Archive for category International

The Saudi Purge Isn’t Just a Power Grab

By Peter Waldman and Glen Carey
Bloomberg
November 9, 2017

It’s a go-for-broke upheaval. The question now, for hopeful investors, is whether the crown prince follows his corruption crackdown by opening up an economy dominated by plutocrats and royal cronies.

It makes sense to be cynical about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ostensible crackdown on corruption in Saudi Arabia.

Among the 11 princes, 4 ministers, and dozens of well-known businessmen arrested were some of the 32-year-old’s last potential rivals to the Saudi throne.

The move also smacks of an asset snatch. Police nabbed 3 of the Arab world’s 10 richest men, including investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire best known for rescuing Citicorp in 1991 and making big bets on Apple Inc. and 21st Century Fox Inc.

But was it only a Machiavellian power play? Or is this the start of a dramatic, go-for-broke attempt to transform a country that’s resisted change for decades? Read the rest of this entry »

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Attention: Saudi Prince in a Hurry

Thomas L. Friedman
New York Times
NOV. 7, 2017

To understand the upheaval that is taking place in Saudi Arabia today, you have to start with the most important political fact about that country: The dominant shaping political force there for the past four decades has not been Islamism, fundamentalism, liberalism, capitalism or ISISism.

It has been Alzheimer’s.

The country’s current king is 81 years old. He replaced a king who died at 90, who replaced a king who died at 84. It’s not that none of them introduced reforms. It’s that at a time when the world has been experiencing so much high-speed change in technology, education and globalization, these successive Saudi monarchs thought that reforming their country at 10 miles an hour was fast enough — and high oil prices covered for that slow pace. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi mass arrests jolt markets but many see overdue swoop on corruption

Katie Paul, Stephen Kalin
Reuters
8th November 2017

RIYADH (Reuters) – All major Gulf stock markets slid on Tuesday on jitters about Saudi Arabia’s sweeping anti-graft purge, a campaign seen by critics as a populist power grab but by ordinary Saudis as an overdue attack on the sleaze of a moneyed ultra-elite.

U.S. President Donald Trump endorsed the crackdown, saying some of those arrested have been “milking” Saudi Arabia for years, but some Western officials expressed unease about the possible reaction in Riyadh’s opaque tribal and royal politics.

Authorities detained dozens of top Saudis including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in a move widely seen as an attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to neuter any opposition to his lightening ascent to the pinnacle of power.

Admirers see it as an assault on the endemic theft of public funds in the world’s top oil exporter, an absolute monarchy where the state and the ruling family are intertwined. Read the rest of this entry »

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I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince

Martin Chulov in Riyadh
Guardian
Tuesday 24 October 2017

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return the country to “moderate Islam” and asked for global support to transform the hardline kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors.

In an interview with the Guardian, the powerful heir to the Saudi throne said the ultra-conservative state had been “not normal” for the past 30 years, blaming rigid doctrines that have governed society in a reaction to the Iranian revolution, which successive leaders “didn’t know how to deal with”.

Expanding on comments he made at an investment conference at which he announced the launch of an ambitious $500bn (£381bn) independent economic zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, Prince Mohammed said: “We are a G20 country. One of the biggest world economies. We’re in the middle of three continents. Changing Saudi Arabia for the better means helping the region and changing the world. So this is what we are trying to do here. And we hope we get support from everyone.

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Anifah’s verbal pyrotechnics hide a terribly weak case and reinforces why he must explain reasons for Malaysia’s diplomatic setback in losing 50 votes in UN failing to get elected to UNHRC

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman’s verbal pyrotechnics hide a terribly weak case and reinforces the case why he must explain the reasons for Malaysia’s diplomatic setback in losing 50 votes in the United Nations failing to get elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the new year.

In accordance with paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 the UNHRC shall consist of 47 Member States, which shall be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly.

The membership shall be based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats shall be distributed as follows among regional groups: Read the rest of this entry »

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Anifah should explain why Malaysia’s international reputation and human rights standing plunged so precipitately under Najib’s premiership as to lose 50 votes as compared to 2010 resulting in defeat for election to UN Human Rights Council

The so-called “rebuttal” of the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman to the statement by the DAP MP for Kluang, Liew Chin Tong, asking for an explanation why Malaysia lost its bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council could be dismissed just as all “bluff and bluster signifying nothing”, as it completely failed to address Chin Tong’s question which is asked by all thinking Malaysians.

