military with a civilian cover , it had our own elections and several opposition parties, but only Mubarak could win the election. The military thus sat with power behind the scenes. After the fall of Mubarak, they stepped forward and took over as a ” Higher Military Council”.

The important thing for the military was to secure their great economic interests , and neither the Islamists nor the liberals have dared to challenge these privileges. The Military Council therefore opened up for a democratic process in which all political forces, including the Islamists, participated. Parliamentary elections were held in January 2012. The fraternity’s new ” Freedom and Justice Party ” was, as expected, the largest with 35 percent of the vote.

But the rest came as a shock: The liberal and left-wing parties were almost wiped out with only 20 percent combined. The big winners were those who a few months before had said that politics was somewhat unclean: the Salafists. They received 25 per cent and thus together with the Brotherhood formed a large majority in the new national assembly.

This assembly, however, had a short life. She had barely come together and had a commission appointed to draft a new constitution which would then lay the groundwork for new elections. Then the Constitutional Court intervened. It declared the parliamentary election invalid and dissolved the National Assembly, based on a disagreement over a minor point in the old election law.

4: The Brotherhood in Power?

Then the far more important presidential election was all underway. Here, too, limits were set for who was allowed to line up. The top three candidates were expelled for formal reasons, including the only known Salafist candidate, Abu Ismail, but also the Brotherhood’s Khayrat al-Shatir, the military’s Omar Sulayman and several others.

The fraternity had nevertheless nominated a “reserve candidate”, the parliamentarian Muhammad Mursi. He received the most votes in the first round, while the non-religious were divided between five or six candidates. Samla achieved almost half of the votes, but none of them more than Mursi (25 percent) and the military-friendly Ahmad Shafiq (23 percent). These two therefore went on to the second round in June 2012, where Mursi won by around 52 percent.

Thus the Brotherhood, which the year before had said that they would seek a majority in parliament or the presidency, had won both and stood at its highest. But then things went awry, before Mursi was removed by force one year later. What went wrong, and why?

The most important problem was the economy . Egypt had been mismanaged under Mubarak, dominated by a corrupt class of leading military and rich people. Unemployment was sky high and there was often a shortage of ordinary consumer goods. The uprising in 2011 was therefore both a political
and a social uprising, and most people saw it as the same thing: When only the corrupt clique of Mubarak was gone, everything would be fixed quickly – people would get jobs and poverty would disappear. The hope was clearly completely unrealistic, and the unrest surrounding the riots and skepticism among investors made the economy stop even more.

The new president was blamed for it, partly unfairly, but he did little concrete to correct the financial disability. Egypt negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans, but the IMF demanded structural reforms that would lead to social unrest, such as removing subsidies on consumer goods such as bread and petrol. The Military Council had already stopped the negotiations, and Mursi did not raise them either. The Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar) came in with large amounts of support, but most people still felt that daily life had gotten worse , not better.

5: Political chaos

Most notable , however, was the political chaos. The fraternity rejoiced that after eighty years they had come to power, while the liberals feared being overshadowed by the powerful partner. The co-operation cut itself, at the same time as the Salafists played their cards far better and came close to the Brotherhood’s policy.

Instead of a broad gathering across the center between the Brotherhood and the Liberals, we therefore got more and more a dichotomy – a polarization . There the Brotherhood and the Salafists stand on one side, while the liberals came into barren and increasingly bitter opposition to the government. This became clear in the work on the new constitution. The fraternity believed that the constitution must be characterized by the view the people had given a majority in the election, while the liberals believed that the constitution must give equal weight to all without regard to a single election result. The Salafists pressed on, and although the Brotherhood held back against their most radical proposals, it became too much for the liberals who withdrew from the constitutional work.

The proposal in the end was probably mostly a revision of the existing law from 1971, but the Salafists in particular presented it as “Egypt has now got a sharia constitution”. The Liberals repeated this in their attacks, even though it was only a couple of ambiguous sentences that had actually been changed about sharia in the new law.

This lack of political cooperation with the liberal forces was clearly the Brotherhood’s biggest mistake . They overlooked that Egypt was still in a transitional phase, so far without a constitution, without a functioning parliament, and with unfinished institutions. In 2011, they understood that, and emphasized cross-political cooperation, but the following year it was forgotten. They offered the opposition a place in the government, but only in smaller posts while they themselves were to have all the important ministries, something that was rejected. They replaced several of Mubarak’s people in the administration, but put in either technocrats or their own people, never anyone from the opposition. Thus, they created the impression of wanting to monopolize power for themselves – of wanting to “brotherhood” the state.

6: The deep state

According to WEDDINGINFASHION, Mursi also came into sharper conflict with several in the state apparatus , which was largely unchanged from Mubarak’s time and continued as before. The fraternity called this the “deep state” and accused them of actively wanting to sabotage the revolution. It was striking that the police, who were heavily scandalized after the Mubarak regime, disappeared completely from the streets, and this led to a sharp increase in crime and social unrest. With that, the police helped to undermine the Mursi board.

Sharpest, however, was the conflict with the courts , which sought to play a political role both by dissolving parliament and making several attempts to limit the president’s power through various orders. It was in that context that Mursi made his most fateful move two weeks before the new constitution was to go to a referendum: He declared that his decision was before the courts and could not be set aside by them until the new constitution had entered into force two weeks later. It was thus only meant as a time-limited power of attorney that was to prevent the court from stopping the referendum and thus the constitution. Precisely this one decision nevertheless appeared “to all” as the very proof that Mursi had now vomited himself into a dictator and set democracy aside. He quickly withdrew the statement, but the damage had already been done.

In the early summer of 2013 , the tone sharpened. The new alliance of the Brotherhood and Salafists came with several legislative proposals that the liberals perceived as attempts to Islamize society. At the same time, the tone was sharpened against the religious minorities. The Christians and the few Shiites in Egypt were subjected to various attacks. The Liberals resisted, and a youth movement , Tamarrud, demanded that Mursi resign. According to them, over thirty million signed this, and on June 30 , the anniversary of the change of power , massive demonstrations were held.

Again, there will be tens of millions in the streets – the number could not be confirmed, but there were undoubtedly large crowds. Mursi refused, but quite surprisingly the army intervened three days later, deposed Mursi and appointed a transitional government . The fraternity, on the other hand, gathered for large and long-lasting demonstrations for Mursi to be reinstated. Many hundreds were killed in the clashes with the military and police that followed in the weeks that followed.

7: Was it a coup?

It is of great concern whether it is right to call the deposition of Mursi a “coup “. Those who support the change of power think this is incorrect wording. They mean the military only “followed the will of the people” expressed through the great protests. Opponents point out that the military had seized power from a legitimate president.

Both are probably partly right, in common parlance there are coups when the military takes power, whether it is from a popular election or a dictatorial president. But it is also true that the protests against the old government were genuine and extensive, so that it was a combination of a military initiative and a popular uprising.

The “people” in Egypt are undoubtedly not in agreement, both the Brotherhood and the military have great support across the country. The liberals are divided, with many there is now a hateful mood against the Brotherhood which “stole their revolution” with demands that they must be banned. Others, probably in the minority, are concerned about the violence and that the military seems to be gaining a foothold in a government with the same means as under Mubarak. The Salafists were divided in their views on the coup, but agreed with the criticism of the use of force.

Future developments are therefore uncertain. Egypt is strongly polarized between the “Brotherhood” and the “army”. A democratic process in which both are involved is now difficult to imagine. The unrest will continue and, in the worst case, provide fertile ground for Islamic guerrilla groups such as the 1990s. Probably the leadership in the Brotherhood will not see themselves lit up with it. In such a battle, they will lose what has been gained in the last forty to fifty years, but they may be overwhelmed by more radical currents.

The question is whether the Egyptians are willing to return to a military government with a new strong man. The new head of state, army leader al-Sisi , in contrast to Mubarak, is considered uncorrupt and is still popular in broad circles. But he will probably not be able to solve the economic and social problems that people judge the board by either. And in the last two years, the Egyptians have learned that it is possible to go out into the streets and demand that those who do not deliver must leave. The liberals must choose whether and for how long they want to hook their chariot to the military, and the Salafists must find out whether they are most excited about going to the barricades with the Brotherhood, or trying to inherit their religious voting base. There is a danger that it may take years before this solution is found.

Egypt - on the Edge of the Precipice

Why are Norwegian Soldiers in Iraq?

Why are Norwegian Soldiers in Iraq?

In April 2015, the Norwegian government sent 120 soldiers to Iraq . There, they were to “help train Iraqi security forces.” Some of the soldiers were stationed in the Kurdish provincial capital of Erbil under the security forces of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq (KRG). Other Norwegian soldiers were stationed in the capital Baghdad.

  • What are the main rules of international law for military operations on foreign soil?
  • What is the basis for the Norwegian military presence in Iraq from 2015?
  • How does this presence stand against the rules of international law for the use of military force?
  • What international law challenges does the presence face?

The Norwegian military will support the Iraqi central and regional authorities in recapturing territory from Islamic State (IS), which in 2015 controlled approx. 1/3 of Iraq. Norwegian participation is part of a loosely led American coalition with the goal of “crushing” IS.

The Norwegian presence in Iraq represents a break with the tradition of Norwegian military operations abroad after the year 2000. The presence also raises at least three challenges : uncertainty about what the mission is, insufficient legal certainty for the soldiers, and questions about whether the soldiers can perform their tasks so efficiently as provided.

2: International law: barriers to the use of military force in other countries

A central international agreement – the UN Charter ‘s Article 2 (4), non-interference court as a “cornerstone of the UN Charter” – and international legal custom prohibits the use of military force in interstate relations (power ban). Threats of such use of force are also prohibited.

Military use of force in the territory of another state violates the principle that every state is sovereign in its own territory. The prohibition on force also applies to the use of force against non-state actors in the territory of another state. However, the ban on power has two exceptions that can make military use of force in other countries legal: Chap. VII mandate and self-defense . In addition, another state may be invited by the government of a country to operate militarily in that country. Every sovereign government is free to do so.

3: Chapter VII mandate

One exception to the ban on power is military operations adopted by the UN Security Council . The Security Council may authorize (grant the right to) the use of military force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if there is a threat to peace, a breach of peace or an act of aggression (Article 39 of the Covenant).

In addition, a resolution may clarify the legality of an ongoing military operation to which it has been invited. In 2015, the president of Yemen lost control of the capital and state-owned institutions. He then invited a group of states led by Saudi Arabia to help put down the rebels. Eventually, the Security Council confirmed that the President had the competence – stood strong enough – for such an invitation. Resolutions that confirm the legality of ongoing use of force do not change the basis of international law. The operation in Yemen is based on an invitation and not on a mandate from the Security Council.

A related clarification of legality can be found in the Security Council’s call from November 2015 for permission to use “all necessary measures” against groups in IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq to prevent terrorism.

The Chapter VII mandate nevertheless sets clear barriers to the use of force under international law . The operations must be carried out within the framework of the mandate. A Chapter VII mandate authorizes the use of all necessary means to achieve the purpose, but no more.

The use of force must also be proportional to the purpose of the use of force. Military operations for purposes that are outside the mandate or that are disproportionate to the purpose of the use of force, represent a violation of the prohibition of force . In Libya in 2011, removing Gaddafi’s regime (regime change) was not part of the mandate.

A state may not invoke the right to self-defense against military operations based on a mandate from the Security Council. The legality of the operations in Syria has been repeatedly disputed by the Assad regime . When Resolution 2249 confirms the legality of these, Assad can not claim that the operations are acts of aggression that trigger Syrian right to self-defense. The Security Council has stated that self-defense against IS (and certain other non-governmental groups) in Syria (but also in Iraq) is not contrary to international law.

4: The right to self-defense

The second exception to the ban on power is access to military operations for national self-defense (Article 51 of the UN Charter). A country thus has the right – individually / alone or collectively / together with other states – to defend itself against attacks contrary to international law. Other states can then assist in self-defense. The right to self-defense is triggered by an “armed attack”. Most states and international law lawyers have interpreted this exception strictly. In the case of collective self-defense, a country that has individual self-defense rights asks for help from other states.

Self-defense outside its own territory will not order the other UN countries to cooperate with other states, such as a Chapter VII mandate. Other states can then take a stand for or against the use of force or invoke neutrality. If the right to self-defense is confirmed by the Security Council, they must still comply.

Also in self-defense, military operations must be necessary (for defense) and proportionate . That is, the operations’ damage (scaling) must be in proportion to the purpose of the attack. When Israel attacked Lebanon after Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli territory and a subsequent ambush in Lebanon in 2006, the operation was in line with Israel’s self-defense law. The purpose was to prevent similar future attacks. But the extent of Israel’s response was criticized by many, such as France, Russia, the EU and the United States, for being disproportionate to this purpose – and therefore contrary to international law.

The self-defense rules in Article 51 do not apply to a state power that exercises authority in its own territory, e.g. maintains or restores peace and order. Iraqi authorities can not invoke self-defense against Iraqi IS in Iraq. Here, it is the state’s right to exercise authority that is the hook under international law. International law does not give a state power the “right” to wage war against its own people when warfare is based on arguments about self-defense. This type of self-defense right also does not apply in occupied territory. Rules and barriers to what an occupying power can afford in the use of force differ both from self-defense against external enemies and from the rules on the exercise of power in one’s own country.

The situation in and around Syria and the lack of a Chapter VII mandate (cf. the use of the right of veto) has led to a number of allegations of self-defense for other states’ military use of force on Syrian soil: US airstrikes on Syrian territory began on 22 September 2014. The United States has stated several various self-defense bases for its operations on Syrian soil: Self-defense against IS, collective self-defense to safeguard the self-defense rights of Syria’s neighbors, self-defense against a non-governmental group and defense of US allied groups (insurgents) on the ground in Syria.

The right to self-defense is the most obscure of the legal bases for the use of force. The core consists of a basic right to self-maintenance. However, the vast majority of military operations can be presented as a version of self-defense. Therefore, international law has always sought a narrow framework for this exception to the prohibition of power. However, the right to self-defense seems to have been interpreted somewhat more broadly since 2001. The situation in Syria and Iraq also seems to push the states’ practice of self-defense even a notch further.

5: Invitation to military assistance

A third legal basis for the use of military force on foreign soil consists of an invitation or consent from state authorities in another country. These authorities then invite one or more other states to assist them in maintaining or restoring order internally, in practice to retain state power, defend the territory or to prevent the territory from being exploited by non-state actors for violence that may threaten national or international Safety.
This legal basis is no exception to the prohibition of power in the UN Charter. Such military operations have a background in the sovereignty of the inviting government . Thus, they do not violate the ban on power.

Government authorities may invite other states or non-governmental organizations to assist them in the use of force in their own territory. The Assad regime, which is thus the ruling power in Syria, can invite other states such as Iran and non-state actors such as Lebanese Hezbollah to assist the Syrian authorities with the use of force on Syrian territory. Russian soldiers in Syria have also been invited by the Assad regime.

However, if the use of force by invitation extends beyond the inviting state and into the territory of another sovereign state, the prohibition on force requires a decision by the Security Council. Iraqi forces or other states’ armed forces at the invitation of Iraq can not simply use military force against IS on the Syrian side of the border. It requires a different basis of international law.

Security Council Resolution 2249 provides a kind of “cloak of international law legality” for various types of military operations in Syria and Iraq.

An invitation must be clearly expressed . It cannot be assumed that the state would have consented “if it had been asked”. Other states may also question how real a consent is. In addition, the invitation must come from authorities that (still) are strong enough to be able to invite, e.g. still has central state-supporting institutions.

The Security Council can confirm whether the government in a country has the capacity to invite , as in Yemen, or it can cut off such a right. When the Security Council recognized the opposition in Libya as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people” in 2011, Libyan authorities could no longer invite others to help them.

If the use of force by an invited state (the sending state) should affect the consent, the use of force is contrary to international law. If it can be characterized as an armed attack, it even triggers the consent state’s right to self-defense against the sending state (Article 51).

The purpose of the invitation will depend on what an inviting government wants, or the agreement between it and the sending state. Such agreements normally take the form of agreements on the legal status of forces (SOFA). They clarify the purpose of the military contribution, and they give military personnel criminal immunity for their presence and for actions that fall within the scope of the mission. It provides visibility and clarity (notoriety) to the outside world. And it provides security for the soldiers and predictability within.

6: Rules for the actual use of force

Even if the legal basis for an operation is in order, violations of international law can still occur as a result of the way the operations are carried out. The use of force must take place within the framework of the legal basis. Also: Is a military operation in accordance with the rules of international law for warfare – including the protection of war victims and the ban on using rules that prohibit certain types of weapons?

There are four different sets of rules in international law that set general barriers for different types of military operations, rules for:

  • intergovernmental conflict
  • occupation,
  • non-intergovernmental conflict,
  • for military operations in situations below the threshold of armed conflict

The first situation is governed primarily by humanitarian law (the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions), the latter by human rights . Occupation and non-international conflicts are extensively regulated by both humanitarian law and human rights, but in different ways.

On a couple of important points, these sets of rules differ from each other, and impose different rights and obligations . Thus, the use of force that is legal under one set of rules may be a violation of international law under another. The use of expanding bullets or tear gas is, for example, permitted by law enforcement internally in a country, but if these means are used in combat, it will be classified as war crimes. Persons who have committed war crimes must either be prosecuted by their own authorities or extradited to states or courts abroad with the right to prosecute them. Furthermore, the demarcation between military targets and civilians is clearer under the first two sets of rules than in non-international conflicts / civil wars.

7: By invitation – Norway is in Iraq

In the summer of 2014 , IS conquered important strategic areas in northwestern Iraq. They declared an Islamic caliphate and committed massive war crimes against Iraqi soldiers and religious minorities, including the so-called Camp Speicher massacre . More than 1,500 Iraqi Shiite cadets and soldiers were executed by IS during one afternoon. Abuses against the Kurdish Yezidi minority received a lot of attention in the late summer of 2014, with acts that according to several may be genocide .

In the autumn of 2014, the Norwegian authorities decided to send military forces to military advice and training in Iraq. Norway is now contributing militarily to fighting IS. The mission will “help to better enable the Iraqi forces to meet the ISIL threat”. Norwegian personnel will not participate in military operations, but will be part of the military support apparatus for Iraqi security forces.

There is not any Chapter VII mandate from the Security Council which are entitled to Norwegian military presence in Iraq. After IS conquered parts of four Iraqi provinces and declared an Islamic State on Iraqi and Syrian territory in June 2014, the Security Council in August 2014 ruled that IS was a threat to Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and to international peace and security. But the Security Council has not adopted the right to use force under Chapter VII in extension of this, even though the Security Council has unanimously condemned IS ‘conduct.

On 24 September 2014, the Security Council decided in Chapter VII to order states to fight foreign fighters (Res. 2178). But it did not give the green light for the use of force against IS. The loosely organized US operation is mainly based on arguments about self-defense (see above) in the face of a serious threat to international security. The Security Council has established that IS is. Thus, it has clarified that states can invoke self-defense law even if IS is a non-state actor.

However, Norway has not stated self-defense for our presence in Iraq. Collective self-defense is derived from the right of self-defense to countries that are under attack and asking for help. Norway is helping Iraq (primarily) against Iraqis in Iraq. Norway can not claim to help Iraq to self-defense in Iraq as international law does not contain any self-defense rule for the exercise of power in its own territory. The Iraqi authorities, on the other hand, can state self-defense for operations on the Syrian side of the border, where Norway may assist based on collective self-defense, but then on behalf of Baghdad. The Norwegian authorities can thus justify their presence in Iraq by saying that they are there to help the regime retain state power. Operations in Syria will have the same justification.

With Resolution 2249 behind it , outside states can conduct military operations in Syrian and Iraqi territory. It clarifies that means of force can be used to prevent terrorist attacks by IS (and certain other groups) from the area that IS controls in Syria and Iraq. The resolution is not a UN mandate to operate militarily on Syrian or Iraqi territory without coordinating with the governments of Baghdad and Damascus. Iraqi authorities remain in the driver’s seat of operations in Iraq.

The UN Security Council confirmed the invitation and thus also the Iraqi authorities’ competence to invite. Iraq could need such confirmation as the situation was in Iraq in the summer of 2014. At that time, the Iraqi security apparatus went up in limbo in northern Iraq in the face of an advancing IS. In addition, Kurdish forces from Erbil occupied many controversial and strategically important places. When the invitation came, Baghdad practically controlled less than 40% of the land. The Security Council acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Iraqi government.

Iraqi authorities may impose conditions on the use of force on those invited, or withdraw their consent at any time. As early as October 2014, the Iraqi authorities stated that the letter to the Security Council in September had restrictions. “We asked for help, but it was about air force.” Among other things, Baghdad announced that neighboring Arab countries (read: Sunni Muslims) were not wanted on the ground in Iraq.

In August 2015, Iraqi authorities asked the Security Council to allow Turkish troops to leave Iraq, a demand Iraq repeatedly made in the fall of 2015. Iraqis do not consider ground forces from countries in the region to be covered by the Security Council’s request.

Outside this requirement is neighboring Iran, which has a separate defense agreement with Iraq. It gives Iranian soldiers the right to operate on Iraqi soil. Iran has also carried out airstrikes against IS in Iraq since December 2014, independent of the international coalition. The close military cooperation between Iraq and Iran means that Iran has a different and broader mandate for its presence in Iraq.

It is thus not obvious that the Norwegian military in Iraq is covered by the invitation Iraq handed over to the UN Security Council in September 2014. According to the Iraqi authorities, the request only includes air force . But it is not air force Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are engaged in. The legal basis for the Norwegian military presence in Baghdad is an invitation , in Norway’s view. What this invitation entails is very unclear . Norwegian soldiers have been invited to Iraq to take part in an air offensive against IS, an air offensive in which they are not participating.

8: Counters at the legal basis

As with the Norwegian operation in Iraq in 2003–2005, no special Norwegian restrictions were placed on military participation in 2014 – except that «Norwegian forces will not participate in direct combat operations».

However, there is a big difference between Norway’s Iraq operations in 2003–2005 and in 2015. In 2003–2005, there was a clearer organization and a much clearer legal basis (see below). When the international law basis for military presence in a foreign country is weak, unclear or controversial, it becomes all the more important with clear agreements that regulate the nature of the mission and the situation of the soldiers.

Invitation as a legal basis is usually regulated in more detail by a defense agreement. The United States has a political agreement, and Iran has a defense agreement with Iraq. Norway does not have that.

GENERAL RULES: If the legal basis and the nature of the assignment is somewhat unclear, the general rules of international law apply. Since the summer of 2013, the Iraqi authorities have been involved in a civil war-like situation against Sunni Muslim areas, ie the same areas where IS eventually took control.

The term “non-international conflict” is not limited to armed conflicts that take place only in the territory of one country. The fight against IS extends over two countries, and involves more than 60 nations on one side and a non-state actor on the other.

Iraq is today neither in a situation of occupation nor in an international armed conflict. Here, the rules of a country’s sovereign law enforcement and internal armed conflicts apply.

This means that the rules of humanitarian law for non-international armed conflicts apply to Norwegian soldiers to the extent that they have a military function linked to one of the parties to the conflict.

9: Norway in Iraq: Three challenges

Since the turn of the millennium, Norwegian soldiers have been involved in several military operations on foreign soil. Many of them have not been UN operations in the sense of peacekeeping operations (after the ceasefire agreement has been reached) under the UN mandate – Afghanistan (2001–2016), Iraq (2003–2005) and Libya (2011). All three operations were launched following a mandate from the Security Council.

After the year 2000, Norway has had clear legal bases for its military foreign operations. But Norway’s military contribution to Iraq from 2015 represents something new . The backing of international law for Norway does not seem controversial, since the Iraqi authorities do not consider Norwegian soldiers to be enemy soldiers, as they do with certain other coalition countries. Nevertheless, the invitation appears to be deficient . It does not provide clarity (notoriety) about the purpose of the contribution or framework around the activities of Norwegian soldiers in Iraq in 2015.

By invitation to assistance, we lend military capabilities to another state. A recipient state will normally have other motives and interests than ours. And it will probably be involved in power struggles and conflicts that are beyond the control of Norway, but where we can still be drawn in. Consequently, it is important to have a clear framework for such lending. The somewhat vague basis of international law for Norway’s military contribution to Iraq therefore represents challenges on three levels:

1 Around notoriety – it is difficult to prove purpose, document or control who has done what and when. There is neither a UN mandate nor a self-defense authority for the contribution. No defense agreement or SOFA (agreements on forces’ legal status status of forces agreements, SOFA) has been negotiated that can clarify the purpose of the mission.

Why has Norway sent troops to Iraq? At home, it can be important to clarify what Norwegian soldiers do on land far away, including with atypical, perhaps dubious, partners. To other countries, it may be appropriate to clarify why troops have been sent to Baghdad to help a coalition that works closely with the military in Tehran, Damascus and Russia. Also: Can soldiers we train in Baghdad want to use their new military skills to fight soldiers we train in Erbil?

2 Norwegian soldiers’ legal security . Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are so-called administrative employees at a diplomatic post (embassy) Norway does not have. The agreement between Norway and Iraq is not very specific. Diplomatic immunity does not include the right to engage in military activity practiced by soldiers. The legal protection of Norwegian soldiers in Iraq does not match the tasks they have or the conflict landscape in which they operate.

3 Efficiency of the operation . How effectively can Norwegian soldiers carry out their mission when assisting security forces that have reportedly been involved in many and serious violations of international law? How effectively can they operate in one of the world’s most corrupt countries, which is also struggling with major disciplinary challenges in the security apparatus?

According to THEMAKEUPEXPLORER, a small country like Norway will always have a strategic interest in respecting international law. Then it is important that the use of military force in foreign operations appears – at home and abroad – as predictable, predictable and even principled.

Why are Norwegian soldiers in Iraq

Lebanon and Syria: Fear of Spillover Effect

Lebanon and Syria: Fear of Spillover Effect

When unrest or armed conflict breaks out in a country, there is always a danger of spreading, or spillover effect, to neighboring countries. The danger becomes extra great where the ties between the countries are many, when one state is weak and there is political disagreement about how to deal with the conflict in the neighboring country. In Lebanon, the consequences of the uprising in Syria are already noticeable in several areas. Many fear that the country will once again be drawn into an armed conflict.

  • How does a civil war have consequences outside the war zone itself?
  • How are conditions in Lebanon related to the situation in Syria?
  • How is Lebanon divided by the situation in the neighboring country in the north?
  • How can the situation in Syria and Lebanon be seen in a broader power perspective?

2: Background – close ties

Close ties have, for better or worse, linked the two countries together both throughout history and today. The uprising in Syria therefore affects the situation in Lebanon politically, security-wise, economically and socially . The lands were from 1516 under the Ottoman Empire . As Turkey (the core country of the empire) was on the losing side during World War I, the countries in 1920 became French territories under the League of Nations. In 1943 and 1946, respectively, they became independent. But it was not until after the Lebanon wars of 1975-1990 that Syria recognized the country as an independent state.

Since 1971, Syria has been ruled with a heavy hand by the al-Assad family , first by Hafez and after his death in 2000 by his son Bashar. The father built his power on solid contacts in the military, on the Ba’ath party, an extended family dynasty and the vast majority of Alawites – a Shiite religious denomination that makes up 12 percent of the country’s population. Some Ismailis (Shiites), Christians and Sunni Muslims in the economic upper class also support the regime.

After years of unrest, political stability was created in the country, but the price was suppression, partly bloody, of all attempts at opposition. Internal stability, economic progress and a certain softening during the 1990s have given the country the rank of a regional superpower and led to many Syrians being satisfied with the regime.

3: Lebanon – a lot of strife and Syrian involvement

The small neighboring country Lebanon is in every way a contrast to Syria . The political system is based on a consensus – agreed agreement – on the distribution of all political positions and public office equally between Muslims and Christians, even though Christians today “only” make up 39 percent of the population. In 1943, the proportion was 52 percent.

Since independence, the situation has been characterized by a lack of stability and hostilities , and the country has been one of the scenes of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other hand, an ultra-liberal economic system and a large degree of freedom of expression have made Lebanon a haven for opposition figures and refugees from other countries in the Middle East. In the years from 1975 to 1990, the country was haunted by armed conflicts of both internal and regional nature. Israel occupied parts of southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000. Syria supported Palestinian and some Lebanese organizations.

In 1976, Syria was asked to send troops to stop the fighting between Christian and Palestinian forces. Eventually, this led to confrontation between Lebanese, armed groups and Syrian forces. At most, the Syrians had 30,000 troops and a well-developed intelligence apparatus stationed in Lebanon. They became the most important rulers in the country. Protesters either had to leave the country or go into hiding.

In the autumn of 2004, a wave of assassinations against anti-Syrian politicians, intellectuals and journalists began. On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed by a powerful car bomb . On the day one month later – March 14. – Nearly 1 million Lebanese gathered in central Beirut under the slogans “Freedom”, “Dignity” and “Syria out”. The uprising was called the Cedar Revolution (the cedar tree is Lebanon’s national tree ) and led to Syria having to withdraw its troops from the country.

