Navigating MENA Markets with CAReem! #YallaCareem

When your competitor outspends you, your business model must be creative at the local level. ~ Abdulla Elyas, Co-Founder of Careem

 

When Saudi Arabia first announced that Saudi women could start driving in 2018, we initially thought: awesome for Saudi women; not so great for the ride-sharing industry within Saudi Arabia.   Specifically, Careem is the ride-sharing business model that beat Uber to the Middle East & North Africa location and filled a gap of public transportation and accurate delivery while generating thousands of jobs.  Instead, this was the response by one of Careem’s co-founders:

Now we can train and employ women drivers in Saudi Arabia.~Abdulla Elyas, Co-founder of Careem

Careem’s response imagined a long-term future that goes beyond the bottom line.   Elyas and his partners were on to something: 8 out of 10 Saudi women want to drive, according to Newsweek.  10 days after King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud’s announcement, Saudi women filled up a Careem training class.

Maybe that’s why Careem attracted another round of funding from a Chinese based investor, Didi: Careem does not shy away from competition.  For being creative in a competitive industry, and operating in a dynamic region, The University of Chicago’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation invited Careem Co-Founder, Abdullah Elyas, to discuss his technology background’s influence on ride-sharing industry– and wider entrepreneurship ecosystem– that stretches from Morocco to Pakistan.  Recently, Careem became the first ride-sharing/courier service in Palestine–Ramallah, specifically, which will hire locally in an area that faces at least 20 percent unemployment.

Careem successfully competed at different stages of funding to obtain Mideast investments–intra-regional capital injection signals confidence in local markets– from Wamda Capital, Arzan Venture Capital (Kuwait-based), Lumia Capital, El Sewedy Investments, as well as foreign firms, like Daimler and the technology focused investment group, Coatue.

Technology Side

“Make a left after the monument, then a little to the right…then…oops we’re lost and the house number does not follow a sequence,” sums up a variety of personal driving adventures in the MENA region.  We cannot count the number of times we have driven through Beirut, Jordan, Dubai and in Pakistan where our handheld map, or mispronounced landmark, could not get us directly to our destinations.  Sometimes it took a miracle to arrive at a new location when the term “address” did not register on a map.

In the 21st century, miracle may translate as a “timely app” that makes sense of the urban “non planning” in many of these countries.  In 2014, Elyas developed a cloud-based application, Enwani, which transformed Careem’s business venture into an precision-oriented ride-sharing experience.  Elywas also transformed from tech guy, to Chief People Officer, as he joins Mudassir Sheikha, Chief Executive Officer, and Magnus Olsen as Chief “Xperience” Officer to focus on the customer driven experience.  Now, Careem is the fastest growing technology company in the MENA region with projected 30% monthly growth.

Branding Careem

Another way of looking at this expanding $1.2 Billion enterprise is the branding aspect born out of Careem’s core values.  As Elyas said, you find the word “car” in Careem–and in Arabic, Kareem means “generosity”.  The co-founder explained that the pricing model offers a fair price to the rider and generous wage to the Careem driver, or ‘captain’, and an opportunity to donate to local causes, like the Refugee crisis.

On the Corporate Social Responsibility side of Careem, they recognize that their environment includes an influx of refugees in many of the countries Careem operates in daily.  Therefore, they partnered with the United National Refugee Agency to include a ‘Donate’ option via the Careem application while booking a rideshare.  Yalla, there you have it: Careem.   Or as one of their viral marketing campaigns says #BeCareem!

Speaking of branding, check out how Careem literally LAUNCHED their logo and concept into the MENA market beyond their Dubai rooftop:

Careem’s creative campaign in several emerging markets earned them over 5 million views and turned the voyeur into customer in over 80 cities, including Istanbul at the beginning of this year.

With Careem’s success, Elyas generously shared some tips for rising entrepreneurs:

  • Recognize that your business centers around a people culture, so don’t be shy in assigning a high level management position that focuses on people.  For example, he serves as Chief People Officer
  • Work with investors that share your business model’s values.
  • Disrupt the industry, NOT the regulator!

Stray Observation: Careem has already installed child/baby car seats for safety sake.  This observation and the last tip brings us to our question: Does Careem feel bold enough to disrupt the driving culture a little more by pressuring the regulator to enforce safer driving conditions?  😉

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When Special Envoys Get Dumped, Issues and MENA Region Get Drumpfed

“Rex Tillerson outlines a major State Department reform that promotes business, war on Islamic State, while downplaying African peacemaking and outreach to Muslim world,” writes Colum Lynch for the Foreign Policy magazine.  The 45th administration argues that this will achieve a 30 percent reduction in the State Department’s budget.  However, this will also send a message about U.S. priorities to the global village–not just the countries affected, which are mostly outside of the G-20 circle.

In effect, the Tru mp administration has disrupted the Middle East & North Africa region diplomatically by removing senior envoy positions at the U.S. Department of State, which one would hope, will not further disrupt the region politically and economically.

Wait–remember the Qatar kerfuffle earlier this summer when Tr ump intervened in a Russia-UAE accusation of terror activities by Qatar?  And it turned out that his staff had secret meetings with both Russia and the UAE prior to his election win?

Here’s a listing of positions the 45th U.S. administration has removed or demoted in status by folding the responsibilities within a larger regional department.  PITAPOLICY itemized them from Secretary Tillerson’s memo to senior ranking Senator Bob Corkor.  (The full memo is pasted below for your review.)  Note the country locations and issue areas that will no longer receive specific attention, but the positions for “Special Advisor for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations” and “Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.” remain.  Decide for yourself if Lynch’s conclusions are mostly correct.

  • Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement

  • Special Coordinator for Libya
  • Coordinator for Cybersecurity Issues
  • U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

    as well as the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities

  • U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (Note: the U.S. still maintains troops in Afghanistan)
  • Senior Advisor for Secretary Initiatives
  • Senior Coordinator for International InformationTechnology Diplomacy
  • Special Envoy to Syria/Senior Advisor on Partner Engagement for Syria’s Foreign Fighters
  • Special Advisor on Youth Global Issues
  • Lead Coordinator on Iran Nuclear Implementation
  • U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change

  • U.S. Special Representative for International Labor Affairs
  • U.S. Special Advisor for International Disabilities Rights
  • Special Envoy to the South Sudan

As a result of these cuts, Tillerson argues that the U.S. taxpayers will be saved 10 billion dollars over the next five years.  But at what cost?

Letter to Senate from U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson 

The Honorable

Bob Corker, Chairman Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Consistent with my commitment to Congress, I alert you to and seek your feedback on steps we are considering to improve the ability of the U.S. Department of State and USAID to achieve critical foreign policy goals that are currently the responsibility of special envoys or special representatives.

Over the past four decades of U.S. diplomacy, Congress and the President have utilized these positions to assert U.S. leadership abroad and address emerging challenges. A few examples include mediating peace in Northern Ireland, restoring full diplomatic relations with Burma, addressing threats to global health, and serving as representatives to international organizations. Today, nearly seventy such positions exist within the State Department, even after many of the underlying policy challenges these positions were created to address have been resolved.

I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose. In some cases, the State Department would leave in place several positions and offices, while in other cases, positions and offices would be either consolidated or integrated with the most appropriate bureau. If an issue no longer requires a special envoy or representative, then an appropriate bureau will manage any legacy responsibilities.

This integration will address concerns that under the current structure, a special envoy or representative can circumvent the regional and functional bureaus that make up the core of the State Department. In each case, the allocated budget, staff members, and responsibilities would be reallocated to the appropriate bureau. Issues that require high-level interaction with senior foreign officials will be assigned to a senior official to whom authority is delegated to conduct such diplomacy.

In addition, this integration would also eliminate redundancies that dilute the ability of a bureau to deliver on its primary functions. Empowering regional and functional bureaus will make knowledge and resources more accessible, provide clarity in reporting authority, strengthen

communication channels, and create a more efficient State Department. The goal of restructuring these offices is to ensure that each policy priority efficiently aligns with the resources housed in the regional and functional bureaus. In this regard, I have determined that the changes proposed will advance U.S. national security interests, and will help to counter the influence of U.S. adversaries and competitors.

