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Articles by: Dr James M Dorsey

Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling

Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling

Video link: https://av.voanews.com/Videoroot/Pangeavideo/2018/08/6/61/61c5c34a-8423-42b6-a9c5-de80b804fb7c.mp4 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[Read More…]

Yemen war challenges Saudi moral authority

Yemen war challenges Saudi moral authority

Saudi conduct of its ill-fated war in Yemen coupled with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alignment with the Trump administration and Israel, and his often coercive approach to diplomatic relations, has opened the door to challenges of the kingdom’s moral leadership of the Sunni Muslim world, a legitimizing pillar of the ruling Al Saud family’s grip on power. The cracks[Read More…]

Saudi Arabia and Iran woo incoming Pakistani prime minister

Saudi Arabia and Iran woo incoming Pakistani prime minister

An offer by a Saudi-backed bank to lend financially strapped Pakistan US$4 billion is likely intended to bolster Saudi influence when former international cricket player Imran Khan is sworn in in the coming week as the South Asian country’s next prime minister. The offer was most immediately related to a statement by Asad Umar, Pakistan’s new finance minister-in-waiting, that Pakistan[Read More…]

Talking to Rouhani: Is Trump shooting from the hip or following a script?

Talking to Rouhani: Is Trump shooting from the hip or following a script?

Message to Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Tel Aviv: Not to worry, US President Donald J. Trump has no intention of meeting his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, unconditionally. On the contrary, Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement that he is willing to talk to Mr. Rouhani is likely part of a plan formulated almost a year before he returned to government service by[Read More…]

Despite concerns, China sees a potential ally in Pakistan’s Imran Khan

Despite concerns, China sees a potential ally in Pakistan’s Imran Khan

Pakistani prime minister-in waiting Imran Khan’s ability to chart his own course as well as his relationship with the country’s powerful military is likely to be tested the moment he walks into his new office. Pakistan’s most fundamental problems loom large and are likely to demand his immediate attention. He probably will have to turn to the International Monetary Fund[Read More…]

Lack of global leadership spurs instability in the Middle East

Lack of global leadership spurs instability in the Middle East

With multiple Middle Eastern disputes threatening to spill out of control, United Arab Emirates minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash acknowledged what many in the Middle East have long said privately: the UAE’s recently-found assertiveness and determination to punch above its weight stems from its inability to rely on traditional allies like the United States. What is true[Read More…]

China’s policies spur Central Asians to cautiously chart independent course

China’s policies spur Central Asians to cautiously chart independent course

China’s brutal crackdown in its north-western province of Xinjiang and growing questions about the dark side of some of its Belt and Road investments is fuelling anti-Chinese sentiment, prompting some countries to explore ways to chart an independent course, and feeding into the narratives of rising populist leaders. The incarceration of up to 2,500 Kazakhs in re-education camps in Xinjiang designed to[Read More…]

Securing Xinjiang: China adds security component to Belt and Road initiative

Securing Xinjiang: China adds security component to Belt and Road initiative

China appears to be shifting gears in its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road initiative. Long projected as driven by economics and the benefit of infrastructure linkages, China appears to be increasingly adding a security component to the initiative against the backdrop of President Xi Jinping positioning of his country as a superpower rather than a developing nation. The emergence of[Read More…]

Saudi-UK media tie-up: Targeting the non-Arabic-speaking Middle East

Saudi-UK media tie-up: Targeting the non-Arabic-speaking Middle East

  Long satisfied to attempt to dominate pan-Arab media and battle it out with Qatar’s state-owned Al Jazeera television network, Saudi Arabia has now set its hegemonic sights on influencing the media landscape of the non-Arabic speaking greater Middle East. In the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s concentration last year of control of Saudi-owned pan-Arab media in an[Read More…]

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A double-edged sword: China and Pakistan link up with fibreoptic cable

