Saturday, September 18, 2010

Donors To Establish Development Fund For Yemen in Fight Against Al Qaeda

In the clearest recognition yet that Islamist militants in Yemen cannot be defeated by military means alone, the United States and its allies are set to create an international fund for development of the impoverished, conflict-ridden Arab nation. Donor countries, including the US, Britain, France and the Gulf states, are expected to launch the fund at a meeting in New York on September 24.

The fund comes as the US military is seeking $1.2 billion to strengthen Yemeni security forces over a five-year period. State Department counterterrorism coordinator Daniel Benjamin said earlier this month that the US sees the fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Gulf, as a priority. The US has this year allocated $300 million to Yemen, half of which, according to Benjamin, targets the “incubators for extremism” – poverty, weak governance and corruption.

The donors are also expected to discuss ways to stimulate a national dialogue between Yemen’s political forces in a bid to reduce nepotism, make its political system more inclusive, resolve an intermittent insurgency in the north and a growing separatist movement in the south and stem AQAP’s increasing strength.

To a large extent, change in Yemen will however depend on a change in Saudi policy towards Yemen. In many ways, Saudi Arabia, like the regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Salih itself, is as much part of the solution as it is part of the solution. The Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups the region’s six oil-rich states has already taken steps to build closer ties with Yemen. The GCC and Saudi Arabia in particular, could ease Yemen’s economic pain by agreeing on the free movement of labor in the region. This would reduce unemployment, increase the flow of remittances and stem illegal border crossings.

To counter the inward looking, xenophobic, conservative environment on which AQAP feeds, Saudi Arabia will however also have to strengthen the Yemeni government by halting the buying of tribal fealty at the expense of the government and controlling Saudi-funded missionary work that has significantly increased the influence of a militant, ascetic interpretation of Islam among Yemenis as well as among the large number of Somali refugees in the country.

Whither Turkey?

In the discussion Whither Turkey? much is made of Turkey’s move east as opposed to its continued integration into the West through EU membership. The notion that Turkey is turning East at the expense of the West disregards a host of factors.

Turkey’s expanding influence in the Middle East and the broader Islamic world enhances rather than weakens its interest in EU membership. Turkey has always and still positions itself as a bridge between East and West. Turkey also sees itself as a model for the Islamic world. Those positions would be strengthened by EU membership giving Turkey a much firmer foot in both worlds and highlighting its role as a bridge and a successful model.

Beyond the fact that the EU remains Turkey’s largest trading partner and the fact that Turkey has a large ethnic community in Europe, Turkish business has quietly made major acquisitions in Europe and are in sectors like electronics leading original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for the European market.

Moreover, this weekend’s referendum may increase self-confidence among Turkey’s governing Islamist elite, but secularists and Islamists alike have always seen EU membership as the ultimate guarantor of their worldviews: secularists believe it will ensure continued separation of state and mosque, Islamists see the EU as the road towards greater freedom of religion.

Constitutional change in Turkey does not replace the EU’s guarantor role; it may well however toughen the negotiating stance of a more self-confident Turkish government on the back of a significant victory in rolling back the influence of the military. Ultimately, the expanded focus of Turkish foreign policy reflects a greater reality in Turkey’s neck of the woods: states no longer neatly fit into pro- and anti-Western boxes but pursue policies, some of which are in line with US and European policies and some that are not.

It’s a reality the United States and the European Union needed to adjust to; recognizing that Turkey remains staunchly embedded in the West with its NATO and Council of Europe membership and EU membership applications would be an important step towards that adjustment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

U.S. Lawsuit Tarnishes UAE Anti-Corruption Drive

By James M. Dorsey


The United Arab Emirates finds itself battling to hold on to its image as well as its role as a big player on the world economic stage.

Read further at JustAnti-Corruption

Russians Invoke Kazakhstan’s OSCE Chairmanship in Dispute Over Gold Company

By James M. Dorsey


The Russians who now control Kazakhgold Group Ltd. are invoking Kazakhstan’s controversial chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as pressure in the dispute. The prize is the gold company’s London Stock Exchange listing.

Read further at JustAnti-Corruption