Pursuant to section 7015(a) and 7034(l) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2017 (Div. J, P.L. 115-31), the Department is notifying and reporting to the Committees on certain organizational changes related to special envoys and

related positions. Additionally, I have also reported on changes to special envoys and related positions that do not require notification to the Committees.

I look forward to working with you to make the State Department and USAID better equipped to address the foreign policy challenges of the United States.

Sincerely,

Rex W. Tillerson Secretary of State

In accordance with section 7015(a) and 7034(l) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2017 (Div. J, P.L. 115-31), the Department is notifying and reporting to the Committees on certain organizational changes related to special envoys and related positions. Personnel and funding levels are based on full-year allocations for FY 2017.

The following ambassador-at-large and special envoy positions will be retained and organized within the appropriate bureau or Under Secretary:

The Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues will continue to be an ambassador- level position confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which will report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J), where it will continue to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls through U.S. foreign policy. This will involve realigning 28 positions and $5,326,000 in support costs within Diplomatic and Consular Programs (D&CP) from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J).

The U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism will be retained and the office returned to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) where the Special Envoy can be assisted by the entire team of experts in the bureau. This will involve realigning 2 positions and $130,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

The Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs will be retained and report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J), where it will continue to lead and coordinate the U.S. government’s diplomatic engagement on hostage-related matters. This will involve realigning 5 positions and $505,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J).


The following ambassador-at-large and special envoy positions will be retained and expanded:

The Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF) will continue to be an ambassador-level position confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and will be organized under and report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J). Additionally, IRF will assume the functions and staff of the U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs, U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia.

For the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia this will involve the realignment of 1 position and $139,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF).

For the U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs this will involve removing the title and realigning 10 positions and $1,303,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF).

For the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities this will involve removing the title and realigning 4 positions and $163,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF).

For the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation this will involve removing the title and realigning 1 position and $153,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF).

The Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator of U.S. Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally (S/GAC) will continue to be an ambassador-level position confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and continue to perform the functions of the U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Policy (S/GHP). We intend to request that Congress amend the statute to expand the title to include both positions to reflect a more comprehensive approach to global health. There are no resource implications for this change.

Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues (SEHI) will be retained and continue to be organized within the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR). SEHI will assume the functions, which include providing policy advice on Holocaust issues, and staff of the Special Adviser for Holocaust Issues. There are no resource implications for this change.

The following special envoy, special coordinator, and special representative titles will be retained, dual hatted with an existing position, and organized appropriately within the appropriate bureau:

The Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) will be dual hatted as the Special Representative for Environment and Water Resources. One position and $226,000 in support costs will be reprogrammed within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Oceans International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES).

The Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues will continue to be dual hatted with the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J) who will promote substantive dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama. There are no resource implications for this change.

The Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights (J) will be dual hatted with the title and functions and assume the staff of the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues. The Under Secretary is responsible for the human rights portfolio, including the publication of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. This will involve the realignment of 1 position and $224,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J).


The following special envoy function will be transferred to USAID:

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will assume the functions and staff of the Office of Global Food Security (GFS). This change will eliminate duplicative work and further empower USAID to continue to advance global food security effectively. The Department will seek to realign GFS resources to USAID in future budget requests.

The following special envoy, special representative, special advisor, and coordinator titles will be removed and the functions performed by the appropriate bureaus:

The following titles will be removed and the functions and staff assumed by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL):

U.S. Special Advisor for International Disabilities Rights. Functions include leading the comprehensive strategy to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities internationally. This will involve realigning 3 positions and $445,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

U.S. Special Representative for International Labor Affairs. Functions include furthering U.S. foreign policy goals related to human rights, democracy promotion, trade, and sustainable growth. This will involve realigning 1 position and $186,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

The titles for following positions will be removed and the functions and staff assumed by the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (OES):

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change. Functions include engaging partners and allies around the world on climate change issues. This will involve realigning 7 positions and $761,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (OES).

U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic Region. Functions include advancing U.S. interests in the Arctic. This will involve realigning 5 positions and $438,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (OES).

The titles for following positions will be removed and the functions and staff assumed by the Bureau of African Affairs (AF):

U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa & Democratic Republic of Congo. The Special Envoy position currently is organized in AF, however the authorized staff positions and associated funding are currently in the Office of the Secretary and will be reprogrammed to AF. This will involve realigning 4 positions and $957,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of African Affairs (AF).

U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. This will involve realigning 6 positions and $4,408,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of African Affairs (AF). We intend to request that Congress repeal the statutory provision for this special envoy position, since a deputy assistant secretary in AF already fulfills the responsibilities.

The titles for following positions will be removed and the functions and staff assumed by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP):

U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. We intend to request that Congress repeal of the statutory requirement for this special representative position, since the mission of this position has been accomplished with the 2016 formation of a democratically elected, civilian-led government and the rebuilding of relations with Burma. Any legacy and future responsibilities will be addressed by EAP. This will involve realigning 1 position and $224,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP).

The titles for following positions will be removed and the functions and staff assumed by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA):

The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) will assign the functions of the Special Coordinator for Libya and Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement (SCL) to a deputy assistant secretary. The title will be removed and 2 positions and $379,000 in support costs will remain in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).

The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) will retain the functions of the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria. The title will be removed and the functions continue to be performed by a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA). The title will be removed and 2 positions and $379,000 in support costs will remain in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).

The titles for following positions will be removed and the functions and staff assumed by the Bureau of Economic & Business Affairs (EB):

U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy. The functions, which include the formulation, coordination, and oversight of policy related to information and communication technology, will be assigned to a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Economic & Business Affairs (EB). There are no resource implications in this change because they are staying within EB.

Senior Coordinator for International Information Technology Diplomacy. Functions include coordinating with responsible departments and agencies on foreign policy efforts related to international information technology infrastructure and internet issues. There is currently no position nor support cost for the Senior Coordinator for International Information Technology Diplomacy. The functions will transfer from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Economic & Business Affairs (EB).

Coordinator for Cyber Issues (CCI). Functions encompass advancing the full range of U.S. interests in cyberspace including security, economic issues, freedom of expression, and free flow of information on the internet. This will involve realigning 23 positions and $5,497,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Economic & Business Affairs (EB).

Special Advisor for Conflict Diamonds. Functions will continue to be performed by a deputy assistant secretary in the Economic & Business Affairs Bureau (EB). There are no resource implications for this change.

The European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau (EUR) will retain the staff and functions of the Senior Representative to Minsk Group. The title will be removed and the functions will continue to be performed by a deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau (EUR). One position and $182,000 in support costs will remain in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau (EUR).

The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) will retain the functions and staff of the Special Coordinator for Haiti. The title will be removed and 9 positions and $656,000 in support costs will remain in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

The Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff (S/P) will assume the functions and staff of the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy (CSP). S/P will coordinate a comprehensive sanctions policy. This will involve removing the title and realigning 7 positions and $831,000 in support costs within the Office of the Secretary’s D&CP allocation from the CSP office to the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff (S/P).

The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) will assume the functions and staff of the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and coordinate across the government to meet U.S. strategic goals in the region. This will involve removing the title and sustaining the realignment of 9 positions and $1,985,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA). Given the Administration’s recent South Asia policy announcement, the Secretary will consider options regarding diplomatic responsibilities in the region as needed.

The Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CT) retain the functions and staff of the Senior Advisor for Partner Engagement on Syria Foreign Fighters. The title will be removed and functions continued to be performed by a deputy assistant secretary. There are no funding implications for this change.

The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) will assume functions and staff of the Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation, including ensuring that the nuclear steps to which Iran committed in the JCPOA are fully implemented and verified. This will involve removing the title and realigning 5 positions and $1,208,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN).

The Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation (M/PRI) will assume the functions and staff of the U.S. Special Representative for Global Partnerships. M/PRI will continue to strengthen and deepen U.S. diplomacy and development around the world through partnerships that leverage the creativity, innovation, and core business resources of partners for greater impact. This will involve removing the title and realigning 14 positions and $443,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary and the Bureau of the Comptroller and General Financial Services to the Office of the Under Secretary for Management.

The Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources (ENR) will continue to perform the responsibilities of the Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. We intend to request that Congress repeal the statutory requirement for this coordinator position, since the Assistant Secretary already fulfills the responsibilities.

The following special envoy, special representative, special advisor, coordinator, and related positions will be removed or retired:

The Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks position will be removed, as the talks ceased in 2008. One position and $224,000 in support costs will be realigned within the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs (EAP).

The Transparency Coordinator position will be removed. Legacy or future responsibilities will be addressed by the Under Secretary for Management (M). Three positions and $165,000 in support costs within the D&CP will be reprogrammed from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Management (M).

The Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues position will be removed. The portfolio of helping the U.S. Government engage young people internationally falls within the scope of the Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R). There is no support cost for this position.

The Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process position will be removed and the functions assumed by the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau (WHA). There is no position established for this special envoy, and $5,000 in support costs within D&CP will be reprogrammed from the Office of the Secretary to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

The Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues position will be retired. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been implemented with a devolved national assembly in Belfast now in place. Legacy and future responsibilities will be assigned to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR). This will involve realigning $50,000 in support costs within the Bureau

of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR).

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Special Representative position will be removed. The State Department is undergoing an updated review process under the Presidential Executive Order on reorganizing the executive branch. This will involve realigning 8 positions and $1,247,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to the Under Secretary for Management (M).

The U.S. Special Envoy for the Closure of Guantanamo Detention Facility position will be removed. Any legacy and future responsibilities will be assigned to the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA). This will involve realigning 9 positions and $637,000 in support costs within D&CP from the Office of the Secretary to Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA).

The Special Adviser for Secretary Initiatives position will be removed. There is no staff currently authorized for this position. This will involve reprogramming $43,000 in support costs.

The Senior Advisor to the Secretary position will be removed. This will involve reprogramming 4 positions and $350,000 in support costs from the Office of the Secretary to Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff (S/P).

Finally, the Department also informs the Committees that the Department does not intend at this time to make any organizational changes to the following offices:

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the Office of the Secretary:

• Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the office of Under

Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J):

• Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism
• Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice
• Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL):

• Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons will continue to be held by a deputy assistant secretary.

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN):

• Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs
• Special Negotiator for Plutonium Disposition
• Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR):

• Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia • Special Representative to OSCE

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs (T):

• Permanent Representative for Conference on Disarmament
• Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC)

Issues

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment (E):

• Chief Economist
• Science and Technology Adviser

The following positions will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA):

• Israel and the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Security Coordinator
• Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. This positionwill be reassessed as ISIS becomes more of a diffused threat.

The following position will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP):

• Special Representative for North Korea Policy. This position will be reassessed as North Korea policy advances.

The following position will be retained and continue to be organized under the Consular Affairs Bureau (CA):

• Special Advisor for Children’s Issues
The following position will be retained and continue to be organized under the office of the

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R):

• Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center
The following position will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of

Economic & Business Affairs (EB):

• Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs

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PITAPOLICY Joins Polsky Exchange Because #Startup Ecosystems Overlap

PITAPOLICY, LLC is excited to enlist as a member of the Polsky Exchange, the startup ecosystem facilitated by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, Illinois.  Polsky is not just a co-working space, but it is a full-fledged turnkey operation for serious entrepreneurs at different stages of development:

  • Polsky Small Business Growth Program
  • Polsky Incubator (think of early-stage–solid concept, but ready for mentorship)
  • Fab Lab (think of ‘mockup stage’ in product development)
  • UChicago Startup Investment Program (laddering from the successful business class ‘proof of concept’ project and needs acceleration)

The Polsky community’s epicenter may be the Chicago area, but, startup ecosystems overlap because of their impact on their product/service delivery if it makes it easier/more accessible to their consumers.  When they overlap, their local influence broadens across markets, and perhaps, carries into training, hiring, and fostering communities in different spaces.  The two MENA examples of impact come from the Polsky Center.  However, let’s not forget the regional examples of startup support that are homegrown in the pita-consuming region.

MENA Startup Ecosystems

The Middle East & North Africa region has a few startup hubs that encourage the startup community–especially in Information Communication Technology sector.  Just look at Flat6Labs Accelerator, which originated in Egypt, but provides entrepreneurship advisory and funding (Sawari Ventures) to jumpstart startup ideas into commercialization from the MENA region.  The MENA incubator supports ilboursa:

 ilboursa.com is Tunisia’s first stock exchange news website. Founder Ismail Ben Sassi started the company with the intention of offering data to help investors in Tunisia make better financial decisions. The site is one of the most visited online sites in the country, averaging 80,000 visitors a month.~TechCrunch

Five years later, ilboursa has grown to provide business intelligence for those looking to invest in Tunisia.  In the bigger regional picture, with the Flat6Labs success, they may propel Tunisian startups to compete with Lebanon and Egypt to lead MENA’s entrepreneurial activity.  It’s definitely a competition to observe– like a close futball tournament.

Then there is Oasis500, which is another example of an incubator-accelerator hub for advisory and funding in MENA hub for early and mid-stage startups.  Startup Rising by Chris Schroeder describes many of the early startups that experienced success in the pita-consuming countries following the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya… but not so much in Bahrain, Yemen, or Syria.

Example 1: Fetchr

Fetchr, co-founded by University of Chicago Booth Business School alumnus, Idris Al-Rifai, offers a logistics godsend for those trying to deliver packages in the Middle East & North Africa region.  Although Fetchr was not a Polsky member, Fetchr serves as a success story for other University of Chicago entrepreneurs in the making who come from the MENA region.  Why? The UAE-based company, and co-founder, represents the FIRST early stage MENA applicant to qualify and receive U.S. venture capital funding as reported by FORBES.

As business graduates and mentors continuously say: networks matter. Networks matter in the startup ecosystem when a positive “disruptive” idea for the economy and society needs an injection of funding to fuel the technology and creativity in both emerging and frontier markets.

Entrepreneurship Boost in Countries Experiencing Violent Conflict?

Entrepreneurship role is boosted by Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in many areas.  But what about the role of entrepreneurship in countries embroiled in violent political conflict, like Syria?  With the rising displacement of Syrians internally and in neighboring countries, the Syria’s political conflict has also displaced spaces for small business growth and entrepreneurship training.  The Polsky Center dips into the social and logistical challenges by reaching out Syria’s parallel universe of refugees.  Read the following and let us know if you think entrepreneurship training can loop back into countries experiencing violent conflict!

Source: Chicago Tribune: Can entrepreneurship help revive Syria? This Polsky Center leader is training teens in business

 

Chicagoan Steve Lehmann has taken his expertise in early business development nearly 6,000 miles away to the Turkish border town of Reyhanli.

His mission: to teach Syrian teens how to launch startups of their own.

Even as war rages in the nation, there are still students learning business and plenty of people who can’t find work. With unemployment soaring, interest in starting small businesses has grown.

“There are entrepreneurs (in Syria), just like everywhere else,” Ahmad Sufian Bayram, a regional manager at Techstars, told the Guardian. “For the majority of women, they’re starting small businesses to support their families, making handmade items, for example, jewelry, homemade clothes. (Others) are doing freelance work, such as translation services. When we asked them why would you like to be an entrepreneur, it was one of the only options left to make money.”

Since 2011, Syrian refugees in Turkey have invested about $334 million to start more than 6,000 registered companies, many of which are small- and mid-sized businesses, according to a report from the global nonprofit Building Markets.

Lehmann, who’s also assistant director of the Polsky Center’s $20 million Innovation Fund, wants to strengthen the startup trend and “instill a sense of hope” in entrepreneurial-minded teens, he said.

