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Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success and raises questions about Emirati campaign against political Islam

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  By James M. Dorsey This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the United Arab Emirates highlights the successes and pitfalls of a high-stakes Emirati effort to influence US policy. The indictment of businessman Thomas   J. Barrack, who maintained close ties to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed while serving as an influential advisor in 2016 to then-presidential candidate Trump and chair of Mr. Trump’s inauguration committee once he won the 2016 election, puts at risk the UAE’s relationship with the Biden administration. It also threatens to reduce the UAE’s return on a massive investment in lobbying and public relations that made it a darling in Washington during the last four years. A 2019 study concluded that Emirati clients hired 20 US lobbying firms to do their bidding at a cost of US$20 million, including US$600

Greater Middle East may force China to project military power sooner rather than later

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  by James M. Dorsey China may have no short-term interest in contributing to guaranteeing security in parts of a swath of land stretching from Central Asia to the East coast of Africa, but that does not prevent the People’s Republic from preparing for a time when it may wish to build on long-standing political and military relationships in various parts of the world to project power and maintain an economic advantage. Determined to exploit the principle of allegedly win-win relationships that are underwritten by economics, trade, and investment as the solution to problems, China has so far delayed if not avoided bilateral or unilateral political and military engagement in conflicts beyond its borders. The question is how long it can continue to do so. China took a first baby step towards greater power projection with the creation in 2017 of its first overseas military base in the East African state of Djibouti, a rent-a-base nation that hosts multiple military facilities for

Muslim-Evangelical alliance strives to create religious and political middle ground

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  By James M. Dorsey A recent unprecedented alliance between Muslims and Evangelicals takes on added significance in a world in which human rights are on the defensive, religious groups tend to forge political as well as ideational partnerships, and the role of the clergy in multiple Muslim-majority countries has come under scrutiny. The alliance potentially could create a platform for voices in the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East, in which significant segments of the youth who constitute a majority of the population, increasingly reject state-controlled, ritualistic forms of religion and distrust clerics subservient to the government. It could also offer a middle ground on which elements of the secular centre-right and centre-left could meet based on shared faith-based values in deeply polarised parts of the world, particularly in the West. International affairs and inter-faith scholar Michael Driessen suggested in an email to this writer that the recently forged a

Defining moderate Islam: Muslims and Evangelicals forge an alliance

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  By James M. Dorsey A major Muslim and Evangelical organization joined forces this week to significantly advance hitherto state-backed ceremonial inter-faith dialogues that seldom go beyond platitudes and lofty statements. This week’s launch at a Washington DC mosque of an inter-faith alliance and a book published by the Institute for Humanitarian Islam and the Germany-based World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) as well as the Center for Shared Civilizational Values constitutes an Evangelical endorsement of Humanitarian Islam. It also amounts to a rare Muslim celebration of an Evangelical authority, WEA secretary general Archbishop Thomas Schirrmacher, who played a key role in building a relationship between the Evangelical group and Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, one, if not the world’s largest Muslim movement. “Dr. Schirrmacher’s decision to engage with the Humanitarian Islam movement may prove to be singularly consequential, and perhaps even historic, in its ramifications for the

Personality and ambition potentially fuel divide among Gulf states

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  by James M. Dorsey Personality as well as the conflation of genuine national interest with personal ambition contribute to the widening gap between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It was only a matter of time before Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would want to come out on his own and no longer be seen as the protégé of his erstwhile mentor and Emirati counterpart, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed. By the same token, there was little doubt that the Saudi prince and probable next monarch would want to put to rest any suggestion that it was the UAE rather than the kingdom that called the shots in the Gulf as well as the wider Middle East. No doubt, Prince Mohammed will not have forgotten revelations about Emirati attitudes towards Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s strategic vision of the relationship between the two countries that was spelt out in emails by Yusuf al-Otaiba , the UAE ambassador in Washington and a close associate of his country’s strongman, that were le

Pakistani PM Khan’s ultra-conservative inklings raise eyebrows

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  By James M. Dorsey Widely seen as a populist with ultra-conservative inklings, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan increasingly appears to reinforce widespread traditionalist attitudes that reject religious tolerance as well as the rights of women and minorities. In doing so, Mr. Khan is aligning Pakistan in religious and social terms closer to Turkey than his country’s traditional allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has bolstered religious education at home as well as in Turkish schools abroad and recently withdrew from an international women’s rights convention . Mr. Khan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, reportedly was scheduled to meet this week in Islamabad with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir amid concern about regional security as US forces withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban rapidly gain ground. Saudi Arabia, once a bulwark of religious ultra-conservatism, has, like the Un