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Showing posts from March, 2018

Anticipated harder US policy towards Iran magnifies Iranian Arab protest

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By James M. Dorsey
Protests have erupted in Iran’s oil-rich province of Khuzestan barely three months after the Islamic republic was rocked by mass anti-government demonstrations.
Sparked by anger at the depiction of the province’s community of Arab descent on an Iranian New Year show about the country’s diversity that was broadcast on state-run Iranian television, protesters demanded an apology by the broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
The show featured dolls wearing traditional costumes to illustrate diverse Iran’s ethnic make-up. The dolls representing Iranian or Ahwaz Arabs were clad as Lurs, an ethnic group Iranians of Arab descent charge are encouraged to migrate to Khuzestan in a bid to change the province’s demography.
Ahwaz or Ahvaz is the way Khuzestan’s Arab population identifies itself and is the name of the capital of the south-eastern province that borders on Iraq and sits at the head of the Gulf.
"These programs and other racist practices a…

Egyptian ultras: Down but not out

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Photo by Karim Abdel Aziz/Egypt Today
By James M. Dorsey
Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi won a second term virtually unchallenged in what is widely seen as a flawed election. The run-up to the poll, including a soccer protest, suggests, however, that it will take more than a democratic whitewash to get a grip on simmering discontent.
The protest in early March signalled that militant soccer fans who played a key role in the 2011 toppling of President Hosni Mubarak may be down but not out.
To be sure, the differences between 2011 and 2018 could not be starker. Mr. Al-Sisi presides over the worst repression in recent Egyptian history that has targeted even the slightest form of dissent, making Mr. Mubarak’s rule look relatively benign.
Potential challengers in the recent election were either jailed or persuaded, sometimes in a heavy-handed manner, to withdraw their candidacy.
They included serving and former military officers as well as Mortada Mansour, a contro…

Will the real Pakistan stand up, please?

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By James M. Dorsey
Two headlines this month beg the question US officials have been grappling with for more than a decade: Will the real Pakistan stand up, please?
Pakistan’s The News reported that the government had designated Islamabad as a pilot project to regulate Friday prayer sermons in the city’s 1,003 mosques, of which only 86 are state-controlled, in a bid to curb hate speech, extremism and demonization of religions and communities.
The project is modelled on procedures in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt that are primarily intended to exert political control. The Islamabad project is in part designed to counter mounting criticism by the Trump administration, which has suspended funding to Pakistan, as well as growing unease in China over what Pakistani militancy could mean for its massive investment in the country.
It is also intended to support Pakistani efforts to evade blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a 37-member inter-governmenta…

Natural gas: An underrated driver of Saudi hostility towards Iran and Qatar

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By James M. Dorsey
Debilitating hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran is about lots of things, not least who will have the upper hand in a swath of land stretching from Central Asia to the Atlantic coast of Africa. While attention is focused on ensuring that continued containment of Iran ensures that Saudi Arabia has a leg up, geopolitics is but one side of the equation. Natural gas is the other.
With signatories to the Paris climate accord moving towards bans on petrol and diesel-driven vehicles within a matter of decades and renewable energy technology advancing in strides, natural gas takes on added significance.
These global energy trends are hastening in an era in which oil will significantly diminish in importance and natural gas, according to energy scholar Sergei Paltsev, will fill gaps in the provision of renewable energy that await technological advances.
Saudia Arabia’s problem is that Iran and Qatar have the gas reserves it does not. That is one reason why renewables …

Make Wine Not War: Wineism’s recipe for a sustainable political future

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Source: CNN
By James M. Dorsey
When Miguel Torres, scion of an iconic Spanish winemaking dynasty, described the impact of the Catalan quest for independence on his more than a century-old business in a letter to wine writer Andrew Jefford, little did he realize that he had put his finger on one of the current world’s most fundamental battles: nationalism and populism vs. inclusive multi-culturalism. It is a struggle that is tearing countries apart and rewriting the international order.
Mr. Torres worried that in the unlikely case of secessionists succeeding in taking Catalonia out of Spain, his business would grapple with the same problem UK-based companies are struggling to come to grips with as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. The winemaker’s letter made Mr. Jefford realize that the culture of wine embraced the very principles that were being challenged by US President Donald J. Trump’s America First principle and his opposition to multi-trade agreements, Britain’s Brexit,…

Saudi Prince Mohammed’s religious moderation unlikely to change Asian realities

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By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be seeking to revert his kingdom to an unspecified form of moderate Islam but erasing the impact of 40 years of global funding of ultra-conservative, intolerant strands of the faith is unlikely to be eradicated by decree.
Not only because ultra-conservatism has taken root in numerous Muslim countries and communities, but also because it has given opportunistic politicians a framework to pursue policies that appeal to bigoted and biased sentiments in bids to strengthen their grip on power. Nowhere is that more evident than in Asia, home to several of the Islamic world’s most populous countries.
Examples of the fallout abound among recipients of Saudi largess. They include institutionalized discrimination In Pakistan against Ahmadis, a sect considered heretic by orthodox Muslims, as well as biased policies towards non-Muslims and Shiites in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Basic freedoms in Bangladesh are being officially a…

Saudi moderation: How far will Crown Prince Mohammed go?

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No women at the table By James M. Dorsey
In his effort to improve Saudi Arabia’s badly tarnished image and project the kingdom as embracing an unidentified form of moderate Islam, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has hinted that he envisions a conservative rather than an ultra-conservative society, but not one in which citizens are fully free to make personal, let alone political choices of their own.
Prince Mohammed’s vision, although not spelled out in great detail, seemed evident in an interview with CBS News’ 60 minutes, his first with a Western television program, on the eve of a three-week trip that is taking him across the United States.
The trip is designed to cement relations with the Trump administration following the dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Prince Mohammed and his United Arab Emirates counterpart, Mohammed bin Zayed, viewed as unenthusiastic about their hegemonic designs for a swath of land stretching across the Middle East from the Horn of Afr…