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Showing posts from November, 2014

Iran, P5+1 still hope for final deal (JMD quoted on Azernews)

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Iran, P5+1 still hope for final deal 25 NOVEMBER 2014, 16:53 (GMT+04:00) By Sara Rajabova Though the six world powers and Iran couldn’t clinch a final comprehensive agreement for the second time, there is still hope for resolving the long-lasting dispute over Islamic Republic's nuclear energy program as the sides agreed to extend the nuclear talks for seven consecutive months. After a nearly week of intensive talks in Vienna, the P5+1 and Iran have ended talks with the two sides agreeing to extend the Joint Plan of Action till July 1, 2015. The extension of the nuclear talks showed that both sides are willing to overcome the differences between them. The diplomats from both sides are hopeful to reach the final deal in less than seven months. While some experts deemed the talks as failed, others considered that it’s too early to talks about failure. Commenting on the issue, James M. Dorsey, Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studi…

Likely Qatar deportation of striking workers raises concerns

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By James M. Dorsey
Qatar is signalling rejection of demands by human rights and trade union activists to grant trade union and collective bargaining rights to its majority migrant worker population with the detention and likely deportation of more than 100 predominantly South Asian labourers who went on strike to protest low pay as well as poor working and living conditions.
Doha News reported that the workers, among the lowest paid in the wealthy Gulf state, were arrested on the third day of their strike after scuffles broke out with police. Those detained were among some 800 striking workers primarily employed by two companies. Qatar Freelance Trading & Contracting and Qatar Middle East Co.
Online business directories describe Qatar Freelance Trading & Contracting as a manpower supplier or recruitment agency. A Qatar Foundation study designed to set out ethical standards for the recruitment of foreign labour earlier this year defined manpower suppliers as “agencies that re…

Israeli raid on Palestinian soccer association signals dangerous hardening of Israeli-Palestinian battle lines

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Palestinian and Israeli fans clash
By James M. Dorsey
A soccer brawl in Israel’s politically most loaded derby and an alleged subsequent raid by the Israeli military on the offices the Palestine Football Association (PFA) reflects a hardening of the Israeli-Palestinian divide as Israel debates legislation that would emphasize the Jewish national rather than the democratic nature of the state – a move that would effectively deprive Israeli Palestinians of their identity as both Israelis and Palestinians as well as of their equal rights.
The Israeli military said the incident had not been a raid. It said a routine patrol had asked some Palestinians for their identification cards, and when they said the cards were in Bnei Sakhnin’s offices soldiers had entered the building to check their identities.
Statements in response to the PFA condemnation by world soccer body FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa also den…

Activists expand labour and human rights campaign beyond Qatar to include all Gulf states

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By James M. Dorsey
Human rights groups and trade unions have stepped up pressure on Qatar to reform its restrictive labour system and expanded their campaign to include all six wealthy members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The activists hope that Qatar may move quicker on promised reforms given that the integrity of the Gulf state’s successful 2022 World Cup bid has again been called into question as a result of world soccer body FIFA’s four-year long corruption scandal.
They also hope that their increased pressure will benefit from the fact that multiple conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa may make other Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates more sensitive to criticism.
Virtually all members of the GCC -- Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman -- have begun to tinker with the their labour laws and regulations as a result of the pressure on Qatar as well as publicity surrounding multiple cases of abuse of work…

Gulf soccer diplomacy highlights regional divisions

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By James M. Dorsey
Wealthy Gulf states have invited Jordan and Morocco to compete in future Gulf Cups as part of a bid to strengthen their fragile six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at a time that they have at best papered over deep rifts within the group.
The invitation follows an earlier stalled attempt to persuade Jordan and Morocco, the Arab world’s only two non-Gulf monarchies, to join the GCC, which groups Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. The GCC had hoped that inclusion of Jordan and Kuwait would help stymie calls for change and fortify Arab monarchies against popular revolts. Jordanians already populate the rank and file of the military and security forces in some of the smaller Gulf states.
The GCC’s soccer diplomacy came as an extraordinary GCC summit in Riyadh earlier this week paved the way for the return of the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE to Doha in advance of the group’s annual summit in Doha in early D…