The Shia Muslims’ strongest organization, Hezbollah (see facts), which has close ties to Syria and Iran, strongly disagreed and organized its own demonstrations and occupied the center of Beirut for months to come. The Syrians could also play in the power struggle that arose between Christian leaders who returned home from exile or had been in prison and who wanted to take back their former position. Therefore, the Syrian influence persisted even after the troops were withdrawn.

4: Political division and unrest

In Lebanon, the current political landscape is characterized by two equal coalitions:

  • The March 8 coalition,which is pro-Syrian and critical of everything they define as Western influence. It is dominated by the Shia Muslim organizations Hezbollah and Amal, but also houses half of the Christian politicians under the leadership of General Michel Aoun. They are sitting with the government today.
  • The March 14 coalition, for its part, includes most Sunni Muslim politicians and the Christian parties Kataëb (Falangists) and the Lebanese forces. These are for an independent Lebanon.

Some prominent politicians, such as Druze leader Walid Jumblat, are trying to lead an independent line by belonging to the March 8 coalition while supporting the Syrian rebels.

According to THEDRESSEXPLORER, three main issues separate the two coalitions:

  • Lebanon Special Court appointed by UN in 2007 to investigate the killings of Rafik Hariri and other critics of Syria’s influence in Lebanon
  • Hezbollah’s weapons that constitute a significant armed force outside the state apparatus. Many Lebanese are critical of this.
  • How close should cooperation with Syria be? Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011, the divisions – both among politicians and ordinary people – have deepened between those who support the Syrian regime and those who support the rebels. March 8 supports the Syrian regime’s view that the uprising is the result of a Western / Israeli conspiracy. The March 14 coalition claims that the uprising is a legitimate struggle against an oppressive regime and for freedom and democracy. There is great disagreement about Lebanon’s position in the UN – both in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. There, the country has either abstained or voted against any condemnation of Syria.

When the March 14 coalition recently marked the anniversary of Hariri’s assassination, they clearly showed solidarity with the rebels, and a greeting from the Syrian National Council was read out. But apart from the possibility of creating a communication channel, no one was in favor of further involvement in the conflict.

Two days later, Hezbollah’s (see facts) supreme leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, gave full support to Syria. He claimed that the March 14 coalition had made every effort to break up the Syrian regime and accused them of being directly involved in an escalation of the conflict in Syria. By helping the rebels with money and weapons, they plunge Lebanon into war, he claims. Unconfirmed reports also say that Hezbollah soldiers have taken part in fighting in Syria. This is rejected by the leadership of Hezbollah.

5: Tension – refugees

Excited in northern Lebanon

The situation in the border areas in the north is very tense. From here, the road is short to Homs and Hama in Syria – central rebel cities. Since the uprising began, light weapons have been smuggled across the border. In the city of Tripoli, Sunni Muslims and Alawites live in neighboring neighborhoods, and there have been clashes where several have been killed. The Syrians have gradually mined this part of the border, while Lebanon has strengthened its army in the area. So far, the fighting in Syria has not spread to Lebanon.


According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approx. 8,000 civilians fled to Lebanon by the end of March 2012. The Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas operates with more than 10,000, while some media claim that as many as 100,000 Syrian refugees are now in the country. The reason for this large difference lies in the status of the refugees. Many people come to relatives in Lebanon and expect to return home as soon as the situation improves. Others do not want to sign up for fear that it may make it difficult for them to return if the regime in Syria stays in place. Lebanese media report many young men among the refugees. This is also known from conflict areas elsewhere in the world.

Due to the large number of Palestinian refugees (250-300,000 according to UNWRA), Lebanon has not signed the UN Refugee Convention which describes the rights of refugees in the recipient country with regard to health care, education, etc. The assistance the refugees receive is therefore primarily dependent on international and national organizations, as well as family networks.

Many of the refugees cross the border between Lebanon and Syria under cover of darkness. Large parts of the border are mined, so they come on foot and have no more with them than they can carry. On the Lebanese side, they are being received by UNHCR, Caritas, the Lebanese Red Cross and a number of local civilian organizations.

Wounded people are admitted to public and private hospitals – the biggest problem is that they arrive far too late. Amputation then often becomes the only possible form of treatment. Depending on local resources and initiatives, children are offered a school place. However, the burden this places on local communities is very unequally distributed because the refugees come to Sunni Muslim and Christian villages and towns, but avoid Shiite Muslim areas.

6: Economic consequences

The uprising in Syria has already had major consequences for the Lebanese economy . This is especially true for the export industry, where the Syrian market accounts for approx. 26 percent of the market, especially for agricultural products. Syria is completely irreplaceable as a transit country for exports to the Arab Gulf countries, so this market has become almost inaccessible.

In the immediate vicinity of Syria, cross-border trade has been an important source of income. Syrians have come here to buy goods that they did not find, or that were cheaper than in their home country. In the Bekaa Valley, several thousand families lived off this trade. Along the border river el-Kebir in the north, there must have been close to 4,000 shops, many of them modest, but where each, after all, formed the basis of life for a family.

The important tourism industry has seen a marked decline after a few years of growth. Two groups in particular have disappeared. The first are Arabs from the Gulf who came to shop and to enjoy the varied nightlife, especially in Beirut. They now prefer to stay away from the tense situation in Lebanon and Syria. The other is tourists from western countries who like to make round trips from Lebanon to Syria and Jordan. Large investments had been made from both the private and the public sector, but now this booming industry is down.

Due to the sanctions against Syria and Syrian citizens, Lebanon’s thriving banking system has come under international observation. So far, only one bank has received comments.

7: Other consequences for Lebanon

Much will depend on the outcome of the uprising in Syria. Although the uprising in Syria is primarily about regime change, freedom and democracy, it has acquired an ethnic-religious character because most of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while power in the country since the late 1960s has been in the hands of Alawites, who are a side branch of Shia Islam. Many Lebanese therefore read the conflict in Syria into a broader dispute over hegemony in the Middle East between the Shiite superpower Iran on the one hand and the Sunni superpower Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other, in other words between Shia and Sunni Islam.

The Syrian regime is in a difficult situation, and in Lebanon many fear that this regime, with the help of Hezbollah, will open another conflict, either internally in Lebanon or with Israel. The organization’s supreme leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, denies that they will be involved in this way.

Even if Lebanon were to avoid new acts of war, a protracted conflict in Syria would in any case have very negative consequences for Lebanon. Because the Lebanese are so deeply divided in their view of the uprising in the neighboring country, politicians also have limited opportunities to agree on how to solve the problems that have arisen in Lebanon in connection with increased insecurity, deteriorating economy and a growing flow of refugees.

8: A broader power perspective

A regime change in Syria will lead to a breach of the axis between Hezbollah and Iran via Syria and Iraq . This will lead to major changes for Hezbollah, which may be forced to choose between being both a party and an armed liberation organization, as they define themselves today, or exclusively a political party. Hezbollah’s position in Lebanese politics will then be completely changed and thus also the balance between the two coalitions.

It is still too early to predict the outcome of the uprising in Syria. There is a possibility that the regime will be able to adapt to the demands of the international community, represented by the UN and the Arab League. The opposition is very complex and only now, after about a year, is organizing. It is therefore unclear what kind of regime will eventually take over, and a normalization of the situation in Syria will undoubtedly take a long time. Regardless of the outcome in neighboring countries, Lebanon will therefore face major challenges for a long time to come.

Lebanon and Syria - Fear of Spillover Effect

New War in the Middle East?

New War in the Middle East?

Will Benjamin Nethanyahu go down in history as the Israeli prime minister who allowed Iran to build an existential threat to the Jewish state? This is how he and others read the development. In January, Defense Minister Barak said they had nine months to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Then it would be too late. In the Israeli government, it is these two who control the relationship with Iran, and they work closely together.

  • What is the law and not the law within the non-proliferation agreement?
  • Who are the parties to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program?
  • How consistent is the outside world in its criticism of Iran?
  • Where did the dialogue-oriented Obama go?

2: The escalation

When President Bush declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq in the spring of 2003, Iran was a possible next target. During Kjell Magne Bondevik’s visit to the White House in the early summer, Bush thought highly of that possibility, but the problems in Iraq made him think about it. In 2008, the issue was raised again on Israeli initiative. Then Bush made it clear that a military attack was not on the map for the rest of his presidency. Instead, tougher sanctions, assassinations of Iranian physicists and sabotage of military and nuclear facilities followed. A computer worm, known as Stuxnet, destroyed several hundred centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant. Everything to save time.

In the autumn of 2011, tensions built up again, first with the assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador to Washington, which the United States claims was behind Iran. Then came a new IAEA report (from the International Atomic Energy Agency ) on the Iranian nuclear program. The report made extensive use of disturbing information from various Western intelligence agencies. This was followed by warnings of new Western sanctions and an attack by protesters at the British Embassy in Tehran.

At the turn of the year, Iran carried out a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf (Note our New Year’s change: Iran celebrates the New Year on the vernal equinox), and the war of words escalated. Accusations of assassination of Iranian physicists and assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats – back and forth between Iran and Israel – continue. A new round of US and European sanctions is being phased in, and in the US, the Republican presidential candidates are competing in power language against Iran.

3: Is Iran becoming a nuclear power?

The answer is that we do not know . US intelligence says that Iran had a weapons-related program until 2003, but that the weapons-oriented activities were stopped that year and have not resumed since. The head of US intelligence, James Clapper, reiterated this in a recent Senate hearing, saying it was “a high degree of certainty”.

Recent reports from the IAEA , however, show that there are indications that some of the weapons-related activities continued after 2003 and that some of them may continue to this day. Israel claims they know the Iranians are making nuclear weapons, and many Western politicians talk as if they know the same thing.

In any case, the Iranians have been slow to act . On top of the shah’s large investments in nuclear energy in the 1970s, the enrichment program – which will eventually produce the weapons material – has been going on for 25 years. In comparison, Pakistan and South Africa (no longer nuclear power) spent 12-15 years acquiring nuclear weapons.

In the West, many have been calling wolves for 10 years and saying that in one, two or three years Iran will be a nuclear power. Then they have updated their alarming predictions from year to next. Former IAEA chief Muhammed El Baradei says he has not seen any evidence, only contrived allegations. His predecessor Hans Blix is ​​reminiscent of Iraq, where the United States and Britain claimed that there were weapons, which later turned out not to exist. It was determined by inspectors from both the UN and the United States.

Now Western countries are trying to prove intentions that may not exist. El Baradei’s successor, the Japanese Amano, has been heavily criticized for his Western orientation, and the Iran reports made under his leadership are controversial .

4: Does Iran meet its international obligations?

According to SUNGLASSESWILL, Iran is a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT) and the NPT gives member states the right to exploit nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. All countries that do not have nuclear weapons must report their nuclear activities to the IAEA, which checks that the activities are not being abused for military purposes. Until 2003, however, the enrichment program was kept secret: Thus, it was clear that Iran had violated the safeguard agreement with the IAEA. The agency listed a large number of activities that should have been reported.

That year , Iran changed course and gave the IAEA ample opportunity to inspect the facilities. The Agency (IAEA) was allowed to apply the so-called Additional Protocol to the Security Control Agreement . This makes it possible to look for activities that may not have been reported. Iran also opened up for inspection of some military installations on a voluntary basis.

From the end of 2003 to February 2006, Iran accepted more extensive inspections than any other country in the world. But when a majority in the IAEA board decided to send the Iran issue to the UN Security Council with a view to sanctions, the Iranians reverted to the original security control agreement. And it gives little opportunity to check if something is kept hidden. Since then, the Agency has gradually lost track of what is happening. Instead, it has begun loading national intelligence into its reports .

5: The historical backdrop

The strained relationship between Iran and the Western powers has deep historical roots. England and Russia fought for a long time for influence in Iran. The Tsar hijacked land, while England seized the oil. When the elected Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq came to power in 1951 and nationalized the oil industry, the British appealed to the United States to remove him. It happened in 1953, and young Muhammad Reza Pahlawi was put on the throne as the United States’ extended arm in the country . In Iran, there is still an undercurrent of suspicion against both the British and the Russians, and after the revolution in 1979, the United States is referred to as “the big satan” and Israel as the small one.

The revolution and the hostage drama – 52 US embassy employees were held hostage for 444 days – created an irreconcilable attitude in the United States. The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since then, and Americans are not allowed to have contact with Iranians unless it is politically clear. Iran is the number one enemy image of the United States . As the nuclear issue is part of a broad and deep conflict , it is difficult to find a separate solution to it regardless of the conflict in general.

6: Geopolitics and dispersal

The Iran issue is important not only in the Middle East but also globally . It is about both geopolitics and the future of the international non-proliferation regime . Geopolitically, it is a question of Iran’s future position between the West and the rapidly growing powers in the east and south, primarily the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). There are more and more indications that the basic aim of American policy is a change of regime in Iran, and the BRICS – especially China and Russia – will avoid this.

The conflict is reflected in the Syrian conflict . There, the West wants to deprive Iran of an ally while the BRICS opposes all talk of military intervention and unilateral support for the rebels. For the non-proliferation regime, it is about more than Iran. If Iran crosses the threshold and becomes a nuclear power, more countries can go in the same direction, not just in the Middle East.

That is why the Iran conflict is the same as the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians: the whole world is concerned about it. Nevertheless, the question boils down more and more to the relationship between three states: Iran, Israel and the United States. They are the ones who decide what will happen. The focus is on negotiations, sanctions, state terrorism and the use of military force.

7: Negotiations

From the end of 2003, Iran and the EU / EU3 (France, Britain and Germany) negotiated a solution to the conflict. During the negotiations, Iran suspended its enrichment activities. In August 2005, the EU came up with an offer that was rather thin. For example, many had expected that Europeans would assist Iran with power reactors, ie with peaceful use of nuclear energy, but the offer only said that they would not do anything that could prevent the market from functioning normally. But if the EU3 did not want to do anything on its own initiative, the Americans could stop selling from the EU through their patent rights. Iran perceived the whole thing as a provocation .

The United States never believed in the negotiations. At the time, the White House believed that the United States was so powerful that it was not necessary to negotiate. Conversations should rather be a reward for those who behaved as the United States wanted. Talking to the axis of evil – Iran, North Korea and Iraq – was under no circumstances relevant. In retrospect, it may seem that the Europeans were influenced by this way of thinking and therefore did not think it was necessary to offer Iran that much. In February 2006, the case went to the Security Council with a view to sanctions, and since then the conflict has intensified.

