Letter to UN Secretary-General Concerning Saudi Arabia's Removal from List of Armies Charged with War Crimes

published June 29, 2016 - 4:09pm

June 30, 2016

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Secretary General

We the undersigned, a group of professors in Europe and North America, are deeply alarmed to learn that the government of Saudi Arabia has coerced you to remove the military coalition led by that country in Yemen from the UN list of armies charged with war crimes in that country. According to the New York Times, you have openly admitted to reporters that you were “threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan and Syria” if you did not capitulate to Saudi demands in this regard.

Arabia Incognita

by The Editors | published May 6, 2016 - 12:23pm

The disastrous Saudi-led war on Yemen has entered its fourteenth month.

Open Letter from Scholars of Yemen

published March 31, 2016 - 1:33pm

US Secretary of State John Kerry
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayraut

Notes on Low Oil Prices and Their Implications

by Miriam R. Lowi | published February 24, 2016 - 9:50am

After about three years of hovering around $110 per barrel, with highs of $125 and lows of $90, oil prices began a precipitous decline in the summer of 2014, reaching a low of $48 per barrel in mid-August 2015 before plummeting to just under $30 per barrel five months later. While investors are no doubt reeling from the impact of this price decline on their portfolios and ventures, it’s well worth pondering how the Middle East and its geopolitics are likely to be affected.

But how to explain this downward spiral in the first place? By all accounts, reasons abound.

Saudi Arabia's Dangerous Sectarian Game

by Toby Jones | published January 5, 2016

When Saudi Arabia executed the Shiite cleric and political dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, the country’s leaders were aware that doing so would upset their long-time rivals in Iran. In fact, the royal court in Riyadh was probably counting on it. It got what it wanted. The deterioration of relations has been precipitous: Protesters in Tehran sacked Saudi Arabia’s embassy; in retaliation, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties. More severe fallout could follow—possibly even war.

The GCC Needs a Successful Strategy for Yemen, Not Failed Tactics

by James Spencer | published September 11, 2015 - 8:06am

For the last 45 years, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has tried to mitigate its Yemen problem through short-term tactics, rather than construct and give resources to a strategy for solving it. That policy has failed repeatedly. A bold and lasting transformation is needed, not the same ineffectual meddling.

Traditionally, the attitude of most GCC members toward Yemen has been fond but standoffish. The Gulf states have been fairly generous in funding projects and providing aid, but held populous Yemen at arms’ length, for reasons both demographic and ideological, the latter being fear of Marxism and republicanism.

Saudi Arabia and the War in Lebanon

by A Special Correspondent
published in MER111

People here responded to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in a typically quiet fashion. In my day-to-day business contacts with Saudis, the subject of the war rarely came up unless I raised it. One Saudi friend commented, “We don’t yell and shout, but when we’re among ourselves we talk about it and we say that something has to be done about US support for Israel.”

The scene in any one of the country’s Lebanese shops or restaurants was quite different. Radios blared in the background as men argued loudly over the latest reports and rumors. No doubt some Saudis also viewed the war through Palestinian and Lebanese expatriates, although this community has nowhere near the social and political influence it has in Kuwait.

Yemen Is Starving, and We're Partly to Blame

by Chris Toensing | published July 1, 2015

Twenty million people in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, are at risk of dying from hunger or thirst. That’s 80 percent of the country’s population, which according to UN agencies badly needs emergency supplies of food and water, along with fuel and medicine.

This almost unimaginable crisis sounds like something out of a disaster movie. But the cause isn’t an earthquake or a tsunami.

The main reason for all this suffering is months of merciless bombardment and blockade led by the richest Arab countries—Saudi Arabia and its neighboring petro-princedoms—and backed by the United States. Washington’s providing the attackers with technical assistance, intelligence and top-shelf armaments.

Breaking Even, Breaking Down or Going for Broke?

by Karen Pfeifer | published May 22, 2015 - 7:25am

As of mid-May 2015, crude oil prices had fallen to the lowest level in recent years, under $60 a barrel for US domestic benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and about $66 a barrel for the international Brent benchmark. These market prices are compared to several types of “break-even” prices and affect decision-making by oil producers at several levels: whether price covers just production costs or incorporates a satisfactory level of profit, whether budgets balance and whether long-term capital investment is attractive.

Letter from Bangkok

by A Special Correspondent
published in MER123

In 1975, around 1,000 Thai workers left for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; by 1982, 108,520 workers, over one third of all Thailand’s expatriate work force, had left for 11 different countries in the Middle East region. Their remittances, totaling over $450 million, amounted to the equivalent of half the foreign exchange brought into Thailand by its foreign visitors and exceeded revenues from the country’s main commodity exports except rice and tapioca. Many of the Thais employed in the region are skilled workers, mechanics, engineers and drivers, and their absence is blamed for shortages of skilled labor in Thailand’s domestic labor market. The majority are unskilled manual laborers drawn by the lure of wages often five times higher than Thailand’s.