Monthly Archives: May 2010

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"I don’t know that we agree with any nation on every issue. And certainly we have very serious disagreements with Brazil’s diplomacy vis-à-vis Iran. And we have told President Lula, and I’ve told my counterpart the foreign minister [Celso Amorim] that we think buying time for Iran, enabling Iran to avoid international unity with respect to their nuclear program, makes the world more dangerous, not less.’

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The images coming out of Lebanon seem to be contradictory to distant observers of the small Mediterranean country. Here was a pro-Western prime minister, with excellent ties to France, the US, and the entire Eurpean Union, being hosted as a guest of honor at the White House, despite his strong alliance with Hezbollah. Here was the president of Lebanon cuddling up to Hezbollah on its cherished "Liberation Day".

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri seemed to be having a relaxed conversation this week at the White House with his US host, President Barack Obama. The two men, only nine years apart in age, both came to power in 2009, in very different circumstances yet nevertheless happened to find plenty in common.

Sources from Hariri’s delegation said there was immediate chemistry between the two men, who had a candid one-on-one before going into expanded session with the full Lebanese delegation. One notable member of the Hariri team was Foreign

Minister Ali al-Shami, an ally of the Hezbollah-led opposition that commands 11 out of 30 seats in the prime Minister’s cabinet, which is frowned upon by the US for its ties to Iran.

There were several topics raised at the Washington summit, mainly Israel’s accusation that Syria is transferring Scud missiles to Lebanon, which both Beirut and Damascus strongly deny, and Lebanon’s vote at the Security Council, where it holds a rotating seat, vis-a-vis upcoming sanctions on Iran. Clearly had there been any merit to the Scud issue, it would have been seriously raised by the US president, who would have asked Hariri to do something serious about it.

For his part, Hariri came with his own agenda, telling the US president loud and clear that his country did not want, and could not afford, any war with Israel, which many analysts are predicting will happen this summer, based on repeated threats by the Israeli government. Hariri repeated a claim made over the past month that no Scuds have been brought to south Lebanon from Syria, but stopped short of criticizing the US for raising these concerns, given that he had earlier drawn a parallel between alleged Scuds and the WMDs the US claimed were in the possession of Saddam Hussein.

The young Lebanese premier landed in Washington searching for an international umbrella to protect his country from a new war, after having made a similar visit to Syria in mid-May, and reportedly was met with understanding from President Obama. According to the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Obama did not push Hariri into any uncomfortable waters, applying no pressure for a vote at the Security Council, although making it clear that the US was committed to a new, fourth set of sanctions on Tehran.

In addition to his meeting with Obama, Hariri spoke with Vice-President Joseph Biden and Jeffrey Feltman, the former US ambassador to Lebanon who now serves as assistant secretary of state for near east affairs. He visited the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and addressed the Lebanese community in Washington DC on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon – a celebrated even in Lebanon that has Hezbollah’s fingerprints all over it.

Before departing to the US, Hariri had signed off a public closure of all state institutions in Lebanon on the 10th anniversary of liberation, stressing that the March 2000 milestone, a national holiday since then, was a turning point in the history of the Middle East because it indicated that the resistance to Israel could overcome in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

While Hariri was meeting with US officials, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman appeared on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, praising the Lebanese resistance and calling on all Lebanese to embrace and protect the arms of Hezbollah. Meanwhile, politicians in Lebanon of all stripes and colors paid homage to Hezbollah, while its secretary-general, Hasan Nasrallah, delivered a public address, threatening to strike deep into Israel if that country thought of waging a new war on Lebanon. He was effectively echoing words made last February, in which he promised to strike at Israel’s airports, cities and infrastructure if Lebanon was hit.

Everybody seemed to welcome Hariri’s breakthrough in Washington. Coinciding with his visit was an interview by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with the Italian daily La Republica, in which he said Obama had good intentions towards the Middle East, which nevertheless, were obstructed by a troublesome congress and Zionist lobby in the US.

The images coming out of Lebanon seem to be contradictory to distant observers of the small Mediterranean country. Here was a pro-Western prime minister, with excellent ties to France, the US, and the entire Eurpean Union, being hosted as a guest of honor at the White House, despite his strong alliance with Hezbollah. Here was the president of Lebanon cuddling up to Hezbollah on its cherished “Liberation Day”.

The truth is that Lebanon is all of the above, both pro-West and pro-Hezbollah, all at once. Saad al-Hariri is fast evolving into another Rafiq al-Hariri, his assassinated father: Saad is smartly walking all the tightropes of the Middle East, eager not to cross either the Syrians or the Saudis, the French or the Americans.

Had Obama acted differently during the Lebanese prime minister’s Washington visit, then Hariri would have found himself in very difficult waters. He simply cannot vote for new sanctions against Iran, since this would drown his relationship with the Syrians, the Iranians, and the Turks, killing whatever understanding currently prevails with Hezbollah.

As for seeking an international umbrella to shelter Lebanon from a summer war, Hariri was also in search of a life jacket. He realizes that his country is not ready for war, having barely recovered from the one of 2006, and that war would bring down his cabinet and put him at odds with the international community. The Hariri cabinet, after all, has two Hezbollah members and was tailor-made to suit Nasrallah’s liking back in December 2009. Hezbollah got all of what it had sought: the Ministry of Telecommunications, veto power, and a cabinet policy statement that promised to “protect and embrace” the arms of Hezbollah. If war erupts on the border, regardless of whether it is started by Hezbollah or provoked by Israel, Hariri cannot but uphold Hezbollah at the expense of his relationship with the US and France.

Perhaps it was simply just the chemistry, as al-Hayat reported, or perhaps it stems from the US president’s desire to distance himself from micro-politics in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon. Or maybe Obama is very pleased at how Lebanon looks and sounds nowadays, thanks to an understanding between Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh on Beirut politics, and prefers instead to concentrate on issues that are of more direct concern to the US national security, in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

If the Syrians and Saudis are happy with Lebanon and willing to help him on “all of the above”, then Barack Obama has no reason to complain.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria. (Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Israel is widely believed to have built more than 200 atomic warheads at its Dimona reactor but it maintains an official policy of ‘ambiguity’ over whether it is a nuclear power.

Nuclear offer: Israeli president Shimon Peres was the nation's<br />
defence minister in 1975 when he offered nuclear weapons to South<br />
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<p class=

Nuclear offer: Israeli president Shimon Peres
was the nation’s defence minister in 1975 when he offered nuclear
weapons to South Africa

Apartheid-era documents declassified by South Africa have revealed
the nation was offered nuclear weapons by Israel in 1975.

In top
secret meetings between South African defence minister PW Botha and his
Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres, who is now the country’s president,
South Africa was offered nuclear warheads ‘in three sizes’.

proving the meeting and offer occurred were recently declassified by
South Africa’s ANC government, despite pressure from Israel for them to
remain secret.

They appear to be the first documented evidence
that Israel does possess nuclear weapons.

Tel Aviv has denied the
report, calling it ‘baseless’.

Israel is widely believed to
have built more than 200 atomic warheads at its Dimona reactor but it
maintains an official policy of ‘ambiguity’ over whether it is a nuclear

It has also claimed that if it has nuclear weapons, it is a
responsible power and would not misuse them.

The timing of the
release is poor for Israel, which is currently
involved in U.N. nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York, with
discussions centring on the Middle East.

The details were
discovered by U.S. academic Sasha Polakow-Suransky while researching a
book on the two countries’ close relationship, The Guardian reported.

African documents show the country wanted the Jericho missiles as a
means of deterring its enemies, including neighbouring nations and was
offered the firepower on March 31, 1975.

Ambiguity: The Israeli atomic reactor in the Negev Desert outside<br />
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<p style=Ambiguity: The Israeli atomic reactor in the
Negev Desert outside Dimona

A secret memo written by South African military chief of staff
RF Armstrong read: ‘In considering the merits of a weapon system such
as the one being offered, certain assumptions have been made: a) that
the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads…’

When the
countries met again on June 4, 1975, they had code-named the project
Chalet. Minutes of the meeting reveal that South Africa was ready to
order the weapons if the ‘correct payload’ was available.

transaction eventually fell through.

In an official response to
the report, a statement from Peres’s office said: ‘Israel has never
negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa. There
exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such
negotiations took place.’

An Israeli soldier walks toward a unit of recently deployed<br />
Patriot missiles near the Dimona reactor (file photo)” class=”blkBorder” height=”338″ width=”468″/></div>
<p style=An Israeli soldier walks toward a unit of
recently deployed Patriot missiles near the Dimona reactor (file photo)

It said there was ‘no basis in reality for the claims’ published in
the Guardian and the newspaper’s conclusions were ‘based on the
selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete

Speculation about Israeli-South African nuclear
cooperation was raised in 1979 when a U.S. satellite detected a
mysterious flash over the Indian Ocean.

The U.S. television
network CBS reported it was a nuclear test carried out by the two

But the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, in a
document written in 1980 and released in 2004, said the United States
could not determine ‘with certainty the nature and origin of the event’.

Africa completed its first workable nuclear device in 1979. It
eventually had six nuclear devices, which were dismantled by June 1991. 

The documents corroborate claims by former South African
naval commander Dieter Gerhardt, who was jailed in 1983 for spying on
the Soviet Union, that identified Chalet by name.

Mordechai Vanunu
published photos and descriptions of nuclear manufacturing processes
used by Israel in the Sunday Times in 1986, but – like Gerhardt – could
not provide documents to support his information.

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The European Central Bank has been buying Greek debt from the banks both to relieve them of the risk of a default and to restore market confidence in Greek, Portuguese and Spanish bonds. Only when such confidence returns will investors buy new debt from the Club Med countries, all of which must issue new bonds to finance deficits and roll over maturing debt.

Among the mega-forces moving the tectonic plates and imperiling the
nation-states of the world from above and below are these:

First, ethno-nationalism, which threatens nations with secession
and break-up. We see it in the Uighurs of China, the Naga of India, the
Baluch of Iran and Pakistan, the Kurds of Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey,
the Chechens of the Russian Caucasus and the Walloons of Belgium.

Second, transnationalism. This is the project of global elites
who seek to reduce nations to ethno-cultural enclaves in a new world order run by these same
bloodless bureaucrats whose loyalty is neither to the land nor people
whence they came.

Their work in progress, the European Union, however, is

For the EU just took a great leap forward to force Europe’s most
indebted nations to surrender their economic independence or be expelled
from the European Monetary Union. The PIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy,
Greece and Spain – may rebel.

Indeed, we may see cascading rebellions across Europe recalling
1848, but with a different outcome.

What brought the EU to this day of reckoning is its decision to
go for a trillion-dollar bailout of Greece, Portugal and Spain rather
than let them default or restructure their debts. These nations are now
being directed by the EU and International Monetary Fund to slash public
spending and raise taxes, though all suffer from high unemployment,
with Spain’s at 20 percent.

If Berlin gets its way, these nations may also be forced to
submit their budgets in advance to Brussels and accept EU-dictated
limits on the deficits they will be permitted to run. This would entail a
sweeping surrender of sovereignty, independence and economic freedom.

Moreover, as the pain of this “rescue” is to be borne by the
debtors, while the beneficiaries are the French and German banks that
hold tens of billions in PIG paper, this question arises: Why should
Athens make Greeks suffer and risk political ruin at the polls, rather
than default and let the banks and bondholders of Europe share in the

Why not quit the EMU, default, repudiate the euro, restore the
drachma and devalue? That would make Greek exports more competitive and
make Greece a more desirable place in which to site one’s next factory.
And with its currency devalued, Greece would also become a more
attractive destination for Western tourists.

But a Greek default is not the only threat to the EU.

The European Central Bank has been buying Greek debt from the
banks both to relieve them of the risk of a default and to restore
market confidence in Greek, Portuguese and Spanish bonds. Only when such
confidence returns will investors buy new debt from the Club Med countries, all of which must
issue new bonds to finance deficits and roll over maturing debt.

