In this issue:

Turkey To Build Two Earthquake-Proof Satellite Cities in Istanbul

Violence and Protests in Arabia Take on a New Life

Egypt Deploys People's Diplomacy

Making the Sahara Bloom: The Blue Revolution

From Volume 38, Issue 20 of EIR Online, Published May 20, 2011
Southwest Asia News Digest

Turkey To Build Two Earthquake-Proof Satellite Cities in Istanbul

May 12 (EIRNS)—The Turkish government has taken the extraordinary decision to build two earthquake-proof cities in Istanbul province, with the aim of evacuating parts of the city which are most endangered, in the event of an earthquake. This follows the announcement of building a canal in Istanbul province to connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the project at a public event yesterday, where he described the plans. The Prime Minister said the project aims to alleviate the possible effects of a major earthquake that is feared to hit the city of 12 million, one-quarter of the country's population, in the near future. The new project foresees the transfer of residents from areas at high risk of earthquake damage to these cities.

"Just as how Kanal Istanbul [the new waterway project] became a world project, today's projects will also be so. We are going to start building two new cities in Istanbul [province]. One of these cities will be along the Black Sea coast on the European side and the other on the Anatolian side. We will not increase Istanbul's population with these two cities. We will build these cities with urban transformation and quake preparation in mind. We are now set to take steps to realize these," he said.

He underscored that the people who currently reside in high-risk areas will not be forced to move, but given the option to do so. Erdogan said the Black Sea coast is where the risk of an earthquake is lowest in Istanbul and 2 million people are expected to call the two cities home. Construction of these cities will begin one year after the general elections this June, and will be built along the highway that will cross over the third bridge to be built over the Bosporus.

"These two cities will not harm Istanbul's spirit or its environment," Erdogan assured, saying that they will be built in a way that will comply with the city's "spirit." Erdogan said the new city to be built on the European side will be close to the canal, but not right on its banks, which will have large parks, shopping centers, and meeting halls.

In March 2010, the Turkish chamber of civil engineers presented a report to the parliament, warning that up to 150,000 people could be killed, 200,000 injured, and 300,000 buildings destroyed, leaving 400,000 people homeless, in an earthquake which is expected to hit the city of Istanbul within the next 30 years. The report revealed that over half of construction projects approved by engineers of inspection companies are not earthquake-proof, and that 86% of the hospitals are susceptible to collapse. Many buildings certified as earthquake-proof are not, in fact, because of the poor quality of the inspections.

In 1999, a powerful earthquake struck the Istanbul region, killing 20,000 people. According to seismologists, the region is overdue for an even more powerful quake that could strike the middle the city.

Violence and Protests in Arabia Take on a New Life

May 9 (EIRNS)—Attempts by the Arabian rulers to suppress protests and demonstrations against genuine grievances of the people seem to have met with a fresh round of resistance. Confrontation between the protesters and the rulers have been reported from Morocco, Yemen, Oman, and Syria.

In the North African Maghreb nation of Morocco, thousands took to streets in Marrakesh today calling for reform and demanding that the ruling monarchy change its policies. AFP quotes the protesters: "The king must not be at the center of power; there must be a separation of power." Marrakesh experienced such protests two days in a row.

In Yemen, where President Abdullah Saleh has fended off protesters for months using violence and engaging in negotiations, and then breaking them off, security forces opened fire on protesters in Taiz today, killing at least six and injuring hundreds, according to a medical official in the southwestern city. Similar clashes occurred in al-Hodiedah, a city on the Red Sea, and in Dhammar, said witnesses and medical officials in those cities. Saleh's Presidency had long been on life support provided by Saudi Arabia, with benign backing of the Obama Administration.

In Muscat, Oman, where the ruler had successfully withstood the first wave of protests months ago, protests suddenly erupted again over the May 7-8 weekend in eastern Oman when a demonstration turned violent. Protesters, demanding jobs, vandalized government buildings. The state-run Oman News Agency said today that demonstrators participated in a riot and "acts of sabotage" on state buildings yesterday in the town of Jaalan Bani Bu Ali, which is about 125 miles east of the capital, Muscat.

In Bahrain, where the besieged ruling House of Al-Khalifa has brought in thousands of Saudi troops and dozens of tanks, along with security personnel from Pakistan, to silence the demonstrators, the military prosecutor accused 21 political activists of seeking to overthrow the ruling monarchy with the help of a "foreign terrorist group"—an apparent reference to Hezbollah—in a widening crackdown on a pro-reform uprising by the island nation's Shi'ite majority.

In Syria, the government troops backed by tanks have entered residential areas in the country's third-largest city, Homs, and in Tafas, a town in the south, activists say. The forces reportedly entered the Bab Sabaa and Bab Amr neighborhoods in Homs in the early hours yesterday amid the sound of gunfire. The army intensified its presence across the Hauran region, having partly pulled out of Deraa this week and redeployed in nearby rural towns, witnesses said.

Protesters have been prevented from entering Deraa, which remains surrounded by tanks, even after troops withdrew from the city following an 10-day siege. Activists say dozens of people were killed during days of "indiscriminate" shelling of the city.

Egypt Deploys People's Diplomacy

May 10 (EIRNS)—The Egyptian Revolution is being put on the road to solve crucial problems facing Egypt and the region. The Egyptian Peoples Diplomatic Delegation, comprising 48 representatives of the 25 January Revolution, has already deployed to Ethiopia and Uganda, in an effort to help resolve tensions involving the use of the waters of the Nile River Basin. The Delegation will also visit the troubled Nuba region along the Egyptian-Sudanese border to help resolve the decades-long plight of the people living there.

Perhaps most significantly, the delegation intends to go to the United Sates and France in an effort to get Egypt's debts written off, although no date has been set. The delegation consists of representatives of the youth groups who launched the revolution, three Presidential candidates, representatives from various political parties and movements, previous members of the parliament, journalists, and public figures.

The deployment of this powerful delegation is clearly aimed at tackling the country's economic problems, especially foreign debts and food production, the latter directly related to solving the regional conflicts over the development of the waters of the Nile Basin. Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf made a groundbreaking visit to Sudan earlier this year, where discussions were held on prioritizing development of the Nile waters, and especially to reactivate the Jonglei Canal project in order to dramatically expand food production.

The delegation's deployment is part of an effort to resolve conflicts that have arisen over the renegotiation of the 1929 agreement between Egypt and Great Britain on behalf of the British Empire's African colonies, an agreement which gave Egypt the right to most of the water of the Nile, and gave it the right to veto any new projects. Negotiations along the riparian waterway under the Mubarak government broke down, resulting in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and Burundi signing their own agreements and delivering an ultimatum to the others to sign within a year, or they would implement the agreement unilaterally. Egypt and Sudan have refused to sign the agreement.

The Delegation's well-received visit to Ethiopia secured Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's promise not to sign the above agreement until the new Egyptian government comes into power. He also agreed to convening a committee comprising Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt which would review Ethiopia's proposed Millennium Dam project, to assess whether it would affect downstream water flows. The delegation also met with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegam, members of the parliament, government officials, university professors, and religious leaders.

The same group made a visit to Uganda, where they met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and other officials.

Making the Sahara Bloom: The Blue Revolution

See InDepth for coverage of the "Blue Revolution," and an interview with Sudan's Irrigation Minister Kamal Ali Mohammed, in Development.

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