Tag Archives: kingdom

CHINA’S STRATEGIC SHIFT TOWARD THE REGION OF THE FOUR SEAS: THE MIDDLE KINGDOM ARRIVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

 

BY

Since the Arab Spring, China has been quietly asserting its influence and fortifying its foothold in the Middle East, while the United States pivots to the Asia Pacific after a decade of war.  It is aligning with states that have problematic relations with the West and are also geo-strategically placed on the littoral of the “Four Seas”–the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf. Paradoxically, the U.S. eastward pivot is matched by the resurgent Middle Kingdom’s westward pivot across its new Silk Road, and threatens to outflank the citadel of American geo-strategies in the region.

INTRODUCTION: CHINA’S STRATEGIC INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Energy Security

China’s interest in the Middle East is first and foremost energy-driven.[1] In 1993, when it became a net oil importer for the first time, Beijing embarked on a “go out” (zhouchuqu) policy to procure energy assets abroad to feed its growing economy.  The legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rests on continued economic growth and delivering a rising standard of living for the Chinese population.  As a corollary, China is also concerned about security of energy supply lines and Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCS).  Because the United States is considered its main opponent in the international system, China is wary of U.S. naval dominance and the risk of choking China’s energy supply through the Malacca Straits should hostilities break out over Taiwan.  This is referred to as the “Malacca Dilemma,” where 80 percent of China’s oil imports traverse this chokepoint that is vulnerable to piracy and U.S. blockade.  Indeed, given increasing tension in the three flash points of the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Straits, this concern is even more pressing for the Chinese leadership.

Market Access

The Middle East is also a strategic logistics and trade hub for China’s exports and market access in Europe and Africa. China understands the importance of having strong economic foundations for military power and sees that continued market access for their exports to fuel China’s economy would build up their war chest to further underwrite military modernization.[2]  The EU is currently China’s largest trading partner ahead of the United States.[3] Moreover, China also has vast interests on the African continent–both via infrastructure projects and long-term energy supply contracts.  More than 1 million Chinese are in Africa (up from about 100,000 in the early 2000s), with trade at $120 billion in 2011.[4] In 2009, China overtook the United States to become Africa’s number one trading partner.[5]  As such, the Middle East is a strategic region that connects Europe, Africa, and Asia markets.

Thus, given the Middle East’s location as a trade hub linking the three continents, a vital region for market access, and site of vast energy reserves to fuel China’s continued economic growth, the CCP deems the Middle East as a high priority on its foreign policy agenda. As the United States “pivots” towards Asia, China will naturally seek strategic depth in areas that were once dominated by the United States and its Western allies.  This is even more so in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Continue reading CHINA’S STRATEGIC SHIFT TOWARD THE REGION OF THE FOUR SEAS: THE MIDDLE KINGDOM ARRIVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The Alafis in Sindh

By Salman Rashid

he Alafi tribe of western Hejaz were among the earlier converts to Islam. Since before 680 CE, a large body of them frequently travelled back and forth between their country and Makran. Now, Makran at that time seems to have been very much like modern day Fata. Though part of the kingdom of Sindh under Raja Chach, it appears to have been only loosely held with a substantial foreign element running wild in the country.

In 684, when Abdul Malik bin Marwan took over as caliph, his deputy in Iraq, Hujaj bin Yusuf, appointed one Saeed of the family Kilabi to Makran. The man was entrusted with collecting money from this country as well as neighbouring regions wherever he could exercise pressure.

Somewhere in Kirman on his way east, Saeed met with one Safahwi Hamami. The Chachnama is not explicit about this man, but gives the understanding that while he had “no army under (him)”, he was nevertheless a man of significant social standing. The man may, therefore, have been a merchant.

Continue reading The Alafis in Sindh

Imperialism didn’t end. These days it’s known as international law

By: George Monbiot

A one-sided justice sees weaker states punished as rich nations and giant corporations project their power across the world

The conviction of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, is said to have sent an unequivocal message to current leaders: that great office confers no immunity. In fact it sent two messages: if you run a small, weak nation, you may be subject to the full force of international law; if you run a powerful nation, you have nothing to fear.

