Latest development of the opposition between Sunnis and Shiites: Yemen

  • 30 March 2015

The division between Sunnis and Shiites dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD and has marked the history of Islam from the beginning.

The belief was that the top of the Shia Islam should be the descendants of the prophet. The current Sunni, however, believed to be driving the Islamic community were to be the best people.

For the Sunnis the legitimate successor was Abu Bakr, chosen by companions of Muhammad . Bakr became the first Caliph, without any religious role but only a duty to ensure the perfect unity of the community.

For Sunnis, in fact, enough Qur’an and example of the Prophet Muhammad to lead the believers and the Caliph is the unity of believers and has no religious significance.

There is, therefore, a real clergy. Therefore any Muslim who has studied can become an imam. The Imam is the one who leads the prayer, that is, one who stands before the faithful and leads worship and it is enough to be wealthy, or elderly, or have a role of visibility and accountability in groups, associations, community, or society, forget this honorary title, in a sign of respect or deference of shaykh.

Currently the majority of Muslims, about 80% of the total, are Sunni.

The Shiites claim that the legitimate successor to Muhammad was’ Ali, his son-in. Their name comes from Shi’at ‘Ali, which means “Party of’ Ali.” Politics and religion are welded in such a claim, because according to the Shia God could not leave the community without a Muslim religious leader. For that claimed that the heirs of Muhammad were to be imams, spiritual leaders and at the same time descendants and successors of ‘Ali, so the claim illegitimate Caliphs and dynasties Sunni

On the identification of these imams, the same Shiite split soon in seven.

10-15% of Muslims consists of several Shiite currents (Twelver, the principal, and then Ismaili, Zaydi). Shiism is widespread in Iran (the majority of the population), Iraq (one third of the Muslim population), Pakistan (20%), Saudi Arabia (15%), Bahrain (70%), Lebanon (27%), Azerbaijan (85 %), Yemen (50%), Syria, Turkey, and other parts of the world, including the West.

Shiism has a clergy organized, prepared in specific universities of Islamic sciences or in the Hawza (theological schools). To become shaykh need a ceremony, while, to go up in the hierarchy, the believer must continue to study, to become mullahs and ayatollahs then. In Shia Ayatollah (ayatu-l-Lah, a sign of God) is considered the highest dignitary of the clergy. It is a title conferred on those who have obtained merits, both proclamations for appointment by another ayatollah. To become an ayatollah, in addition to specific studies and a great knowledge of the religion, the faithful must be a direct descendant of Muhammad.

The imam is the one who has to drive religion in the absence of the Prophet. The Shiites have a tradition of independence of religious leaders than politicians. However, the state is subject to the clergy, which monitors and decides if a ruler is worthy to rule and if it respects the Islamic guidelines.

The origin of the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is so political, and dates back to the early history of Islam.

The Sunnis have always looked askance at the supporters of Shiite conceptions. Accused them of giving too much importance to the imams and sometimes even considered them quite as god, and then move away from the traditional direction which then established himself in Sunnis, based on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad.

This division marks the reality of the Islamic world today and determines sides of the great powers as Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the one hand, and those of the other Shiite, like Iran and Syria. Pale ecumenical efforts have sought to reconnect in the twentieth century Sunnis and Shiism Imam, but always with little success. The collapse of States in the Arab world started in 2011 and the conflict that followed has instead revived the sectarian division and reopened wounds soothed by authoritarian regimes. And after Iraq and Syria, Yemen also risks being overwhelmed.

In Yemen, currently, there is another act of war millennial involving Sunnis and Shiites.

The key difference with the past is in the formation of alliances and coalitions opposing. Among the Sunnis has created an alliance Morocco- Pakistan- Egypt- Giordania- Saudi Arabia, which has the support of the United States. The Shiite axis involving Iran and Syria, and is supported by Russia.

