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Showing posts from July, 2018

Despite concerns, China sees a potential ally in Pakistan’s Imran Khan

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Credit: The Quint
By James M. Dorsey
Pakistani prime minister-in waiting Imran Khan’s ability to chart his own course as well as his relationship with the country’s powerful military is likely to be tested the moment he walks into his new office.
Pakistan’s most fundamental problems loom large and are likely to demand his immediate attention. He probably will have to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a US$ 12 billion bailout to resolve Pakistan’s financial and economic crisis.
The request could muddy Mr. Khan’s already ambiguous relationship with China. The IMF is likely to reinforce Mr. Khan’s call for greater transparency regarding the terms and funding of projects related to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of the People’s Republic’s Belt and Road initiative and at US$ 50 billion plus its single largest investment.
Moreover, Mr. Khan’s need for a bailout is likely to give him little choice but to crackdown on militant groups that have enjoy…

Lack of global leadership spurs instability in the Middle East

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Credit: DollarCollapse.com
By James M. Dorsey
With multiple Middle Eastern disputes threatening to spill out of control, United Arab Emirates minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash acknowledged what many in the Middle East have long said privately: the UAE’s recently-found assertiveness and determination to punch above its weight stems from its inability to rely on traditional allies like the United States.
What is true for the UAE is equally true for Saudi Arabia and Israel. It also shapes responses of those on the US’s list of bad guys, including Iran, the Palestinians, and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Perceptions of US unreliability were initially sparked by former US president Obama Barak’s Middle East policies, including his declared pivot to Asia, support of the 2011 Arab popular revolts, criticism of Israel, and willingness to engage with Iran.
President Donald J. Trump has proven to be more partisan than Mr. Obama in his backing of the UAE, Saudi Arabia…

Saudi oil shipment halt: A potential watershed in the Yemen war

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By James M. Dorsey
A spike in oil prices as a result of a temporary halt in shipments through the strategic Bab el Mandeb strait may be short-lived, but the impact on Yemen’s three-year-old forgotten war is likely to put the devastating conflict on the front burner.
The halt following a Saudi assertion that Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen had attacked two Saudi oil tankers traversing the waterway drives home the threat the conflict poses to a chokepoint in international trade and the flow of Gulf oil to world markets. The Houthis said they had attacked a Saudi warship rather than oil tankers.
An estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil are shipped daily through Bab al Mandeb that connects the Red Sea with the Arabian Sea off the coast of Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea.
The halt of oil shipments could provoke an escalation of the conflict with external powers intervening in a bid to assist Saudi Arabia and the UAE in defeating the Houthis and dealing a blow to Iran’s regional presence.
B…

China’s policies spur Central Asians to cautiously chart independent course

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By James M. Dorsey
China’s brutal crackdown in its north-western province of Xinjiang and growing questions about the dark side of some of its Belt and Road investments is fuelling anti-Chinese sentiment, prompting some countries to explore ways to chart an independent course, and feeding into the narratives of rising populist leaders.
The incarceration of up to 2,5000 Kazakhs in re-education camps in Xinjiang designed to install Chinese values and loyalty to President Xi Jinping, erase nationalist and militant sentiment, and introduce ‘Chinese characteristics’ into perceptions of Islam among the region’s Uyghur population, a Muslim Turkic ethnic group, has spurred a Kazakh search to cautiously chart an independent course.
An estimated 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs live in Xinjiang, 200,000 of which obtained Kazakh citizenship after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. In contrast to Uyghurs, they were able to move freely across the Kazakh-Chinese border until 2016 when China steppe…

Securing Xinjiang: China adds security component to Belt and Road initiative

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By James M. Dorsey
China appears to be shifting gears in its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road initiative. Long projected as driven by economics and the benefit of infrastructure linkages, China appears to be increasingly adding a security component to the initiative against the backdrop of President Xi Jinping positioning of his country as a superpower rather than a developing nation.
The emergence of a security component is not only highlighted by the establishment last year of China’s first foreign military base in Djibouti, but also in its stepped-up security cooperation with Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations that border on its north-western province of Xinjiang.
China’s security focus is driven by concerns about national and religious aspirations in Xinjiang of Uyghurs, an ethnic Turkic Muslim group that has long looked westward toward Central Asia and Turkey rather than eastward towards Beijing.
China has sought to radically alter Uyghur identity by introducing a 21s…

Saudi-UK media tie-up: Targeting the non-Arabic-speaking Middle East

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By James M. Dorsey
Long satisfied to attempt to dominate pan-Arab media and battle it out with Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera television network, Saudi Arabia has now set its hegemonic sights on influencing the media landscape of the non-Arabic speaking greater Middle East.
In the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s concentration last year of control of Saudi-owned pan-Arab media in an anti-corruption power and asset grab, Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) this week announced a tie up with Britain’s Independent news website to launch services in Urdu, Turkish, Farsi and Arabic.
The announcement provided no details of the business model or whether and, if so, how the SRMG-owned, independent-branded websites would become commercially viable. That may not be an issue from the Independent’s perspective, given that the deal amounts to the British publication licensing its brand and content to a Saudi partner.
The bulk of the content of the new websites is slated to be produ…

A double-edged sword: China and Pakistan link up with fibreoptic cable

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By James M. Dorsey
This month’s inauguration of a fibreoptic cable linking Pakistan with China could prove to be a double-edged sword. Constructed by Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd, the cable is likely to enhance both Pakistan’s information communication technology infrastructure as well as the influence of Chinese authoritarianism at a moment that basic freedoms in Pakistan are on the defensive.
The $44 million, 820-kilometre underground Pak-China Fibre Optic Cable links Rawalpindi with the Chinese border at Khunjerab Pass and is backed up by a 172-kilometre aerial cable.A second phase of the project is likely to connect to the port of Gwadar in Balochistan, a key node in China’s US$ 50 billion plus infrastructure-driven investment in the South Asian state, dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The cable is expected to provide terrestrial links to Iran and Pakistan and serve as a conduit to the Middle East, Europe and Africa through hook ups with sub…

Russian Hackers: The shadowy world of US and Gulf hacks just got murkier

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Credit: Crooks and Liars
By James M. Dorsey
The covert Qatar-United Arab Emirates cyberwar that helped spark the 13-month-old Gulf crisis that pits a Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led alliance against Qatar may have just gotten murkier with the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr. Mueller’s indictment provided detail on website DCLeaks that was allegedly registered by Russian intelligence officers. The website initially distributed illicitly obtained documents associated with people connected to the Republican Party and later hacked emails from individuals affiliated with the election campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Starting in or around June 2016 and continuing through the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Conspirators used DCLeaks to release emails stolen from individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign,” the indictment reads.
The indictment focusses exclusively on hacking related to the US elect…