A problem, however, has also arisen here. As the ECB is buying up
the debt of the PIGS, holders of
Greek, Spanish and Portuguese bonds are unloading them, getting out of
Club Med paper while the getting is good.

The ECB seems to be substituting itself for the banks as the
chump to be left holding the bag when the defaults begin.

The plunging euro is a sure sign the markets are coming to see
that the only way the bonds of indebted European nations are going to be
paid off is with a huge infusion of euros, which may end that
currency’s status as a reliable store of value.

However, “if the euro fails, it is not only the currency that
fails,” says German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Then Europe fails. The
idea of European unity fails.”

Especially enraged are the Germans. To show that they were good
Europeans, they gave up their beloved mark. Now, in recent elections in
North-Rhine Westphalia, the Christian Democratic Union of Merkel took a
thrashing, falling 10 points below the CDU’s 2005 vote, and losing the
upper chamber of the German parliament.

Germans may be ready to shed the sackcloth and ashes they have
worn for 65 years and start looking out for Deutschland uber alles.

Given the strains on the European Monetary Union and EU, neither
of which enjoys the love or loyalty that people render to the countries
of their birth, the great unraveling may be about to begin. Why, after
all, should the indebted nations of Europe impose suffering upon their
peoples to pay off old debts now held by distant banks?

How does imposing austerity on Portugal, Spain and Greece enable
them to grow their way out of indebtedness? How does it help the EU grow
if a large slice of the union is forced into austerity?

And why should Germans who pay themselves modest pensions and
hold off retirement put their savings at risk to bail out the Club Med?

Many have predicted that economic nationalism would one day tear
apart the European Union. The hour may be at hand.

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If Obama refuses to take the Iranian offer seriously, it would appear a sure sign that the War Party has taken him into camp and he is departing the negotiating track for the confrontation track that leads to war.

If Barack Obama is sincere in his policy of “no nukes in Iran — no war
with Iran,” he will halt this rude dismissal of the offer Tehran just
made to ship half its stockpile of uranium to Turkey.

Consider what President Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah himself have
just committed to do.

Iran will deliver 1,200 kilograms, well over a ton, of its 2-ton
stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey. In return, Iran will
receive, in a year, 120 kilograms of fuel rods for its U.S.-built
reactor that produces medical isotopes for treating cancer patients.

Not only did Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and
President Lula da Silva of Brazil put their prestige on the line by
flying to Tehran, the deal they got is a near-exact replica of the deal
Obama offered Iran eight months ago.

Why is President Obama slapping it away? Does he not want a deal? Has
he already decided on the sanctions road that leads to war?

Has the War Party captured the Obama presidency?

If Iran ships the LEU to Turkey, she would be left with only enough
low-enriched uranium for one test explosion. And as that LEU is under
U.N. surveillance, America would have a long lead time to act if Iran
began to convert the LEU to weapons grade.

How is the Iranian program then an “existential threat” to anyone?

Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons — America thousands.

Critics say Iran still refuses to shut down the centrifuges turning
out low-grade uranium. But if Iran stops the centrifuges, she surrenders
her last bargaining chip to get sanctions lifted.

Critics say Iran is trying to abort Hillary Clinton’s campaign to have
the Security Council impose a fourth round of sanctions. Undeniably

But if the purpose of sanctions is to force Iran to negotiate its
nuclear program, they are already working. Tehran’s latest offer
represents real movement.

Critics say Iran will weasel out if we take up the deal. Perhaps.
Internal opposition caused Ahmadinejad to back away from Obama’s
original offer, after he had indicated initial acceptance.

But, if so, Iran will be seen as duplicitous by Turkey and Brazil.

To the world today, the United States appears enraged that Iran is
responding to America’s own offer, that it is we who do not want a
peaceful resolution, that we and the Israelis are as hell-bent on war
and “regime change” in Iran as George W. Bush was on war and regime
change in Iraq.

While the Brazilians and Turks have surely complicated Hillary’s
diplomacy, their motives are not necessarily sinister or malevolent.

Lula may be trying to one-up Obama and win a Nobel Prize as he leaves
office. But what is wrong with that? Bill Clinton had a Nobel in mind
when, in his final days, he went all-out for a Palestinian peace.

And Erdogan leads a country that cannot wish to see Iran acquire
nuclear weapons. For Shi’ite Iran shares a border with Sunni Turkey, and
the two are rivals for influence in the Islamic world and Central Asia.

Moreover, an Iranian bomb would force Turkey to consider a Turkish
bomb. Erdogan thus has every incentive to seek a resolution of this
crisis, to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons, and avert a war between
yet another neighbor and his NATO ally, the United States.

If Obama refuses to take the Iranian offer seriously, it would appear a
sure sign that the War Party has taken him into camp and he is
departing the negotiating track for the confrontation track that leads
to war.

Months ago, Time’s Tony Karon asked the relevant question:
“What if Ahmadinejad is serious?”

And there are obvious reasons why he might want a deal.

First, Iran runs out of fuel this year for its reactor that produces
medical isotopes. And despite Tehran’s braggadocio about making fuel
rods itself out of its existing pile of uranium, there is no evidence
Tehran is technically capable of this.

Iranians dying of cancer because Ahmadinejad failed to get those fuel
rods would create enmity toward him, as well as hatred of us for denying
them to Iranian cancer patients.

Second, as the U.S. intelligence community yet contends, there is no
hard evidence Iran has decided to go nuclear. For this would instantly
put Iran in the nuclear gun sights of the United States and Israel. And
what benefit would Shi’ite and Persian Iran, half of whose population is
non-Persian, gain by starting a nuclear arms race in a region that is
predominantly Arab and Sunni?

Third, Ahmadinejad leads a nation that is united in insisting on all
its rights under the Nonproliferation Treaty, including the right to
enrich. But his nation is deeply divided over his regime’s legitimacy
after last June’s flawed, if not fixed, election.

If the United States were to accept Iran’s counter-offer, it would be a
diplomatic coup for Ahmadinejad.

Maybe that’s the problem. The powers that be don’t really want a deal
with Iran. They want Iran smashed.

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“China has noted the relevant reports and expresses its welcome and appreciation for the diplomatic efforts all parties have made to positively seek an appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.”

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Couples who publicly kiss are jailed, yet the state turns a blind eye to 30,000 imported prostitutes, says William Butler


As I looked around the designer bar on the second floor of the glitzy five-star hotel, it was obvious that every woman in the place was a prostitute. And the men were all potential punters, or at least window-shoppers.

While we talked, Jenny, from Minsk in Belarus, offered me “everything, what you like, all night” for the equivalent of about £500. It was better if I was staying in the luxurious hotel where we were drinking, she said, but if not she knew another one, cheaper but “friendly”. I turned down the offer.

This was not Amsterdam’s red-light district or the Reeperbahn in Hamburg or a bar on Shanghai’s Bund. This was in the city centre of Dubai, the Gulf emirate where western women get a month in prison for a peck on the cheek; the Islamic city on Muhammad’s peninsula where the muezzin’s call rings out five times a day drawing believers to prayer; where public consumption of alcohol prompts immediate arrest; where adultery is an imprisonable offence; and where mall shoppers are advised against “overt displays of affection”, such as kissing.

Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, the couple recently banged up in Al Awir desert prison for a brief public snog, must have been very unlucky indeed, because in reality Dubai is a heaving maelstrom of sexual activity that would make the hair stand up on even the most worldly westerner’s head. It is known by some residents as “Sodom-sur-Mer”.

Beach life, cafe society, glamorous lifestyles, fast cars and deep tans are all things associated with “romance” in the fog-chilled minds of Europeans and North Americans. And there is a fair amount of legitimate “romance” in Dubai. Western girls fall for handsome, flash Lebanese men; male visitors go for the dusky charms of women from virtually anywhere. Office and beach affairs are common.

But most of the “romance” in Dubai is paid-for sex, accepted by expatriates as the norm, and to which a blind eye is turned – at the very least – by the authorities. The bar where “Jenny” approached me was top-of-the-range, where expensively dressed and coiffured girls can demand top dollar from wealthy businessmen or tourists.

There are lots of these establishments. Virtually every five-star hotel has a bar where “working girls” are tolerated, even encouraged, to help pull in the punters with cash to blow. But it goes downhill from there. At sports and music bars, Fillipinas vie with the Russians and women from the former Soviet republics for custom at lower prices. In the older parts of the city, Deira and Bur Dubai, Chinese women undercut them all in the lobbies of three-star hotels or even on the streets (although outside soliciting is still rare).

It is impossible to estimate accurately the prostitute population of Dubai. The authorities would never give out such figures, and it would be hard to take into account the “casual” or “part-time” sex trade. One recent estimate put the figure at about 30,000 out of a population of about 1.5 million. A similar ratio in Britain would mean a city the size of Glasgow and Leeds combined entirely populated by prostitutes.

Of course, there are other cities in the world where the “oldest profession” is flourishing. But what makes Dubai prostitution different is the level of acceptance it has by the clients and, apparently, the city’s Islamic authorities. Although strictly illegal under United Arab Emirates’ and Islamic law, it is virtually a national pastime.

I have seen a six-inch-high stack of application forms in the offices of a visa agent, each piece of paper representing a hopeful “tourist” from Russia, Armenia or Uzbekistan. The passport-sized photographs are all of women in their 20s seeking one-month visas for a holiday in the emirate.

Maybe young Aida from Tashkent – oval-eyed and pouting – will find a few days’ paid work as a maid or shop assistant while she’s in Dubai, and maybe she will even get an afternoon or two on the beach as her holiday. But most nights she will be selling herself in the bars and hotels and the immigration authorities know that. So must the visa agent, who gets his cut out of each £300 visa fee.

The higher you go up the Emirati food chain, the bigger the awards. All UAE nationals are entitled to a number of residence visas, which they routinely use to hire imported domestics, drivers or gardeners. But they will sell the surplus to middlemen who trade them on to women who want to go full-time and permanent in the city. The higher the social and financial status of the Emirati, the more visas he has to “farm”.

Thousands of women buy entitlement to full-time residence, and lucrative employment, in this way. Three years in Dubai – the normal duration of a residence visa – can be the difference between lifelong destitution and survival in Yerevan, Omsk or Bishkek.

With a residence visa changing hands at upwards of £5,000 a time, it is a nice sideline, even for a wealthy national. And it also ensures a convenient supply of sex for Emiratis, who form a large proportion of the punters at the kind of bar where I met “Jenny”. Arabs from other countries are high up the “johns” list, with Saudis in particular looking for distraction from life in their austere Wahabist homes with booze and sex-fuelled weekends in Dubai’s hotels.

The other big category of punters is Europeans and Americans, and it is remarkable how quickly it all seems normal. A few drinks with the lads on a Thursday night, maybe a curry, some semi-intoxicated ribaldry, and then off to a bar where you know “that” kind of girl will be waiting. In the west, peer group morality might frown on such leisure activities, but in Dubai it’s as normal as watching the late-night movie.

Male residents whose families are also in Dubai might be a little constrained most of the year – you could not really introduce Ludmilla from Lvov, all cleavage and stilettos, as a work colleague with whom you wanted to “run over a few things on the laptop”. But in the long, hot summer it is different. Wives and families escape the heat by going to Europe or the US, and the change that comes over the male expat population is astounding. Middle-aged men in responsible jobs – accountants, marketeers, bankers – who for 10 months of the year are devoted husbands, transform in July and August into priapic stallions roaming the bars of Sheikh Zayed Road.

Tales are swapped over a few beers the next night, positions described, prices compared, nationalities ranked according to performance. It could be the Champions League we are discussing, not paid-for sex.

I’ve heard financial types justifying it as part of the process of globalisation, another manifestation of the west-east “tilt” by which world economic power is gravitating eastwards.