Yemen to date has been the country typically divided into tribal clan (Houthi- Sunniti- al Qaeda). The Houthi are Shiites, but theologically are much more similar to the Sunnis that the Shiites in Iran. In recent times, the country has undergone continuous change of fronts.

Specifically, recent events have led to an agreement of co-existence between different clans, made with the help from Saudi Arabia. Under this agreement was elected a president and a vice-Houthi Sunni. The events of the Arab Spring have forced the president to flee and made the old vice-president the new president. The latest developments in the former president seem to leader of the revolt against the new president – forced to flee in Riyadh.

The precarious balance of Yemen is established in a Middle East in which the general balance changed: first the invasion in Afghanistan has removed the Taliban Sunnis and many anti-Iranians. Second, the war in Iraq has removed Saddam, or the defensive bulwark that would stop Iran in the region. Finally, the so-called “Shia crescent” has grown in recent times: in Iran and Iraq (Shiite majority) were added to the Syrians and Lebanese Hezbollah.

Finally, Saudi Arabia is intimidated by the aggressiveness of Iran. His current main goal is not to have a strong Iranian presence on the southern borders. To achieve this objective, Arabia, has recently started to bomb Yemen. The choice is sustainable even under the economic availability Arabia, by which try to buy the tribes to re-establish a new balance.

The Yemeni rebels were classified as threatened, and led the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Riyadh, decide to react to what he considers a direct threat, given openly in Tehran. Saudi Arabia mobilizes 150,000 men along the 1,800-kilometer border with Yemen. For their part, the US military focus in Djibouti.

The events that took place between 25 and 26 March in Yemen have highlighted sharply sides and alliances.

A coalition of ten countries, in fact, launched air strikes against Al-Houthi and its allies. Equipment of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar (which for the first time finds himself allied with Riyadh), Jordan, Morocco and Sudan are committed in the operation “Storm Decisive”. Military facilities, airports, stores across the country have been victims of bombed. Several countries volunteer to participate in any operation of the earth, among them Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and even Pakistan. For the latter, there is no question of intervening in Yemen, but to “defend Saudi Arabia” from any external aggression. Egypt has sent emergency warships in the Red Sea to deal with the Iranian ships that already crossed the sea of ​​Oman, engaged in counter-piracy. Saudi Arabia has imposed a blockade of all ports Yemenis and decreed that the airspace of this country is an area subject to no-fly zone. The Americans have helped with logistical support and intelligence. France, Britain, Spain and Belgium applaud the Saudi operation. Moscow, Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah Lebanese protest against “the intervention of foreign forces” in Yemen.

The interests of the various parties Yemenis can be summarized as follows:

• Former Yemeni President Saleh aspires to return to the government, in person or through any of his.

• The Houthis have always felt abandoned and despised by the central government in Sanaa. Also they are in open conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood who support the regime of the current president Hadi

• AQPA, the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda “historic canal”, is opposed both the regime of President Hadi that the Al-Houthi, considered “apostates”. The problem is that the victorious offensive of Al-Houthi has produced a “sacred union” between the separatists of South Yemen, the Sunni tribes related to President Hadi, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQPA, although no comprehensive agreement was formalized. Nothing is better than a common enemy to create alliances of circumstance, even if ephemeral.

• Helping with supplies of arms and training the Al-Houthi, Tehran “rings” his opponent Arabia. Furthermore, if the Al-Houthi were able to take over permanently the west coast of Yemen, the Pasdaran could send forces able to directly threaten the Straits of Babel-Mandeb, which controls the Red Sea and then the Suez Canal. They are already able to close the Strait of Hormuz, thanks to the many land-sea missile batteries, which have deployed in fortified positions along the Iranian coast and nearby islands. Conversely Tehran clashes with a vital geographical problem: Yemen is far and supplies to the rebels can be prevented by the imposition of an air and sea blockade that already is being organized. In the longer term, Iran does not have the financial means to support any new government, even if limited to the western part of the country. It should provide for the basic needs of a population that is already extremely poor.

• All countries of the region Sunnis fear the possible closure of the Red Sea, which would cause a catastrophe for their economies. It ‘s an extremely important issue for the current systems in Egypt and Sudan, for which a severe economic crisis would have fatal consequences.

• Saudi Arabia clashes now openly with the Shiite Iranian opponent. E ‘managed to secure the alliance of Qatar – and this is a political victory – Pakistan – and this assures a political-military impressive – Morocco and the Gulf countries, and this was entirely predictable. The free movement of hydrocarbons in the Middle East is the crux of this crisis. The proof is the fact that the price of oil has increased by 6% on the day after the start of “Decisive Storm”. The contradiction arises from the fact that Riyadh has other mortal enemies, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQPA. It seems that the Saud family has chosen to make an order of priority: first deal with Iran and its allies Yemenis, then hit the Muslim Brotherhood and AQPA. It is not certain that it was the best choice, since the Salafi-jihadists today represent a danger of destabilization much looming Iran, the Arab-Muslim governments.

Another possible scenario could involve Turkey, because of the possibility a regional conflict between Muslims, especially after the vicious attack launched by President Turkish Erdogan against Iran. The words used by Erdogan against the country’s Shia are clear and hard, Iran, according to the president Turkish, “seeks to dominate the Middle East region,” we cannot allow that. Everything begins to annoy us, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries. Really is intolerable. “” It would be better that those who have caused irreparable damage to their strategic blunders and ambitious policies now adopt responsible policies to restore peace, “the replied shook increasingly concrete possibility of an agreement between Tehran and the ‘5 +1 ‘(US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany) on the nuclear issue.

Moreover, Iran is the only country in the Middle East to oppose ISIS with the Kurds and with what’s left of the Iraqi army. This choice was undoubtedly a positive publicity for Tehran.

Ankara has meanwhile given its political support and promised logistical support to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Coalition Sunni who started to bomb Houthi Shiite forces in Yemen.



Italian investment prospects in Egypt

  • 25 March 2015

The Egyptian commitment as far the economic recovery concerned can be seen from many initiatives carried out by the government of Mahlab. Egypt, in fact, established a specific time to achieve its objectives. The watchwords are ” stability, investment and growth ”.

An example of the strategy is the Egyptian Economic Development Conference which was held From 13 to 15 March in Sharm el Sheikh. During this Conference Egypt earned sixty thousand million dollars between direct investments and loans. The Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, emphasized in his closing remarks that the dozens of agreements signed in several policy areas during the three days ” will have a positive impact on people and the economy Egyptian ”.

Sace, a financial insurance group which supports internationalization of Italian enterprises, announced that “by 2019, Italian exports to Egypt could reach 4 billion euro.” This value “could rise to 5 billion, if the Egyptian economy could recover in full the growth rates before the crisis.”

Italy, declared Sace, is the fourth global provider of Egypt, with exports amounting to 2.8 billion euro in 2013 and counts on the stable presence of more than 130 Italian companies in the country. A partnership “that finds fertile ground in the path of recovery begun last year, marked by a substantial recovery in consumption and investment.”

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, in his speech at the conference in Sharm El Sheikh, said that “Egypt is an area of ​​extraordinary opportunities, and Italy has confidence in Egypt and in its leadership, in its macroeconomic reforms ambitious: we support its mission in favor of prosperity and stability.”

“The challenge Egyptian – continued Renzi – is also our challenge; Egypt’s stability is our stability.” “There is a personal commitment, mine and of Italy, to work with her also on the Syrian crisis and Libyan “, added the Prime Minister turning increasingly to the Egyptian leader.

The statements by the Italian Premier continue: “The Mediterranean basin is not a border but the core of our civilization, a bridge that presents challenges and opportunities. Italy and Egypt are located on two sides of the bridge and are custodians of a unique space. We need to join forces to meet the challenge “of terrorism: there is” no clash of civilizations is the struggle of the civilized world against the few extremists who have nothing to do with religion, “he added, praising Renzi Egypt’s commitment.

