The Two Sudans in Arbitration: Corruption, Militias, and China

Hergé’s caricatured arms dealer in The Broken Ear (1937) offers oil-hungry powers an unfortunate blueprint for influence building in the two Sudans. Credit: thinmanSouth Sudanese President Salva Kiir this week addressed a letterto dozens of “former and current senior government officials” pleading with them to return an estimated US$4b in “missing” government funds. The Globe and Mail reports that the US$4b reportedly stolen would add up to approximately 2 years’ worth of oil revenues for the country, which upon seceding from Sudan took about 75% of Khartoum’s oil reserves with it (amounting to some $5b worth of annual income, according to the Petroleum Economist trade publication). Some US$60m has reportedly been recovered, but continued mismanagement, graft and badly bid contracts (most notably, for food imports) means that additional funds still remain unaccounted for and may be unrecoverable.[1]

Despite the emotional plea from Kiir, in an unencouraging sign for transparency in South Sudan this past April, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Party that Kiir leads “voted against a bill seeking to make contracts and information about the young country’s oil industry more transparent by making it available to the public.”

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How security states work: China

From the NYRB blog, ‘A Turning Point in the Long Struggle’: Chinese Citizens Defend Liu Xiaobo by Perry Link:

Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities continue to try to control how the story is perceived both at home and abroad. Liu Xia, who is Liu Xiaobo’s wife, is under house arrest without having been charged, which violates Chinese law and is bad press internationally for the regime. Her telephone and computer have been confiscated, but she managed to get this message out on October 16 by Twitter on a cell phone:

One of the policemen watching me said that it was his wife’s birthday and that he wanted to go shopping for her. But his orders were that he had to stay with me, so would I like to accompany him to the shopping mall? Sure, I thought, and went. When we got to the mall, I noticed all kinds of strange people photographing me from various angles. I realized it had all been a trick. The authorities wanted photographs to prove that Liu Xia is free and happily shopping at malls.

This shows, beyond the regime’s bald mendacity, that it cares about international opinion.

Read the rest of the post for the open letter written by 109 friends of Liu Xiaobo — very courageous people all — calling for political reform in China. It's the same kind of demand that got him in jail.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Liu Xiaobo

Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident - NYTimes.com:

Given that he has no access to a telephone, it was unlikely that Mr. Liu would immediately learn of the news, his wife, Liu Xia, said. On Friday night, dozens of foreign reporters gathered outside the couple?s building in Beijing but they were prevented from entering by the police, who posted a sign saying the complex residents ?politely refused? to be interviewed. His wife was also barred from leaving her apartment.

 About time to stop worshipping China.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

China, Iran and the Saudis

All illustrations on this post are actual Iranian postage stamps.On some level, the debate over sanctioning Iran appears to boil down to what China's position will be — another sign of what one might call the slow but steady multi-polarization of Middle Eastern geopolitics. 

From Ben Simpfendorder's New Silk Road blog:

China’s foreign policy is at an inflexion point. The country is emerging as a major power, but that will require tough choices.
The toughest choices are usually found in the Middle East. The region doesn’t like major powers sitting on the fence, and it’s only time before China will be forced to climb down.
It is Iran that will likely force a decision. China has so far maintained its policy of non-intervention─as one Beijing-based policy advisor said to me, “if we intervene in Iran, it would set a bad precedent for our relations with other countries”.
Fair enough. But so would a failure to intervene. It would suggest that China isn’t concerned about its other regional partners, especially Saudi Arabia. Let’s not forget. Iran might supply 13% of China’s oil supply, but Saudi Arabia supplies an even larger 20%.
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Links for Dec.21.09 to Dec.23.09

Middle East Online | The End of Brotherly Love? | Tarek Kahlaoui on the Egyptian MB. * The Israel Lobby and the Prospects for Middle East Peace « P U L S E | Lectures by Stephen Walt. * Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine | Investigation by Washigton Report. * Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent | World news | The Guardian | Unbelievable. * Israel gives response to Hamas prisoner swap offer | "Israel relayed its response to the proposed swap and handed over a list of Palestinians it wants exile." * Jimmy Carter to U.S. Jews: Forgive me for stigmatizing Israel - Haaretz - Israel News | WTF? * The Fascination of Israel – Forward.com | Review of three books on Israel. * «Il y a 40.000 Chinois en Algérie» | 40,000 Chinese in Algeria, 2000 Algerians in China. * Meedan | Moroccan and Jordanian forces join Saudi offensive against Houthis. | Handle with care, chief source appears to be Spanish press. * In Shift, Oren Calls J Street ‘A Unique Problem’ – Forward.com | Israel ambassador ramps up the attack on new lobby. * IRIN Middle East | EGYPT-ISRAEL: Perilous journey to the promised land | Middle East | Egypt Israel | Migration Refugees/IDPs | Feature | On sub-Saharan migration to Israel via Egypt. * Palestinians shoot at Egypt | Response to the collapsing of tunnels that have claimed many Palestinian lives? * Egypt's ailing cotton industry needs shake-up | Reuters | Industry risks a "slow death." * Middle East Report Online: Broken Taboos in Post-Election Iran by Ziba Mir-Hosseini | On the Green Movement and gender issues. * Egypt rebukes Hamas over 'foot-dragging' in Palestinian reconciliation - Israel News, Ynetnews | Omar Suleiman:
Suleiman said Egypt had promised Hamas it would address the terror group's reservations vis-à-vis the reconciliation deal "after they sign and begin to implement it." He said Hamas' concerns "lacked substance," adding that the agreement would not be revised. "If it will (be changed), I'll resign," said Suleiman.
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Links for 10.28.09

