Archive for ‘Saudi Arabia’

July 6, 2011

Is OPEC Headed for Collapse?

Opec Organization of the Petroleum Exporting C...

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi:

In the comments section of one of my previous articles, a reader asked me whether the collapse of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC — responsible for 40% of the world’s petroleum output) is likely in the near future. Fair question, especially in light of the currently dysfunctional state of the Arab League. Are we really about to witness the end of a monopoly on global oil prices?

In short, it is too difficult to predict either way. I discussed earlier how the  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC ) is starting to replace the Arab League as an inter-Arab political body and Sunni axis against Iran, shifting the onus of decision-making to the Gulf region. However, some of OPEC’s most prominent members — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Kuwait — are also part of the GCC, and it is notable that neither Syria nor Egypt, both of whose states of political turmoil have been responsible for the Arab League’s decline, is a major exporter of petroleum or member of OPEC. Thus, the growing importance of the GCC as opposed to the diminishing relevance of the Arab League is unlikely to have a major impact on OPEC’s future.

What is more interesting, however, is the conflict within OPEC between a bloc of states led by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, led chiefly by Iran and Venezuela, on the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) decision to tap into “strategic” (or “excess”) stockpiles of petroleum in an attempt to boost output, provide relief for high oil prices, and to stabilize the global economy. The IEA hopes to increase production by around 2 million barrels per day. Following a meeting that resulted in a deadlock at OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna on June 8, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait parted ways with other OPEC members and promised to raise production levels by 1.5 million barrels per day. Indeed, over the past month the Saudis have already increased output by approximately 500,000 barrels per day.

Now, ostensibly, Saudi Arabia is complying with the IEA’s initiative, but John Shimkus plausibly argues for another motive behind the Saudis’ behavior: namely, fear of Iran’s nuclear program, which is probably striving to develop nuclear weapons. As pointed out before, Iran has been at the head of an effort to block release of excess oil reserves. Hence, we should not be surprised if Saudi Arabia and its allies in OPEC might wish to flood the market with their own petroleum in the hope of bringing Iran’s government to the point of bankruptcy and thereby halting the Islamic Republic’s goals for its nuclear program. [READ THE REST]

 

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June 17, 2011

Follow the money

Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, October 13, 1998

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Alex Joffe on Yale:

It is well known, for instance, that Yale has long been seeking support from wealthy Arab donors. In particular, it has wooed Saudi Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, who in 2005 gave $20 million apiece to Harvard and Georgetown for Islamic-studies programs. (Yale, which competed vigorously for the prize, made it to the final round.) True to their donors’ intent, such academic programs are faithful disseminators of the “narrative” of Muslim victimization. In the same connection, it should likewise be borne in mind that in 2009, alerted to the imminent publication by its own press of a scholarly book on the Danish-cartoons controversy, the Yale administration summarily intervened to yank images of the cartoons from the final product—on the grounds that their appearance might elicit “violence.”

And, from March, on the bigger picture:

The transparency of programs like the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding—established in 2005 with the Saudi royal’s $20-million gift to Georgetown University, and staffed with reliable apologists—is glaring. Alwaleed himself could not have been clearer, stating that because of the events of 9/11, “the image of Islam [had] been tarnished in the West”; hence, his donation to Georgetown, along with one to Harvard in the same amount, was intended “to teach about the Islamic world to the United States.”

Alwaleed’s terms had been on even brighter display years earlier. Offering $10 million to New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he noted pointedly that the “United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East” since “our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek.” Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani promptly and publicly spurned the money, calling Alwaleed’s statement not only wrong but “part of the problem.” What Giuliani explicitly rejected, universities have implicitly embraced.

The effect has been felt most saliently in academic studies of the Middle East. An early and rather clumsy attempt at influence-buying, as Martin Kramer notes in his Ivory Towers on Sand, was a 1977 grant to Georgetown from Libya; the motives behind it were so blatant that three years later the money was returned with interest. But this, like earlier sallies by the Shah of Iran (to endow chairs of Iranian studies) and the Turkish government (for an Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington), was merely the prelude to a flood of oil money.