In my experience, many men will be unfaithful if they have the opportunity and a reasonable expectation that they will not be found out. For expats in Dubai, the summer months provide virtual laboratory conditions for infidelity.

Above all, there is opportunity. There is the Indonesian maid who makes it apparent that she has no objection to extending her duties, for a price; the central Asian shop assistant in one of the glittering malls who writes her mobile number on the back of your credit card receipt “in case you need anything else”; the Filipina manicurist at the hairdresser’s who suggests you might also want a pedicure in the private room.

Even though selling sex is haram (forbidden) under Islamic law, the authorities rarely do anything about it. Occasionally, an establishment will break some unwritten rule. Cyclone, a notorious whorehouse near the airport, was closed down a few years back, but then it really did go too far – a special area of the vast sex supermarket was dedicated to in-house oral sex. When the authorities ordered it to be closed, the girls simply moved elsewhere.

There are occasional stories in the local papers of human trafficking rings being broken up and the exploiters arrested, but it is low-level stuff, usually involving Asian or Chinese gangs and Indian or Nepalese girls. The real problem is the high-end business, with official sanction. Even with the emirate’s financial problems, Sodom-sur-Mer is flourishing. But would-be snoggers beware – your decadent behaviour will not be tolerated.

William Butler is a pseudonym for a writer who lived in Dubai for four years and recently returned to Britain

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As to global reactions to the Tehran nuclear declaration, Israel insisted that Turkey and Brazil were manipulated by Iran, while the European Union called the move a step in the right direction, though Britain has denounced it. Russia welcomed the joint effort by Tehran, Brasilia and Ankara, as the US stressed that it must first be conveyed to the IAEA before it can be considered. Meanwhile, the UN has described the development as encouraging.

Political analyst Mohammad Marandi (L) and author and
journalist Ali al-Kabbani.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has claimed that mediation efforts by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would fail.

Other US allies such as France and Germany have alleged time and again that Iran is not participating in the international arena in good faith. However, the joint nuclear declaration by Iran, Turkey and Brazil, reached on the sidelines of the G-15 summit in Tehran on Monday, for the Islamic Republic to ship its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for higher-enriched fuel within a specified time frame has been widely hailed as a victory for diplomacy.

Iran, through its effective diplomatic efforts, has proved mainly Western skeptics wrong once again. Based on the declaration issued by the three countries, Iran would ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) for 120 kilograms of higher-enriched nuclear fuel for Tehran’s medical reactor. The exchange would take place in Turkey under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The important development came as the US and its Western allies were engaged in a rigorous campaign to muster support for a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran.

As to global reactions to the Tehran nuclear declaration, Israel insisted that Turkey and Brazil were manipulated by Iran, while the European Union called the move a step in the right direction, though Britain has denounced it. Russia welcomed the joint effort by Tehran, Brasilia and Ankara, as the US stressed that it must first be conveyed to the IAEA before it can be considered. Meanwhile, the UN has described the development as encouraging.

The following is the transcript of Press TV’s interview with Mohammad Marandi, professor of political science at Tehran University in the studio, and Ali al-Kabbani, author and journalist in London.

Press TV: First, Mohammad Marandi, Tell us exactly what message did the Tehran declaration send to the international community?

Mohammad Marandi: I think first and foremost it is stating that Iran is definitely not isolated. Not only is the G15 conference in that sense significant, that many heads of states have participated in the conference in Tehran, but also two important players especially Brazil, which has a growing role to play in the international community and global politics. These countries have participated and have effectively sided with Iran by signing this declaration. So I think one key element here is the fact that Iran is definitely not isolated and that when the western countries and the western media speak about the international community, they are basically speaking about themselves. They believe that they are representative of the whole world where in fact it is the majority of the countries of the world including the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as well as the countries or members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. These countries have supported Iran’s position traditionally and they constitute the majority of the countries of the world. So I think it basically says that Iran has strong support and that western countries will have great difficulty in isolating Iran and pushing for new sanctions.

Press TV: Ali al-Kabbani, do you think this declaration has managed to ease the Western standoff over Iran’s civilian nuclear program, including sanctions?

Ali al-Kabbani: Actually I agree with your guest in Tehran that Iran from the beginning was very transparent about its nuclear file. The file was, from the point of view of the West, always political. So they have got the political agenda against the Islamic regime in Iran and used the nuclear file as an excuse to put sanctions and try to isolate Iran from the rest of the world. Of course they can not isolate Iran because the international community rightly is not with the United States and its orbit of agent governments and as President Ahmadinejad said the whole international system has to be reorganized and the right place to discuss this would be the General Assembly not the Security Council which is controlled by the United States and the major powers and anyway they are paralyzed because of the veto power for any of their members. So what was achieved in Tehran is a step forward and I praise Iran for going a step forward in the road of confidence-building with international west in a way to send the ball back to their court, because any honest broker would have managed to reach such a declaration with Tehran because they are open from the beginning but of course they mistrust the West and they have all the right to do that and once the honest broker in Turkey and Brazil came and negotiated this trilateral negotiation in Tehran. It was easy to reach an agreement because Tehran is trying to really prove once again for the international community that its nuclear file is peaceful and according to NP treaty it has got all the right to enrich uranium and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Press TV: Mohammad Marandi, would the US and its Western allies still pursue sanctions if the IAEA approves the Tehran declaration?

Mohammad Marandi: Well that is very difficult to say. I believe that the United States is not sincere and if they can they would try to increase tensions with Iran to put more pressure on the country. But I think what is important is that the situation on the ground has changed because Iran has effectively, through this declaration, stated that the assurances it needed have been met. The fact that two very high-level figures, meaning the president of Brazil and the prime minister of Turkey, who is the most important person in the Turkish government, both of them have come to Iran. They have signed the declaration. The picture behind you is in fact very revealing. So Iran has been assured and if Turkey was not to return Iran’s enriched uranium, if western countries fail to give Iran 20 percent fuel, it would be a major humiliation for Turkey. So I think the Iranians feel confident that the 3.5 percent enriched uranium is safe and secure in Turkey and on the other hand the situation and the facts on the ground have really changed from eight months ago. Iran today has a lot more enriched uranium of 3.5 percent in its stockpile, so the removal of 1,200 kilos will not really have an effect. Iranians can still produce 20 percent uranium on their own. And also Iranians are now producing enriched uranium at 20 percent, something that they were not doing eight months ago. So the facts on the ground have changed, the Iranian position is much stronger and I think that the fact that Brazil and Turkey are definitely on Iran’s side, makes the Iranian position even stronger at a global level because Brazil and Turkey obviously will begin defending this declaration alongside Iran.

Press TV: Ali al-Kabbani, some have speculated this was a move by Iran not to get slapped with more sanctions. Do you agree?

Ali al-Kabbani: I do not agree with that assessment because sanctions were unjustified from the beginning and to renew sanctions was a weapon to hurt the Iranian people and not the Iranian government. So sanctions have never succeeded in bringing the government down or changing the line of governments. Plus the Iranian government always acted legally, according to the law, the international law and respected the NPT treaty and it was very transparent all the way. So I can not imagine how sanctions would change the attitude of such government. Unless they wanted Iran and this was the main aim to really abolish its nuclear program and I think they know from history that the Iranian regime is not the kind of regime which will respond to pressure.

On top of it, actually I just read on my way here to the studio that the American corporations and the big American companies were contacting the American Congress, asking the Congress to stop this sanction issue with Iran because it is hurting the American economy and the American interest in the area. So even the American companies are upset and hurt by these unjust sanctions.

On top of it, they were trying to employ this fourth round of sanctions for the last three, four months and they failed because as I said it has no real grounds on the international community.

On top of it, we all know that it is Tel Aviv and the Israeli government which dictate the American policy for the Middle East. So now we have to wait and see what the Obama administration is going to comment on this, in my opinion, the historic declaration of Tehran which pulled the carpet from under their feet. So it will be interesting to see how the American administration will react now when Iran really gave its low-enriched uranium to a third party, waiting for the 20 percent enriched uranium, which is going to Tehran research center for medical reasons. So it is really shameful of the West and the United States on top of it to delay such an issue which is peaceful humanitarian and scientific.

Press TV: Mohammad Marandi, do you consider this declaration a goodwill gesture or a concession by Iran?

Mohammad Marandi: I think that a number of goodwill gestures coming from the Iranian side, the whole idea of exchange was a goodwill gesture according to the international law and the IAEA regulations, when a country needs fuel for an experimental reactor like the one in Tehran, the IAEA has the responsibility to find a producing country and to send it.

In this case, the western countries ask for Iran to, I think the proposal was effectively an Iranian one that the Iranians are willing to send their own enrichment and give some of their own enriched uranium of 3.5 percent in return for uranium at 20 percent. So that was a goodwill gesture. The fact that the United States has been making irrational demands, demanding that Iran send its enriched uranium out of the country and then for it to be further enriched and then sent back was an unreasonable demand at the time. What happened today though they said earlier is not really a concession because Iran has produced a great deal more enriched uranium, the amount that will be sent abroad is not the majority of the stock, it is less than 50 percent. The Iranians are producing uranium at 20 percent because of the fears that it will not get the fuel that it needs the fuel for Tehran reactor. So the Iranian position is much stronger today. And another point that I would like to add and that is one major achievement today is the fact that countries outside of the so-called Western world have played a central role. And the fact that Iranians have been able to enhance brazil’s position on the global stage and Turkey is a very good sign and the Iranians feel that this South-South cooperation lessens American hegemony and American power both in the region and beyond and it can only be a good thing. So in this sense it has been a major move in decreasing the American, British and French global influence and hegemony.

Press TV: That is a good point you are making there, Ali al-Kabbani, your reaction.

Ali al-Kabbani: I fully agree because Iran did not give any sovereign concessions. It kept its legal rights to carry on enriching more uranium in Iran. It did not give any concession really, any sovereign concession but it gave some state words towards confidence building from the worried West. They are worried that Iran have military intention and want to a nuclear weapon. Ayatollah Khamenei made it clear that they are not interested in building a nuclear arsenal. President Ahmadinejad confirmed that also. And as I said the whole nuclear file is very transparent. There are 24 hours cameras operating on all the nuclear reactions, connected to the satellites and the IAEA inspectors are regularly there and they have got permanent nuclear inspectors in these nuclear centers. So Iran have been very transparent. It can not do more that what it is doing. Except in my opinion they have to have a good public relation program directed towards the United States and the West to explain all theses situations to general public because as I said Israel is using its lobbies in the West to dictate its policies and to dictate the measures to help its position.

We have to declare to the general public the real situation so they can change the attitude of the governments and these unjust attitudes towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Press TV: Mohammad Marandi, the US and its allies may say there is still the issue of Iran enriching uranium, since the declaration does not limit Iran’s enrichment activities. What would you say to that?

Mohammad Marandi: I would say that in fact this is one the major achievements of the text. Turkey and Brazil have effectively said that Iran has every right to continue with its nuclear program and not only that they said the text also speaks of cooperation in the field of the nuclear energy. So these two countries are effectively saying what Iran is saying. That is significant because Turkey of course is a member of NATO; it has been an ally of the United States in the past. It is growing more and more independent as time goes by. Brazil is a major player in Latin America and in global politics and becoming more important by the day. So these are countries that are effectively just as important if not more important than countries like France and England. It is just that those countries are closely allied to the United States and they have the right of veto in the UN Security Council. So the text is a very strong defense of the Iranian position and Iranian sovereignty and at the same time it provides a reasonable solution that is acceptable to all sides if all sides are rational.

Now the question is whether the United States wants to be a rational player or does it want to continue with its irrational hostility towards the Iranian people.

Press TV: Will threats of war against Iran stop, or will the US still insist on saying all options are on the table?