At the Egyptian Economic Development Conference, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Egypt, Sheriff Ismail, and Eni CEO, Claudio Descalzi, signed a framework agreement to develop the oil resources of the country and, at the same time, safeguard the return on investment of Eni.

The agreement provides for an estimated total investment of about $ 5 billion. The investments, which will be used through the implementation of projects in the next four years, are aimed at the development of 200 million barrels of oil and about 37 billion cubic meters of gas. Such investments also contribute effectively to the growing needs of the local demand for energy.

Italian companies have also another opportunity to be seized. The Authority Egyptian who runs the Suez Canal showed an Italian business mission to Egypt (held in late February) the potential sectors for investment and the opportunities provided to a massive development project which is pin the partial doubling the strategic road of water.

“We consider the Italian government, the Italian people, our partners, our friends, our brothers, and we work together for the development” of Egypt, said the president and executive director of the Suez Canal Authority, Admiral Mohab Mohamed Mameesh , addressing nearly 40 representatives of major Italian companies active mainly in the infrastructure sector. “The Italian business community is very interested in being an active part” in the “development of the channel,” said the Italian Ambassador Maurizio Massari.

The presentation took place as part of a “field trip” to Ismailia at the end of the business mission.

Scadp, “Suez Canal area development project” is a project that has as an objective to “exploit the trade flows from China and Southeast Asia to Europe” and is expected among other things the construction of six ports, a ‘ industrial area and a valley of the technology. In the project there will be room for infrastructure, telecommunications, and industries of auto parts, electronics, oil and refining, light metallurgy, logistics, construction and repair of container, shipbuilding, furniture, textiles, and glass. Special emphasis is given to aquaculture. Among the incentives, in addition to the strategic position of the hub, stand favorable regulations and little bureaucracy.

Approximately partial doubling of the Channel by $ 8.2 billion, Admiral Mameesh confirmed the ambitious goal set by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to complete the work in a single year, in August. The new channel of 35 km has already been excavated and it is time to deepen it to allow the passage of larger cargo: the stretch, which parallels the old height of Ismailia, was intended to eliminate the alternating traffic and thus reduce by 18 to 11 hours transit times in 2023, generating an almost doubling of the steps (from the current 49 to 97 ships) and a dramatic increase of 259% of the $ 5.3 billion per year. The work, adding the deepening and expansion of two existing sections will increase by 72 km of the 193 km of the strategic canal dug in the nineteenth century.

The FDI sector reforms and new investment opportunities are discussed in the Conference for the economic development of Egypt

  • 24 March 2015

Egyptian policy regarding investment from abroad is remarkably clear: the aim is to increase the flow of capital.

As far this issue concerned, the Minister of International Cooperation, Al Ahwany, stated that “despite the great difficulties in which it is located, Egypt remains a country able to use investments and that has all the credentials to attract foreign companies.”

“There are ten areas on which we focus,” added Al Ahwany. The challenges and opportunities to be seized concern, in fact, the energy, mining, the oil and gas, innovation and technology, construction, transport, logistics, tourism, agriculture, health and education.

A new law reforming the sector FDI was promulgated on March 13. This law stated the support of foreign investment, considered essential for the Egyptian growth, and it amends four texts launched between 1981 and 2005, aims primarily to reduce bureaucratic obstacles to foreign investment. The instrument is the so-called “one-stop shop”, which can give the permissions that, actually, are granted by (minimum) dozens of bodies (up to 78) with delays that can last up to five years.

There are also other types of incentives and protections, among other tax and social security or related to land ownership. Among the objectives of the law there is the reduction of production costs and to develop depressed areas such as those of Upper Egypt.