Between 1995 and 2008, according to the researcher Stanley Kurtz, Arab Gulf states gave $234 million in contracts and about $88 million in gifts to American universities. Although amounting to only a drop in the bucket of total university endowments, such targeted gifts, like the $20 million contributed by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to the University of Arkansas, and various multi-million-dollar donations to Berkeley, Cornell, Princeton, Texas A&M, Columbia, Rutgers, and other schools, have meant a very great deal locally.

The aims of these investments are very specific: the creation of a particular sort of cultural “understanding.” And in this respect they have paid off, especially in the area of faculty hiring and concentration. Early on, there was much touting of secularization in the Middle East, a commodity that failed to materialize. As for radical Islam, a subject in much greater need of “understanding,” it was downplayed both before and even after 9/11. Instead, the supposedly “separate political wings” of Hamas and Hizballah, the way that elections in the Arab world allegedly tend to “moderate” radical groups, and the so-called “incrementalism” toward democracy of tyrants like Qaddafi were held up as hopeful signs. To this day, even as the study of Israel itself has been marginalized, the Palestinian cause has been presented as the pivotal issue of all time and the real key to everything one would ever need to know about the Middle East.

Although report after report has documented the strong anti-Israel bias coming out of these programs, the U.S. government has also abetted them financially through Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1998, which provides funds to centers of Middle East studies undertaking language instruction and, ominously, outreach to local primary and secondary schools. But the American government is one thing, foreign donors something else, and these particular foreign donors something else again. Here the fundamental issue remains: why was the money taken in the first place?

Sometimes, to be sure, the deal stinks a little too much. In a surprising display of backbone, UCLA returned a $1-million gift from Turkey after it was revealed that scholars would be prevented from using Ottoman archives that might confirm evidence of genocide against Armenians in World War I. But this was a rare exception. In 2003, the Harvard Divinity School would have been happy to take $2.5 million from Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, despite his support for Holocaust denial, were it not for the activism of one persistent student. The next year, back at the trough, Harvard accepted two $1-million gifts from unnamed donors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and another $14.5 million two years later. In 2008, thanks to a gift of $50 million, New York University set up a campus for international students in the UAE (sorry, no Israelis allowed), as have other American universities.

And, from across the Atlantic, Student Rights report:

Our latest report uncovers the links with the Saudi Arabian Regime which has resulted in SOAS directly receiving £755,000 from the Saudi Arabian Royal family. Further scandals are also uncovered by this report.

The briefing unveils the fact that SOAS provided Mutassim Gaddafi, the National Security Advisor to the Murderous Gaddafi regime, with private English tutoring and that an agreement between SOAS and Al-Fateh University in Tripoli was signed just months before the uprisings began in Libya.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a cleric who is banned from the UK and US for endorsing suicide bombings and the killing of pregnant women, is on the editorial board of the SOAS journal of Quranic Studies. Al-Qaradawi has in addition been condemned by over 2,500 Muslim scholars worldwide.

An article on our report has been written by The Jewish Chronicle and the brief is also the subject of a new Early Day Motion proposed by Robert Halfon MP.

And from back in April:

It has emerged that the august institution of St. Andrews, the UK university renowned for its ties to the British Royal family, has been taking money from Bashar Assad’s despotic Syrian regime.

As democratic protesters are slaughtered in their hundreds in Syria,The Guardian has uncovered that over £100,000 has moved from the Syrian government to St. Andrews.

“Opened in November 2006 as part of the university’s school of international relations, funding for the centre was only secured with the assistance of Khiyami, who, according to the centre’s head, Prof Raymond Hinnebusch, persuaded Syrian-born British businessman Ayman Asfari to pay for it.”