Mohammad Marandi: I think that that too is in the declaration. The declaration speaks of countries in the future not making the sort of hostile remarks and threats that have been made in the past by the United States. It does directly refer to such language and such threats. We have to remember that the United States in the nuclear posture effectively threatened Iran with a nuclear strike. Not that it will carry one out but the whole idea itself, the idea of the threat is barbaric and outrages. This declaration is completely opposed to that.

The fact that Obama, like the previous president, has regularly said that all options are on the table, that too is a threat directed at the Iranian people. That is basically saying that we can attack your country and kill and murder Iranians because of our differences with the Iranian government. That too is something that is dealt with in the text because any military act or any threats both are rejected. So the text itself is an extraordinarily great achievement for the Iranian government, for the Islamic Republic as well as for the Turkish Republic and Brazil, because both of these countries had a role to play in developing it.

Press TV: Ali al-Kabbani, the same question is put to you. So do you think the threats of war against Iran will stop, or will the US still insist on saying all options are on the table?

Ali al-Kabbani: The fact that all options are on the table is an illegal declaration. Because we all know that the invasion of Iraq and the war against Iraqi people was illegal. So for Barack Obama to go to the United Nations and to go to the Security Council to get the legitimacy for his actions, he can not go and say all options are on the table. Because that decision actually is in the hands of the international community, not the cowboy policy of the United States on its own. And as your guest said the barbaric declaration of Barack Obama that he may use nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea, it is unbelievable that the head of a major power frighten two countries unprovoked with the most horrific weapons that human beings have ever developed. So I do not agree that all options are on the table and also Iran and all the world knows that those who want to act, they act, they do not talk.

So I can hear a lot of talk in the United States but no actions because they can not do anything they do not have the legitimacy to strike Iran military. They do not have the capacity while they are present in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the failure which we can see everyday in both countries. So I do not think that they would dare to open a third front. But the talk itself is unjustified.

I want to say something about Turkey. Turkey is now negotiating with Russia building a new nuclear reactor in Turkey for peaceful purposes also. So the principle of the declaration today is important also to Turkey because it will apply to its own nuclear file and the newly developed nuclear reactor. So I think the cooperation between Iran and important countries like Turkey, Brazil and other countries in the world, especially China will be very important to really stop the monopoly of the West in deciding the world politics. Because it is unfair. It is always using double standards and hypocrisy in political measures when it comes to countries in the Middle East especially and Muslim countries in general. So we have to bring back the independence in our hands as the Islamic Republic of Iran rightly did. And we wanted the end because the West has no other alternative but to accept Iran in the nuclear club now and to deal with Iran. The other issue is that the united states have got many issues with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States needs Iran in more than one issue in the area and outside the area. So they are using this frightening tactics to really put pressure on Iran, to get some concessions in some other political files because the US knows the nuclear file of Iran is not a threat to the West, is not a threat to the US. It is just a propaganda hailed by the Israelis for their own reasons to take world attraction from their atrocities in Palestine towards the nuclear file of Iran. So it is just an Israeli tactics to draw the attention of the world towards Iran away from their atrocities and illegal actions in Palestine.


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Strong relations with Saudi Arabia are becoming an integral part of China’s strategy to achieve energy security and to further its broader foreign policy objectives in the Middle East. China’s energy and overall economic interests in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East, however, are inseparable from the larger geopolitical issues that loom large in the region, namely the Iranian nuclear question.

The fourth joint meeting on economy and trade convened
by China and Saudi
Arabia in January 2010 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh
came and went without
much fanfare. Yet the meeting between China, the
world’s second-largest and
fastest-growing oil consumer, and Saudi Arabia, the
world’s largest producer of
oil, cemented a burgeoning bilateral relationship that
is attracting increasing
international attention for its potential impact on
Middle East geopolitics and
as a manifestation of China’s growing power on the
world stage.

China surpassed the United States by the end of 2009 as
the top importer of
Saudi oil. The January meeting, co-chaired by Chinese
Minister of Commerce Chen
Deming and Saudi Minister of Finance Ibrahim bin Abdel
Aziz al-Asaf, saw both
countries highlight the bilateral economic and trade ties that
have witnessed a marked
expansion since the third meeting of the joint
Sino-Saudi committee held in
2006; Saudi Arabia has been China’s largest trading
partner in the Middle East
for eight years running, with bilateral trade reaching
US$40 billion in 2010.


In demonstrating Beijing’s commitment to strengthening
the economic ties
binding China and Saudi Arabia, Minister Chen also
called for both countries to
increase bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2015. Saudi
Arabia also committed to
allowing for an increased profile for Chinese energy
giants in joint oil and
gas exploration projects in the kingdom while China
affirmed its interest in
formulating a free-trade agreement (FTA) between
Beijing and the Saudi-led Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC).

Strong relations with Saudi Arabia are becoming an
integral part of China’s
strategy to achieve energy security and to further its
broader foreign policy
objectives in the Middle East. China’s energy and
overall economic interests in
Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East, however, are
inseparable from the
larger geopolitical issues that loom large in the
region, namely the Iranian
nuclear question.

While China may continue to insist that it is
conducting relations under the
principle of divorcing economics from politics, it is
becoming increasingly
clear, particularly in the Middle East, that it cannot
remain aloof to the
region’s most contentious issues. As the de facto
leader of the bloc of pro-US
Arab regimes, Saudi Arabia (along with Israel) is on
the forefront of opposing
its regional rival Iran’s nuclear program.

Recognizing the growing profile of Sino-Saudi
relations, the United States
enlisted the support of the Kingdom in convincing China
to change course on
Iran. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s February
2010 trip to Saudi
Arabia and Qatar, its GCC partner and natural gas
powerhouse, aimed to rally
support for persuading China to back US-led efforts to
sanction Tehran.

The root of China’s concerns about US intentions toward
Iran lie primarily on
the impact of any potential disruption in Iranian
supplies of oil and gas –
either through sanctions or war – on Chinese and
international markets.
Washington’s efforts to engage Saudi Arabia and Qatar
were likely meant to
convince the Chinese that the Saudi-led GCC would be
prepared to offset any
disruption in Iranian energy supplies to China
following the imposition of
sanctions. The flurry of US-led diplomatic activity in
the Gulf states was
reinforced by a February visit to Beijing by Bank of
Israel governor Stanley
Fischer and former Israeli military chief of staff and
Minister for Strategic
Threats Moshe Yalon to convince China to support
sanctions on Iran.

In spite of the united front comprised of the US, Saudi
Arabia and its GCC
partners, and Israel to win over Beijing’s support on
isolating Tehran, the
latest diplomatic efforts appear to have made little
headway. To put the onus
of the Iranian nuclear tussle on China, Saudi Foreign
Minister Prince Saud
al-Faisal quipped: “China is perfectly aware of the
scope of its
responsibilities and its obligations [with regards to
Iran], including in the
position it holds on the international stage and as a
permanent member of the
[United Nations] Security Council.”

Evidently, however, China places a premium on
maintaining strong relations with
Iran; among other things, Iran is China’s
second-largest supplier of oil and
Beijing is looking to tap the Islamic Republic’s
abundant natural gas
resources. China is also a major investor in various
sectors of the Iranian

China’s support for Iran amid US-led calls for
crippling sanctions over
Tehran’s nuclear ambitions (and Israeli calls for
military strikes) thrusts it
into the middle of a simmering imbroglio that will test
China’s mettle as a
global power; as a veto-wielding permanent member of
the UN Security Council,
China must sign on along with its fellow permanent
members to any global
sanctions regime that would be placed on the Islamic

At this point, China is the most resistant to adopting
any form of crippling
sanctions against Iran. In spite of Chinese President
Hu Jintao’s assurance to
US President Barack Obama during their April 2010
discussions of China’s
commitment to “working together [with the United
States] to ensure that Iran
lives up to its international obligations,” Beijing has
yet to demonstrate a
serious willingness to undermine its relationship with
Iran by backing a US-led
sanctions regime, let alone passively acquiescing to a
US (or Israeli)

In fact, it appears that China is digging in to protect
its vital interests in
Iran. Incidentally, China reportedly opened a missile
plant in Iran in March
2010, the latest in a series of expanding military ties
between Beijing and
Tehran. China also increased exports of gasoline to
Iran in an effort to ease
pressure on Tehran amid US efforts to target Iran’s
domestic gasoline industry
through sanctions.

China also regularly counters calls for war against
Iran emanating from Israel
and some circles in the US with pleas for diplomacy and
negotiations. China’s
continued support for Iran amid growing US opposition
is also rooted in the
larger Sino-US rivalry, particularly in the context of
ongoing US military and
diplomatic support for Taiwan. China was angered when
the US announced in
January 2010 that it agreed to a $6.4 billion deal to
supply Taiwan with a host
of advanced weapons platforms. In this regard, China’s
insistence on supporting
Iran must also be seen as a form of retaliation against
US policies it deems as
threatening to its vital national interests and
security in Asia.

The oil factor

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in
1990, Sino-Saudi ties have
become one of the most dynamic bilateral relationships
in the region. The
evolution of Sino-Saudi relations is emblematic of the
impact of China’s rapid
economic development and its pursuit of energy
resources in the Middle East to
sustain its growth. In 2009, Saudi oil exports to China
topped 1 million
barrels per day (bpd), a figure representing 20% of
China’s total oil imports
and nearly double the number of bpd imported by China
in 2008. In contrast, US
imports of Saudi oil dropped to below 1 million bpd in
the same year for the
first time in over two decades.

The peculiarities of the Saudi oil industry are also
critical to understanding
the kingdom’s drive to cultivate closer ties to China.
With one of the world’s
most developed energy sectors in terms of
infrastructure and operating
efficiency, Saudi Arabia is not desperate to attract
foreign investment to help
expand its capacity to produce and export oil. Instead,
Saudi Arabia is keen on
identifying a stream of steady, long-term demand, an
urgent priority as the
United States and other Western countries look to
decrease their consumption of
oil and incrementally adopt conservation methods and
alternative fuels [1].

Saudi Arabia and other regional oil producers are
counting on China (and other
emerging Asian powers such as India) to offset their
losses. In this regard,
the Chinese are a perfect match for the Saudis, as
China’s demand for oil will
only grow in the foreseeable future.

In June 2009, Saudi Aramco signed an agreement with
state-owned China Petroleum
and Chemical Corp (Sinopec) to increase exports of
Saudi crude to 1.5 million
bpd. Both countries also engaged in talks to allow
Saudi Aramco to expand the
capacity of Sinopec’s existing oil refining facilities
and other petrochemical
complexes in China to handle Saudi oil.

While its premium grade light sweet crude reserves are
highly sought after,
Saudi Arabia is keen on securing a market for its
medium grade crude oil – a
product that is plentiful in the kingdom – in China, as
well as other parts of
Asia. Medium grade crude oil, while cheaper than its
premium grade
counterparts, is far denser and contains a higher
amount of impurities and
sulfur content compared to light sweet crude, meaning
that it will yield less
gasoline, diesel, and other finished products after
what entails a more complex
refining process.

Maximizing the potential of medium crude requires
specialized refineries. While
the United States and other countries have demonstrated
no serious interest in
expanding their respective refining capacity to tap
medium crude (or heavy
crude) sources in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, the
kingdom seems to have found a
willing partner in China. Close relations driven by
China’s demand for oil will
continue to shape Sino-Saudi ties in the foreseeable

Looking to China

While firmly bound in a strategic relationship with the
United States, a
relationship that continues to be underlined by energy
interests and
longstanding diplomatic and security ties, Saudi Arabia
is nevertheless keen on
diversifying its foreign relations to capitalize on
China’s growing reach in
the region.

