Jerusalem News (30 March, 2015, 10 Nisan, 5775)
1. Pakistani Urdu Daily: It appears As If Iraq Is Part Of Iran
2. Report Says Iran May Be Keeping Elements of Nuclear Program in Syria, North Korea
by David Daoud
3. Can Saudi Arabia Feed Its People? by Yossi Mann
1. Pakistani Urdu Daily: It appears As If Iraq Is Part Of Iran
MEMRI Special Dispatch | 6009 | March 29, 2015 Pakistani Urdu Daily:
'Iran's Interference In Iraq's Affairs, Under American Patronage, Has Become So Much That It appears As If Iraq Is Part Of Iran'
In its editorial dated March 19, 2015, Pakistan's widely circulated Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Islam, known for its support of militant organizations in Pakistan, raised concerns at the increasing influence of Shia Iran. In an editorial titled "Dire Consequences of Irani Interference in Iraq", Roznama Islam argues that Iran is out to create a Shia empire which would destabilize the whole region. The Urdu daily is published in seven cities of Pakistan: Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Multan, Quetta, and Muzaffarabad (Pakistani Kashmir). The following are excerpts:
"America Has Taken The Command Of The Air Strikes [In Iraq], Whereas The Leadership Of The Ground War Is At This Time In The Hands Of The Regular Army Of Iran"
"The political circumstances in the Middle East are taking a dangerous turn every day. Iraq, which has been suffering from the destruction of the continuing political instability and civil war since the 2003 American invasion, is now bloodied because of another bloody war. The war that has erupted this time - its destructiveness has a much deeper impact than that of the previous one. This new face of civil war has practically divided Iraq into several parts on the basis of sects and nationalities; and the participation of international players in this war theatre has plunged the whole region into a massive turbulence.
"The biggest and most important reason for Iraq's current situation is undoubtedly foreign interference. At this stage, Iraq has become a war theatre of America and Iran, which ostensibly are archrivals on the international political chessboard. Both [America and Iran], for their own objectives, have united in the name of fighting the Islamic State [ISIS]. America has taken the command of the air strikes, whereas the leadership of the ground war is at this time in the hands of the regular army of Iran.
Not only this, Iran's interference in Iraq's affairs under American patronage has become so much that it appears as if Iraq is part of Iran.
"The international intervention in Iraq is such that several influential countries including America, Britain, and France have become entrenched there in the name of protecting their interests, which cannot be termed acceptable. Nevertheless, Iran's interference is making the situation frightening and horrible. On the one hand Iran is clothing the war against the Islamic State in the black garb of sectarianism by instigating the Shia prejudice in Iraq.
On the other hand, it is also trying to entrench its feet [in Iraq] by employing different tactics."
"Other nations of the region are rightly feeling that this black role of Iran is a serious threat to their existence. They fear that Iran, under the guise of [fighting] the Islamic State, in fact wants to establish its empire in the region on a sectarian basis and they would not be able to escape its reach.
"This threat is not a hypothesis played up as a political stunt. Deriving advantage out of the general climate emerging due to the Islamic State's terroristic activities, [Iran] has planted its black claws in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon; this has made the danger real.
This is the reason that Kurds, who wholeheartedly welcomed and supported the Arab countries and international powers against the Islamic State, have given indications of withdrawing their support after having witnessed its role in Iraq and [having realized] that Iran is reaping all the benefits of this war.
"Seeing Iran's unnecessarily increasing role in Iraq, the important neighbor of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, raised its voice first. Pointing towards Iran's increasing influence in Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister clearly told his American counterpart: it is happening under your [American] patronage.
"The way the leaders of Iraq's autonomous province Kurdistan had openly supported the international alliance against the Islamic State, the whole world is aware of that. Seeing the deepening foundations of Iran's interference in Iraq under the pretext ending the Islamic State and destructiveness of its sectarian influence, they [the Kurdish leaders] too have said that Shia militias active under the patronage of Iran are more dangerous than the Islamic State."
2. Report Says Iran May Be Keeping Elements of Nuclear Program in Syria, North Korea
by David Daoud
As world powers race to close a nuclear deal with Iran, recent reports have indicated that not all elements of Iran's nuclear program may be domestic, but that some of it may be located in Syria and as far away as North Korea. In light of the secrecy surrounding the talks going on in Lausanne, Switzerland these reports are receiving some attention, according to The Israel Project, a Washington DC-based advocacy group.
If true, the implications of the reports are far reaching. The Israel Project said that the debate in these reports 'involves how Iran has dispersed its nuclear assets to Syria and North Korea, which means that any envisioned deal would only slow a part of the Iranian nuclear program, while flooding the Iranians with cash to bolster what's left over.'
The reports indicate that Germany's Der Spiegel revealed the existence of an undisclosed nuclear facility in Syria where as much as 50 tons of enriched uranium may have been taken, so that while it remained in Syrian territory, it was nonetheless under Iranian control. The facility is located deep in the Qalamoun region, near the town of Qusayr, territory controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force and Iran's terror proxy Hezbollah.
Similarly, the Iranians are using North Korea as a storage facility for both uranium stockpiles and the necessary missiles to be used as delivery methods for nuclear warheads, according to Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The pair noted in the Washington Post that Iran is using North Korean territory to produce nuclear material, and other reports have indicated that Iran has ballistic missiles stationed in that country.
3. Can Saudi Arabia Feed Its People?
by Yossi Mann
Middle East Quarterly
Saudi Arabia managed to avoid dependence on the import of agricultural products such as wheat from the 1980s on. The increase in its wheat exports was spectacular, shooting from a mere 2.4 tons in 1978 to a million tons in 2000, sent mostly to its Persian Gulf neighbors and Asian countries such as Bangladesh.
In 2007, almost thirty years after setting out on an ambitious agricultural project, Saudi Arabia announced it would be phasing out government handouts to the agricutural sector, which would end in their entirety in 2016. Outsiders criticized the project from its beginnings, emphasizing the burden it would place on the economy and the damage it would inflict on the country's water assets. Critics were particularly scathing of the decision to subsidize the project and its detrimental effects on the Saudi economy as a whole.
Nonetheless, Riyadh moved forward with what it saw as its quest to provide both food security for its burgeoning population as well as additonal employment opportunities. An examination of the wheat industry that flourished in the kingdom between 1980 and 2007, its achievements and failures, as well as the influence of the agricultural sector on the local economy and on water resources may prove a cautionary tale, reconfirming the truths behind the law of unintended consequences.
Despite a great deal of skepticism, Saudi Arabia managed to avoid dependence on the import of agricultural products such as wheat from the 1980s on. Indeed, Saudi increases in agricultural production were unprecedented, rising from 148,000 tons of wheat in 1981 to 4.1 million tons by 1993. The increase in its wheat exports was even more spectacular, shooting from a mere 2.4 tons in 1978 to a million tons in 2000, mostly to its Persian Gulf neighbors and to other Asian countries such as Bangladesh.
The explosion in wheat production could not have taken place, however, without government support. In the 1980s, Riyadh granted the agricultural sector incentives such as subsidies on grain, fertilizer, and irrigation water, and a 45 percent discount on purchasing agricultural machinery. Despite the huge price difference between locally produced wheat ($1,000 per ton) and what was available on world markets ($100 per ton), the Saudi government continued to purchase domestic agricultural produce and to sell it on the local market at artificially lowered prices.
This thriving agricultural sector brought about a significant rise in employment. In the mid-1970s, 274,000 people worked in agriculture; those numbers rose to 681,000 by 1992. The boom increased profits for the farming sector though mainly for large landowners.
To increase profits further and to administer their holdings better, the important Saudi trading families and the Saudi princes joined forces with international companies. In the 1980s, for example, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, governor of the town of Ha'il, became a partner in the Ha'il Agricultural Development Company, which soon became the biggest agricultural company in the kingdom. Since most of the large agricultural companies were established by the Saudi elites, critics have claimed that the subsidies were essentially granted for the benefit of the same elites. A further consequence of the policy was an increase in wheat smuggling from Yemen and Oman in order to sell it on the Saudi market at a huge profit.
