Excerpts: Impact of sanctions on Iran.Unrest in Tripoli, Lebanon. Saudis
pledge allegiance to King. Al-Qaida chief urges Saudi revolt against
leaders. Egypt's protein supply at serious risk May 18, 2012
+++SOURCE:msnbc.com via Egypt Daily News 18 May '12:"Iranians feel the pain
of sanctions: 'Everything has doubled in price' "
By Ali Arouzi, NBC News correspondent
SUBJECT Impact of sanctions on Iran
QUOTE: :" 'You have to depend on anecdotal information . . .the Iranian
government doesn't have an interest in revealing how painful the sanctions
Report from Iran: Full Text:
TEHRAN – The economy here is in shambles, according to Iranians, whether the
government will admit it or not.
The United States, the European Union and the U.N. have imposed tough
economic sanctions against Iran –- blocking access to the international
banking system and hurting sales of Iranian crude oil -– as a way to
persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.
In the short term, the harsh sanctions have had an impact on Iran’s
economy -– inflation has gone through the roof, and the unemployment rate is
staggering, especially among young Iranians. Prices of consumer goods have
doubled, tripled, even quadrupled in some cases, according to consumers.
The business community is in disarray, and as things keep getting worse, it’s
all people are talking about.
Merely getting by
At the Tajrish Bazaar in North Tehran on a recent afternoon, Ahmed, a
31-year-old unemployed man, poured his heart out to me. Speaking on the
condition of anonymity, as all those interviewed for this story did because
of the political sensitivity of speaking out in Iran, he told me his story.
He said he has been unemployed for the past year, doing odd jobs, and that
he barely makes enough to feed himself, let alone his wife and children. The
lack of jobs and the extraordinary rise in food prices have hamstrung him.
But he was most worried about what the crippled economy is doing to the
youth of Iran, who he said are turning to crime and drugs if they can’t find
In Iran, appearance is everything. How you dress and wear your beard says a
lot about your politics.
As I talked to Ahmed, who was dressed in Western-style clothes, another man
looked on disapprovingly. He had a full dark black beard and was dressed in
conservative black clothes. He was listening to everything Ahmed said and
wanted to talk to us, although he declined to give us his name.
He said that people like Ahmed were making excuses and were lazy. He argued
that the economy had become tougher, but no more so than the Iranian people
were used to over the years. He blamed the U.S. for the bad economy,
accusing President Barack Obama of unfairly trying to squeeze Iran. But he
said that in the end, the rough economic times had taught Iran to be more
“We need to tighten our belts for now and weather this storm with the West
as we have always done. And we will be victorious again,” he said.
New sanctions' real impact
The most recent international sanctions have targeted Iran’s crude oil and
banking sectors. In addition to harsh U.S. measures, 27 countries in the
European Union agreed in January to ban Iranian oil imports –- giving
countries until July 1 to terminate their deals. They also put a freeze on
assets belonging to the Central Bank of Iran and a ban on trade in gold and
other precious metals.
Anthony Cordesman, who holds the Burke chair in strategy at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies and is a long-time Iran watcher, said
that despite years of sanctions against Iran, the most recent ones have had
the greatest impact –- partly because they target banking.
The banking sanctions “have had the most popular, or broad, impact. Right
now Iran can’t even operate on the international clearinghouse.”
“I think that this is the first time that sanctions have really had a major
bite. Up to now, they have all been fairly limited,” said Cordesman. “But
beginning in November, and it’s just beginning to bite, you can’t bank
internationally effectively, you can’t move money. You don’t have a stable
conversion rate –- but the rial [Iran’s currency] is way down, so your
savings are of very uncertain value unless you’ve invested in property. You
don’t know what’s going to happen to your business. You have to be very
cautious about how much money you can spend on a marriage for your children
or their education.”
He added that we really won’t begin to see the full impact of the sanctions
until summer, when they have all gone into effect. “So everyone knows it’s
getting worse, but no one knows yet how serious.”
Vali Nasr, the incoming dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies, explained how these sanctions differ from 30 years of
sanctions that mostly targeted imports into Iran.
“The new set of sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry, central bank,
ability to conduct international financial transactions, are of a different
nature largely because they are going after the government’s source of
income –- the ability to sell oil or receive money for oil,” said Nasr. “So
these have had an impact because they have caused extensive inflation inside
Iran. They’ve caused the government to scrap a variety of projects, which
has caused unemployment.