Saudi Arabia also understands that the global shift in
economic and financial
gravity away from the West toward Asia will drive up
energy demand,
particularly for oil, and will profoundly impact energy
markets for decades to
come. In addition, with the United States entangled in
two simultaneous wars,
there is a growing perception that American influence
is on the decline in the
Middle East and beyond, thus prompting Saudi Arabia to
look for alternative

The rise of Iran as the Gulf’s most powerful actor
following the overthrow of
Saddam Hussein in Iraq is also impacting Saudi Arabia’s
strategic calculus.
While Iran’s nuclear program remains a concern for its
neighbors in a military
sense, in reality it is the brand of revolutionary
Islamism couched in a
resistance discourse that poses the greatest threat to
the stability of Saudi
Arabia and other pro-US Arab regimes in the region that
enjoy little or no
popular legitimacy among their citizens. Indeed, if
Saudi Arabia represents the
embodiment of the pro-US status quo in the Middle East,
Iran signifies its
polar opposite.

Indications that the United States may have come to
accept – albeit reluctantly
– the reality of a nuclear Iran are also likely
figuring into the kingdom’s
strategic calculus with respect to its efforts to
engage China. A leaked report
of a secret memorandum drafted in January 2010 by US
Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates that was publicized in April suggests that
senior officials in the
Barack Obama administration have concluded that the
United States has few
realistic long-term options to preventing Iran from
achieving a nuclear
capability. As a result, a perception exists at least
in some American
policymaking circles that the United States will
eventually be compelled to
shift its focus from actively working to prevent Iran’s
acquisition of a
nuclear capability to containing a nuclear Iran.

As Israel continues to threaten to attack Iran in the
absence of the imposition
of harsh sanctions, there is no evidence to suggest
that Israel is capable of
reversing, let alone limiting, Iran’s nuclear course
and potential. Moreover,
the fallout of an Israeli attack, especially for US
forces in Iraq and
Afghanistan – who would surely bear the brunt of
Iranian retribution – would be
catastrophic for US interests in the region, as Iran is
sure to retaliate for
any potential Israeli strikes on its soil against
Israel’s chief ally in the

Saudi Arabia will continue to depend on US security
guarantees and its
longstanding diplomatic ties to Washington, areas that
Beijing has steered
clear of disrupting in any meaningful sense. At the
same time, the kingdom has
also concluded that engaging its regional rival’s main
ally in Beijing will
help ensure that its interests are taken into account
with respect to Iran and
the shifting sands of Middle East geopolitics.

Notes 1. Jon B. Alterman and John W.
Garver, The Vital Triangle:
China, The United States, and the Middle East, Center
for Strategic and
International Studies, Significant Issues Series
(2008), Vol. 30, No. 2, p. 58.

Chris Zambelis is an Associate with Helios
Global, Inc., a risk analysis
firm based in the Washington, DC area. The opinions
expressed here are the
author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the
position of Helios Global,

(This article first appeared in The Jamestown
. Used with permission.)

(Copyright 2010 The Jamestown Foundation.)

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"Unless Israel dismantles its ambiguity doctrine, there’s no way to move towards a nuclear-free Middle East. That’s what aggravates current tension, and prompts talk of war,"

JERUSALEM – Suddenly, the Middle East is awash with
talk of war this summer.
Or, is the talk of war merely meant to keep real war at

Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s strategic affairs minister and a
former chief of staff,
declared that Israel was essentially in confrontation
with Iran already.

War talk or soothing antidote, Ya’alon added his
personal warning that Israel
has the capability to strike at the Islamic Republic.
Speaking at the Air and
Space Strategic Studies Institute, north of Tel Aviv,
Ya’alon said bluntly: “As
far as I’m concerned, offence remains the best form of

Israel rarely uses the term “war” in official
statements on how to deal with Iran’s “nuclear threat”. However Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
while accusing Iran of trying to provoke a war between
Syria and Israel, said,
“Israel has no intention of going to war, no intention
to attack its neighbors,
despite false rumors.”

Pointedly though, Netanyahu was speaking on a visit to a
military training base
in the north of the country. The abundant war talk of
recent weeks has been
most focused on the possibility of a flare-up there,
involving not only
Hezbollah and Israel, but also Syria.

According to Israel, the Syrians have stepped up a
transfer of major rocket
arsenals to Hezbollah.

The jitters are not only in Israel.

Visiting Damascus, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev
voiced fears about a
looming “catastrophe” in the region. Lebanon’s Prime
Minister Saad Hariri
expressed support for Hezbollah’s right to have Scud
missiles in its arsenal,
and the speaker of the Iranian parliament threatened a
“final and decisive war”
against Israel.

All this stepped-up talk of war, or of the need to
avoid war, comes amid the
nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review
conference at the United Nations.

There, charging a “double standard policy” with regard
to Iran and Israel,
Egypt is again leading an initiative to equate the
persistent international
pressure on Iran to shelve its nuclear program with the
lack of pressure on
Israel to come clean on its nuclear program.

Iran is a signatory to the NPT. Israel is not.

Taking a cue from the NPT proceedings, the danger of
nuclear proliferation in
the Middle East was the focus of an international
conference held last week at
the Notre-Dame Center on the border between Israeli
west Jerusalem and
Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.

Organized by the Palestine-Israel Journal, a joint
media organization devoted
to the advancement of a comprehensive Middle East
peace, the conference was
entitled, “A Nuclear Free Zone in the Middle East:
Realistic or Idealistic?”

It advocated the outlawing of all nuclear weapons in
the region as the only
win-win approach to avoid a military showdown with

However, Emily Landau, senior research associate at
Israel’s Institute for
National Security Studies and director of its Arms
Control and Security
Project, reflecting Israel’s long-held official
“doctrine of ambiguity” that
“Israel won’t be the first country to introduce nuclear
weapons in the region”,
said there were “worrying trends” in US policy

“The official US position has not changed. But
President [Barack] Obama has
embraced a new disarmament agenda, and the NPT nuclear
norms. He’ll thus be in
a weaker position to contest the Egyptian argument that
Israel should join the
NPT,” Landau said.

“We’ll see a serious US attempt to reach a compromise
with Egypt,” she
predicted. “That’s not good for Israel.”

A nuclear-free zone must be incorporated into a wider
weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) free zone (including biological and
chemical weapons), Landau
insisted. A Middle East free of WMD could be achieved,
she maintained, only
after a prolonged dialogue which will bring about a sea
change in relations
between Israel and all its neighbors, including Iran.

Other Israeli experts did not share this “long
corridor” view.

Fresh from the NPT deliberations, Avner Cohen, author
of Israel and the Bomb,
a reference book for new Israeli thinking on the issue,
called for “unmasking
the Israeli position”.

“Under present circumstances, true, no Israeli
government will give up its
ultimate choice policy until the whole Middle East
conflict has been resolved,”
Cohen reckoned. “But,” he argued, “Israel’s real
interest is that no other
state in the region acquires nuclear capability.

“On the other hand, Israel’s own nuclear capability is a
major factor in its
acceptance in the region. It should be secure enough to
move away from nuclear
ambiguity,” he advocated.

“Unless Israel dismantles its ambiguity doctrine,
there’s no way to move
towards a nuclear-free Middle East. That’s what
aggravates current tension, and
prompts talk of war,” he warned.

A military option aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear quest
would produce a reverse
effect, Cohen concluded: “All it guarantees is that
Iran will choose the same

Jamil Rabah, a former Palestinian delegate to regional
talks in the 1990s on
arms control, declared, “We’ll accept Israel’s nuclear
capability provided it
starts moving on the Palestinian question.”

“If you want to move towards disarmament, don’t start
with the NPT,” Rabah
urged, “Start with genuine moves to solve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“There is indeed an inherent connection between the
possibility of making the
region nuclear-weapon free, and progress towards
Israeli-Palestinian peace,”
concluded Hillel Schenker, the Israeli co-organizer of
the event.

(Inter Press Service)

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Blaming Iran and sensationalizing stories about its "technical violations" are more patriotic and spectacular, at least to a highly charged and excitable audience, than reporting on the recent capture of Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the terrorist organization called Jundallah (Soldiers of God). Rigi’s confession that the U.S. was funding and backing the terrorist organization is just too discouraging. This would mean the U.S. Government is still operating in secrecy and conducting illegal wars, and that American citizens would have to act.

In this Saturday June 18, 2005 file photo, a veiled Iranian woman<br />
walks past torn campaign posters of Tehran’s then-mayor Mahmoud<br />
Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Iran.” title=”In this Saturday June 18, 2005 file<br />
 photo, a veiled Iranian woman walks past torn campaign posters of<br />
Tehran’s then-mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Iran.” height=”303″ width=”468″/></a></p>
<p>In “Evil,<br />
Inside Human Violence And Cruelty,” Roy F. Baumeister writes that people<br />
 maintain their self-esteem by blaming their troubles on external<br />
factors and on other people.(1) If this is the case, then can nations<br />
try to also bolster their importance and preeminence by blaming their<br />
problems and crises on outside events and other countries? Lately, it<br />
appears the U.S. has done just this to Iran. </div>
<p style=What comes to
mind is how Washington and the Pentagon, along with its obedient press
corps agents, have repeatedly blamed Iran. For example, they recently
accused Tehran of blocking reconciliation efforts between the Fatah and
Hamas groups of the Palestinian Authority. By deflecting years of failed
policies between Israel and Palestine onto Iran, the point is very
clear: the U.S. is not to blame and thus, it escapes complicity.

U.S. Secretary of State visited Saudi Arabia, she accused Iran of
moving towards a military dictatorship. While General David Petraeus was
announcing that Iran was a “thugocracy,” other military personnel were
blaming Iran for influencing elections in Iraq and for destabilizing the
war in Afghanistan. Recently, Iran’s president said the attacks on
Sept. 11 were a “big lie” and that Washington was using the attacks as
pretense to invade other nations. Will it only be a matter of time
before Iran is linked to Sept. 11 too?

Blaming Iran and
sensationalizing stories about its “technical violations” are more
patriotic and spectacular, at least to a highly charged and excitable
audience, than reporting on the recent capture of Abdolmalek Rigi,
leader of the terrorist organization called Jundallah (Soldiers of God).
Rigi’s confession that the U.S. was funding and backing the terrorist
organization is just too discouraging. This would mean the U.S.
Government is still operating in secrecy and conducting illegal wars,
and that American citizens would have to act.

Who wants to
hear about a Saudi 12th grader that recently questioned Clinton why
Israel was allowed to develop nuclear weapons? In other words, why isn’t
the U.S. asking Israel to forgo their nuclear weapons too? But then for
a U.S. secretary of state to commit to a world free of nuclear weapons
would anger Washington, the Pentagon, and their trillion dollar war
machine. And never mind that Iran’s president said “that not only the
Middle East but also the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons,
because we see such weapons as inhumane.”

Unbelievably, the
U.S. is now blaming Iran for future wars that have not even occurred.
Intelligence agencies, paid and supported by the U.S. Defense
Department, are claiming Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons with
the capability of being delivered beyond their border. They claim that
Iran’s intermediate nuclear warheads will be able to strike Europe by
2012, and that Iran is building long range nuclear warheads to strike
the U.S. by 2015. Pre-emptive fears always precedes pre-emptive wars, do
they not.

By blaming others, nations, specifically the
Unites States, are unable or unwilling to see their own aggressive
actions and therefore, easily distort or misinterpret another nation’s
actions. Nations that blame others can also falsely depict malicious,
alien forces intruding on the world of well-meaning, unsuspecting, and
virtuous people. In such a collective mental state, perpetrators and
their collaborators are freed from guilt and shame and seldom think
about responsibility and accountability, let alone the fatal

With hundreds of U.S. “bunker-busting” bombs
making their way to the British island of Deigo Garcia in the Indian
Ocean, is the U.S. preparing for a possible attack against Iran?
Tragically, if U.S. policies of blame in regards to Iran, both past and
present, are any indication of what the U.S. might do, then blaming Iran
will soon turn into bombing Iran. Before this happens, let us hope the
U.S. will have the courage and fortitude to be honest with itself and
reverse years of blame and aggression towards Iran.

