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Ed Webb

Beyond Oil: Lithium-Ion Battery Minerals and Energy Security - Foreign Policy Research ... - 0 views

  • Should the mass adoption of electric vehicles occur, access to reliable and affordable sources of minerals like cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel, which are used in modern electric-vehicle batteries, will come to occupy a larger share of energy security concerns, especially since one country has already gained control over much of the world’s production and processing of those minerals
  • oil has remained abundant and affordable, despite major production disruptions during the Arab Spring from 2010-2012, in Libya from 2013-2016, and in Venezuela after 2017. In fact, oil prices had dropped 60 percent from their 2008 highs by early 2020, even before the COVID-19 pandemic had made a dent in the global economy.
  • falling oil prices throughout the 2010s may have lulled Western policymakers into believing that the Russian Federation, whose economy is heavily reliant on oil and natural gas exports, would become more docile. It did not; instead, it continued to modernize its military and intimidate its neighbors
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  • OPEC and Russia bargained for months, but talks finally broke down after Moscow refused to limit its oil production to help stabilize oil prices in the wake of the slump in global oil demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Calculating that it could hurt Russia enough to force it back to the negotiating table, Saudi Arabia boosted its daily oil output by 20 percent, flooding the market with oil. Not to be intimidated, Russia responded with a short-term increase in its own oil output (possibly to strike back at Saudi Arabia or to force some American shale-oil companies out of business or both). As a result, oil prices collapsed. The futures price for West Texas Intermediate crude touched a remarkable -$37 per barrel. Although beneficial for oil consumers, the Russia-Saudi Arabia oil price war was a reminder of the influence that state-driven oil producers still had over the world’s energy security.
  • a single country, China, has gained control over much of the world’s production and processing of the cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel used in lithium-ion batteries, the type of electricity-storage devices favored by electric-vehicle manufacturers today.
  • Chinese companies now control almost half of the DRC’s cobalt output, which constitutes over two-thirds of the world’s production. Perhaps of greater concern, China has come to dominate the refining and processing of those minerals. Eighty percent of the cobalt sulphates and oxides used for lithium-ion battery cathodes are processed in China.
  • China’s monopoly can be largely attributed to its relatively low energy costs and less stringent environmental regulations.
  • Though China controls a smaller share of the world’s production of lithium than that of other minerals, it has been buying up stakes in lithium mines around the globe.
  • Moving up the value chain, it is expected to build 101 of the 136 lithium-ion battery manufacturing plants that are currently planned over the next decade
  • n 2010, China abruptly restricted its rare-earth metal exports to Japan, nominally to protect the environment. But after a lengthy review, the World Trade Organization ruled against China’s restrictions. Since then, worries about relying on China as a strategic-minerals supplier have continued to grow. Sometimes, China feeds those fears. In one 2019 incident, China’s state-run Global Times flaunted the country’s dominance over rare-earth metals as a strategic weapon against other countries with the headline “China gears up to use rare-earth advantage.” Such not-so-veiled threats from government-linked media only fan suspicions that China will behave no better than Russia or Saudi Arabia—and possibly worse.
  • In 2019, the U.S. Department of State launched the Energy Resources Governance Initiative to “promote resilient and secure energy resource mineral supply chains” for all kinds of renewable energy and battery storage technologies.  The initiative’s membership has grown to include Australia, Botswana, Canada, Peru,
  • the world appears to be swapping its old dependency on OPEC and Russia, a fractious bunch that until recently was losing power to American oil-shale upstarts, for a new one on China, a single country with a one-party government
Ed Webb

Kalam - Cooperative security in the Middle East: A role for China? - 0 views

  • the kind of role that China can be expected to play in Middle East security issues. It is not realistic to think of China as an alternative to US regional security commitments. Furthermore, the fact that China has a long-standing non-alliance policy means that any Chinese approach to regional security affairs would operate under a very different framework. Rather than alliances, China uses strategic partnership diplomacy, with a set of hierarchical designations for partner states depending on their perceived importance to Beijing. These partnerships differ from alliances in that they are interest-based rather than threat-based and do not focus on third parties. Typically, China and the partner country builds trust on the foundation of economic interests, and gradually introduces political and strategic concerns.2 Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) each have comprehensive strategic partnerships, putting them at the highest level of China’s diplomatic hierarchy. Those partnerships suggest that Beijing believes it can be a different type of great power in the region, achieving balanced relationships with competing or rival regional actors. In practice, this interpretation indicates that Beijing would be more willing to support a Persian Gulf security framework that does not actively counter any regional countries. An inclusive cooperative security dialogue involving all Gulf states would be consistent with China’s interests and preferences.
  • For the US, the China challenge means more resources should be directed to the Indo-Pacific and away from the MENA region, a process that has been delayed by ongoing tensions between the US and Iran.
  • First, a US pivot potentially challenges China in Asia, a region that Beijing considers far more consequential than the Middle East and North Africa. Second, it could weaken the existing MENA security architecture that has allowed China to develop a significant regional presence. This adds a layer of complexity when Chinese leaders consider Persian Gulf security. Regional stability is necessary for Chinese commercial and energy interests, but at the same time the threat of regional instability in the form of Iranian aggression means the US will remain deeply engaged in the Gulf.
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  • Prior to the trade war initiated by the Trump administration, Beijing appeared satisfied with the US preponderance in the Middle East. Since then, however, the region has come to resemble a playing field. Beijing began to offer more support to Iran during the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign,4 both with the comprehensive strategic partnership (signed in January 2016 but not implemented until March 2021) and the offer to make Iran a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. At the same time, China has intensified relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, reportedly helping the Saudis with their indigenous ballistic missile programme5 and reportedly beginning work on a military installation in Abu Dhabi before abandoning it due to US pressure on the Emiratis.6 None of this requires significant resources from Beijing but creates friction that seems designed to keep the US anchored in the Gulf.
  • t established the China Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) in 2004, a multilateral forum that promotes policy coordination and includes China and the 22 Arab League member states. Another development was the appointment of special envoys to offer Chinese mediation on regional hotspot issues, with one for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and another for Syria. Beyond inserting China into these issues, however, and demonstrating Beijing’s awareness that it needs to be more actively involved, there have been few tangible results from these envoys.
  • ‘Achieve nuclear non-proliferation’ is of course directly linked to the Iranian nuclear issue. As one of the P5 states involved in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), China sees this agreement as an important diplomatic achievement, and Chinese officials were actively involved behind the scenes in the run-up to the JCPOA.12 That the US unilaterally withdrew from it undermined Chinese preferences for Gulf stability. Its officials have frequently condemned this
  • A nuclear Iran is a threat to China, as is the prospect of anticipated nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East that would likely result. This is an issue that would be especially suited to Chinese engagement through a cooperative security dialogue.
  • The Middle East is a region where the two countries’ interests align quite closely and would benefit from policy coordination. Given the political climates in both Washington and Beijing, however, it is difficult to foresee this happening unless it concerns an issue where both believe their interests and preferences are threatened.
Ed Webb