“There is no doubt that economic hardship has become much more pronounced.
And there is on top of that a layer of uncertainty. So there is significant
economic hardship that is hitting the lower rung of society and the Iranian
middle class,” said Nasr.
Back in Tajrish Bazaar, Roya, a well-dressed woman in her 60s wearing a
Hermes scarf for a hijab and carrying a Louis Vuitton bag, explained how
even she is being hit by the economic uncertainty. While she is a wealthy
Iranian living in the leafy suburbs of affluent North Tehran, she said her
purchasing power has been halved by the struggling economy.
“Everything has doubled in price,” Roya said. “My son lives in Los Angeles,
and it’s cheaper to go shopping there -- amazing. Things have become
difficult for me even though I am among the better off Iranians. I can’t
imagine how difficult it is for folks downtown.”
When I asked her what the solution was, she replied sarcastically, “That’s
for the country’s economists to figure out.”
Close to the bone
For international relations analysts, like Cordesman and Nasr, getting
reliable information on what’s going on in Iran is very difficult. Both
analysts said that basically all of their information on the impact of the
current sanctions is anecdotal.
“You have to rely on anecdotal information especially because the Iranian
government does not have an interest in revealing how painful the sanctions
are. They may admit that they are hurting, but they don’t want to put
numbers out there,” said Nasr.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the regime. President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad often touts during public events that Iran has a record $90
billion in foreign exchange reserves, as well as untold reserves of gold,
silver and precious stones.
Even though experts estimate that Iran has seen a decline in sales of about
300, 000 barrels of oil per day as a result of the sanctions, this has been
offset by a 15 percent rise in crude prices.
And the effect and pain of sanctions have not been distributed evenly. While
blue-collar workers in downtown Tehran can expect to eat meat once a month
only as a treat, North Tehran is awash with Mercedes and Porsche SUVs
costing as much as $500,000 after the import tax has been paid.
Will the sanctions achieve goal?
So the question remains as to whether the sanctions will achieve their goal:
curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.
“The sanctions have had an impact of getting Iran to the negotiating table.
Iran came to Istanbul [the site of the latest diplomatic talks] with much
more seriousness than in the past,” said Nasr.
But he added that the sanctions alone won’t be enough for Iran’s leaders to
give up a program they have invested heavily in –- both financially and in
terms of building the nuclear program as a point of national pride. “Just
because the Iranian public dislikes this regime –- that does not mean that
they dislike the nuclear program. They don’t see this as the regime’s
nuclear program, they see it as Iran’s nuclear program,” said Nasr.
In order for the sanctions to work, Nasr explained, the U.S. and other
parties at the table need to give something back -– otherwise it would just
seem like Iran is surrendering to the West’s demands, not an easy sell at
“Until now, the whole approach has been stick-heavy and carrot-poor. And the
sticks are very explicit and the carrots are vague. And maybe that was
necessary to get their attention and to show that we meant business. But now
going forward -– [the U.S.] can’t ask [Iran] for concrete concessions –-
like stop this, stop that -– but not put concrete things on the table, like
this sanction will be lifted. If all the concessions are on the Iranian side
and what they get is just a promissory note, I don’t think it will fly.”
“End of the day, these two countries have not had a single thing they’ve
agreed on or done together in the last 30 years. So you couldn’t expect them
to actually be able to conclude a deal without some sort of reciprocal,
trust-building, concrete steps going forward.”
Msnbc.com’s Petra Cahill contributed to this report.
+++SOURCE: EGYPTIAN GAZETTE 17 May '12:Syria tensions light fuse in north
SUBJECT: Unrest in Tripoli, Lebanon
QUOTE:"Fueled by Syria's 14-month-old revolt and Lebanon's own sectarian
struggles, tensions in the impoverished port city boiled over"
FULL TEXT: Backgrounder):In Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, the army may
have halted three days of bloody clashes kindled by unrest in Syria next
door, but anger is still festering. Subdued street fighters hardly disguise
their rage towards the state for stopping them.
Fuelled by Syria's 14-month-old revolt and Lebanon's own sectarian
struggles, tensions in the impoverished port city boiled over into clashes
this week between Sunni Muslims who support the Syrian uprising and Alawites
who back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"They're not the Lebanese army anymore, they are the Syrian army. They
shouldn't stop us, they should come in here and fight with us!" shouted
Walid Bahar, a 45-year-old Sunni man, pointing to a leg covered in wounds.