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Russian diplomacy has been on a roll in recent months, the revival of ties with Ukraine being the most dramatic manifestation. But a string of successes, major and minor, sung and unsung, has been notched up below that high point – in Poland, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Norway and Syria.

Even with regard to Russia’s highly inflammable
relations with Georgia, Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin has opened a new front by
trying to find people to talk
to in Tbilisi, such as former parliament speaker Nino

Russian commentators freely admit that the improved
climate for relations with
the United States opens up opportunities for Russian
diplomacy to spread its
wings. But then, according to a most recent strategy
report prepared for
President Dmitry Medvedev (which has found its way to the Russian media
somehow – presumably
through an authorized leak), the Foreign Ministry in
Moscow remains
apprehensive that respite from United States antagonism
toward Russia could
well prove transient.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov apparently wrote in his
preface to the leaked
70-page report that “the military, intelligence and
foreign policy
establishment of the US” is seeking to “return to the
confrontational policies
of the last administration”, referring to George W
Bush’s presidency. Lavrov
pointed out that US President Barack Obama has
“transformative potential” as a
leader and any weakening of his position could lead to
increased tensions
between the US and Russia.

Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin appears to be hastening to
explore the new vistas
that have emerged as the fog of Cold War politics

However, an historic breakthrough in Russia’s ties with
Turkey does not quite
fall into this category. A tempo has been steadily
building up over the past
two decades for Russian-Turkish relations to develop
into a strategic
partnership between the two rivals who constantly
jostled or even fought bloody
wars against each other through centuries.

Their post-Cold War “reset” – as much at Ankara’s
initiative as Moscow’s – in
actuality by far predates the Obama era, and is based
on well-thought-out
foundations of hardcore mutual interests.

Medvedev’s visit to Ankara this week has cemented this
transformation in the ties and launches it onto a far
higher trajectory. A
relationship that was heavily based on economic
interests so far is rapidly
acquiring political content. As Medvedev pointed out on
Wednesday, “Russia and
Turkey are strategic partners, not only in words but

Russia cracks atom in Anatolia

Medvedev’s Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul,
reciprocated that the
relationship had progressed to a “new phase” to become
“multi-dimensional” with
a strong strategic angle. The establishment of a
high-level cooperation council
co-chaired by Medvedev and Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan
testifies to the fact that “our cooperation has grown
to such an extent that it
became a necessity for political leaders to oversee
them”, to quote Medvedev.

During Medvedev’s visit, the countries signed 17
agreements, which Medvedev
estimated to have a combined value of US$25 billion.
Principal among them is
the agreement that opens Russia’s nuclear power
industry to the highly
lucrative market in Turkey, something that has become
possible only amid the
dramatically new level of mutual understanding between
Ankara and Moscow.

In essence, Turkey will allow Russia to build – and own
– a $20 billion nuclear
power plant. The agreement envisages the construction
of four reactors on
Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast. The deal’s
unique feature is that
Russia’s Rosatom will control the facilities and sell
the electricity that it

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom and a former
prime minister, openly
admitted that Russia had been “craving” such a
breakthrough in nuclear exports.
Russia’s established partners like China and India
always insist on excluding
Russia from any ownership or management role in the
nuclear power plants that
Rosatom may set up.

The deal with Turkey allows Rosatom to initially
establish a fully-owned
subsidiary, which will eventually offer up to 49% of
the venture to investors
from Turkey or even from third countries. Kiriyenko
hinted that there could be
potential investors from Europe. Rosatom expects to
recoup the $20 billion cost
of the project 15 years after completing each reactor
by selling half of the
electricity generated to the Turkish government-owned
distribution company and
the rest to the country’s unregulated market. Rosatom
is obliged to share 20%
of its profits with the Turkish government.

The breakthrough is strategic for Russia since it will
now become very
difficult for competing countries to offer Turkey
matching investment terms.
Rosatom will complete the first reactor in seven years
and thereafter one
reactor in every three years. Significantly, Rosatom
may also set up a facility
in Turkey to make nuclear fuel.

Russia already meets close to 70% of Turkey’s energy
needs, and the established
cooperation is also expected to grow. The two countries
are discussing Russia’s
possible involvement in the north-south 550-kilometer
oil pipeline to connect
the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, which was
envisaged as a
Turkish-Italian project.

The pipeline will provide a faster transit route for
Russian and Kazakh oil to
reach the global market by bypassing the congested
Bosphorous and Dardanelles
straits. An energy security agreement signed during
Medvedev’s visit to Ankara
identifies the proposed $3 billion oil link as a
priority project for
cooperation with Russia.

In effect, Russia is helping Turkey realize its
ambition to become a global hub
for energy transportation, while Moscow expects Ankara
not to promote pipeline
projects that rival Russia’s. The two countries are
inching closer to
cooperation in the Moscow-backed South Stream gas
pipeline project that binds
the south European markets to Russia’s energy sources.

In geopolitical terms, among other things, Turkey is
playing a role in
facilitating the return of Russia to its Slavic
backyard in the Balkans from
where it was rudely evicted in the 1990s with the
West’s dismantling of the
former state of Yugoslavia, as well as in buttressing
Russia’s lead role in
supplying energy to Europe.

Assessing the overall prospects of Russian-Turkish
economic ties, Medvedev said
a target of reaching $100 billion in bilateral trade
volume in the next five
years from the current level of $40 billion was
feasible. “It is hard even to
imagine, but this figure is an attainable one,” he
said. “Once we achieve this
goal, it becomes a model for Europe.” Russia’s overall
trade with Europe
presently stands at $200 billion.

Europe is the ailing partner

Medvedev was spot on. The galloping Russian-Turkish
cooperation and emerging
climate of trust and understanding – as illustrated by
Turkey’s agreement to
grant visa-free travel for Russian tourists who
currently number 3 million a
year – holds profound implications for Europe.

Ironically, if the concern a century ago was that
Turkey was the “sick man of
Europe”, today there has been a curious reversal of
roles. Turkey is raring to
go like an adventurous explorer of new frontiers while
Europe is lost in
thoughts habitual to old age and inertia. The specter
that haunts Europe is a
new geopolitical axis that might revive the “imperial
ambitions” of both Turkey
and Russia.

Europe is hit in ways more than one by the
Turkish-Russian energy cooperation.
Consumer countries in Europe develop political
dependency on Turkish goodwill
as the pipelines go through the Anatolian heartland
and, simply put, Europe may
also have to be more conscious of Ankara’s
sensitivities, especially on the
vexed issue of Turkey’s proposed European Union

The reality is that Europe is already flustered by its
energy dependence on
Russia – Russia supplies one-third of Europe’s needs –
and the emerging
prospect is that in political terms, Russia and Turkey
are finally reaching an
equilibrium in pooling their oil-and-gas friendship for
augmenting their own
bargaining strength vis-a-vis Europe. Moscow and Ankara
do not seem to care
anymore as to which side needs this “friendship” more
than the other. Clearly,
their pipeline politics are finally beginning to
dictate geopolitics in a vast
arc of surrounding regions.

Turkey can be trusted to use the “Russia card” in its
future negotiations over
EU membership and Brussels will have to factor in that
continued negativism may
only drive Ankara more into Moscow’s embrace. That
embrace is already resetting
the geopolitics of the Black Sea and the Caucasus and
is poised to impact the
Middle East as a whole, including the situation around
Iran and the
Israel-Palestine issue.

Medvedev spoke about this while in Ankara. In an
extremity meaningful
statement, he said in Gul’s presence, “Russia and
Turkey are working together
to maintain global and regional stability. Sitting in
the president’s office
just now we spoke about the fact that the Black Sea
countries themselves, and
above all the region’s two biggest countries, Russia
and Turkey, bear direct
responsibility for the situation in the region.”

Things couldn’t have been stated more explicitly that
Russia and Turkey have a
shared interest in forestalling any attempt to make the
Black Sea a “NATO
[North Atlantic Treaty Organization] lake” and that
Moscow counts on Ankara’s
helping hand to keep outsiders away from its Crimean
backyard. Coupled with the
recent Russian-Ukrainian agreement extending the lease
of the Russian naval
base in Sevastopol, Moscow is energetically boosting
its capacity to delimit
NATO’s activities to the Black Sea’s west coasts.

A regional alliance in the making

Medvedev also underlined that Russia and Turkey hold
“very close views” on the
Middle East peace process. Interestingly, he traveled
to Ankara via Damascus,
where he had a meeting on Tuesday with Hamas leader
Khaled Meshaal. Medvedev
lamented that there had been ”something of a slowdown”
in the US-brokered
peace process which in turn “is having an impact on the
situation in the Middle

He called Gaza a “humanitarian disaster”, sought wider
regional and
international participation in seeking “actual
solutions and decisions” in the
Middle East and, in an oblique reference to Israel,
insisted that Hamas
shouldn’t be excluded from the peace process. Coupled
with the revival of
Russia’s traditional ties with Syria, Moscow is
reappearing on a Middle Eastern
chessboard where China also is aspiring to be a new
player and where the US’s
predominant status is being challenged.

What is striking is that Medvedev virtually echoed
Turkish viewpoints. The
Russian and Turkish position on Iran is also similar,
underpinned by the “need
to incite Iran to take a constructive line, while at
the same time emphasizing
the need to resolve this problem through peaceful
means”, as Medvedev phrased

The developing Russia-Turkish coordination of positions
over the South Caucasus
aims at creating a regional security system. Arguably,
the process is also
subject to the US’s acceptance and the climate of a
US-Russia “reset” will have
a bearing. As a Turkish report pointed out, “Azerbaijan
is leaning toward
Turkey, Armenia has embraced Russia, and Georgia has
been seeking rapprochement
with NATO and the US. When these countries lean (or are
prodded) toward
different supports, it usually ends badly, as proved by
the August 2008 war
between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia.”

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 conflict, Ankara
proposed a Caucasus
stability and cooperation pact, which would include the
three South Caucasus
countries plus Russia and Turkey. This was a manifest
attempt by Ankara to
insert itself into the Caucasian circle but also
reflected the tacit Turkish
acknowledgement of the Russian claim that the conflict
brought to light the
failure of existing forums – the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in
Europe, the EU and the United Nations – to address
security in the Caucasus.

Without doubt, what is unfolding is also Moscow’s
diplomatic foreplay even as
NATO gears up for a refocus on its destiny in the 21st
century at the
alliance’s summit in November in Lisbon. There is much
irony here, in that
Moscow has sought out a key NATO member country as its
privileged partner in
this enterprise.

It does, though, take two to tango. No matter Moscow’s
assiduous courting of
Ankara, the diplomacy wouldn’t have proceeded at such
speed had it not been for
the tectonic shift in Turkish foreign-policy thinking
and its new diplomatic
thrust toward creating an environment of “zero
problems” with its neighbors.

Many factors have contributed to the new impetus in
understanding. Putin’s extraordinary personal
friendship with Erdogan became a
significant template in itself. But ultimately, as the
Foreign Ministry report
to Medvedev, entitled Program for Effective Use of
Foreign Policy in the
Long-Term Development of Russia, seems to have pointed
out, Russia’s
“modernizing alliances” with foreign partners need to
be based on the calculus
that there are neither friends nor enemies, only

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career
diplomat in the Indian Foreign
Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union,
South Korea, Sri Lanka,
Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All
rights reserved. Please
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The king, who has long attempted to restrain corrupting practices that are taken as normal business ways here, is responding to public outrage over the floods in Jeddah on November 25 that killed at least 123 people and damaged more than 10,000 homes.

RIYADH // Signaling a new seriousness in tackling official corruption, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has issued orders to prosecute those allegedly responsible for conditions that left Saudi Arabia’s second largest city unprepared for devastating floods late last year.

The king’s royal decree on Sunday, which also included other initiatives to toughen the government’s handling of alleged malfeasance, is being hailed by some observers as an unprecedented and welcome step in what they say is a badly needed battle against corruption in the oil-rich kingdom.