US-China Rivalry: Gulf States Struggle to Hedge Their Bets - 0 views

  • the real litmus test of the United States’ ability to counter the People’s Republic’s growing footprint in the Middle East is likely to be in the Gulf.
  • The real Israeli test may come next year when China takes over the management of Haifa port that is often frequented by ships of the US Sixth Fleet. US officials have suggested that Chinese control of the port could impact the US Navy’s willingness to use Haifa’s facilities.
  • the US is likely to find the going tougher in persuading Gulf states to limit their engagement with China, including with Huawei, which already has significant operations in the region
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  • Describing Chinese aid as “predatory,” Mr. Schenker warned that Huawei’s participation in 5G infrastructure in the Gulf would make it difficult for American and Gulf forces to communicate. Huawei has signed agreements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain
  • “We’re not forcing countries to choose between the United States and the PRC,” Mr. Schenker said, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “Countries can and should maintain healthy relationships with both, but we want to highlight the costs” that come with certain engagements with China.
  • The seemingly escalating US effort to box in China is hampered by the fact that no US company produces a 5G alternative. “5G is the future. To reconsider Huawei, the US has to offer an alternative. So far, it hasn’t done so,” a Gulf official who wishes to remain anonymous told Inside Arabia.
  • The same dilemma applies to the United States’ desire to reduce its commitments in the Middle East. In its global rivalry with China, the US cannot afford to create the kind of void that China and Russia would not be able or willing to fill in the short-term.
  • “The US can’t compete on 5G and China and Russia can’t compete on security. This is a situation and a set of relationships that requires careful management. The problem is that big power leaders show little inclination to find a middle ground. That leaves Gulf states grappling for ways to hedge their bets.”
Ed Webb

What It's Like to Live in a Surveillance State - The New York Times - 0 views

  • when it comes to indigenous Uighurs in the vast western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) has updated its old totalitarian methods with cutting-edge technology
  • The Qing Empire conquered Xinjiang in the 18th century. The territory then slipped from Beijing’s control, until the Communists reoccupied it with Soviet help in 1949. Today, several Central Asian peoples, including Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrghyz, make up about half of the region’s population; the remainder are Han and Hui, who arrived from eastern China starting in the mid-20th century
  • the C.C.P. has since subjected the entire Uighur population of some 11 million to arbitrary arrest, draconian surveillance or systemic discrimination. Uighurs are culturally Muslim, and the government often cites the threat of foreign Islamist ideology to justify its security policies
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  • Uighurs’ DNA is collected during state-run medical checkups. Local authorities now install a GPS tracking system in all vehicles. Government spy apps must be loaded on mobile phones. All communication software is banned except WeChat, which grants the police access to users’ calls, texts and other shared content. When Uighurs buy a kitchen knife, their ID data is etched on the blade as a QR code
  • There’s an old Chinese joke about Uighurs being the Silk Road’s consummate entrepreneurs: When the first Chinese astronaut steps off his spaceship onto the moon, he will find a Uighur already there selling lamb kebabs. And so even as Mr. Chen cracks down in Xinjiang, the Chinese government touts the region as the gateway for its much-vaunted “one belt, one road” initiative, Mr. Xi’s signature foreign policy project. The grand idea combines a plan to spend billions of dollars in development loans and transport investment across Eurasia with a strategic bid to establish China’s diplomatic primacy in Asia.
  • The C.C.P., once quite liberal in its approach to diversity, seems to be redefining Chinese identity in the image of the majority Han — its version, perhaps, of the nativism that appears to be sweeping other parts of the world. With ethnic difference itself now defined as a threat to the Chinese state, local leaders like Mr. Chen feel empowered to target Uighurs and their culture wholesale
  • A law now bans face coverings — but also “abnormal” beards. A Uighur village party chief was demoted for not smoking, on grounds that this failing displayed an insufficient “commitment to secularization.” Officials in the city of Kashgar, in southwest Xinjiang, recently jailed several prominent Uighur businessmen for not praying enough at a funeral — a sign of “extremism,” they claimed.
  • How does the party think that directives banning fasting during Ramadan in Xinjiang, requiring Uighur shops to sell alcohol and prohibiting Muslim parents from giving their children Islamic names will go over with governments and peoples from Pakistan to Turkey? The Chinese government may be calculating that money can buy these states’ quiet acceptance. But the thousands of Uighur refugees in Turkey and Syriaalready complicate China’s diplomacy.
Ed Webb

Buzan on GWoT 2006 - 1 views

shared by Ed Webb on 15 Nov 16 - No Cached
  • Washington is now embarked on a campaign to persuade itself, the American people and the rest of the world that the ‘global war on terrorism’ (GWoT) will be a ‘long war’. This ‘long war’ is explicitly compared to the Cold War as a similar sort of zero-sum, global-scale, generational struggle against anti-liberal ideolo-gical extremists who want to rule the world.
  • When the Cold War ended, Washington seemed to experience a threat defi cit, and there was a string of attempts to fi nd a replacement for the Soviet Union as the enemy focus for US foreign and military policy: fi rst Japan, then China, ‘clash of civilizations’ and rogue states
  • the GWoT had the feel of a big idea that might provide a long-term cure for Washington’s threat defi ci
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  • the explicit ‘long war’ framing of the GWoT is a securitizing move of potentially great signifi cance. If it succeeds as a widely accepted, world-organizing macro-securitization, it could structure global security for some decades, in the process helping to legitimize US primacy
    • Ed Webb
       
      Securitization is a newer concept in IR, mostly associated with the Copenhagen School, although Buzan is English School. The argument here is that a successful rhetorical or framing move can have systemic effects.
  • This article is about the strength and durability of that belief, and whether as a social fact it can be used to create a new political framing for world politics. In addressing this question I diff erentiate between a traditional materialist analysis of threat (whether something does or does not pose a specifi c sort of threat, and at what level) and a so-called securitizationanalysis (whether something can be successfully constructed as a threat, with this understanding being accepted by a wide and/or specifi cally relevant audience).4These two aspects of threat may run in close parallel, but they can also be quite separate. States, like people, can be paranoid (constructing threats where none exist) or complacent (ignoring actual threats). But since it is the success (or not) of the securitization that determines whether action is taken, that side of threat analysis deserves scrutiny just as close as that given to the material side
    • Ed Webb
       
      Note how this argument applies long-standing IR concepts from several schools of thought: perception and misperception (Jervis); balance of threat (Walt); ideas as frames for world politics/the international system (Wendt).
  • the only thing that changed is the belief that something had changed
    • Ed Webb
       
      There is no consensus on this, but quite a few IR scholars take this view of 9/11
  • US military expenditure remains largely aimed at meeting traditional challenges from other states, with only a small part specifi cally allocated for the GWoT. The signifi cance of the GWoT is much more political. Although a real threat from terrorists does exist, and needs to be met, the main signifi cance of the GWoT is as a political framing that might justify and legitimize US primacy, leadership and unilater-alism, both to Americans and to the rest of the world. This is one of the key diff erences between the GWoT and the Cold War. The Cold War pretty much wasUS grand strategy in a deep sense; the GWoT is not, but, as a brief glance at the USNSS of 2006 will show, is being promoted as if it were
    • Ed Webb
       
