At #AIWA! NO! News, we focus on people and events that affect people's lives. We bring topics to light that often go under-reported, listening to all sides of the story and giving a 'voice to the voiceless'.
“Leadership in the absence of people who are with you is not leadership,” Biden said
MUNICH — Vice President Mike Pence and his immediate predecessor, Joe Biden, on Saturday offered competing visions of American leadership abroad, presaging major divides and campaign cudgels heading into the 2020 presidential race.
“When you hear President Trump ask our NATO allies to live up to the commitments they’ve made to our common defense, that’s what we call being leader of the free world,” Pence told the Munich Security Conference.
“Leadership in the absence of people who are with you is not leadership,” Biden said a few hours later.
Pence urged Europeans to act as a bulwark against Russia and China and warned of the espionage threat from Chinese telecom companies. Europe should scrap the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and cease buying blacklisted Russian weapons, he said.
“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies are dependent on the East,” Pence said.
Biden savaged the administration on its domestic policies. The separation migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border attested to a “struggle for America’s soul,” he said. And drawing a stark contrast abroad with the Trump administration, Biden praised NATO and the European Union.
“You’re never allowed to disagree with your brothers and sisters in public,” Biden said. “Today, because of, I think, a lack of leadership coming from the other side of the Atlantic, we find ourselves in a different place and it’s uncomfortable.”
Trump has frustrated European allies throughout his presidency with his hostility to a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which they credit with defusing a regional nuclear crisis. More recently, Trump irritated European colleagues with an abrupt reversal of his administration’s Syria strategy, announcing without warning that the United States would withdraw from Syria.
Biden received a warmer welcome from the audience. And the event produced other signs of European allies’ discomfort with the Trump foreign policy approach. German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen, for instance, declared that Berlin would not be “neutral” in the great power competition between the United States and China.
“NATO is more than just a military alliance,” she said Friday through a translator. “It is a political alliance. And as a political alliance, we are faced with what is a prominent feature of the new security feature, the return of great power competition. Our American friends recognized that early on and we too understand this now.”
Caring for Saudi teen’s safety, Canada refugee agency hires guard Amid threats to the safety of Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed, who was granted asylum in Canada, the Toronto agency that is helping her has hired a security guard to ensure “she is never alone” as she starts a normal life, its executive director said on Tuesday.
Mohammed, 18, made international headlines after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand’s capital Bangkok to avoid being sent home to her family due to fears of being harmed or killed. The family denies any abuse.
The teen has received multiple threats online that have made her fear for her safety, said Mario Calla, executive director of Costi, a refugee agency contracted by the Canadian government to help her settle in Toronto.
Costi has hired a security guard and plans to “make sure she is never alone,” Calla told reporters. “It’s hard to say how serious these threats are. We’re taking them seriously.”
Mohammed, who has renounced her family name al-Qunun, gave a public statement in Toronto on Tuesday that was read on her behalf in English by a settlement worker.
“I understand that everyone here and around the world wishes me well and would like to continue to hear about how I am doing, but … I would like to start living a normal private life, just like any other young woman living in Canada,” she said in the statement read by Saba Abbas.
Mohammed thanked the Canadian and Thai governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for making her move to Canada possible.
“I am one of the lucky ones,” she said. “I know that there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not do anything to change their reality.”
The 18-year-old left Bangkok airport for Canada, officials confirmed, after her ordeal went viral on social media.
An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family saying she feared for her life has been granted asylum in Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, as Thai officials confirmed the teen was en route to Toronto.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada had accepted a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take in Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who grabbed international attention earlier this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.
“Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world, and I can confirm that we have accepted the UN’s request,” Trudeau told reporters.
Alqunun had arrived in Bangkok on January 5 and was initially denied entry, but she soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
Following a 48-hour standoff at Bangkok airport, some of it barricaded in a transit lounge hotel room, she was allowed to enter Thailand and was then processed as a refugee by the UNHCR.
The UNHCR welcomed Canada’s decision and also acknowledged Thailand had given Alqunun a temporary refuge.READ MORE
“Ms Alqunun’s plight has captured the world’s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
Alqunun has accused her family of abuse and has refused to meet her father and brother who arrived in Bangkok to take her back to Saudi Arabia.
“It was her wish to go to Canada,” Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters. “She still refuses to meet with her father and brother, and they are going to be travelling back tonight as well … They are disappointed.”
Her case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male “guardian” to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.
A Korean Air flight carrying Alqunun left Bangkok for Seoul on Friday night at 11:37pm local time (16:37 GMT), an airport official told Reuters news agency.
Alqunun was expected to board a connecting flight to Toronto from Seoul’s Incheon airport before arriving in Canada on Saturday morning.
Trudeau brushed off a question as to whether Canada’s move might make it harder to repair ties with Saudi Arabia.
“Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” he said.
Amid increasing domestic political pressure, Trudeau said last month that his Liberal government was looking for a way out of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Riyadh.
Alqunun’s flight has emerged at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.