By the 1980s, Saudi government stability had become dependent on those who demanded subsidy guarantees in exchange for domestic stability. The subsidies took an enormous toll on the country's economy, though, eating up an estimated 20 percent of Saudi oil profits between 1980 and 2000. Nor were agricultural subsidies always consistently granted. When food and oil prices dropped, the Saudi government cut down on financial support in order to avoid excess production.
But, the ambitious wheat project also had a negative impact on the country's fragile water supply. The Saudi summer is very hot and arid with temperatures often reaching as high as 120degree Fahrenheit (4degree Celsius). Average rainfall is 5 inches (130 mm) a year although there has been some occasional flooding in agricultural areas during the "rainy" season. The sporadic rain, soaring temperatures, and high evaporation rates in the eastern areas of the country make it very difficult to establish a viable agricultural economy. For example, an average of 13,173 cubic meters of water is required to irrigate a hectare of wheat in Saudi Arabia as compared to the world average rate of 1,622 cubic meters.5]
The Saudi water sector only began to be developed in the 1930s. Until then, most of the kingdom's water came from wells that could be found near the main towns. In 1956, sewage water infiltrated many wells, forcing the government to accelerate the ground water pumping rate. In the 1970s, the use of non-renewable water resources was raised even further. A population explosion from 6.2 million in 19970 to 16.2 million by 1990 led to a sharp increase in demand. Rapid urbanization also took its toll: While 2.7 million out of a population of 7.6 million Saudis lived in cities in 1974, the country's population had risen to 18 million by 1992 with only 3.8 million remaining in villages and peripheral areas.
By the mid-1990s, the agricultural industry was responsible for 92 percent of total water consumption with 48 percent of that going to wheat.
By 1993, the government began to realize what a heavy toll the agricultural sector had taken on its water resources. According to the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture, 140 billion cubic meters of water had been pumped from non-renewable water sources between 1980 and 1994, by which time there was significant depletion of drinking water resources in various parts of the kingdom as in the Tebrak area, which is about 95 kilometers from Riyadh and was one of Saudi Arabia's biggest sources of water. In other areas, such as the eastern province, water reservoirs dried up or became unavailable because of bad management, lack of sewage, and excess use of fertilizers, which contain high levels of toxic chemicals. All of these factors caused contamination of the water supply and resulted in a decrease of between 8-15 meters of ground water between 1980 and 1993.7]
Sixty sewage collection disposal plants in the towns of Jeddah, Medina, and Khubar were established to supply 70 percent of the country's water between the early 1990s and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Riyadh also intends to establish forty wastewater treatment plants and to streamline water transportation pipelines. But there is a significant downside to these measures. Desalination plants are energy guzzlers, and depending on them takes a financial toll on governmental revenues accrued from oil and gas exports.10]
Some have contended that the policy was a misguided course of action derived from a sensible desire to reduce the country's number of foreign workers. Unofficially, estimates are that seven million foreign individuals work in 80 percent of the private sector, making it difficult for native Saudis to find jobs. Dependence on foreign workers has a direct impact on the economy: It is estimated to cause losses of billions of dollars every year because much of the derived income goes into the hands of foreigners who then transfer their wages to families outside the kingdom.
However, if recruiting native Saudis to the agricultural sector was a goal of these government subventions, the plan backfired. By the 1980s, most of the field workers were foreigners, and most farms were run by people of Egyptian, Omani, and East Asian origin. In addition, due to the gap between Saudi workers' abilities and industry requirements, more specialized work such as the operation of irrigation systems and advanced equipment were under the control of Westerners. Saudi citizens working in agriculture were mainly limited to positions in marketing and distribution. Similar to the Saudi oil industry (which had been controlled by Western companies until 1980), large agricultural enterprises were established and run by outsiders. For example, Saad-co, a company that was operational in the 1990s, employed 450 workers, of whom 100 were Saudi, 60 American and European, and the rest from Asian countries.
