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Peace & Socialism

Quds Day 2017 defies Saudi bullying

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Interview with Eric Walberg Blackhouse.info

Do you think the Arab nations hold the same viewpoint with their countries' leaders and rulers on the issue of Palestine?


From my experience, all Muslims see justice for Palestinians as the most important international issue. That said, most Muslims are concerned with their own struggles for survival, both because of poor economies, corruption and in some cases, direct invasion and occupation of their countries  by the US.

So there is little room for the Palestinian issue as a priority in the struggle.

There is no room for independent grassroots activity in the Muslim world, as there is very weak civil society as yet, and a general understanding that the Palestine issue is one for the government to decide.

My experience as a journalist in Cairo showed me a range of opinions about Palestine, from passionate support to outright criticism of Palestinians, as poor cousins who demand support where there is little room for it, given the sorry state of Egypt, and the restrictions imposed by the Egypt-Israeli peace accord in 1979.
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New World Order triumvirate: US, China, Japan

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Watching the most recent Hollywood blockbuster, The Martian, I was struck by the political subtext. The great pioneer of outer space was the Soviet Union, and in those days, Hollywood followed the spirit of detente and cooperation in space with such uplifting films as Space Odyssey 2010 and the tv series Star Trek. Now the hostile Cold War has returned, and Hollywood mirrors this in what is otherwise a rather ordinary adventure film. The startling plot device is to point to China as the new partner in space, leaving the Russians pointedly out of the equation. Just imagining a Hollywood nod to Russia--the pioneer of outer space exploration and good will--is impossible given the crisis in international relations today.

Hollywood is a barometer for changing political weather conditions. Of course, the Muslim terrorist is the usual trope. This new embrace of China will make The Martian a hit in Beijing. At a time when world trade relations are in deep trouble, and we are on high alert to the possibility of a hot war breaking out, we can see this sea change in US foreign relations, where China is now the implied US friend in the world and Russia the enemy. This is a moment for India to ponder where she stands.

In the past, the Soviet Union was India's reliable partner, and suffered US hostility for her peaceful, nonaligned policy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, India adjusted, maintaining good relations with Russia and at the same time striving for good relations with the world hegemon. But the world hegemon has its own interests, and so far, India is not a priority. Because of the mess the US created in Afghanistan, Pakistan takes precedence over India diplomatically, and now China is catching up, with its formidable economic might and lack of a world hegemonic agenda making it attractive.
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Picking up the Cold War pieces Part II: Muslim diaspora

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US policy in Somalia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan from 1979 on helped reduce all three countries to failed states. It created massive refugee populations from all three. This was not intended nor foreseen, and has been a headache for the West ever since. Also unintended and unforeseen, this brought millions of Muslims to the West, undermining "Judeo-Christian civilization", which is really just a pseudonym for imperialism, with little sign of anything 'Jewish' or 'Christian'. These Muslims are by definition anti-imperialist and are forcing the West to deal with Islam, now an integral part of western society.

There are more than one million Somali refugees, spread from Sweden to the US, and Somalis abroad are forced to downplay the clan system, though it still exists where enough of one clan can form a community. But the second generation exiles are not interested. Andrew Harding, author of The Mayor of Mogadishu: A story of chaos and redemption in the ruins of Somalia (2016), was told by an interviewee that Somali exiles are almost like a new set of clans. The American Somalis are "a bit more outgoing, they like to push things harder." The Scandinavian Somalis are the opposite, "endlessly trying to bring everyone on board." The British are somewhere in between.
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Picking up the Cold War pieces: Somalia, Ethiopia

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In 2016, Somalia was declared the most fragile state in the world – worse off than Syria. Famine struck yet again in 2017, compounded by President Trump's attempt to ban Somalis from entering the US. But for the first time since the 1991, when Somalia collapsed along with its one-time ally the Soviet Union, Somalia now has functioning political institutions.

Dual US-Somali citizen Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo became president in February 2017, approved by the US, refugees are returning from the US, Canada and Europe, and remittances from them buttress the economy. Just to make sure Farmajo knows who's really in charge, Trump ordered an air strike on suspected militant bases in April 2017, near the Bab el-Mandeb strait chokepoint separating Yemen from Eritrea, boasting it killed 150 Shabab fighters.
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India-US Bilateral Trade Treaty: The Time is Now

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As the Trump administration replaces multinational trade treaties, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North America Free Trade Treaty, with bilateral ones, US lawmakers are calling for an India-US bilateral trade treaty. Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, told a visiting delegation from Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi that India and the US agreed on liberalizing trade further, and a bilateral treaty could be the next step.

Soon after his inauguration, Trump began immediately exploring bilateral trade with Britain, Japan and Canada. India already has bilateral free trade agreements with ASEAN (ASEAN–India Free Trade Area). Negotiations with the European Free Trade Association and Canada are stalled over how to resolving commercial disputes, foreign companies demanding more flexibility and less government control.

The foundations for good economic relations with the US have been laid. India’s top exports to the US are manufactured goods, chemicals, textiles and information technology (IT) services. US-India bilateral trade grew rapidly along with India's economy after 1991, when India joined the West's neoliberal reform agenda, promoting private over public development and encouraged privatization, in line with US policy. Bilateral trade in goods and services increased from $29 billion in 2004 to $95 billion in 2013, stimulated by Obama's visit in 2010 to sign trade and investment deals, and promote great civilian nuclear cooperation. Bilateral trade crossed the $100 billion mark in 2014.
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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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