“I’ll be within a short bike ride of the Syrian border and one of the hottest zones in the conflict,” Lehmann said before departing from O’Hare International Airport on Friday. “You never know how these things are going to go, but I’m probably more nervous about being in front of a bunch of kids I don’t know.”

The two-week trip was planned in collaboration with local youth center Karam House, where Lehmann is staying and holding a “hands-on entrepreneurship boot camp” for 15 selected Syrian teens. The work isn’t directly affiliated with the Polsky Center.

The training sessions Lehmann is participating in focus on customer engagement, product prototyping and developing successful business models. Material also pulls from the latest research on how good startups get founded, he said, and includes insights from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps and IDEO.org’s human-center design approach to problem solving.

“Students had to apply and come with a business idea already put together,” Lehmann said. “Within the first four hours of the training, they’re going to be walking the streets of Reyhanli talking to potential customers.” click hereto continue.

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Cheaper to Fund Cyber Attacks than to Build Military Bases #QatarCrisis

Dear Pitaconsumers:

PITAPOLICY blogged about the U.S. President of the United States first overseas trip, which included commentary on ’45’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the unusual Qatar crisis that followed–coincidentally–where Qatar’s ambassadors were given 48 hours to leave the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on June 4th.  (Yes: Right in the middle of Ramadan where all of these nations are observing this month long holiday of fasting and patience.)  We were really excited to repost an well-written op-ed by Arab American law professor, Sahar Aziz, who served in the U.S Department of Justice during the Obama administration.  Then, suddenly, the post vanished due to a technology glitch from our site’s end.  (At the worst moment, perhaps some bad words blaming a jinn were uttered.)  Apologies. Now after a week of recollecting what we wrote (and tracking down the sources again), a new development in the Qatar crisis shows that hacking and cyberterrorism played a more significant, pre-meditated role with financial implications for the wealthiest economies in the Middle East & North African region.  We are looking at this second attempt to blog on the Qatar shutout as redemption for the initial frustration with Saudi Arabia’s decision to award ’45’ –not an American museum–with a token gift of the sword.

Trump’s Counter-Terrorism Speech: Sad.

First things first, let’s revisit what we initially reposted by Sahar Aziz in her op-ed to CNN regarding ’45’s’ visit of holy sites that, thankfully, did not go up in flames.

Tr ump’s Doublespeak in Saudi Arabia

by Sahar Aziz

Editor’s Note: Sahar Aziz is an associate professor at Texas A&M University School of Law and nonresident fellow at Brookings Doha Center. She is the author of Rethinking Counterterrorism in the Age of ISIS. The views expressed are her own.

(CNN) If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Donald Trump, it is that he has no qualms about contradicting himself to get what he wants. In Saudi Arabia, he wanted a $110 billion arms deal — not to promote peace and tolerance, as he later proclaimed in his Sunday speech.

Thus, his speech will not “be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East,” as he loftily put it, but rather a boost to the war that is ravaging it. Nor will Trump’s speech put an end to the Islamophobia and bigotry that he has spent the past two years inciting. After all, he needs scapegoats to blame when the terrorism in the Middle East inevitably reaches the United States.

Sahar Aziz

Given Trump’s opportunistic leadership style — what he calls “principled realism”– we can expect more contradictions between his rhetoric and his actions. Four specific contradictions warrant exploring to predict what is in store for American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as for the treatment of Muslims in the United States.
First, Trump preaches peace and prosperity in his speech, but then sells weapons to the Saudis, which will inevitably fuel war. Trump treats terrorism in the Middle East as a business opportunity to create jobs at home and enrich defense industry tycoons.
While addressing the world’s longest-ruling dictators about terrorism, Trump failed to mention how state violence and repression feeds ISIS and al Qaeda’s propaganda campaigns. Instead, he proclaims the Arab leaders to be defenders of the people’s freedom. As he advised his allies to allow “young Muslim boys and girls (to) be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence and innocent of hatred,” he disingenuously pretended that the Arab Spring never occurred. The people revolted against their authoritarian governments seeking just those things, but found themselves abandoned by the United States and violently repressed by Arab regimes — which he is once again arming.
Thus, we should not expect any meaningful attempts by the Trump administration to decrease terrorism in the region. Rather, the focus of US counterterrorism strategy will be to geographically contain the violence within the Middle East and prevent it from crossing the Atlantic.
This brings us to the second of Trump’s contradictions — deliberately disconnecting Islam from terrorism in his speech to his Saudi arms purchasers while bolstering Islamophobia in the United States. Over the past two years, Trump has repeatedly stated that “Islam hates us” and Islam is a “hateful foreign ideology,” a kind of rhetoric that has emboldened his white nationalist supporters to discriminate against and attack Muslims. The growing anti-Muslim bigotry could give his administration free rein to disproportionately target Muslims in counterterrorism investigations, surveillance and prosecutions.
Third, there is little evidence Trump is willing to participate in the global effort to “counter extremist ideology,” a new term he strategically coined instead of “radical Islamic terrorism” that he’s been peddling to his right-wing base. As Trump announced a “groundbreaking new center (that) represent(ed) a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization,” he took no responsibility for his own divisive rhetoric that radicalizes the political right in the United States. Indeed, over the past five years, extremist ideology from the right has risen at troubling levels.
Accordingly, we should expect the continued use of “radical Islamic terrorism” in his speeches to American audiences and willful blindness to the rise in violence of the alt-right, right-wing militia groups, and the Ku Klux Klan.
Finally, Trump stated that in “the scenes of destruction, in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni.” Here he intimates sympathy for Muslims, even as his domestic policies single out and discriminate against Muslims. His first executive order barred millions of people from Muslim-majority countries from lawfully entering the United States. The refugee clause in the order applied only to Muslim Syrian refugees while exempting Christian Syrian refugees — as if the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Muslim Syrians killed were of no value. And in all of his speeches warning about terrorism committed by Muslims, he has never acknowledged the rise in hate crimes, mosque vandalizations and bullying suffered by Muslims in the United States. For Trump, there is a major difference between Muslims and everyone else.
While citizens in the Middle East and America may find his contradictions repugnant, his audience in Saudi Arabia will not. On the contrary, Middle East authoritarians see Trump as a fellow demagogue who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. And what he wants has little to do with peace, stability and prosperity for the people of the Middle East.

As Aziz reviews ’45’s’ Saudi trip through the counter-terrorism lens, we agree with her political conclusions regarding his interests overlapping with other authoritarian leaders’ interests, and not with either the American people or people of the Middle East.  Aziz’s parallel commentary on the hypocrisy of focusing on terrorism, born out of extremist ideologies in other countries, and not the extremist ideologies that have transformed into violent actions (a.k.a. terrorism) carried out by certain white-supremacist movements in the U.S., hit home for PITAPOLICY.

Arms Sales #Fail

However, the issue of ’45’ negotiating a final 110 billion U.S.-dollar deal in arms sales to the Gulf countries is “sad” (to quote ’45’ in his own self-aggrandizing terms): an arms sales #FAIL. Yes, a fail,  just like he conflated his “counter-terrorism” speech in Saudi Arabia with believing he addressed the Middle East crisis.  Again, he conflated his negotiation skills and confused it with deals that took years to finalize.   There was no 110 Billion dollar deal, as Brookings Institute Fellow, Bruce Riedel, revealed:
I’ve spoken to contacts in the defense business and on the Hill, and all of them say the same thing: There is no $110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday. So far nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arms sales wing of the Pentagon, calls them “intended sales.” None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.~Bruce Riedel in Markaz
Basically, one cannot even believe how ’45’ claims financial success for America or his ability to really broker diplomacy within a region that has become home to over 10 American military bases. At the same time, he pontificates about terrorism, but does not even see the irony of promoting weapons sales to countries, like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
 Yet, it is worth noting that the Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s fifth fleet.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar also host a few U.S. military bases.  Specifically, Qatar hosts the American al-Udeid airbase.  The UAE is begging for one too, apparently.  See Figure 1, which shows how the U.S. leads among U.N. permanent members in military bases throughout the Middle East.  Note how Russia has none.  Then view Figure 2 to see where Russia deploys military bases.  We will revisit this military base disparity in a moment.