      Contrast with the Cold War here is important. Notice the disconnection between political framing and budgetary decisions in GWoT. Why is that?
  • Immediately following 9/11 NATO invoked article 5 for the fi rst time, thereby helping to legitimize the GWoT securitization.
  • In the case of Russia, China, Israel and India, the move has been to link their own local problems with ‘terrorism’ to the wider GWoT framing.
  • tied together several longstanding security concerns arising within the liberal order, most notably crime and the trades in drugs and the technologies for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Within the frame of the liberal international economic order (LIEO), it is well understood that while opening state borders to fl ows of trade, fi nance, information and (skilled) people is generally to be promoted, such opening also has its dark side in which illiberal actors, mainly criminals and terrorists, can take advantage of liberal openness in pursuit of illiberal ends
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is Naim's "Five Wars of Globalization"
  • There are fi ve obvious types of event that could signifi -cantly reinforce or undermine the GWoT securitization:ü the impact of further terrorist plans and/or attacks (or plans or attacks success-fully attributed to terrorists);ü the commitment of the United States to the GWoT securitization;ü the legitimacy of the United States as a securitization leader within interna-tional society;ü the (un)acceptability and (il)legitimacy of both the GWoT securitization as a whole or of particularist securitizations that get linked to it;ü the potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT
  • The escalation option would strengthen the GWoT securitization, and the reduction option would weaken it. More of the same does not look suffi cient to sustain the costs of a long-term macro-securitization unless the fear of escalation can be maintained at a high level.
  • Americans, like most other citizens of democracies, quite willingly surrender some of their civil liberties in times of war. But it is easy to see the grounds within American society for reactions against the GWoT securitization, especially if its legitimacy becomes contested. One source of such reactions would be civil libertarians and others opposed to the reasser-tion of government powers through a state of permanent fear and emergency. Another would be isolationists and ‘off shore balancers’ who oppose the current levels and logics of US global engagement
  • Grounds for opposition include its costs, in terms of both money and liberty, and the ineff ectiveness of a permanent increase in the state’s surveil-lance over everything from trade and fi nance to individual patterns of travel and consumption
  • reformulate the GWoT
    • Ed Webb
       
      Obama decided to declare it "over" in 2013: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/05/23/obama-global-war-on-terror-is-over But the rhetorical shift has not led to any notable reduction in GWoT-related drone strikes etc.
  • The US successfully generated and led the macro-securitization of the Cold War against communism generally and the military power of the Soviet Union in particular. It was aided in this both by the broad acceptability of its own qualities as a leader in the West, and up to a point even in the Third World, and by the fact that other states, especially west European ones, plus Turkey, Japan and South Korea, shared the fear of communism and Soviet military power
  • A weight of punditry agrees that the Atlantic has got wider, to the point where even the idea that there is a western community is now under serious threat.
    • Ed Webb
       
      That this argument was being advanced halfway through the second GW Bush term, and yet the transatlantic alliance has held firm, should probably give us hope for the relationship surviving the Trump administration.
  • states might support or oppose the GWoT not only on its merits, but also because of how it plays into the global hierarchy of power
  • In terms of the GWoT securitization as a whole, some of the lines of opposition are the same in the rest of the world as they are in US domestic debates, particu-larly over what kinds of emergency action it legitimizes. To the extent that the GWoT becomes associated with actions that seem to contradict the values that the West seeks to represent against the likes of Al-Qaeda, the legitimacy of the securitization is corroded
  • Wilkinson, who has solid credentials as a hard foe of the terrorists, echoes a sentiment widely held across the political spectrum when he says that ‘If we undermine or destroy our hard-won liberties and rights in the name of security against terrorism we will give the terrorists a victory they could never win by the bomb and the gun.’28 In this respect it is of more than passing interest that all of the current strategies being used to pursue the GWoT seem actively to damage the liberal values they purport to defend.
  • Most western leaders (the ever undiplomatic Berlusconi having been a notable excep-tion) have tried hard right from the beginning not to stage the GWoT as a war between the West and Islam. They have trodden the diffi cult line of maintaining that, while most of the terrorists speak in the name of Islam, that does not mean that most adherents of Islam are terrorists or supporters of terrorists. But despite this, the profoundly worrying relinking of religion and politics in the United States, Israel and the Islamic world easily feeds zero-sum confl icts. This linkage could help to embed the securitization of the GWoT, as it seems to have done within the United States and Israel. If religious identities feed the growth of a ‘clash of civilizations’ mentality, as seems to have happened in the episode of the Danish cartoons, this too could reinforce the GWoT securitization. It could, equally, create a reaction against it from those who feel that their particular religion is being mis represented by fundamentalists, and/or from those who object to religious infl uence on politics. The latter is certainly part of what has widened the gap between the US and Europe
  • Al-Qaeda and its like, while clearly posing a threat to the West, do not represent a plausible political alternative to it, Islamist fantasies about a new caliphate notwithstanding. The contrast with the Cold War could not be more striking. Then, the designated opponent and object of securitization was a power that represented what seemed a plausible political alternative: one could easily imagine a communist world. The post-9/11 securitization focused neither on an alternative superpower nor on an alternative ideology, but on the chaos power of embittered and alienated minori-ties, along with a handful of pariah governments, and their ability to exploit the openness, the technology, and in some places the inequality, unfairness and failed states generated by the western system of political economy
  • Iraq. The US and British governments attempted to justify the invasion by linking Saddam Hussein’s regime to both terrorists and WMD. This securitizing move was successful within the United States, but vigorously contested in many other places, resulting in serious and damaging splits in both the EU and NATO. Russia was generally very supportive of the GWoT securitization, seeking to link its own diffi culties in Chechnya to it, but Putin joined Germany and France in strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq. The ill-prepared occupation that followed the successful blitzkrieg against Iraq only deepened the splits, with many opponents of the war agreeing with Dana Allin’s assessment that ‘Iraq was probably the war that bin Laden wanted the United States to fi ght’,29and Wilkinson’s that it was ‘a gratuitous propaganda gift to bin Laden’.30 During the 2004 US election, even John Kerry began to argue the point that invasion of Iraq was distracting eff ort away from the GWoT.31 As the political disaster in Iraq continues to unfold, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it was both a tactical and strategic blunder of epic proportions in relation to the problem of global terrorism represented by Al-Qaeda
  • There are quite a variety of possible candidates for competing securitizations. Rising sea levels or approaching asteroids, or the spread of a new killer plague, could easily put planetary environmental concerns at the top of the securitiza-tion agenda. But in conventional mode the most likely threat to the GWoT as dominant macro-securitization comes from the rise of China
  • It was perhaps only the perceived remoteness in time of China achieving superpower status that prevented this securitization from becoming the dominant rhetoric in Washington during the 1990s. As time marches on, the rise of China becomes more real and less hypothetical
  • Given an ongoing disposition within Washington to construct China as a threat, the likely increase in Chinese power, both relative and absolute, and the existence of tensions between the two governments over, inter alia, Taiwan, trade and human rights, it is not diffi cult to imagine circumstances in which concerns about China would become the dominant securitization within the United States
    • Ed Webb
       
      Is this a new "pivot to Asia" we can imagine happening under the Trump administration?
  • o long as China conducts its so-called ‘peaceful rise’ in such a way as not to threaten its neighbours or the general stability of interna-tional society, many outside the United States might actually welcome it. Europe is likely to be indiff erent, and many countries (e.g. Russia, China, India, Iran, France, Malaysia) support a rhetoric of multipolarity as their preferred power structure over the predominance of the United States as sole superpower.
  • Because a world govern-ment is not available, the problem pits international society against global uncivil society
  • By hardening borders, homeland security measures erode some of the principles of economic liberalism that they are designed to defend; and the same argument could be made about the trade-off between enhanced surveillance under the GWoT and the civil liberties that are part of the core referent object of western civilization
  • War is seldom good for liberal values even when fought in defence of them
  • Equalizing starts from the assumption that the root causes of terrorism lie in the inequalities and injustices that are both a legacy of human history and a feature of market economies. The long-term solution to terrorism in this perspective is to drain the waters in which the terrorists swim by redressing the inequalities and injustices that supposedly generate support for them. It is not my concern here to argue whether this contested cause–eff ect hypothesis is correct or not. My point is that if a policy along these lines is pursued, it cannot avoid undermining the foundations of a competitive market economy
  • f inequality is the source of terrorism, neo-liberal economics does not provide a quick enough solution
  • terrorism poses a double threat to liberal democratic societies: open direct assaults of the type that have become all too familiar, and insidious erosion as a consequence of the countermeasures taken
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is an essential point to understand about terrorism, suggesting why groups continue to adopt the tactic and why, sometimes, it can succeed.
  • f it is impossible to elimi-nate terrorists, as is probably the case, then this drive risks the kind of permanent mobilization that inevitably corrodes liberal practices and values
  • If the priority is to preserve liberal values, one is pushed towards the option of learning to live with terrorism as an everyday risk while pursuing counter-measures that stop short of creating a garrison state.
  • The necessary condition for doing so is that state and society raise their toleration for damage as a price they pay for openness and freedom. Kenneth Waltz long ago made the point that ‘if freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted’,38 though it has to be said that this part of his analysis has made little impact on US thinking about national security
  • if terrorism is a problem of the long term, as it well might be for advanced industrial societies, it would require a level of democratic sophistication and commitment rather higher than anything yet seen
  • Europe is more resilient and better able to defend its values without resorting to excesses of securitization. By comparison, the United States seems a softer target, too easily pricked into intemperate reactions that in themselves work to under-mine what it claims to stand for
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is broadly, historically true. But note France's ongoing state of emergency since the Paris attacks. The move from resilience toward garrison-state approaches is tempting for any government in times of popular uncertainty and fear.
Ed Webb

