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Saudi Arabia’s struggle for influence – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

Saudi Arabia’s struggle for influence – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

Saudi Arabia has pledged $3bn in aid to the Lebanese armed forces, a gift that comes in a time when tensions run high, both inside Lebanon and across the region.Lebanese President Michel Sleiman announced the donation on Sunday describing it as the largest grant ever given to the country’s armed forces. It is almost double the amount of Lebanon’s entire defence budget for last year.

We faced a lot of objections from the United States in the past to re-arm and to enhance the ability of the army because they think that this could threaten the stability of Israel, but now apparently the Saudis decided to go ahead and disregard the United States’ objection.Mustafa Alani, a military analyst, senior adviser at Gulf Research Centre

“This aid aims to support Lebanon in all its religions and support the Lebanese army that is known for supporting national unity. We will provide it with all the needed conditions to achieve the great national cause that it was set up for,” he said.

Sleiman made the announcement after the funeral of senior Lebanese politician Mohamed Shatah who was killed in a car bomb on Friday.

Shatah was critical of Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah and Syria’s president, which Hezbollah supports. But there has been no claim of responsibility for his killing.

Lebanon’s army has struggled to deal with violence spilling over from Syria’s civil war and is seen as weak in dealing with armed internal groups, especially Hezbollah.

In the last three years, Saudi Arabia has been pushing to be the Middle East’s most powerful player.

In Egypt, the Saudis backed the military coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi; within two hours of the coup, they pledged $5bn in aid.

They have also positioned themselves as crucial players in Syria, funding the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad and providing them with weapons.

And in Yemen, Saudi Arabia carefully brokered the power transition in 2011 following the uprising there. That allowed its long-time ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to leave office with immunity from prosecution.

So, is the donation to Lebanon a recipe for further turmoil or will it allow for greater security? And what does it mean for Saudi Arabia’s role in the region?

Inside Story explores the reasons behind this donation and the potential ramifications. Presenter Laura Kyle discusses with Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and head of the Middle East Centre for Studies and Research; Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University; and Mustafa Alani, a military analyst and senior adviser at the Gulf Research Centre.

“Two years ago, Iran presented its will to give the Lebanese army equipment, and many political voices said ‘no!’ because they said there are political conditions. Now on the other side they said also ‘We do accept the Saudi grant without political conditions’. In my opinion we have to accept all grants for the army to build up an army and to stop this discussion and to leave this army weak. I don’t think the United States of America will provide this army any air defence system because Israel says ‘no’.”Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general

Water under pressure – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

Water under pressure – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

Water is under pressure, and disputes over the precious resource are fuelling tensions in regions across the world.

“We never know the worth of water until the well is dry,” a 17th century scholar once said. Those words strike a chord in the modern world, raising concerns about the risks and challenges of potential conflicts.

An international conference is taking place at The Hague in the Netherlands to discuss issues around water security and peace.

Half of the world lacks access to proper sanitation. Somewhere between 1.5 million and 2.5 million people die every year simply because of a lack of access to a safe, stable water supply. So in terms of crises, this is as big as anything. This is as big as HIV/AIDS or malaria, and it’s bigger than just about anything else in terms of destruction. It’s bigger than tsunamis, earthquakes, all the wars in any given year put together.

Aaron Wolf, Oregon State University

The two-day event, which began on Thursday, sees analysts, negotiators and scientists gathered to discuss ways to avoid future conflicts over water.

Delegates there are promoting a new catchphrase: water diplomacy.

They are emphasising the need for cooperation, negotiation and arbitration to address recurring conflicts, and to head off the risks of potential wars over water.

The United Nations estimates that 783 million people, or 11 percent of the world’s population, do not have access to clean water.

And what fresh water there is, is coming under increasing pressure from population growth, pollution and global warming.

Conflicts over water generally fall into two categories.

The first is simply a fight between two groups over water itself for consumption, sanitation and commerce.