Figure 1: U.N. Permanent Members’ Military Bases in the Middle East

Source: Rob Prince Blog https://robertjprince.net/2017/01/30/notes-from-trumps-middle-east-policy-lost-in-the-desert-kgnu-hemispheres-middle-east-dialogues-with-ibrahim-kazerooni-and-rob-prince-january-24-2017/

Figure 2: Russian Military Bases as of 2015

Source: Al Jazeera
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/9/18/russia-foreign-military-bases.html

Cyber Hack Attack: Qatar Kerfuffle

Initially, leaked emails allegedly revealed that Qatar funded terrorist groups.  Here is where the four Arab nations’ kerfuffle with Qatar turns stranger: the origin of the leaked emails may lead back to the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, for the following motivations:

  1. Political-Military: Nations, like Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, have been critical of the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran and have opposed any improving relations between Iran and the U.S. and resent Qatar’s diplomatic ties with Iran.
  2. Economic-Military: Related to point one, but recognizing that the UAE specifically seeks to gain for Qatar’s isolation.  The UAE seeks increasing U.S. ties and wants a U.S. base on its soil, which would invite large construction and security project dollars.
  3. Political: Qatar also hosts the largest Arabic media outlet, Al-Jazeera, which has criticized Middle East regimes for the last two decades.

Since our last attempt to discuss the fallout from ’45’s’ visit, Qatar’s 2.7 million people may face a food shortage since 38 percent of its food comes from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  An opportunity for neighboring Iran emerges if Qatar decides to buy their food from them. Nonetheless, Qatar leads the world in Liquified Natural Gas production.  Qatar’s other two leading sectors: manufacturing and transport –which have respectively dropped 18% and 31% since 2017 began–may face further decline resulting from the Arab blockade.

Unfortunately, the main issue– who is financing terrorist groups– is swinging in a limbo of authenticating emails and identifying the truth.  Investigations show that Russia may be the source of a disinformation campaign through cyber terrorism.  But they were not alone; the disinformation campaign served the interests of other nations too, like the UAE and Israel.

Remember our earlier point about the stark contrast between the number of U.S. and Russian bases in the Middle East?

The Qatar kerfuffle illustrates two takeaways for PITAPOLICY:

  1. friend, or foe, a variety of nations have crossed the fine line of self-righteousness and hypocrisy in the case of financing armed groups in Syria.
  2. It is cheaper to to fund a cyber attack and facilitate a diplomatic meltdown and ensuing trade blockade than it is to fund building a military base to launch attacks.

Unfortunately, Russia has figured that out before us.

By the way: we are still troubled by Saudi Arabia giving a sword to ’45’ as much as we are troubled by his bragging about a so-called arms deal that his administration actually did not orchestrate within a four-month period.

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That which is measured improves. #Hope #SyrianRefugees

Pearson’s Law: “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.” – Karl Pearson

Greetings Pita-Consumers!

Before you do anything: share this link with your organizations and friends working to assist Syrian refugees.  Note: there are 4.89 Million Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ office. It’s been a rough week for many (ourselves included)–considering that Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was found acquitted of the 900 protestors’ deaths during the 2011 Egyptian January 25th revolution by Egypt’s highest court: the Court of Cassation.  The fallen dictator has gone free as 60,000 political activists remain in Egypt’s jails.

Read here for Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian scholar’s (and pacifist) account of political prisoner dilemma and costs in Egypt.

Right as we think we are witnessing the fall of an authoritarian leader, we are seeing the rise of another authoritarian leader (45: #OrangeAlert) in the very country that has selectively shamed authoritarian led regimes in the Middle East and North African regions…and consistently provided international assistance to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others.

Measure to Improve: Survey of Syrian Refugees’ Experience

On a more positive note, we want to be pro-active on a dismal subject: Syrian refugee resettlement and relief efforts. If we can measure something, we increase its chances of improving.  Thus, we would like to continue using this platform to gather data to measure and promote the greater good.  (Al Mubadarah refers to this as “MENA Social Good”, which we’ll borrow again.)  To understand how Syrian refugees resettlement experience, we need to ask them.  A survey an Arabic is one data gathering tool.  Because the target population is spread throughout three continents, the data responses will vary.  So let us step away from generalizations and specifically ask Syrian refugees who are participating in resettlement programs.  Please share the link: https://universityofsussex.eu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3I8ZpUMnZJejQSV&Q_JFE=0

Survey Background

Two months ago, we sat next to a social scientist at a Syria Forum USA event in Chicago.  As we discussed the power shortages and livelihood assistance in Lebanon, we discussed the burgeoning Syrian refugee population in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq.

Registered Refugees According to United Nations Data (more Syrians could be seeking refugee in host country)

Although Gulf Cooperation Countries do not share in the refugee accommodation, the Syrian diaspora has grown in Germany, Sweden, the UK, and France (over 850,000 asylum applications received including those pending)… and across the Atlantic Ocean in Canada.  Yes, and a humble amount (10,000) in the USA.   The current U.S. president inaccurately portrayed the demographic makeup of the Syrian refugee population.  According to Politifact, about three-quarters of Syrian refugees entering the United States are women and children under 18 years of age.  Here’s a breakdown of fiscal year 2016 Syrian refugee admissions:

– Total: 12,587

– Male: 6,571

– Female: 6,016

– Boys and girls under 14 years old: 6,118 (about 48.61 percent of admissions)

The gentleman is collaborating with an Arabic speaking member from the University of Sussex to gather data from Syrian refugees who may be participating in resettlement programs.  As the social scientist stated to us, “The survey responses are confidential and they will only be used for statistical purposes only and no identifying information will be shared outside of the research group,” we would like to help facilitate their outreach efforts.

Here’s a shout out to White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) because of their Message to the United Nations Security Council:

“Barrel bombs – sometimes filled with chlorine – are the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today. Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 78,529 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand to stop the barrel bombs, by introducing a ‘no-fly zone’ if necessary.” – Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defence.

Hopefully the following U.S.-based NGOs supporting Syrian refugees and human development will be able to circulate the above survey.

  • Syrian American Medical Society (@SAMS_US):  Founded in 1998 in Chicago, the national network mobilized in 2012 to upgrade its medical care services to Syrians after the Syrian uprising against the Assad regime transformed into crisis mode in 2013.  SAMS launched the “Save Syrian Lives” campaign to focus on medical relief activities directed to help Syrian patients, healthcare workers, administrators and hospitals to deal with the multi-faceted consequences of violent conflict impacting all affected areas of Syria.
  • Syrian American Council (@SA_Council)
  • Syria Forum USA (@SyrianForumUSA): Description previously highlighted by PITAPOLICY
  • Syrian Community Network (@SCN_Network):The Syrian Community Network (SCN) was established by a diverse team of community members with intentions to aid and to assist in easing the resettlement of Syrian refugees. SCN is prepared and organized to support the anticipated influx of Syrian refugees scheduled for resettlement in the Chicagoland area.  SCN is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that will supplement efforts on helping the refugees adjust to their new home. What distinguishes SCN from other organizations is that it wants to facilitate building the bridge for mutual support between the newly arrived Syrian refugees with local Chicago communities.The following are SCN goals:To partner with refugee resettlement agencies in providing support to the newly-arrived Syrian refugees
    To connect refugees with appropriate services and community resources available
    To foster a relationship between the Syrian refugees and the larger Chicago community
    To establish cultural competency for staff working with Syrian refugees as well as for Syrians who need to learn about their new culture in the US.

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Iran, Saudi Arabia, and US: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Frenemy

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

We would like to challenge the above ancient proverb that advises one to befriend his enemy’s friend because they share a common goal: defeat the shared enemy.  We challenge it because the proverb did not foresee several”Machiavellis” emerging to power at the same time.  Therefore, PITAPOLICY moves to amend this advice: The enemy of my enemy is my frenemy.  (Thanks to Stephen Colbert for his word wit and Washington’s Blog for laying out a 21st century example in the MENA region for showing the errors in applying to multi-actor settings.)