While anyone with an interest in human rights should welcome the verdict, it reminds us that no one has faced legal consequences for launching the illegal war against Iraq. This fits the Nuremberg tribunal’s definition of a “crime of aggression”, which it called “the supreme international crime”. The charges on which, in an impartial system, George Bush, Tony Blair and their associates should have been investigated are far graver than those for which Taylor was found guilty.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, claims that Taylor’s conviction “demonstrates that those who have committed the most serious of crimes can and will be held to account for their actions”. But the international criminal court, though it was established 10 years ago, and though the crime of aggression has been recognised in international law since 1945, still has no jurisdiction over “the most serious of crimes”. This is because the powerful nations, for obvious reasons, are procrastinating. Nor have the United Kingdom, the United States and other western nations incorporated the crime of aggression into their own legislation. International law remains an imperial project, in which only the crimes committed by vassal states are punished. ….

Read more » guardian.co.uk

Obama Gives Gadhafi the Ultimatum

Obama Gives Gadhafi the Ultimatum: Stop Violence or Face International Military Action

U.S. President Stressed that Europe, Arab States Would Lead Military Action Against Libya, if Needed

By JAKE TAPPER, HUMA KHAN and MARTHA RADDATZ

President Obama today gave an ultimatum to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that he must immediately implement a ceasefire in all parts of Libya and allow international humanitarian assistance or risk military action against his regime.

“Moammar Gadhafi has a choice. The [U.N.] resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop,” the president said today. “Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.”

“These terms are not subject to negotiation,” he added. “If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences and the resolution will be enforced through military action.”

Obama’s speech indicated that coalition forces are giving Gadhafi time to change course, but are also gearing up for an attack if their demands are not met. …

Read more : ABC News

Israeli prime Minister Menachem Begin in a speech to the Knesset

“Our (Jews) race is the Master Race. We (Jews) are divine gods on this planet. We are as different from the inferior races as they are from insects. In fact, compared to our race, other races are beasts and animals, cattle at best. Other races are considered as human excrement. Our destiny is to rule over the inferior races. Our earthly kingdom will be ruled by our leader with a rod of iron. The masses will lick our feet and serve us as our slaves.”

– Israeli prime Minister Menachem Begin in a speech to the Knesset

[Israeli Parliament] quoted by Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the Beasts,” New Statesman, June 25, 1982.

Courtesy: Begin Center Diary

http://begincenterdiary.blogspot.com/2009/05/correcting-misquotation-reputedly-by.html

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk: The destiny of this pageant lies in the Kingdom of Oil

The Middle East earthquake of the past five weeks has been the most tumultuous, shattering, mind-numbing experience in the history of the region since the fall of the Ottoman empire. For once, “shock and awe” was the right description.

The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world. One after another, our satraps are falling, and the people we paid them to control are making their own history – our right to meddle in their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been diminished for ever.

The tectonic plates continue to shift, with tragic, brave – even blackly humorous – results. Countless are the Arab potentates who always claimed they wanted democracy in the Middle East. King Bashar of Syria is to improve public servants’ pay. King Bouteflika of Algeria has suddenly abandoned the country’s state of emergency. King Hamad of Bahrain has opened the doors of his prisons. King Bashir of Sudan will not stand for president again. King Abdullah of Jordan is studying the idea of a constitutional monarchy. And al-Qa’ida are, well, rather silent.

Who would have believed that the old man in the cave would suddenly have to step outside, dazzled, blinded by the sunlight of freedom rather than the Manichean darkness to which his eyes had become accustomed. Martyrs there were aplenty across the Muslim world – but not an Islamist banner to be seen. The young men and women bringing an end to their torment of dictators were mostly Muslims, but the human spirit was greater than the desire for death. They are Believers, yes – but they got there first, toppling Mubarak while Bin Laden’s henchmen still called for his overthrow on outdated videotapes.

