Tension in the Middle East and our OFWs
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Freeman) - January 7, 2016 - 9:00am

This may be an international issue, but it does have a lot of local concerns for the Filipino people, especially about our Overseas Foreign Workers  who are working in the Middle East. Yes, I’m referring to that recent diplomatic row between Iran and Saudi Arabia, wherein the Saudis executed the feisty Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others who were convicted of terror charges or inciting to rebellion. His execution sparked Shiite controlled Iran to go into a protest frenzy and ransacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Shades of the late 1970s!

International rules dictate that foreign embassies in a host country should be protected by the host government and therefore considered as a sovereign territory. But as we all know, the Shiites do not restrain themselves and risk turning Iran into an international pariah. If you recall, when the Shiite cleric, the Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, was released from a French prison and the Shah of Iran was overthrown, one of the consequences of that overthrow was the taking over of Iranian students of the US Embassy grounds and holding some 52 Americans as hostage in a crisis that severed US-Iran relations, which extends until today.

The execution of the fiery Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has triggered a Muslim civil war of sorts, where the great divide is the Shiites versus the Sunnis. In Saudi Arabia, it is controlled by the Sunni sect. I really don’t want to discuss the differences between the Shiites and the Sunnis… as we are not Muslims… and I really believe they are no different from Christians who have a different interpretation of the Holy Bible, except that for Muslims, they believe in going on a Jihad even against their Muslim brethren.

So why should we be concerned about this Iran-Saudi row? First of all, because of this incident, the Saudis and their allies, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Kingdom of Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from Teheran and shut down their respective embassies. This is an unprecedented move on the part of Saudi Arabia and its allies, and we can only hope that this tension would not escalate into a shooting war.

What complicates things further is that the US are allied with Saudi Arabia and Iran is allied with the Russian Republic where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has already boots on the ground in Syria, helping prop up the beleaguered Assad Regime, which continues to hold on to power, even at the expense of the destruction of his country. Great ancient cities like Aleppo are all but destroyed by the Syrian Civil War.

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Saudi Arabia of “divine wrath” which could mean anything. Thus because of these developments and the cutting of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and its allies, today’s situation for Tehran is quite critical because it could only mean further isolation of the Iranians.

While we haven’t yet seen any escalation of this tension into a shooting war, things do not augur well for our OFWs. While alert levels haven’t been raised yet, I would like to believe that the Foreign Affairs Department should already prepare for some contingencies just in case the tension escalates into a shooting war. This is something that the Foreign Affairs Department should now be doing in case we are caught in the crossfire.

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Just when we thought that finally the Department of Transportation & Communications has gotten its act together on the Metro Rail Transit’s woes, suddenly the one that won the bidding of the maintenance of the MRT, South Korea’s Busan Transport Corp., wants to be out of this deal. Mind you, they bagged this contract without the benefit of bidding, so why are they backing out now?

Since we do not know what back room deals are being hatched inside the offices of the DOTC, we can only speculate why things are getting wrong in this scandal ridden MRT. This just shows you how incompetent the people are that are behind the DOTC. They tried to get away with a public bidding for a three-year maintenance deal, yet it still bogged down and now they are back to square one, with the MRT having the same maintenance issues or woes.

If the DOTC cannot even fix or handle a maintenance problem like what they are having with the MRT… it just makes me wonder how the DOTC can finally implement the long-awaited Bus Rapid Transit which if they were diligent in looking at our infrastructure projects, the BRT would be operational and running today. But even after five years of the Aquino Regime, despite all their hoopla that the Liberal Party has done so much for Cebu, the BRT has been overtaken by the MyBus of SM. With the Aquino Regime going into the sunset, maybe we should rethink the plans for the BRT and ask ourselves… is the BRT still relevant these days?

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.




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