When Barack Obama became president, he said he was ready to talk to US opponents without conditions. The first negotiation meeting took place on October 1, 2009. It was a confidence-building measure: the Iranians were to give up 1,200 kg of lava-enriched uranium that they had produced themselves, in exchange for recovering fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran. What was left in Iran would not be enough to be further refined for weapons purposes.

In new talks three weeks later, it became clear that the Iranians were unsure whether the Western powers and the Russians would keep their part of the agreement. They were the ones to deliver the fuel rods. Moreover, the internal power struggle was in Tehran after this summer’s presidential election so strong that no leader was able to pursue effective diplomacy. Obama was under pressure from an Iran-hostile opposition and had a bad time. The negotiations were therefore fruitless, and at the turn of the year 2009-2010, Obama was back on the Bush administration’s sanctions track.

This had an interesting aftermath. In 2010, Turkey and Brazil reached an agreement with Iran on the same confidence-building measure, only with better assurances for Iran. But then the Americans were no longer interested. They wanted stronger sanctions, and were able to pass a resolution on this in the UN Security Council. However, the agreement showed that it is possible to make agreements with Iran.

8: Sanctions and terror – not on purpose

After four rounds of increasingly stronger sanctions , it is not possible to get the Security Council involved in more. Instead, the US and the EU are now imposing their own sanctions on Iran’s oil trade. The United States is pressuring other countries to reduce imports from Iran. Japan has already done so and is therefore exempt from the sanctions. Now the pressure is primarily on China, India, South Korea, Turkey and South Africa. The EU will suspend all imports from 1 July.

This is hurting the Iranian economy. The average Iranian is punished the most, even the middle class. But the regime still manages to channel resources to its high-priority programs, such as the nuclear program. In Iran, this high-tech prestige program has broad support. Therefore, the sanctions do not work as intended.

Nor do the computer attacks, the killings of Iranian nuclear physicists and the sabotage of military installations. On the contrary, such activities make it easier for the Iranian authorities to call for unity against Israel, the United States and other suspected culprits. Admittedly, the rivalry in the leadership is strong and the popular dissatisfaction with the regime is widespread, but the pressure from outside means that the opposition has poor working conditions.

9: Use of force

New negotiations are underway , but Obama has little room for maneuver (upcoming presidential elections, etc.). From the Israeli point of view, negotiations are a waste of time. There is no indication that the sanctions and terrorist acts will cause Iran to change its strategic calculations. Therefore, supporters of the bombing may soon claim that all other possibilities have been tried.

But not right yet. During Nethanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, the United States and Israel approached each other. Nethanyahu said he was willing to wait for the results of the sanctions and negotiations: both he and Barak now say they do not need to act in the coming weeks or months. Obama recognizes the Israelis’ right to act on their own and is supposed to give them more of their strongest conventional bombs.

He emphasizes that a new war in the Middle East is a lesser evil than Iran with nuclear weapons , and that he does not bluff when he says he will attack before Iran eventually crosses the threshold. Such a war would be a blatant violation of international law and trigger strong reactions around the world, but they seem to care little about it.

This is a high stakes game for a president who does not want a new war at all with unforeseen consequences in an election year. If Iran does not offer surprising concessions, the talks will be short-lived. The effect of the sanctions is also not much to wait for, because it is quite clear that they do not stop the nuclear program. In the early summer, the supporters of bombing may therefore have strengthened their case.

So why is Iran not giving in to the pressure on them? This is not the first time Tehran’s decision – makers have seen life and death in white. In the 1980s, they fought a bloody war against Saddam Hussein, who was backed by all the great powers except China. The war veterans – not just the Revolutionary Guards – have now taken leading political positions. They are not suicidal, but neither are they easily intimidated. Iran is a proud nation with rich traditions.

Attack routes and attack targets

The shortest route from Israel to Iran is across Jordan and Iraq. Israel can use aircraft and ground and submarine-based missiles and has received powerful conventional bombs, so-called bunker-busters, from the United States. Jordan will probably let the planes pass and Iraq is virtually without air force. There are also other possible routes, and there is speculation about the use of airports in Azerbaijan for stopovers.

The Natanz enrichment plant, a gas-to-gas uranium conversion plant near Esfahan , the Arak heavy water and reactor buildings and a new enrichment plant near Qom ( Fodo ) will be among the most important targets. The latter is built so deep into the mountains that it is difficult to destroy with conventional weapons. This is the facility the Israelis refer to when they say that time is running out. The nuclear program has many other known haunts and probably also many unknown ones, and Israel is hardly capable of carrying out many waves of attacks over such a great distance.

An attack will put the Iranian nuclear program back, but could quickly become a costly victory . For one thing, the countermeasures, which can set large parts of the Middle East on fire. Another is that the program will most likely continue afterwards, and then with renewed vigor and without inspection rights for the IAEA. If the target has not been nuclear weapons before, it will most likely be then.

New War in the Middle East

Libya: Difficult Dilemmas

Libya: Difficult Dilemmas

The wave of insurgency in the Middle East continues. In Tunisia and Egypt, major upheavals have taken place with relatively little use of violence. But not in Libya. The country is on fire, marked by a civil war between Gaddafi’s government forces in the west and rebel forces in the east. “Five to twelve” – ​​on March 17 – the UN Security Council decided to intervene in the conflict, and on March 19, Western planes began to bomb. Then we faced a probable massacre of the civilian population in Benghazi and other cities in the east. In dictation and action, the dictator had proved both willing and able to do so. The stated objective of the Security Council Resolution 1973 was to protect the civilian population.

  • What are the dilemmas facing the international community in Libya?
  • Who are the parties to the conflict in Libya?
  • What is meant by “responsibility to protect”?
  • Is protecting civilians the same as supporting one party in a civil war?

According to SMARTERCOMPUTING, the election in the Security Council was not easy. It was a choice between a number of controversial alternative options where the least bad alternative won out – the use of military force “to protect civilian lives”, including a no- fly zone . The UN Charter’s principle of non-interference in internal affairs was set aside. Instead, the Security Council took “responsibility to protect” – a new norm that was included in the declaration of the UN summit in the autumn of 2005.

2: Commentary March 11: how to stop Gaddafi?

There is not much we can do for the victims of the tyrants – therefore we must do what we can. The UN Security Council has often failed in recent decades – from Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s – to Iraq and Sri Lanka in the last decade. The great powers have failed either because they do not want to agree on how to confront brutal despots like Saddam Hussein, because they are willing to accept anything from regimes fighting “terrorists” – or because they do not want to use resources to save lives. citizens of other states.

Positive exception? Libya can continue to be a positive exception in and for international politics. The members of the Security Council quickly agreed on sanctions (Resolution 1970 ) against Muammar al-Gaddafi and his circle: an arms boycott, seizure of financial assets, travel and visa bans and “reporting” to the International Criminal Court . The investigation of Gaddafi as a possible war criminal has already begun. The EU will extend economic sanctions. This has not come close to reacting to the generals in Burma.

The problem is that it takes time for such measures to bite. A lot of blood will flow while government-loyal forces use superior fighting power against civilians and insurgents. Therefore, a no-fly zone and other use of military force against Gaddafi’s soldiers must be planned. However, the dilemmas are in line:

  • Those who can implement an effective no-fly zone are Western states, which after Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza – and arms sales to Gaddafi in particular – have minimal credibility as world police in Arab countries.
  • International military sanctions are most effective while being planned and can scare the regime’s supporters into flag flight. Once the operation is underway, accusations of civilian casualties and growing demands for ground operations will come.
  • The open discussion about the effectiveness, legitimacy and costs of flight bans, weapons aid to rebels and invasion undermines deterrence. When several members of the Security Council and NATO question any military action, Gaddafi’s elite forces have less reason to desert.

3: Comment 2, March 25: the next steps in Libya

Massacres in Benghazi were prevented and Gaddafi’s plane was crushed. Now Arab countries must contribute, the Africans mediate and the rebels organize.

A successful Libyan operation could be a breakthrough for the UN’s ability to further develop international law and defend fundamental human rights in a dramatically changing world. But the drop is staggering . The fall of Gaddafi and Tripoli must not appear as the work of the West. If NATO ‘s muscles are used more actively than the UN’s brains, it will be more difficult than easier to intervene the next time a tyrant sharpens his knives.

The Western world military alliance, NATO, must not act as a rebel air force after the liberation of the besieged city of Misrata . Only a new UN resolution can give the legal signal for a change of regime or an attack on Gaddafi’s forces where civilians are not under attack.

Successful start. If the United States, France and Britain had not attacked and stopped the Libyan government forces on March 17, next week’s news would have shown how Gaddafi’s forces had “gone from street to street, house to house and room to room without showing mercy” in the rebel cities. to use the dictator’s own words. Weekend 22. – 24. In March, rebels seized cities and oil facilities from Ajdabiya in the east to the outskirts of Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte in the west. The UN-authorized international coercive operation has so far been militarily successful. Many civilian lives are saved.

Still, there is cause for concern . If the coercive operation is still totally dominated by western countries such as the USA, France and the United Kingdom, a civil war in Tripoli with long-term sanctions will neither appear successful nor legitimate outside the EU and the USA. It was the Arab League that first requested a flight ban on March 12, thus paving the way for the Security Council’s decision (Resolution 1973) .

This was not to be another Western campaign in the Muslim world. Yet the great Arab countries shine with their absence – despite their large and expensive air weapons. Only the small states of Qatar and the United Emirates provide flights. It must be more politically expensive to be for something you do not contribute to. More and more people will want to make the operation in oil-rich Libya suspicious if non-western countries remain on the fence.

The phase of diplomacy. High-tech air warfare is easier to carry out and attracts more public attention than political mediation and reconciliation. Easier a Norwegian plane from Crete, it gets more news coverage than African heads of state who want to mediate peace, but are not allowed to fly into Libya.

Several elements of the decision. The protection of civilians is only part of the Security Council’s resolution 1973 . Equally important is the Council’s decision to seek a ceasefire, peace mediation and a political solution. This means that African, Arab and Western diplomats must exercise as much initiative as NATO’s generals and pilots. At a summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday, March 22, representatives of the African Union, the United Nations, the countries of the Security Council, the EU and the Arab League agreed on the framework for a political solution: a ceasefire and negotiations between Gaddafi’s regime and the rebels on a transitional period until elections to democratic institutions.

It is also a prerequisite for success that the rebels are better organized. With great courage and enthusiasm, untrained and undisciplined militia groups conquer and lose one city after another, but the rebels still stand without a unified leadership and a political program. They must appear as a credible alternative to Gaddafi’s regime and not as a threat to the groups and tribes that have not taken part in the uprising.

Following a bloody victory for Gaddafi, a protracted civil war between East and West is the worst-case scenario for Libya, as well as for the countries participating in the military operation. A civil war in a divided country will lead to economic and social collapse and enormous civilian suffering on both sides of the front lines. Therefore, diplomacy must now take over after the air force has done its thing.

4: The rest: from the online meeting on March 17 – before the decision in the Security Council

Q: What reactions can the rebels expect if Gaddafi regains control of Libya? The Gaddafi regime has always been extremely brutal. Opposition groups called for a boycott of the rally. Hundreds of prisoners have been killed in prisons and thousands have been tortured. We can expect bloody revenge from Gaddafi, unfortunately, if he were to win and take the rebel capital, Benghazi.

Q: What is the best thing the world community can do for Libya now (March 17), and why? At the UN summit in 2005, the principle of ” responsibility to protect adopted ” when 190 countries vowed that “… we are willing to act collectively, in a fast and powerful way … if peaceful means are inadequate and national authorities clearly fails to protect its population from

  • genocide,
  • war crimes,
  • ethnic cleansing, and
  • crimes against humanity ».

It can not be said more clearly. Heads of government from the United States to Norway and from Russia to China have a commitment to protect civilians in Libya. The Security Council quickly agreed on sanctions (Security Council Resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011) against Gaddafi and his entourage.

The problem is that it takes time for such measures to bite. A lot of blood will flow while government-loyal forces use superior fighting power against civilians and insurgents. Therefore, the international community should adopt a no-fly zone and threaten Gaddafi with another use of military force, even if the threats are not necessarily implemented.

Q: How can we facilitate that Russia and China also perceive Gaddafi’s actions as illegitimate, so that motions for resolutions are not rejected in the Security Council? In 2011, our leaders are not allowed to be spectators to civilians being slaughtered on foot. The pressure on Gaddafi should have been stepped up as early as February. The Security Council should have long ago authorized the implementation of a no-fly zone and a naval blockade. Only the UN can provide the necessary authority.

The creativity of our Western politicians must be challenged: they must speak less publicly, and they must act with and through the Arab League and the African Union . As early as March 2, Amre Moussa (leader) declared that “the Arab League will not stand with its hands tied while the blood of the Libyan fraternal people flows”. An Arab-Western action with a UN mandate would be a diplomatic triumph.

Q: Gaddafi still has some support. Do we know who has deserted? How is the balance of power between the parties? Gaddafi and his sons have long built up their own loyal elite forces, which they use in addition to more or less compliant army and air forces. Many officers and soldiers deserted as it looked like the rebels would win. The absence of a credible threat has since caused many to come down from the fence – on the wrong side. Gaddafi also uses African mercenaries. We know too little about how ethnic and cultural contradictions are used and abused.

International military sanctions are most effective while being planned and can scare the regime’s supporters into flag flight. When the operation is underway, there are accusations of civilian casualties and increasing demands for ground operations.

The open, Western discussion about the effectiveness, legitimacy and cost of flight bans, weapons aid to rebels and invasion undermines deterrence. When several members of the Security Council and NATO doubt that military action could be carried out, Gaddafi’s elite forces have less reason to desert.

5: Norway – aid to Libya?

Q: Should Norway send in forces to kill Gaddafi? How can Norway contribute without having to send troops to Libya? After the Cold War, neither Norway nor any of our allied countries have had a policy that allows the killing of leaders in countries we are not at war with.

We should urge Arab countries, with the help of other UN members, to use all necessary means to stop Gaddafi’s abuses. We should ask the Arab League and the African Union to take a leading role in forcing Gaddafi to stop the abuses and negotiate with the rebels.

Q: Has Norway had a connection with Gaddafi in the form of trade, economy or support, before the uprising in Libya began? How will this affect Norway in these areas? Answer: Norway has extensive investments in Libya’s oil and gas, among others. a. through Statoil. Many people probably find it a little embarrassing that it was argued for an embassy in Tripoli not long ago. Norway will now loyally follow up on the UN’s punitive measures.

Q: Will a comprehensive boycott of Libya help now? Will Gaddafi think so long-term that this will hinder his actions? A good series of boycott measures have already been adopted, but that does not stop Gaddafi from attacking civilians and violating human rights. In the long run, it will hopefully contribute to negotiations on a transition to a democratic system. A full economic boycott of the whole of Libya is unlikely to be introduced. This will hit most people harder than the privileged Gaddafi family. (cf. the Iraq boycott of the 1990s)

6: West and Libya

Can Libya become a new “Afghanistan” if the West intervenes and helps? If Western countries, led by the United States, entered with ground forces, there might be a new “Afghanistan war”. But it will not happen. U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates recently told U.S. cadets that “those who want the United States on the ground in a new war in the Middle East should have their heads examined.”

Who are the rebels? Will most of them need help in the form of military forces from the West, or will they lead the revolution alone? Gaddafi has cracked down so hard on all opposition in his dictatorship that no prominent opposition leaders or political groups are emerging with holistic alternatives. Opponents are from all walks of life and from both religious and secular forces that have one thing in common: opposition to the dictator.

Did the West make a mistake when we took Gaddafi back into the heat due to. the war on terror? Is it possible to send troops into Libya, and which soldiers should we send in? Yes, Western countries should not go to bed politically and economically with Gaddafi just because he went from promoting terror to cooperating in the “war on terror”. That it is Western weapons Gaddafi uses against civilians, says most. I do not think western countries should send soldiers into the ground. But we can contribute to an Arab-Western flight ban and naval blockade after a clear signal from the Security Council.

Is it possible to sue Gaddafi in an international court? Is it possible to send elite soldiers to arrest Gaddafi? The International Criminal Court in The Hague, ICC, is under way, but it demands that Gaddafi be handed over or captured. It is not easy to take a dictator who surrounds himself with thousands of loyal elite soldiers. In any case, Western countries should not try. Then Gaddafi will easily present himself as a brave defender of Arab honor against the superpower USA. Perhaps Arab countries with their new regimes and together with other Arab countries will be able to take Gaddafi if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant.

7: Responsibility for protection – «R2P»

The international law boundary for when the international community has the opportunity to intervene is unclear. Does the support that the UN summit in 2005 made for “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) have any direct or indirect significance for this demarcation? The UN Security Council has often failed in recent decades – from Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s – to Iraq and Sri Lanka in the last decade. The great powers have failed either because they do not want to agree on how to confront brutal despots like Saddam Hussein, because they are willing to accept anything from regimes fighting “terrorists” – or because they do not want to use resources to save lives such as do not belong to their own citizens.

This changed when the «obligation to protect» was adopted in 2005: Now the Security Council must in principle react collectively and «in a quick and powerful way,… if peaceful means are not sufficient and national authorities clearly fail to protect their population from genocide , war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity ».

Libya - Difficult Dilemmas

The Revolutions in the Middle East

The Revolutions in the Middle East

After two quick victories in Tunisia and Egypt, the “Arab Spring” entered a difficult period. The revolution in Bahrain was crushed by force, Libya experienced civil war, the Syrian protest movement suffered heavy losses, and neither the opposition nor the regime managed to win in Yemen. Then spring became summer and summer into autumn.

Only at the turn of the month August-September 2011 did one of the four experience a breakthrough. Then Gaddafi’s grip on Tripoli, and the rebel forces took control of the city. However, much remains to be done to create democracy in Libya. Will the revolutions win and the people rule?

  • What are the goals of the “Arab Spring”?
  • How united are the rebels in the Middle East?
  • What unites and what separates them?
  • How will the rebels “win the peace”?

2: What are the goals of the “Arab Spring”?

According to the slogans that prevail in the Arab revolutions, the goal of the uprisings is ” freedom ” (huriya) and ” dignity ” (karama). The inhabitants of most Arab countries have lived with freedom and oppression for decades. Now they want political rights and a system where everyone has a voice. In other words, the revolutions are a struggle for democracy .

In addition, the feeling of living in humiliation for many is linked to the economic everyday life – to the lack of welfare . The Arab economies are struggling with a combination of weak productivity, large youth groups and rising unemployment. For the protesters who shout down with corrupt and authoritarian regimes, the economic disability and the political reality are two sides of the same coin .

At the same time, there is some disagreement among the protesters about the way to go and the long-term goal. In the short term, the question is whether and to what extent the regime must fall and what funds can be used. In Bahrain, the protest movement has been split between two wings. A radical wing demanded the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, while a reform-oriented faction worked for a constitutional monarchy. In Yemen, from the outset, street protesters have demanded the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, while the established opposition parties have long sought to reach a compromise.

3: Some dividing lines among the rebels

According to SHOE-WIKI, the rebels in the Middle East do not agree on one thing and another. We see clear dividing lines between them.
GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES : The revolutionary movements in reality bring together social groups with different living conditions and to some extent conflicting wishes and motives. An important distinction is made between young people and older political actors. The youth activists have played a very crucial role in starting the revolutions and bypassing the regimes’ communication barriers through mobile phones and social media. They have expectations of profound changes that also involve an element of rebellion against patriarchal structures. The established opposition, on the other hand, has more limited demands and is not always willing to give the youth political influence.

IDEOLOGICAL : Another ideological divide is between Islamists and secular forces. Both can be equally staunch opponents of the regime. But where the former want to root out an alternative to the current political system in Islam, the latter are concerned with pushing religion out of politics. In Syria, left-wing and religious-conservative opposition leaders have long had difficulty gathering in a “transitional council.”

COMPETITIVE AGENDA : A third distinction is made between geographically or religiously based groups with competing agendas. Yemen is the crowning example of a country where the revolution brought together movements that initially had widely differing goals . In north to the border with Saudi Arabia, the revival-like Houthis movement been at civil war with the central power since 2004. Houthis accuse the regime of discriminating against their religious group, Zaydi- Muslims (Shiites), and give leverage to Saudi Wahhabi Islam in Yemen.

In the south , the separatist movement Hiraak dominates, seeking to secede the former South Yemen, which was merged with northern Yemen in 1990. In the capital, Sanaa, however, Saleh opposes tribal and military leaders trying to seize power. Parts of the central elite have previously been involved in the fight against the Houthis and benefited from the capital’s dominance over southern Yemen.

4: How to overthrow the regime?

The possibility of the revolutions to win must be considered in two rounds:

  • In the short term: the ability to overthrow the regime and
  • In the long run: the prospect of winning peace.

In the first question, we can say that the revolution in Libya has succeeded, the revolution in Bahrain has failed, while the outcome in Syria and Yemen is still unclear. President Saleh has admittedly announced that he will resign, but he has also said so before without following up in practice. In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine. ” Why has it dragged on?

Person-dominated republics and dynastic monarchies

Libya, Syria and Yemen are clear examples of what professionals call person- dominated regimes. They differ from one-party and military regimes in that the real power does not lie in the party or the corps of officers. It lies with the leader who in practice has hijacked the state apparatus for himself and his clan and / or family. Such regimes usually have a narrower social base than one-party and military regimes and are therefore vulnerable when revolutionary winds blow.

On the other hand, in person-dominated regimes there is a tendency to fight to the end because the power apparatus consists of people who “sit in the same boat” as the president. This counteracts internal divisions. In Egypt and Tunisia, the leaders of the army turned against the president at a crucial time because they saw the possibility of retaining their position without Mubarak and Ben Ali at the helm.

In Libya, Syria and Yemen, there was no similar state, independent institution that could turn against the president (or the colonel in Libya’s case). The leaders of the security forces were all hand-picked by Gaddafi, Assad and Saleh and in many cases belonged to their own clan and family.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a very different type of regime. Here, power is rather concentrated in an extended ruling family (al-Khalifa), less in one person alone. The technical term here becomes ” dynastic monarch in” because the members of al-Khalifa have shared power and positions among themselves. This makes it more difficult to overpower the regime because the princes are so numerous and because they stand and fall with each other.

In addition, Bahrain has the other royal houses on the Arabian Peninsula behind it. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sent military forces to the country to save the authoritarian kingdom.

5: Change of power – violence or non-violence?

For the revolutionaries, finding a good means of weakening the regime is a major challenge. The issue of violence versus non-violence is one important trade-off. Taken as a whole, the Arab Spring has from the beginning been characterized by peaceful means. This was effective in Egypt and Tunisia, where protesters won sympathy in the face of regime repression. They managed to sow discord in the power apparatus.

In Libya, a similar development was initially seen. Authorities there reacted to the regime’s violence by “jumping off” and giving their support to the people. At one point, however, the rebels decided to use weapons they had won in Benghazi to use violence against the regime. Then the ranks joined behind Gaddafi, and the military repression came on the offensive. Had the UN and NATO not intervened on the part of the rebels, the Libyan revolution would apparently have suffered an unfortunate fate.

After the fall of Tripoli and while the Syrian revolution is struggling, military defectors in Syria have argued that they too should point weapons at the regime . They reject the possibility of reform or internal divisions in the Bashar regime and claim that this type of person-dominated regime must ultimately be removed by force. However, Syria’s previous experience of armed insurgency gives cause for concern. When the Muslim Brotherhood used violent action from the late 1970s, the regime responded ruthlessly and crushed the movement militarily in the city of Hama in 1982.

6: Western intervention

Another important topic is the question of Western military intervention . In March 2011, NATO imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and bombed Gaddafi’s positions in a way that helped settle the civil war. However, the dilemmas associated with military aid from outside are great. In a part of the world where the West in general and NATO in particular have little popular trust and are suspected of being controlled by the thirst for oil, relying on Western military aid can create resistance to the revolutionary movement. It gives water on the mill to the regimes’ propaganda, which from the outset has portrayed the revolutions as a “conspiracy” by external powers.

The challenge with both Western intervention and violent means of action is also to lay down arms when peace is to be won. Unruly revolutionary forces with weapons can derail attempts to build a new political order. Moreover: If the new regime becomes dependent on Western military aid to maintain stability, it may prevent the system from achieving national legitimacy.

7: How to win peace?

Not all revolutionary movements succeed in overthrowing the dictator. And where it does, only half the work is done; The construction of a new and better system is often the biggest challenge. Attempts to change society through revolution have throughout history often failed, given unforeseen outcomes or ended in return for the old political order.

One classic problem is that revolutions are causing more and more radical demands that end up undermining stability. In order to stabilize a revolution and establish a “normal” and viable political order, three conditions must be in place :

  1. Legitimacy of the people
  2. Support in the elite
  3. Efficiency in everyday life
1. Legitimacy

The first precondition for waging a revolution in port is to ensure that the new rulers have legitimacy in the population . That is, the citizens regard their government as legitimate . In democracies, free elections ensure such legitimacy. But it is demanding to secure recognition in a transitional phase before elections can be held and give legitimacy to a new board.

Libya today faces this challenge. The Transitional Council, established in Benghazi in February 2011, must convince Libyans that it is representative of all the people of the country. Residents of other cities, such as Tripoli and Misrata, may feel underrepresented and question who has the right to elect councilors. A transitional government will also be appointed. If it is seen as a tool for individuals or special groups, it will lack legitimacy and have problems managing.

2. Support in the elite

The second prerequisite is to create support in the elite about the system and the broad outlines of a country’s development. It is important to avoid key political actors opposing each other. Such agreement (consensus) is demanding to achieve in states that are in the process of getting rid of non-democratic government. The deposed dictators have often ruled by playing social and elite groups against each other and thus splitting them. Gaddafi, Saleh and Assad gave benefits to some and downgraded others in ways that sowed divisions between regions, tribes and religious groups.

These tensions will not disappear with the leaders, but will complicate the gathering of neighborhood, clan and religious leaders. A special challenge for Libya is also to build a bridge between former opposition figures in exile and politicians with a domestic background from Gaddafi’s regime. The two groups have lived in different worlds and will need both ingenuity and time to build a common platform.

3. Efficiency

The third prerequisite is to restore effective governance that at least preserves, or preferably improves, the level of prosperity . As mentioned, economic dissatisfaction is a driving force behind the revolutions and will continue to threaten stability if dissatisfaction persists. The short-term effect of revolution is usually an economic downturn since the riots affect everything from trade to tourism.

However, it is of great importance that the wheels get started again in the new system so that the inhabitants feel it is going better. If the opposite happens and the price level and unemployment skyrocket, nostalgia for the old regime will soon arise. Opponents of democracy can then use the argument that “everything was better before” to undermine support for reforms.

By virtue of Libya’s large oil reserves, the Libyan state has an advantage over the other countries in revolution. These could help Libyans recover economic growth relatively quickly. By comparison, both Yemen and Syria soon have empty oil wells, nearly four times as many inhabitants, and significant development problems. Those who take over from Saleh and Assad will have few easy solutions to improve value creation and meet the people’s expectations of a life of dignity.

The struggle for democracy in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria can be long even after the dictators have been removed from the field.

The Revolutions in the Middle East

Libya: Road Choices are in Line

Libya: Road Choices are in Line

The Arab Spring is almost two years old, and it is still going on. Most striking is what is happening in Syria. In a situation where the news picture is characterized by ongoing fighting and abuse, it can quickly evoke demands for foreign involvement, but will it always be helpful? There are also news from Libya and other Arab countries that things are taking time. Often the next phases after a takeover can be the most difficult. The case of Libya illustrates this.

  • How united is Libya?
  • What are the prerequisites for Libya to succeed in the change of power?
  • What happened to the UN resolution of 1973?
  • What are the most pressing issues facing the new leaders in Libya?

2: The fragmented Libya

Every country has its history. Libya has more. In the Ottoman Empire, the country was administered as three different provinces:

  • Tripolitania in the west,
  • Kyrenaika (with Benghazi) in the east,
  • Fezzan in the southwest.

When the Italians occupied the country in 1911, they retained the same division, but switched to a fifth division before World War II: Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, Derna (a coastal strip) and the Libyan Sahara. When the British and French occupied the area in 1943, they returned to the old triad with British rule in Kyrenaica and Tripolitania and French rule over Fezzan. After the country became independent in 1951, the same division was used. Libya then became a constitutional (constitutional) monarchy organized as a federation with three capitals: Tripoli, Benghazi and Sabha.

However, this administrative structure was only a coarse-grained division. Beneath it lay a network of just over 20 major tribes , and still tribal affiliation largely determines people’s identities. The vast majority of the 5.6 million inhabitants are Arabs , while the minority consists of Berbers (the western name of the indigenous people of North Africa) in the west and south and the nomadic Tuareg and Toubou peoples in the south.

Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the Arab Spring began, the people of Libya therefore have no common history in their territory, but many different narratives. In Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab Spring meant that people had a chance to “reclaim” their lands after decades of dictatorial rule. In fragmented Libya, this task is different and more difficult, because here the feeling of historical community is much weaker.