But now a warning. It’s not over. We are experiencing today that warm, slightly clammy feeling before the thunder and lightning break out. Gaddafi’s final horror movie has yet to end, albeit with that terrible mix of farce and blood to which we are accustomed in the Middle East. And his impending doom is, needless to say, throwing into ever-sharper perspective the vile fawning of our own potentates. Berlusconi – who in many respects is already a ghastly mockery of Gaddafi himself – and Sarkozy, and Lord Blair of Isfahan are turning out to look even shabbier than we believed. Those faith-based eyes blessed Gaddafi the murderer. I did write at the time that Blair and Straw had forgotten the “whoops” factor, the reality that this weird light bulb was absolutely bonkers and would undoubtedly perform some other terrible act to shame our masters. And sure enough, every journalist is now going to have to add “Mr Blair’s office did not return our call” to his laptop keyboard.

Everyone is now telling Egypt to follow the “Turkish model” – this seems to involve a pleasant cocktail of democracy and carefully controlled Islam. But if this is true, Egypt’s army will keep an unwanted, undemocratic eye on its people for decades to come. As lawyer Ali Ezzatyar has pointed out, “Egypt’s military leaders have spoken of threats to the “Egyptian way of life”… in a not so subtle reference to threats from the Muslim Brotherhood. This can be seen as a page taken from the Turkish playbook.” The Turkish army turned up as kingmakers four times in modern Turkish history. And who but the Egyptian army, makers of Nasser, constructors of Sadat, got rid of the ex-army general Mubarak when the game was up?

And democracy – the real, unfettered, flawed but brilliant version which we in the West have so far lovingly (and rightly) cultivated for ourselves – is not going, in the Arab world, to rest happy with Israel’s pernicious treatment of Palestinians and its land theft in the West Bank. Now no longer the “only democracy in the Middle East”, Israel argued desperately – in company with Saudi Arabia, for heaven’s sake – that it was necessary to maintain Mubarak’s tyranny. It pressed the Muslim Brotherhood button in Washington and built up the usual Israeli lobby fear quotient to push Obama and La Clinton off the rails yet again. Faced with pro-democracy protesters in the lands of oppression, they duly went on backing the oppressors until it was too late. I love “orderly transition”. The “order” bit says it all. Only Israeli journalist Gideon Levy got it right. “We should be saying ‘Mabrouk Misr!’,” he said. Congratulations, Egypt!

Yet in Bahrain, I had a depressing experience. King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman have been bowing to their 70 per cent (80 per cent?) Shia population, opening prison doors, promising constitutional reforms. So I asked a government official in Manama if this was really possible. Why not have an elected prime minister instead of a member of the Khalifa royal family? He clucked his tongue. “Impossible,” he said. “The GCC would never permit this.” For GCC – the Gulf Co-operation Council – read Saudi Arabia. And here, I am afraid, our tale grows darker.

We pay too little attention to this autocratic band of robber princes; we think they are archaic, illiterate in modern politics, wealthy (yes, “beyond the dreams of Croesus”, etc), and we laughed when King Abdullah offered to make up any fall in bailouts from Washington to the Mubarak regime, and we laugh now when the old king promises $36bn to his citizens to keep their mouths shut. But this is no laughing matter. The Arab revolt which finally threw the Ottomans out of the Arab world started in the deserts of Arabia, its tribesmen trusting Lawrence and McMahon and the rest of our gang. And from Arabia came Wahabism, the deep and inebriating potion – white foam on the top of the black stuff – whose ghastly simplicity appealed to every would-be Islamist and suicide bomber in the Sunni Muslim world. The Saudis fostered Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida and the Taliban. Let us not even mention that they provided most of the 9/11 bombers. And the Saudis will now believe they are the only Muslims still in arms against the brightening world. I have an unhappy suspicion that the destiny of this pageant of Middle East history unfolding before us will be decided in the kingdom of oil, holy places and corruption. Watch out. ….

