Muslim World League Chief: Extremists Exploit Veil Ban

Muslim World League Secretary General Mohammed al-Issa.

London- Muslim World League Secretary General Mohammed al-Issa called on Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim countries to abide by the rules and laws of their host countries and to pursue their religious rights through legal channels. Issa has been keen on countering extremist ideology, believing that there must be an adverse party to confront the extremist ideology and disclose its attempts to defame Islam.

Issa added that the battle against extremism cannot be fought exclusively through military action, but rather include fighting extremist ideologies that spread their deviant thought.

Commenting on the objections raised in Brussels over his statement on the veil, he said the statement was in response to questions posed by the Muslim community and letters conveying rashness and willingness to face authorities with furor. “Every Muslim who enters a country pledges before to respect its constitution and culture or he/she won’t be allowed to enter. There is still hope, although the veil ban has become effective in some countries and is not a choice anymore. You either abide by the law or you get penalized and deported,” he added.

“Parliaments change and so do governments and legislation. The Muslim community should continue to ask for support. We, in the Muslim World League, back the Muslim community and stand against any illegal or unpeaceful attitude,” Issa continued.

Asked about Muslim figures in European countries who are trying to breach the law and incite against it, Issa said that it is a duty to face these figures who want to impose their religious singularity by force and are harming Islam in the first place.

Commenting on his several tours and activities in Islamic and non-Islamic countries in the past four months, Issa said that the Muslim World League is interested in reminding Islamic communities that their religion is a religion of forgiveness, tolerance, and coexistence.

“Some of these communities are going through tough conditions, including the lack of religious awareness,” he added. Issa stressed that the league doesn’t tackle people but topics. “We don’t name anyone but we might name ISIS or al-Qaeda,” he said.

Answering a question on the messages sent by extremists on social media, Issa said that more than 800 messages were sent by extremists around the world – some of them target specific countries, others are directed against Muslims in general or a specific category of Muslims and even non-Muslims.

IsDB Draws Roadmap to Enlist the Poor in Production

A man walks past an Emirates Islamic Bank branch in Bank street in Dubai, October 18, 2011. Two years after the Dubai debt crisis erupted, contributing to a wave of loan restructurings across the Gulf, those restructurings may be entering a more difficult phase as banks become reluctant to extend maturities further. Picture taken October 18, 2011. To match Analysis GULF-DEBT/RESTRUCTURING REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTR2SURT

London – Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) President Bandar Hajjar has launched a roadmap to resolve social and economic problems that are facing the world. “Confronting poverty is not restricted to providing food, clothes and housing but transforming the poor to a productive individual,” Hajjar told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The newspapers asked, “You became an official president of IsDB last October and 100 days later you spoke about a roadmap for the coming five years. What is this plan?”

Hajjar replied that, “After considering the internal and foreign challenges as well as the economic, political and social difficulties I put a roadmap based on this given and it clarifies how the bank will operate within these five years to be capable of dealing efficiently with these challenges.”

“Are there specific fields that top the list of priorities in your five-year plan?” asked Asharq Al-Awsat.

“There are three strategic goals: joint comprehensiveness through fulfilling needs of the poor and marginalized, correlation to achieve sustainable growth via reinforcing joint investment and expertise exchange and the third goal is supporting Islamic banking industry,” replied Hajjar.

When asked about the bank announcing that it will become a decentralized bank, IsDB president said that the decentralization means transferring some operations from the bank’s main headquarters in Jeddah to regional offices. He continued that the distribution of offices on regions serves the purpose of activating their role and permitting them to perform their tasks efficiently.

“The regional office is located in a certain country but several neighboring countries benefit from it,” added Hajjar.

“Some see that the IsDB needs to exert extra efforts to develop the Islamic banking industry – economic updates are racing while finding solutions that comply with the sharia is being a slow process,” said the newspaper.

Hajjar commented that “Innovating more long-term financial tools and reducing short-term funding as well as expanding bonds-funding and developing the institutions of Zakah, Wakaf, Qard Hasan and others are all a must.”

