Study shows Arabs more likely to blame NATO than Russia for Ukraine war

Special NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (AFP)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2022

Study shows Arabs more likely to blame NATO than Russia for Ukraine war

Study shows Arabs more likely to blame NATO than Russia for Ukraine war
  • Perception in Arab world that NATO is to blame for conflict echoes official line from Kremlin
  • However, apportioning of blame more balanced among countries in GCC, Levant and North Africa

LONDON: In all but one of 14 countries surveyed in a special Arab News-YouGov poll on where Arabs stand on the Ukraine conflict, a majority of respondents who expressed a view believe the blame for the war lies not with Russia but with NATO.

The only exception to this is in Syria, where blame is apportioned equally. 

These findings highlight the gulf in perceptions of the conflict between the Arab world and Europe. A similar poll conducted by YouGov in Europe during April found that “an overwhelming majority of the citizens of EU countries attribute responsibility for the situation in Ukraine to Russia.”

This feeling was strongest in Finland and Sweden, where both countries are fearful of Russian expansion over their borders and are now anxiously contemplating joining NATO. 

There, and in the UK, Poland and the Netherlands, more than 70 percent of people laid the blame firmly at the door of the Kremlin.

Among countries in the GCC, Levant and North Africa, although NATO is perceived more often as the party responsible for the conflict, the apportioning of blame is more balanced. People in the Gulf states, for example, blame NATO (23 percent) only marginally more than they do Russia (19 percent).

The perception in the Arab world that NATO is to blame for the conflict echoes the official line from the Kremlin, and Eto Buziashvili, research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, believes it can be attributed to a large extent to Russia’s digital campaign of disinformation.

“There is constant disinformation messaging coming out of official Kremlin sources on a range of social networks,” she said. “They have been blocked on platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, but they have also been actively using Telegram.”

“I observed that a few weeks ago they started to invest in video content, featuring the war in Ukraine, and have launched channels on Telegram that are running in more than 17 languages, including Persian and Arabic.

“This is part of the broader picture of Russian disinformation efforts around the war. Blaming NATO was the first narrative that came out of the Kremlin, which says it was NATO that was standing behind Ukraine that provoked the conflict.”

Tobias Borck, research fellow for Middle East security studies at London-based defense and security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, says the finding also reflects a regional ambivalence toward NATO as a tool of the West.

“What has been experienced in the Middle East is that NATO — and by NATO, most people mean the US and the West — does what it wants. In this case, people see that Russia is doing what it wants, and think, well, what’s the big difference?

“The West has behaved in this way for years. It has gone and occupied Iraq, for example, and now Russia is doing a similar thing in Ukraine. OK, it’s not great that Russia is doing this, but what’s the big difference, basically?

“So if the Russians are saying well, it’s because NATO keeps expanding, then that’s a narrative that resonates and mixes with anti-Western and anti-imperial sentiment in the region.”

Across MENA, 13 percent of respondents to the YouGov survey say that US President Joe Biden is responsible for the war — possibly reflecting the inevitable conflation of NATO with the US, and the widespread negative view in the region of American military adventures across the Middle East.

Overall, however, 42 percent of respondents aren’t sure who to blame.

In the view of the 7,835 people canvassed across the Middle East and North Africa, there is widespread agreement that Ukraine itself cannot be blamed for the conflict. No more than 8 percent of respondents in any country, and only 5 percent across the GCC states as a whole, felt Ukraine could be held responsible.

 

 


Iraqis protest after father kills YouTuber daughter

Iraqis protest after father kills YouTuber daughter
Updated 13 sec ago

Iraqis protest after father kills YouTuber daughter

Iraqis protest after father kills YouTuber daughter
BAGHDAD: Iraqi activists protested Sunday to demand a law against domestic violence, days after a YouTuber was strangled by her father in a killing that has outraged the conservative country.
Tiba Al-Ali, 22, was killed by her father on January 31 in the southern province of Diwaniyah, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on Twitter on Friday.
Maan said there had been an attempt to mediate between the young woman and her relatives to resolve a “family dispute.” The father later surrendered to the police and confessed to murdering his daughter.
On Sunday, security forces prevented some 20 activists from demonstrating outside the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, and they gathered instead at a road leading to the building, an AFP journalist said.
Some held placards saying “Stop killing women” and “Tiba’s killer must be held to account.”
“We demand laws to protect women, especially laws against domestic violence,” 22-year-old protester Rose Hamid told AFP.
“We came here to protest against Tiba’s murder and against all others. Who will be the next victim?“
Another demonstrator, Lina Ali, said: “We will keep mobilizing because of rising domestic violence and killings of women.”
On the sidelines of Sunday’s demonstration, human rights activist Hanaa Edwar was received by a magistrate from the Supreme Judicial Council to whom she presented the protesters’ grievances.
Tiba Al-Ali had lived in Turkiye since 2017 and was visiting Iraq when she was killed, a security official in Diwaniyah told AFP.
In Turkiye she had gained a following on YouTube, posting videos of her daily life in which her fiance often appeared.
Recordings have been shared on social media by a friend of Ali, and picked up by activists, reportedly of conversations with the father, angry because she was living in Turkiye.
In the recordings, she also accuses her brother of sexual harassment.
AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recordings.

