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Showing posts from September, 2020

China’s Belt and Road pinpoints fundamental issues of our times

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By James M. DorseyBased on remarks at the RSIS book launch of Alan Chong and Quang Minh Pham (eds), Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Palgrave MacMillan, 2020Political scientists Alan Chong and Quang Min Pham bring with their edited volume originality as well as dimensions and perspectives to the discussion about the Belt and Road that are highly relevant but often either unrecognized or underemphasized.The book is about much more than the material aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, various chapter authors use the Belt and Road to look at perhaps the most fundamental issue of our times: how does one build a global world order and societies that are inclusive, cohesive and capable of managing interests of all stakeholders as well as political, cultural, ethnic and religious differences in ways that all are recognized without prejudice and/or discrimination?In doing so, the book introduces a moral category into policy and policy analysis. That …

Shaping Palestinian politics: The UAE has a leg up on Turkey

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By James M. DorseyThe United Arab Emirates may have the upper hand in its competition with Turkey in efforts to shape Palestinian politics. Similarly, the UAE’s recognition of the Jewish state gives it a leg up in ensuring that its voice is heard in Israel and Washington irrespective of who wins the November US election.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t miss a beat during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, insisting that he, unlike the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, would not accept a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is not endorsed by the Palestinians.Mr. Erdogan’s solemn pledge may earn him brownie points with large segments of Middle Eastern and Muslim public opinion critical of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the two Gulf states but does not strengthen his weak hand.The UAE, with whom Mr. Erdogan is at loggerheads over Libya, Syria, and the future of political Islam, may have less clout than it thinks in…

The UAE-Israel deal’s historicity is in the fine print

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By James M. Dorsey A close read of the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel suggests that the Jewish state has won far more than diplomatic recognition. It won acknowledgement of its claim to historic Jewish rights. By the same token, the UAE has received a significant boost to project itself as a leader in inter-faith dialogue.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed walked away from this month’s White House signing ceremony with more than just an agreement to establish diplomatic relations. Included in the agreement are references that are key to foundational Israeli arguments asserting the right of the Jewish people to a state on what was once predominantly Arab land rather than simple recognition of the fact that the Jewish state exists.Recognition of Jewish rights has long been a demand put forward by Mr. Netanyahu.In talks with the Palestinians as well as the building of relations with Arab states over the…

Controversial Israeli soccer club may be litmus test for UAE soft power ploy

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By James M. DorseyAn Emirati offer to invest in Israel’s most controversial soccer club could serve as a figurative litmus test of hopes that Arab recognition of the Jewish state may persuade it to be more empathetic towards Palestinian national aspirations.It was not immediately clear whether the offer was to acquire or co-invest in Beitar Jerusalem, notorious for its links to the ruling Likud party and the Israeli far-right as well as racist anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiments among an influential segment of its fan base.Israeli sources suggested that the offer was made by a businessman with close ties to the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG). ADUG, owned by UAE deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a half-brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, has a majority stake in Football City Group that controls soccer clubs on four continents, including Manchester City FC.Israeli media reports said that the offer was made to club owner Moshe H…

Will They or Won’t They? Saudi Recognition of Israel is the $64,000 QuestionSS

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By James M. DorseyWill the Saudis formalize relations with Israel or will they not? That is the 64,000-dollar question.The odds are that Saudi Arabia is not about to formalize relations with Israel. But the kingdom, its image tarnished by multiple missteps, is seeking to ensure that it is not perceived as the odd man out as smaller Gulf states establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.Bahrain’s announcement that it would follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates was as much a Bahraini move as it was a Saudi signal that it is not opposed to normalization with Israel.Largely dependent on the kingdom since Saudi troops helped squash mass anti-government protests in 2011, Bahrain, a majority Shia Muslim nation, would not have agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel without Saudi consent.The Bahraini move followed several other Saudi gestures intended to signal the kingdom’s endorsement of Arab normalization of Israel even if it was not going to lead the p…

UAE Recognition of Israel Dents Emirati Religious Soft Power

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by James M. Dorsey The United Arab Emirates’ establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel is damaging its efforts to garner religious soft power by projecting itself as a model of Islamic moderation and tolerance and a force for peace. The UAE move has sparked splits within a key group, created and nurtured by the Gulf state, to project its image as a moderate religious power.The United Arab Emirates’ bold recognition of Israel, earning it valuable brownie points in the West, has come at a cost: a blow to its efforts to earn religious soft power in the Muslim world.The setback raises questions about the UAE’s strategy of co-opting prominent Muslim scholars with financial incentives to project the Gulf state as a model of tolerance that seeks to promote a moderate interpretation of Islam in a global competition for religious soft power with Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.The UAE attempt to reap religious support for its opening to Israel encountered blowback when a sta…

China could signal increased engagement with Iran but doesn’t

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By James M. Dorsey Here are two potential indicators of Chinese interest in moving ahead with a proposed US$400 billion economic and military cooperation agreement with Iran: a Chinese push for Iranian membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and renewed interest in a China-Pakistan-Iran-Turkey energy pipeline. China has moved on neither.While converting Iran’s SCO observer status into membership would primarily signal Chinese interest in substantially increasing its engagement with the Islamic republic, moving ahead with the pipeline could be a geopolitical game changer.China’s refusal to signal interest in putting flesh on the skeleton of its partnership with Iran following the leaking of a purported, wide-ranging agreement between the two countries suggests that the People’s Republic neither wants to increase tension with the United States by blatantly violating harsh US sanctions against the Islamic republic nor does it wish to upset its balancing of relations wit…