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    "Israel: Have we lost that loving feeling, and can we get it back?"
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A secret army in UAE

A major challenge to putting down an internal uprising is that soldiers are often disinclined to kill their countrymen.  The United Arab Emirates’ solution, according to this New York Times article, is to pay Blackwater Worldwide to build a secret army of foreigners.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion

The contract to build the private army is supposedly more than $500 million, a large sum but not approaching the amount the United States has paid to Blackwater in defense contracts.  The interesting twist that the article brings up is Iran:

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The article ends with a discussion of the personnel problems facing the force.  Recruitment has been difficult, and soldiers are consistently dismissed for drug use or other disciplinary problems.

Foreign Troops Head For Bahrain

The beseiged Bahrani monarchy has requested help from neighboring countries in the wake of fierce clashes between the police and the anti-regime opposition which occurred yesterday. Troop from Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and the UAE have arrived in Bahrain to protect key pieces of infrastructure such as oil and gas facilities and financial institutions. Their arrival has already upset the opposition, leading it to consider the troops’ presence tantamount to an “occupation.” There is speculation that the predominantly Shia opposition will react violently to the arrival of troops from Sunni-led countries, such as Saudi Arabia, inflaming an already charged atmosphere.

Robert Gates in the United Arab Emirates

The New York Times reports that United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with his United Arab Emirates’ counterpart to discuss growing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.  The expectation is that the United States could supply the UAE with American missile systems.  As the article notes:

In the past two years the United States has reached agreements with the emirates as well as Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain to deploy in each country two American-made Patriot missile batteries, which are capable of shooting down short-range offensive missiles.

Women earn degrees, not jobs in Gulf

This New York Times article discusses an interesting issue in the Middle East, taking up the case of the Gulf specifically.  Women are achieving well in education, but it is not leading to their increased participation in the work force, especially in the private sector.  An excerpt-

Similar figures hold true across the Gulf region. In Saudi Arabia, 93 percent of women hold a secondary school certificate or university degree, compared with 60 percent of employed men, according to a study by Al Masah Capital. Yet, though the government gives encouragement and remains the largest employer for women, women make up less than 15 percent of the kingdom’s work force, according to a report this year by the consulting firm Booz & Co. Moreover, according to that report, the unemployment rate for Saudi women in the work force was 26.9 percent in 2008, nearly four times higher than the rate for Saudi men.

Powerful art

A contest is currently taking place to design renewable energy sources that double as art installations.  The story is in this New York Times article.  It reports that

The first-place winner, to be announced in January at the 2011 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, will receive an award of $15,000, sponsored by Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government-backed renewable energy company.

Mr. Ferry and Mrs. Monoian say they hope that the U.A.E.’s first energy-producing artwork will be built in the next three or so years. They are in discussions with investors but are not limiting those talks to the jury’s selections. “We’re showing potential stakeholders everything, focusing on the projects that are the most pragmatic and buildable,” Mr. Ferry said.

Diversity in the United Arab Emirates

Do any citizens actually live in the UAE?  Not really, most estimates suggest that no more than 25% of the people there are citizens.  The rest are there to work, as this CNN video explains.  Its a short clip, but an interesting peak into what is going on in these small rentier states.