jump to navigation

Launch codes found on old hard drive 7, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
Tags: ,
add a comment

The University of Glamorgan is undertaking a study on second-hand hard drives by buying them over the Internet or at second hand stalls, reconstructing them if need be, and seeing what’s there. So far they have amassed countless examples of patient records, employee records, child pornography, people posing with guns and their colleagues in the US have found US intercontinental ballistic missile launch codes. Nice to hear.

China’s string of pearls 7, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China, China and the ME.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

China's string of pearls

This (somewhat amateurish) map shows China’s string of pearls. This refers to ports that China has invested in to refurbish and use at their discretion. Those of a more alarmist nature see these moves akin to the establishment of Chinese naval bases by stealth. The map below highlights the reasoning behind these moves.


China’s desire to secure the route for their ever expanding dependence on Middle Eastern oil and gas is understandable. No country in the world would want such a vital supply line out of their guaranteed control. Whilst China has frosty but reasonable relations with India and America, the only countries with the navy to challenge China in that part of the world, China can not count on these relations for ever. Indeed, with the ever increasing race for the Gulf’s oil and gas resources with India and the always-fractious issue of Taiwan with America, there are without doubt issues that can potentially arise.

Despite how understandable one may think China’s actions are, for India they must be arousing serious concerns. Having China’s potential military bases to close to their mainland, not to mention encircling them, is not something that the Indian government can take lightly. It is, therefore, no surprise that India are the second largest weapons importers in the world presently. As for America, they will not be overly pleased to see China’s reach extending towards the straits of Hormuz. Moreover, their preeminence in blue water is now coming under more and more of a threat. The military and the US Administration need to be aware, however, that these Chinese ports – despite what they might signify – are not, in and of themselves, a threat. America needs to keep any bellicose language to itself at this stage and save it for when it really matters.

An Islamic Reformation? 7, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

There is an interesting article at Middle East Online discussing whether Islam needs a reformation in the same way that Christianity and Judaism had one in the past. It frames the question well with knowledgeable reference to the Protestant reformation and is a good read. It falls down, however, in the same place that so many articles discussing Islam does. It is utterly no use to say that Islam  (or Christianity…) does not allow suicide bombings or killing of innocent people etc etc. Quoting some surra or other saying exactly that is of no use whatsoever. For Islam (again, or Christianity or whatever religion) clearly does, in the minds of some, justify and mandate just such actions. Juxtaposing one quote versus another and saying that ‘clearly, mine is right’ is a poor if not stupid argument.

Bahrain to get rid of visa sponsoring 7, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Qatar.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of the key underlying problems with the issue of migrant workers in the Gulf lies in the sponsorship mechanisms. Workers from India, Indonesia Bangladesh and other countries sign up to a company who sponsor them to get to the Gulf country. This involves paying the company money over time for administration, visas and flights. The problem is that more often than not these companies are poorly regulated and abuse their position. Promised levels of wages often do not come to fruition, their hours can be significantly longer, the companies hold their passports, it is impossible to change jobs and so on.

Bahrain has, however, become the first Gulf country to end this system. According to the BBC such companies will be closed down and instead workers will work directly for the Ministry of Labour. This has advantages: it will enable the workers to retain their passport; they will be able to hand in a resignation letter and change jobs if they so choose and there is more accountability in the government department than an anonymous sponsorship company.

There are three possible motives for Bahrain’s decision. First, they could be doing this for humanitarian reasons; simply because it is the right thing to do. Call me cynical, but I doubt this very much. Second, Bahrain, like all of the Gulf countries, finds itself on the US State Department’s people trafficking list (though not as highly placed as Saudi, Kuwait and Qatar). This, therefore, is a blot on their international reputation and this new system could be a way of trying to remedy this situation. Third, Bahrain is facing large social problems. Their Shia majority is chaffing ever more at the Sunni minority rule. Unemployment is estimated to be around 15% and, as always, afflicts younger generations more. These factors have recently coalesced in the rioting in Manama and elsewhere. This measure can perhaps be seen in part as an answer to this. Theoretically, the Department of Labour can designate more jobs for Bahrainis now that they have control of the migrant labour supply. Whether a Bahraini citizen will take a job that is traditionally seen as a migrant worker’s job, is, however, a very different question.