Raheem Kassam, Director of counter-extremism pressure group Student Rights has said, “It is deplorable that in the wake of the LSE-Libya scandal, universities have not come forward and ceased to work with murderous regimes across the Arab world.  If these institutions persist in taking money from dictatorships who insist on oppressing their people, then the UK government should immediately cease funding to them.”

The Guardian has quoted Robert Halfon MP, advisory board member for Student Rights:“We need to learn from what’s happened with Libyan funding of our universities, that universities should not accept money from governments like Syria, or those with connections to the Syrian government. The danger is that you get compromised by the amount of money, and it inevitably influences your outlook on the Middle East. I’ve argued that universities that take money from dictatorships should receive a reduction in their public subsidy.”

April 1, 2011

Wisdom

Reserves-petroles-dispo-sel

A confluence of recent events – nuclear crisis in Japan, the struggle in Libya, the downgrading of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity and the tragi-comic attempt to introduce ‘bio-fuel’ has created the perfect opportunity for a fundamental, worldwide debate on energy use and the creation of sustainable societies. Will that debate take place? That’s another question.

March 24, 2011

The new arms race in a multipolar world

RIYADH. King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdu...

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In the bi-polar world, the two superpowers raced against each other for bigger, more and more deadly weapons. In today’s multipolar world, the race is one which anybody can join. Here are a couple of reports from the side of the track.

  • China has new powerful Dong Feng 16 (DF-16) missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the island state’s National Security Bureau Director-General, Tsai Der-sheng.
  • Russia has claimed that it will inject USD100 billion into the development of its defence industries during the next decade.
  • General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of Ohio, USA-based, General Dynamics, was recently awarded two contracts worth $44 million for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia‘s tank program. The contracts were awarded by the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. This work is part of a plan by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to upgrade its entire fleet of 314 tanks. The first contract of $37.1 million is to provide materials and labor for the conversion of 42 M1A2 tanks to an M1A2S configuration for the Kingdom. The M1A2S will possess defined capabilities that “increase lethality while limiting obsolescence”. Saudi Arabia is the biggest defence spender in the region, and its tanks are currently being deployed in Bahrain to suppress the pro-democracy movement there.
  • Iran is rapidly and significantly expanding capabilities to accommodate larger missiles and satellite launch vehicles (SLVs), including the Simorgh 3 SLV in construction at Semnan space centre, according to Jane’s analysis of satellite imagery of the site. Tehran spends around $9.3-9.5 billion annually on defence, putting it at no.5 in the region.

Finally, check out this fantastic photo essay from IDEX, the global arms expo in Abu Dhabi.


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March 16, 2011

Arming the dictators: How the west profiteers from anti-democracy actions in the Middle East

In its broadest sense, the arms industry encom...

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Saudi Arabia uses UK-made armoured vehicles in Bahrain crackdown on democracy protesters

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The armoured vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle Upon Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium (Jane’s Armour and Artillery 2009-10 pp. 664)

The Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) ordered 261 of the vehicles in 2006 for delivery in 2008. Saudi forces entered Bahrain in a convoy of the Tacticas on 13 March, at the invitation of the Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family. It seems that the Saudi forces are being held in reserve, leaving the front-line repression of protesters by Bahrain’s military and security forces.

Saudi Arabia has been a major market for market for UK arms since the 1960s. The majority of contracts have been through the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deals of the mid-1980s, and their successor, the Salam Project, which involved arms giant BAE Systems (formmerly British Aerospace). However, the Tactica purchase was not part of either package but a separate contract with SANG.

Bahrain is also a market for UK arms. In the first nine months of 2010, the UK approved export licenses for over £5 million worth of arms including tear gas and crowd control ammunition, equipment for the use of aircraft cannons, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. In response to an earlier crackdown on 18 February 2011 the UK government revoked 24 individual licences and 20 open licences to Bahrain.[…]

Arms made in Newcastle used by Saudis to suppress protests

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has criticised the UK government for allowing the sale of the armoured vehicles, made by BAE Systems.

The vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium.[…]

Britain reviewing crowd control weapons exports, says Hague

Britain is reviewing its arms exports to the Middle East and north Africa, which have included crowd control weapons and small arms to Bahrain and Libya, the foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Wednesday.

Exports recently cleared for export to Bahrain include more than 100 assault rifles, over 50 sub-machine guns, stun grenades, tear gas ammunition, riot control agents, and components for “military devices for initiating explosives”, according to the latest official figures.

The Guardian reported last month that the British government had approved the sale to Libya of a wide range of equipment for use against civilians, including teargas and “crowd control ammunition”, as well as sniper rifles.

Export licences increased significantly and were valued at more than £200m over the first nine months of last year, according to figures compiled by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for the Foreign Office.[…]

Bahrain Crisis: Is U.S. Military Assistance Hindering Democracy?

The increasingly violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bahrain has rekindled debate over whether U.S. military aid is being used to crush popular uprisings.

The Obama administration launched an investigation last week into the possibility that U.S. arms and training money were used by Bahraini security forces in violent crackdowns on protesters. The outcome of that probe is not yet known, but the Bahrain situation is stirring up uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of military aid and to what extent U.S. assistance undermines emerging democracies, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher L. Naler, a federal executive fellow at The Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C….

His own research revealed some troubling numbers. Between 2006 and 2011, annual U.S. assistance to Bahrain ranged from $5 million to $18 million. And even though the U.S. government can choose to allocate the aid to non-military programs, in this case it earmarked every penny to the security sector, Naler said. “This is one that caught me by surprise.” […]

Britain under fire for selling arms to Bahrain

The British Government has been heavily criticised for allowing arms sales to a number of Arab governments that have cracked down on pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, killing scores of people and injuring thousands more in demonstrations across the region….

David Cameron and other leading Conservative cabinet ministers have long standing ties to Bahrain. A year before last May’s General Election, the then Leader of the Opposition received a “gift of a fountain pen and half suite cufflinks and studs, provided by His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,” the King of Bahrain. The present is listed in the Register of MPs’ interests. Defence Secretary Liam Fox registered travel expenses worth £1,400 paid for by the Bahrain government….

Denis MacShane said that the idea of civilians dying because of British manufactured arms made him feel “physically sick”. “With the protests spreading across the Middle East, I am very concerned that once Britain is going to be caught on the wrong side of history again, defending the indefensible,” he said.

The Foreign Office policy to date chimes with a determination at the top of government to put commercial interests at the heart of British foreign policy. Within weeks of entering Downing Street last year, David Cameron embarked on one of Britain’s biggest ever trade delegations, to India, during which the two governments announced a deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Indian aerospace group Hindustan Aeronautics to supply 57 Hawk trainer jets….

Britain’s ingrained position in the Middle Eastern arms market is further underlined by the expected presence of at least 92 British companies at a pan-Middle East arms fair, scheduled to be opened in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The chairman of the IDEX event, Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, and the chairman Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, says on its website: “Over the recent years significant investment in resources and facilities at our host venue… have enabled IDEX to sustain its reputation as the largest defence exhibition in the Middle East and North Africa region.”[…]

German arms used to crush protests in Bahrain: MP

German weapons are being used to suppress peaceful protests in Bahrain, said a senior legislator of the opposition party The Left (Die Linke) here Wednesday.

Addressing the German parliament during a live debate on the upheavals in the Arab world, Wolfgang Gehrcke pointed out that part of the weapons deployed by Bahrain’s security forces against anti-government protesters were supplied by Germany.

The foreign policy spokesman of The Left party called for an ‘immediate end’ to the delivery of German arms to the Bahraini regime. Germany’s overall arms export to the Near-and Middle East hovers around 1.1 billion euros and includes other recipient countries like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In 2009, the United Arab Emirates was among the three leading recipients of German weapons, according to the latest report released by the German government.

The tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom was ranked second after the US in terms of total German arms exports last year which stood at 5.04 billion euros. Germany sold around 540.7 million euros worth of military hardware to the UAE, among them radar and steering systems, torpedoes, simulators, missiles, hand grenades, armored vehicles, tank spare parts, automatic cannons. amphibious vehicles and trucks.

Meanwhile, another Persian Gulf country, Saudi Arabia, was listed sixth in the overall export of German weaponry with 167.9 million euros.[…]

February 17, 2011

News from other parts of the Middle East

This post focuses on the ever-growing power of Chinese economic imperialism in the Middle East, but also the rising soft power of South Korea. It looks at the impact of the unrest in the region on the big oil countries, showing how oil has sustained authoritarian governments, which are fearing the changes. Labour conflict remains rife in the region, including the growing militancy of the hyper-exploited migrant workers from South Asia. Even Israel is seeing an upswing in labour militancy, with  a general strike a real possibility. 

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October 27, 2010

Big oil, the Arab lobby and the American right

0620covdcAmerican politics has always been dominated by special interest groups, including foreign interests. It is in the nature of its checks and balances democratic system and its deregulated economy.

A recent report by the Climate Action Network [pdf] shows how “BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda.” According to the Guardian, “80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.”

The report claims that

the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more even than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers, David and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns.

The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate, such as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.

The foreign corporate interest in America’s midterms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

Foreign interest does not stop with the elections. The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are some of the foreign corporations funding the anti-climate change Chamber of Commerce, a major route of corporate donations to right-wing political candidates:

– Avantha Group, India (at least $7,500 in annual member dues): power plants

– The Bahrain Petroleum Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil campany

– Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil company

– Essar Group, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas, coal power

– GMR, Bangalore, India ($15,000): coal power, mining

– Hinduja Group, London, UK ($15,000): the Gulf Oil group

– Jindal Power, New Delhi, India ($15,000): coal power

– Lahmeyer International, Frankfurt, Germany ($7,500): power plant engineering

– Punj Lloyd, Gurgaon, India ($15,000): offshore pipelines

– Reliance Industries, Mumbai, India ($15,000): oil and gas, petrochemicals

– SNC Lavalin, Montreal, Canada ($7,500): mining, power plant, and oil & gas engineering

– Tata Group, Mumbai, India ($15,000): power plants, oil & gas

– Walchandnagar Industries, Mumbai, India ($7,500): power plant, oil & gas engineering

– Welspun, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas exploration

Meanwhile, California is a key battle ground in the fight between Big Oil and American democracy. There, Proposition 23, to be voted on on November 2, will reverse 2006’s Proposition 32, the law that attempts to reverse global climate change. Writes Rebecca Solnit:

“According to data from the California Secretary of State’s office,” Kate Sheppard recently reported in Mother Jonesmagazine, “more than 98% of contributions to the pro-Prop. 23 campaign are from oil companies. Eighty-nine percent of the contributions come from out of state… Valero contributed $4 million, Tesoro gave $1.5 million, and a refinery owned by the notorious Kansas-based billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, of Koch Industries, kicked in another $1 million. Just last week, Houston-based Marathon oil contributed $500,000.”

Actually, Tesoro and Valero are headquartered out of state, but their refineries in California gave us 2.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals in our air and water last year, and they’d like to continue offering the citizens of my state these gifts that keep giving illness, death, and long-term environmental devastation without interference. The coming vote is not about protecting fancy places for upscale hikers — the stereotype used to portray environmentalism as a white-person’s luxury movement — it’s about air quality for inner-city people, especially those who live near refineries and harbors. This is the kind of environmental degradation that’s about childhood asthma and increased deaths from respiratory illness. In other words, Prop. 23 is part of a corporate war on the poor. A vote for Prop. 23 is a vote to turn the lungs of poor children into a snack for dinosaurs, to put it in bluntly Hollywood-ish terms.

