Jordan leads regional project to enhance food security

Jordan leads regional project to enhance food security
Jordan is leading a regional project to enhance food security and has reached out to donors and international lenders to secure funding for project. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 November 2022

Jordan leads regional project to enhance food security

Jordan leads regional project to enhance food security
  • Kingdom announces it reached out to donors and international lenders to secure funding for project
  • Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh has described the strategy as “the first of its kind in the kingdom”

AMMAN: Funding and water remain two problems to be tackled despite Jordan announcing a set of technical and bureaucratic procedures that constitute the foundations of a food security enhancement project.
The kingdom reached out to donors and international lenders to secure funding for the project, which also involves Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
The Jordanian government’s establishment of a “food security council” to work alongside the National Committee for Food Security will help mitigate the country’s vulnerability to global food crises and climate change.
Jordan launched its 2022-2024 executive plan in late August, part of the 2021-2030 National Strategy for Food Security.
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh has described the strategy as “the first of its kind in the kingdom, an implementation of King Abdullah’s directives to mark 2021 as a year of food security, and to make Jordan a regional model for food security.”
Al-Khasawneh said at the time that Jordan had taken a number of measures in food security which had resulted in upgrading Jordan’s ranking on the global food security index “to 49th worldwide in 2021 from the 62nd place in 2020.”
Agriculture ministers from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have met recently in Amman and agreed to support Jordan’s initiative to host the regional observatory for food security.
Proposed by the World Food Program, the observatory for the Levant region aims at “monitoring variables related to food security, and following up on issues related to climate change, local productions and trade.”
WFP said that the Jordan-based observatory will also “provide accurate artificial intelligence-supported analysis that will enable policy makers in the Levant countries to formulate strategies related to food security.”
The meeting in Amman issued a communique which emphasized the need to enhance cooperation in food security, expertise, exchange, and integration, to address increased demand on food and price hikes.  
Quest for funding
Jordan announced in April this year that it was negotiating with the World Bank a $480 million loan to fund its food security enhancement project.
However, four months later, the government said that it had failed to reach an agreement with the international lender.
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nasser Shraideh said in August that the government had reached “initial funding agreements” worth $430 million with other international lenders.
A source from the World Bank acknowledged the freezing of the loan agreement with Jordan but declined to say why.
A source, who preferred to remain unnamed, told Arab News: “There was no agreement with Jordan. The request for funding was under examination.”
An official Jordanian source, who also requested anonymity, said the World Bank turning down Jordan’s request was “probably due to the bank’s concerns regarding the kingdom’s debts.”
According to the World Bank’s reports on Jordan, a total of 15 funding projects have not been finalized between the two sides, or agreed with the government.
The latest to be canceled, according to the World Bank, was the $480 million emergency food security project, in addition to other funding agreements, including a loan of $100 million to finance an expansion of Jordan’s grain silos.
Jordan announced early in October that it would sign a new agreement with the European Investment Bank to provide €130 million to enhance food security.
Speaking to the government-run Al-Mamlakah TV, Shraideh said that the money would go to increase and sustain Jordan’s purchases of wheat and barley and to expand its storage capacity of the basic commodities.
Jordan and the OPEC Fund for International Development also signed a $100 million agreement to finance the emergency food security project. The government said that the deal fell within efforts to finance the purchase of basic commodities.
The minister added that a $200 million agreement was signed with the Islamic Development Bank Group, again to enhance the kingdom’s stocks of wheat and barley.
Shraideh hailed the government’s success in securing “abundant food supplies during hard times, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict,” thanks to recently erected silos and containers.
Water scarcity
However, Jordan’s food security strategy was inevitably challenged by the country’s limited water resources.
Classified as the world’s second most water-scarce country, experts nevertheless argue that Jordan, like many other countries, can overcome this dilemma by resorting to new agricultural models that use less water and focus on rainfed crops.
Acknowledging that no country can achieve food self-sufficiency, Hazem Al-Nasser, former minister of water, said that “the fact that Jordan and many other Arab countries are below the water poverty line” meant food production, particularly cereals, was a far-reaching objective.
In an article published recently, Al-Nasser wrote: “Declining levels of rainfall due to climate change will impact in the first place the production of rainfed cereals.
“Considering climate change impact and urbanization without proper mitigation and adaptation plans, this kind of rainfed agriculture will be phased out gradually.”
Al-Nasser listed a number of procedures and projects that, if implemented, can help Jordan and many other countries achieve food security, including the launch of awareness campaigns on rationalization of food consumption in the light of “sharp hikes in international food prices.”
Director of the National Agricultural Research Center Nizar Haddad said that Jordan has produced heat-tolerant wheat and barley varieties and has utilized modern biotechnologies that enable it to deal with water scarcity and expand the production of basic commodities.