It is in fact another sad example of the atrocious English of Malaysia’s Cabinet Ministers.

Anifah should explain why Malaysia’s international reputation and human rights standing plunged so precipitately under Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s premiership as to lose 50 votes when compared to Malaysia’s second attempt to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council in 2010, when Malaysia secured 179 votes as compared to the measly 129 votes this time. Read the rest of this entry »

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To Malaysia’s eternal shame, we are singled out and named in the new book “The Corruption Cure” as the nation which the United States government is combatting in the fight against global kleptocracy

It is to Malaysia’s eternal shame that we are singled out and named in the new book, “The Corruption Cure” by Robert Rotberg as the nation which the United States government is combatting in the fight against global kleptocracy.

This is to be found in Page 288 of the book, which reads:

“Under President Obama and his two attorneys general, the U.S. has intensified its attack on corporate, sovereign wealth fund, and individual corruption because it is wrong, but also because the Department of Justice believes that such corruption is a major cause of global instability, a severe hindrance to economic development everywhere, a major creator of poverty, and a critical abuse of national social contracts. Funds pilfered abroad – as in the Malaysian government sovereign wealth fund case, where more than $3 billion was misappropriated – also distorts real estate markets and the overall American economy (witness Miami and New York). For all those reasons and more, corruption is a ‘threat to American national security’”.

Reading this paragraph, I find it most ironical and indignant that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak could speak about Malaysia strengthening the American economy when he visited US President Donald Trump at the White House on Sept. 12.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Aung San Suu Kyi must end her silence and speak up for justice and human rights for the Rohingyas and protect them from ethnic cleansing

During the 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010 when she became one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, I have issued countless statements espousing her freedom and her cause for democracy and human rights in Myanmar.

It is heart-breaking to watch her silence and failure to speak up and end the violence, horrors and human rights violations perpetrated on the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

I fully endorse the call by another Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu who have come out of retirement to issue a heart-felt letter to Aung San Suu Kyi, calling on her to end the violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parliament should adopt an all-party emergency motion tomorrow to condemn North Korea’s “hostage terrorism” and to call on North Korea regime to immediately revoke the ban on Malaysians from leaving North Korea

Parliament should adopt an all-party emergency motion tomorrow to condemn North Korea’s “hostage terrorism” and to call on the North Korean regime to immediately revoke the ban on Malaysians from leaving North Korea.

When I issued a statement on 17th February to ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi to explain why security at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) was so lax that it could become playground for foreign agents to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, 46, I had not expected to hit the bull’s eye.

The events of the subsequent fortnight showed that without the knowledge of the Malaysian authorities, Malaysia had in fact long been the “playground” of North Korean secret agents and assassins to the extent that they could carry out the dastardly assassination of Kim Jong Nam by the use of one of the world’s deadliest nerve agents VX, which is among the most dangerous chemicals ever created by man and classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »

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Donald Trump Is Spreading Racism — Not Fighting Terrorism

Daniel Benjamin
TIME
3.2.2017

IDEAS

Benjamin was Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department and is director of The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College

Counterterrorism may seem like a complicated, murky business. But practitioners agree on a few simple rules. Among them:

1. Be clear about who threatens you, and target them. Casting your net too widely creates new enemies.

2. Build strong alliances. Terrorism is a global problem that requires a global solution; you need capable, like-minded partners to collaborate on intelligence, law enforcement and military operations.

3. Counter and undermine your enemies’ narrative. Don’t confirm it.

4. Don’t drive away moderates; winning them over is key to defeating your enemies.

And, 5. Show efficiency and competence. Those qualities bolster deterrence. Read the rest of this entry »

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POLL FINDS MAJORITY DISAPPROVE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDERS

BY MICHELE GORMAN
Newsweek
2/2/17

Disapproval of Trump’s recent executive orders ranged from 55 percent to 60 percent.

All three of President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders have earned majority disapproval ratings among Americans, according to a new Gallup poll released Thursday afternoon.

Arguably the most controversial order came on January 27, when Trump banned Syrian refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Since then, Americans in cities from coast to coast have gathered in airports and streets to protest the ban, while the White House defends the president’s actions. Even some fellow Republicans have publicly criticized the ban. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jewish people give Muslims key to their synagogue after town’s mosque burns down

Jon Sharman
Independent
2nd Feb 2017

Donations to rebuild the Islamic centre are adding up

Jewish people in a small Texas city handed Muslim worshippers the keys to their synagogue after the town’s only mosque was destroyed in a fire.