FT.com / Middle East - Wait goes on for Dubai’s £10bn bond | "Where is Dubai’s $10bn bond? The question has been making the rounds in Dubai business circles, as bankers and executives wonder when the emirate will bite the bullet and ask the United Arab Emirates central bank – which is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi – for the second tranche of a $20bn bail-out agreed earlier this year." ✪ FT.com / China / Economy & Trade - Qatar targets increased gas exports to China | China hydrocarbons imports from ME increase. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Standing Up To Garbage | Interesting story about garbage collection problem, reveals govt. spending very little, military stepping in with recycling. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | NDP Promotes Gamal Mubarak On Facebook | Facebook users paid LE1500 to promote Gamal. ✪ Brown: Asking the wrong questions about Palestinian elections | Marc Lynch | Makes some good points about elections in the Arab world in general and the Palestinian ones in particular. ✪ Dar Al Hayat - The “Brotherhoodization” of the Arab World | Argues MB arrests only reinforce ideological core of the group and increases its popularity, allowing them to spread their intolerant populist message rather than engage in genuine politics. ✪ Arab winds of change | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Whitaker provides a short take on his new book, which I will be reviewing shortly: the Arab malaise is not just the regimes, but also the people. ✪ The disabled Palestinian standup helping refugees find their funny side | Stage | The Guardian | Very nice story on Palestinian disabled standupcomics: "I am officially the most oppressed person in the world," Maysoon Zayid recently told an audience in California. "I'm a Palestinian Muslim with cerebral palsy." ✪ Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water | Amnesty International | Amnesty's report on Israel cutting off water to Gaza. ✪ Envisioning an alternative Egypt, post-Mubarak - Haaretz - Israel News | Zvi Barel on Heikal and succession. ✪ bt - Waiting for a Trickle | "The boom, spurred by private and foreign direct investment, has paid off primarily for the country’s richest, according to the new report by the General Authority for Investment (GAFI)." ✪ The Race for Iran | New blog about the geostrategy of Iran, contributors include Flynt and Hillary Everett. ✪ Gaza water supply at 'crisis point' | "Amnesty International says Israeli policies and practices are denying Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip their fair share of the region's scarce water supplies" ✪ Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros: Why Are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic? - WSJ.com | WTF is the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth? This argument is stupid, you take the liberals you have, not those you wish you had. And how do these people get into the WSJ op-ed page? ✪ Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll - NYTimes.com | No wonder Matthew Hoh resigned: "KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials."
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Links for 08.06.09 to 08.08.09

Informed Comment: Statement on Iran by Engaged Scholars | It starts: "If we speak out against the threat of force against Iran (regarding the nuclear conflict) and warn against a military strike, we cannot be silent on the use of force in Iran itself against its own civil society. For solidarity with the civil society and a peaceful order in the region constitute the primary concern of our efforts. If we condemn foreign sanctions against the Iranian people, we deplore all the more domestic sanctions directed at peaceful demonstrators, journalists, trade unionists, professors, students and others. Thereby the government deprives itself from the domestic basis needed against foreign threats." Sex and the Saudi: one man riles a nation - Middle East, World - The Independent | "In this ultra-conservative kingdom, where husbands and wives rarely even kiss in public, many Saudis have been scandalised by a compatriot who spoke frankly about sex on satellite TV, showing off erotic toys and fantasising about joining the mile-high club." The silly man might now be lashed. Wily Walid | Walid Jumblatt, after saying he might leave M14, says he just thinks it should change its slogans. Is there anything more to M14 (or M8 for that matter) than slogans? In any case too many people focus on the significance of Jumblatt leaving. He was probably renegotiating his participation in M14 without really intending to leave, and was trying to raise his price. ‘Atlantic’ concedes the groundbreaking impact of a piece it killed | Good post on The Atlantic miserably dishonest coverage of the Israel/Palestine issue. Le Quotidien d’Algérie, le journal de l’éveil algérien - De violents affrontements entre Chinois et Algériens à Bab Ezzouar | Riots between Chinese laborers and Algerians. Popularity contest - The National Newspaper | On the false hope that Iran's political turmoil will change Arab public opinion about resistance.
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Links for 08.04.09

AFP: Maroc : Mohammed VI très populaire, selon un sondage interdit dans son pays | Great headline - "Morocco: Muhammad VI very popular, according to poll banned in his country." FT.com / Middle East / Economy - Egypt’s cotton kingdom cut down to size | Good story on Egyptian textile industry: "Egypt is likely this year to produce its smallest cotton crop in a century." FT.com / Comment / Editorial - The cost of Arab peace concessions | Bravo FT: "In 1992-96, at the height of the peace process, Israel reaped a peace dividend without concluding a peace. Diplomatic recognition of Israel doubled, from 85 to 161 countries, exports doubled and foreign investment increased sixfold. Per capita income in the occupied territories fell in the same period by more than a third, while the number of settlers expanded by half. A broad-looking avenue led quickly to a road-block. The Arabs have not forgotten, and Mr Obama will have to get more than a settlement freeze out of Israel to lure them down that road again." Newsweek Steps Up Effort to Free Reporter in Iran - NYTimes.com | On Maziar Bahari's detention in Iran. Venezuela : Chavez suspend 34 médias d'opposition | Hugo Chavez bans 34 independent media outlets. In the Sahara, a Film Festival Complete With Camels - NYTimes.com | On a film festival in Sahrawi refugee camps. Blog: Middle East Diary | Hannah is back. Hugh Miles and CCTV Arabic | The author of a book on al-Jazeera on the new Chinese channel. 'VALIS and Later Novels,' by Philip K. Dick | VALIS, which I am now reading, enters Library of America. Someone should write a PKD-ish novel set in the Arab world. Then again, I've always found Cairo highly reminiscent of the world of Bladerunner. 10,000 Uighur disappear in China, U.S. silent | Spero News | Shocking link from Angry Arab, although I'm not sure about the source - this site has a lot of religious agit-prop. Liam Stack, Greek Club Civil War, and Developing Developments | Boi boi Liam...
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Links for 08.03.09 to 08.04.09

In the Sahara, a Film Festival Complete With Camels - NYTimes.com | On a film festival in Sahrawi refugee camps. Blog: Middle East Diary | Hannah is back. Hugh Miles and CCTV Arabic | The author of a book on al-Jazeera on the new Chinese channel. 'VALIS and Later Novels,' by Philip K. Dick | VALIS, which I am now reading, enters Library of America. Someone should write a PKD-ish novel set in the Arab world. Then again, I've always found Cairo highly reminiscent of the world of Bladerunner. 10,000 Uighur disappear in China, U.S. silent | Spero News | Shocking link from Angry Arab, although I'm not sure about the source - this site has a lot of religious agit-prop. 500 Internal Server Error | 500 Internal Server Error Liam Stack, Greek Club Civil War, and Developing Developments | Boi boi Liam...
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Links for 07.05.09

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - Chinese exports could crush fragile markets | With consequences in Arab world, sub-Saharan Africa. Sic Semper Tyrannis : Harper on Ross, Clinton et al | An argument that Dennis Ross' move to NSC is a demotion, plus Hillary vs. Barack stuff. 'Aqoul: Palmyra's Last New Month Post? | Is Aqoul.com dying? I know how difficult it is to keep momentum going on a blog, but let's hope not, come on guys... Shishani on Salafi-Jihadism in the Levant — jihadica | On the Salafasation of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Egyptian chronicles: Gamal Mubarak ; The Prince of Upper Egypt | Will Assyut actually have a "Midan Gamal Mubarak"? A thing called “politics” carries on « The Moor Next Door | Another excellent post by Kal on Mauritanian politics Les « règles de l’art » et le prix d’un intellectuel (en Egypte) | Culture et politique arabes | A very good post on Egypt's state literary prizes and the politics of being nominated for them or accepting them, with an extra contribution on recent literary news (and the Farouq Hosni / UNESCO saga) by the august Richard Jacquemond. Bookmark this site, if you read French.
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A New Number One

A New Number One
From the always excellent Silk Road Economy blog: "China overtook the United States earlier this year as the world’s largest exporter to the Middle East. It’s the first time the United States has lost its number one ranking since at least the 1960s, or as far back as there is data available. I haven’t seen the figure reported in the media. But I don’t expect to wait long. This is the type of easy to understand statistic that will rattle doors in Washington. I can see the cable news stations going into hyper-drive."
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Pirates: US has Navy Seals, China has dolphins

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Who needs special ops and snipers when you can have forces of nature defending your international shipping:
BEIJING, April 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of dolphins blocked the suspected Somali pirate ships when they were trying to attack Chinese merchant ships passing the Gulf of Aden, the China Radio International reported on Monday. The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China's fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China's. The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness before the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.
The Chinese have the best propaganda.
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