Others have pointed to a desire to diversify sources of revenue for the kingdom as key to the decision to invest so much in the agricultural sector. But an analysis of the contribution of the agricultural sector to the Saudi economy shows it to have consisted of 4.5 percent of the gross national product in 1975, 1.8 percent in 1986, almost 6 percent in 1998, and 4.2 percent in 2002.
Instead, the roots of the Saudi decision must be found elsewhere. Surprisingly, it may be a result of the 1973 global oil crisis, ironically enough triggered by the Saudis' own behavior. The sharp rise in oil prices from that period produced an increase in the cost of agricultural goods from abroad, which in turn, persuaded the government to try to lessen dependence on foreign food sources. The government also feared the creation of an external food cartel that could arise in reaction to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel. Alongside that, the closure of the Suez Canal between 1967 and 1975 raised transportation expenses and provoked fear that food supplies could be further disrupted. Moreover, a number of natural disasters that were detrimental to world wheat production occurred between 1970 and 1976 such aas the deadly 1970 Bhola cyclone in east Pakistan as well as severe drought in Australia in 1972 and the Saudi goovernment wanted to ensure that the country would not lack in food sources. With a rise in bread consumption due to the oil-induced economic boom and a 50 percent increase in Hajj pilgrims from 1980 to 1989, the Saudis needed more wheat as well as diversification of their food sources.
But perhaps the most significant factor behind the royal family's decision to subsidize and expand the agricultural sector lay in domestic, political considerations.
By 1976, there was a wave of government- sponsored development in suburbs surrounding cities where Bedouin began to cultivate their lands, including near Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Ta'if, Abha, and Jizan. Bedouins who have settled in the Ta'if region now make their living as herders and farmers.
Before the establishment of the modern Saudi kingdom, 70 percent of society in the Arabian Peninsula was of a Bedouin tribal, nomadic nature. In that setting, tribal leaders controlled the lives of their clansmen in ways that were essentially inimical to a centralizing government. To some degree, even after the establishment of the kingdom, these leaders maintained their status for a time through political marriages, control over pasture lands, and acquiring administrative or army posts for their people. But to truly consolidate power, the central government decided it needed to settle these Bedouin nomads in the big cities and in permanent villages, thereby breaking their traditional tribal bonds.
It must be borne in mind that the House of Saud was not the long-time ruler of the peninsula and its members were in fact something of upstarts. Generous subsidies granted to farmers by the government would be suitable compensation for foregoing a previous nomadic life and drawing the beneficiaries of the Saudi largesse closer to the ruling house. A growing agricultural industry appealed to many Bedouin nomads because it meant that they would have access to pasturelands as well as a regular income and would be released from their rigid tribal structure. Indeed, while 25 percent of Saudi citizens were nomads in the 1970s, by 1989, fifteen years after the agricultural project began, only 3.8 percent of the population remained nomadic.
A fundamental reason behind the determination to grant generous subsidies was the fear that the masses of Bedouins who had left their nomadic lifestyle would not have a steady income, and thus the subsidies aimed at avoiding social unrest amid the newly settled people. The royal family feared that it would lose its legitimacy if it could not provide a social and economic solution to accompany settlement.
The Saudi attempt to develop its own, internal agricultural industry to ensure food security was considered by many destined to fail from the outset. Indeed, subsidizing the agricultural industry had a devastating effect on the country's water supply as well as a negative impact on the economy as a whole.
Yet, despite the failure to guarantee food security from domestic sources, the project did have positive effects by providing employment for the hundreds of thousands of Bedouins who had abandoned their traditional, itinerant lifestyle because of the country's rapid urbanization. In the long term, the Saudi government was forced to look for other solutions for the food security challenge, notably purchasing lands abroad and creating food stockpiles that could reduce the challenge in any future food crisis.