According to forecasts by the Economist Intelligence Unit cited by Sace, in 2015 the Egyptian GDP will rise from 2.2% in 2014 to 4%.

From March 13 to 15 was held in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Conference for the economic development of Egypt, which was attended by over a thousand entrepreneurs, politicians, diplomats, and experts. “This conference raises an important milestone in the roadmap of the government for the economy, which aims to bring investment and stability in the region and give prosperity to our people”, it said in a statement of the Conference the Egyptian Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab.

“The ambitious reforms program” made by the Egyptian executive- the statement added – wants to restructure the economic base of the country “increasing productivity” and encouraging “a kind of growth drove by the private sector”, while promoting “social justice”. Through the Conference will be highlighted the potential of a market to ninety million inhabitants that is coming from the four years of instability and presented fifty projects for a total of $ 35 billion in energy, real estate, agriculture and in many other contained in the grand plan for the development of the area of ​​the Suez Canal being doubled, partially still Pharaonic.

However, there are still issues waiting to be governed by specific laws. They have the discipline of special economic zones; that the micro credit legislation on competitiveness; the regulation of the renewable energy sector to the law on the development of the electricity sector. There are two rules that need much more time, given their scope and the consequences they have on Egyptian society: the law on employment and on the regulation of working in the public sector. “We need a debate opened to foreign ideas”, says Al Ahwany. There remains the question of disputes between the state and foreign companies. “Even on this point – is reassuring – we are working hard to reach a quick solution. Many of these have been resolved”.



The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: there are also some European countries among the founders

  • 23 March 2015

The world balance may change unpredictably and suddenly. This situation is the result of the choice of a great power of the old continent, the United Kingdom, who has chosen to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

An analysis conducted by the former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prod, regarding the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, shows that the Chinese, “Frustrated by these repeated refusals and tired of the long process of marginalization”, in October last year, “broke the plunge and, with the accession of 21 countries in Asia, founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), putting himself in direct competition with the two venerable institutions and with their daughter Asia, the Asian Development Bank, always entrusted to Japanese hands. ”

The feeling of exclusion was due to the fact that “since the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have set the global economy through a tight control of the financial systems of different countries and the provision of resources for their development projects. These two great institutions based in Washington, during all the seventy years of their lives, have always been controlled by the same countries: the presidency of the World Bank in the hands of the Americans and the direction of the IMF under European domination. ”

It follows that “the new protagonists of the world economy have, with increasing force, insisted on the need to adapt the governance of these institutions to the changing economic reality, but these attempts were thwarted mainly by the opposition of the US Congress”.

The birth of the Asian Development Bank “has caused some surprise because no one thought to the immediate accession of countries like India, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam. It was thought that this was mainly limited to a move to put a stop to the isolation caused by the growing tensions of the PRC with its neighbors.

In a few months the project has instead magnified and, in recent weeks, the AIIB became a case not only in the economy but in world politics. ”

The most unpredictable event, however, was the decision of Britain to enter one of the founders of the new Asian bank. The choice of English has provoked a harsh reaction from the US administration, “which is shown in statements strongly critical, even putting in doubt the correctness of the possible future behavior of AIIB, both with regard to the rules of government to comply with the environmental standards and environmental. ”

The US response has not stopped the inclusion among the founding members also from other European countries (Germany, France and Italy). The German finance minister said that “adherence Germanic would help to maintain high standards and spotless reputation in the behavior of the new bank.”

Prodi wrote: “All this shows that no major European or Asian (excluding Japan) seethe remain a part of a larger project that will give body to a huge amount of investment, from the New Silk Road, which will connect with an efficient rail system, China with the countries of Central Asia and Europe.

This means that the strength of China is so grown up to be concluded, in opposition to the Americans, important agreements with countries closely linked to military alliances with the United States.

Once again it is clear that, with due patience and with the necessary time, the economic power into political power becomes fatally.

Up to here we are in the normality of history.

