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Article catch up 29, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, China and the ME, Egypt, French IR, LNG, Middle East.
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– Interestingly, it is being suggested that Turkey might be acting as an intermediary for America in persuading Kyrgyzstan to retain their US base.

– MEI blog and Marc Lynch on Obama scheduling a visit to Riyadh just before he gives his much-hyped speech in Cairo.

Commentary on Bahrain’s new proposals to augment migrant worker’s rights being significantly watered down by business interests.

Bomb at Iranian mosque in the run up to the elections.

– Thailand building LNG regasification facilities to receive LNG from the Middle East.

– Yemen are about to join Qatar et al in the exporting of LNG.

– On the Middle East’s expected increase in defense spending.

– Marc Lynch on the importance of Arab opinion polls.

– MEI blog on the Iranian un/blocking of Facebook and Microsoft’s bizarre decision to ban Messenger in various embargoed countries and on the French base in the UAE.

– China is now the largest exporter to the Middle East having over-taken the US. Hat tip: Silk Road Economy via the Arabist.

– On the possibility of China creating its own Al Jazeera.

– On the surprisingly close Israeli-Iranian relations below governmental level. See also ‘Treacherous Alliances.’

‘The Man with the Golden Guns’ 29, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq.
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Golden Guns

Saddam Hussein’s personal weapons. Frugal guy.

Hat tip: the Arabist.

The Der Spiegel affarir (cont.) 29, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon.
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Michael Young of the Daily Star in Lebanon as usual offers the best insight and analysis on Lebanese events. Read his article on the Der Spiegel affair for what is probably the most authoritative account yet.

New American embassy in Pakistan 29, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, The Sub Continent.
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Stephen Walt over at the excellent Foreign Policy blog briefly discusses American plans to build a new behemoth embassy complex in Pakistan as well as a buying a hotel in Peshwar to act as a consulate. Such initiatives are signs of the increasing importance that the US is putting on Pakistan as well as, it could be argued, a sign of their increasing long-term commitment. Walt eloquently sums up the other side of this particular argument as well as offering a few home-truths about the US’ involvement more generally.

One of America’s main problems in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan is the widespread popular belief that it is now addicted to interfering in these societies, usually in a heavy-handed and counter-productive way. In their eyes, Washington is constantly telling them which leaders to choose, which leaders should step down, which extremists to go after and how they should reorder their own societies to make them more compatible with our values. And oh yes, we also drop bombs and fire missiles into their territory, which we would regard as an act of war if anyone did it to us. Even when well-intentioned, these activities inevitably lend themselves to various conspiracy theories about America’s “real” motives, and reinforce negative impressions of the United States.

UK MPs Expenses & The Telegraph 29, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
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The Daily Telegraph, the right-wing newspaper that broke the salacious stories of MPs expenses a few weeks ago, today leads with “MP’s expenses: If you think this storm will pass, think again”. Of course this story will not pass, not with the Telegraph drip-feeding the public with such greasy, simple and addictive stories like a dealer stringing out a junkie.

I vehemently dislike the Press’ sanctimony on this whole issue. MP’s have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar and something needs to be done about this. But listening to the self-righteous blathering from journalists, one would assume that they themselves are whiter than white when, of course, nothing could not be further from the truth: journalists are legendary for fiddling their expenses. The righteous opprobrium that they have whipped up acting as ‘the nation’s conscience’ is breathtakingly arrogant, false and distasteful. For the Telegraph, this story is simply a way to revive circulation which was flagging horrendously leading to job cuts as well as whole-sale copy and pasting from Reuters, changing a word or two, inventing a journalist’s name to stick on the by-line (usually an amusing anagram) and printing it as their copy (see Private Eye 1236 ‘Ghost Story’). They just could not care less that their actions have precipitated a constitutional crisis in British politics, yet it is not this in and of itself that angers me so much, it is the level of double-standards which truly I just cannot abide by.