US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist
Updated 13 sec ago

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist

US charges three in Iran-backed effort to assassinate journalist
  • Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering

NEW YORK: US prosecutors have charged three members of an Eastern European criminal organization which has ties to Iran’s government with conspiring to assassinate a journalist and activist who is a US citizen, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday.
Rafat Amirov, Polad Omarov and Khalid Mehdiyev were charged with murder-for-hire and money laundering for their role in the thwarted Tehran-backed plot, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
“The victim publicized (the) Iranian government’s human rights abuses, discriminatory treatment of women, suppression of democratic participation and expression and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and execution,” Garland said.
Garland did not name the alleged victim, but Mehdiyev was arrested last year in New York for having a rifle outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, a longtime critic of Iran’s head-covering laws who has promoted videos of women violating those laws on social media.
Mehdiyev pleaded not guilty to one count of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. He is being held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center pending trial.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US prosecutors in 2021 charged four Iranians alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist and activist. While the target of the plot was not named, Reuters confirmed she was Alinejad.
Amirov was arrested on Thursday and will have a pretrial hearing in federal court in Manhattan later on Friday. Omarov was arrested in the Czech Republic earlier this month, and the US is seeking his extradition.
The US in 2011 arrested one man it said was linked to an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington at the time at a restaurant he frequented in the capital.
Washington accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing nuclear arms, charges Iran denies.


Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East
Updated 53 min 20 sec ago

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East
  • The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully
  • Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution

BEIRUT: Protests were held Friday in several predominantly Muslim countries to denounce the recent desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.
The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully. In Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, police officers stopped some demonstrators trying to march toward the Swedish Embassy.
About 12,000 Islamists from the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party rallied in Lahore, the capital of the eastern Punjab province to denounce the desecration of the Qur’an in the two European countries. In his speech to the demonstrators, Saad Rizvi, the head of the TLP, asked the government to lodge a strong protest with Sweden and the Netherlands so that such incidents don’t happen again.
Similar rallies were also held in the southern city of Karachi and in the northwest.
Friday’s rallies dispersed peacefully. However, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan in recent years has held violent rallies over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s prophet in France and elsewhere in the world.
In the Iranian capital of Tehran, hundreds of people marched after Friday prayers during which they burned a Swedish flag.
In Beirut, about 200 angry protesters burned the flags of Sweden and the Netherlands outside the blue-domed Mohammed Al-Amin mosque at Beirut’s central Martyrs Square.
Earlier this month, Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist from Denmark, received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Qur’an.
Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Qur’an near the Dutch Parliament and stomped on them.
The moves angered millions of Muslims around the world and triggered protests.
On Friday, Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he would replicate the protest in front of the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Danish ambassador was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry where Turkish officials “strongly condemned the permission given to this provocative act which clearly constitutes a hate crime.”
Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution and gives people extensive rights to express their views publicly, though incitement to violence or hate speech isn’t allowed. Demonstrators must apply to police for a permit for a public gathering. Police can deny such permits only on exceptional grounds, such as risks to public safety.
Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr asked in comments released Friday whether freedom of speech means offending other people’s beliefs. He asked why “doesn’t the burning of the gays’ rainbow flag represent freedom of expression.”
The cleric added that burning the Qur’an “will bring divine anger.”
Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside a mosque in Baghdad waving copies of the Qur’an.


Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime

Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime
Updated 27 January 2023

Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime

Cybersecurity expert stresses need for measures to combat cybercrime
  • Prevention most efficient, least expensive method said former CIA member Christensen Guillermo
  • The US is the country most vulnerable to digital crimes of all kinds

KUWAIT: A US cybersecurity expert says preventive measures must be developed to combat increasing rates of cybercrime that poses a real threat to companies and institutions worldwide.
“Prevention is the most efficient and least expensive method, financially and morally, compared to reaction measures after the occurrence of a cybercrime,” Guillermo Christensen, a former US Central Intelligence Agency member and diplomat, told Kuwait’s News Agency in an interview on Friday.
He pointed out that the US is the country most vulnerable to digital crimes of all kinds, due to its large number of access points and computers.
Protecting networks in different countries, especially Kuwait, and supporting its security will positively affect the cybersecurity of the US directly, added Christensen.
During a weeklong visit, the former CIA officer has been presenting lectures and workshops directed at specialists in the field of cybersecurity across various sectors.
He stressed that sharing knowledge and experiences and discussing different cybercrime scenarios will help countries and their institutions avoid crises that may be posed by the penetration of digital space and data.
Cybercrimes are on the increase, as a report issued in 2020 by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations indicates that the number of cyberattacks daily exceeds 2,000 around the world, and that the total material losses over the past year amounted to $4.2 billion, he pointed out.
Christensen referred to a number of documented cyberattacks around the world, through which cybercriminals were able to paralyze the movement of fuel and energy pipelines, in addition to attacks on a number of hospitals, indicating that these attacks caused severe damage in various fields and caused the loss of many lives.
He advised people not to use the same password in different accounts such as email and social media, and to make it more difficult and complex by adding non-sequential numbers in addition to using the two-step verification technology provided by many digital services and programs.


Watchdog blames Syria’s air force for deadly chlorine attack

Watchdog blames Syria’s air force for deadly chlorine attack
Updated 27 January 2023

Watchdog blames Syria’s air force for deadly chlorine attack

Watchdog blames Syria’s air force for deadly chlorine attack
  • A report published Friday by a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons offered the latest confirmation that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons

THE HAGUE: An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog established there are “reasonable grounds to believe” Syria’s air force dropped two cylinders containing chlorine gas on the city of Douma in April 2018, killing 43 people.
A report published Friday by a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons offered the latest confirmation that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons during his country’s grinding civil war.
“The use of chemical weapons in Douma – and anywhere – is unacceptable and a breach of international law,” OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias said.
The organization said that “reasonable grounds to believe” is the standard of proof consistently adopted by international fact-finding bodies and commissions of inquiry.
Syria, which joined the OPCW in 2013 under pressure from the international community after being blamed for another deadly chemical weapon attack, does not recognize the investigation team’s authority and has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.
Despite the latest findings, bringing perpetrators in Syria to justice remains a long way off. Syria’s ally Russia has, in the past, blocked efforts by the UN Security Council to order an International Criminal Court investigation in Syria.
“The world now knows the facts – it is up to the international community to take action, at the OPCW and beyond,” Arias, a veteran Spanish diplomat, said.
The report said there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that during a government military offensive to recapture Douma, at least one Syrian air force Mi8/17 helicopter dropped two yellow cylinders on the city.
One of the cylinders hit the roof of a three-story residential building and ruptured, “rapidly released toxic gas, chlorine, in very high concentrations, which rapidly dispersed within the building killing 43 named individuals and affecting dozens more,” according to the report.
A second cylinder burst through the roof of another building into an apartment below and only partially ruptured, “mildly affecting those who first arrived at the scene,” the report added.
Syrian authorities refused the investigation team access to the sites of the chlorine attacks. The country had its OPCW voting rights suspended in 2021 as punishment for the repeated use of toxic gas, the first such sanction imposed on a member nation.
The painstaking investigation by the organization’s team, was set up to identify perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks in Syria, built on earlier findings by an OPCW fact-finding mission that chlorine was used as a weapon in Douma.
The investigators also interviewed dozens of witnesses and studied the blood and urine of survivors as well as samples of soil and building materials, according to the watchdog agency.
The investigators also carefully assessed and rejected alternative theories for what happened, including Syria’s claim that the attack was staged and that bodies of people killed elsewhere in Syria were taken to Douma to look like victims of a gas attack.
The report found that the two cylinders carrying chlorine were modified and filled at the Dumayr air base and the helicopter or helicopters that dropped them were under control of the Syrian military’s elite Tiger Force.
The OPCW team “considered a range of possible scenarios and tested their validity against the evidence they gathered and analyzed to reach their conclusion: that the Syrian Arab Air Forces are the perpetrators of this attack,” the organization said in a statement.
The ongoing conflict that started in Syria more than a decade ago has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s prewar population of 23 million.