"We are against the army."
The fighting, which killed eight people and wounded dozens - the third round
of such clashes this year, serves as a stark reminder how trouble across the
border could spill into Lebanon, a tiny country still recovering from its
own civil war.
The front line of battle lies between Bahar's district, Bab al-Tabbaneh, and
the hilly enclave of Jabal Mohsen above it.
Bab al-Tabbaneh, like most of Tripoli, is Sunni, and residents are fervent
supporters of Syria's Sunni-led revolt. Jabal Mohsen is home to the minority
Alawite sect, the same offshoot of Shi'ite Islam to which Assad belongs.
With soldiers lining the streets, Bab al-Tabbaneh moves in slow motion: Boys
on motorbikes and men hunched in cars roll down streets covered in rubble
and scorched palm trees.
A burst of gunfire jolts them into action: they drag out barrels and
sandbags hidden in alleyways to make hasty dugouts.
The army vehicles quickly roll out of sight - apparently unwilling to use
force. But it is a false alarm, young men say.
They go back to their posts, and the soldiers go to theirs.
Tensions in these parts of Tripoli are nothing new. Sunnis and Alawites have
fought sporadically since Syria sent troops into Lebanon during its
Just a few kilometres (miles) away in Jabal Mohsen, an elderly man points
out a smashed-up street corner.
"Thirty years ago, a man was shot dead there. Yesterday, one of his
relatives was killed in the same place. We're always going to live this way.
My sons will and so will his sons. This won't end until we've dragged all of
Lebanon into another war."
Local leaders struggling to calm Tripoli speak of trying to solve its
problems as if they were severing the heads of a hydra - more conflicts
On Tuesday, hours after a truce was agreed between leaders in Jabal Mohsen
and Bab al-Tabbaneh, violence spread to the vaulted archways of Tripoli's
There, a fistfight ended in a street battle raided by dozens of security
forces, their boots crunching over strewn vegetables and bullet casings as
they stormed past dazed residents.
"It used to be that two guys could slap each other without it meaning
anything. Now it somehow becomes a gunfight between political parties,"
shouted a man who fled from the rattle of gunfire outside his house in his
slippers and undershirt.
"This is all because of Syria."
Locals in Tripoli accuse Syria's allies in Lebanon of trying to relieve
pressure on Assad by stirring unrest in Tripoli.
But Sunni groups, they say, use local sympathy for the Syrian revolt to
provoke conflict in the hopes of weakening the current government, which is
allied to their main rival, the Shi'ite and pro-Syrian guerrilla movement
"Right now, it is hard to solve. The Syrian issue isn't in our hands and it
seems Lebanon's problems aren't either," said Nabil Rahim, a local Sunni
cleric who has been meeting with political leaders to solve Tripoli's
"Other than these political scuffles, you have the issue of living
conditions," Rahim said. "The people of Tripoli are really suffering from
unemployment and marginalisation and that's another reason that the
situation here is exploding."
There are other signs of unrest as well.
Tripoli's main square has been taken over by Islamists clamouring for the
release of a man they say has been unfairly detained for working for the
Shadi al-Moulawi is being charged for working with a "terrorist group" and
is facing a military trial.
The square is charred from days of burning tires.
Politicians and religious leaders meeting to solve the tensions are derided
by other local officials who say those men are the same players who are
"They leave them like embers under the ashes. Whenever they want, they can
provoke the people," said Saleh Abdullatif, a local official in Jabal
But local leaders may find that some youths are losing interest in what they
have to say.
While traffic resumes in other parts of Tripoli and residents try to regain
the pace of normal life, in Bab al-Tabbaneh, men gather around to listen to
a young man whose words draw shouts and applause.
"No one cares about us. We have no jobs, no health care. There's nothing
here ... But these sheikhs try to come and tell us when to start and when to
stop," he said.
+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 17 May '12:"Saudis pledge allegiance to the King"
SUBJECT: Saudis pledge allegiance to King
QUOTE:"Saudi people pledging allegiance to him [Saudi king] "
RIYADH — Ministers, senior officials, chieftains of tribes, sheikhs, rectors
of universities, heads of public and private corporations, dignitaries and a
great number of citizens across the Kingdom congratulated King Abdullah,
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, on the 7th anniversary of his ascension
to the throne and the Saudi people pledging allegiance and loyalty to him.
In statements to Saudi Press Agency and addresses on the occasion which fell
on May 17, the officials praised the King’s prosperous era which has been
characterized by the vast amount of gigantic economic, social, and
They said his expertise and skills in leadership has strengthened the role
of the Kingdom at regional, global, political, economic, and commercial
levels. — SG/SPA __
+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 17 May '12:"Qaida Chief Urges Saudis to Rise
Up against rulers", Agence France Presse
SUBJECT:Al-Qaida chief urges Saudi revolt against rulers
QUOTE:"Al-Qaida leader: ' Why don't you follow the examples of your brothers
in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and the Levant? ' "
FULL TEXT:Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Saudis to follow Tunisians,
Egyptians and Libyans in rising up against their rulers, U.S.-based monitors
said Thursday.[17 May]
"Why don't you rise while you are the sons of the proud and strong tribes
that look down upon death in order to lift the humiliation and the
oppression?" Zawahiri asked in a video translated by the SITE Intelligence
"Why don't you follow the example for your brothers in Tunisia, Libya,
Egypt, Yemen and the Levant?"
He was referring to the Arab Spring wave of popular uprisings that has
roiled North Africa and the Middle East since December 2010.
The six-minute, 19-second video was produced in February or March and
appeared Thursday[17 May] on extremist websites, according to SITE.
It opens with footage showing Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah meeting Pope
Benedict XVI, former U.S. president George W. Bush and current U.S.
President Barack Obama.
"It has been nearly a year now since the Arab peoples rose against their
rulers. They rose in the west and north, and you don't move," the
Egyptian-born Zawahiri said in the video.
"My noble brothers, why are you patient with the rule of the family of Saud,
while it is one of the worse regimes in terms of corruption?" he asked.
Zawahiri reproached the Saudi rulers for having opened the country to U.S.
troops, imprisoned violent extremists and spread immorality through the
media. Most U.S. troops withdrew from Saudi Arabia, home to some of Islam's
holiest sites, in 2003.
In previous videos aired in recent days, Zawahiri urged Somalia's Shebab
fighters to wage a war of attrition against Kenyan and African Union troops
He also called on Yemenis to fight their new president Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi,
calling him an agent of the United States.
+++SOURCE:The Atlantic via Egypt Daily News 15 May '12:"Egypt's Real Crisis:
The Dual Epidemics Quietly Ravaging Public Health" by Laurie Garrett and
Steven A. Cook
A combination of avian flu and foot and mouth disease risk destroying the
protein supply, eroding public trust, and further destabilizing the Arab
world's most populous country.
SUBJECT: Egypt's protein supply at serious risk
QUOTE:"Lost in the recent political jockeying . . . is the unfolding healh
disaster there . . .this little-discussed crisis is beginning to resemble
those that occur in failed states."
FULL TEXT:Lost in the recent political jockeying and protest violence
leading up to Egypt's May 23 presidential elections is the unfolding public
health disaster there. Avian flu and foot and mouth disease are running
rampant, killing people and livestock as well as inflating the price of
food. It's a serious health and economic issue, but it has potentially much
larger implications for Egypt, and this little-discussed crisis is beginning
to resemble those that occur in failed states.
The Egyptian state, which was not particularly well-prepared for public
emergencies even before the February 2011 revolution brought it into
near-chaos, has little capacity to cope with the outbreaks threatening not
only Egypt, but also Sudan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jordan.
Egypt's public health infrastructure barely functions. The sort of social
service that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have provided over many
years, it falls far short of what is needed to combat the current crisis.
Cairo does not have the money to throw at the problem, having burned through
more than half of its foreign currency reserves in the 15 months since
Ground zero for Egypt's public health emergency is Libya, where last year,
in the midst of civil war, foot and mouth disease swept through the country,
killing more than 10 percent of its sheep and cattle. Smugglers subsequently
brought infected sheep across the Libyan border, setting off a foot and
mouth disease (FMD) wildfire that Egyptian officials have been unable to
Within four weeks, FMD killed thousands of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats,
camels, and other livestock across Egypt. In March, the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organization declared a "catastrophe," warning that the
epidemic in Egypt was threatening human food supplies for all of the Middle
East and North Africa. The particular viral strain responsible for the
epidemic, officially called SAT2, is a new one, against which standard FMD
vaccines are useless. SAT2 was first found in Sudan in 1977, when it was
also thought to have been eliminated. It appears to have resurfaced there in
2010, spread to Libya, then Egypt, and now the Palestinian Territory.
