Showing posts from August, 2018

Self-fulfilling prophecies: Chinese fear attacks by Uyghur jihadists

By James M. Dorsey A seemingly obsessive fear of Uyghur nationalist and religious sentiment has prompted Chinese leaders to contemplate military involvement in Syria and Afghanistan and risk international condemnation for its massive repression in its north-western province of Xinjiang , involving the most frontal assault on Islam as a faith in recent history. Chinese fears of Uyghur activism threaten to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its policies are likely to prompt jihadists, including Uyghur foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, some of whom are exploring new pastures in Central Asia closer to China’s borders, to put the People’s Republic further up their target list. Up to 5,000 Uyghurs are believed to have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq in recent years, including the Islamic State, whose leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, listed Xinjiang in 2014 at the top of his list of countries that violate Muslim rights. Uyghur fighters speaking in  videos distr

Playing politics with religion: Imran Khan puts himself between a rock and a hard place

By James M. Dorsey Less than a week in office, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has made blasphemy one of his first issues, empowering militants and initiating international moves, long heralded by Saudi Arabia, that would restrict press freedom by pushing for a global ban. Mr. Khan, in his first address as prime minister to the Pakistani Senate, said he intended to raise the blasphemy issue in the United Nations and would work to achieve a common stand within the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Mr. Khan spoke after the Senate adopted a resolution condemning a plan by Geert Wilders, a militantly Islamophobic, far-right Dutch opposition leader, who heads the second largest faction in parliament, to hold a competition for cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed. Many Muslims see visual depictions of the prophet as blasphemy. The Pakistani campaign against the planned Dutch competition echoes a Muslim boycott more than a decade ago of Danish goo

Crunch time in Pakistan

By James M. Dorsey It’s crunch time in Pakistan. Resolving Pakistan’s financial crisis is likely to require newly appointed prime minister Imran Khan to not only accept an International Monetary Fund (IMF) straightjacket but tackle his and Pakistan’s convoluted relationship to militancy. With the breeding ground for militancy built into the country’s DNA and Mr. Khan owing his electoral victory in part to the spoiler role played by militants in Pakistani elections, tackling militancy is a tall order. Add to that Mr. Khan’s ultra-conservative social attitudes as well as his abetting of militant concerns. Mr. Khan, who was once dubbed Taliban Khan because of his support of the Afghan Taliban , advocacy for the opening in Pakistan of an official Taliban Pakistan office , allowing government funds to go to militant madrassas , and enabling Islamists to dictate the content of public school textbooks , is nonetheless likely to find that he has no choice. To secure IMF

Regional players manoeuvre to reengineer the Israeli Palestinian landscape

By James M. Dorsey A possible ceasefire between Israel and Hamas , the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, is proving to be much more than an effort to end escalating violence that threatens to spark yet another Middle Eastern war. United Arab Emirates-backed Egyptian and United Nations efforts to mediate an agreement, with the two countries’ nemesis, Qatar, in the background, are about not only preventing months-long weekly protests along the line that divides Gaza and Israel and repeated rocket and kite-mounted incendiary device attacks on Israel that provoke Israeli military strikes in response from spinning out of control. They constitute yet another round in an Israeli-supported effort to politically, economically and militarily weaken Hamas and pave the road for a possible return to Palestine of Abu Dhabi-based former Palestinian security chief Mohmmed Dahlan as a future successor to ailing Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Ironicall

Transition in the Middle East: Transition to What?

James M. Dorsey National Security, Vol 1:1 August 2018, p. 84-108 The Middle East and North Africa are embroiled in multiple transitions, involving social, economic and political change at home, and struggles for power across the region dominated by the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The often volatile and violent transitions amount to battles for survival of autocratic regimes and confrontations between either counterrevolutionary or autocratic forces, who oppose political change and see limited and controlled reform as a survival strategy, and forces seeking fundamental change of economic and political systems. The battles are overlaid by great power competition in a world in which the balance between the United States, China and Russia is in flux and regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel are flexing their muscles. While the name of the game is beyond doubt transition, the question remains: transition to what? Read further: https://www.vif

Turkey’s financial crisis raises questions about China’s debt-driven development model

Credit:  Daily Reckoning Australia By James M. Dorsey Financial injections by Qatar and possibly China may resolve Turkey’s immediate economic crisis, aggravated by a politics-driven trade war with the United States, but are unlikely to resolve the country’s structural problems, fuelled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s counterintuitive interest rate theories . The latest crisis in Turkey’s boom-bust economy raises questions about a development model in which countries like China and Turkey witness moves towards populist rule of one man who encourages massive borrowing to drive economic growth. It’s a model minus the one-man rule that could be repeated in Pakistan as newly sworn-in prime minister Imran Khan, confronted with a financial crisis, decides whether to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or rely on China and Saudi Arabia for relief. Pakistan, like Turkey, has over the years frequently knocked on the IMF’s doors, failing to have turned

Pakistan at a crossroads as Imran Khan is sworn in

By James M. Dorsey Criticism of Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) is likely to complicate incoming Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan’s efforts to tackle his country’s financial crisis. Addressing the criticism of the 41-nation APG, which reports to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog that earlier this year put Pakistan on a grey list with the prospect of blacklisting it is key to a possible Pakistani request for a US$ 12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. A US demand that any IMF package exclude funding for paying off Chinese loans coupled with the APG/FATF criticism, against a backdrop of the Pakistani military’s efforts to nudge militants into the mainstream of Pakistani politics and the incoming prime minister’s mixed statements on extremism, could push Mr. Khan to turn to China and Saudi Arabia

Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling

By James M. Dorsey Iran has raised the spectre of a US-Saudi effort to destabilize the country by exploiting economic grievances against the backdrop of circumstantial evidence that Washington and Riyadh are playing with scenarios for stirring unrest among the Islamic republic’s ethnic minorities . Iran witnessed this weekend minority Azeri and Iranian Arab protests in soccer stadiums while the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps reported clashes with Iraq-based Iranian Kurdish insurgents . State-run television warned in a primetime broadcast that foreign agents could turn legitimate protests stemming from domestic anger at the government’s mismanagement of the economy and corruption into “incendiary calls for regime change” by inciting violence that would provoke a crackdown by security forces and give the United States fodder to tackle Iran. “The ordinary protesting worker would be hapless in the face of such schemes, uncertain how to stop his protest from s