Tributes pour in for Bush senior who played key role in Kuwait’s liberation

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Former US president George H.W. Bush, who helped steer America through the end of the Cold War, has died at age 94, his family announced late Friday November 30, 2018. (AFP)
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Updated 02 December 2018
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Tributes pour in for Bush senior who played key role in Kuwait’s liberation

  • Handling of 1991 Gulf War was his major foreign policy success
  • His time in office was praised for helping to maintain stability during the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

JEDDAH/LONDON: Gulf Arab states have offered their condolences over the death of former President George H.W. Bush.
Bush’s death at the age of 94 takes on greater importance in the region over his actions in the 1991 Gulf War that saw Iraq expelled from Kuwait.
Leaders in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday offered condolences to both President Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush for the elder Bush’s death.
Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also is the UAE’s prime minister and vice president, tweeted that Emiratis remember Bush as “a firm ally and friend.”


Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said similarly offered condolences.
Kuwait's ruling Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said that Bush tried to "create a new international order based on justice and equality among nations,” and that his support "will remain in Kuwait's collective memory and will not be forgotten."

In a letter to US President Donald Trump, Al Sabah praised Bush's "historic and courageous stance... and his rejection of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait from the early hours".

"On behalf of the Kuwaiti government and people, I express my deepest condolences and utmost sympathy."

Former US president George H.W. Bush, who guided America through the end of the Cold War and launched the international campaign to drive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, died Friday at his home in Houston.

Tributes quickly poured in for the 41st US president — a decorated World War II pilot, skilled diplomat and onetime CIA chief who also saw his son George follow in his footsteps to the Oval Office.

His time in office was praised for helping to maintain stability during the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Another foreign policy success was his handling of the 1991 Gulf War. He led a strong international campaign to drive Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait. He devoted much of his time to foreign affairs, approached it with his characteristic conservatism and pragmatism. Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia joined the US to form a coalition articulating the four principles that guided “Operation Desert Shield.”

“I extend my sincerest condolences to the Bush family and to the American people upon the passing of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. May he Rest in Peace,” said Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Kuwait’s ruling Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said that Bush tried to “create a new international order based on justice and equality among nations,” and that he never “forgot the Kuwaiti people and will remain in their memory.”

“It is not a surprise that the late President George H.W. Bush is being remembered so fondly today by many people in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and elsewhere in the region. His resolve and resoluteness during the Gulf War is still regarded by many in the US and in the international community as the penultimate example of steady leadership during a time of crisis,” Fahad Nazer, a fellow with the National Council on US Arab Relations, told Arab News.

The decisiveness and moral clarity that President Bush and the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia demonstrated during the crisis has set a high bar for other world leaders, he said. 

“In some ways, both President Bush and King Fahd’s legacies were forged during the crisis; President Bush for his commitment to maintaining international order and King Fahd for demonstrating in both words and actions, his solidarity with Kuwait during its most difficult chapter,” Nazer said.

Bush’s passing comes just months after the death in April of his wife Barbara — his “most beloved woman in the world” — to whom he was married for 73 years.

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” former president George W. Bush said in a statement.

Bush is survived by his five living children -a sixth child, daughter Robin, died of leukemia before her fourth birthday — and 17 grandchildren.

He died “at home in Houston surrounded by family and close friends,” family spokesman Jim McGrath told AFP.

Bush suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had used a wheelchair for several years. He had been in and out of hospital in recent months.

Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course, McGrath said.

The former president, a Republican, is expected to lie in state in the US Capitol and then be buried at his presidential library in Texas, where students held a candlelight vigil early Saturday, local media reported.

 


How ‘liquid of life’ is under threat in the Middle East

Updated 22 March 2019
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How ‘liquid of life’ is under threat in the Middle East

  • An increasing number of people in the region do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation
  • In 2015, there were more than 51 million people in the Arab region lacking access to basic drinking water services, and more than 74 million without access to basic sanitation services

DUBAI: World Water Day had somewhat of an abysmal feel to it across the Middle East this year, as the region witnesses a growing number of people with no access to supplies of the vital resource.

Although the issue of supply has always been critical for the Arab region, known to be one of the most water-scarce in the world, matters are only getting worse with a rise in refugees and the displaced.

“The freshwater scarcity situation is aggravated by several factors, such as dependency on shared water resources, climate change, pollution, non-revenue water losses from aging systems, intermittency, inefficient use, and high population growth,” said Ziad Khayat, first economic affairs officer in water resources in the Sustainable Development Policies Division at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). “Occupation and conflict also affect people’s ability to access water and sanitation services. The Arab region is perhaps the only one in the world still experiencing direct military occupation.”

