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Showing posts from June, 2019

FATF Ultimata to Iran and Pakistan threaten to cloud China’s FATF presidency

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, and Patreon, Podbean and Castbox.
China’s chairmanship of an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog could put to the test the cohesiveness of global efforts to counter political violence with Iran and Pakistan hoping that they will be able to avoid blacklisting with China at the helm.
China takes over the chairmanship of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in July, weeks after the group’s plenary in Orlando under the outgoing presidency of the United States gave Iran and Pakistan until October to meet the group’s standards or potentially face blacklisting.
Both countries face potential sanctioning because they have failed to wholly implement measures and safeguards put forward by FATF.
Struggling to diminish the impact of harsh US sanctions, Iran is likely to be less concerned than Pakistan, that has already been gr…

The Middle East: Barrelling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, and Patreon, Podbean and Castbox.
The Middle East is barrelling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race.
The race is being aided and abetted by a US policy that views the region through the dual prism of the need to stop in its tracks an aggressive, expansionary, and destabilizing Islamic republic that seeks to dominate and as a lucrative market for the US defense and nuclear industry.
The race is further enabled by the inability or unwillingness of other major powers – Europe, Russia and China – to counter crippling US sanctions against Iran in ways that would ensure that Tehran maintains an interest in adhering to the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Iranian nuclear program despite last year’s US withdrawal from the deal.
With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a military confrontation, Iran has vowed to next month…

Public decency law puts Saudi reforms in perspective

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By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, and Patreon, Podbean and Castbox.
A newly adopted Saudi law on public decency helps define Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vague notion of ‘moderate Islam.’
It also lays bare the pitfalls of his social reforms as well as his preference for hyper-nationalism rather than religion as the legitimizing ideology of his rule and his quest for control of every aspect of Saudi life.
In an indication that Prince Mohammed is walking a fine line, Saudi media reported that the government was still weighing how to implement the law almost two months after it was adopted.
"This (law) is an effort to balance the pressure from conservative elements of society that accuse the (government) of allowing things to go 'out of control'. Effecting social change is an art form -- you want to push as fast as possible without provoking a counter reaction. N…

Caught in geopolitical crossfire: Al-Azhar struggles to balance politics and tradition

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By James M. Dorsey
When Pope Francis I visited Egypt in 2017 to stimulate inter-faith dialogue he walked into a religious and geopolitical minefield at the heart of which was Al-Azhar, one of the world’s oldest and foremost seats of Islamic learning. The pope’s visit took on added significance with Al-Azhar standing accused of promoting the kind of ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Islam that potentially creates an environment conducive to breeding extremism.
The pope’s visit came as Al-Azhar, long a preserve of Egyptian government and ultra-conservative Saudi religious influence, had become a battleground for broader regional struggles to harness Islam in support of autocracy.
At the same time, Al-Azhar was struggling to compete with institutions of Islamic learning in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan as well at prestigious Western universities.
The battleground’s lay of the land has changed in recent years with the United Arab Emirates as a new entrant, a sharper Saudi focus on the kind o…