In this story the real surprise is that the chorus of European disobedient was directed by Britain, usually faithful executor of desires over the Atlantic.

To explain this anomaly must however keep in mind that the factor drawer UK economy (as well as the use of the English language) is made from hosting the City of London financial market so powerful and sophisticated enough to play for the world record with New York.

Well, in this global challenge, win the country to be able to become the target market of the Chinese currency outside Asia. For years, Britain has been pursuing this goal with a systematic process of rapprochement that could not be interrupted by a refusal to participate in this project, which is the priority of China’s economic policy in the international arena.

Today is not easy to predict what will be the further development of this story because the United States will not remain passive spectators of a certain race so decisive.

However, it is appropriate to reflect on the possible consequences of the increasingly important role that the interests of the City will play in relations between Britain and the European Union.

As is known, the public and the British government oscillate between the exit from the European Union or stay there, exercising in any case a function of brake against any possibility of further integration.

It is clear that the interests of the increasingly global City exert a further boost to increase the distance towards the European Union. The EU is in fact more and more seen as an unacceptable limit on freedom of movement they want to enjoy the City, whose interests have now brought Britain into conflict with the United States but that, in the long run, will prove increasingly restive in front of the European constraints.

This is not to conclude that Britain has as its goal to become a big Switzerland: I just only to think that the same reasons that led Switzerland to be closer to the European Union but not to be a member, will exert an increasingly more on British politics.

We will see in the future to what extent it will exercise this influence. ”




Algeria: Parliament voted the new legislation to protect women

  • 10 March 2015

The Algerian parliament has approved a law that, for the first time in the legislation of the country of the southern Mediterranean, severely punishes domestic violence that target women.

The importance of the law is abnormal, because the arrangement provides for punishment of up to twenty years of imprisonment for the wounding of his wife, and allows the court to sentence the defendant to life imprisonment in case of death of the woman.

The reactions of the most extremist parties have been predictably negative. Abdelallah Djaballah, the Islamist party al-Adala, issued a statement to the local media about the measure. It “has the flavor of revenge against her husband and against man in general” and is a measure that “destroys the family.”

Unsatisfied, but for the opposite reason, also Amnesty International, according to which the law is not enough to meet the emergency of domestic violence, which in Algeria kill between 100 and 200 women each year.

In particular, criticized a Non Governmental Organization is the option to cancel the crime if the victim’s forgiveness. “The norm – said the spokesman of Amnesty – does not take into account the reality of power relations and inequality between men and women” in Algeria and exposes those who suffer domestic violence to a new “risk of violence and coercion, to force them to withdraw the complaint.” The establishment of these tricks would become a “dangerous precedent” to the detriment of the victims, made thus more vulnerable.

The situation of women in Algeria, in which the new law is established, emerging from some data published by non-governmental organizations in the area. For example, in the fifth report on violence against women prepared by Balsam, reads:

“The majority of battered women that caters to counseling centers are married women, housewives, but with a high level of education. 55% of abused women who have made contact a counseling center has had one or more children. 20% of abused women is pregnant, disabled or chronically ill”.

About the characteristics of the aggressor, he is an average man in his forties, in most cases the spouse or ex-husband of the victim.

“In total, 7010 women have filed a complaint for assault in the first nine months of 2013, of which 5,034 victims of physical violence. Of these, 1,673 women were victims of abuse, while 27 others were victims of murder. These data seem alarming at first, especially since their number has grown compared to previous data. However, in reality, these data indicate a strong under-reporting of cases of violence. In Algeria, very few battered women denounce: less than one in fifty, according to our estimates. Shame and fear prevent women from seeking assistance and repair. ”

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, on the amendment of the legislation in favor of greater protection for women, said: “We need to improve the laws relating to the family in harmony with the needs of our times and of modern life, both for the ‘man is for the woman, in the area of ​​social life (…) aiming to ensure full compliance of what decides the legislature with our holy religion. ”