Doha ‘losing fight for US public opinion’

Doha ‘losing fight for US public opinion’
Updated 14 August 2017

Doha ‘losing fight for US public opinion’

Doha ‘losing fight for US public opinion’

LONDON: Qatar is losing its battle to win favorable public opinion in the US, with more than a third of Americans linking Doha with accusations of terror financing, an Arab News/YouGov poll has found.
The poll of 2,263 US citizens, conducted in July, suggests that Qatar is “failing miserably” in its effort to convince Americans it is in the right over the row with its Arab neighbors, according to one analyst.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar two months ago, accusing Doha of supporting terror groups and meddling with their internal affairs.


The Arab News/YouGov poll found that 71 percent of Americans are aware, to various extents, of the diplomatic row.
It also found that those who are aware of it have a good understanding of the reasons behind the crisis, with 67 percent correctly identifying the factors behind it.
In the wake of the diplomatic row, the poll found that the US public view Qatar in a negative light.
Just 27 percent of Americans consider Qatar as a friend or ally to the US, while 31 percent consider Qatar to be an enemy of their country. Almost half either don’t know or are unsure about how to classify the relationship with Doha. 
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said that the data show that Qatar is losing the fight for American public opinion.
“The numbers make a fairly strong case that despite its best efforts, Qatar is failing miserably in attempting to convince Americans that it is in the right,” Shahbandar told Arab News.


“Perhaps Doha would be best served in saving the millions that it will spend in its public relations campaign in the US and instead just do the right thing and agree to meaningful steps that end financial support to terror and extremist incitement.”
Shahbandar added that the poll has helped clarify where Americans stand on the diplomatic rift between Doha and the Anti-Terror Quartet — namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.

“Deciding who was the villain and which side stood by principles that coincided with US strategic interests was no easy matter for thought leaders and your average American voter. That said, the recent data from YouGov has helped crystalize just where the American public stands — and the data is damning for the Qatari side,” he said.
Shahbandar pointed to the millions of dollars that Doha spends on lobbying and public relations campaigns in the US — much of which is centered around the US military presence in Qatar.
The Al-Udeid Air Base currently hosts more than 11,000 American soldiers. However, 49 percent of Americans say they are unsure if it is best for the base to remain there, while 20 percent thought that it should be moved somewhere else, according to the Arab News/YouGov poll. Only 31 percent said the base should remain in Qatar.


“The center of the Qatari media strategy is to highlight to the American public the defense cooperation between the two countries — anchored by the presence in Qatar of Al-Udeid Air Base,” Shahbandar said.

“Despite that, 43 percent of Americans are unsure if Qatar is an ally or an enemy of the US. This is a startling find ... that a country which has hosted thousands of American military men and women for over a decade is still unable to garner the goodwill of the American public.”

The poll found that very few US citizens associate Qatar with the 2022 World Cup, with more making the link to the terror financing allegations against Doha.

“What should concern Doha is that of those Americans who were aware of the crisis, a significant amount (two-thirds) of those polled blamed Qatar for initiating the dispute due to support of terror groups,” Shahbandar said.
“The Qatari public relations narrative has attempted to paint the dispute as a result of an effort by the Anti-Terror Quartet Arab states to impose control over Doha’s sovereignty. Nonetheless, that line seems to have fallen on deaf ears amongst a wide swath of Americans.”

• For full report and related articles please visit : YouGov Qatar Poll


Libya sees progress on removal of foreign mercenaries at Berlin talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Berlin on June 23, 2021, on the sidelines of a new round of Libya peace talks. (AFP / Tobias Schwarz)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Berlin on June 23, 2021, on the sidelines of a new round of Libya peace talks. (AFP / Tobias Schwarz)
Updated 24 June 2021

Libya sees progress on removal of foreign mercenaries at Berlin talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Berlin on June 23, 2021, on the sidelines of a new round of Libya peace talks. (AFP / Tobias Schwarz)
  • Premier urges parliament to approve election law to allow December election to go ahead

BERLIN: Libya’s foreign minister said on Wednesday international powers had made progress at talks in Berlin on the removal of foreign fighters from the country, although a final communique from the UN-backed conference specified no concrete new measures.

