Voices from the Arab press: Nikki Haley and America’s demographic crisis

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL candidate and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley speaks after announcing her 2024 presidential campaign, in Urbandale, Iowa, last week.  (photo credit: SCOTT MORGAN/REUTERS)
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL candidate and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley speaks after announcing her 2024 presidential campaign, in Urbandale, Iowa, last week.
(photo credit: SCOTT MORGAN/REUTERS)

Nikki Haley and America’s demographic crisis

Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, February 18

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Preparations for the 2024 US presidential election campaign are in full swing, showing that it will be a fierce fight between the two major parties – the Republicans and the Democrats – as well as within each party. This has become particularly evident in the last two weeks, with former president Donald Trump rushing to return to the battlefield. He is hopeful that he will be granted the Republicans’ nomination, possibly out of a desire for revenge for what happened in the 2020 elections.

This has left many Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, wondering if the Republican Party will accept Trump again. Going back to 2016, it is evident that Trump was a new face to American politics, as he had never been involved in either local or national politics before. Americans knew him as a dealmaker and real estate mogul and accepted him, much to the chagrin of many traditional Republican leaders.

Trump found favor with millions of Americans who viewed him as a way out of their current situation, believing he was the one to save the WASP (White, Protestant Anglo-Saxons). It is no surprise that there is strong opposition among the Republican base to Trump’s candidacy; however, what is striking and potentially dangerous is that Trump is still the front-runner among Republican candidates, as shown in recent opinion polls.

Millions of Republicans still see him as the only one capable of making America strong and protecting it from the impending demographic change. Therefore, the question remains: Are there any Republicans who pose a threat to Trump’s chances of reelection to the White House?

The first candidate to threaten Trump in his upcoming battle is the young, bright-faced Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has the greatest chance of winning if he decides to run for the presidency. However, the Republican scene has and will continue to shift significantly after Nikki Haley, the ambassador chosen by Trump to serve the United States at the United Nations, announced her intent to run in the upcoming presidential elections for the Republican Party.

 SECRETARY-GENERAL of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L); Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud; and Secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Al-Hajraf attend a news conference at the Arab Gulf Summit in Riyadh, late last year.  (credit: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters) SECRETARY-GENERAL of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L); Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud; and Secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Al-Hajraf attend a news conference at the Arab Gulf Summit in Riyadh, late last year. (credit: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters)

It may be a fateful coincidence, rather than an objective one, that her birth date is January 20th – the day the elected US president enters the White House, which many may consider a good omen. Something is shifting in the Republican Party. Can Haley, an American of Asian descent born to immigrant parents from the Indian Sikh community, be the first Asian president of the United States and the first woman ever to occupy this position?

It is certain that Nikki Haley’s candidacy may directly benefit Trump, a fact many political analysts overlook. The concept of the “melting pot” is slowly declining, and WASPs today have an underlying fear that they will soon be sacrificed, particularly within the next two decades, to immigrants from diverse backgrounds who have nothing to do with the first generations of European Puritans that sought to find a new Promised Land in the United States.

Many statistics suggest that WASPs soon will make up 40% or less of the American population, increasing fears of electing a president of Asian descent, despite Haley’s clear stance against China. In his book on identity and human dignity, Francis Fukayama pauses to consider the growing rejection of “the other” as one of the most serious obstacles facing America’s future.

He warns that if this rejection remains quiet and ideological, it could turn into violent chaos. In most recent polls, Haley received only 1% of the GOP voters’ support, and it is unclear how Trump and the other WASP choir members will respond. The only clear beneficiary of Haley’s candidacy is Trump, although DeSantis remains a potential threat as well. –Emil Amin

The International Fiqh Academy: Addressing new issues

Al Okaz, Saudi Arabia, February 17

In light of the many challenges and developments facing Muslim societies, a jurisprudential body was necessary to look into the changes taking place in the world and their impact on Muslim believers. In 1981, the International Islamic Fiqh Academy was established in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in response to the Third Islamic Summit Conference held in Mecca that same year.

The academy brings together some of the best Muslim scholars from different regions of the world. They have done a good job in proposing solutions to many of the jurisprudential issues and problems faced by every Muslim. The academy was able to hold 24 sessions during which 238 legal decisions were issued based on legal and scientific considerations.

The message of the council and the importance of the 25th session being held on February 20 for three days in the city of Jeddah, demonstrate the International Islamic Fiqh Academy’s seriousness and diligence in maintaining continuity and studying various issues that cause controversy, and require in-depth research.

The International Islamic Fiqh Academy is holding its 25th session amid challenging regional and international circumstances. Its members, who represent 57 countries and organizations, and the 200 eminent academic personalities in attendance, aspire to consolidate the features of Islamic law, and its capacity to address legal issues and contemporary problems in a manner based on moderation, transparency and creativity.

This will ensure security, safety and stability for humanity, while also achieving intellectual convergence and cognitive integration between the various Islamic jurists. The session is intended to discuss emerging issues and develop solutions and prospects. It is important that we address the issues raised in accordance with legal rulings and an integrated jurisprudential vision from the best scholars and thinkers of the nation.