3: Rebellion against Gaddafi

In 1969, King Idris was overthrown by a group of non-commissioned officers. Muammar Gaddafi became the country’s new leader at the age of 27. At that time, Libya had started exporting oil, and when the price of oil skyrocketed in the 1970s, the country received large revenues. Libya eventually became the richest country in North Africa , but dissatisfaction was still significant because revenues were unevenly distributed.

Internationally, Gaddafi’s radical ideology and distinctive leadership style created unrest and discontent. He supported international terrorism and imposed sanctions on it. He sought acceptance and “homeland” in the Middle East, Africa and the West, but was rejected – with one important exception: the Western powers showed him respect when in 2003 he pledged to stop all support for international terrorism and all attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But as the war in 2011 showed, there was no deeper understanding or agreement behind this.

Inside, Gaddafi spent a lot of money securing support for the regime. The quality of the health care and education system was higher than in neighboring countries. But at the same time he played on the heterogeneous (disparate) Libya and distributed and disadvantaged according to political will. It created a lot of irritation and anger and became part of the backdrop for the revolt against him.

Gaddafi kept the military on fire while he politicized them. This is how he secured his own position. Extensive use of foreign mercenaries also secured his grip on power. The fighting power was greater among the semi-military, who were closely linked to the intelligence services where the sons held important positions. Gaddafi came to power in a military coup, thus reducing the risk of falling victim to another coup.

When the uprising started in February − March 2011, this made the road to Tripoli easier. But without NATO’s bombing campaign and ground support from several countries, not least Qatar, it would hardly have succeeded.

The Security Council Resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011 was used as a justification for the intervention in Libya. Initially, this states that a ban on all air traffic over Libyan territory is a significant contribution to the protection of the civilian / population , and establishes a no- fly zone over the area. Furthermore, the Security Council demanded a ceasefire immediately . Two days later, a group of NATO countries (among them Norway) started the most intense air traffic that has ever taken place in Libyan airspace.

And in the months that followed, the Western powers opposed any ceasefire. The aim was clearly a change of regime – Sarkozy (France) and Cameron (Britain) had made that clear in advance. But had the resolution said that the intention was a change of regime with military power, it would never have been adopted.

The way in which the resolution was used, however, had an aftermath in the case of Syria. With the Western twist of the Libyan mandate fresh in mind, Russia and China sharpened their opposition to interfering in the conflict. Wise of the damage, they said a definite no to any thought of getting the Security Council to legitimize foreign interference in it.

In Libya, the new leaders are naturally in a certain debt of gratitude to the countries that helped them remove Gaddafi. And not just the leaders: The assassination of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens – killed in Benghazi by a radical militia – led to a strong popular reaction. People demanded that the militias be brought under control – in practice a cry for law and order.

4: Libya in a comparative perspective

In Libya, as in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Kosovo, the Western powers won militarily in the sense that the existing regimes were removed. But the subsequent phase – stabilization and democratization – proved to be much more difficult. What are the prospects for stabilization and democratization in Libya? What can we read from the experiences gained in the other countries?

Nation building is expensive. The size of the countries says something about the price tag. The population of Libya is two to three times as large as in Kosovo and Bosnia, but barely a third of Iraq and Afghanistan. Libya is also richer than the other countries, with an annual income per capita of over $ 14,000 before the war began. The war and the sanctions before it were also less devastating. The economic foundation for nation building is therefore relatively good.

The geography is also favorable. Libya has a long coast that allows for exports and imports, while the other countries barely have a coastline (Iraq has access to the Persian Gulf, but is trapped and dependent on the goodwill of others). Libya’s neighbors lack both the motive and the strength to prevent the rebuilding of the country; the other countries have demanding neighborhoods . The strategic importance is small and does not call for competition between the great powers for influence in the country. All this counts in favor of Libya.

However, the country is politically immature. Only Afghanistan can be compared to Libya in that way. Gaddafi’s legacy was heavy. His recipe was divided and prevalent: in addition to the historical, regional and ethnic differences, he pitted the tribes against each other. The National Transitional Council inherited a country with long traditions of local self-government and weak ministries that lacked the trust and legitimacy of the population. The state institutions were poorly developed or simply absent.

The legacy of the Civil War was also heavy. The rebel leadership in Benghazi called for support from armed groups in the west of the country – not only to crack down on Gaddafi, but also to prevent the war from taking the form of fighting between East and West. Many armed groups gained a share in the victory, and when the war ended, it overflowed with weapons. More than 125,000 Libyans carried weapons and were members of well over 100 militia groups. However, many weapons and mercenaries disappeared south where they destabilized Mali . Libya suffered from a lack of nationwide police, and the judiciary was poorly developed and congested.

5: Libya one year after the war

In July 2012, parliamentary elections were held – for the second time in Libya’s history. The first time was in 1952, shortly after independence (an election was held in 1965 as well, but then no political parties were allowed). According to EU observers, the election went smoothly and smoothly, although technical problems and violent unrest disrupted voting at some of the polling stations.

To a parliament with 200 seats became

  • 80 elected on party lists
  • 120 as independent

The parliament, which will sit for one year, has legislative authority and will decide how the work on the new constitution will take place.
An alliance of parties led by former (interim) Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril won 39 of the 80 party seats, while the Brotherhood’s party won 17. This was interpreted as a victory for liberal forces in the country and as progress for women’s participation in politics. Jibril’s campaign constantly encouraged this. Among the independent candidates, many had a vague position in the political landscape, but the Brotherhood expected to find much support there. All in all, the election was a major step forward for Libya.

According to SECURITYPOLOGY, Muhamed Magariaf was elected president of the National Assembly and is the country’s de facto head of state. He was early on demanding democratic reforms, and in 1984 he tried to kill Gaddafi. He then spent most of his time in the United States before returning to Libya in 2011. The new prime minister was Mustafa Abu Shagour , who narrowly won over Mahmoud Jibril. Shagour is an engineer and has an academic career behind him, also with a long stay in the United States . But when he presented his list of governments in October, he was ousted by the National Assembly. That the country is unstable in this phase should not surprise anyone.

A new political system is thus taking shape, and it is happening faster than expected. The election, the popular reaction to the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi and the government’s subsequent integration of three key Benghazi militias into the Libyan army give cause for optimism. The protesters – an estimated 30,000 – raided several of the bases of Ansar al-Sharia , a militant Islamist group suspected of participating in the attack on the consulate. The United States supports the construction of the army and other parts of the nascent Libyan security apparatus financially and / or through training.

6: The problems

The continuation is still uncertain . When the fighting ceased so quickly, it was largely due to local leaders and civilian and military groups engaging in an end to the devastation. But this patchwork of security actors is fragile. The agreements and arrangements are time and place specific and can break down almost at any time.

The regional contradictions, tribal affiliations, the many different militia groups and the large supply of weapons can in the long run become a recipe for endless tactical maneuvers and persistent conflicts and clashes. In such a landscape, there is little pointing forward.

Much therefore depends on the government in Tripoli managing to establish a reasonably efficient national security sector. For most people, there is nothing more urgent to keep the country together and to bring it on a democratic course. The pattern of local leaders and militias must be broken in favor of state governance and control. The need is urgent, for Gaddafi’s divide-and-rule policy reinforced fragmentation by pitting groups against each other. Some won the regime’s favor, while others suffered. When the dictator fell, militant Islamist groups, especially in the East, launched assassination campaigns against Gaddafi’s supporters. A number of armed groups were then ready to defend their interests or seek a larger portion of the cake.

Initially, much of the conflict dynamics have been kept in check, but a more secure future depends on the dissolution of the militias and the reintegration of its members , either in the army or in civil society, and the collection of weapons . The classic definition of a functioning state is a government apparatus with a monopoly on physical means of power. But the building up of state power must take place gradually and therefore becomes a painstaking task.

Following the unrest in Benghazi and the assassination of Christopher Stevens, the Tripoli government demanded the dissolution of all militias beyond its control. However, such a top-down strategy for disarmament and demobilization has little chance of success and can make matters worse. The government of Tripoli has neither the means nor the legitimacy for such an approach. In anticipation of a nationwide police, judiciary and prison system that can guarantee the safety of citizens, the collection of weapons must be based on consensus with the militias.

At the micro level , it is about power, resources and in many cases revenge. At the macro level as well: the uprising against Gaddafi gave new life to the historical conflict between Kyrenaica and Tripolitania, between Benghazi and Tripoli. These cities are close to 1000 kilometers apart and with the Sidragulf in between, and each have their own identity. The divide is very much alive. The government of Tripoli must find a balance between the development of a fairly unified security sector and a degree of autonomy for Benghazi. The Berbers in the west and south, who played a significant role in the conquest of Tripoli, also demanded autonomy (internal self-government).

Libyans are Sunni Muslims and generally conservative. Therefore, the new leaders early on advocated sharia law, perhaps more out of respect for the dominant religious currents in the country than out of their own convictions. Decades in the United States must have left traces in both al-Magariaf and Abu Shagour. These are leaders who showed courage in the fight against Gaddafi and who are well suited to secure American and other Western support. They can also play on the gratitude of the people for the Western support in the fight against the dictator (although it is far from unison).

Revolutions, however, tend to eat their own. The fraternity can come stronger into the picture over time, as in other countries that have experienced the Arab Spring. The pattern in Egypt and Tunisia was that relatively liberal and secular forces kicked off the revolution, while the Islamic movements led by the Brotherhood gradually came stronger and took control. The same in Iran in 1979: Initially, the revolution was fronted by moderate and secular leaders (Mehdi Bazargan, Abolhassan Bani Sadr), before Khomeini tightened its grip on the 1980s. Something similar could happen in Libya as the settlement with Gaddafi comes to a close.

Libya - Road Choices are in Line

Who are the Israelis?

Who are the Israelis?

Few states in the world are as widely covered in the international media as Israel. But in the big political drama, Israel is often portrayed as something one-dimensional, like a homogeneous mastodon with a powerful army and strong leaders. This picture reflects to a small extent the Israeli society, which is rather very heterogeneous, and is characterized by being a young state with a population that has immigrated from many – and in some cases very different – countries. Israeli society is therefore also characterized by deep, internal dividing lines. Therefore, in order to better understand Israel’s political priorities, we must look inward toward Israeli society itself.

  • Who are the Israelis?
  • What are the central dividing lines internally in Israel between different Jewish groups?
  • How has Israel’s history affected Israel’s views of the world around it?
  • How does immigration to Israel affect political life?

2: A safe haven for Jews

The creation of Israel was the result of a long process. Establishing a state for the world’s Jewish population became a goal in 1897. At that time, a group of European Jews gathered in Basel, Switzerland for what became known as the First Zionist Congress. Anti-Semitism and nationalism in Europe were on the rise, and the World Zionist Organization was established to establish a national home for Jews from all over the world.

At the same time, the organization was to encourage – and facilitate – Jewish immigration (immigration) there. The Declaration of Independence, read out in the Israel National Assembly by the Knesset by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948 , is descriptive of how the Jewish people in the country themselves understood the significance of their recent state. The declaration opens as follows: “The land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped … The recent catastrophe of the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgent need to address the problem of the homelessness of the Jewish people by restore the Jewish state in the Land of Israel. ”

There were thus two important reasons behind the establishment of Israel: That the state held areas of very special religious and cultural significance to the Jewish people, and that the Jews in Europe had always been treated as second-class citizens.

3: Turbulent history

Israel was established on May 14, 1948 and has been at war since then. This has affected the way the Jewish people of Israel view their Arab neighbors, who today are marked by obvious distrust. Many attribute this to the turbulent history of Israel. Israel has not only been a state at war: Israel was born at war, it is often said.

Over the heads of the Palestinians, the UN General Assembly (51 mainly Western states) adopted a partition plan for historic Palestine on November 29, 1947. At that time, war broke out immediately between Palestinians and Jews. It took less than 24 hours from the creation of the state until Israel was at war with its Arab neighbors. That the Israelis see this war fundamentally differently than the Palestinians can be seen only from the name of the war: While the Palestinians call it “al-Nakba” – the catastrophe – the Jews in Israel talk about the ” war of independence” .

When this war ended with a ceasefire agreement in 1949, the boundaries of the Jewish state had been extended well beyond the UN partition plan. The Israeli state still has no internationally recognized state borders. Israel has therefore been in border disputes ever since the ceasefire agreement. The most violent war in which this took place took place in June 1967. It has become a milestone: Israel won sovereign and occupied territories three times larger than itself , including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. from Jordan.Since then, Israel has expanded and consolidated its control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, mainly through the establishment of Jewish settlements in the areas.

Today, the settlers number 289,600 in the West Bank, and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. This has contributed to regular conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In 1987 came the first Palestinian intifada. The first intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Palestinians believe that the agreement made their situation worse, and this has led to the second intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa intifada, which broke out on September 28, 2000. Several analysts believe that we can now face a third intifada.

4: A society of immigrants

The people of Israel are made up of immigrants from all over the world. The population of the country has increased dramatically rapidly: While the Jews numbered about 84,000 in 1922, the number had increased to 800,000 in 1948. Today, Israel’s Jewish population numbers about 5.5 million. Of these, only 68 percent were born in Israel. As many as 32 per cent are immigrants, mainly from Europe and the USA. So who are the Israelis?

About 25 percent of Israel’s nearly 7.5 million people are Arabs. Yet it is the Jewish majority of Israel that characterizes the entire state. Therefore, it is worth noting that when the majority is asked to name their most important identity marker, it is not “Israelis” they give in response, but “Jewish”.

The strong immigration to Israel is inevitably linked to the country’s identity as a safe haven for the world’s Jews. In line with Zionist ideology, the Israeli government has always actively encouraged Jews outside Israel to immigrate in order to strengthen the Jewish character of the new state . At the same time, Jews around the world have wanted to move to Israel in search of community and belonging. The authorities continue to offer automatic citizenship and, to some extent, generous welfare schemes to Jews who choose to immigrate.

This is in line with Israeli law, which gives all people of Jewish descent and their spouses the right to immigrate to Israel. For Zionists, this is understood as a return to the homeland of the ancestors. As a result, the extensive immigration has led to a very pluralistic society, with some deep dividing lines.

5: Ashkenasim, sefaradim and mizrachim

The different ethnic and geographical backgrounds of the Jewish immigrants are expressed through the differences between what we call ashkenasim, sefardim and mizrachim (the im-suffix is ​​a Hebrew plural). The meaning of the words says a lot about what the conflict is about:

  • Ashkenazi is a Yiddish word for “German” and is used to denote Jews who come from Europe.
  • Sefardi comes from the Hebrew word for Spain – Sefarad – and refers to Jews of Spanish and North African descent.
  • Mizrachi Jews refer to Jews who come from the Middle East, i.a. Iran and Iraq, as Mizrach is Hebrew for the east.