Libya has had little stability since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising against then-head of state Muammar Qaddafi, but a UN-led peace process brought a ceasefire last summer after fighting between rival factions paused.

Wednesday’s meeting in Berlin aimed to make progress on removing mercenaries and other foreign forces from Libya, months after the ceasefire called for their withdrawal, as well as on steps toward securing a December election.

“Hopefully within coming days mercenaries (on) both sides will be withdrawn,” Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush told a news conference following the talks.

A senior official at the US State Department said Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Libya, had reached an initial understanding to work toward a target of pulling out 300 Syrian mercenaries from each side of the conflict.

HIGHLIGHT

A US State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said he believed there was an understanding between Russia and Turkey on a step-by-step withdrawal of their fighters.

“This will not mean that everybody will take their mercenaries back overnight,” he said. The talks were also attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A second State Department official said it was unrealistic to think a full withdrawal of foreign fighters would come overnight and that it would be a phased approach.

“Getting at what we think is one of the key de-stabilizing elements, the presence of these foreign fighters, Syrians, Chadians, Sudanese, that is an important first step and it’s not something we had before,” the official said.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeiba called on Libya’s parliament to approve an election law to allow the December election to go ahead and to pass his government’s budget.

“Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the necessary seriousness from the legislative bodies,” he said.


Violence seeps into Lebanese life due to economic crisis

Vehicles queue-up at a petrol station in the Balamand area on the coastal highway in near Beirut on June 21, 2021 amid dire shortages due to an ongoing economic collapse. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)
Vehicles queue-up at a petrol station in the Balamand area on the coastal highway in near Beirut on June 21, 2021 amid dire shortages due to an ongoing economic collapse. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)
Updated 24 June 2021

Violence seeps into Lebanese life due to economic crisis

Vehicles queue-up at a petrol station in the Balamand area on the coastal highway in near Beirut on June 21, 2021 amid dire shortages due to an ongoing economic collapse. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)
  • Fistfights turn into shootings as people clash over who gets to fill their tank first at gasoline stations

BEIRUT: Violence has seeped into daily Lebanese life due to the country’s severe economic crisis and a breakdown in official security, with fights and even shootings at gas stations.

Lebanon is experiencing an economic crisis that is likely to rank as one of the world’s three worst in more than 150 years, according to the World Bank.
There are shortages of essential items such as fuel and medicine, while bread has become more expensive after the Syndicate of Bakery Owners raised prices now that government subsidies on sugar and yeast have ended.
People are queuing for hours at gas stations, and fistfights turn into shootings as people clash over who gets to fill their tank first.
People are taking their own lives or destroying their sources of income in desperation.
A 25-year-old man named Mathew hanged himself in his apartment in the Keserwan area, while a man in Baalbek tried to commit suicide in his shop because of the debts he had accumulated. Another person set fire to his bean cart in a Beirut street after receiving an order to remove it. The cart was his sole livelihood.
Living conditions have deteriorated considerably amid a political deadlock over the formation of a new government. There is a dispute between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun about who should be in the new administration and what roles they should have, among other issues.
Hariri was named to form a new government last October but has yet to succeed. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive blast in Beirut on Aug. 4 that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.
One activist turned his aim at the country’s authorities, tweeting: “You have turned Lebanon into a jungle and put people at the mercy of thugs at gas stations. You have humiliated people in every detail of their lives. We place the scenes of shootings at gas stations in God’s hands because we have no one in Lebanon to complain to. They are all responsible without exception.”

HIGHLIGHT

There are shortages of essential items such as fuel and medicine, while bread has become more expensive after the Syndicate of Bakery Owners raised prices now that government subsidies on sugar and yeast have ended.