He spoke of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories, which affects access to water resources and the ability of countries to properly manage and provide required water and sanitation services, with a ripple effect on food security, health and development. “Armed conflict in the region has resulted in the destruction of the water and sanitation infrastructure, hampering the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation,” he said. “In response to shortages, households resort to unregulated water vendors relying on compromised resources, such as unprotected wells. In addition, damaged wastewater systems have resulted in river waters and shallow wells becoming contaminated.”

Water shortages and electricity outages have rendered many health care facilities non-functional, while vulnerability to the outbreak of waterborne diseases, particularly for people living in conflict-affected countries, has greatly increased. “The systemic conditions affecting the Arab region’s water security are not expected to improve in the near future,” he said. “In fact, climate variability and change are projected to impose additional pressures, with adverse impacts on the quantity and quality of freshwater resources in an already water-scarce region, affecting its ability to ensure food security, sustain rural livelihoods and preserve ecosystems.”

A higher frequency and intensity of floods, droughts and extreme weather is being experienced in many countries, which aggravates the situation of vulnerable communities and has led to economic losses and environmental degradation in several parts of the region. “The region has a high population growth rate and is one of the most urbanized in the world, with more than 58 percent of the population now living in cities,” Khayat said. “It has witnessed significant and uneven urban transformations, with some countries undergoing rapid wealth generation, others confronting economic challenges, and several afflicted by conflicts that have led to major displacement and migration of large sections of the population.”

Such trends are expected to place more stress on the urban infrastructure, particularly in water, given the scarcity conditions in the region. And with 86 percent of the region’s population — or nearly 362 million people — living in countries under water scarcity or absolute water scarcity, action is needed. “The predictions are that water scarcity is only going to get worse unless we change the way we manage the resource,” said Monika Weber-Fahr, executive secretary at the Global Water Partnership. “I remain an optimist. We were able to meet some of the water-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a new and broader resolve to, not just improve water supply and sanitation, but take a more holistic approach to managing water, including its transboundary aspects.”

“Leaving no one behind” is the theme of this year’s World Water Day at the UN. The central challenge, Weber-Fahr believes, is that to achieve efficient, equitable, and sustainable water management, all parties must have genuine opportunities to actively participate in water management decisions. “Only then can decisions be taken that reflect how we all value water — reflecting its social, economic and environmental value,” she said. “We need to create a safe space for people to come together to build common ground for water management decisions, working with everyone, everywhere.”

In 2015, there were more than 51 million people in the Arab region lacking access to basic drinking water services, and more than 74 million without access to basic sanitation services. Access to water and sanitation  is also lacking in rural areas compared with urban areas. “The record shows that in the past 10 to 12 years in the Arab region, the overall proportion of population with access to safe drinking water has improved from 85 percent to 90, almost reaching the global average of 91, but deteriorated in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, where it dropped from 94 percent to 88 due to military occupation, civil conflicts and insufficient investments,” said Dr. Waleed Zubari, professor in water resources management at the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain. “Disparity between urban and rural population in both services continues to be considerably large, especially in the lower-income countries. This is expected to continue with the civil conflicts in Syria and Yemen and in Iraq, and under the military occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

If only excess water during rainy days can be stored for use during the dry months, water shortage wouldnot be much of a problem. (AN file photo)

Climate change and drought are also expected to worsen river flows, which is the main source of water for many Arab countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria. “Whether we have achieved a universal access to water for all the population or not, there are some challenges that will stay with us in the Arab region,” he said. “Scarcity of water resources and limited endowments facing increasing water demands due to increased population will continue to be a major challenge in the region. Another issue that needs immediate attention is the water supply and use efficiency, recycling and reusing water, considered very low in the region, and if worked on, will reduce water stress tremendously.”

Peace and stability will also help improve the situation, as well as rebuilding the water sector in countries shattered by civil war and occupation. Similarly, water management, efficiency and conservation in policies will need to progress.

For Dr. Ahmed Murad, dean of the college of science at United Arab Emirates University, said that providing clean water for the population is essential for all communities. “Historically, the absence of water could increase conflicts between nations,” he said. “Latest statistics show that about 844 million people in the world live without access to safe water, and one in nine lack the access to safe water.”

He spoke of more pronounced circumstances in the Middle East, with high temperatures and a low amount of rainfall. “Such conditions with population growth may reduce the availability of clean water due to a high demand on water resources,” he said. “The limited and diverse water resources will pressurize natural resources, and this will continue to deteriorate if no action is taken.”