Relationship Chart Analysis by Joshua Keating, Slate Magazine and Chris Kirk.

Former Iranian President Khatami noted the hawkish upswing in the United States because of the 45th U.S. President.  Khatami, who comes from The Reform party, faces a government ban from official media.  Nonetheless, this has not stopped him from warning his fellow Iranians that “this is the best time for an environment of national reconciliation”–which hints to the current Iranian leadership to recognize the dissident movements, like political prisoners who participated in the 2009 Green Movement, according to political commentator, Arash Karami.  Perhaps the controversial “45” will inadvertantly unite some hawkish and moderate voices in Iran.  Reconciliation is not unwarranted given that Iran’s Foreign Minister wants to upgrade Saudi Arabia to its ‘Frenemy’ list, according to this speech at the World Economic Forum:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was crystal clear at the World Economic Congress in Davos on Jan. 18 when he said that Iran and Saudi Arabia must cooperate to end the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, just like they did in Lebanon when they worked to lift the obstacles for Lebanese presidential elections.

Original Source: Addiyar (Arabic newspaper:)
Some may argue that a recent example of cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered a deal among Lebanese political parties to produce a president, while Lebanese party heads deny this.
On a somewhat related note: neither the Syrian nor Yemen conflicts emerged in the top ten twitter chatter topics during the World Economic Forum, according to the Netnograph site.  Netnograph tracks the leading topics of interest at global events.

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#OrangeAlert to MENA: This Is Not Normal.

Americans may remember the cryptic “Orange Alerts” created during President Bush’s tenure as our 43rd U.S. President.  In response to 9/11, terror warnings came out in color code. Red was the worst: attack occurring. Green was normal. Yellow was in-between.  Orange was…strange, but something bad will happen…we just can’t tell you how or when.  Then this system was phased out during the Obama years.  Then, a new orange phase began.

Last July in Lebanon, several Lebanese friends expressed pity that a U.S. presidential candidate displayed such petty, unpresidential (now is a word), xenophobic behavior.  It was simply abnormal to see such a xenophobe come so far as the future leader of a free nation.  Mind you, at that time, Lebanon still did not have a president, which was not normal.  But at every opportunity possible, they asked, “HOW did a famous businessman, whose financial interests intersect so many political figures (donations to both GOP and Democratic senators) come so far in the U.S. presidential race?” Mind you: the country without a president later elected a president who represents oligarchic interests too--one of the very issues they had protested in the #YOUStink campaign. (By everyone, we are including all taxi drivers who provide more alternative political theories than one can jot down.)   Maybe writing an ethnocentric post will help identify why the 45th American president’s executive “power” moves are taking place.

It is truly ironic, that one of the most ego-centric, narcissistic leaders in the modern era, is promulgating policy that FORCE the Middle East & North Africa region to notice him as much as the consequences of his Executive Orders.  The speed and impulsiveness behind these Executive Orders are not normal.  This is not normal.  As a result, this will not be a normal post.  Rather, writing this will be an ethnocentric U.S. post. –which PITAPOLICY tries to avoid because MENA’s political economy is a topic that deserves its own blog.  We will cover the illogical, self-defeating nature of the 45th U.S. Administration’s Executive Orders that directly impact the MENA region.  From here on out, 45th U.S. Administration of DJT, his V.P., Mike Pence, and Strategy Advisor, Steve Bannon, will be referred to as: 45.

Going to Jerusalem

Day 2: Let us begin with 45’s announcement to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  (Skipping Day 1 because 45’s inaugural speech failed to outline a vision for peace or positive engagement– while inviting settlers from illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.  However, there are some cautionary remarks from Imam Majid that specify the need for “tribes and nations” to convene, at the Inaugural Church Service.) This is unprecedented, except for the fact that 45 literally announced his intention to do so in 2016. Yes, seriously.  Very few media outlets took this seriously though–maybe for good reason.  What is this good reason?  Well, since 1947, the United Nations declared a partition plan placing Jerusalem under international control.  Jerusalem belonged to everyone and no one–meaning not as a Jewish or Arab state capital. The 1947-1948 war left Israel in control of the western part of the city, with Jordan taking the east.  YET, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, effectively annexing it in 1980.  Still, American foreign policy media, like The Atlantic,  report that 45 may not follow through with this hawkish move because he is trying to demonstrate his power of words without actually fulfilling his promise.  That is debatable.  We will have to wait until June 2017, which is when the Presidential Waiver to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem is up for review.  Regardless of political party, this waiver has been renewed since 1995.  45’s rhetoric and decision highlights that he fails to understand how to prioritize diplomacy initiatives as he could certainly be using his political capital to negotiate illegal settlements or clamp down on his proposed trade deals.  Elevating a trivial priority, such as relocating an embassy, despite legal precedence and advise, is not normal.

Challenge Iraqi Sovereignty: Seize Iraq’s Oil Part III

Day 2 and again Day 4: At his first press conference, which happened to be at the CIA, DJT announced that the U.S. “may have another chance” to just take oil from Iraq.  Remember, DJT argued taking Iraqi oil back in his campaign.  To be precise: he stated this in his interview with Matt Lauer on September 7th, 2016.

leave a certain group behind and you would take various sections where they have the oil. … You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.”

45 has consistently argued that American interests lie in seizing other countries’ resources, however unethical.

 The dummies left Iraq (and Libya) without the oil!

Essentially, 45 is using the pretext of battling the ISIL movement to occupy Iraq, and commandeer its oil reserves.  Meanwhile, he remains ignorant of Iraq’s current effort in battling ISIL with the support of a $5.3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.  45 continues to echo the rallying war cries of infamous dictators, like Saddam Hussein, when he calls for invading another country for its resources.  This is not normal.

Reintroducing Torture

Day 6: Adding to the “This is not normal” course of executive action, 45 drafted an Executive Order to reintroduce torture, despite top military officials, like General Michael Hayden (former National Security Agency appointee), warning against such measures.  This is not normal.

The Muslim Ban That Distracted

On Days 7-9: 45 decided–without any legal or legislative consultation from the judicial or congressional bodies of power–to ban immigrants, legal aliens, tourists, and refugees from seven countries with majority Muslim populations. As hundreds of thousands of Americans (civilians, veterans, and retired generals) protested, 45 moved to replace all high ranking officials in the National Security Council and installing Steve Bannon, a known white-supremacist, with the highest security post in American government.

These countries (Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya) excluded countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt–places –to provide cover for 45’s pretext of not banning “all Muslims” just bad people. DJT’s apologists would argue further, that this was not a “Muslim ban”, but a protection for religious minorities who needed to seek refugee from Syria or Iraq–and that Muslims in those countries were not religious minorities.  At the same time, one cannot help but note the coincidence of 45 banning people from countries where he has no personal financial interests, but DJT does have financial interests in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, countries where the 9/11 hijackers originated from–if one refers back to the reason he cited in his Executive Order calling for the travel ban.  He has eight companies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Not to mention, he also has conflicts of interest in Turkey, as reported by The Atlantic:

“I have a little conflict of interest ‘cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s a tremendously successful job.”

Moreover, DJT has financial interests in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and

His administration determined that extreme vetting was the new U.S. policy in the interests of “national U.S. security”, as described in the Executive Order’s transcript below.  In effect 134 million people were detained, sequestered, or literally sent back to their country of departure–including Syrian, Iraqi, and Yemeni refugees who had sold their homes and lost their livelihoods.  This is not normal.

PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.
Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.
In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.
Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.
(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.
(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.
(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.
(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.
(h) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall submit to the President a joint report on the progress in implementing this order within 30 days of the date of this order, a second report within 60 days of the date of this order, a third report within 90 days of the date of this order, and a fourth report within 120 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of this order, a second report within 100 days of the date of this order, and a third report within 200 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.
(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.
(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.
(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.
(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.
(f) The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.
(g) It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.
Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.
Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section. The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.
(b) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.
Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.
Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a) To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:
(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;
(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.
(b) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of the USRAP at the Federal, State, and local levels.
Sec. 11. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE, January 27, 2017

 

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Documenting #SyriaCrisis: Part 2- Organizations

Last week PITAPOLICY briefly discussed the need for documenting the #SyriaCrisis by distinguishing between individuals and organizations.  We argued that documenting narratives of Syrian civilians as individuals –rather than by political affiliations– is necessary to convey to Syrian outsiders.  At the same time, there are some organizational models that try to build from the local leadership of individuals, through local councils, and connect them to other organizations to deliver relief and development services during the Syria Crisis.

Organizational Model

The Syrian Forum, registered in Turkey, is an example of a connective model, or “consortium” by working through six specialized institutions to build a free and democratic Syria that is based on the rule of law.  They have partnered with Austria and the USA (Follow as @SyrianForumUSA) with 10 offices located in Syria, Turkey, Austria, and the United States–and planning on one in Jordan, which is the third largest Syrian refugee host country.

The consortium operates by working through the following sectors:

  • Ihsan → @IhsanRD1 →Relief & Development:1)  Conducts needs assessment and 2) Monitoring & Evaluation
  • Fener → Community Advancement
  • Omran → @OmranDirasat → Strategic Studies: 1) conducting public opinion polls and surveys, 2) Research team on military, social, political, and public service tracks to plan for rebuilding.
  • Bousla → @Bousla_org →Training and Innovation: 1) Offers Anti-Corruption Training Program
  • Rizk → @Rzktr → Professional Development: 1) Conduct vocational job training, 2) Offer Refugee job placement services, 3) Reverse Brain Drain
  •  Alsouria → @AlSouriaNet → Media: 1) Reporting/Content Development and 2) Professionalism Training

The Syrian Forum Board is chaired Mustafa Sabbagh.  Like many other Syrian relief organizations, they coordinate with Syria’s Local Administration Councils and coordinate refugee placement.  Unlike many other Syrian organizations–perhaps due to limited resources–SF invests in its staff’s continuing education.   Their partners include: The World Food Programme, UNICEF, Human Appeal, ACTED, FAO, Qatar Red Cresecent, OCHA, Save the Children, Expertise FRANCE, Syrian American Medical Society, IOM, Global Communities, Shaam Relief Foundation, Syrian Business Forum, UNFPA, Amici de Bambini, World Vision, GIZ, GAOL,

Regarding its Relief and Development sector, The Syrian Forum has undertaken 273 projects to cover 17,108,941 Syrians’ since 2013.  These projects cover services in:

  • food security & livelihoods
  • water needs and waste management as well as hygiene awareness activities
  • education
  • shelter
  • protection

Training & Professional Development

RIZK operates in Turkey and serves as the professional development institutional arm of SF.  Partners include Hope for Syria, Silatech, Iskur, RET, AFAD, SODES, Tumsiad and a few others.  As mentioned above, Syria is struggling with brain drain.  So Syria’s private sector and civil society institutions struggle with keeping highly educated and technically trained civilians during the 6 years of political and military violence. RIZK tries to reverse brain-drain by “keeping high-caliber Syrians geographically close”, which begs the question: when will this take hold in Lebanon, where waves of university educated Syrians, who fled to Beirut in the beginning of the Syrian Revolution–2011 and 2012–before devolving into war?

RIZK states that it maintains a database of job applications and employment offers.  According to their data, they’ve received 22,874 applicants and employed 6,926 Syrians–about one-third of them being female (2,603).  RIZK  provided offered 16 training courses for 748 trainees.

Al-Souria started in 2014 with a specific purpose: to cover Syrian affairs in a balanced manner that adheres to journalistic ethics, thereby rejecting all forms of extremism.  Sections include multi-media infographics on children, women, and violence statistics; book reviews; and how Syria is reviewed in other press.  Topics include describing and reviewing the political economy of the regime; the Russian occupation of Syria; Syrian Children in the Adoption Sphere; the Iranian Nuclear Program and Iran’s Role in Syria; and Orientalism’s Role in Syrian political culture and neighboring countries’ revolutions.  As a result, Al-Souria news coverage is translated by other foreign news agencies while its page has received over 9 million visits.

PITA POINTS (Observations)

One of the more interesting aspects of The Syrian Forum is that their Relief and Development activities considers the psyscho-social developmental needs of Syrians in crisis.  For example, they partner with SAMS to provide counseling.  And SF provide safe spaces for women and children through their protection program.

Another interesting, unique aspect is that they focus on economic development while also trying to create a political culture that departs from a historically violent regime headed by an oligarchy.

Finally, we noticed that the Qatar Red Crescent Society works with SF to provide relief and development.  However, other Gulf country institutions–like from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman –were noticeably absent.

 

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Documenting #SyriaCrisis: Part 1- Individuals

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.~Anne Frank, Author “The Diary of Anne Frank”

We remember reading “the Diary of Anne Frank” as part of our required elementary school reading list.  For many of us, her diary first exposed us to the terms: ‘hostages’,’Gestapo’, ‘They’re being gassed’; the concept of ‘Genocide’, ‘Gestapo’, and ‘political persecution’; and the narratives of ‘Holocaust’.  During World War II, Frank’s diary was not shared in real time.  She died in a German concentration camp before her diary was published.   Over fifty years later, Syrian civilians experience most–if not all–of the above dangers via political imprisonment and mustard gassing by Assad regime; the Syrian police force equivalent of Gestapo–Shabeeha and Mukhabarat; and their most recent #AleppoSiege, as the Hama Massacre reverberates in memories throughout neighboring Syrian towns.

PITAPOLICY’s new year’s resolution was to help document individual accounts from Syrians on the ground share what they are experiencing and witnessing.  After following a young girl from Aleppo, Syria, Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) on Twitter, (thanks to her mom, Fatemah) many of us can stop pretending that pundits are the only sources of a reality experienced by Syrian civilians living in Syria.  Like Anne Frank, Bana chronicled her story of being held hostage by a repressive regime.  Unlike Anne Frank, Bana still lives.  But both survive through sharing her narrative: Anne through a written diary; Bana through typed tweets.

What?

We all agree that the Syria crisis has cost over 400,00 Syrian lives and wrought destruction leaving half of its 21 million citizens internally displaced, or seeking refugee outside of Syria.  Reporters and human rights watchers have documented in short and long form coverage.  But in one generation, the tragic events will have to be pieced together –and the historical narrative will largely depend on “who won?”– even though millions would have lost their homes, loved ones, or lives.

Why?

One of the reasons why the Holocaust narrative has become so mainstream is because a young girl’s diary documented the struggle to stay alive in Europe after the Nazi rise and the resulting concentration camps imprisoned Jews, Slavic people, Political dissidents (e.g. communists), Gays, and the Rumi people.  Because of Frank’s  persistence and discipline to keep a journal, publishers translated her diary in over 67 languages with over 30 million copies sold.  Her diary is what first introduced Generation X and Millennials growing up in North America and Western Europe to the Holocaust–as we learned about the related tragic events of WWII. Our most memorable quote:

“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.”

illustrates how important it is document a narrative:  to remember tragedy, and work to avoid repeating those mistakes.  Clearly, we have not learned from her diary as the Assad regime violates his own people’s human rights every day, as he learned from his father, Bashar al-Assad, since 1970.

By no means are we discounting the power of civil society and the work that organizations provide as the Assad-led government has failed in its duty to protect its citizens (in particular those engaged in civil dissent).   But, individuals function as the building unit of an organization.  So before we talk about growing or regrowing the unit of ‘organizing’ via organizations, we believe we need to identify the basic unit of organizing first: the voice…and that voice comes from the individual… be it citizen, refugee, or political prisoner.

Objective: To emulate “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and document a collection of civilian Syrian voices experiencing, or who escaped, the Syria crisis.

How To Meet Objective?

We realize that tracking Syrian voices on social media is a huge project. It will require various organized efforts.  Challenge 1: Identify how many social media outlets to cover, e.g. include Facebook postings by Syrians in Syria.

