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The Qatar crisis explained (2): The geopolitical puzzle


The biggest challenge facing the Middle East is the “potential domination of the region by an Iran that is both imperial and jihadist,” Henry Kissinger said last year. What he suggest is further isolation of Iran adding that  existing US policy, which is very favorable to Iran should be changed.Mr. Trump (following Kissinger’s policy?) has made clear he seeks no opening to Iran and has no interest in building on the Obama administration’s success in reaching a nuclear deal with it.

For the New York Times, Donald Trump, has taken sides with Saudi Arabia and four other Sunni states in their attempt to isolate and bully Qatar, the tiny gulf nation that is arguably America’s most important military outpost in the region .Rather than position the United States to ease tensions in the Middle East, Mr. Trump has, essentially, picked one side in a small rivalry within a big rivalry.

But even if his goal is to isolate Iran, allying with Saudi Arabia to punish Qatar is a self-defeating way to go about it: Qatar is home to the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command and is a major intelligence hub. It hosts Al Udeid Air Base, with more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition forces.

There is no sign that Mr. Trump has actually thought any of this through. Let’s be honest: Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue where Middle East is. New York Times adds that: even as other American officials were saying they would try to calm the Saudis because Qatar was too important to the United States, the president leapt to Twitter to claim credit for persuading Saudi Arabia to act against Qatar.

During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” he wrote, adding, “Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!” In two other tweets he reinforced this message, saying: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding … extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

For years Riyadh has accused its regional neighbor Iran of interfering in the Sunni kingdom’s affairs in order to destabilize it and expand its own role in the Middle East. The Saudis fear such a development not least because of how it might inspire the deprived Shiite minority in the kingdom’s East, which also happens to be an important source of oil. Iran meanwhile has concerned its neighbors by massively enhancing its influence in Iraq and Syria during the ongoing civil war in the latter country. More than ever, Saudi Arabia sees itself as encircled.

Saudi Arabia has long relied on the UAE and Bahrain as its closest regional allies. Egypt, which counts on Riyadh’s financial support, has also been a consistent partner, though in recent years Cairo has also strengthened its ties with Tehran – much to the annoyance of Saudi Arabia.

According to Al-Monitor,in Jerusalem, it is almost inconceivable to hear the Saudis demand publicly that the Qataris cease their cooperation and aid to Hamas. “It is as though the Israeli-Saudi alliance is suddenly breaking out of its dark confines and being showcased internationally,” an Israeli minister told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “But when the actual statement is analyzed, it quickly becomes obvious that this is not about Israeli interests. It is the continuation of that same old war between Sunnis and Shiites.”

The common explanation in Israel is that Hamas is in the wrong camp, as far as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are concerned. The camp of the Muslim Brotherhood includes Turkey and many Sunni terrorist groups.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to blockade its neighbouring Gulf State Qatar by land and sea unless it cuts ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, closes Al Jazeera, and expels local branches of two prestigious U.S. think tanks, the Brookings Doha Center and the Rand Qatar Policy Institute.

Analysts elsewhere in the Gulf expect the Saudi tactics to backfire. They have already paralyzed the Gulf Cooperation Council, with Oman refusing to expel Qatar and Kuwait deeply uneasy. It is also propelling the start of a significant regional realignment. Within hours of the Saudi decision to withdraw its ambassador to Doha, the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad in support. Doha has also become closer to Iran as a result of its bust up with Riyadh.

Sources:

Al-Monitor

Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar vs. Iran,  DW.COM. 06.06.2017

Unraveling the Qatar crisis: Sunni, Shia, Saudi, Iranian — and Trump. CNN.COM 07.06.2017

President Trump Picks Sides, Not Diplomacy, in the Gulf, NYTimes.Com, 07.06.2017

Featured Image credit: @Carlos Latuff

Read: Part 1 of the analysis

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In Oman bacteria-induced biofuel is getting patented


Muscat,Oman Sultanate: Mohab bin Ali Al-Hinai, assistant professor in the biology department of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), has obtained a patent for his research on bacteria that contributes to the production of biofuels.

Al-Hinai said the idea of producing biofuels by bacteria was a development of ‘acetobutylicum clostridium’ bacteria which is the fastest in its group in the production of organic materials usable as biofuels, according to Oman News Agency.

He added that the significance of the said bacteria is that it produces biofuels from plants that contain fiber and not from components of staple foods for human consumption such as maize, wheat, and sugarcane.

He affirmed that the most significant challenges are to find a way to make this invention economically feasible. He added that he is currently working on the development of research on biofuels from agricultural waste and the smallest organisms found in the Omani environment.

  • Why Bacteria-based biofuels?

By tweaking the smallest units of life, scientists are making bigger gains in producing alternative and renewable energy, with recent efforts aimed at molecule-level controls and promoting fractal growth patterns to create different fuels and improve efficiencies.

Bacteria, which range from 0.5 to 5 microns in size, perform functions that can be exploited, enhanced and modified to produce fuels. As they move, breathe, eat and reproduce, bacteria produce byproducts like ethanol and hydrogen while feeding on simple sugars, starches and sunlight. The cells themselves can also be harvested for biodiesel precursors.

The organisms may be used to produce fuels directly from biomass, including cellulosic biomass.  When all of the steps of digestion and fermentation are combined, it is called consolidated bioprocessing.  The organisms available for consolidated bioprocessing to produce cellulosic ethanol do not produce high concentrations of the ethanol, and therefore it isn’t cost effective to use them according to Biofuels Digest.

Even, back now in 2012, researchers genetically modified E. coli bacteria to convert sugar into an oil that is almost identical to conventional diesel.

While petrol and diesel release carbon dioxide that has been stored deep within the Earth, biofuels are said to be carbon neutral because they release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the plants they are made from absorbed.

However, the energy it takes to grow and process the crops needed for biofuels also should be taken into account, as this adds to their “carbon footprint”.

A report by Chatham House said biofuels were expensive and worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

  • Sources: Oman News Agency, Biofuels Digest, CHatman House, Pnas.org