One killed in shooting at Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran

One killed in shooting at Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran
Updated 27 January 2023

One killed in shooting at Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran

One killed in shooting at Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran
  • The attack led to the death of the head of the security team and injured others

DUBAI: A man armed with a Kalashnikov-style rifle stormed the Azerbaijan Embassy in Iran’s capital Friday, killing the head of security at the diplomatic post and wounding two guards, authorities said.
Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, blamed the attack on “personal and family problems,” according to Iranian state television. However, the assault comes as tensions have been high for months between neighboring Azerbaijan and Iran.
Video purportedly from the scene of the attack showed an empty diplomatic police post just near the embassy, with one man apparently wounded in an SUV parked outside. Inside the embassy past a metal detector, paramedics stood over what appeared to be a lifeless body in a small office as blood pooled on the floor beneath.
A statement from Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said that “an investigation is currently underway into this treacherous attack.” The ministry also described the attacker as destroying a guard post with assault rifle fire before being stopped by the wounded guards, whom authorities described as being in a “satisfactory” condition after being shot.
Iranian state TV quoted Rahimi as saying the gunman had entered the embassy with his two children during the attack. However, surveillance footage from inside the embassy released in Azerbaijan, which matched details of the other video of the aftermath and bore a timestamp matching the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry’s statement, showed the gunmen burst through the embassy’s doors alone.
Those inside tried to push through metal detector to take cover. The man opens fire with the rifle, its muzzle flashing, as he chases after the men into the small side office. Another man bursts from a side door and fights the gunman for the rifle as the footage ends.
Iranian prosecutor Mohammad Shahriari reportedly said that the gunman’s wife had disappeared in April after a visit to the embassy. The Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency quoted Shahriari as saying the gunman believed his wife was still in the embassy at the time of the attack — even though it was some eight months later.
Azerbaijan borders Iran’s northwest. There have been tensions between the two countries as Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Iran in October launched a military exercise near the Azerbaijan border, flexing its martial might amid the nationwide protests rocking the Islamic Republic. Azerbaijan also maintains close ties to Israel, which Tehran views as its top regional enemy. The Islamic Republic and Israel are locked in an ongoing shadow war as Iran’s nuclear program rapidly enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.
Turkiye, which has close ties to Azerbaijan, condemned the attack, called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and for measures to be put in place to prevent similar attacks in the future. Turkiye has backed Azerbaijan against Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Turkiye, which has been subjected to similar attacks in the past, deeply shares the pain of the Azerbaijani people,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said. “Brotherly Azerbaijan is not alone. Our support to Azerbaijan will continue without interruption, as it always has.”