July 28, 2010

The Middle East in the new global power cartography


Iran and Saudi Arabia fight for Pakistan; British Conservatism, Libya and the oil lobby; Egypt, the crescent North and other emerging regional power hubs.

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July 3, 2010

Weekly dose

In this edition, the wildcat strikes in China, the new geopolitical map, and the murderous effects of petro-dollars in Pakistan.

NEWS

Wildcat strikes in China

The wildcat strike at the Nanhai Honda factory which formally ended on June 4th with a partial victory for workers, has subsequently inspired two other Honda factories in the Pearl River Delta to go on strike. In addition, workers from several Taiwanese-owned factories have adopted similar tactics, holding a sit-in in Jiangsu and blocking roads in Shenzhen.

The initial Honda strike began on May 17th. It took place in a transmissions factory in Foshan, Guangdong. The strike lasted over two weeks and received considerable coverage in mainland Chinese newspapers. At its height, around 1,900 workers (almost the entire factory) walked off the job. Because the Nanhai factory is responsible for making car transmissions, the strike eventually stopped production at four other Honda assembly plants. In total, Honda’s losses amounted to 2,500 cars per day. [READ THE REST]

Jihad by petro-dollars

Jamaat-ud- Dawa runs a huge network of social services, including 20 Islamic institutions, 140 secondary schools, eight madrassas and a $ 300, 000-plus medical mission that includes mobile clinics, ambulance service and blood banks. The Jammat headquarters close to Lahore, built at the cost of Rs. 50 million, houses a garment factory, an iron-foundry, a wood-works factory, a swimming pool and three residential colonies.

”According to several estimates, Islamic organisations, many of which are linked to armed groups, can draw from a pool of money ranging from $5 billion to $16 billion, the Saudi government alone donates $ 10 billion via the ministry of Religious Works every year”, Italian journalist Loretta Napoleoni claims in her book ”Modern Jihad”.

The liberal distribution of petro-dollars by Saudis can be gauged from the fact that more than 1500 mosques were built around the world in the second half of the last century. [READ THE REST, via Entdinglichung]

ANALYSIS

Not So Quiet On the Western Front

On June, 22, I offered a thesis, “Is a New Cold War Shaping Up?”, suggesting that the strengthening Latin American-Iranian ties could result in a future division of the geopolitical landscape. Such a division, I said:

would be similar to the landscape of the initial Cold War. Only, instead of two competing neocolonial powers and their satellites (i.e. the Western bloc vs. the Soviet bloc), we’d come to see two competing trading blocs—with one bloc composed of the Latin American-Iranian coalition, and the other more precariously led by the U.S., along with any other states that find following the American lead in their long-term self-interests.

And let me be clear. This thesis is limited to the suggestion of exclusive trading blocs, not a rehash of the old arms race or of neocolonial hostilities.

Shortly before this thesis was published, Iran’s Fars News Agency published apress release. The release quoted Iranian President Ahmadinejad, speaking to Iran’s new ambassador to Havana. And it confirms the desire of Iran to pursue a Latin American agenda along the same lines I had suggested were possible:

“The present circumstances in the world necessitate efforts [Ahmadinejad said] for the enhancement of Iran-Cuba relations, because the Cuban government has been able to stand against the expansionist ambitions of the US statesmen”

The Fars press release also states that Ahmadinejad “underlined that Cuba’s resistance against the US indicates that “this colonialist and bullying power (the US) is declining”.

Notably here, Iran’s perception that US global influence is on the decline is in accordance with the perceptions of Fareed Zakaria, Noam Chomsky, and Chalmers Johnson—assessments which I’ve also previously discussed.

And insofar as Venezuela is intimately involved in this budding Latin American-Iranian trade bloc, the breaking news on June 24, may be significant: [READ THE REST]

May 28, 2010

Global news and analysis

In this issue, worker suicide in China, wildcat strikes in Vietnam, the new new poor, the old anti-capitalism, vampire squids, the finance lobby, why Greece matters, and a world of artificial scarcity.

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