Iran’s supreme leader issues pardon for ‘tens of thousands’ of prisoners — IRNA

Iran’s supreme leader issues pardon for ‘tens of thousands’ of prisoners — IRNA
Updated 05 February 2023

Iran’s supreme leader issues pardon for ‘tens of thousands’ of prisoners — IRNA

Iran’s supreme leader issues pardon for ‘tens of thousands’ of prisoners — IRNA

DUBAI: Iran’s supreme leader has pardoned “tens of thousands” of prisoners including some arrested in recent anti-government protests, state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, after a deadly state crackdown helped quell the nationwide unrest.
However, the pardon approved by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came with conditions, according to details announced in state media reports, which said the measure would not apply to any of the numerous dual nationals held in Iran.
State news agency IRNA said those accused of “corruption on earth” — a capital charge brought against some protesters, four of whom have been executed — would also not be pardoned.
Neither would it apply to those charged with “spying for foreign agencies” or those “affiliated with groups hostile to the Islamic Republic,” state media reported.
Iran was swept by protests following the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in the custody of the country’s morality police last September. Iranians from all walks of life took part, marking one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
According to the HRANA activist news agency, about 20,000 people have been arrested in connection with the protests, which the authorities accused Iran’s foreign enemies of fomenting.
Rights groups say over 500 have been killed in the crackdown, including 70 minors. At least four people have been hanged, according to the Iranian judiciary.
In a letter to Khamenei requesting the pardon, judiciary head Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said: “During recent events, a number of people, especially young people, committed wrong actions and crimes as a result of the indoctrination and propaganda of the enemy.
Protests have slowed considerably since the hangings began.
“Since the foreign enemies and anti-revolutionary currents’ plans have been foiled, many of these youth now regret their actions,” Ejei wrote.
Khamenei approved the pardons in honor of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
It would not apply to those “facing charges of spying for foreign agencies, having direct contact with foreign agents, committing intentional murder and injury, (and) committing destruction and arson of state property.”
“Naturally, those who do not express regret for their activities and give a written commitment for not repeating those activities, will not be pardoned,” deputy judiciary chief Sadeq Rahimi said, state media reported.
The Norway-based Iran Human Rights group said this week that at least 100 detained protesters faced possible death sentences.
Amnesty International has criticized Iranian authorities for what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran.”


Bus crash kills at least 8, injures dozens in western Turkiye

Bus crash kills at least 8, injures dozens in western Turkiye
Updated 05 February 2023

Bus crash kills at least 8, injures dozens in western Turkiye

Bus crash kills at least 8, injures dozens in western Turkiye

ISTANBUL: A passenger bus crashed off a road and overturned in western Turkiye Sunday, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens.
The governor’s office of Afyonkarahisar province said the bus was traveling from the southeastern Diyarbakir province to the Aegean city of Bodrum.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 42 people were injured, with three in critical condition.
Videos from the scene showed ambulances lined up and a crane holding the bus up.
An injured passenger with a broken arm told official Anadolu news agency that he was half asleep when the bus “flew.” He said people were stuck underneath the bus.
The bus was operated by a company called Star Has Diyarbakir.


Rising demand promotes excellent winter tourist season in Luxor

Rising demand promotes excellent winter tourist season in Luxor
Updated 05 February 2023

Rising demand promotes excellent winter tourist season in Luxor

Rising demand promotes excellent winter tourist season in Luxor

CAIRO: Special one-day trips have helped to boost tourism in the Luxor governorate in southern Egypt during the current winter season.
The increase in numbers has helped traffic toward the Karnak and Luxor temples.
The winter season continues until April and the weather conditions have been ideal for touring between the ancient temples and tombs in east and west Luxor.
A one-day trip from Hurghada to Luxor to sample the archaeological attractions has played a major part in helping to boost tourism traffic to places such as the historical city of Thebes.
The Luxor trip from Hurghada takes place on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays every week.
Tourists travel to Luxor to visit the temples of Karnak and Luxor in the east, and then cross the Nile to visit the ancient monuments of the west, including the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the Temple of Ramesseum, the Colossi of Memnon, the city of Habu, and the Valley of the Kings.