A double-edged sword: China and Pakistan link up with fibreoptic cable

This month’s inauguration of a fibreoptic cable linking Pakistan with China could prove to be a double-edged sword. Constructed by Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd, the cable is likely to enhance both Pakistan’s information communication technology infrastructure as well as the influence of Chinese authoritarianism at a moment that basic freedoms in Pakistan are on the defensive. The $44[Read More…]

Pakistani elections spotlight the country’s contradictory policies

Pakistani elections spotlight the country’s contradictory policies

  A virulently anti-Shiite, Saudi-backed candidate for parliament in Pakistan’s July 25 election symbolizes the country’s effort to reconcile contradictory policy objectives in an all but impossible attempt to keep domestic forces and foreign allies happy. Ramzan Mengal’s candidacy highlights Pakistan’s convoluted relationship to Islamic militants at a time that the country risks being blacklisted by an international anti-money laundering[Read More…]

Xinjiang: Pan-Turkism fuels China’s hearts-and-minds campaign

Xinjiang: Pan-Turkism fuels China’s hearts-and-minds campaign

Chinese efforts to woo Saudi Arabia’s ethnic Chinese community highlight the People’s Republic’s effort to avert criticism from the Muslim world of its crackdown in the north-western province of Xinjiang and strengthen relations with the kingdom and Middle Eastern nations. The efforts to woo a community, a significant part of which is of Turkic origin, identifies itself as Turkestani, and[Read More…]

Xinjiang: China ignores lessons from the past

Xinjiang: China ignores lessons from the past

A Chinese campaign to forcibly assimilate ethnic Uyghurs in its north-western province of Xinjiang in a bid to erase nationalist sentiment, counter militancy, and create an ‘Uyghur Islam with Chinese characteristics’ ignores lessons learnt not only from recent Chinese history but also the experience of others. The campaign, reminiscent of failed attempts to undermine Uyghur culture during the Cultural Revolution,[Read More…]

Credit: Muslimpress

Whither Wahhabism?

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could well dash expectations that he is gunning for a break with Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism rather than a shaving off of the rough edges of Wahhabi ideology that has been woven into the kingdom’s fabric since its founding more than eighty years ago. Prince Mohammed has fuelled expectations by fostering Islamic scholars who advocate[Read More…]

Credit: Investors Lounge

Pakistan’s financial crisis puts Belt and Road on the spot

Increased Pakistani dependence on China to help it avert resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid a financial and economic crisis spotlights fears that the terms of Chinese investment in massive Belt and Road-related projects would not pass international muster. Concerns that China’s US$ 50 billion plus investment in Pakistani infrastructure and energy, the Belt and Road’s crown[Read More…]

Credit: AladdinsMiracleLamp

Saudi religious diplomacy targets Jerusalem

A United Arab Emirates-backed Saudi effort to wrest control from Jordan of Islam’s holy places in Jerusalem signals a sharper, more overt edge to Saudi religious diplomacy and the kingdom’s quest for regional hegemony that risks deepening divides in the Muslim world. The effort also serves to support Donald J. Trump’s plan for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that[Read More…]

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The Middle East: History threatens to repeat itself

The Middle East: History threatens to repeat itself

  If the notion that history repeats itself is accurate, it is nowhere truer than in the Middle East where the international community, caught by surprise by the 2011 popular Arab revolts, has reverted to opting for political stability as opposed to sustainability, ignoring the undercurrents of change wracking the Middle East. Major powers do so at their peril. The[Read More…]

Shooting oneself in ones’s own foot: Pakistan’s failed effort to evade terrorism finance listing

Shooting oneself in ones’s own foot: Pakistan’s failed effort to evade terrorism finance listing

The Pakistani government’s removal of a virulently anti-Shiite militant from its terrorism list at the very moment that an international money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog was deciding to put the country on a watchlist highlights Pakistan’s struggle to come to grips with militancy. The decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that was reported by Pakistani media but[Read More…]

Malaysian-Saudi relations: A lesson in the pitfalls of authoritarianism and autocracy

Malaysian-Saudi relations: A lesson in the pitfalls of authoritarianism and autocracy