Read more : The Independent.co.uk

Bahrain uprising

by: Wichaar desk

MANAMA, Bahrain – Troops and tanks locked down the capital of this tiny Gulf kingdom after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault Thursday that uprooted their protest camp demanding political change. Medical officials said four people were killed.

Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Square, the military announced a ban on gatherings, saying on state TV that it had “key parts” of the capital under its control. …

Read more : Wichaar

The New Great Game: Afpak, blood, & oil in central Asia

The New Great Game

The New Great Game is a term used to describe the conceptualization of modern geopolitics in Central Eurasia as a competition between the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO countries against Russia, the People’s Republic of China and other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries for “influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus“. It is a reference to “The Great Game“, the political rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia during the 19th century.

Many authors and analysts view this new “game” as centering around regional petroleum politics. Now, instead of competing for actual control over a geographic area, “pipelines, tanker routes, petroleum consortiums, and contracts are the prizes of the new Great Game”.The term has become prevalent throughout the literature about the region, appearing in book titles, academic journals, news articles, and government reports.[3] Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid claims he coined the term in a self-described “seminal” magazine article published in 1997, however uses of the term can be found prior to the publication of his article.

In a leaked US Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks, it was reported that Prince Andrew, Duke of York, supports the concept of a New Great Game:

Addressing the Ambassador directly, Prince Andrew then turned to regional politics. He stated baldly that “the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too”) were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game. More animated than ever, he stated cockily: “And this time we aim to win!

Courtesy: wikipedia

Cash from Haj pilgrims used to finance 26/11: WikiLeaks

Indo-Asian News Service – London: Militants often use the annual Haj pilgrimage for laundering money and cash from pilgrims was used to finance the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, a confidential US embassy cable published by whistle-blower websitse WikiLeaks says. A Sky News report cites the New York Times as detailing a long list of possible methods terrorists might have been using to fund their activities. One memo claims militants often used the annual Haj pilgrimage for laundering money and cash from pilgrims was used to finance the Mumbai bombings.

Other documents have claimed the US believes donors from Saudi Arabia are “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. A memo sent by the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in December 2009 referred to the kingdom as a “cash machine” for Al Qaeda.

Other countries in the region have also come under fire.

In the leaked cables, the United Arab Emirates is described as having a “strategic gap” that terrorists could exploit, Qatar is seen as “the worst in the region” on counter-terrorism and Kuwait is labelled “a key transit point”.

Some confidential cables listed a few infrastructure facilites in the world as “critical” for US security, if attacked by terrorists.

The document details hundreds of pipelines, cables and industrial sites around the world that America deems crucial to securing its interests. Loss of those locations could “critically impact” US security. …

Read more : hindustantimes

Wikileaks reveal parties behind Jeddah’s closed doors

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia might be an ultra-strict Islamic society, but princes’ mansions in Jeddah hide a buzzing party scene replete with alcohol, drugs and sex, according to a leaked US diplomatic memo.

“Behind the facade of Wahabi conservatism in the streets, the underground nightlife for Jeddah’s elite youth is thriving and throbbing,” said the November 2009 cable, released by the WikiLeaks website.

“The full range of worldly temptations and vices are available – alcohol, drugs, sex – but strictly behind closed doors,” it said.

“This freedom to indulge carnal pursuits is possible merely because the religious police keep their distance when parties include the presence or patronage of a Saudi royal and his circle of loyal attendants.”

The cable, from the US consulate in the Red Sea city, described a Halloween party attended by 150 people mostly in their 20s and 30s, including consulate personnel.

“The scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume.”

Big Jeddah parties – also often attended by prostitutes – are a recent phenomenon, according to the consulate.

One Saudi told the consulate that wealthy locals try to throw parties at princes’ homes or with princes in attendance so that the religious police can be kept away.

It also said that the high price of smuggled alcohol – a bottle of Smirnoff vodka can cost 1,500 riyals, or 400 dollars – sometimes forces party hosts to refill original bottles with the harsh, locally bootlegged spirit sadiqi. …

Read more : DAWN