Why Saudis Don't Want to Pivot From the US to China - 0 views

  • an increasingly close economic and security relationship. Saudi Arabia supplies China with 18 percent of its energy needs, and it is expanding orders for petrochemical, industrial, and military equipment, much of which it previously obtained from the United States
  • Beijing is offering Riyadh a deal: Sell us your oil and help us stabilize global energy markets; choose whatever military equipment you want from our catalogue; and benefit as you like from cooperation with us in defense, aerospace, the automotive industry, health, and technology. In other words, the Chinese are offering the Saudis a bargain that appears to be modeled on the U.S-Saudi deal that stabilized the Middle East for 70 years.
  • many young Saudis naively tout the idea of replacing the United States with China. As graduates of U.S. universities and voracious consumers of U.S. pop culture and consumer technology, most educated Saudis feel close to the United States—close enough to feel bullied by what we see as unfair attacks by U.S. media and policymakers against us, our country, our leaders, and our culture. The alternative, for many, is to learn Mandarin and imagine future careers promoting Chinese industry and trade.
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  • Taken together, the Biden administration’s strategy appears to Saudis and other observers as an attempt to wrest the power to set oil prices away from OPEC+. If the move is successful, then it would make it impossible for Saudi Arabia to have the revenues to achieve its own development goals.
  • it should be abundantly clear why many Saudis are beginning to shift their gaze eastward. But I would counsel them that their hopes of China replacing the United States as a partner for Saudi Arabia are naive
  • Imagine the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showing us our region without U.S. technology, innovation, defense cooperation, and security relations. Imagine a region where the benefits and limits of personal freedom are not subjects to be debated by the people and their rulers—as Saudis are increasingly doing as our country reforms—but things dictated by a centralized one-party state that sees God as its enemy.
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    I don't agree with all of the analysis or even the characterization of some events, but the perspective is helpful
Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia, China Sign Deals Worth Up to $65 Billion | Foreign Policy - 2 views

  • Saudi Arabian King Salman traveled to China Thursday to deepen economic ties between the world’s biggest oil exporter and the world’s second-largest oil consumer. It’s a key stop in the king’s six-week trip to Asia that comes as Riyadh struggles with a slumping oil market and a desperate need to diversify its economy.
  • up to $65 billion worth of economic and trade deals, spanning sectors from energy to space
  • more than 20 agreements on oil investments and in renewable energy
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  • China even discussed taking a stake in Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil firm, which is preparing for a public listing
  • King Salman, and especially crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, have launched an ambitious campaign to shock the country out of oil-dependency and diversify the economy under the auspices of its Saudi Vision 2030 plan. It’s culminated in the unusual six-week trip to Asia that includes stops in Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Maldives as Salman courts foreign investors
  • Xi couched China’s future role in the Middle East in purely economic terms, citing his country’s ambitious One Belt One Road initiative, China’s state-run Xinhua News reported. He stressed China would continue its longstanding policy of non-interference in the Middle East, in contrast to the United States and European counterparts
  • But China has steadily ramped up involvement in the region as its dependence on Middle Eastern oil grows. Beijing began building its first overseas military outpost, a naval base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, in 2016. And it funneled thousands of peacekeepers to U.N. missions, including in oil-rich countries like South Sudan.
Ed Webb

UAE signs nuclear energy deals with three Chinese companies - 0 views

  • The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation has signed three agreements with China National Nuclear Corporation and its subsidiaries during a visit to China.An agreement with Nuclear Power Operations Research Institute will focus on possible collaboration between the two parties in nuclear energy operations and maintenance.
  • Unit 3 of Abu Dhabi's Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant began commercial operations in February.It was the third unit to be delivered in three consecutive years, generating up to 4,200 megawatts of clean electricity capacity to the grid.
  • The deal signed with the China National Nuclear Corporation Overseas will focus on co-operation in the field of high temperature gas-cooled reactors.The third agreement with the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation will focus on possible collaboration in nuclear fuel supply and investment.
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  • Barakah is the Arab world’s first nuclear power station and, once fully operational, will supply about 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity needs.
  • “Given the size of China’s economy and the scale of its development of renewable energy and decarbonisation technology, China provides a good model for sustainable economic growth and the global energy transition,” said Dr Al Jaber, who is also the UAE's Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology.
Ed Webb

Saudi crown prince defends China's right to put Uighur Muslims in concentration camps - 0 views

  • "China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremisation work for its national security,” Prince Mohammed, who has been in China signing multi-million trade deals much to the annoyance of his Western allies, was quoted as saying on Chinese state television
  • China has detained an estimated one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, where they are undergoing re-education programmes allegedly intended to combat extremism. The Uighur are an ethnic Turkic group that practices Islam and lives in Western China and parts of Central Asia.
  • Uighur groups had appealed to Saudi’s powerful young prince to take up their cause, as the ultraconservative kingdom has traditionally been a defender of the rights of Muslims worldwide.
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  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, became the first to condemn Beijing, however, describing China's treatment of its Uighur population as "a great cause of shame for humanity" last month and asking it to close the "concentration camps".
  • Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan, where Prince Salman has just visited, said he “did not know” much about the conditions of the Uighurs.
Ed Webb

Saudi Crown prince threatened economic pain on U.S. during oil standoff - The Washingto... - 0 views

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened to fundamentally alter the decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship and impose significant economic costs on the United States if it retaliated against the oil cuts
  • It is unclear whether the crown prince’s threat was conveyed directly to U.S. officials or intercepted through electronic eavesdropping, but his dramatic outburst reveals the tension at the heart of a relationship long premised on oil-for-security but rapidly evolving as China takes a growing interest in the Middle East and the United States assesses its own interests as the world’s largest oil producer.
  • Biden, who pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” as a presidential candidate, scarcely communicates with the crown prince but the president’s top aides have gradually rebuilt ties with him hoping the two nations can work together on pressing issues, including a long-sought peace deal in Yemen, a sustained cease-fire in Sudan, counterterrorism challenges and continued disagreements over the supply of oil.
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  • U.S. officials say the U.S.-Saudi relationship is too important to let languish given Riyadh’s economic and political clout and Beijing’s courtship of traditional U.S. partners in the Middle East.
  • Following Blinken’s meetings, differences appeared to remain over Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to generate nuclear power, seen by Washington and others as a potential proliferation risk, and the notion that the United States has a right to admonish the kingdom over its human rights record
  • a steady stream of high-level U.S. meetings in the kingdom in recent months, including trips by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA Director William J. Burns, Biden’s top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk, and his senior energy security official Amos Hochstein.
  • The oil-rich country has sought to present itself as a global player unmoored to Washington. In recent months, Riyadh has been on a diplomatic tear, winding down hostilities in Yemen, restoring relations with arch-nemesis Iran, inviting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab League after a decade-plus ban, and ending its regional tiff with Qatar.
  • Saudi Arabia’s relationship with China, which the United States considers its top economic and security competitor, was also raised during Blinken’s news conference in Riyadh. The top U.S. diplomat denied any suggestion that the United States was forcing Saudi Arabia to choose between Washington and Beijing.AdvertisementA second leaked U.S. intelligence document from December warned that Saudi Arabia plans to expand its “transactional relationship” with China by procuring drones, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and mass surveillance systems from Beijing. But U.S. officials say those warnings were exaggerated and did not come to fruition.
  • “China is the world’s second-largest economy. China is our largest trading partner. So naturally, there is a lot of interaction … and that cooperation is likely to grow,” he said. “But we still have a robust security partnership with the U.S. That security partnership is refreshed on an almost daily basis.”
Ed Webb