Embattled former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was the main loser in last month’s election upset that returned Mahathir Mohamad to power as his country’s anti-corruption crusader. Yet, Mr. Razak is not the only one who may be paying the price for allegedly non-transparent and unaccountable governance. So is Saudi Arabia with a Saudi company having played a key role[Read More…]

Indonesian Muslim leader signals global shifts in meetings with Pence and Netanyahu

Indonesian Muslim leader signals global shifts in meetings with Pence and Netanyahu

Yahya Staquf, a diminutive, soft-spoken leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim movement, and Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s advisor on religious affairs, has held a series of meetings in recent weeks that reflect the Muslim world’s shifting attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinians and a re-alignment of socially conservative Muslim and Christian interests. Just this month, Mr. Staquf, a[Read More…]

King Mohammed prays in a mosque in Zanzibar

The Saudi-Moroccan spat: Competing for the mantle of moderate Islam

Lurking in the background of a Saudi-Moroccan spat over World Cup hosting rights and the Gulf crisis is a more fundamental competition for the mantle of spearheading promotion of a moderate interpretation of Islam. It’s a competition in which history and long-standing religious diplomacy gives Morocco a leg up compared to Saudi Arabia, long a citadel of Sunni Muslim intolerance[Read More…]

Morocco may have lost the World Cup but could lead the way in protest

Morocco may have lost the World Cup but could lead the way in protest

Mounting anger and discontent is simmering across the Arab world much like it did in the walk-up to the 2011 popular revolts that toppled four autocratic leaders. Yet, this time round the anger does not always explode in mass street protests as it recently did in Jordan. To be sure, fury at tax hikes in Jordan followed the classic pattern[Read More…]

Saudi Arabia drags geopolitical baggage on to the World Cup pitch

Saudi Arabia drags geopolitical baggage on to the World Cup pitch

Saudi Arabia has much at stake when its national soccer team enters the pitch for the opening match of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow. With politics a permanent fixture, Saudi Arabia is playing in the World Cup finals for the first time in more than a decade at a moment that the kingdom is vying for enhanced influence in[Read More…]

Israel scores painful own goal in run-up to the World Cup

Israel scores painful own goal in run-up to the World Cup

Argentina’s cancellation of a friendly against Israel because of Israeli attempts to exploit the match politically is likely to reverberate far beyond the world of soccer and spotlights the risks of Israeli efforts to persuade the international community to recognize Jerusalem as its capital. The Argentinian decision suggests that despite the fact several countries, including East European nations, are debating[Read More…]

Jordanian protests: Revisiting the Arab Spring and setting a benchmark

Jordanian protests: Revisiting the Arab Spring and setting a benchmark

  Protests that forced Jordan’s prime minister to resign and laid bare the country’s systemic economic and political crisis shed a new light on the root causes of popular protests in the Middle East that swept the region in 2011 and have since continuously erupted at local levels in a swath of land stretching from Morocco to Egypt. The protests,[Read More…]

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Mahathir’s reforms could put Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the spot

Mahathir’s reforms could put Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the spot

Newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Mahathir is adopting policies that could reshape the Southeast nation’s relations with powerful Gulf states. A series of anti-corruption measures as well as statements by Mr. Mahathir and his defense minister, Mohamad (Mat) Sabu, since this month’s upset in elections that ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak from office, are sparking concern in both Saudi[Read More…]

Politicizing Education: Israel and Myanmar set worrisome precedent

Politicizing Education: Israel and Myanmar set worrisome precedent

 Israel and Myanmar, two countries with troubled human rights records and disputed histories of dealing with ethnic and national rights, have set a worrisome precedent by giving each other a veto over what students are taught about the other. A recently signed education agreement between Israel and Myanmar allows for editing each other’s textbooks as they relate to the portrayal[Read More…]

The Middle East’s Nuclear Technology Clock Starts Ticking

The Middle East’s Nuclear Technology Clock Starts Ticking

The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock is ticking as nations pursue peaceful capabilities that potentially leave the door open to future military options. Concern about a nuclear arms race is fuelled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by[Read More…]

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