FASTFACT

Mohamed Othman, head of the Cultural Tourism Marketing Committee in Luxor, said that the visits witnessed during the current season will eventually exceed the numbers recorded in 2019.

Mohamed Othman, head of the Cultural Tourism Marketing Committee in Luxor, said that the visits witnessed during the current season will eventually exceed the numbers recorded in 2019.
The number of worldwide visitors to Egypt is expected to reach more than 14 million this year, he added.
He said an initiative called “Follow the Sun” had been launched by the Ministry of Tourism to attract Europeans to live in Luxor, and some 175 families had already been encouraged to do so.
He added that the future will see more cultural events and conferences in Luxor, with five presentations already made to hold fashion shows in its temples.
Othman said the city was witnessing an unprecedented boom as occupancy increased during the winter season, in both fixed and floating hotels.
The increase in occupancy had been a result of Luxor attracting new visitors from markets such as Southeast Asia and China.
There has also been a 30 percent increase in visitors from the Spanish market.

 


How political obstruction violates Beirut blast survivors’ right to truth, justice and reparations

How political obstruction violates Beirut blast survivors’ right to truth, justice and reparations
Updated 05 February 2023

How political obstruction violates Beirut blast survivors’ right to truth, justice and reparations

How political obstruction violates Beirut blast survivors’ right to truth, justice and reparations
  • Judiciary and politicians have accused Tarek Bitar of insubordination for resuming his inquiry after a 13-month hiatus 
  • For survivors and the families of those killed in the explosion, Judge Bitar’s fresh effort offers a glimmer of hope

DUBAI: When a massive explosion tore through the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, killing more than 215 people, Lebanese officials promised a swift investigation that would bring the culprits to justice within days.

Since then, the inquiry has repeatedly stalled, with its lead investigator Tarek Bitar accused of insubordination for resuming his probe into the blast and charging several top officials.

The blast, which devastated the port and surrounding districts, injuring more than 6,500 and displacing some 300,000, occurred when a large quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, improperly stored in a warehouse since 2014, somehow caught fire.

Survivors, relatives of the victims and rights groups have blamed the disaster on a political class widely viewed as corrupt and inept. To date, no official has been held accountable.

Relatives of Brirut Port blast victims clash with police outside the Palace of Justice in Beirut. (AFP)

“The stuttering investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion had already demonstrated that the judiciary was a plaything in the hands of powerful figures, who could gleefully toss spanners into the legal works to hamstring procedures indefinitely,” broadcaster and political commentator Baria Alamuddin said in a recent op-ed for Arab News.

Bitar’s investigation was initially halted in December 2021 due to a ruling from the Court of Cassation. Three former cabinet ministers had filed court orders against him, while groups opposed to the inquiry, including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, accused him of bias.

Bitar was already the second judge to head the investigation following Judge Fadi Sawan’s removal. In December 2020, Sawan had charged former prime minister Hassan Diab — who had resigned in the explosion’s aftermath — and three former ministers with negligence.

 

However, Sawan was removed from the case after mounting political pressure, and the probe was suspended.

His successor, Bitar, also summoned Diab for questioning and asked parliament, without success, to lift the immunity of lawmakers who had served as ministers. The interior ministry also refused to execute arrest warrants, further undermining Bitar’s quest for accountability.

In October 2021, protests calling for Bitar’s removal were organized by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, a Shiite political party headed by Nabih Berri, in the civil war-scarred Beirut neighborhood of Tayouneh.

A supporter of Hezbollah and the Amal movements carries a portrait of Judge Tarek Bitar during a rally in Beirut on October 14, 2021, to demand his dismissal. (AFP)

The protests quickly turned deadly when unidentified snipers opened fire on the crowd, killing seven civilians and injuring dozens in echoes of the 1975-90 civil war period. The gunmen were suspected members of the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Christian party.

Given these tensions and hurdles, it took many by surprise when Bitar resumed his investigation on Jan. 23 after a 13-month hiatus, charging eight new suspects, including high-level security officials and Lebanon’s top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat.

