Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If Sudan Wants Peace it has to Prepare for War?

by James Okuk from The Sudan Tribune (Sudan)

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi in the beginning of 2005, the government of the Sudan had neglected the ‘Holy Warriors’ (Mujahidin) known as the Popular Defence Force (Dafaa El Shabi) because they were not needed in peace time. But during the current partnership crisis between the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP), the President of the Republic of the Sudan, H.E. Mr. AL-Bashir went public and told all Dafaa El Shabi warriors to report back in preparation for defence of Islam and sovereignty of the Sudan. He assured them that this was not for waging war against Southern Sudan but rather for the protection of the CPA ... I am sure that the Arab Northerners are not going to defeat Southerners if war broke out. The feeling of hatred for the Jallaba (Arab Northerners) has already taken roots within the Southerners and it is going to be suicide and genocide for both sides this time if they took the war option ... I wish and hope the radical elements within both the SPLM and NCP will listen to the conscience of peace within them and spare the Sudan from war, disintegration and destruction.

Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim

by Andrew Hammond from Reuters

"The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism ... The system allows appeals without resort to the media," said Tuesday's statement issued on the official news agency SPA. It berated media for not specifying that three judges, not one, issued the recent ruling and reiterated that the "charges were proven" against the woman. It also repeated the judges' attack against the victim's lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, saying he had "spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations". Lahem was not available for comment. New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on King Abdullah, who last month announced plans to overhaul the system, to drop all charges against the woman ... The ruling provoked rare criticism from the United States, which is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to attend a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland next week. A US State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that "most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens."

Focus on the Saudi-US Relationship

from Saudi-US Relations Information Service (US: Tennessee)

Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan: Deals like the [$20 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia] obviously deserve scrutiny and Congress is entitled to exercise that scrutiny. But it would be very shortsighted of Congress to deny Saudi Arabia the capacity to defend itself, particularly in the midst of this gathering threat. Clearly the Saudis are going to buy arms somewhere and if it’s not from the Untied States then it will be from some other source. I think it is to our advantage to maintain interoperability with them in weapon systems. It would also obviously involve the presence of advisors and trainers and others who will follow through on providing this equipment ... The US-Saudi relationship is the best it has been in seven or eight years. There is an increasing sense of mutuality of interests. We both want the same outcomes throughout the Middle East. We have varying views on how to get to those goals, but I think the end point is something we agree on. So I am pretty upbeat right now on where the relationship is at this stage.

Oil price nears new record as OPEC loses control

by Alan Shipman from Finance Week (UK)

Saudi support for a lower price is motivated by fear that present levels will cause a stalling of growth in the US, Europe and Japan. This, and the direct impact on higher prices on big emerging-market oil importers like China, India and South Korea could send the world into recession, ultimately shrinking OPEC’s market and leaving its members poorer than if they had moderated prices earlier. The Saudis also have strong political reasons for insulating western allies, especially the US and UK, against high oil prices and the consequent strength of rogue states like Venezuela and Iran. From Riyadh, as from Washington, the high-price policy favoured by Caracas and Teheran looks like a strategy to exert neo-imperial authority over the west, and over mineral-poor emerging economies like Cuba, Bolivia and Tanzania. But the Saudis are on the defensive against other OPEC members who now oppose its economic strategy for oil as much as the Wahhabi brand of Islam that has always caused tensions elsewhere in the Gulf. The Saudi government has had to concede the rise towards $100/barrel partly to counter demands within the organisation for a switch away from the dollar, whose ongoing depreciation would have meant a steady drop in income unless the dollar price kept rising.

A review of Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A. Q. Khan, and the Rise of Proliferation Networks

by Zia Mian from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (US: Illinois)

Washington imposed sanctions on Pakistan in April 1979. Nine months later, the United States offered to waive the sanctions and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid to Pakistan. This was to grow into two multibillion dollar aid packages and was only part of a much larger U.S. effort that would involve Saudi Arabia, other oil-rich Arab countries, Western Europe, and China. Why did nonproliferation suddenly lose its value? Washington decided that Khan and the Pakistani Bomb were less important than confronting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It mattered even less that Pakistan was ruled by a military dictator intent on creating an Islamic state. This remained the judgment for 10 years. By then, the damage was done: Pakistan had the Bomb, and a generation had been schooled in radical Islam and jihad. It was only when the Soviets left Afghanistan that Washington rediscovered Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and again imposed sanctions. These and other sanctions on Pakistan were lifted as part of the effort to gain Pakistan's support for the U.S. attack on Afghanistan in 2001. Billions of dollars of military and economic aid again flowed to Pakistan.

The Israeli Perspective

by Andrew Miller from Harvard Political Review (US: Massachusetts)

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Itamar Rabinovich: Bush is perceived to be a very good friend and a massive supporter of Israel. This came as somewhat of a surprise, because the Bush family doesn’t necessarily resonate with that. I think that his father’s administration ended up being a very positive administration for Israel, although there was quite a bit of friction between the administration and the Israeli government at the time. Normally, if you said the name “Bush” to an Israeli, he would immediately respond with “Texas, oil, Saudi Arabia,” but wouldn’t immediately link it with cordial sentiments for Israel. George W. Bush is different because he is embedded in the Christian right. He’s a born-again. I think he wavered, just on the eve of September 11 attacks, under Saudi pressure. However, September 11 and Arafat’s misguided response to it implanted him very firmly upon Israel’s side. So he’s been perceived as a cordial friend of Israel. Yet not everything your friends do necessarily works for you. I think that the jury’s still out on what the long-term effects of the war in Iraq are going to be for Israeli interests.

Japan Developing Yen For Islamic Finance

by Shu-Ching Jean Chen from Forbes (US: New York)

On Monday, the first real estate transaction compliant with Islamic law was struck in Japan, with the asset manager Atlas Partners Japan partnering with Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank to buy three office buildings in Tokyo for 4.38 billion yen ($40 million). The buildings that Atlas and Boubyan bought on Monday were vetted thoroughly according to the standards of Islamic finance, which bars tenants such as interest-taking financial institutions, restaurants that serve alcohol or pork, hotels, cinemas and record companies, and businesses that deal with arms, animal genetic engineering or pornography. The transaction follows a decision in September by the country’s central bank, the Bank of Japan, to deepen its knowledge about Islamic finance by joining the Islamic Financial Services Board, an international standard-setting body, as an observer ... At the end of last year, Japan’s largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, forged an alliance with Malaysia's CIMB Group to provide Islamic financial investment banking services. Daiwa, Japan’s second-largest securities broker announced in August that it would list a Sharia-compliant exchange-traded fund in Singapore.

Hong Kong’s SFC approves first retail Islamic fund

by Rita Raagas De Ramos from (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong’s Securities & Futures Commission (SFC) has authorized the territory’s first Islamic fund for sale to retail investors, the Hang Seng Islamic China Index Fund. The Hang Seng Islamic China Index Fund is expected to be based on the Dow Jones Islamic Market (DJIM) China/Hong Kong Titans Index, which was licensed to Hang Seng Bank last month and is the latest addition to the DJIM index series. That index tracks 30 of the largest Shariah-compliant companies whose primary operations are in China and Hong Kong but trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange. To be included in the DJIM China/Hong Kong Titans Index, stocks must pass industry and financial ratio screens for Shariah compliance. Excluded are companies that are involved in alcohol, defense/weapons, entertainment, financial services, pork-related products and tobacco. Also excluded are companies for which the following financial ratios are 33% or more.