A resident from Beirut’s southern suburbs said that official security was no longer enough to deal with the chaos and violence that was finding its way into everyday life. “The official security forces, which have shared the task of providing security in the southern suburbs in recent years with Hezbollah and the Amal movement, have asked those in charge of these neighborhoods to participate in protecting the security of gas stations because the official security services are unable to cover all neighborhoods,” the resident told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
Self-security was not limited to Beirut’s southern suburbs, the resident added, but extended to Beirut and other neighborhoods, including Ain El-Remmaneh and Furn El Chebbak.
Fadi Abu Shakra, a representative of the union for fuel distributors and gas stations in Lebanon, spoke about the dangers of the new development.
“Some individuals who imposed themselves as in charge of security at gas stations are using extortion,” he told Arab News. “The riots and attacks in front of the stations are no longer bearable. The owners of over 140 gas stations refused to receive gasoline from the companies because they were exposed to extortion and beatings, and could not protect themselves.”
He called on the security services to protect the gas stations which, he said, were “only trying to do their jobs.”
But Brig. Gen. Anwar Yahya, a former judicial police chief, said that the Internal Security Forces were not responsible for “ensuring public order” in front of gas stations. “This falls within the responsibilities of municipalities, and there is a law that stipulates this,” he told Arab News. “But the municipalities are also suffering under low budgets. Some parties are involved in certain municipalities and they can assist them in such matters. However, when such individuals have a greater influence than the official security forces, the state’s stature diminishes.”
The economic crisis had affected the Lebanese armed forces, he added, and the international community’s cooperation to support them was “an expression of its fear” about the military “crumbling” under the pressure of events in Lebanon.
Security services have been submitting daily reports on their pursuit of people smuggling subsidized materials to Syria and on those being arrested for harming social and food security.
Yahya, who spent 39 years in the security field, said people expected the state agencies to provide protection and that the army remained the “ultimate salvation.”
“The most important thing is to speed up the formation of a government because people are hungry,” he added.
He stressed that, until the time came when there was a new government, an individual’s primary role was maintaining self-protection. “Among the preventive measures that citizens can take are locking doors and windows, applying the principles of neighborhood security, and informing the police of every emergency.”


Palestinian mother of 3 to be homeless after Israeli court clears demolition

Palestinian mother of 3 to be homeless after Israeli court clears demolition
A review by the Israeli military in 2004 questioned the effectiveness of home domolitions, leading the military to halt such demolitions for nearly a decade. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Palestinian mother of 3 to be homeless after Israeli court clears demolition

Palestinian mother of 3 to be homeless after Israeli court clears demolition
  • Israeli group representing her says husband has history of mental illness

JERUSALEM, WASHINGTON: Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the decision to destroy the family home of a detained Palestinian accused of a deadly shooting.

It rejected a petition by his estranged wife, who lives in the house with their children and says she knew nothing about the attack.
The case drew attention to Israel’s policy of demolishing the family homes of attackers after they have been killed or arrested.
Israeli officials say the demolitions deter future attacks, while rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.
The US State Department has urged a halt to punitive home demolitions.
An internal review by the Israeli military in 2004 reportedly questioned its effectiveness as a deterrent, leading the military to largely halt such demolitions for nearly a decade.
It resumed the practice in 2014 after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank.
Israel says Muntasser Shalaby carried out a May 2 drive-by shooting in the occupied West Bank that killed an Israeli and wounded two others. He was arrested days after the attack.
His wife, Sanaa Shalaby, said they were estranged for several years and that he spent most of his time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had married three other women in unofficial Islamic ceremonies. The entire family has US citizenship.
Sanaa said he would return to the West Bank for a month or two every year to visit their three children, aged 17, 12 and 9, who live with her in the home in the village of Turmus Ayya.
HaMoked, an Israeli rights group representing her, said he had a history of mental illness.
In upholding the demolition order, the Supreme Court noted that Muntasser had lived in the home continuously from 2006-2012, before their estrangement, and had resided there for weeks before the attack. It said the petitioners did not present sufficient evidence to show he had suffered from mental illness.

FASTFACT

The ‘disappointing’ judgment would allow the military to expand the use of punitive home demolitions.

Jessica Montell, the executive director of HaMoked, said the “disappointing” judgment would allow the military to expand the use of punitive home demolitions.
Her group is weighing whether to request another hearing and says the court is unlikely to grant one. She said the house could be demolished anytime after an interim injunction expires on June 30.
“If Mrs. Shalaby’s legal recourse has been exhausted, the diplomatic recourse is crucial: Is the US government going to allow this blatant collective punishment against a US citizen mother and three children?”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. Earlier this month, it called on Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from any actions that undermine efforts to revive the peace process, including punitive home demolitions.
“The home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual,” it said.