The Victoria Islamic Centre burned down on Saturday and had previously been burgled — the cause is being investigated by federal officials.

But the town’s Muslim population will not be without a place to worship while their building is reconstructed, thanks to their Jewish neighbours. Read the rest of this entry »

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How the travel crackdown is affecting North American debate on Islam

ERASMUS
Economist
Feb 1st 2017

Why Muslim pundits feel let down

AMIR AHMAD NASR is about as pro-Western as anyone born deep inside the world of Islam could possibly be. Born to Sudanese parents whose professional lives took them to many countries, he is bilingual in Arabic and American English. He believes passionately in liberal democracy and the free exchange of ideas. He has no patience with those who think that authoritarian systems of government, whether secular or Islamist, are better suited to certain countries. The globe-trotting author and digital activist has recently settled, gratefully, in Canada.

Mr Nasr used his Western freedom to do something that he could not have managed if he were still living in the Islamic heartland. With disarming humour, he described his own spiritual path in a successful book with an almost self-explanatory title, “My Islam: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind and Doubt Freed My Soul”. This recounts how he went through a phase of believing not only in Islam’s literal truth but in the duty to despise people outside the tent of strict Sunni orthodoxy, and then his evolution through many stages into what he calls himself now: a cultural Muslim and spiritual humanist. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who Hasn’t Trump Banned? People From Places Where He’s Done Business

By RICHARD W. PAINTER and NORMAN L. EISEN
New York Times
JAN. 29, 2017

President Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries is being rightly challenged in the courts for, among other things, its unconstitutional interference with free exercise of religion and denial of due process. Overlooked in the furor is another troubling aspect of the situation: President Trump omitted from his ban a number of other predominantly Muslim nations where his company has done business. This adds further illegitimacy to one of the most arbitrary executive actions in our recent history, and raises significant constitutional questions.

The seven countries whose citizens are subject to the ban are relatively poor. Some, such as Syria, are torn by civil war; others are only now emerging from war. One thing these countries have in common is that they are places where the Trump organization does little to no business. Read the rest of this entry »

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U.S. Travel Restrictions Put Saudi Arabia in a Bind

By MARGHERITA STANCATI in Dubai and AHMED AL OMRAN in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Wall Street Journal
Jan. 30, 2017

Monarchy’s desire to cultivate good relations with Trump administration run counter to outcry in Muslim world over ban

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to the religion’s two holiest sites, has long used its religious clout to project its role as a regional leader. Now that same clout has caught the kingdom in a prickly dilemma.

The monarchy’s desire to cultivate a better relationship with the Trump administration than it had with the U.S. under Barack Obama is exposing Saudi Arabia to criticism that it is unwilling to stand up for its Muslim allies, particularly those caught in an executive order that restricts entry to the U.S. for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“The ban puts Saudi Arabia in an awkward position,” said Ibrahim Fraihat, a professor of conflict resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. “Saudi Arabia will be expected to take a position against it because some of the countries included in the ban like Sudan and Yemen are key allies and because it projects itself as leader of the Muslim world.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib should call for an emergency OIC meeting to demand that Trump rescind the anti-Muslim executive order to bar people from at least seven Muslim countries from entry into United States

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should call for an emergency Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) meeting to demand that President Triump rescind the anti-Muslim executive order to bar refugees and people from at least seven Muslim countries from entry into United States for 90 days.

Trump’s executive order, which temporarily halts admissions for all refugees while barring Syrian refugees indefinitely, also temporarily bans the entry of visa holders from at least seven Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Barack Obama legacy: Did he improve US race relations?

Nick Bryant
New York correspondent
BBC
10 January 2017

Barack Obama sealed his racial legacy the moment he sealed victory in the 2008 election – a black man would occupy a White House built by slaves, a history-defying as well as history-making achievement.

In 1961, the year of Obama’s birth, there existed in the American South a system of racial apartheid that separated the races from the cradle to the grave.

Whites-only water fountains. Whites-only schools. Whites-only graveyards.

In some states, his very conception – involving an African father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas – would have been a criminal offence.
Washington, too, remained a largely segregated city.