Bitar also charged former prime minister Diab, parliamentarian Ghazi Zaiter, former interior minister Nouhad Machnouk, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, former army commander Jean Kahwaji, and Major General Tony Saliba.

Oweidat responded by issuing a travel ban against Bitar, accusing him of “sedition” and of “acting without a mandate,” charging him with “rebelling against the judiciary.” He also issued an order releasing 17 suspects held in pretrial detention.

Lebanese protest in Beirut on January 28, 2023 to demand the removal and prosecution of top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat. (AFP)

“Lebanon’s judiciary has become an object of ridicule, as judges leveled retaliatory charges against each other and arbitrarily ordered the releases of detainees,” said columnist Alamuddin.

“By filing charges against senior officials, Bitar is not an out-of-control judge. Rather he is signaling that the entire complicit, corrupt leadership deserves to be brought to account.”

The executive-judiciary squabble is a further test of Lebanon’s crumbling institutions. Wracked by financial crisis and political paralysis, its currency in free fall and thousands of professionals and young people fleeing the country, expectations are low.

Michael Young, editor of Diwan, a blog of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Program, and author of “Ghosts of Martyrs Square,” is convinced that Bitar will not be permitted to do his work properly.

“We have to understand that there are two steps in this process,” he told Arab News. “If Bitar invites someone, it’s going to be very difficult if not impossible for him to force the people he wants to investigate to sit for their interviews.

“The police will not do anything about it because the interior ministry in its turn will not implement anything. The judicial police is controlled by the public prosecutor Oueidat, and he’s made it clear that he will not order the implementation of any decisions.

“The ability of Bitar to do his job properly is going to be, in my opinion, impossible. His investigation is technically blocked.”

Why Bitar chose to resume his inquiry now remains unclear. But for survivors and the families of those killed in the blast, his return offers a glimmer of hope.

“It was time for Judge Bitar to resume his work. The truth has to come out at some point and I think what Judge Ghassan Oueidat did by defying Judge Bitar is strengthening his will to uncover the truth,” Tatiana Hasrouty, who lost her father Ghassan Hasrouty in the blast, told Arab News.

Lebanese protesters demand during a rally in Beirut on Jan. 28. 2023 that top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat be discharged and held accountable for the 2020 port blast. (AFP)

“I believe in Judge Bitar, not as a person, but rather as the judge who is in charge of investigating this crime and is working on uncovering the truth and upholding the rule of law. He is challenging the culture of impunity we, the Lebanese, have inherited by summoning politicians and high officials.” 

Bitar, who was first appointed as lead investigator in February 2021, was seen by many Lebanese as an impartial and honest judge.

The 49-year-old Christian, who hails from the country’s north, rarely appears in public or speaks to the press, and is known to have a clean reputation and no political affiliations, a rarity in such a deeply sectarian country.

“Bitar is disconcerting for the corrupt ruling classes because he doesn’t follow their rules,” Alamuddin said in her Arab News op-ed. “He declines invitations to social occasions to avoid perceptions of influence, and doesn’t accept calls from those seeking favors.”

In a recent sermon, influential Maronite Patriarch Beshara Al-Rahi voiced his support for Bitar, urging him to “continue his work,” despite the “unacceptable” judicial and political pushback.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi. (AFP)

“The meetings of the judicial bodies are witnessing a lack of quorum with judges and public prosecutors defying the Higher Judicial Council and its head and refraining from attending the meetings,” he said.

“We will not allow the port crime to go without punishment, no matter how much time passes and how many rulers change.”

Al-Rahi, who is patriarch of the largest Christian community in the country, also called on Bitar to seek the help and assistance of any international authority that might aid him in uncovering the truth.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently pass a resolution to create an impartial fact-finding mission” into the port explosion.

“The Lebanese authorities have repeatedly obstructed the domestic investigation into the explosion,” they said in a joint statement.

In Lebanon’s fraught political climate, the chances of obtaining justice for the port blast’s survivors and the families of those killed appear low.

“We understood from the beginning that the political class does not want the investigation to go through to the extent that they are even willing — as we saw in the Tayouneh incident over a year ago — to risk sectarian conflict to do so,” Diwan editor Young told Arab News.

“They will not implement the rule of law. It is missing anyway in Lebanon today. They do not care about the consequences of having no rule of law.”

However, Hasrouty, who has used social media to express sorrow and anger over the loss of her father, says that regardless of what Lebanese politicians and officials do, she will not give up hope.

“The truth scares the ruling elite but this is why we will pursue it till the end,” she said. “They are scared of the power that the families and public now hold.”

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