The newspaper asked, “In the past weeks, you received delegations from Russia and discussed cooperation in the field of Islamic banking. What is the role of IsDB in this segment?”

IsDB president replied that “There is a huge interest in Islamic banking in Russia. In May 2016, IsDB signed a MoU with the Central Bank of Russia and other Russian banks. These memorandums allow t

he exchange of expertise and knowledge in the aim of developing the segment of Islamic baking and underpinning cooperation opportunities in diverse areas of work.”

“What about the partnership forum between the public and private sectors that you are willing to establish in Riyadh? Why did you highlight the private sector?” asked the newspaper.

Hajjar answer came as follows, “A glance on the necessary investment in infrastructure, worldwide, shows that it is estimated as USD3.3 trillion annually. These essential needs and projects require huge investment and various experiences that’s why it is a keypoint that the private and public sector join efforts to implement them. The world countries are working on developing partnership forms to make thereof more efficient. Why now? Because distributing risks on several parties and providing the capital, knowledge and experience alleviates financial burdens on the public sector.”

Story behind Saudi ‘2030 Vision’

Story behind Saudi ‘2030 Vision’

London- On 11 February, 2015 the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chaired the Council of Economic and Development Affairs’ first meeting, directly after issuing a royal decree to found this council.

Back then, Prince Mohammed had several plans for the future of his country, yet he waited to study all the vital sectors, rules and regulations in order to determine the landmarks of his vision according to scientific basis. He counted on the project management office, which was working day and night to review, analyze and implement ahead each session.

Features of 2030 vision started to manifest before announcing the overall budget in 2015. The budget was decided according to studies made by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which reviewed most of the existing projects, mechanism of adopting them and their economic impact.

Committees were founded and new departments were developed to take necessary actions towards these projects and review affiliated lists, and non-oil revenues for 2015 were raised by 30 percent.

The Council needed 439 days to issue its vision on Monday, 26 April. During these days, more than 54 meetings were convened to discuss decisions taken by 11 ministries and 20 institutions and government bodies.

Education and agriculture sectors were topping the files and studies that were discussed, followed by other sectors, including the file on the cost of living and data provided by the Department of Statistics.

The list of files that were discussed also included labor, trade, consumer protection, Hajj and resources, planning, energy, oil, gas and transportation. All these files were separately discussed; thus clarifying the vision based on strong and scientific basis.

Moreover, resolutions issued by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs were firm and quick and were preparing to launch the Saudi 2030 Vision with certainty.

Saudi Arabia’s former FM Prince Saud Al-Faisal dies at 75

In this Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 file photo, former Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal waits to greet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as Kerry arrives at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Pool Photo via AP, File)
In this Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 file photo, former Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal waits to greet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as Kerry arrives at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Pool Photo via AP, File)
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s former Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal passed away on Thursday, two months after he retired following 40 years of service.

“Prince Saud Bin Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud passed into God’s mercy in the United States on Thursday. The Saudi people, Arab and Islamic nations, and entire world knew Prince Saud over five decades he spent serving his homeland and religion with all devotion and sincerity. Prince Saud, may he rest in peace, sacrificed his health in the service of his nation to achieve the objectives of his leadership and the Saudi people,” a royal court statement said.

Prince Saud was the world’s longest-serving foreign minister. His tenure lasted for 40 years until he was replaced by Adel Al-Jubeir on April 29, 2015.

Born in 1940 in Taif, Prince Saud was the second son of King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

He graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor degree in economics in 1964. He held several positions at the Ministry of Petroleum before he moved to the general organization for petroleum and mineral resources. In 1970 Prince Saud was appointed as deputy minister of petroleum.

In 1975, King Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a royal decree appointing Prince Saud as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, succeeding his late father who held the foreign portfolio in addition to his duties as the monarch of Saudi Arabia.

In appreciation of his political influence and patriotic role, Prince Saud was appointed as a minister of state, a member of the council of ministers, adviser and special envoy of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and overseer of foreign affairs by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud earlier this year.

Fluent in seven languages, in addition to Arabic, the veteran diplomat was well-read and gained the respect of world leaders and politicians who often described him as a tireless defender of the rights of Muslims and Arabs.

In January he traveled to the US where he underwent a successful back surgery. He returned to the Kingdom in March to resume his duties. Despite his long years of service, Prince Saud requested in April that he be relieved of his post due to health issues.

Funeral prayers for Prince Saud are set to be held at the Grand Mosque of Mecca after evening prayers on Saturday, according to the royal court.

GCC to consider steps to see off foreign interference: Gulf source

A general view of the meeting of leaders during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha on December 9, 2014. (AFP Photo/STR)
A general view of the meeting of leaders during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha on December 9, 2014.
(AFP Photo/STR)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is planning to take measures to ward off foreign attempts to interfere in the affairs of the region off the back of the organization’s 35th annual session in Doha earlier this week, an informed Gulf source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

A GCC political source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that the council began considering the measures after detecting several cases of intervention in Arab affairs by regional countries.

Member states agreed to hold a meeting, expected to be hosted by Riyadh in the next few days, to formulate a vision and a general framework aimed at addressing these threats, the source maintained.

“The coming days could see a unified GCC stance to stop such attempts led by neighboring countries to intervene in Arab affairs,” the source said.

In its final communique, the GCC Doha summit reiterated member states’ rejection of foreign intervention in the affairs of the countries of the region.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash was recently quoted by Arab news outlets as describing the roles of Iran and Turkey in the region as “worrying and unacceptable.”

According to the source, Gargash’s comments followed revelations of interference by the two countries in Arab affairs, including reports of Turkey’s meddling in Egypt and Iran’s “desperate” aspirations to play a role in Bahrain and Yemen.

In a speech during the opening ceremony of a services project in Istanbul a few days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a crowd of his supporters that no one can question Ankara’s right to intervene in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Erdoğan argued that it was the duty and responsibility of Turkey to do so.

The source described the Turkish president’s comments as tantamount to a breach of international norms.

Hezbollah fighters’ families unhappy about Syria involvement

Mourners carry the coffin of a Lebanese Hezbollah fighter, draped in the flag of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim party, who was killed in Syria during his funeral procession on July 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO /ALI DIA
Mourners carry the coffin of a Lebanese Hezbollah fighter, draped in the flag of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim party, who was killed in Syria during his funeral procession on July 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO /ALI DIA
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Aqsat—Mounting casualties among Hezbollah fighters in the fighting in Syria has led some Lebanese supporters of the organization to petition its leaders to scale back its involvement in the Syrian conflict.

A source with knowledge of the petions, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said that the increasing numbers of Hezbollah soldiers killed in Syria, including some senior commanders, has raised concerns among the Lebanese Shi’ites, prompting some of them, especially residents of Ba’albak, to visit Hezbollah Shura member, Mohamed Yazbek, demanding a halt on deployments of their men to Syria.

The source added that the residents stressed during the meeting that their children had fought the Israelis in 2006 and other wars between the party and Israel, in response to the call for resistance against Israel.

However, they said their men’s participation in the fight against the Syrian people, in defense of the Syrian government, was shameful and that it was unacceptable to embroil their men in a war in which they had no interest at all.

The source further added that Hezbollah was going through difficulties because it could not withdraw from fighting alongside the Syrian government, especially at this time.

This has prompted leading figures within Hezbollah to hold high-level meetings, to discuss the issue and agree on a delegation to be sent to Iran, in order to explain the difficulties faced by the party in the fighting in Syria, and explain to the Iranian leadership that the party was no longer able to bear the burden of supporting the Syrian government alone by sending fighters from Lebanon, and that Iran had to send more Iranian fighters than it did before.

The source said the numbers of Hezbollah fighters participating in the fight alongside the Syrian government had increased noticeably. Following Hezbollah leader’s visit to Tehran and Damascus three months ago, more than 20 units were sent to Syria from the Bekaa by Hezbollah, each battalion consisting of approximately 100 men.

Kerry to Visit Riyadh in March

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press following his meeting with Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird (not pictured) at the State Department in Washington, February 8, 2013.    REUTERS/Jason Reed
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press following his meeting with Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird (not pictured) at the State Department in Washington, February 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The US State Department yesterday announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will pay a visit to Saudi Arabia in the first week of March, as part of his first international tour since assuming office earlier this month. Kerry will meet with the Saudi leadership to discuss bilateral cooperation on several important issues, and he will also participate in a ministerial meeting with his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

The US State Department issued a statement on behalf of spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, revealing that Secretary of State John Kerry will begin his foreign tour on 24 February, which will continue until 6 March. The trip includes visits to Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE.

A senior official at the US Embassy in Riyadh informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Kerry’s second stop-off in the Middle East after Egypt will be Saudi Arabia, adding that this is testament to the strength of the relationship between Riyadh and Washington. The official remarked that Kerry’s planned visit puts paid to reports alleging that the US is distancing itself from the Middle East after withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that Washington has begun to focus more attention on Asia. The source stressed that Washington appreciates the importance of its strategic relations with Riyadh and the Middle East region as a whole.

The official added that John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia will last two days, beginning on 3 March, during which he will meet with officials from the Saudi government in addition to three unnamed Gulf foreign ministers. He pointed out that the meetings will focus on bilateral relations between Washington and the Gulf states, in addition to discussing issues of common concern such as the Syrian crisis, the situation in Afghanistan, and the Middle East peace process.

The US official stated that this visit comes at a sensitive and important time in light of the major events the region is experiencing, and highlights the US State Department’s awareness of the importance of the Middle East and the role it plays there.

The volume of commercial trade between Saudi Arabia and the US exceeded USD 60 billion during the past year. Saudi Arabia is America’s 12th largest commodity trading partner, while Saudi Arabia is the 25th largest export market for US goods. The value of US goods exports to Saudi Arabia amounted to USD 13 billion in 2011, at the forefront of which were exports in automobiles, machinery, medical equipment, and aircraft.

According to an official statement, obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat from the US Embassy in Riyadh, Kerry will first travel to London to meet with senior British officials. He will then visit Berlin, which will be “an opportunity to reconnect with the city in which he lived as a child”. The secretary of state will make a further stopover in France, to discuss ongoing American cooperation in the international effort to support Mali, and then Rome, where he will participate in multilateral meetings on Syria, with the leadership of the Syrian National Coalition.

In Ankara, Kerry will discuss strategic priorities and seek to expand Turkish-American bilateral cooperation, including with regards to counter terrorism. The US secretary of state will then travel to Cairo where he will meet with senior Egyptian officials and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby. Following his scheduled visit to Riyadh, Kerry will travel to the UAE and finally conclude his trip in Doha, Qatar.

GCC Environment Chief Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat

Dr Abdullah Aqlah Al-Hashem, GCC Assistant-Secretary General for humanitarian and environmental affairs. Source: Asharq Al-Awsat
Dr Abdullah Aqlah Al-Hashem, GCC Assistant-Secretary General for humanitarian and environmental affairs. Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—With the erratic but steady progress of Iran’s nuclear program and the announcement of nuclear power projects in some other Gulf states, the issue of nuclear safety and environmental protection in the region is more important than ever. As a result, the technical and scientific problems surrounding it are now rising up the agenda of regional states to join the existing economic and social problems that have bedeviled them in recent decades, chiefly the need to create enough jobs for the region’s thousands of young university graduates.

Asharq Al-Alwsat spoke to Dr Abdullah Aqlah Al-Hashem, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian and Environmental Affairs in the secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), about the organization’s efforts to tackle new environmental problems, as well as its efforts to deal with youth unemployment, the political fallout of the Arab Spring, and plans for further regional integration.

Q: The recent GCC summit produced several significant resolutions. How important are these resolutions, and how will they be achieved?

A: The 33rd GCC summit recently held in Bahrain was of a special character. It focused on very important topics. Take for example the initiatives that are being implemented presently, which include those surrounding the subject of the Gulf’s youth. There were diverging views about how to best invest in our youth, especially considering that they represent the majority of the Gulf’s population, but that divergence occurred because the youth are in need of many things. They need education and health care, and more importantly, they need a productive way to spend their spare time in a manner that benefits their countries, and prevents them from drifting into unhealthy activities. This means creating jobs that absorbs their energies and abilities. This cannot be accomplished by the public sector alone; it is imperative that the private sector play a role in absorbing the potential of the younger generations and help fix the issues of dropouts and the difficult job market.

Q: (Interjecting) Do you think that the private sector has fulfilled its role regarding accommodating the Gulf’s youth?

A: I believe that there are indications that the private sector has started down the path which we had hoped it would. On the other hand one must acknowledge that the private sector is first and foremost profit-based, but it should shoulder some social responsibility in this area. The public sector must work in conjunction with the private sector by setting standards that regulating the distribution of work opportunities and job opportunities in a manner that is smooth and does not drain both sectors. There are already regulations in place in the GCC countries which encourage the private sector to participate in absorbing the Gulf’s youth into the labor market. For instance, Sultan Qaboos recently decreed that foreigners may only comprise 33 percent of a company’s workforce.

Q: Are there any examples of joint ventures between GCC members to harness the energies of the young?

A: This question is very important. I recall a recent summit resolution regarding establishing youth-based initiatives that could absorb their energies which included an integrated program with working plans. The first matter is training young people to be competitive in the job market. The private sector has complained of the lack of strong credentials, qualitative training, and specialization among the Gulf’s youth. This does not help them progress in the workplace. There is a lack of regional institutions that offer training and specialized instruction. However the Gulf has tried to address this by signing agreements with European, American, and Asian institutes to train Gulf youth and enhance their credentials. Consequently work must be done to establish massive projects capable of absorbing as many graduates of these institutions as possible. Here I can say that if we were are able to succeed in providing good training for young people, then we will have prepared them for competing in the local and international job market. For example, the oil sector in GCC countries rarely hires graduates from the Gulf. One other industry I will mention that lacks Gulf youth is the automobile industry, and there are many other vital sectors which need trained and qualified young people.

Q: Do you have any new initiatives directed at the Gulf youth which you intend to submit at the next summit in Kuwait?

A: Yes, we have a bundle of large initiatives, six in total, which are all aimed at young people. These projects must offer young people avenues to express their abilities, demands, and skills. It is important that education be given priority throughout its various stages. For example Japan focuses on primary level education, which it considers the base upon which all future education rests. It provides its youth with programs that will benefit them as graduates, including social sciences, ethics, and inter-personal interactions. I think we in the Gulf desperately need this, especially considering that we have an abundance of money.

Q: Is there a project on the impact of the media on young people?

A: What you just mentioned is the fourth of the six projects. We want our media to be sophisticated and competitive, but socially responsible. The media should not be a source of chaos. It is noteworthy that there are more satellite channels in the Arab world than there are universities, there being 560 satellite channels and only a handful of universities. That represents a serious danger because subversive campaigns could distort the mentality of the Arab audience in the Gulf. Thus we must work to contain these hazards before they reach the minds of our youth.

Q: Youth-led factions have come to the fore in some Arab and Gulf countries, with loyalties being established at a young age to certain ideologies or groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Is this something that concerns the GCC?

A: It is an emerging phenomenon with a limited scope, but nonetheless it must be treated with the utmost seriousness. However it would be difficult for a movement such as the Muslim Brotherhood to spread across the various Gulf countries, and such is the case with liberals, socialists, and other currents. But the existence of these groups is an undeniable reality. This requires that we approach them in such a way that does not collide with them, but rather that listens to others, understands their point of view, and studies the changing scene carefully so that we can know if it is an organic change or imported from abroad and the result of external pressure. This way we will know how to address it. Generally speaking, our sons and daughters who embrace certain streams of thought should be engaged in discussions so that we may understand their political orientations, so long as it does not hurt the overarching interests of the country and society. We do not want to clash with them; that will only muddy the waters and provide cover for others to exploit our young people and harm our communities.

Q: In light of the changes surrounding the region, what do you think are the biggest threats to the security of the Gulf countries?

A: The Arabian Gulf is not very large in terms of breadth and depth. Every year between 30,000 and 40,000 ships from across the globe pass through this small waterway, carrying oil, trade goods, and other materials. There are more than 90 cities and villages on both sides of the Gulf. The biggest challenge is keeping track of the ships, which requires that we enhance cooperation efforts with our neighboring countries.

Of course war with Iran is not in our interest and we wish to avoid such an outcome. Therefore, it is imperative to establish a permanent peace. This does not mean that we are against the use of nuclear energy, but it must be used peacefully and for peaceful purposes, not for war. This requires full transparency on Iran’s part and it must allow the international and Gulf communities to oversee and verify the peaceful nature of its endeavors so as to reassure everyone. We know that the Iranian Bushehr reactor was built by the Germans in 1975 and was shutdown in 1979. We have detailed information about the nuclear reactors and their classifications in Iran and elsewhere. Thus when Iran is not transparent in its nuclear activities, it poses a risk to everyone, and only 200 to 250 km divides us from Tehran. We have no objection to cooperating with Iran and discussing the risks so as to reach an agreement and create a safer and more peaceful world for us all.

Q: Let me ask you a question about Iran’s nuclear activities. How do you view this threat to the Gulf, and how do you plan to deal with it?

A: (Interjecting) It is not just a question of war and a nuclear blast; the radiation would spread very quickly and very far [in the event of a serious accident]. Not to mention the chemical and environmental pollution and the contaminants that are easily detectable. However the real the danger is the radiation because it has no color, taste, or smell. Therefore the average citizen would not be aware that he or she is within the contaminated zone. Moreover, that the radiation remains for a long time, in the food, clothing, air, land, crops, livestock, everything. Thus radioactive contamination is unlike other types of pollution which are geographically and temporally limited, and it cannot be treated or contained in a safe manner. Unfortunately Iran’s reactors have aroused fear amongst its neighbors and amongst pearl and coral merchants who rely on a pristine natural environment. This also violates the water security of the people of the region, which is one of the world’s most vital commodities.

Q: The Gulf Center for Environmental Monitoring and Radiation Assessment, how is it coming along, where will it will be based, and how will it operate?

A: It will be based in the United Arab Emirates. It will begin operating soon, before the coming summit in Kuwait. It is a science center with laboratories, and there is a committee called the Meteorological Committee which works with satellite technology to monitor air, water, and food conditions in addition to importers and exporters operating in customs areas and the extent of radioactive contamination. This resolution was adopted in light of the radiation found in Ireland. Ireland’s geography is similar to ours, because there is a waterway separating them from a country with nuclear facilities, the United Kingdom. The Irish have experts and scholars studying the radiological situation and its implications 24-hours a day. They also assess the relationship between radiation and wildlife, water, and disease.

Q: Iran has decided to continue developing its nuclear reactors despite protests from the rest of the world. By what mechanism will the GCC countries deal with this problem, specifically, God forbid, in the event of a disaster?

A: This is a very important question. But let me assure you of our comprehensive preparedness. We would respond in accordance with the joint Gulf contingency plan, and we have established an organization called the Marine Protection Organization based in Kuwait, which includes the Gulf countries in addition to Iraq and Iran, which works at a global scale. We have also established the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Center (MEMAC). The Abu Dhabi summit also adopted a contingency plan which has since been presented to an American company for implementation, but it demanded a 20 percent increase on what was originally agreed. After that it was proposed to several other international companies, and the tender was awarded to a Canadian company which operates in the GCC in risk management, training, and awareness building. It will work on addressing the risks facing our countries.

Q: A report was recently published which stated that in the event of a war or nuclear disaster in Iran, only ten percent of Iranian territory would be impacted, and the majority of the damage would fall on the Gulf. Is this accurate?

A: This report was most likely published by Iranian sources. With all due respect to our neighbor Iran, I believe that this report is not entirely credible. Their communications with the outside world and with us are subject to censorship, in matters political and scientific. We are tied to them with many common bonds, including religion, geography, history, and trade. All we ask is that they commit to operating transparently and credibly, not only in relation to us in the Gulf, but also with all others around the world who understand the risks and seek to address them. I will reiterate that the risks that would result from their reactors would exceed their containment capacity and the capacity of others. This reminds me of the Russian reactor and the fallout it caused, in addition to what happened in Japan despite the fact that its reactor was of the fourth generation which are lauded for their high levels of security and safety. The Bushehr reactor is based on the most active earthquake zone in the world, and has low levels of security and safety to begin with.

Q: There was also a report which stated that the Bushehr reactor had leaked radiation, making it the most dangerous Iranian nuclear reactor.

A: The first company that assisted Iran in building the Bushehr reactor was the German company Siemens, and thus it was not the Russians as some would think. However in 1979 after the Iranian revolution, the German company’s activities were halted, and in 1985 a Russian company came and signed a contract with Iran to build a nuclear reactor for $2.5 billion. The Iranian government then decided to complete the construction of the first nuclear reactor, contracting again with a Russian company for $800 million. This reactor is dangerous because it was the result of two different construction companies, and unfortunately the people of Iran know nothing about that. Moreover, Iran has not signed any international nuclear safety and security agreements since 1994, and, of course, to be bound by these agreements means to be committed to global security and not Iranian security, so there is a moral responsibility to be borne by Iran in this regard.

Q: In light of this serious situation, do the GCC countries possess radiation sensors? Is there a plan to protect the Gulf from radiation? And is cooperating with Iran the best defence against it?

A: Yes, in all GCC countries there are radiation sensors assessing the levels of radiation, and there is a system governing this process that uses satellite measurements to gather information. There is also a contingency plan set in place if, God forbid, an explosion in a particular place were to occur. Teams are trained how to address the impact of radiation, and have instructions regarding how to interact with citizens. As for the question of cooperating with Iran, we have proposals to which they could agree through negotiations with the International Maritime Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the global community. All we ask of Iran is to sit at the table of peace and security with us because there is no better way than through cooperation and negotiation.

Q: About 30,000 to 40,000 ships pass through the waterways of the Arabian Gulf each year. To what extent is the pollution of the region caused by this? Do you have something in place to prevent pollution from these sources?

A: The Gulf is contaminated chemically and biologically, and suffers from waste water pollutants, waste from ships, and unsustainable fishing practices. We are active members in the Organization for Marine Protection and are a party to the agreement called MARPOL, which compels us to hold those ships accountable so as to limit their waste. Some countries recently established facilities for the treatment of pollutants and waste. There is also a Gulf study in coordination with the World Bank underway which is surveying marine animal and plant life. Thus the Gulf is making efforts to reduce pollution and mitigate waste. This has become big business for solid, chemical, or biological waste mitigation firms.

Q: What about the water linkage project authorized during GCC Summit 32?

A: Connecting water lines or railways or any other sort of connection would mean the creation of whole new cities and many new jobs. Industries that work in joining together various networks are expanding across the world. Movement across the various GCC countries has become important, as well establishing connections across the various electrical grids. Creating these links has become a commercially viable market as evidenced by the European Union. Therefore this linking up in the Gulf will bring us economic, political, and social benefits. Moreover the conflicts and disputes between us will decline because of the work being done to advance our common interests. Our oil profits allow us to buy water resources from anywhere and in turn we can make this into a profitable market and source of jobs. This will enable us to be prepared for 2032 when we will embark on a new direction in terms of our oil resources, 90% of which we use on water and electricity according to studies.