“It’s a turning point because now, as the king said, there is no one who cannot be questioned,” said Dawood al Shirian, a Saudi Arabian journalist who is the host of Al Arabiya’s Meet the Press.

No longer, Mr al Shirian said, is corruption merely something that the media and people talk about. “Now, the government mentions it,” he said. “This is very important.”

The king, who has long attempted to restrain corrupting practices that are taken as normal business ways here, is responding to public outrage over the floods in Jeddah on November 25 that killed at least 123 people and damaged more than 10,000 homes.

Much of the havoc, which followed torrential rains, arose from the city’s lack of a proper drainage system, despite millions of Saudi riyals paid over many years to contractors to build one. Another reason was illegal construction of homes in flood plains, according to officials cited in media reports.

King Abdullah appears intent on using the flood catastrophe as an object lesson in how things must change. His decree was issued against a backdrop of widespread public anger over corruption, as well as scepticism that the government is serious about fighting it.


According to a poll of 1,000 Saudis in November 2009 by Pechter Middle East Polls, a private US research organisation, almost two thirds said corruption was a serious issue in Saudi Arabia. When asked to name the kingdom’s “most serious” problem, one fifth cited corruption, more than those who cited unemployment or inflation.

The king’s decree cited “the magnitude of this calamity and its tragic aftermath” and said that officials should “inflict the deterrent Islamic punishment on all those who are proven to be guilty or careless in this” matter, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

The wide-ranging royal directive also ordered that “crimes of financial and administrative corruption” be officially classified among crimes ineligible for royal pardons — apparently an effort by the king to halt the long-time practice of giving influential officials and businessmen relief from official sanctions for alleged misconduct.

Hussein Shobokshi, a businessman and columnist with the Saudi-owned daily Asharq al Awsat, called the king’s decree “an important wake-up for the public and private sectors involved in [government] contracting,” arguing that it sets “a new paradigm”.

In the past, Mr Shobokshi said, existing anti-corruption laws were ignored and someone accused of wrongdoing was usually “fined, asked to resign and in a polite way made an outcast”.

Now, if the king’s decree is followed, corruption cases are to be dealt with “in a legal and transparent manner”, Mr Shobokshi said. “This is completely new territory.”

The floods in Jeddah sparked an unusual outburst of public anger on the internet and in Saudi newspapers, which were given relatively free rein to report on why the Red Sea port was hit so hard.

The king ordered Prince Khaled bin Faisal, the governor of Mecca province, to conduct an in-depth investigation of the calamity. His findings were presented to King Abdullah in early March.

The press has reported that scores of past and current officials in Jeddah’s municipality as well as contractors and businessmen were detained, apparently temporarily, while interrogated by Prince Khaled’s investigators.

The number of people now potentially facing criminal or civil prosecution has not been disclosed.

“We are determined to shoulder our responsibility before Allah Almighty and to straighten matters right for the nation, citizens and expatriates, and to alleviate the grief of the innocent victims … as well as to deepen standards of justice and the right,” the royal decree stated.

It also ordered that new regulations be drawn up for notaries and others who authenticate documents such as deeds and that new rules be made for property grants to halt illegal land grabs. In addition, companies found derelict or negligent in fulfilling contracts are to be identified to government offices responsible for issuing contract tenders.

Despite the king’s firm action, many Saudis remain sceptical that a new approach towards official accountability is emerging. For one, asked some Saudis, will princes be among those prosecuted if they are implicated in corruption?

Waleed Abu Khair, a lawyer and civic activist in Jeddah, said: “All the people know that the corruption [in Jeddah] happened [with the co-operation of] some big people. But they don’t talk about them. This is the problem.”

Turki F al Rasheed, a Riyadh businessman, said that land illegally built on in Jeddah was a large area, adding: “It was not a small guy who took it.”

Much more needs to be done to successfully grapple with corruption, Mr al Rasheed said. “We have to be more transparent. We have to give the Saudi newspapers and media a role to talk about corruption, and give the majlis al shura the capabilities and authority to investigate” alleged wrongdoing, he said.

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Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of the Times Square bomber, "We will not be intimidated by those who hate the freedoms that make … this country so great."

 © 2010 

Faisal Shahzad sought to
massacre scores of fellow Americans in
Times Square
with a bomb made of M-88 firecrackers, non-explosive
fertilizer, gasoline and alarm clocks.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a U.S. airliner over
Detroit with a firebomb concealed in his underpants. Maj. Nidal Malik
Hasan shot dead 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 30.

Why did these men attempt the mass murder of Americans who did no
harm to them? What impelled them to seek martyrdom amid a pile of
American corpses?

Though all were Muslims, none seems to have been a longtime
America-hater or natural-born killer. Hasan was proud to wear Army
fatigues to mosque. Shahzad had become a U.S. citizen. Abdulmutallab was
the privileged son of a prominent Nigerian banker.

The New York Times ties
all three to the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam
born and educated in the United States who inspires Muslims worldwide
to jihad against America. But, following Sept. 11, al-Awlaki had been
seen as a bridge between Islam and the West.

Now President Obama has authorized his assassination.

What do the four have in common?

All were converted in manhood into haters of America willing to
kill and die in a jihad against America. And the probability is high
that there are many more like them living amongst us who wish to bring
the war in the Af-Pak here to America.

But what radicalized them? And why do they hate us?

Taking a cue from George W. Bush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said of
the Times Square bomber, “We will not be intimidated by those who hate
the freedoms that make … this country so great.”

This was the mantra after Sept. 11. We are hated not because of
what we do in the Middle East, but because of who we are: people who
love freedom and stand for women’s rights.

And that is why they hate us – and why they come to kill us.

In a way this is a comforting thought, because it absolves us of
the need to think. For no patriotic American is going to demand we
surrender our freedom to prevent fanatics from attacking us.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens advances a parallel view.
We are hated, he says, because of our popular culture.

We are loathed in the Islamic world, Stephens writes, because of
“Lady Gaga – or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe,
Josephine Baker or any other American woman who has … personified
what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called ‘the American

This hatred is at least 60 years old, says Stephens, for Qutb
wrote even before “Elvis, Playboy, the pill, women’s lib, acid tabs, gay
rights, Studio 54, Jersey shore and … Lady Gaga.”

Qutb’s revulsion at American degeneracy is why his legion of
Islamic followers hate us.

Again, a comforting thought. For, if Lady Gaga is the problem,
there is nothing we Americans can do about it.

Yet, this is as self-delusional as saying the FLN set off bombs
in movie theaters and cafes in Algiers to kill the French because of
what Brigitte Bardot was doing on screen in “And God Created Woman.”

American’s toxic culture may be a reason devout Muslims detest
us. It is not why they come here to kill us. Mohamed Atta’s friends did
not target Hollywood, but centers and symbols of U.S. military and
political power.

U.S. Marines were not attacked by Hezbollah until we inserted those
Marines into Lebanon’s civil war. No Iraqi committed an act of terror
against us before we invaded Iraq. And if the Sept. 11 killers were
motivated by hatred of the immorality of our society, what were they
doing getting lap dances in Delray Beach?

Osama bin Laden declared war on us, first and foremost, to end
the massive U.S. presence on sacred Saudi soil that is home to Mecca and

Some may insist this was not his real motive. But, apparently,
the Saudis believed him, for they quickly kicked us out of Prince Sultan
Air Base.

As for the Taliban, they would surely make short work of Lady
Gaga. But their stated grievance is the same as Gen. Washington’s in our
war with the British: If you want this war to end, get out of our

By Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the right
one. Looking at America’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Maj.
Hasan, Abdulmutallab and Shahzad decided that what we call the war on
terror was in reality a war on Islam.

All decided to use their access to exact retribution for our
killing of their fellow Muslims.

We are being attacked over here because we are over there.

Nor is it a good sign that U.S. intelligence is reporting that
rising numbers of U.S. Muslims are making Internet inquiries about how
and where to get training to bring the war home to America.

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Undeniably, making it a state as well as a federal crime to be in this country illegally, and requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they have a "reasonable suspicion" is here illegally, is tough and burdensome. But what choice did Arizona have?

With the support of 70 percent of its citizens, Arizona has ordered
sheriffs and police to secure the border and remove illegal aliens, half a million of whom now reside

Arizona acted because the U.S. government has abdicated its
constitutional duty to protect the states from invasion and refuses to
enforce America’s immigration laws.

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington
to act,” said Gov. Jan Brewer. “But decades of inaction and misguided
policy have created an unacceptable situation.”

We have a crisis in Arizona because we have a failed state in

What is the response of Barack Obama, who took an oath to see to
it that federal laws are faithfully executed?

He is siding with the lawbreakers. He is pandering to the ethnic
lobbies. He is not berating a Mexican regime that aids and abets this
invasion of the country of which he is commander
in chief
. Instead, he attacks the government of Arizona for
trying to fill a gaping hole in law enforcement left by his own
dereliction of duty.

He has denounced Arizona as “misguided.” He has called on the
Justice Department to ensure that Arizona’s sheriffs and police do not
violate anyone’s civil rights. But he has said nothing about the rights
of the people of Arizona who must deal with the costs of having hundreds
of thousands of lawbreakers in their midst.

How’s that for Andrew-Jackson-style leadership?

Obama has done everything but his duty to enforce the law.

Undeniably, making it a state as well as a federal crime to be in
this country illegally, and requiring police to check the immigration
status of anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” is here illegally,
is tough and burdensome. But what choice did Arizona have?

The state has a fiscal crisis caused in part by the burden of
providing schooling and social welfare for illegals and their families,
who consume far more in services than they pay in taxes and who continue
to pour in. Even John McCain is now calling for 3,000 troops on the

Police officers and a prominent rancher have been murdered. There
have been kidnappings believed to be tied to the Mexican drug cartels.
There are nightly high-speed chases through the barrios where innocent
people are constantly at risk.

If Arizona does not get control of the border and stop the
invasion, U.S. citizens will stop coming to Arizona and will begin to
depart, as they are already fleeing California.

What we are talking about here is the balkanization and breakup
of a nation into ethnic enclaves. A country that cannot control its
borders isn’t really a country anymore, Ronald Reagan reminded us.

The tasks that Arizonans are themselves undertaking are ones that
belong by right, the Constitution and federal law to the Border Patrol,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Homeland Security.

Arizona has been compelled to assume the feds’ role because the
feds won’t do their job. And for that dereliction of duty the buck stops
on the desk of the president of the United States.

Why is Obama paralyzed? Why does he not enforce the law, even if
he dislikes it, by punishing the businessmen who hire illegals and by
sending the 12 million to 20 million illegals back home? President
Eisenhower did it. Why won’t he?

Because he is politically correct. Because he owes a big debt to
the Hispanic lobby that helped deliver two-thirds of that vote in 2008.
Though most citizens of Hispanic descent in Arizona want the border
protected and the laws enforced, the Hispanic lobby demands that the law
be changed.

Fair enough. But the nation rose up as one to reject the
“path-to-citizenship” – i.e., amnesty – that the 2007 plan of George W.
Bush, McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama envisioned.

Al Sharpton threatens to go to Phoenix and march in the streets
against the new Arizona law. Let him go.

Let us see how many African-Americans, who are today frozen out
of the 8 million jobs held by illegal aliens that might otherwise go to
them or their children, will march to defend an invasion for which they
are themselves paying the heaviest price.

Last year, while Americans were losing a net of 5 million jobs,
the U.S. government – Bush and Obama both – issued 1,131,000 green cards
to legal immigrants to come and take the jobs that did open up, a flood
of immigrants equaled in only four other years in our history.

What are we doing to our own people?

Whose country is this, anyway?

America today has an establishment that, because it does not like
the immigration laws, countenances and condones wholesale violation of
those laws.

Nevertheless, under those laws, the U.S. government is obligated
to deport illegal aliens and punish businesses that knowingly hire them.