The second conflict is that which arises from the way we deal with water scarcity, for instance, the impact a new dam might have on a community downstream, or the privatisation of water – a trend that has taken root in some South American countries – where it is being sold as a commodity, like oil.

Disputes over water are common around the world.

Already, the construction of the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil, expected to be the world’s third-largest, has angered indigenous people in the Amazon Basin.

And a series of dams have reduced water flow from the Tigris and the Euphrates, causing tension between Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Syria and Iraq have previously fought minor skirmishes over the Euphrates River.

Five regions in central Asia are also competing for water from two sources, the Syr Daria and Amu Daria Rivers.

Some 95 percent of Egypt’s population depends on the Nile River for its water supply, but the Nile runs through 10 countries, and those in the Nile basin want a greater share of the river’s water supply.

Ethiopia is also building a dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main sources of the Nile River, and the biggest dam construction project in Africa, which has become a cause for concern.

Water rights are a major part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as the only water resource for the Palestinians is completely controlled by Israel.

So, why has water, the source of life, become a source of tension?

And as populations grow and supplies decline, what can be done to safeguard the world’s most precious resource?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Sue Turton, is joined by: Patrick Huntjens, the head of Water Diplomacy at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, which organised this week’s conference; Hakan Tropp, the managing director of the Knowledge Services department at the Stockholm International Water Institute; and Aaron Wolf, the director of the Water Conflict Management Programme at Oregon State University.

“Water security is a major issue on the international agenda. But in practice we can see that cooperation over water is very difficult. So in this conference we are trying to question how we can improve existing tools and methods for solving water conflicts and water prevention, and what diplomatic tools are needed to address recurring conflicts.”

Patrick Huntjens, The Hague Institute for Global Justice


Europe’s lost generation – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

Europe’s lost generation – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

French President Francois Hollande has warned that the “future of a generation is at stake” as European leaders face up to the crisis of youth unemployment.

There is no single magic solution to the problem, but what we do want is that all member states put in place structural reforms to tackle the problem for the future. And that consists of making sure that within four months a young person becoming unemployed or leaving school, that they either get a quality offer of a job or else they get guidance as regards [to] training or further education or an apprenticeship which will help them to acquire the skills to boost their chances of getting a job for the future.

Jonathan Todd, a European Commission spokesman

Hollande was hosting a summit in Paris where leaders met for the fourth time in six months to hammer out how to reverse the upward trend.

Germany has described youth unemployment as the “most pressing problem facing the continent,” and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the continent risked creating a “lost generation.”

Economists maintain this is a consequence of the financial crisis, that young people always suffer in recessions, employers stop hiring them, and new recruits are easy to let go.

On average, one in four young people is without a job, and in the worst affected countries it is more than half.

More than 5,5 million people under 25 are out of work, that represents almost a quarter of all young people.

Greece has the highest rate, running at 57.3 percent; it is followed by Spain at 56.5 percent, while Italy’s young jobless rate is 40 percent. That is in sharp contrast to Germany, where less than eight percent of young people are unemployed.

European leaders have been discussing a range of measures to bring these figures down, including the Youth Employment Initiative, which was approved at an EU summit in Brussels in June.

This requires that all young people up to the age of 25 receive an offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

The initial budget has been set at $8bn with the project due to start in January and it will be rolled out in countries where youth unemployment is above 25 percent.

But is there the will, or the sufficient resources to find work for millions of young people? And will the Youth Employment Initiative succeed? 

Inside Story, with presenter Sue Turton, is joined by guests: Jonathan Todd, the European Commission spokesman; Evgenia Bosmi, a student from Greece, who has been looking for a job for the past two years; Joe Haslam, an associate professor at the IE business school, and executive director of the owners and entrepreneurs management programme; and Albert Tucker, a trustee of Common Purpose, an organisation that helps prepare young people for the workplace.

“[It] is really difficult here in Greece … we can’t find work, we are not more than 25 years old, and we don’t have the opportunity to gain our money, our parents have to support us on the basic needs … we have things to offer to the country, but there are no opportunities.”

– Evgenia Bosmi, a student from Greece


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