These issues include the ruling on praying in a language other than Arabic, the provisions and controls of social media, the dissemination of rumors and misinformation, the ruling on abortion due to rape, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the provisions of transactions, contracts and financial obligations. We must study these topics in depth in order to come up with appropriate jurisprudential rulings that are both moderate and beneficial to the people, in accordance with the purposes of Islamic law.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of His Royal Highness Prince Khalid al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for his generous sponsorship of this conference. We are also immensely grateful to the secretary general of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, His Excellency Professor Koutoub Moustapha Sano, for his tireless efforts in making this session a success and for arranging it to be held under optimum conditions.

We are fully confident in the work being done by the academy to serve the Muslim community and to confront all current challenges using the logic of reason and openness, as well as by developing Islamic jurisprudence from within, through the use of rules of deduction, in addition to setting up constructive dialogue with other Islamic religions, sects and cultures, while espousing moderation, tolerance and the values of coexistence. – Muhammad Ali Al-Husseini

Free zones and their importance for Gulf trade

Al-Ittihad, UAE, February 16

In view of the increasing significance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in international relations, particularly in the realm of trade, many economies of large countries – such as the UK, China, India, Russia, Singapore, Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea – are all striving to put in place arrangements for establishing free trade zones with GCC states.

Following Britain’s official announcement of its exit from the European Union, further statements from the other countries followed, with the most recent one being the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman expressing readiness to work with the GCC countries to ensure “mutual development.” This was preceded by statements from officials of countries such as India, Singapore and South Korea, with whom discussions are underway regarding free trade agreements.

Despite the negotiations between the GCC and other countries and blocs having been going on for many years, they have yet to reach a free trade agreement. This is due in part to the parties attempting to involve non-commercial issues in the agreements, such as those the European Union is attempting to impose, which has led to the halting of negotiations for several years.

The other reasons for the delay in implementing joint Gulf action are related to various aspects which still require solutions. The Financial Cooperation Committee and the Trade Cooperation Committee of the GCC states held a meeting at the end of last January, which revealed the divergence in technical opinions among the GCC countries, specifically around evaluating the free trade agreement with China.

The disparity between the GCC countries and other nations has led to the conclusion of bilateral negotiations to sign free trade agreements, in an effort to take advantage of available opportunities and bolster trade positions. With international trade moving at such a rapid rate, the GCC countries must keep up with a similar speed. As such, the unified customs tariff (5%) serves as an essential foundation, facilitating the conclusion of such agreements. These agreements will result in a quantum leap for joint Gulf action and the position of the GCC states in international trade relations.

Moreover, collective negotiations grant the GCC countries a stronger bargaining power, unlocking additional gains. It appears from the statement of the Financial and Commercial Cooperation Committee that the Gulf negotiating team does not possess the requisite authority to sign such agreements. This is a major setback, as agreements of a professional nature necessitate considerable expertise to preclude the possibility of obstacles.

Experience has taught us that the technical teams of foreign countries come with full authority, granting them great negotiating flexibility without the need for recurring delays. All of this necessitates a prompt response to equip the Financial and Commercial Cooperation Committee with the authority to conclude free trade agreements with willing countries. The continual deferment of such agreements will only lead to further discrepancies in the trade relations of GCC states, which, in turn, will result in the further postponement of the implementation of the Gulf Customs Union, which has already been delayed more than once since 2003.

In the case of signing bilateral agreements, it is difficult for the Gulf Customs Union to be established, due to the single point of entry for imported goods. While goods entering these countries that have free trade agreements will be exempt from customs duties, fees will be imposed on the same goods in the other Gulf countries.

This is a major challenge that must be addressed through collective negotiations with other countries to set up free trade zones. These agreements have become increasingly important, as many countries and economic blocs have signed them in order to enhance the competitiveness of their exports. If the Gulf Customs Union fails to stay abreast of this development in international trade, it will miss out on valuable opportunities for the growth of trade and business. – Mohammed Al-Asoumi

The stability of the oil market needs Russia and China

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, February 15

We cannot comprehend what is occurring in the oil market this year without discussing China and Russia, as they will largely influence the trajectory of oil prices in the coming months. Russia is one of the three most significant oil-producing countries in the world, while China is the most significant oil importer. These two countries face distinct difficulties, yet at the same time they are mutually dependent on and are mutually beneficial to each other in these extraordinary circumstances.

On one hand, China imports more Russian oil, taking advantage of the discounts offered by Moscow to new buyers in order to compensate for the embargo on its oil from European Union countries. On the other hand, China likely is importing more Russian oil to benefit from it –whether through storage or refining, and to increase its diesel exports to global markets that have been experiencing a shortage in stocks and supplies recently.

The role that China plays with Russia is very important for the stability of global markets and should not be seen as merely circumventing Western sanctions. The world needs to maintain a steady supply of oil, diesel and fuel, whether from Russia or other countries. Simultaneously, the West wishes to diminish Moscow’s financial strength in order to counter the Russian war machine.

If we look at the International Energy Agency’s report released last week, the data suggests that Russian oil exports in January reached a record high of 8.2 million barrels per day, surpassing their already high levels from December. At the same time, the agency revised its estimates of the expected reduction in Russian oil this year to 1 million barrels per day, instead of the previous expectation of 1.6 million barrels.

This decrease in Russian oil production did not have a strong impact on treasury revenues, as January oil revenues dropped by approximately one-third to reach $13 billion. Moreover, Russia is likely to experience further financial losses due to the price ceiling and embargo, as well as having to sell oil at discounted prices. So, has the West been successful? According to the data, the answer is yes; however, the stability of the market is still uncertain and will not be clear until the second half of this year. – Wael Mahdi

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb