There is no question that the editorial in the state-owned Global
Times newspaper last week penned by Zhang Liangui, a North Korea
expert who advises the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee,
needs to be taken seriously. The editorial was predicated on the
assumption that Pyongyang would go ahead with the nuclear test no
matter what it takes, and looking at the downstream it warned that
North Korea would "pay a heavy price" in terms of China's goodwill.
The salient of the editorial was its unambiguous warning that
Pyongyang would be wrong to (mis)calculate that it can play China
against the United States - "Pyongyang shouldn't misread China. China
won't put its relations with Pyongyang above other strategic
Clearly, China's political relationship with Pyongyang has touched a
low point. But then, what about China's longstanding priorities? These
are: no war on the Korean Peninsula; no destabilization of the North
Korean regime; and, a nuclear-weapon-free Korean Peninsula. China may
balk but humanitarian considerations will remain, and the long-term
relationship cannot be abandoned just like that.
Besides, North Korea has acted as a crucial buffer against the US
troops based in South Korea and Japan. Furthermore, against the
backdrop of the US' rebalancing in Asia and China's troubled relations
with Japan, Beijing needs to hedge and it can, therefore, at best
afford to press the "pause" button at this point.
China can ill afford to be distracted by another foreign policy crisis
on its doorstep when mounting domestic problems require great
attention. Clearly, China finds itself between a rock and a hard place
with the North Korean nuclear test. By a curious coincidence, the
nuclear test took place even as the Year of the Snake slithers in.
Snake years have historically had a geopolitical bite - Pearl Harbor
(1941), Tiananmen Square massacre (1989), 9/11 attacks on New York and
Washington (2001). And Xi himself was born in the snake year of 1953.
I cannot see China throwing North Korea over.
The Snake @Aiww @Hirshhorn Twitpic
Sudan: Mali's Jihadists Were Transported to Darfur - JEM [The
Vanishing Act was noteworthy]
London — Sudanese government might evacuated Malian jihadists to
Darfur from a foreign country, said a leading rebel official from the
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who asserted they localised their
presence in the troubled North Darfur state.
Tahir El-Faki, speaker of JEM's Legislative Assembly reiterated that
the Malian jihadist groups are in Darfur region after a large-scale
military operation carried out by the French and Malian armies against
their positions in northern Mali earlier this month.
"On Monday our people on the ground noticed their presence in Um Sidr
in North Darfur state and some areas near Kutum ", El-Faki told Sudan
However he expressed some reservations about reports saying they had
entered into Darfur through the Libyan border.
Faki went to say that their people at Jebel Um Al Owainat on the
border with Libya did not see any vehicle crossing to Sudan recently.
"So, saying they came through Libya is not accurate, unless they were
transported by helicopters or other aircrafts from Kuffra in Libya to
Kutum in North Darfur", he concluded.
Le Temps d'Algérie, an Algerian daily newspaper in French language
suggested that Qatar had dispatched two airplanes to move the leaders
of different jihadist groups that many of them are Algerians.
"This information has been circulating recently" said the director of
the French Centre for Research on Intelligence (CF2R),Eric Denécé, in
statements published by the Algerian daily on 5 February.
Eygpt, Syria - it's just the end of them By Spengler
The unthinkable is happening in the Arab world, and it's not as awful
as advertised, unless you have the misfortune to live there. Two years
and 60,000 casualties into Syria's civil war, the foreign ministries
of the West have nothing to show for their peacemaking efforts except
a wad of airline and hotel receipts.
Egypt is proceeding with grim inevitability towards financial
exhaustion. Libya has disintegrated, and Tunisia, the poster-child for
moderate Islamism, looks ugly after the murder earlier this month of
opposition leader Chokri Belaid. Yet the global consequences are
Excluding the Gulf States, the combined gross domestic product of the
major Arab countries is a bit over US$600 billion, about the same as
The disintegration of the Arab world is a great human tragedy but a
minor economic nuisance.
Two years after I warned that the so-called Arab Spring arose from
economic failure and portended future disasters, a warning I
reiterated in 15 subsequent essays for this publication, it has come
to the attention of the foreign policy community that Egypt's economy
is in a tailspin.
Egypt's Islamist government has nothing to offer its people but hunger
- not belt-tightening, but malnutrition. The country's Minister of
Supply, Bassem Auda, told a press conference February 10 that the
bread subsidy would be cut to three pita loaves per capita (perhaps
400 calories), the Egypt Daily News reported. Half of the $3 billion
annual bread subsidy is wasted on the black market, Auda said. The
trouble is that millions of Egyptians subsist on the half that isn't
wasted. The newspaper interviewed some ordinary Egyptians after Auda's
Most alarming is the emergence of a black market in Egyptian pounds,
with a street rate February 10 of 6.95 pounds to the US dollar,
against an official rate of 6.72. Reuters reported February 10, "A run
on Egypt's pound has left foreign currency in short supply and driven
some dealers into the streets in search of people with US dollars to
sell, spawning a new black market." Currency deflation (by nearly 15%
since the beginning of this year) will translate quickly into higher
prices for imported goods, including half of the country's food
.Even if the White House wanted more aid, it could not get it. With
the fiscal crises that nearly took down the European Community last
year and that remain the subject of bitter wrangling in the United
States, no-one wants to hear about multi-billion-dollar donations to
We have gone from "Shock and Awe" to "aw, shucks", in the bon mot of
blogger Ruth King. What the foreign policy community considered
unthinkable - state failure in Egypt and Syria - is proceeding
unimpeded by any helpful suggestions, let alone action, from the world
community. The only leader to offer aid to Egypt recently was Iranian
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who visited Cairo on February 5 and
promised a "big credit line" on condition that Sunni Egypt ally with
Shi'ite Iran against the West. The man has a sense of humor.
Ahmadinejad's visit, moreover, underscores the reluctance of the Sunni
Gulf monarchies to aid a Muslim Brotherhood regime that they consider
a danger to their own longevity.
What about Iran?
Sometime this year, I believe, either the United States or Israel will
attack Iran's nuclear weapons program, and the ripple effects in the
region will be minor. After Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khameini rejected the American offer of direct talks on the country's
nuclear ambitions, a successful Israeli strike (let alone a more
devastating American attack) would humiliate the Tehran regime.
Nothing fails in the Middle East like failure, and Iran's capacity to
retaliate will be far weaker than feared.
Always Dystopian but He has a Point.
Rising power Qatar stirs unease among some Mideast neighbors Reuters
In the center of Cairo, young men hold up a burning flag for the
cameras to show their fury at a nation they believe is meddling in
their country and the wider Middle East.
It's a familiar image. But it's not the U.S. flag they are waving, it
is that of Qatar, the Gulf state that has used its billions to spread
its influence in the wake of the Arab Spring.
In Egypt, Libya and Syria, where Qatar tried to play a role post-Arab
Spring, it finds itself blamed for much that has gone wrong on a local
level. Close ties to Egypt's new leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, have
alarmed countries like the United Arab Emirates, where the Islamist
group is still banned and which in January said it had foiled a
Brotherhood-linked coup plot.
Senior officials in the UAE have long believed Qatar has long-term
strategy to use the Brotherhood to redraw the region.
"There is both greater apprehension and appreciation for Qatar two
years after the Arab awakening in the region," said Taufiq Rahim,
Executive Director of Dubai-based geopolitics consultancy Globesight.
"While prior to the revolutions, Qatar was seen more as a mediator,
its foreign policy recently has been much more proactive and in some
Some Western analysts and diplomats believe Qatar's leaders have been
effectively improvising their way through the new landscape,
experimenting to see what they can achieve with the massive wealth
generated by its natural gas reserves over the past 15 years. An
estimated $17 trillion in monetisable natural gas riches still remain
in the ground.
Others, however, see a much more deliberate strategy.
"What we are seeing here is a high-stakes poker game for the future of
the Middle East," said one Gulf-based Western diplomat on condition of
As early as 2009, senior officials from the UAE were briefing their
U.S. counterparts that they believed Doha's rulers were using the
group to destabilize their neighbors. According to a diplomatic cable
released by Wikileaks, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
al-Nahayan told U.S. officials Qatar was simply "part of the
In their very occasional public statements, Qatari officials deny any
special relationship with the group. Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim
bin Jabr al-Thani also rejected suggestions of a wider regional agenda
"We have a clear policy which is not to interfere in the internal
affairs of any state," he told Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper in a
September 2012 interview.
Few take that statement at face value, however.
Qatar's funding and direct support - including weaponry and the
deployment of special forces - were key to building the capacity of
opposition fighters first in Libya.
As President Mohammed Mursi's government in Egypt has struggled with
mounting economic woes, Qatar has stepped up as an increasingly vital
financial backer. In Syria, it has been a leading supplier of rebel
But already, Qatar is feeling the heat for its actions. In Libya,
Qatar is being blamed for an increasingly destabilizing rise in
Islamist intolerance and violence. In Egypt, it finds itself caught up
in the popular dissatisfaction with Mursi and accusations of economic
imperialism: a multibillion dollar Suez Canal investment deal was
described by protesters as a foreign attempt to seize control of vital
In Syria, critics say its shipments of arms to rebels has become a
chaotic free-for-all. Current and former Western officials say Qatari
officials and rich Arabs from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have been
cutting ad hoc deals on the Turkish-Syrian border with a disparate
collection of opposition groups.
One problem, those who watch Qatar closely say, is that with only a
handful of senior royals and officials controlling policy it is all
but impossible for the outside world to know what their strategy is.
Officials rarely answer media requests for information and there is no
foreign ministry or government spokesman. For the handful of foreign
media based in Doha, the only way of getting official comment is to
accost officials at public events, and even then they are often
No Qatari official was available to comment on this story.
"They are simply not explaining what they are doing properly," said
one Doha-based analyst on condition of anonymity. "Conspiracy theories
Indeed, Qatar's problems with its neighbors may be only just beginning.
"People asking questions are met with walls of silence," said the
Doha-based analyst. "That doesn't wash very well with an Egyptian who
has just been shot in the leg in Tahrir Square."
Qatar has played a very forward Role in inflecting the Arab Spring's Trajectory.
The Canard Enchaîné reported [June 2012] that Qatar has allegedly been
funding armed groups in northern Mali
Suspicions that Ansar Ed-Dine, the main pro-shari’ah armed group in
the region, has been receiving funding from Qatar has circulated in
Mali for several months.
Reports (as yet unconfirmed) that a ‘Qatari’ aircraft landed at Gao,
full of weapons, money and drugs, for example, emerged near the
beginning of the conflict.
The original report cites a French military intelligence report as
indicating that Qatar has provided financial support to all three of
the main armed groups in northern Mali: Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine,
al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and
Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).
The amount of funding given to each of the groups is not mentioned but
it mentions repeated reports from the French DGSE to the Defense
Ministry have mentioned Qatar’s support for ‘terrorism’ in northern
Mali. (emphasis added)
Qatar unloaded tons of weapons "like candy" (according to a US arms
dealer) in "liberated" Libya
15-AUG-2011 :: Soft Power Qatar and Al-Jazeera That was then The Emir
has embraced Hard Power since then
What I want to look at is Aljazeera and how it is a preeminent example
of soft power in this 21st century of ours. Soft power is the ability
to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction. It can be
contrasted with ‘hard power’, that is the use of coercion and payment.
Soft power can be wielded not just by states, but by all actors in
international politics, such as NGOs or international institutions.
The idea of attraction as a form of power dates back to ancient
Chinese philoso- phers such as Laozi in the 7th century BC. “Water is
fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is
rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and
yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another
paradox: what is soft is strong.” Lao Tzu.
This idea was further developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University in
his 2004 book, Soft Power: The means to success in world politics and
I happen to believe that Emir of Qatar is Nye and Lao Tzu’s very best
There are about 250,000 Qataris in a world of about seven billion
souls. That’s considerably less than 0.1 per cent. They tell me
Aljazeera is beamed into more than 200m households. Since Aljazeera
started streaming their content direct onto my lap top (my better half
calls it my love top and I told Nick Clark, who is a presenter at
‘My wife has decided to kick you out of my bed at night.’ I take the
lap top to bed when events are acceler- ating and I want to keep up)
The numbers have spiked even further. The point I am making is this.
You can have all the hard power you want but we live in an Information
and Communications Century now and in the context of that new
landscape, Aljazeera has delivered a spectacular return any way I care
to measure it, for the Emir.
And I look around at the likes of Bashar the brutal, Saleh the surreal
and Muammar and I think to myself,
‘Who is showing whom a clean pair of heels?’ ‘Who is ahead of the curve?’
The Video Wall #Aljazeera All on My Own Thanks to Everyone #Doha
@Ajelive @AJEnglish Twitpic
The fast and furious Sunni revenge By Pepe Escobar Asia Times
The unruly waves of that noxious Arab Spring never had a chance of
disturbing the placid waters of the Gulf.
Strategically, the GCC was invented - with essential American input -
to defend those poor Gulf petromonarchies from the evils of Saddam
Hussein and the Iranian Khomeinists, with its members comprising
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
But when the 2011 Arab revolt exploded in Northern Africa - and then
reached the Gulf, in Bahrain, and even generated protests in Oman and
Saudi Arabia - the petromonarchies faced a larger evil that simply
petrified them: democracy. The status quo had to be protected at all
For the GCC and its top dog the House of Saud, not only Bahrain was
"contained", Saudi subjects were placated with billionaire bribes.
Ample possibilities of profiting from the geopolitical black hole in
northern Africa were also opened.
Ever since the House of Saud and the emir of Qatar, Hamad al-Thani,
got their act together, they have been on a roll - recent rumors of a
military coup against the emir notwithstanding. The "humanitarian"
bombing of Libya represented the apex of the NATOGCC embrace - with
Qatar in the forefront and the House of Saud sort of leading from
Fabulous dividends ensued. Abdel Hakim Belhaj is now Tripoli's
military commander; he's not only a former al-Qaeda-linked jihadi, but
he's also very close to Qatari intelligence.
Now Qatar and Saudi Arabia replicate their geopolitical acumen in
Syria: in the absence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO), they weaponize mercenaries - including jihadis and
transplanted Libyan NATO rebels - forcing a civil war. Both the House
of Saud and Qatar know that betting on inflaming sectarian
Sunni-Shi'ite divisions always goes down well in Washington.
And there's also the extra bonus of further Wahhabi penetration in
northern Africa - via the funding of Islamists in both Tunisia and
Egypt. Qatar has offered $10 billion of investment in Egypt to the
Muslim Brotherhood. And Qatar is now in fact controlling a great deal
of Libya's energy resources - which means it will profit handsomely
from gas exports to Europe.
Doha can be seen as a vastly more palatable version of Medieval Riyadh
- complete with cutting-edge architecture and the Qatar Foundation
imprinted on FC Barcelona's jerseys. The cunning emir is more than
happy to play to the Anglo-French-American gallery and use all manner
of Western trappings in the larger plot of a Gulf cover story for the
Western redesign of Middle East geopolitics.
Essentially, call it the Fast and Furious Sunni Revenge. As the
sheikhs see it, they are winning a sectarian war against Shi'ites in
Iran; Shi'ites in Bahrain; Hezbollah in Lebanon; the Alawites in
Syria; and they are on the offensive against the Shi'ite majority
government in Baghdad.