Democrats’ stance
A new poll on American attitudes toward a core conflict in the Middle East finds about half of Democrats want the US to do more to support the Palestinians, showing that a growing rift among Democratic lawmakers is also reflected in the party’s base.
The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds differences within both the Democratic and the Republican parties on the US approach toward Israel and the Palestinians, with liberal Democrats wanting more support for the Palestinians and conservative Republicans seeking even greater support for the Israelis.
The survey also examined Americans’ opinions on the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The survey was conducted about three weeks into a ceasefire following a devastating 11-day war last month between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas militant rulers. The fighting killed at least 254 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.
The poll shows Americans overall are divided over US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. It also shows more Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s approach to the conflict than approve of it.
Among Democrats, 51 percent say the US is not supportive enough of the Palestinians. The sentiment jumps to 62 percent among Democrats who describe themselves as liberal.
On the other hand, 49 percent of Republicans say the US is not supportive enough of the Israelis, a number that rises to 61 percent among those who say they’re conservative.
Paul Spelce, a 26-year-old Democratic-leaning independent voter and supporter of Palestinian statehood, is a member of a heavily religious Texas Republican family whose support for Israel is ingrained with their Christian faith.
Spelce, of Austin, says he followed news of last month’s Gaza war and the US response closely on the radio as he helped deliver mail.
“I started paying a lot more attention,” said Spelce, who said he disapproved of Biden’s handling of the conflict and thinks the US is too supportive of Israelis and not supportive enough of the Palestinians.
“I don’t think Biden’s word was that strong,” Spelce said. “And I don’t think, you know, this administration ... can actually do anything” regarding the conflict.
Overall, the poll shows that 29 percent of Americans say the US is too supportive of the Israelis, 30 percent say it’s not supportive enough and 36 percent say it’s about right.


Early agreement reached in dispute over Suez Canal ship

In this March 30, 2021 file photo, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is anchored in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake. (AP/File Photo)
In this March 30, 2021 file photo, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is anchored in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 24 June 2021

Early agreement reached in dispute over Suez Canal ship

In this March 30, 2021 file photo, the Ever Given, a Panama-flagged cargo ship, is anchored in Egypt's Great Bitter Lake. (AP/File Photo)
  • The disagreement centers on the compensation amount the Suez Canal Authority is claiming for the salvage of the vessel Ever Given

CAIRO: The owners and insurers of the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year have reached an agreement in principle over their dispute with canal authorities, representatives from both sides said Wednesday.
Stann Marine, the lawyers representing the vessel’s owners and insurers, and the Suez Canal Authority both confirmed the development.
The disagreement centers on the compensation amount the Suez Canal Authority is claiming for the salvage of the vessel Ever Given, which ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days. Specialist tugboats and dredgers eventually freed the 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) cargo ship carrying some $3.5 billion in cargo.
In an on-air phone call to Egyptian talk show “Al-Hiyat Al-Youm” on Wednesday the head of Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority, Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, said the parties had agreed on a compensation amount. But he said it would not be made public as they had signed a non-disclosure agreement until the signing of the final contract.
The money would cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week the Ever Given blocked the canal.
At first, the Suez Canal Authority demanded $916 million in compensation, which was later lowered to $550 million.
Since it was freed, the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned vessel, which carries cargo between Asia and Europe, has been ordered by authorities to remain in a holding lake mid-canal, along with most of its crew, as its owner and the canal authority try to settle the compensation dispute.
In a statement, the UK Club, one insurer for the ship's owners, the Japanese company Shoei Kisen, said it is working with other insurers and the canal authority to sign a final agreement “as soon as possible."
“Once the formalities have been dealt with, arrangements for the release of the vessel will be made,” the statement said.
The two sides have traded blame for the vessel’s grounding, with bad weather, poor decisions on the part of canal authorities, and human and technical error all being thrown out as possible factors.
On Sunday, the Ismailia Economic Court adjourned a hearing on the case after the Suez Canal’s attorneys said they were looking into a new offer made by the vessel’s owners. Lawyers did not share any details of the offer.
The six-day blockage disrupted global shipping. Hundreds of ships waited in place for the canal to be unblocked, while some ships were forced to take the much longer route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, requiring additional fuel and other costs.
About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt. Some 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, according to official figures.