In everyday speech, however, Sephardim and Mizrachim are mixed, and both are used about Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. Somewhat simplified, we can therefore say that the main difference in the Jewish population is between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi / Sephardic Jews.

6: Ethnicity and conflict

The differences between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi / Sephardic Jews are not only about ethnicity , but also about political influence , economic class and education , as well as cultural differences. These dividing lines go back to the wave of immigration that the creation of Israel brought with it. At that time, the Jewish community in Israel went from being relatively small and homogeneous to growing rapidly and becoming heterogeneous. The country has increased tenfold in 50 years.

Over 57 percent of the immigrants are Ashkenazis from Europe, with the majority from Eastern Europe and countries in the former Soviet Union. Since 1991 alone, more than 1.3 million Russians have moved to Israel. They are becoming a significant power group in the country. As it was the Ashkenazis who founded both Zionism and later also the driving force in the establishment and construction of modern Israel, this group has been a leader in Israeli society. And it still is. As a consequence, the Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews have experienced that they have had to work for greater recognition, ever since the state was established.

In a young society such as the Israeli one, the struggle over the values ​​on which it should be based has also been important. Before the state was established, was the unifying value a kind of pioneering spirit, where Jews stood together to establish a Jewish state. And, in the early years of the state, it was Zionism that filled this role in the Israeli-Jewish identity. But as the population grows, so do the Jewish community . At the same time, Zionism is no longer as unified an ideology as it once was. It is therefore difficult today to point to any common denominator in the Israeli-Jewish identity.

7: Religion in Israel

Israel is the only country in the world where the majority are Jews , and the state strongly associates itself with Jewish culture and religion. Therefore, it is worth noting that according to Israeli law, there should in principle be full religious freedom. Israel is a secular state, and there is a sharp divide between state and synagogue (Jewish house of worship). At the same time, the Jewish religious law (Halakha) applies in some areas, such as family law. This means that all Jewish marriages and divorces must be heard in a religious court.

Judaism is far from a unified religion. The two main branches that we find in Israel are Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. The difference between the two mainly concerns the extent to which religion should dominate all aspects of people’s lives. Israel conforms to what is called Orthodox Judaism. This is a relatively strict form of Judaism. It nevertheless allows the followers to participate in society, provided that it does not directly contravene the commandments of the religious law.

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, on the other hand, allows no flexibility, and has a strained relationship with other Jewish denominations as well as with non-religious Jews. Ultra-Orthodox Jews claim to be the true heirs of Judaism. Therefore, they live in strict accordance with Jewish law and relatively isolated
from the rest of Israeli society. They therefore live mainly in their own enclaves, primarily in the areas of Mea She’arim in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak outside Tel Aviv. There they have their own schools, courts and shops.

The conflict between religious and secular

The fact that ultra-Orthodox Jews have chosen to isolate themselves from the rest of society has set the minds of the non-religious population in Israel on fire. The conflict between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews is based on two issues in particular: the payment of taxes and the service of military service. While Israel has a general conscription for both men and women (3 years for men and 2 years for women), the ultra-Orthodox are exempt from this duty, and they live largely on social benefits from the Israeli authorities.

This is the result of an agreement between ultra-Orthodox leaders and the Israeli government when the state was created. Then it was a central idea that Israel should be a state for all Jews. Therefore, Israel should allow all forms of Jewish living. At that time, the ultra-Orthodox in Israel were few and far between, and there was no major burden on the state to enter into this compromise.

But over the years, the groups’ share of the population has changed drastically , and the pressure on the non-religious part of the population has increased. While non-religious groups have an average of 1.8 children, ultra-Orthodox women have about 8, which today makes up just under 20 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. While the exemption from military service for the ultra-Orthodox in 1948 applied to 400 people, it applies to almost 130,000 today.

Secularists – who do not care about religion – have therefore become increasingly opposed to the exceptions and benefits that the ultra-Orthodox receive from the government: where being in the army is eventually associated with great risk.

8: “Ethno-religious” politics?

Israel has a multi-party parliamentary system . The National Assembly – the Knesset – consists of 120 members. The representatives are democratically elected by election every four years; All Israeli citizens – both Jews and Palestinians – over the age of 18 have the right to vote. Election day is a public holiday.

Israeli politics is at times very confusing with many parties and volatile constellations. All Israeli governments (with the exception of the one in 1948) have been coalition governments , composed of a whole range of different parties. This contributes to the fact that Israeli governments tend to be both unstable and pragmatic. The parties in a government are often given responsibility for their own flag issue , rather than a government standing for a single political platform. One reason for this is that the barrier limit to the Knesset is low – only 2 percent. This makes it a little easier to get voted in. Another reason is that the various dividing lines also cut through Israeli politics – across the parties.

According to RCTOYSADVICE, the religious and ethnic contradictions between Jewish groups have manifested themselves in the fact that political parties can in many ways be described as interest groups. With the exception of the three largest parties – the Social Democratic Labor Party , the Center Party Kadima and the right-wing Conservative Likud party
– the other parties’ political programs are more a reflection of the group they represent than a program of broad interests and a broad ideological platform.

The Russian immigrants, for example, have Avigdor Lieberman’s (current Foreign Minister) party Israel Beiteinu (Our Home Israel) as “their” party; Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews have United Torah Judaism , while Mizrachi and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews have their mouthpiece in the influential Shas party .

We find Arab groups mainly behind three parties; either Hadash on the left, Balad – which is a nationalist party – or the more moderate United Arab List . When the whole country also consists of one constituency, it means that the composition of the Knesset evenly reflects how Israel is composed. The large groups will always have the greatest influence, while small groups will remain without much weight in the Israeli parliament.

9: Israeli economy in 2010

Did you know…:

  • Israel has an economic system that is somewhat similar to the Norwegian one: A market economy with significant state control.
  • Israel has few natural resources and is dependent on significant imports of oil and gas.
  • Israel has signed free trade agreements with both the United States, the EU and China and was the first country outside Latin America to sign a free trade agreement with Mercosur.
  • Agricultural products and high technology (especially computers, computer technology and military technology) are crucial to Israel’s exports.
  • Israel’s high technology is among the leaders in the world, and that Israel’s significant growth in technology and science was crucial for Israel’s membership in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) in September 2010.
  • The United States is Israel’s most important economic partner. The EU is second most important.
  • The United States provides the Israeli state with an annual loan guarantee of more than $ 3 billion, in addition to supporting Israel’s defense budget with nearly $ 3 billion annually.
  • the relationship between poor and rich largely coincides with the relationship between Israel’s Jews and Arabs: Of Jews, 16% are poor, while 50% of Arabs (Druze, Palestinians) are poor.
  • Diamond grinding and tourism are crucial to both employment and the Israeli economy.

Who are the Israelis

Saudi Arabia Recent History

Saudi Arabia Recent History

Founding of the state

On the Arabian Peninsula existed in the first millennium. V. Independent empires. The political unification of the Arab tribes in the 7th century under the sign of Islam was short-lived. It was not until the 18th century that Mohammed Ibn Saud († 1765) and his son Abd al-Asis I († 1803), in close connection with the Islamic reform movement of the Wahhabis in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, created a state (capital since 1821 Riyadh), the temporarily extended beyond its area of ​​origin, the Nedjd landscape. On behalf of the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II. After several years of fighting, Egyptian troops smashed the first Wahhabi state in 1818. During the 19th century, the Saud dynasty (Saudites) lost their dominion in battle with their rivals; the Shammar Bedouins conquered Riyadh in 1884 and expelled the Saudites from there (exile in Kuwait since 1891). In 1902 Ibn Saud recaptured Riyadh from the Shammar and expanded – initially in dependence on the Ottoman Empire – his territory as Emir of the Nedjd and Imam of the Wahhabis on the Arabian Peninsula (1913 annexation of Hasa area; 1915 recognition of independence by Great Britain).

After conquering the emirate of Hail the Shammar (1921/22) and the kingdom of Hidjas (1924, occupation of Mecca), he was proclaimed king in 1926 (recognized by Great Britain in 1927) and proclaimed the kingdom of Saudi Arabia on September 23, 1932 . To provide external security, the new state concluded friendship treaties with Transjordan (1933), Yemen (1934, renewed in 1937; among other things, contractual regulation of the affiliation of Asir), Iraq (1936) and Egypt (1936). Ibn Saudand his successors, who in the meantime bore the ruler’s title of “guardian of the two holy places”, sought to combine the state and social order, which was characterized by a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam, with an intensive modernization of the economic infrastructure. The ruler and his extensive family determined the political development. The growing exploitation of oil reserves made the country one of the richest countries in the Middle East. By granting oil production concessions (1933) to the Standard Oil Company of California, later the Arabian American Oil Company (abbreviation ARAMCO), the rulers achieved high profits, which also benefited the state budget (e.g. expansion of the transport and school system, irrigation system). Towards the end of the During the Second World War, Saudi Arabia joined the Allies in the war against Germany (February 28, 1945) and Japan (March 1, 1945). It participated in the establishment of the Arab League. In the 1st Arab-Israeli War (Palestine War, 1948–49), Saudi Arabia remained neutral.

Power factor in the Middle East

After the death of Ibn Saud, his son Saud (Ibn Abd al-Asis; * 1902, † 1969) ascended the throne in 1953. With his lavish lifestyle he came into domestic political rivalry with his brother, Crown Prince Feisal (Ibn Abd al-Asis Ibn Saud), who from 1962 onwards pushed him more and more into the background and finally ousted him (1964). As king, Feisal opened Saudi Arabia carefully to the western lifestyle (close cooperation with the USA) without loosening the autocratic form of rule, and carried out (especially in the Yemeni civil war, still an opponent of G. Abd el-Nasser) after the Six Day War (June 1967) rapprochement with Egypt (Treaty of Khartoum, August 1967; balance of different interests in the Yemeni civil war). Especially since the 1970s, as a country located in Middle East according to Countryaah, Saudi Arabia has been able to enforce its hegemony claims in the Middle East against other Arab states – but also against Iran – and at the same time adopted common positions with them in the dispute with Israel. In terms of economic policy, the state endeavored to gain ever larger shares in ARAMCO (until it was completely taken over in 1980). Together with the other oil-producing Arab states, Saudi Arabia used oil exports as a weapon against the states of Europe and the USA, which are considered to be Israel-friendly,

After Feisal’s assassination (1975), Saudi Arabia rose under Khalid (Ibn Abd al-Asis Ibn Saud) to become one of the financially strongest powers in the world and was able to increase its international influence. In the Middle East conflict it rejected the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty (1979; Camp David), but looked for ways to resolve the conflict itself: In 1981, Crown Prince Fahd presented a peace plan. At the same time, the ruling house had to react to oppositional external and internal influences. In November 1979 radical Islamic forces occupied the Kaaba with messianic thesesand could only be removed by force. The Shiite population in the east of the country came under the influence of the fundamentalist Islamic revolutionin Iran (1979).

In order to protect itself against the risk of overturning in foreign policy, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states founded the Gulf Council in 1981. In the 1st  Gulf War, Saudi Arabia, which has been producing armaments v. a. Received from France, Great Britain and the USA, Iraq (1980-88) against Iran. In July 1987 and 1988, triggered by Iranian pilgrims, serious unrest and increased tensions with Iran occurred during the pilgrimages in Mecca. In 1988, Saudi Arabia agreed to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the 2nd Gulf War in 1991, Saudi Arabia was Iraq’s main enemy.

The negotiations that began in 1995 between Saudi Arabia and Yemen to settle the open border issues (including in the Asir region, based on the renunciation of what was then Yemen in favor of Saudi Arabia in the Taif Treaty of May 20, 1934) could only be concluded on June 13, 1934. To be concluded in 2000 with the signature of a border agreement; Saudi Arabia and Qatar had already settled their border disputes bilaterally in 1999. The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran eased from 1998/99 (including the cooperation agreement of April 2001).

Saudi Arabia Recent History

Oman Economy

Oman Economy

Remained until the seventies of the century. XX practically on the edge of the modern world economy, Oman has experienced significant development through the exploitation of oil, extracted since 1967 on behalf of the national company Petroleum Development Oman Co. The economy is therefore dominated by crude oil, whose production however began to decline since 2001, and natural gas, whose exploitation, on the contrary, is expanding. Since the 1980s, the income from oil production has allowed investment in other sectors and sectors. Initially, the state’s commitment took the form of agricultural infrastructure works (dams and irrigation systems) and the strengthening of light industry. Subsequent plans made it possible to increase spending on services and the non-oil industry. The country has managed to achieve a constant increase in the gross domestic product per capita, which amounted to US $ 18,988 in 2008, however the lowest in the area, registering, in the same year, a GDP of nearly US $ 36 billion. The thriving economy of the sultanate, which has often suffered both from regional tensions, as in the case of the Gulf War, and from the cyclical fluctuations in oil prices on international markets, undergoing numerous periods of crisis. The economic plans have therefore also focused on privatization and the resumption of investments from abroad, even if the new rise in oil prices in the early 2000s has partly decelerated this renewal phase and caused an increase in inflation. The authorities are however oriented towards the expansion of the other sectors, in particular the tertiary sector (services, tourism and new technologies), also through privatization (energy, water, services, telecommunications) and opening up to foreign investments, favored by the signing of free trade agreements with other countries.

Across the Gulf Cooperation Council Oman has commercial relations with the European Union, China and Japan. § The agricultural sector contributes modestly to the formation of the GDP and is mainly of a subsistence nature. Date palms, cereals (sorghum, millet, barley), vegetables (tomatoes) and tobacco are grown in the oases; fruit growing also has ancient traditions, especially the cultivation of citrus fruits and, later on, bananas; cotton and sugar cane, on the other hand, find a certain space in the Dhufar. § The breeding of sheep and goats, of cattle, present in the Dhufar, and of camels is particularly cared for. § However, fishing is of greater importance, especially sardines, which constitute the main economic resource for many coastal people and which are also largely exported. In the last decade of the century. XX benefited from the expansion of the fleet and the construction of a plant for the conservation and freezing of fish, while on the other hand forms of pollution have become more perceptible, linked in particular to oil activities. Pearl oysters are still harvested by very ancient custom. § The industrial activity is centered on the exploitation of hydrocarbons but there is no lack of other manufacturing companies; in addition, lively craftsmanship thrives. The discovery of oil has led to a series of fundamental transformations in the secondary sector, which now contributes to nearly two-thirds of GDP. Other mineral resources are gold, silver, chromite and copper, which feed the metallurgical plants of Ṣuḥār. There are also active industries for the processing of construction materials and cement (Raysut, in the far south, and Rusail, north of Muscat), chemical products, optical fibers and textiles, as well as oil refining and processing plants. production of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

New projects concern the production of fertilizers, aluminum and steel. § With the proceeds of the royalties on oil have been especially strengthened in social services, schools and hospitals in the first place, as well as road and communications infrastructures in general. The road system, considerably increased, makes use above all of the expressway, completed in 1977, which connects Muscat with the neighboring emirate of Dubai; the other main arteries connect Maṭraḥ with the oasis of Nazwá and the city of Ṣalālah with Raysut, in Dhufar. As one of countries starting with O according to Countryaah, Oman has the international airports of Seeb near Muscat and Ṣalālah (the national airline is Oman Air), as well as numerous ports such as those of Ṣalālah and Qabus, near Maṭraḥ, to which the terminal is Fahal oil plant, connected by pipeline to the main oil fields. International trade, more than tenfold in a few years, is based on the export of oil and liquefied natural gas; for the rest, the country exports dates, citrus fruits, fish, chemicals and metals. Imports are mainly represented by machinery and means of transport, various industrial products, foodstuffs. The trade balance is largely active; the most intense exchanges take place, as regards exports, with China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, while, as regards imports, above all the Arab Emirates United and Japan.