Moroccan refusal to host African Cup rooted in fear and prejudice

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By James M. Dorsey
A refusal by Morocco to host next month’s 2014 African Cup of Nations soccer tournament for fear that it could import the Ebola virus from West Africa spotlights complex relations between the continent’s Arab and sub-Saharan nations as well as the non-transparent inner workings of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), a constituent member of troubled world soccer body FIFA.
The Moroccan decision to violate the terms of its agreement to host the tournament has prompted CAF to ban it from competing in Africa’s biggest sporting event. The Moroccan decision appears however marred in contradiction.
Morocco can’t escape the impression that it’s decision was informed by prejudice grounded in the fact that Arabs were once among the continent’s foremost slave traders, Morocco’s emergence as a major transit point in efforts by sub-Saharan migrants to reach Europe, and concern about the possible impact of an Ebola case on tourism that accounts for an estimated ten per…

Qatar’s hosting of GCC summit in further jeopardy following Gulf states’ handball boycott

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By James M. Dorsey
A decision by the handball federations of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to boycott the 2015 World Men's Handball Championship to be hosted by Qatar in January signals the failure of efforts to reconcile the idiosyncratic Gulf state with its regional detractors and casts further doubts on the prospects of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GGC) scheduled to be held in Qatar in December.
The boycott by Bahrain and the UAE, which together with Saudi Arabia withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in March in protest against Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, follows the indefinite postponement last week of a meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Doha in preparation of the summit. The GCC groups Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah travelled to Doha last week for talks with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in a failed bid to mediate between the feuding Gulf states. She…

Qatar at a crossroads: Reform labour laws or risk revived calls for relocating the World Cup

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By James M. Dorsey
Qatar, caught in a Catch-22 between a requirement to quickly reform its labour system in a bid to convince human rights and trade union activists that it is serious and the need domestically to proceed slowly, risks losing goodwill it has built in recent years that could further fuel demands to deprive the Gulf state of its 2022 World Cup hosting rights.
A just published Amnesty International report entitled ‘No Extra Time: How Qatar Is Still Failing on Workers’ Rights Ahead of the World Cup’ signals that activists’ patience with Qatar’s failure to act on promises to reform the living and working conditions of foreign workers, who constitute a majority of the Gulf states’ population, is running out.
Qatar’s engagement with activists in the last three years in for the Gulf unprecedented ways and the adoption of significantly improved living and working standards for foreign labour by two major Qatari institutions, the Qatar Foundation and the 2022 Supreme Committee…

Volleyball federation sanctions Iran in new assertiveness on women’s sporting rights

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By James M. Dorsey
The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) has warned Iran that it would be stripped of its right to host the 2015 Under-19 men’s world volleyball championship if it bans women from attending matches. The warning signals a new assertiveness driven by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make adherence to human, gender and labour rights a condition for potential hosts of major sporting events and raises pressure not only on Iran but also Saudi Arabia, the two nations that bar women from stadia.
The stakes for Iran and Saudi Arabia are high against a backdrop of on-and-off debate in both countries about lifting the ban that has been continuously opposed by religious conservatives. 
Growing frustration with Saudi restrictions on women’s participation in international sporting events has prompted the IOC to subtly increase pressure on the kingdom. An Iranian and Saudi refusal could potentially lead to the two countries being barred from international compet…

Study asserts that controversial Gulf labour regime reduces global inequality

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By James M. Dorsey
With the absence of labour rights in the Gulf under fire as a result of Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup, Gulf states are likely to take heart from a recent study that asserts that authoritarian regimes in the oil-rich Middle East and China have contributed more to the eradication of global inequality than Western nations.
Human rights and trade union activists, targeting Qatar as well as the United Arab Emirates, have succeeded in persuading two major Qatari institutions, the Qatar Foundation and the 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, to adopt significantly improved standards for the working and living conditions of foreign workers, who constitute a majority of the Gulf state’s population.
The activists’ campaign has also led the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to adopt adherence to human and labour rights as a condition in all of its future contracts with host cities. FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger moreover c…

Sponsorship of FIFA: a new front in Gulf political rivalry

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By James M. Dorsey
Lurking in the background of world soccer body FIFA’s talks with Qatar Airways to replace its Dubai rival Emirates as a sponsor is the escalating hostility between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as a result of their divergent attitudes towards political Islam.
Officially, Emirates’ decision to end its $200 million relationship with FIFA is a result of its announcement three years ago that the airline is restructuring its sponsorships, which also include soccer clubs Arsenal, Real Madrid, Paris Saint Germaine (PSG) and Hamburger SV.
The announcement came a year after Emirates emerged as the most vocal of the soccer body’s sponsors in expressing concern about FIFA’s mushrooming corruption scandals involving disgraced FIFA executive committee member and then Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed Bin Hammam, a Qatari national, and question marks about the integrity of the successful Russian and Qatari bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.…