Canada has repeatedly said Khashoggi’s murder was unacceptable and has demanded a full explanation.
A Turkish pro-government television channel has broadcast video showing men carrying suitcases purportedly containing the remains of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi into the residence of his country’s consul general in Istanbul.
Saudi officials have rejected accusations that the crown prince ordered his death.
His murder has sparked global outrage and damaged the international reputation of the 33-year-old prince, the kingdom’s de facto leader.
After offering numerous contradictory explanations regarding the fate of Mr Khashoggi, Riyadh said he had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
The journalist’s remains have not been found and Turkey has repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia where they are.
Jamal, as all of us who had the privilege of knowing him are aware, was a proud Saudi patriot—one who, overall, was supportive of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic and social reform agenda in the country. But he was highly critical of the crown prince’s repressive tactics and had no illusions about the brutality of the Saudi government—for instance, when several high-profile Saudis, including members of the royal family, were detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in late 2017. Jamal was also highly critical of the Saudi leadership’s embrace of President Trump.
The community of Gulf scholars in Washington is small. I first met Jamal sometime in early 2015, when he came to speak at a think tank event. He was not a sleek public relations executive playing up Saudi Arabia’s “historic change” or Prince Mohammed’s “personal virtues” as a larger-then-life figure transforming his country from Wahabi Islam into a modern state where women would have equal rights and the youth would be able to watch movies at theaters. But nor did Jamal engage in hyper anti-Iran rhetoric, which has become fashionable in certain Washington policy circles where Prince Mohammed’s own hardline stance on Tehran has been embraced.
Instead, Jamal, who eventually sought a self-imposed exile in Washington in 2017, engaged everyone interested in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab region generally. He always did so in good faith. His reasoning and analysis were fact-based as opposed to the polemical, which is why he was so well-liked and respected in Washington policy circles.
Outside these circles and among readers of his Washington Post column, Jamal wasn’t well-known until his death. Now, for U.S. lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, the Khashoggi affair has spurred a widespread indictment of Trump’s transactional foreign policy approach. Finally, these lawmakers have begun to argue publicly that the United States cannot abide by the Saudi kingdom’s war in Yemen, or other atrocities like Jamal’s death, in exchange for Saudi oil or investments in the U.S. economy.
Most notably, the Senate recently passed a resolution unanimously accusing Prince Mohammed of orchestrating the Khashoggi murder, in line with the CIA’s assessment of the death. (The Saudi government has denied that the crown prince was involved.) The Senate also voted 56-41 to pass a resolution that would withdraw U.S. support for Saudi forces in the civil war in Yemen. While Trump still appears to be committed to the Saudis, these resolutions have set the stage for further congressional investigation into the Khashoggi death and Trump’s Yemen policy, once Democrats resume control of the House in January.
What’s more, it was only after the CIA shared with Congress its assessment about the Saudis’ role in Khashoggi’s death that Yemen’s Saudi-backed government in-exile—which is based in Riyadh—finally adhered to international pressure and agreed earlier this month to engage in United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Sweden with Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Before that, repeated calls for peace talks by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis were consistently ignored, even as Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe deteriorated. That the peace talks are now occurring suggests the Saudis, and their allies the Emiratis, are on their heels given the intense pushback in the United States to Jamal’s tragic death.
While Congress’ renewed interest in Yemen and the peace talks are positive developments, Jamal has unfortunately also been smeared since his death in what I believe might be a sinister Washington influence game meant to salvage Prince Mohammed’s damaged reputation. When the crown prince visited the United States this past spring, there was a flurry of positive press about him ushering in reforms that would modernize the Saudi nation. Many of those writing in favor of the crown prince are highly skeptical of reforms in Qatar, a frequent competitor of Saudi Arabia. Some of these same people have, since Jamal’s death, smeared him on Twitter as a Qatari “agent” and even a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, based on his friendship with a mutual friend of ours who is an executive with Qatar Foundation International, an educational institute for Arabic language and culture that is supported by the Qatari government.
But the truth is that Jamal always thought of himself as an independent voice, which is part of what made his analysis so widely sought after. He never wanted to become a political pawn in the Gulf crisis, which pits Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain against Qatar. Prior to his arrival in Washington, he reached out to a UAE-funded think tank here to secure an institutional affiliation; he did not end up joining the organization, but his interest should make clear that he is no agent of Qatar’s. He also turned down invitations to appear on Qatar’s Al Jazeera network, even though he was friendly with many Al Jazeera journalists. And he engaged on a regular basis with Prince Mohammed’s surrogates in Washington, including his brother, Khalid Bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
In Jamal Khashoggi, we have lost someone who was friendly with policy influencers on all sides of the Gulf crisis, always willing to share his views about a changing Saudi Arabia with anyone interested, myself included, without engaging in the frantic propaganda to which Washington is too often susceptible. His tragic death has also revealed how calamitous Washington’s recent policy toward the Gulf region is. Our solace now is that, perhaps, we can finally have hope that human rights, freedom of expression and a free media might once again become central pillars of the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the Arab world.