This is not an option. It is an obligation.

Can anyone say Barack Obama is meeting that obligation?

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“Beginning today, the United States will make public the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile and the number of weapons we have dismantled since 1991,” Mrs Clinton told the UN review conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty. “So for those who doubt that the United States will do its part on disarmament, this is our record, these are our commitments and they send a clear, unmistakable signal.”

Hillary Clinton said the US was sending a
‘clear, unmistakable signal’ on disarmament – while accusing President
Ahmadinejad of jeopardising the nuclear treaty effort

The US revealed the size of its nuclear arsenal last night in an
attempt to galvanise efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, announced the
declassification of
one of the Pentagon’s most closely guarded secrets at the opening day of
critical international meeting on global disarmament.

The Pentagon’s figures show that the US stockpile consists of 5,113
warheads and “several thousand” more retired warheads that await
dismantling. The figures reveal an 84 per cent reduction from the
peak of 31,225 warheads in 1967 at the height of the Cold War.

“Beginning today, the United States will make public the number of
weapons in our stockpile and the number of weapons we have dismantled
1991,” Mrs Clinton told the UN review conference on the
Treaty. “So for those who doubt that the United States will do its part
disarmament, this is our record, these are our commitments and they send
clear, unmistakable signal.”

Mrs Clinton said that the disclosure came after months of wrangling
the White House and intelligence officials over the security
President Obama argued forcefully that the revelation would place
at the head of global efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons by
how much of its arsenal it has sent for dismantling, setting a standard
others for openness.

Yesterday he issued a written statement to the conference warning
nations that
the pursuit of a nuclear arsenal would only lead to international
and urging those who already had them to disarm.

“We will see whether nations without nuclear weapons will fulfil their
obligation to forsake them,” Mr Obama wrote. “Nations that pursue this
find greater security and opportunity as an integrated member of the
international community. Nations that ignore their obligations find
themselves less secure, less prosperous and more isolated. That is the
choice nations must make.”

Mr Obama did not mention any country by name but his comments were
aimed at Iran whose President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had hours earlier
attempted to hijack the conference with a divisive address dismissing
American leadership on non-proliferation.

The disclosure by the US is an attempt to revive a treaty on the brink
collapse. The last time that signatories gathered to review the NPT five

years ago the meeting collapsed in acrimony over the perceived failure
the US to follow through on its disarmament commitments.

The 1970 NPT was built on a global deal in which the five original
powers — Britain, the US, China, France and Russia — agreed to begin
dismantling their arsenals in exchange for a promise from non-nuclear
that they would not build a bomb but would be permitted nuclear
to produce energy.

The treaty has been placed under strain by the refusal of India,
Pakistan and
Israel — all now nuclear states — to sign, and North Korea’s unilateral
withdrawal from the agreement in 2003 and subsequent decision to build a

nuclear bomb. The most recent threats, however, have come from a

Mrs Clinton accused Iran of exploiting the treaty to build a nuclear
under the cover of a civilian energy programme. Iran was “the only
represented in this room to be found not to be in compliance with its
obligations”. Iran, she said, was the country that “places the
non-proliferation effort in jeopardy”.

The details of the US arsenal are the most dramatic of a series of
initiatives to give weight to Mr Obama’s vow to work for a world free of

nuclear weapons, a goal he first committed to as a student.

At strategic arms reduction talks last month Mr Obama signed a new
treaty with
Russia to slash the countries’ arsenals to a historic low of no more
1,500 deployed warheads each.

Mrs Clinton cited the Start treaty and Mr Obama’s recent Nuclear Posture

Review as evidence of Washington’s steps towards the goal of complete
nuclear disarmament. The new disclosure shows how far Washington has
gone to
achieving that but its real significance was as an unprecedented act of
transparency, lifting the veil on information that has remained
for more than half a century.

Mrs Clinton contrasted Mr Ahmadinejad’s tired words with concrete
for actions, including a promise to seek Senate approval to join parts
regional nuclear-free treaties governing Africa and the South Pacific.

She also voiced Washington’s support for a nuclear-free Middle East. “We
all be judged not for our words but for our actions. Not how assertively
claim our rights but how we uphold our obligations,” she added.

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"I hope that we can reach agreement in the Security Council on tough new sanctions," Clinton told reporters, "because I believe that is the only way to catch Iran’s attention."

Speaking from the podium of the General Assembly Hall, Clinton accused Iran of “flouting the rules” of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty with its suspect uranium enrichment program, and said it is “time for a strong international response.”

For his part, Ahmadinejad earlier rejected such allegations, saying Washington has offered not “a single credible proof.”

They were the opening salvos in four weeks of deliberations over how to improve the NPT, formally reviewed every five years in a meeting of all 189 treaty members — all the world’s nations except India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

The review conference is meant to produce a final document pointing toward ways to better achieve the NPT’s goals of checking the spread of nuclear weapons, while working toward reducing and eventually eliminating them.

Because it requires a consensus of all parties, including Iran, any formal final decision would be highly unlikely to censure the Tehran government, which would block consensus.

Instead, as delegates assess the state of the NPT in U.N. conference halls, U.S. and European diplomats will be working elsewhere to reach agreement with sometimes reluctant China and Russia on a fourth round of U.N. Security Council economic penalties to impose on Iran.


“I hope that we can reach agreement in the Security Council on tough new sanctions,” Clinton told reporters, “because I believe that is the only way to catch Iran’s attention.”

In her address, Clinton proposed that the nonproliferation treaty be strengthened by introducing “automatic penalties” for noncompliance, rather than depend on such drawn-out council negotiations.

Ahmadinejad devoted much of his half-hour speech to the huge U.S. nuclear arsenal, denouncing the Obama administration’s refusal to rule out the use of those weapons.

“Regrettably, the government of the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including Iran,” Ahmadinejad said.

He referred to the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review’s provision retaining an option to use U.S. atomic arms against countries not in compliance with the nonproliferation pact, a charge Washington lays against Iran.

Clinton later announced the U.S. government was releasing previously undisclosed details about the U.S. arsenal. About the same time in Washington, the Pentagon was reporting that the U.S. maintains 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile and “several thousand” more retired warheads that await dismantling.

Ahmadinejad invited President Barack Obama to join a “humane movement” that would set a timetable for abolishing those and all other atomic arms, weapons he called “disgusting and shameful.”

As the Iranian president spoke, the U.S. delegation, of working-level staff, walked out of the General Assembly hall, joined by several European delegations, including the French and British. Lower-level Iranian officials sat through Clinton’s later speech.

Yukiya Amano, head of the U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, leveled the specific indictment against Iran, saying his inspectors could not confirm that all of its nuclear material is devoted to peaceful activities.

Iran must “clarify activities with a possible military dimension,” Amano said.

Opening the conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “the onus is on Iran” to clear up doubts. He said the same in a later private meeting with Ahmadinejad, the U.N. chief’s office said.

Ahmadinejad, the only head of state participating in the conference, complained that the U.S. and its allies were pressuring Iran “on the false pretext of probable diversions in their peaceful nuclear activities without providing even a single credible proof to substantiate their allegation.”

The Iranian leader reiterated his country’s support for establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, an Arab-backed idea aimed at Israel‘s unacknowledged nuclear arsenal of perhaps 80 bombs.

Clinton, too, repeated U.S. endorsement of the idea. She told reporters regional instabilities mean conditions aren’t right at this time for a Mideast “nuke-free” zone, “but we are prepared to support practical measures for moving toward that objective.”

Egypt has proposed that this 2010 NPT conference back a plan calling for the start of negotiations next year on such a Mideast zone. The proposal may become a major debating point in the monthlong session.

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China has dozens of nuclear-power plants under construction, has completed the Three Gorges Dam – the largest power source on earth – and is tying the nation together with light rail, bullet trains and highways in infrastructure projects unlike any the world has ever seen.

© 2010 

“Thank you, Hu Jintao, and thank you, China,” said Hugo Chavez, as he
announced a $20 billion loan from Beijing, to be repaid in Venezuelan

The Chinese just threw Chavez a life-preserver. For Venezuela is
reeling from 25 percent inflation, government-induced blackouts to cope
with energy shortages and an economy that shrank by 3.3 percent in 2009.

Where did China get that $20 billion? From us. From consumers at
Wal-Mart. That $20 billion is 1 percent of the $2 trillion in trade
surpluses Beijing has run up with the United States over two decades.

Beijing is using its trillions of dollars in reserves, piled up
from exports to America, to cut deals to lock up strategic resources for
the coming struggle with the United States for hegemony in Asia and the

She has struck multibillion-dollar deals with Sudan, Brazil,
Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran and Australia to secure a steady supply of oil,
gas and vital minerals to maintain the 10 percent to 12 percent annual
growth China has been racking up since Deng Xiaoping dispensed with
Maoism and set his nation out on the capitalist road.

China has dozens of nuclear-power plants under construction, has
completed the Three Gorges Dam – the largest power source on earth – and
is tying the nation together with light rail, bullet trains and
highways in infrastructure projects unlike any the world has ever seen.

Contrast what China is doing with what we are about. We have
declared vast regions of our country, onshore and offshore, off-limits
to drilling for oil and gas. We have not built a nuclear-power plant in
30 years or a refinery in 25 years. We have declared war on fossil fuels
to save the planet from global warming.

Given the power of the environmental lobby to tie up projects in
endless litigation, we could never today build our Interstate Highway
System, Hoover Dam, the TVA or the Union Pacific Railroad.

Determined to take America’s title as the world’s first
manufacturing nation, as she has taken Germany’s title as the world’s
leading exporter, China keeps her currency undervalued and demands of
those who sell to China that they also produce in China. As America’s
share of the world economy steadily falls, China’s share has doubled.
This year, China will overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest

Having seen the Soviet Union disintegrate into 15 nations and fearing
the ethno-nationalism of Tibetans and Uighurs, Beijing floods her
border provinces with Han Chinese. America, declaring racial, ethnic and
religious diversity a strength, invites the world to come and swamp its
native-born. And mostly poor, unskilled and uneducated, they are coming
by the millions.

China puts savings ahead of spending, production ahead of
consumption, manufacturing ahead of finance. Embracing free trade,
Americans declare that it makes no difference who produces what, where.
What’s good for the Global Economy is good for America.

Before the financial collapse, the U.S. savings rate stood at
zero percent of family income. In China, it ranged between 35 percent
and 50 percent.

Since the Cold War, the United States has been playing empire –
intervening to punish evildoers and advance democracy in Panama,
Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have expanded NATO to include Eastern Europe, the Baltic
States and much of the Balkan Peninsula. We have not let a single
alliance lapse from the Cold War. And we have fewer friends and more
adversaries than at the end of the Cold War. What has all this
intervention availed us?

China, having fought no one, has rapidly built up her military
power and developed ties to the growing number of nations at odds with
America, from Russia to Iran to Sudan to Venezuela.

The Chinese of 2010 call to mind 19th-century Americans who
shoved aside Mexicans, Indians and Spanish to populate a continent,
build a mighty nation, challenge the British Empire – superpower of the
day – and swiftly move past her in manufacturing to become first nation
on earth. Men were as awed by America then as they are by China today.

America seems a declining superpower. She cannot defend her
borders, balance her budgets or win her wars. Her educational system at
the primary and secondary level is a shambles. In the first decade of
the century, she lost one of every three manufacturing jobs. In this
second decade, she is looking at trillion-dollar deficits to 2020. The
world is losing confidence in her ability to manage her surging national

While we are finally extricating ourselves after seven years from
an unnecessary war in Iraq, we are heading deeper into an Afghan war
that has lasted a decade, the end of which it is impossible to see.

During the Cold War, China was in the grip of a millenarian
ideology that blinded her to her true interests. Today, it is we who are
captive to a utopian ideology that is becoming perilous to the republic