US Ends Humanitarian Aid for Palestinians

No more back to school? UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl condemned cut in US aid that threatens to send Palestinian schoolchildren in the Occupied Territories back to the streets

The UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East began operations in 1950, funded by volunteer contributions from UN member states, to provide relief for Palestine refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. UNRWA provides education, medical care and emergency assistance to more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and since the agency’s beginning, the United States was the largest bilateral donor. The Trump administration has now announced an end to that support, calling UNRWA “irredeemably flawed” and “unsustainable,” due to support for the descendants of original refugees. About three-quarters of UNRWA staff are teachers, and experts warn program cuts could push hundreds of thousands of students into the streets. The United States seeks a new definition and limits for the term “refugee.” Palestinians and Israelis are still in conflict over territory and other issues, and the peace process is stalled. The United Nations expresses hope that other member states increase their contributions. – YaleGlobal

 

US Policy on Russia Aims for Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in 2015; US National Security Adviser John Bolton meets Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in 2018

Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. Foreign leaders and members of Congress have since focused their attention on Donald Trump’s Russia policies and may be neglecting other national security challenges. “The intense scrutiny placed on Trump and collusion has created a political atmosphere in which Russia has effectively become a boogeyman for domestic political ends,” writes Nicholas Trickett, research scholar and editor-in-chief of BMB Russia. “The Russia story provides political cover for the much scarier prospect of war with Iran.” Trump appointed hawks on Iran for two key positions: national security advisor in March and secretary of state in April. By May, the United States withdrew from the deal on containing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. So far, no policy shifts signal that the United States is going easy on Russia. Trickett analyzes the Trump administration’s subsequent moves with Russia on Syria and concludes that the Iran hawks may have figured out how to manipulate the president for their own political ends. – YaleGlobal

Rethinking Belt-and-Road Debt

Transport trouble: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticizes China’s “new colonialism” at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, and Chinese-built railway connects parts of Africa

More than 75 nations participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 to develop trade and connect Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe with ports, roads and railways. But some countries worry about adding to already heavy debt burdens, and some projects have become an issue in local politics. Among the most vocal critics is Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who has warned about a “new colonialism,” explains veteran journalist Philip Bowring. Mahathir questions infrastructure costs and strategic purposes relating to contentious issues like control over the South China Sea. Many emerging economies can certainly benefit from the infrastructure investment, explains Bowring, but cautious leaders also recognize the value of assessing project purposes and priorities. China, wanting to avoid heavy losses or criticism at home about wasteful spending, has launched a publicity campaign to promote benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative. – YaleGlobal

Egypt Not Mediterranean Gas Boss, Yet

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, discusses energy cooperation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi; Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla, right, at a joint news conference with Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis

Egypt aspires to be a regional energy market hub. Positioned on the Mediterranean Sea and between European markets and Middle East suppliers, Egypt has a developed energy infrastructure for refining, storage, and exporting oil and gas. “The country faces challenges, including maintaining equidistance from the region’s various tensions, reforming its legal framework for regional gas deals and effectively communicating its activities to the Egyptian population,” explains Mohamed El Dahshan, managing director of OXCON Frontier Markets and Fragile States Consulting. He adds this is “no easy matter given the complex history of regional gas cooperation, Egypt’s own regional energy relations, and its need to subdue public opinion with the necessities of regional cooperation around natural resources, which know no political frontiers.” The most recent Israeli-Egyptian gas cooperation agreement underscores the challenges. El Dahshan analyzes the history and urges improved policy development and communication with Egyptians. – YaleGlobal

Yale Assyriologist discovers evidence of lost city in Iraq

An ancient Sumerian tablet with cuneiform writing with local administrative text from the city of Irisagrig

When Eckart Frahm, professor of Assyriology at Yale, received a call from Homeland Security with a request to come to New York to assess cuneiform tablets, he was intrigued by the opportunity to provide an assessment of the content and origins of these ancient artifacts.

Frahm, who is one of only a few hundred people worldwide who can accurately read cuneiform texts, was taken to an undisclosed location in the city, where he had about two and half days to study these texts in a warehouse in which they were being temporarily stored. Each tablet was about the size of a cell phone, and many were in a poor condition, with salt incrustations covering large portions of their surfaces.

https://news.yale.edu/2018/06/26/yale-assyriologist-discovers-evidence-lost-city-iraq?utm_source=YNemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ynalumni-07-26-18

The UAE’s Unsustainable Nation Building

Slowdown? UAE economic growth dipped to 1.8 percent in 2016, and the government strives for less reliance on migrant labor and more startups like Souqalmal.com, a UAE-based financial comparison site founded by CEO Ambareen Musa

The United Arab Emirates ranks among the 10 wealthiest nations in the world, but the wealth is not spread equally among the population of 9 million, 90 percent of which are migrant workers. The country prospered by relying on low-paid migrant workers, many from South Asia who work on short-term contracts. Hefty recruitment and relocation costs, especially for the east skilled workers, put many migrants into debt. “Emirati citizenship is confined to those whose ancestors lived in its seven constituting Emirates before 1925,” explains Riaz Hassan, director of Institute of Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia and now a visiting research professor in Singapore. “The country has no system of naturalization or permanent residency.” The exclusionary system is unsustainable in an increasingly transnational world, and he encourages the UAE to transition from a labor-intensive to capital-intensive, high-tech economy requiring less manual labor and more skilled professionals. The UAE fears the loss of Arab culture, but that battle has already been lost. – YaleGlobal