Child labor rises in Jordan as pandemic adds to economic woes

(Photo courtesy of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies)
(Photo courtesy of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies)
Updated 24 June 2021

Child labor rises in Jordan as pandemic adds to economic woes

(Photo courtesy of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies)
  • In a recent report on the World Day Against Child Labor, annually marked on June 12, Workers’ House, a local NGO specialized in labor rights, expected the number of working children in Jordan aged between 5 and 17 to reach 100,000

AMMAN: Twelve-year-old Mamdouh said he has been on a seven-day street shift selling gum and candy to cover the needs of his family living in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jordan’s capital, Amman. 

“A small van drops us off here every day at 5 p.m. to sell gum and candies, and the driver comes at 10 p.m. to take us back to Wehdat,” Mamdouh said, accompanied by a 9-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy selling candy in Amman’s Al-Weibdeh neighborhood.    

Insisting that no picture of him be used under fears of labor ministry inspectors, Mamdouh said his 56-year-old father has forced him to quit school and work to help feed their family.

Mamdouh lives in Al-Wehdat refugee camp, the second largest camp for Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

“We are six — two boys and four girls — but my father only allows my older brother and sister to go to school,” Mamdouh said, again insisting that no photo of him or his friends be used in the report.

“You are not an inspector from the labor and social development ministries, are you?” Mamdouh asked before telling his story to Arab News.

Government inspectors were seen looking for child workers and beggars in Al-Weibdeh, one of Amman’s oldest and most famous neighborhoods.

In a recent report on the World Day Against Child Labor, annually marked on June 12, Workers’ House, a local NGO specialized in labor rights, expected the number of working children in Jordan aged between 5 and 17 to reach 100,000 by the end of 2021, signaling an increase of 25 percent from the latest figures recorded in 2016.

The report warned against a “worrying” rise in the number of children who are victims of child labor as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent economic distress and rise in poverty and unemployment rates in Jordan in 2020.

The unemployment rate in Jordan reached around 24 percent in the third quarter of 2020, up by 4.8 percent compared to the same period in 2019, according to official figures.

The Workers’ House report said that the pandemic has seen around 80,000 people lose their jobs in Jordan in 2020, with authorities forcing businesses to close in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19. The organization added that more than 500,000 workers have been facing pay cuts since March 2020.

The organization also explained that the poverty rate in Jordan has climbed to 26 percent in 2020, prompting families, “in the absence of a social protection system,” to send their children to the labor market to secure their daily living.

The report called for updated data on the impact of the pandemic on child labor, adding that the latest survey was in 2016, in which the number of working children was placed at 76,000.

Citing the 2016 survey, the NGO said that, of the 76,000 working children aged between 5 and 17, 70,000 were illegally employed, with around 45,000 of them found working in hazardous environments.

The report said that 29 percent, 28 percent and 11 percent of the working children registered in 2016 were working in retail businesses and auto repair shops, agriculture, and construction, respectively. 

Labor Ministry Spokesman Mohammed Zyoud told Arab News that inspection teams have uncovered a total of 191 child labor cases from the 5,560 field visits they conducted during the first four months of this year.

He also said that the ministry’s inspectors had carried out a total of 11,952 and 7,143 field visits to businesses in 2020 and 2019 and discovered a total of 503 and 467 cases of child labor, respectively.

The spokesman also said that the ministry has taken a decision to intensify inspection campaigns and field visits during 2021 to curb child labor, which, he added, has been “increasing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic difficulties.”

During a recent seminar at Al-Rai Center for Strategic Studies, Labor Minister Yousef Shamali said that government inspectors working in the specialized unit for child labor carry out inspection campaigns annually on businesses across the kingdom to check on their abidance with the Jordanian labor law, which prohibits the employment of children under 16.

He also explained that the child laborers recovered by the inspectors are referred to the social protection center, where they receive educational and psychological rehabilitation to able to go back to school or vocational training to qualify them to join the labor market when they reach legal age.

Shamali also explained that the ministry set up an online database for child labor in 2018 and is financing the Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, implemented by the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization.

The International Labor Organization said that the influx of refugees from Syria to Jordan has exacerbated the situation of child labor, in terms of both magnitude and complexity, adding that it is supporting the government in its implementation of the National Framework to Combat Child Labor, adopted in 2011.