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Showing posts from September, 2018

Fragility of Middle East alliances becomes ever more apparent

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, Stitcher, TuneIn and Tumblr.
Three recent developments lay bare the fragility of Middle Eastern alliances and a rebalancing of their priorities: the Russian-Turkish compromise on an assault on the rebel-held Syrian region of Idlib, the fate of troubled Abu Dhabi airline Ettihad, and battles over reconstruction of Syria.
These developments highlight the fact that competition among Middle Eastern rivals and ultimate power within the region’s various alliances is increasingly as much economic and commercial as it is military and geopolitical. Battles are fought as much on geopolitical fronts as they are on economic and cultural battlefields such as soccer.
As a result, the fault lines of various alliances across the greater Middle East, a region that stretches from North Africa to north-western China, are coming to the fore.
The cracks may be most apparent in the Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance but lurk in the …

China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom

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JAMES M. DORSEY China and the Middle East Venturing into the Maelstrom PALGRAVE MACMILLAN 2018
September 27, 2018  By Ed Pulford



For all that China’s twenty-first-century ‘rise’ is a much-discussed notion both within the country and globally, it is an increasingly difficult concept to grasp or keep pace with. As a result, books which dissect and analyse developments from a regional perspective are of great value, particularly when they focus on widely-overlooked regions as James M. Dorsey‘s China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) does. Exploring China’s growing and increasingly complex political, economic and security entanglements in the ‘Greater Middle East’ (a region whose extent and diversity is discussed in this podcast), Dorsey argues that this “key global crossroads” (p. 1) is already becoming an arena where Beijing is being forced to reappraise its international strategy and abandon long-cherished principles including ‘non-interference’. In …

Global watchdog takes Saudi Arabia to task for lax anti-terrorism finance measures

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this story is available at https://soundcloud.com/user-153425019/global-watchdog-takes-saudi-arabia-to-task-for-lax-anti-terrorism-finance-measures
A Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report criticizing Saudi Arabia’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance measures puts the kingdom on the spot 17 years after the 9/11 attacks and casts a shadow over its diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar on the grounds that the Gulf state supports militants.
In a nod to the kingdom, the international watchdog described as “understandable” the fact the kingdom’s “almost exclusive focus of authorities on domestic (terrorist financing) offences means the authorities are not prioritizing disruption of support for threats outside the kingdom.”
The 246-page report contrasted starkly with US President Donald J. Trump’s assessment expressed in his address to the United Nations general assembly. “Following my trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Gulf countries …

Battling it out at the UN: Potholes overshadow US-Iran confrontation

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this article is available at https://soundcloud.com/user-153425019/battling-it-out-at-the-un-potholes-overshadow-us-iran-confrontation
It’s easy to dismiss Iranian denunciations of the United States and its Middle Eastern allies as part of the Islamic republic's long-standing rhetoric. The rhetoric makes it equally easy to understand American distrust.
But as President J. Trump and Hassan Rouhani, his Iranian counterpart, gear up for two days of diplomatic sabre rattling at the United Nations in advance of next month's imposition of a second round of harsh US sanctions, both men risk fuelling a conflict that could escalate out of hand.
Both are scheduled to address the UN general assembly on Tuesday and Mr. Trump is slated to chair a meeting on Wednesday of the Security Council expected to focus on Iran.
Adding to the likely drama at the UN, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister M…

Attack in Iran raises spectre of a potentially far larger conflagration

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this article is available at https://soundcloud.com/user-153425019/attack-in-iran-raises-spectre-of-a-potentially-far-larger-conflagration
An attack on a military parade in the southern Iranian city of Ahwaz is likely to prompt Iranian retaliation against opposition groups at home and abroad. It also deepens Iranian fears that the United States. Saudi Arabia and others may seek to destabilize the country by instigating unrest among its ethnic minorities.
With competing claims of responsibility by the Islamic State and the Ahvaz National Resistance for the attack that killed 29 people and wounded 70 others in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, which borders on Iraq and is home to Iran’s ethnic Arab community, it is hard to determine with certainty the affiliation of the four perpetrators, all of whom were killed in the incident.
Statements by Iranian officials, however, accusing the United States and its allies, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emir…

Middle Eastern Black Swans dot China’s Belt and Road

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By James M. Dorsey
Edited remarks at the RSIS Book Launch of China and the Middle East; Venturing into the Maelstrom (Palgrave 2018), 20 September 2018
A podcast version of this story is available at https://soundcloud.com/user-153425019/middle-eastern-black-swans-dot-chinas-belt-and-road
If any one part of the world has forced China to throw its long-standing foreign and defense policy principles out the window and increasingly adopt attitudes associated with a global power, it is the greater Middle East, a region that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa to north-western China, a swath of land populated by the Arab, Turkic and Persian worlds.
It was a series of incidents in 2011 during the popular Arab revolts that drove home the fact that China would not be able to protect with its existing foreign and defence policy kit its mushrooming Diaspora and exponentially expanding foreign investments that within a matter of a few years would be grouped as the infrastructure and conne…

The Two-Trillion Bubble: What Aramco IPO reveals about MBS’s 2030 Vision

The Two-Trillion Bubble: What Aramco IPO reveals about MBS’s 2030 Vision
The disconnect between Saudi imperatives and the expectations of Western governments and financial markets who repeatedly focussed on unmet Saudi time indications of the Aramco IPO rather than broader policy statements fit a pattern of misperceptions.
Dr. James M. Dorsey Tuesday, 18 September 2018 08:26 GMT

A Saudi decision to indefinitely delay an initial public offering (IPO) of five percent of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company or Aramco, the Saudi state-owned oil company, has further dented investor confidence and fuelled debate about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ability to push economic reform. It has even prompted speculation that his assertive policies, including the Kingdom’s ill-fated military intervention in Yemen, harsh response to Canadian human rights criticism and failed Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar, could dampen his prospects of eventually ascending the thron…

JMD on NBN: Saudi Inc. by Ellen R. Wald

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ELLEN R. WALD Saudi Inc. The Arabian Kingdom’s Pursuit of Power and Profit PEGASUS BOOKS 2018 September 17, 2018 James M. Dorsey


Ellen R. Wald’s timely, well-written history of the Saudi national oil company, Saudi Inc. The Arabian Kingdom’s Pursuit of Power and Profit (Pegasus Books, 2018), is as much the story of the Saudi oil industry as it is of the ruling Al Saud family’s reliance on black gold to ensure the survival of its regime. In painting a picture of the Al Saud’s long-term strategy to build up over decades the know-how and expertise needed to run an oil industry and their determination to ultimately after almost half a century take over ownership in a legal, orderly, commercial transaction, Wald contrasts the kingdom’s approach in colourful and painstaking detail with nationalisations as they occurred in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. It is also the story of a US government that increasingly saw Saudi oil as crucial to its post-World War Two global military operations a…