Thursday, June 8, 2017

Up and Down in the U.A.E.

"Dubai is reaching for the sky again, with the developer of the world’s tallest building vowing to build an even taller tower bedecked with landscaping inspired by the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon. The government-backed company Emaar Properties hopes to entice view-seeking homeowners even as it repairs a high-rise heavily damaged by fire on New Year’s Eve, a building known as The Address Downtown, a 63-story luxury hotel. Chairman Mohamed Alabbar said the new $1 billion tower would be ‘‘a notch’’ taller than the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa, which holds the height record. It will not be a traditional skyscraper but more of a cable-supported spire containing ‘‘garden’’ observation decks graced with trees and other greenery. It will also contain a boutique hotel, restaurants, and glass balconies that rotate outside the wall of the tower. The structure’s design means it is unlikely to be widely recognized as a taller ‘‘building’’ than the Burj Khalifa even if it surpasses it in height. The new Dubai tower will be the centerpiece of a 2.3-square-mile development near a wildlife sanctuary. It will be designed by Spanish-Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava Valls."

What, it didn't drop down in its own footprint and still stood?

Meanwhile, in the dungeon:

US woman jailed for ‘insulting’ United Arab Emirates

"Families of Americans held by Mideast allies say US is keeping gloves on" by Kareem Fahim New York Times  April 16, 2016

CAIRO — In the United Arab Emirates, a Libyan-American father and son detained since 2014 on political charges said security agents tortured them in prison, with beatings and electric shocks.

Yeah, U.S. did some of that and the future going forward suddenly looks very scary.

In Egypt, a woman with dual Egyptian and American citizenship who started an organization to help street children has been imprisoned for almost two years after prosecutors accused her of abusing the youths, though the state produced no credible evidence, according to human rights groups.

She was freed.

In both cases, the families of the accused have complained of a lack of high-level attention from US officials — stemming, they fear, from the Obama administration’s reluctance to confront the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which the United States views as two of its strongest strategic partners in the Arab world.

Their frustrations illustrate the distinct challenges faced by Americans imprisoned by their government’s allies. At home in the United States, their cases seem to stir less outrage than those of Americans detained by governments considered hostile, like Iran or North Korea, resulting in less pressure on the US government, and the notion that the detentions can be resolved in private, among friendly governments, can leave families confused about what role they should play.

As months of imprisonment have stretched into years for the detainees in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the relatives say, they have received little guidance from tight-lipped consular officials and avoided publicity out of concern it could undermine any negotiations.

Amal Eldarat, whose father and brother are in prison in the United Arab Emirates, said her family had kept quiet for months but decided to seek more publicity in the hope it might pressure the Obama administration to take more forcible action.

The treatment of her father, Kamal Eldarat, and her brother, Mohamed, “was a violation of every international law,” she said.

“The US could be doing so much more,” Amal Eldarat said.

State Department officials have said that they are closely following the trials in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and that they have raised concerns about the treatment of the Eldarats with senior Emirati officials.

The difficulties faced by the United States in freeing citizens from allied countries was highlighted last week when The National, a state-owned newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, said an American woman had been detained there for seven weeks on charges of “insulting the UAE in public” — a misdemeanor, according to the newspaper.

The 25-year-old woman, who was not identified, told the court that the charges had arisen from her interaction with two men who “did not like the way she spoke to them,” though she also said that she had “refused to engage” with them and that she did not know why she was on trial, according to the report.

Nicholas McGeehan, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who has followed the cases of Westerners imprisoned in the Persian Gulf, said many of the families of the detainees faced a dilemma. The United States, as well as Britain and Canada, often advises families not to speak out because “private diplomacy is preferred,” he said.

“The concern we have is whether these countries are prioritizing their citizens’ interests, or their own strategic and business interests,” he added.

The delicate approach to regional allies stands in sharp contrast to US efforts to free prisoners from Iran, Syria and Yemen over the last year.

In some cases, the negotiations have involved senior US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, and in others, the United States has called on foreign governments, like Oman, to act as intermediaries.

US officials say their lack of diplomatic relations with governments like Iran’s gives them fewer options for direct engagement than in Egypt or other friendly states, and requires a different approach.

The family of Aya Hijazi, the Egyptian-American, said US Embassy officials had visited her in prison and attended her court sessions.

Hijazi, a 29-year-old graduate of George Mason University in Virginia, was arrested in May 2014 with her husband and others who worked at Beladi, a nonprofit organization that Hijazi founded to care for Cairo’s street children.

The government accused Hijazi and the others of human trafficking and sexually abusing the children. A government forensic report showed that some of the children had been abused, but not when they were in the care of Hijazi’s organization, according to human rights groups monitoring the case.

A series of confounding procedural hearings have repeatedly delayed the start of the trial.

Rather, the arrest appears to be related to a wider government crackdown on nongovernmental groups that are regarded with suspicion in Egypt and accused of being front organizations for various foreign conspiracies.

Like the Eldarats, the Hijazis shunned publicity at first. The nature of the allegations made for explosive headlines, including some that referred derisively to Hijazi’s US citizenship.

Yet focus on the case faded in Egypt, and Hijazi’s family and friends have sought more attention, including by starting an online petition demanding that the State Department secure her release.

Brian Shott, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Cairo, said officials were closely following Hijazi’s case and would continue to attend her court sessions.

Amal Eldarat said her only contacts with the US government had been with local consular officials in the months after her father and brother were arrested in the United Arab Emirates in August 2014.

The Eldarats were taken from their homes by Emirati security agents and kept from communicating with their family for months, she said. When her father finally spoke to his relatives, he described horrendous conditions in a state security facility where they were held.

“They electrocuted us, they deprived us of sleep, they beat us. These were the darkest days of my life,” Amal Eldarat quoted her father as saying.

The Emirati authorities denied torturing the men. The family said the charges appeared to stem from the Eldarats’ humanitarian support of Libyan antigovernment groups during the uprising against Moammar Khadafy — support that placed them on the same side as the United States, which also backed the anti-Khadafy rebels.

But as Libya descended into civil conflict over the last few years, Emirati officials backed an eastern Libyan faction and grew hostile to Libyans, including the Eldarats, associated with a rival western Libyan bloc, the family said.

The Obama administration has recently spoken out more robustly on the detentions. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, told reporters on April 7 that the United States was “concerned about several aspects” of the case, including allegations of abuse and a lack of US consular access after the arrests.

Washington had raised those complaints with the Emirati government, he said, adding, “We continue to call for an expeditious resolution to this case via a fair and transparent legal process in accordance with local law.”

The Eldarats face a maximum sentence of 15 years of prison. A verdict is expected next month.



"Thursday, June 08, 2017

Darling, I KNOW
by xymphora 

Guess who is behind the Gulf States' split with Qatar.  Go on, take a wild guess!

"Why Are the Gulf States Turning on Qatar? The Biggest Split in the Middle East Since the Gulf War" (see also):
"Qatar has denied that its ruler made that statement and claims that hackers broke into the Qatari news agency website and planted those quotes. This is a new kind of cyber war, says Qatari spokesmen and commentators, which strives to tarnish Qatar’s name. They claimed that this was a conspiracy between the U.A.E. and a pro-Israel lobby working in Washington alongside former senior administration officials.
It stems from disputes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. The battle of leaks and hacking produced an interesting drama, after a series of emails allegedly exchanged between the U.A.E. ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a research institute that was founded and is funded by, among others, Sheldon Adelson and Edgar Bronfman, as well as other Jewish millionaires.
This is a neoconservative institute that was established after 9/11 and which enjoys excellent relations with Netanyahu and senior officials in the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli government.
According to the leaked emails the United Arab Emirates and the Foundation exchanged ideas and opinion regarding ways of handling Qatar due to its support of Hamas and Iran. Ambassador al-Otaiba, who is considered one of the most influential and well-respected figures in Washington is fostering strong links with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. He reportedly also had connections with Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer.
These new leaks are trying to deflect the political drama in the Gulf away from blaming Qatar and towards the UAE, which is described as coordinating its actions with Israel or at least with a pro-Israel lobby that is supported by Israel."

"Someone Is Using These Leaked Emails To Embarrass Washington’s Most Powerful Ambassador" (my emphasis in red; note the the Huffington Post may be on the Qatari payroll, but the emails seems legit):
"On May 24, Otaiba emailed nonresident fellow Mary Beth Long, a top former Pentagon and CIA official with ties to current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He appears to have shared an article critical of Zayed, the UAE prince.
“Isnt this the former Guardian hack who used to work for al Jazeera? I know it doesnt make MBZ feel better, but hes in pretty good company. Trump takes a beating here as well (but he always does),” Long wrote back.
Otaiba seemed to have expected more sympathy.  “This site is paid for by Qatar!! How is donald trump the issue??” he wrote.
Long quickly concurred. “Darling, I KNOW,” she wrote. “What I was trying to convey is that NO ONE takes this site seriously (although I know it is still really hurtful and annoying.) My point is that even for people who dont know that, their main writer is a well known HACK who has no credibility as he is former AJ and Guardian ― where HACKs live!! Its basically a blog of filth and could never pass for more.” 
Contacted about the exchange, Long stood by her comments in it and accused HuffPost of coordinating with hackers to obtain it. She threatened to sue if it was published."

"UAE email leak: Yousef al-Otaiba criticises Trump" (I've removed the uninteresting links; my emphasis in red):
"The Huffington Post said one of the emails showed Otaiba corresponding with Rob Malley, Obama's chief adviser on the Middle East, on election night.
"You got room for me in Abu Dhabi?" Malley wrote to Otaiba.
"This isn't funny," the UAE ambassador responded. "How/why is this happen. On what planet can Trump be a president."
In another exchange from 2016 with Judith Miller, a right-wing US commentator who reportedly sent Otaiba a series of tweets from a Saudi whistle-blower that criticised Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE diplomat said "the 7 minutes I spent reading this was the equivalent of watching 7 minutes of Donald Trump. A waste of my time."
The latest email leak comes after US media reported on Saturday that emails, released by a group called "GlobalLeaks" - not affiliated with the software developer, GlobaLeaks - showed clear collaboration between Otaiba and a pro-Israel think-tank in an attempt to discredit Qatar.
Otaiba is a well-known figure in US national security circles - he has been called "the most charming man in Washington" - and has participated in Pentagon strategy meetings at the invitation of defence officials.
Al Jazeera's Shihab Rattansi said those behind the leak told Huffington post that "their intention is to reveal the 'two-faced nature' of Emirati foreign policy".
He added that "from these emails it would appear that the ambassador to Washington doesn't have a very high opinion of Trump"."
Note that the UAE motive is to have the huge and very lucrative American military base moved from Qatar to the UAE, and the Khazar motive is presumably to moderately weaken the new 'Arab NATO' (Khazars like the Arab NATO but don't want it too strong), while ending Qatar's support for Hamas and Hezbollah (not forgetting that Qatari-funded headloppers are fighting Hezbollah in Syria!).


It's all fun and games, folks.