Challenge 2: Recognize that the Syria blackouts and electricity disruption has nearly eliminated many moments of narrative.

Challenge 3: Translate from Arabic to English since many authentic voices will only share in native Arabic.

Challenge 4: Verify social media accounts.

We recognize these challenges.  But in the meantime, we will take one small step by tabulating  at least one young Syrian girl’s story through her tweets on this page posting.

  1. PITAPOLICY commits to adding any suggested Syrian civilian social media account that is verified.
  2. PITAPOLICYwill support and help fund a Syrian Diaspora effort that also wishes to see Bana’s story published that will be part of a classroom reading list.

Perhaps the next generation will do a better job of respecting and enforcing human rights than our generation did.

Digital Diaries of Syrian Civilians

Digital Diary of Fatemah AlAbed– Started in December 2016

I hope you all loved apologies for anyone I didn’t answer for. I hope you all enjoyed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am just crying.. innocent kid dead. Why? Why? Today I need the world’s support to end the Syrian war. PLEASE I beg u, we do something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Seriously for some people. seems that American shooting wasn’t a terrorist attack after attacker identified to be a white person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Russian trolls & Assad supporters begging for unblock now. One says he enjoyed the amount of RT & likes he got under my tweets

 

 

 

 

  • I understand now Assad supporters are the worst people who can’t take even simple evidence. They are all about imagination thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • About the Internet in East Aleppo, u don’t know how many videos we didn’t tweet because of the net. All those we tweeted were difficult

 

 

  • For those wondering how can 7 year old tweet, I help her compose the tweets while she’s with me. I let her read all the replies & she enjoys

 

 

  • Yes speaking English is difficult for me & Bana. But when writing we research & also know what we know. I hope you understand now. Thank u

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I can’t express my gratitude to you all when many of u said your happiest moment of 2016 was when “we got out of Aleppo” . God bless u all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Diary of Bana Alabed

“I am very sad. No one is helping Syrian children. Please please please evacuate all of them out of the war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • They use to hide from the bombs. We are not hiding anymore. Peace is very new to us & we love everything right now.

 

 

  • No more bombing.. I have 20 days of peace in my life. I thought the world was just like Aleppo & bombing was normal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am a refugee, we are refugees. But we shall overcome this someday because i even overcame the Aleppo siege.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Because so many confused, I am setting up my own account. This account will only be about Bana & promise u it will be her own words.-Fatemah

 

 

 

 

  • I beg u to spread this. Mom in Syria countryside need urgent cardiologist & medical care. We will pay expenses. any doctor? Mention.-Fatemah

 

 

  • A mom inside Syria needs urgent cardiologist & care but denied so far. She’s pregnant & endured months of Aleppo siege. – Fatemah

 

 

  • Together we can change the suffering of people in conflicts around the world. Like u Aleppo, cry for Yemen, Iraq, Libya.. Etc – Fatemah

 

 

  • One of my friends wasn’t lucky to escape like me. One night she was killed in bombing. The world didn’t help her. – Bana

 

 

  • Hello my friends, how are you? I am missing my friends who were killed & buried in Aleppo. I am very sad tonight. – Bana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • People who were evacuated from East Aleppo are living in hell life in countryside. Can we support them? They need us right now. – Fatemah

 

 

 

 

 

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May The Force Be With You. #StockMarkets #Iran #Pakistan #UNResolution

Last week we discussed Egypt’s and Turkey’s stock market activity and promised that we would discuss the stock markets in other populous countries, like Iran and Pakistan, in the MENA region before the new year.  We are discussing Iran because we are curious to see the impact on its other markets due to the easing of economic sanctions.  The joint US and EU decision of easing sanctions is seen as a positive result of the Iran Deal reached in 2015-2016.

Further to their economic news, Iran also participated in the global economic shake–not the Harlem Shake– as an OPEC member: for this first time since the height of the 2008 financial crisis—OPEC cut its oil production in November.

Also, we are discussing Iran’s neighboring trade partner Pakistan, because the Pakistan Stock Market  (KSE100) hit a record trading high this past December: 47806.97 points.  This represents how Pakistan’s KSE100 grew 40 percent in 2016, according to Forbes.

Tehran Stock Exchange

Iran’s sanctions ease was one of the top five economic shocks in 2016.  Now, Iran has the opportunity to regain lost revenue from oil exports by $10 billion in the coming year.  Also, the US has removed sanctions on Iran’s banking sector, according to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Iran’s central bank says lifting banking sanctions would allow $30 billion of foreign reserves currently frozen in accounts around the world to be brought back.~Economic Times

As a result, in large part, the Tehran Stock Exchange reported growth.
In addition, an Iranian media corporation Donya-e-Eqtesad established a stock market information service called Donya-e-Bourseon.  The service’s founder, Ali Reza Bakhtiari, stated that the service will “promote the free market, competitiveness and openness.” As such, one of the sections will feature a weekly survey of market trend predictions by investors and analysts.
Nonetheless, inflation remains high: Iranian currency stands at 1 USD = 32,368.34 IRR.
Internal trading options opened up too.  On December 18th, Iran introduced the Single Stock option Contracts.  The first day resulted in more than 15,000 trading contracts.

Pakistan Stock Market

As you may know, Pakistan has held a free floating currency exchange since 2000.  It’s been a big year for Pakistan’s money markets and its overall macro-economic development.  Like Turkey’s growth in GDP, Pakistan has seen about 6 percent growth.  Other good news: Pakistan’s inflation rate (now at 4%) is out of double digits range– a situation that heavily mirrored higher food prices in the last part of the 20th century and continued until 2012. This has not been without the support of the World Bank’s 1 billion dollar package.

The Pakistan Stock Market (KSE100) was previously known as the Karachi Stock Exchange to track the top 100 companies earning across each of its 34 sectors.  Since the closing of the first quarter, the KSE100 has been climbing each day in the last nine months.  Perhaps, that is why during last summer, financial markets assessor, MSCI, recategorized Pakistan as an “Emerging Market”.  This was an upgrade shared by economies like Brazil, China, and Russia.

For 2017, however, a rise in oil prices could disrupt this rising growth in the KSE100 since Pakistan has doubled its imports of oil.

The usual suspects that haunt frontier and emerging markets: inflation, corruption, and revolution. Not always in the same order.~ Panos Mourdoukoutas, Forbes Contributor

Pakistani consumers must remain wary of inflationary prices; corruption and revolution are another discussion–their discussion as citizens.

New Year’s Resolutions

PITAPOLICY has two new years resolutions.:

  1. Emulate Anne Frank’s method of tracking her crisis–The Diary of Anne Frank–in World War II Europe and apply to documenting Syrians tweets.  Tweets are testimonials documenting the Syria Crisis and impact on children.  I will begin this post on the first day of 2017, and update as pita-consumers tweet @PITAPOLICY back with their observations on the ground.  Documentation means we can never forget. Ever.
  2. Have hope. We know it may be below expectations of many when continuous resolutions regarding Palestine do not get a “Yes” in support of their self-determination from the U.S.  However, last week’s “Abstain” from the U.S. at the UN Security Council was historic: for the first time in 40 years, the U.S. did not veto a UNSEC resolution (introduced by the only Arab member of the Security Council).  In the Obama administration’s last attempt at Mideast engagement, Secretary John Kerry targeted the illegal settlements, as summed up by international human rights lawyer, and Palestinian-American, Noura Erekat: And the problem is not Palestine. And Kerry said it today in his speech: the settlements do not increase Israelis security.”

“The status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation, but most of the public either ignores it or has given up hope that anything can be done to change it. And with this passive resignation, the problem only gets worse, the risks get greater and the choices are narrowed.”~U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry [Full transcript of speech here.]

Pitaconsumers: please share with us yours–whether they be hopes for economic development, human development, or your country’s development.  Tell it to the universe because declaring your intent is the first step towards tracking the goal; tracking the goal is the step towards making something better.  Making something better is WHY we are here.  May the Force Be With You.

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