When in the 1950s, a former TV executive by the name of E Frederic Morrow became the first black White House aide not to have a job description that included turning down beds, polishing shoes or serving drinks with a deferential bow, he was prohibited from ever being alone in the same room as a white woman.

Back then, as Morrow recounted in his memoir, Black Man in the White House, African-Americans were routinely stereotyped as sexual predators incapable of controlling their desires.

Little more than half a century later, a black man ran the White House – occupying the Oval Office, sitting at the head of the conference table in the Situation Room, relaxing with his beautiful young family in the Executive Mansion – a family that has brought such grace and glamour to America’s sleepy capital that it is possible to speak of a Black Camelot. Read the rest of this entry »

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As world closes doors to refugee surge, Aceh aid expert urges Japan to open up, play lead role

BY SHUSUKE MURAI
STAFF WRITER
The Japan Times
JAN 2, 2017

The global refugee crisis is stoking anti-immigration sentiment in Europe and the United States, but Japan could take the initiative to become a leading voice to protect those who are displaced, an expert on assistance to such people in Asia has said.

“I’m not very confident that the West can play a lead in being that voice,” said Lilianne Fan, co-founder of Geutanyoe Foundation, a nongovernmental organization based in Aceh, Indonesia.

“I think we need actors from our regions — from Asia — and I think Japan is the best candidate to be the leading voice in trying to champion peace,” Fan said in a recent interview with The Japan Times. Fan was visiting to discuss refugee issues with Japanese stakeholders.

Fan has worked for more than 16 years to support refugee and other displaced people in Asia and other parts of the world, particularly in Aceh, Myanmar, Haiti and Jordan. Having received a master’s degree from Columbia University in 2004, Fan, who concurrently works as a research associate at the London-based Overseas Development Institute, has served as an adviser for the United Nations, the World Bank and the Red Cross. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Guardian view on the Arab spring: it could happen again

Editorial
Guardian
3.1.2017

The Arab world is home to 5% of the global population, but accounts for half of all terrorist attacks. With poverty outpacing the growth in numbers of young people and democracy crushed, a revolt could re-emerge

This month marks six years since the beginning of the Arab spring, a series of events that were meant to be a major turning point in the modern Middle East.

It was the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor and his death on 4 January that initiated a revolutionary year.

The subsequent protests energised ordinary Arabs, who recovered, it seemed, a popular self-confidence diminished by six decades of autocracy.

The Arab street was honoured for its people’s courage and determination, inspiring movements across the world. Protesters did not just voice their complaints, it was said, they changed the world. Four Arab leaders fell.

Yet six short years on those dreams are now in tatters. In Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, a counter-revolution has returned a military dictatorship. Much of Libya and Yemen is reduced to rubble in a war where outside powers are the principal actors, prepared to fight until the last local is dead. Syria is in ruins, stained by rivers of blood.

The sole democratic success was Tunisia, which did see a peaceful transition from authoritarian rule to elective government. The main Islamist party won power and last year declared it would end all of its cultural and religious activities to focus only on politics – becoming a Muslim democratic party, rather like its western Christian counterparts.

But every silver lining has a cloud: Tunisians make up the largest number of foreign fighters in the ranks of Islamic State. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lessons of the Arab Spring for Muslim Southeast Asia

MICHAEL VATIKIOTIS, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
New Mandala
06 DEC, 2016

Southeast Asians must value the cohesive elements of society, embrace diversity and not allow political differences to destroy the pluralistic fabric of society if they are to avoid the disinetgration and conflict that has ensued from the Arab Spring, writes Michael Vatikiotis.

To understand the comparative success and failures of political transition in Asia and the Middle East, it is important to say from the outset that in neither part of the world has political transition worked very well.

The Arab Spring soon turned into Arab fall and winter, destroying the former countries of Libya, Syria and Yemen and leading to stronger military rule in Egypt. Here in Asia, there has been more of a rolling transition; it started at the back end of the so-called third wave of democratisation in the mid-1970s and ultimately led to the People Power revolt in the Philippines a decade later.

For different reasons and in different ways, this wave of political liberalisation stalled and then got started again after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. While Indonesia has undeniably embarked on the path to democracy, it is still regarded as only partly free. Prevailing democracy deficits in the region, suggest that Southeast Asia’s rolling transition still has not completely delivered effective change.

There are lessons each region can learn from the other. And perhaps counterfactually, I tend to think there is more that Asia can learn, specifically Muslim society in Asia, from the Arab context. Read the rest of this entry »

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