Oman Economy

Oman Politics and Law

Oman Politics and Law


According to the first constitution, which came into force on November 6, 1996, Oman is an absolute monarchy (sultanate). The head of state, head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces is the sultan. Legislation (based on Sharia) is made by decrees of the monarch. Representative of the people with an advisory function is the Council of Oman, consisting of the Consultative Council (Madjlis asch-Shura; 84 members, elected for 4 years) and the State Council (Madjlis ad-Dawlah; 70 members appointed by the Sultan). All Omanis over the age of 21 are entitled to vote, and women also have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate. As the executive body, the cabinet receives its powers from the Sultan and is responsible to him. The constitution fixes individual and collective rights and freedoms (e.g. freedom of religion, prohibition of discrimination based on origin, gender, etc.).

National symbols

The national flag was first hoisted on December 17, 1970. The red stripe on the leech has a third of the flag width and is covered with the coat of arms in the Obereck. The flying end is striped horizontally in white, red, green. Red is the traditional flag color of the Gulf States, the white stripe stands for peace and prosperity, and green for fertility.

The coat of arms first appeared on coins in 1940 and has been in use since 1971, modified in 1985. The emblem is the traditional parapet for adult men. In front of two crossed curved swords lies an Arab curved dagger (khanjar) with a belt buckle.

Oman: coat of arms

According to computerdo, the coat of arms of Oman shows the traditional defensive hangings of men: two crossed curved swords, in front of them an Arab curved dagger with a belt buckle.

National holiday: November 18th was the birthday of Sultan Kabus Ibn Said Ibn Taimur ( * 1940, † 2020 ), which ruled from 1971 until his death.


There are no political parties in Oman.


Trade unions have been permitted since 2006, but there are only a few in-house organizations. The umbrella organization is the General Foundation of Oman Trade Union.


The total strength of the volunteer army is about 40,000 men. The army (25,000 soldiers) is divided into 1 tank brigade, 2 infantry brigades, 1 tank and 1 infantry reconnaissance regiment, 3 artillery regiments, 1 anti-aircraft, engineer and paratrooper regiment each. The Air Force and Navy each have around 4,000 men, plus the Royal Guard with around 7,000 men.


Oman is divided into 11 governorates (Muhafazah) with 61 administrative districts (Wilayat).


The legal system is based on the Sharia (Islamic law), in addition there are elements of the English common law. Following a comprehensive reform of the judiciary, the courts of first instance are responsible for civil, criminal and economic matters; The judgments of these courts can be appealed against, for which 6 appellate courts have jurisdiction. The third instance is the Supreme Court in Muscat.


It was not until 1970 that the foundations for a modern education system were laid. There is no general compulsory school attendance. The school system comprises a ten-year basic level (English lessons from the first grade) and a subsequent two-year secondary level. In addition to the state Sultan Qaboos University (founded in 1986) in Muscat, there are four private universities and several state and private colleges.


Freedom of the press is anchored in the constitution, but it can be restricted. This happens among other things. through criminal and media laws. Some topics are taboo; self-censorship is practiced again and again. The state limits access to the journalistic profession.

Press: There are a dozen daily newspapers; Arabic languages ​​are »Al-Watan« (»The Nation«, founded in 1971), »Oman Daily«, »Al-Shabiba«, in English »Times of Oman« (founded 1975), »Oman Tribune« (founded 2004), »Oman Daily Observer “(founded 1981) and” Muscat Daily “(founded 2009).

News agency: Oman News Agency (founded in 1986, state-owned).

Broadcasting: “Radio Sultanate of Oman” (SOR, five channels) and “Sultanate of Oman Television” (SOTV, two channels) are state owned. There are also some private radio and television stations, e.g. B. “Majan TV”.

Country facts

  • Official name: Sultanate of Oman
  • License plate: OM
  • ISO-3166: OM, OMN (512)
  • Internet
  • Currency: 1 Rial Omani (RO) = 1 000 Baisa
  • Area: 309,500 km²
  • Population (2019): 4.9 million
  • Capital: Muscat
  • Official language (s): Arabic
  • Form of government: monarchy (sultanate)
  • Administrative division: 11 governorates
  • Head of State and Prime Minister: Sultan Haitham bin Tariq bin Taimur Al Said
  • Religion (s) (2010): 86% Muslim; 7% Christians, 6% Hindus, 1% other / n / a
  • Time zone: Central European Time +3 hours
  • National Day: November 18th

Location and infrastructure

  • Location (geographical): Arabian Peninsula
  • Position (coordinates): between 16 ° 30 ‘and 26 ° 30’ north latitude and 53 ° and 60 ° east longitude
  • Climate: Hot desert and semi-desert climate
  • Highest mountain: Jabal ash-Shams (2,980 m)
  • Road network (2012): 29 685 km (paved), 30 545 km (unpaved)


  • Annual population growth (2020): 2%
  • Birth rate (2020): 23.1 per 1000 residents.
  • Death rate (2020): 3.3 per 1000 residents.
  • Average age (2020): 26.2 years
  • Average life expectancy (2020): 76.3 years (men 74.4; women 78.4)
  • Age structure (2020): 30.2% younger than 15 years, 3.7% older than 65 years
  • Literacy rate (15-year-olds and older) (2018): 95.7%
  • Mobile phone contracts (pre-paid and post-paid) (2018): 133 per 100 residents
  • Internet users (2017): 80 per 100 residents


  • GDP per capita (2019): US $ 17,791
  • Total GDP (2019): US $ 77 billion
  • GNI per capita (2019): US $ 15,330
  • Education expenditure (2017): 6.7% of GDP
  • Military expenditure (2019): 8.8% of GDP
  • Unemployment rate (15 years and older) (2019): 2.7%

Oman Politics and Law

Sightseeing in Dubai

Sightseeing in Dubai

Dubai is the most popular travel destination in the United Arab Emirates and magically attracts visitors with its great beaches, impressive buildings and numerous sights. Without a doubt, Dubai is a city of superlatives that can offer countless highlights and attractions.

The range of luxury hotels is also gigantic. Hardly any other city in the world has as many high-class resorts as the metropolis on the Persian Gulf. Many holidaymakers decide to stop over on their way to Asia, but the emirate is also becoming increasingly popular as an independent holiday destination.

In the following we present you the most exciting tours, most beautiful attractions and best sights in Dubai.

Dubai - Burj Al Arab - Helicopter View

1. Burj Khalifa – At the Top

At 828 meters, Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and the absolute landmark of Dubai. Once in the city of superlatives, you should definitely enjoy the view from the Burj Khalifa. The impressive structure is one of the most famous sights in Dubai and is visited by thousands of holidaymakers every day. Tickets for the Burj Khalifa are available in different categories and price ranges.

We strongly recommend booking online in advance, as there can be long queues at the ticket counters on many days and there are often no driveways available at all. Even if the “At the Top / Sky” ticket grants access to the 148th floor and includes some extras, we feel that the normal “At the Top” tickets for the viewing platform on the 124th and 125th floors are sufficient. The whole city is at your feet here!

2. Desert tour in Dubai

Of course, a desert safari should not be missing from the most important sights in Dubai. There are also different options and price ranges here, but the processes are essentially very similar. You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to a Bedouin camp in the desert, where there is initially the option of camel rides or a small quad tour. Meanwhile, the tire pressure in the off-road vehicle is let out and shortly afterwards the rapid journey through the dunes begins.

A desert safari at the gates of the metropolis Dubai is an unforgettable experience, but not for the faint of heart. After the adrenaline rush, head back to the Bedouin camp, where a delicious barbecue buffet as well as a fire and belly dance show are usually waiting for you. VIP tours usually include service at the seat, particularly comfortable seats and drinks. Recently, self-drive safaris have also been offered, in which you sit behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle.

3. Dubai Fountain

Below the world-famous Burj Khalifa, one of the many free sights in Dubai will enchant you every evening with the “Dubai Fountain”. The impressive play of colors and water is coordinated with various romantic and traditional Arabic songs and the choreography of the fountains shooting up high in front of the gigantic building is unique in the world. The model was based on the famous Las Vegas fountains, which of course were surpassed in Dubai.

The show already takes place twice every lunchtime, but the special romantic atmosphere in the evening is particularly recommended. Secure a spot right on the water about 15 minutes before you start for the best view. The fountains of Dubai take place every evening between 6 and 11 p.m. every half hour. If you want to get closer, book a boat trip on the lake or a spot on the new floating boardwalk for an additional charge.

4. Burj al Arab

Along with the Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab is one of the most famous buildings in Dubai. It is a 321 meter high luxury hotel and one of the city’s main attractions. The Burj al Arab was built in the shape of a sail and houses one of the most luxurious 6-star hotels in the world. It is located on an artificially created island and is actually only open to hotel guests. A good photo spot can be found on the public beach in front of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Ask your taxi driver about Umm Suqeim Beach (Sunset Beach), there you will find a popular bathing beach with the imposing Burj Al Arab in the background. Or you can book an official visit to the luxury hotel by booking yourself for a sumptuous tea time or a cocktail in the bar of the Burj Al Arab. Since a reservation in advance is absolutely necessary, we recommend booking an official tour, which usually also includes the hotel transfer.

5. Dubai helicopter flight

The view from a helicopter high above the roofs of the city gives you a very special perspective of the sights in Dubai. The mostly 10 to 25-minute tours reveal exclusive views of the palm island The Palm Jumeirah, the unique skyline of Dubai and the aforementioned luxury hotel Burj Al Arab. Of course, Burj Khalifa, the tallest building, cannot be overlooked and is almost omnipresent.

The helicopter tours, during which you experience Dubai like a rock star from a bird’s eye view, usually start near the famous Atlantis The Palm Resort or a helipad near Jumeirah Beach. From here you have interesting views of the beaches on the Persian Gulf and the many spectacular buildings from the very first second. The longer tours also include a flight over the old Dubai Creek and other highlights such as the World Islands.

what are you watting for

6. Atlantis The Palm with Water Park & ​​Aquarium

The great Atlantis The Palm Resort is another of the many landmarks of Dubai, after all there is no commercial that does not show the impressive luxury resort on the famous Palm Island. Families with children in particular love the hotel and book directly there for their vacation if the budget allows. Because the Atlantis The Palm is not just a hotel resort, but is also home to several important sights in Dubai.

In addition to several pools and a great sandy beach, the hotel also has its own shopping street. This is where the Lost Chambers Aquarium is located, where the recreated ruins of Atlantis and up to 70,000 marine animals including large sharks can be admired. On hot days, the Aquaventure Water Park is the top address for young and old on the Palm Island. The countless slides, lagoons and adventure pools make boredom a foreign word.

7. Dubai Marina and Speedboat Tour

The Dubai Marina is not only one of the most expensive residential areas, but also an extremely exciting nightlife area for tourists. There are great restaurants and cafés here during the day and stylish bars and clubs with good music in the evening. Couples love a long walk through the marina, which can also be ideally combined with the neighboring “The Walk” on Jumeirah Beach, where there are other restaurants and numerous boutiques.

A special recommendation is a boat trip to the sights of Dubai. Because exploring from the water is a particularly exciting way to experience the fascinating backdrop of the city. Directly in the heart of the Dubai Marina, boat tours are offered by several providers, one of our absolute favorites is The Yellow Boats Dubai. First it goes relaxed through the high skyscraper of the marina, shortly afterwards at full throttle out to sea with many photo stops!

8. Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates

Shopping is actually a matter of course in Dubai, even if many products are not cheaper than in Germany. But the seemingly endless selection of luxury shops and stores from the lower price ranges make a shopping spree in the Emirates extremely exciting for many visitors. In addition, there are often very good sales offers and numerous brands that have still not found their way to Germany.

The best place to go for shopping is of course the gigantic shopping center of the Dubai Mall directly below the Burj Khalifa. Here you will find more than 1200 shops on several floors, one of the largest cinemas in the world, a real ice rink, a huge aquarium and much more. But the Mall of the Emirates, which is home to the quirky attraction Ski Dubai with a ski slope, has a great range of shops and is well worth a visit.

9. Gold and Spice Souks

Even if Dubai, with its glittering facades and world record buildings, stands for modernity and technical progress like no other city, Deira, Dubai’s second oldest district, still has the old flair of 1001 Nights to marvel at. The spice and gold market in Deira is one of the most visited attractions in the metropolis, although we have to admit that the visit is now not unreservedly recommended.

Many traders have meanwhile started to throw around German phrases (“cheaper cheaper,“ Aldi Aldi ”) and thereby destroy a bit the actual charm of the souks. The Gold Souk is also not a classic marketplace, but rather a shopping street with various gold shops. So it lacks a bit of the oriental magic of a real market, but the best thing is to get your own personal picture of it during a visit.

10. Excursion to Abu Dhabi

We discussed for a long time in the editorial office whether we should include a day tour to Abu Dhabi. Because Dubai itself is so rich in sights that it would easily be enough for a TOP20 list. Nevertheless, we ultimately decided on Abu Dhabi, as the capital presents a completely different impression of the Emirates. And the list of attractions in Abu Dhabi is long, so don’t miss a tour:

From Ferrari World to the Formula 1 track on Yas Island to the legendary Emirates Palace. From the view of the elegant Etihad Towers over the paradisiacal Saadiyat Beach to the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum. From the Corniche to the Falcon Hospital to the impressive Sheikh Zayed Mosque. If you have enough time and are in the mood for more great experiences, take the chance and explore the neighboring emirate as well. You will not regret it!

Cooling Off