The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis? | Crisis Group - 0 views

  • The Ukraine conflict may be a matter of global concern, but states’ responses to it continue to be conditioned by internal political debates and foreign policy priorities.
  • China has hewed to a non-position on Russian aggression – neither condemning nor supporting the act, and declining to label it as an invasion – while lamenting the current situation as “something we do not want to see”. With an eye to the West, Beijing abstained on rather than vetoing a Security Council resolution calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, and reports indicate that two major Chinese state banks are restricting financing for Russian commodities. Beijing now emphasises the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty in its statements, a point that had either been absent from earlier statements or more ambiguously discussed as “principles of the UN Charter”.
  • the worldview that major powers can and do occasionally break the rules
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  • Beijing’s opposition to U.S. coalition building and expansion of military cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries. Overall, Beijing’s instinct is to understand the Ukraine crisis largely through the lens of its confrontation with Washington.
  • Beijing will want to ensure its position is not overly exposed to Western criticism and to safeguard its moral standing in the eyes of developing countries
  • When Russia invaded Ukraine, India immediately came under the spotlight as at once a consequential friend of Moscow and a country traditionally keen to portray itself as the world’s largest democracy and a champion of peace. The U.S. and European countries pressured India not to side with Moscow and the Ukrainian ambassador in New Delhi pleaded for India to halt its political support for Russia. Yet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has responded to the invasion with the blunt realism of a rising, aspirational power that does not want to get caught between Russia and what Modi calls the “NATO group”. India chose the well-trodden non-alignment path and hid behind diplomatic language with a not-so-subtle tilt toward Russia.
  • “military-technical cooperation”, which has resulted in more than 60 per cent of India’s arms and defence systems being of Russian origin
  • India also depends on Russia to counterbalance China, which has become its primary security and foreign policy concern, especially given its unresolved border tensions with Beijing. With Pakistan, India’s main rival, already close to China and cosying up to Russia, India’s worst fear is that China, Pakistan and Russia will come together
  • Relations with Washington are already strained largely because of Islamabad’s seemingly unconditional support for the Afghan Taliban. To give his government diplomatic space, Khan has sought to forge closer ties with Moscow. Those efforts could not have come at a less opportune time.
  • Khan returned home with little to show from the trip, the first by a Pakistani prime minister in over two decades. He signed no agreements or memoranda of understanding with his Russian counterpart. Widening Western sanctions on Russia have also sunk Pakistani hopes of energy cooperation with Moscow, casting particular doubt on the fate of a proposed multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project.
  • In contrast to Russia, with which Pakistan’s commerce is miniscule, the U.S. and EU states are its main trading partners. The war in Ukraine could further undermine Pakistan’s economy. The rise in global fuel prices is already fuelling record-high inflation and putting food security at risk, since before the invasion Ukraine provided Pakistan with more than 39 per cent of its wheat imports. With a trade deficit estimated by one analyst at around $40 billion, Islamabad’s reliance on external sources of funding will inevitably grow. A Russia under heavy sanctions will be in no position to assist. In such a scenario, Pakistan’s powerful military, which Khan depends on for his own political survival, could question his foreign posture.
  • The Gulf Arab countries have so far adopted an ambiguous position on the Russian aggression in Ukraine. As close U.S. partners that also have increasing ties to Russia, they sit between a rock and a hard place, unwilling to openly antagonise either side. They have landed in this conundrum because of what they perceive as a growing U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. In response, they embarked on an effort to diversify their security relations, moving away from sole reliance on Washington. Russia is one of these new partners.
  • No Gulf power wants to give the impression of siding with the Kremlin, for fear of aggravating the U.S. – their primary security guarantor. But as international support for Ukraine and anger at those seen to support (or at least not publicly oppose) Russia grows, the damage may already have been done: the U.S. and its European allies were appalled at the Gulf states’ reticence to get in line with immediate condemnations of the Russian invasion
  • despite Iran’s own experience of losing large swaths of territory to Czarist Russia in the nineteenth century and facing Soviet occupation during and immediately after World War II, the Islamic Republic today can claim few major allies beyond Russia. Tehran sees few upsides in breaking ranks with Moscow. In comparison to the possible results of provoking the Kremlin with anything less than fulsome support, the diplomatic opprobrium it may receive from the U.S. and Europe is of little consequence.
  • Israel has substantive relations with both Russia and Ukraine: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the war began, and has offered to act as mediator; Israel sees itself as, in effect, sharing a border with Russia to its north east in Syria, relying on Putin’s continued tacit approval of its airstrikes on Iranian targets there; large Jewish and Israeli populations reside in both Russia and Ukraine and over 1.5 million Russian and Ukrainian expatriates live in Israel; and Israel is a major U.S. ally and beneficiary that identifies with the Western “liberal democratic order”.
  • concerned that the fallout from the war could lead Putin to increase arms sales to anti-Western proxies along its borders, chiefly Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon, or step up electronic measures to disrupt NATO operations in the Mediterranean Sea, affecting Israel’s own navigation systems. Thus far, Russia has assured Israel that it will continue coordination on Syria, though reiterating that it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed
  • Israel has offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine but has refused to sell it arms or provide it with military assistance.
  • President Zelenskyy is the only elected Jewish head of state outside Israel. He lost family in the Holocaust. As such, Israel’s silence on Putin’s antisemitic rhetoric, such as his claim to be “denazifying” Ukraine with the invasion, is noteworthy. That said, Israel has some track record – vis-à-vis Hungary and Poland, for example – of placing what its leaders view as national security or foreign relations concerns above taking a strong stand against antisemitism.
  • Since the invasion began, Bolsonaro’s affinities with Moscow have exposed the divisions within his hard-right government. From the outset, Brazil’s foreign ministry has vowed to maintain a position of neutrality, urging a diplomatic solution. But a day after the invasion, Hamilton Mourão, the vice president and a retired army general, said “there must be a real use of force to support Ukraine”, arguing that “if the Western countries let Ukraine fall, then it will be Bulgaria, then the Baltic states and so on”, drawing an analogy to the conquests of Nazi Germany. Hours later, Bolsonaro said only he could speak about the crisis, declaring that Mourão had no authority to comment on the issue.
  • Since 2014, Turkish defence companies have been increasingly engaged in Ukraine, and in 2019 they sold the country drones that Ukrainians see as significant in slowing the Russian advance.
  • On 27 February, Ankara announced that it would block warships from Russia and other littoral states from entering the Black Sea via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits as long as the war continues, in line with the Montreux Convention (though Russian vessels normally based in Black Sea ports are exempt from the restriction, under the convention’s terms). But it also requested other states, implicitly including NATO members, to avoid sending their ships through the straits, in an apparent effort to limit the risks of escalation and maintain a balanced approach to the conflict.
  • Some fear, for instance, that Russia and its Syrian regime ally will ratchet up pressure on Idlib, the rebel-held enclave in Syria’s north west, forcing large numbers of refugees into Turkey, from where they might try to proceed to Europe. This worry persists though it is unclear that Russia would want to heat up the Syrian front while facing resilient Ukrainian resistance.
  • A prolonged war will only exacerbate Turkey’s security and economic concerns, and if Russia consolidates control of Ukraine’s coastline, it will also deal a significant blow to Turkey in terms of the naval balance of power in the Black Sea. It is likely that Turkey will draw closer to NATO as a result of this war, and less likely that Turkey will buy a second batch of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia
  • Kenya, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has taken a more strident stance in opposition to Russia’s invasion than most non-NATO members of the Council. This position springs in part from the country’s history. Nairobi was one of the strongest supporters of a founding principle of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) prescribing respect for territorial integrity and the inviolability of member states’ colonial-era borders.
  • As in many African countries, a deep current of public opinion is critical of Western behaviour in the post-Cold War era, emphasising the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, as well as the double standards that many Kenyans perceive in Washington’s democracy promotion on the continent.
  • What Nairobi saw as Washington’s endorsement of the 2013 coup in Egypt particularly rankled Kenyan authorities, who took an especially vocal public position against that putsch
  • Kenya will also push for the strengthening of multilateralism in Africa to confront what many expect to be difficult days ahead in the international arena. “We are entering an age of global disorder”, Peter Kagwanja, a political scientist and adviser to successive Kenyan presidents, told Crisis Group. “The African Union must band together or we will all hang separately”.
  • longstanding solidarity between South Africa and Russia. In the Soviet era, Moscow offered South Africans support in the anti-apartheid struggle and actively backed liberation movements across southern Africa.
  • Although just over half of African states backed the UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine, many governments in the region have responded to the war with caution. Few have voiced open support for Russia, with the exception of Eritrea. But many have avoided taking strong public positions on the crisis, and some have explicitly declared themselves neutral.
  • Ghana, which joined the UN Security Council in January, has consistently backed the government in Kyiv. The West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), released a statement condemning Russia’s actions. Nonetheless, not all ECOWAS members voted for the General Assembly resolution. Mali, which has drawn closer to Russia as France pulled its military forces out of the country, abstained. Burkina Faso did not vote, perhaps reflecting the fact that Russia watered down a Security Council statement condemning the January coup in Ouagadougou.
  • Russia has many friends in Africa due in part to the Soviet Union’s support for liberation movements during the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. Many also appreciated Moscow’s strident opposition to the more recent disastrous Western interventions in Iraq and Libya. Furthermore, a number of African leaders studied in the Soviet Union or Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has done a good job of maintaining these ties over the years. Numerous African security figures also received their training in Russia.
  • African leaders and elites generally oppose sanctions, seeing them as blunt tools that tend to punish the general population more than national leaders. In the meantime, African officials are concerned that the war will have a deleterious impact on the continent’s economies and food security, both by driving up energy prices and by restricting grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine (a particular concern after a period of poor rainfall and weak harvests in parts of the continent). These shocks are liable to be severe in African countries that are still only beginning to recover from the downturn prompted by COVID-19, although oil producers such as Nigeria, Congo and Equatorial Guinea may benefit from a hike in energy prices.
  • The Ukraine conflict is a major problem for Turkey. It threatens not only to damage Ankara’s relations with Moscow, but also to hurt the Turkish economy, pushing up energy costs and stopping Russian and Ukrainian tourists from visiting Turkey. Some analysts estimate that a decline in tourism could mean up to $6 billion in lost revenue.
  • Calls for neutrality nevertheless enjoy traction in Brazil. Within the government, there is concern that Western sanctions against Moscow will harm the economy, in particular its agricultural sector, which relies heavily on imports of Russian-made fertilisers. Brazil’s soya production, one of the country’s main sources of income, would suffer considerably from a sanctioned Russia.
  • Mexico depends on the U.S for its natural gas supply, and the prospect of rising prices is spurring the government to consider other means of generating electricity
  • Relations between Russia and Venezuela flourished under the late president, Hugo Chávez, who set the relationship with Washington on an antagonistic course. Under Maduro, Venezuela’s links to Russia have intensified, especially through the provision of technical military assistance as well as diplomatic backing from Moscow after Maduro faced a major challenge from the U.S.-linked opposition in early 2019.
Ed Webb

Can China replace US hegemony in the Middle East? - 0 views

  • "China is not interested in replacing the US' hegemony in the region as a whole. From the point of view of its strategic culture and military doctrine, the Chinese do not want to take on this kind of commitment and probably neither can as China is not militarily prepared,"
  • While the US and EU may limit their investments in the Gulf region due to concerns over human rights and other issues, China's approach makes it easier for the Gulf states to achieve their goals.
  • Beijing has a long-standing relationship with Tehran, and the Chinese leadership has carefully managed this relationship to maintain neutrality and safeguard its own economic, political, and security interests.
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  • From the perspective of Gulf countries, Xi Jinping's visit to the region was meant to show the United States and the European Union that they are not without options and can use their increased strategic importance to gain the best from both the West and China.
Ed Webb

Chinese drones: Cheap, lethal and flying in the Middle East | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • China’s new hit product: the CH-4 Caihong, or "Rainbow", drone.
  • The Middle East is no stranger to drones flown by the US, which have killed thousands of people over the last decade.But more nations are entering the game thanks to a new player in the market: Chinese manufacturers offering cheap hardware with a no-questions-asked sales policy.China has been aggressively marketing the CH-4, which bears a striking resemblance to the US MQ-9 Reaper and has similar capabilities.
  • Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are now believed to operate variants of Chinese armed drones
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  • China has not signed the international Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, meaning it has fewer restrictions on the sale of drone technology
  • “Countries with less-than-ideal human rights records tend to use their weapons in less-than-ideal human rights manners, whether it’s a drone or a water cannon."
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE are believed to have used the drones in their war in Yemen. While there are not verified reports of drone attacks, evidence of their use includes satellite photographs, as well as images of a drone resembling a CH-4 shot down by Houthi fighters.Saudi Arabia has been condemned by a host of bodies including the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Parliament for apparent indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen.
  • while drones offer safety for operators, leaked reports from the US drone programme suggest that up to 90 percent of those killed in drone strikes may be unintended targets, or "collateral damage". 
Ed Webb

UAE and the Horn of Africa: A Tale of Two Ports - 0 views

  • On February 22, Djibouti seized control of the Doraleh Container Terminal from its joint owner and operator, the Dubai-based DP World. The seizure was not wholly unexpected and was the culmination of Djibouti's deteriorating bilateral ties with the United Arab Emirates and a lost legal battle with DP World to renegotiate the terms of the port concession that gave it a 33 percent equity stake in 2006. The London Court of International Arbitration Tribunal ruled against Djibouti's claims, lodged in 2014, that DP World paid bribes in order to secure the 30-year concession
  • Doraleh opened in 2009 and is the only container terminal in the Horn of Africa able to handle 15,000-ton container ships. It quickly became the most important entrepot for the region's largest country and economy, Ethiopia, which was rendered landlocked by Eritrea's independence in 1993. Ethiopia receives around 97 percent of its imports through Doraleh — around 70 percent of the port's activity — in what has become an unacceptable strategic reliance on a neighbor
  • the increasingly complex dynamics animating the geopolitics, and the more localized politics, being shaped by the competition among aspiring regional powers of the Middle East — particularly Gulf Arab states and Turkey — and China for influence in the Horn of Africa
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  • A year after DP World finalized an agreement with the semiautonomous region of Somaliland to develop a $442 million commercial port in Berbera, Ethiopia inked a deal with the port operator and Somaliland's government to acquire a 19 percent stake in the port. There are reportedly plans for DP World to upgrade the connectivity infrastructure linking Berbera to the Ethiopian border that would allow Addis Ababa and potentially greater East Africa to reduce their sole dependence on Djibout
  • Bashir also agreed to lease Turkey the Red Sea island of Suakin for development. Though Turkey has denied it, concerns quickly arose that Ankara planned to build a new military base on the island, which would be its second in the Horn of Africa with the first in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
  • Along with the competition by outside players has come greater leverage for Horn of Africa countries, whose elites have long been adept at playing external patrons off one another. Ethiopia has to some degree succeeded in diluting Abu Dhabi's reliance on its enemy, Eritrea, by supporting its plans for the Berbera port. In 2015, after losing access to Djibouti for military operations, the UAE constructed a base in the coastal Eritrean city of Assab, which has been vital to its operations in southern Yemen. By supporting the UAE's military and commercial infrastructure plans in Somaliland, Ethiopia — the Horn of Africa's largest and most powerful country — also contributed to the fracturing of Somalia by encouraging the de facto consolidation of Somaliland's independence
  • In Sudan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have led efforts to rehabilitate President Omar Bashir in the international community by lobbying for U.S. sanctions on Sudan to be lifted. Bashir agreed to cut ties with Iran and send troops to fight for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen
  • The intra-Gulf Cooperation Council crisis has added another destabilizing variable, as countries, parties, and elites in East Africa have been forced to choose sides
  • The confidence with which Horn of Africa elites are pursuing their own interests at the risk of angering new patrons underscores the high stakes for the participants in this so-called "new scramble for Africa," and also their long-term intent. Djibouti in particular emerged over the past decade as a strategic focal point next to the Bab el-Mandeb shipping lane, existential for the flow of Gulf energy to Europe and goods between Asia and Europe. It has leveraged its location for lucrative basing deals for current and emerging world powers alike. The United States, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and former colonial ruler France all have bases in Djibouti.
  • the UAE's longer-term interests — as well as those of its competitors — are economic and strategic. The country is working to make itself an essential component of China's Belt and Road Initiative and secure Dubai's Jebel Ali as the key logistics and trade hub linking Asia to Africa via DP World infrastructure, in the face of competition by a glut of new ports built by rivals with similar ambitions in Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and elsewhere along the Horn of Africa
  • ports projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, Algeria, and Mali
  • State-backed and private investors from the UAE have invested in a wide range of non-energy sectors, from finance and banking to construction, tourism, food, entertainment, and agri-business
  • The UAE is also trying to make the nature of its engagement more attractive for African governments and private sector partners: Rather than following the path of China, which has been perceived negatively as following a pseudo-colonial model in Africa, it is looking more toward the Turkish model. Investments such as DP World's in Somalia or military bases come with packages of infrastructure investment, training, and education for workers and security forces, as well as inducements such as greater numbers of visas to the UAE
  • Food and water security continues to be an important interest for the UAE and other Gulf countries in East Africa. Emirati companies are seeking to avoid the political pitfalls that have caused past investments in land for food production to fail. Privately owned Al Dahra Holding, which owns farmland in Africa, claims to use a 50-50 sharing formula for produce with local companies and hires local workers
Ed Webb

Egypt praises China's 'remarkable rights achievements' despite Uyghur crackdown - Middl... - 0 views

  • Egypt, an ally of China, has backed a Belarus text that praises Beijing for “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” despite increasing condemnation for its treatment of the Uyghurs in the northwest region of Xinjiang where thousands are being held in internment camps.
  • In August a letter outlining the support of 37 mainly Muslim majority countries for China’s crackdown on Uyghurs as a necessary counter-terror measure ignited outrage.
  • On Tuesday, 23 nations backed a British statement condemning Beijing’s human rights record, but it was countered by 54 other countries including Pakistan, Russia, Bolivia, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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  • The Chinese government is leaning on countries wishing to move closer to Beijing to arrest and hand over Uyghurs. Uyghurs in Morocco, the UAE and Pakistan have all faced deportation back to China.
  • Two years ago Egypt security forces raided houses where Uyghurs were living and sent them to the Chinese embassy in Egypt.
Ed Webb

Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to restore ties after China mediation - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Saudi Arabia and Iran announced an agreement in China on Friday to resume relations more than seven years after severing ties, a major breakthrough in a bitter rivalry that has long divided the Middle East.
  • part of an initiative by Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at “developing good neighborly relations” between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia accused Iran of sowing strife in its minority-Shiite communities, which have long complained of discrimination and neglect from authorities in Riyadh. A month after Nimr’s execution, the kingdom put 32 people on trial on charges of spying for Iran, including 30 Saudi Shiites. Fifteen were ultimately given death sentences.
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  • Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 after the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was attacked and burned by Iranian protesters, angered by the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr. The cleric had emerged as a leading figure in protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, a Shiite-majority region in the Sunni-majority nation.
  • Tensions reached new heights in 2019 after a wave of Houthi drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, knocking out half of the kingdom’s oil output. At the time, U.S. officials said they believed the assault was launched from Iranian territory. Tehran denied involvement.
  • Yemen has enjoyed a rare reprieve from fighting since last April, when a United Nations-sponsored truce went into effect. Though the truce expired in October, the peace has largely held, and back-channel talks between the Houthis and the Saudis have resumed.Story continues below advertisementThese negotiations “are also a reflection of Saudi-Iranian rapprochement,” said Maysaa Shuja al-Deen, a senior researcher at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
  • The Yemeni Embassy in Washington responded defiantly to Friday’s announcement, tweeting that “The rogue Iranian regime is still sending lethal weapons to the terrorist Houthi militia in Yemen, and the Yemeni embassy in Tehran is still occupied.”
  • The Houthis, meanwhile, appeared to approve of the agreement. “The region needs the restoration of normal relations between its countries, so that the Islamic nation can recover its security lost as a result of foreign interventions,” spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam tweeted.
  • Iran and Saudi Arabia had been exploring a rapprochement since 2021, participating in talks hosted by Iraq and Oman.
  • “Facing a dead end in nuclear negotiations with the United States, and shunned by the European Union because of its arms exports to Russia … Iran has scored a major diplomatic victory,” said Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
  • China’s well-publicized role in the deal was probably intended to send a message to major powers, including the United States, “that the hub for the Middle East is shifting,”
  • Beijing has largely avoided intervening politically in the Middle East, focusing instead on deepening economic ties. China is the largest importer of energy from the region, and “there is a lot of interest” among major players including Saudi Arabia and Iran in securing long-term access to Chinese markets
  • “China has truly arrived as a strategic actor in the Gulf,”
Ed Webb

Barack Obama's great test | open Democracy News Analysis - 0 views

  • the limitations of Obama's style and approach
  • His administration, he promised, would do its best to revive the world's economy, to address climate change, to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and to bring peace to Israel and Palestine. These are all admirable aspirations, and it is perhaps unreasonable to hope that the president might have admitted that the United States has been largely responsible for each of these problems.
  • Barack Obama is increasingly coming to look like Lyndon B Johnson, a brilliantly gifted politician whose ambition to build a "great society" was sacrificed because of the war in Vietnam. The heart of the Obama approach is now clear. He genuinely wants to move away from the frozen folly of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century, but he is not willing to take the political risk of acknowledging America's responsibility for the problems he wants to solve.
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  • Still less does anyone in Washington seem to understand that "Gitmo" itself was always an absurd colonial anomaly of the kind Americans used to denounce. Nor does there seem any will to undo the creation of an even more scandalous, though militarily more useful, colony in the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.
  • Washington's instinct is to treat China as a potential partner in the domination of the world
  • Because Europe is divided into many different states, and no doubt because many American politicians and policy-makers find European attitudes annoying, American policy does not recognise that collectively Europe has a bigger economy than the United States and far bigger than China (even if China's growth has been spectacular).
  • No one questions Barack Obama's personal goodwill, still less his political intelligence. But on the basis of his first nine months in office, his commitment to a serious reassessment of the limitations of American power - let alone to an acknowledgment of the implications of the country's relative decline - is not yet clear.
Ed Webb

Members of new Pompeo task force have previously praised human-rights abusers | PBS New... - 0 views

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights on Monday, saying he hoped it would undertake the most extensive reexamination of what counts as an “unalienable right,” first laid out in a 1948 United Nations document known as “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
  • the new chairperson of the 10-person commission has written in favor of practices that could undermine Pompeo’s stated goal of “ground[ing] our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” Separately, two of the new commissioners are on record defending known human-rights abusers.
  • In making the case for the commission, and the need for a wholesale revisiting of the concept of “human rights,” the State Department actually cited a white paper released by the Chinese Communist Party last year, in which it asserted that it had “blazed a trail of development in human rights that conforms to the national conditions.”
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  • Malinowski said governments like China could take advantage of possible U.S. flexibility to actually further their repressive practices in the name of “economic and social rights,” which is a term China often uses to justify its practices. For example, the State Department says China practices widespread Internet censorship to prevent disruptions to the “economic or social order,” according to the most recent human rights report.
  • Two have previously defended the regimes in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, all of which stand accused of human rights abuses by international standards.
  • In 2018, commissioner Russell Berman, a Stanford University professor of comparative literature and German studies, downplayed the outcry over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the reaction was politically motivated
  • Michael Posner, who served at State from 2009 to 2013. Posner expressed doubt that any one commissioner’s personal views would affect the department’s overall policies, but said that their ruminations on long-standing positions held at each of the agency’s many bureaus could muddle the State Department’s overall message.
  • Asked about Berman’s Khashoggi comments, a senior administration official referred to President Donald Trump’s latest comments about the matter at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. During a press conference there, Trump said he was “very unhappy” about Khashoggi’s murder but said “nobody, so far, has pointed directly a finger at the future King of Saudi Arabia,” contradicting the assessment of his own intelligence agency.
  • Last year, another commission member, Hamza Yusuf, praised the UAE, calling it “a country that is committed to tolerance…. This is a country that is committed to civil society. It is one of the safest countries on the earth.” Contrary to Yusuf’s assertion, the UAE also stands accused of numerous human rights abuses perpetrated on its own citizens.
  • The official noted that the commission is part of the Policy Planning Staff, a clearinghouse for independent analysis and advice for the secretary of state, arguing that its position means it will not play a role in policy-making
  • These commissions do not need congressional approval or appropriations of funds. Instead, they are enacted with a “timely notice” in the Federal Register, per a 1972 law, which also says advisory committees may not make policy, leaving such decisions up to the president or “an officer of the federal government.”
  • Some human rights groups and Democratic lawmakers have also expressed concern that the commission’s goal of refocusing on “unalienable rights” is actually an attempt to narrow the rights the government has to protect, including abortion rights and protections for the LGBTQ community.
Ed Webb

Russia's future in Iran looks brighter as Europe, US fade - 0 views

  • To ease the isolation and economic pressure, Iran is looking to strengthen trade and financial relations with Russia as well as China and neighboring countries such as Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Iran has been seeking to conclude banking agreements and establish non-dollar and SWIFT-free financial mechanisms with these countries. Iran's efforts in this regard in relation to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey have been somewhat fruitful.
  •  trade between Iran and Russia grew 24.6% in the first seven months of 2019, reaching $1.33 billion. Russian exports to Iran reached $999.3 million (39.3% growth) and Iran’s exports to Russia stood at $333.7 million — a 6.2% decrease compared with the same period in the preceding year. Iran's share of Russia's total foreign trade rose from 0.3% to 0.4%.
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  • Iran said earlier this month that it has connected its Financial Electronic Messaging System (SEPAM) to the financial messaging system developed by the the Bank of Russia, SPFS, and trade is increasing and expected to continue growing in the coming months.
  • But the economic capacity of Iran-Russia relations is limited and Moscow doesn’t want to jeopardize its interests in a confrontation between Iran and the United States. So, although launching a special financial channel could boost bilateral trade, the increase wouldn’t be all that significant. For Iran, the regional aspect of launching this channel is more important than its bilateral dimension.
  • the transport capacity between the Far East, India, Russia and Europe is 30 million tons of cargo, expandable to 100 million tons. Mohammad Eslami, Iranian minister of roads and urban development, emphasized Iran will increase its share of cargo transported between the East and West. One of Iran's options for achieving this goal is the INSTC. According to Eslami, Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan will launch their integrated transport system by the end of 2020
  • boosting trade and financial ties with Iran could help fulfill Russia's political goals of reducing US pressure on Iran, saving the Iran nuclear deal and maintaining long-term regional relations with Iran
  • Russia doesn’t want to lag behind its rivals in taking advantage of Iran's large market. Iran and China recently updated a 25-year, $400 billion economic agreement signed in 2016. Europe hopes to expand trade with Iran through INSTEX. If the European and Chinese plans are realized, Russia's access to the Iranian market will decline and Moscow’s political goals will be challenged.
Ed Webb

Israelis want to know: Where has all the butter gone? - Green Prophet | Impact News for... - 0 views

  • “The fact that Israel’s largest food company is owned by the Chinese government will lead to a situation where the company implements policies that serve the interests of China [and not Israel],” he said in an interview with Ynet. “For China, Tnuva isn’t just a food company,” Halevi added. “China is doing everything it can to involve itself in Israeli research and development. The Chinese are very creative and flexible. If we do not wake up in time we will find that they will take over not only our food, but our academia. We must organize in order to defend Israeli assets, which are part of our national security conception.”
  • “A Tnuva spokesperson said that the only cause for the butter shortage is a shortage in milk-derived fat, due to the limited milk production quota set by the government.  Tnuva’s stock of milk fat, which it uses for butter and cream production, began running out in December last year, which could explain its decision to cut butter production in early 2019. In order to meet the demand for butter, Israel must increase milk quotas, several people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity told Calcalist. The industry requested 60 million liters of milk a year be added to its quota to allow it to extract more fat to use for butter production, the people said.”
  • Until recently, imported butter bore a heavy tax (from 126-140% for table butter and 144-160% for industrial butter), which importers were reluctant to pay because the government forbade selling it for more than the regulation price of NIS 3.94 per 100 grams.  Many importers simply declined to bring butter in.
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  • there are currently hundreds of containers of imported foods, and butter among them, sitting in Haifa and Ashdod ports. Due to the High Holidays that occurred in September and October, the containers have not been inspected by the Ministry of Health, and so have not been released
  • The Economy and Industry ministries recommend getting rid of  tariffs on imported butter and opening the Israeli market to competition. But under Israel’s current interim government,  policy changes are unlikely to be made any time soon. In the meantime, the Agriculture and Economy ministries cite unequal distribution of import quotas and blame each other for it.  
  • why not allow Israeli farmers to increase milk production, thus allowing Tnuva to obtain the milk fat needed to make it?
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