Best columns: International
Why Qatar better watch its back
The breach in relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is dangerous for the tiny emirate, said Hamed Rahimpur. The decision this week by Saudi Arabia and four other Arab states to sever ties with Qatar occurred not long after the Emir of Qatar criticized Saudi Arabia’s hostility toward Iran— words the emir later denied ever saying. But the truth is, Saudi Arabia has been seeking a pretext to turn on Qatar. The Saudis “have always entertained the thought of unifying the Arabian Peninsula” by gobbling up the other Gulf states, and only American pressure has kept them in line. President Trump’s fawning visit to Riyadh last month, though, has left the Saudis feeling emboldened.
They got a $110 billion arms deal from Trump, and since it’s obvious that the Saudis would never “dare to attack Iran,” what are those weapons intended for? The obvious answer is to conquer Qatar, which is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. The Saudis are currently using the costly water injection method to extract oil from their “old and outdated wells,” and they would much rather use gas injection. As a bonus, “if the Saudis gain control of Qatar, their Persian Gulf marine borders will be almost equal to Iran’s.” Right now, “the Qataris are afraid,” and for good reason.
How smoking keeps us in poverty
If Indonesia is ever going to shed its “developing country” moniker, we will have to quit our national cigarette habit, said Beladenta Amalia. Nearly two-thirds of Indonesian men are regular smokers, and most of them puff on kretek, the local clove cigarettes, which deliver more nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar than regular cigarettes. While far fewer women smoke, the taboo is lifting, thanks to popular female role models like chainsmoking Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. The result of this addiction is disastrous: The World Health Organization says nearly one out of four Indonesian deaths every year result from tobaccorelated illnesses. This human cost has an economic toll. Smokers push their families into poverty, as a pack-a-day habit costs nearly 30 percent of the national median income. Multinational tobacco companies claim the industry is a key employer in Indonesia, but in fact those firms have been “cutting down the number of their laborers” as they “shift to machine-made cigarettes.” Meanwhile, their “cartel-like practices” have driven small producers and hand-rollers out of business. Worst of all, these multinationals “make money off the backs and health of many child workers, who are exposed to hazardous nicotine, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals.” Indonesia will never advance “if the young generation keeps puffing.”