Consequently, public and veterinary health officials in Israel, Saudi
Arabia, Jordan, and elsewhere around the region are on high alert.
For Egypt, which is reeling from the economic repercussions of last year's
revolt against the Mubarak regime and ongoing political instability, the FMD
epidemic is a serious blow. The loss of thousands of cattle, buffalo, and
camels has resulted in a significant spike in the price of meat from Egypt's
remaining livestock, which leaves a relatively poor population with only one
unaffected source of protein: chickens. Yet Egypt is also in the sixth year
of avian influenza H5N1 epidemic. Despite vaccination and control efforts,
the deadly H5N1 virus, which swept into Egypt from Asia, persists. Given the
popularity of home-raised chickens in the country, where many households,
rural and urban, possess flocks, controlling the infection would be a
daunting undertaking for any government. Millions of the animals are
estimated to have either died from infection or been killed off by
veterinary authorities, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture
Organization, in failed control efforts. The World Health Organization now
ranks Egypt second in the world, after Indonesia, in human cases of the
avian flu, which thus far has reportedly killed 60 Egyptians and infected
about 100 more. Recently, a strain of the virus has spread to Egyptian
ducks; this new strain carries mutations that are thought to play a role in
enabling transmission between mammals. This is a particularly worrisome
development because some Egyptians have caught the flu from their animals,
but not yet passed it onto other people. Once the virus begins to spread
between humans, an epidemic becomes far, far more likely.
There are only two well-established methods for controlling these viral
animal diseases: through mass vaccination of more than 90% of all vulnerable
animals, or via quarantine and culling measures that identify and slaughter
all FMD-infected herds and H5N1-contaminated flocks. In either case,
governance is the key. These are big, difficult undertakings, and they
require public trust in the state. Poor farmers are far less likely to
cooperate with such a program, which asks them to risk, their livliehood,
with faith that government will provide adequate compensation for culled
In Egypt, where the military's ability to exert its authority has diminished
over time, the transitional civilian cabinet is ineffective, and a variety
of political forces jockey for advantage as the presidential election draws
near, the government looks increasingly unable to deal with the FMD crisis,
and people are furious about it. When more than 7,000 cattle died in March,
protesters took the streets to demonstrate al Gharbiyya governorate. Unable
to get help from the state or compensation for dead animals, impoverished
famers dumped animal carcasses into water systems and canals, and on the
doorsteps of local officials. By late April, the animal death toll topped
20,000, as the infection spread to the Red Sea and South Sinai governorates
as well as the Palestinian territories. When local veterinary experts tried
to impose quarantines on infected herds, camel drivers threatened to block
Egypt's main highways, insisting on the right to use their beasts regardless
of contamination concerns.
In early April, the Egyptian government announced it would buy $1.8 million
worth of a vaccine manufactured to treat the specific strain of FMD
threatening Egypt's livestock. The first stocks arrived at the end of April.
Though vaccinations have begun, it is unclear when they will become widely
available. Even if a mass vaccination of Egypt's hoofed livestock could be
accomplished, despite the uncertainty of Egypt's politics and limited
capacities of its sprawling bureaucracy, it will -- like all vaccines --
take two weeks before the benefits of immunization take effect. Under the
best-case scenario, control of FMD would not be realized until June or July.
As for bird flu, it's doubtful that Egypt could stop the viral spread of the
disease, portending more human cases and deaths.
Observers have spent a lot of time and effort trying to understand Egypt's
post-Mubarak trajectory, but this path will be much more than just the
twists and turns of Egyptian politics. Public health is a critical factor
for the country's transition and its future. Even if presidential elections
are smooth, if the military hands power to civilians with no problems, and
if Egyptians get down to the hard work of writing a constitution,
uncontrolled foot and mouth disease and avian flu -- along with their
attendant economic and human costs -- could risk everything. If the
international community wants to help guide the Arab world's most populous
country through its post-Mubarak crisis, addressing the country's twin
epidemics would be a particularly high-impact way to do it. Absent a global
response, Egypt will likely experience continued political instability and
violence, and potentially widespread malnutrition that would surely affect
Libya, Sudan, Gaza, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and beyond. Endless
debates about the Muslim Brotherhood's commitment to democratic change or
the military's intentions are interesting, but not as important as a
coordinated international effort to pull Egypt back from the public health
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA