Najib embarrasses Obama


March 30, 2016

1MDB scandal embarrasses President Barack Obama and strains US-Malaysia relations

by David J Lynch in Washington

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/94367b84-f12f-11e5-9f20-c3a047354386.html#ixzz44EGOaS5x

US President Barack Obama (R) greets Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak upon arrival at Sunnylands estate for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on February 15, 2016 in Rancho Mirage, California. / AFP / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, and US President Barack Obama during the ASEAN leaders meeting in California in February

In 2014, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak bonded with US President Barack Obama over golf and a presidential “selfie”, as the White House sought to cultivate Malaysia as a counterweight to both China and ISIS.

Less than two years later, the mushrooming 1MDB scandal is complicating those efforts as Mr Najib faces multiple investigations into the 1 Malaysia Development Bhd state investment fund.

 “It definitely is already threatening the relationship. You can tell from any number of angles,” said James Keith, US Ambassador to Malaysia from 2007 to 2010. “Already, there’s a bit of symbolic distance between the President and Najib, which is likely to persist.”

The latest twist occurred last week when former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad filed suit against Mr Najib, accusing him of blocking an investigation into the fund, including allegations that nearly $700m had ended up in his personal accounts.

Mr Najib has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and his attorney-general earlier this year cleared him of any criminal offences. Probes in Switzerland, Hong Kong and the US continue. A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment.

During Mr Obama’s presidency, Malaysia has drawn closer to the US, adopting a harder line on China’s island-building in the South China Sea and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Mr Najib, who in November labelled ISIS “perverted Islam”, also agreed to establish a digital centre to counter the terrorist group’s internet propaganda. Now, the Malaysian leader is increasingly distracted by the global 1MDB controversy.

“It certainly will make for a more inwardly focused Malaysian government that’s less able to take on a leadership role,” said Mr Keith, now McClarty Associates’ senior director for Asia.

Mr Najib is not scheduled to be among the more than 50 world leaders attending a nuclear security summit in Washington at the end of this month. New restrictions on reporting about the scandal also drew sharp US criticism, with the State Department earlier this month saying it was “very concerned” by Malaysia’s crackdown on domestic and foreign journalists as well as new limits on social media.

Some analysts bemoan opportunities lost to the mounting 1MDB fallout.“Obama and Najib really got along well,” said Ernest Bower, chief executive of Bower Group Asia, a consultancy. “The leader-to-leader relationship would have gone much deeper and more high profile if Najib weren’t under this cloud.”

The diplomatic stall comes after longstanding Obama administration efforts to convert Malaysia into a more dependable US partner than it had been under past leaders such as Mr Mahathir.

In April 2014, Mr Obama travelled to Kuala Lumpur, becoming the first US president to visit since Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Nineteen months later, he visited for a second time, hailing Malaysia as “a Muslim-majority country that represents tolerance and peace”.

Since then, the 1MDB affair has only drawn greater scrutiny. “People are talking about it. They’re wondering where this is going to go,” said Murray Hiebert, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Can Prime Minister Najib survive?”

Mr Najib’s position, though bruised, is not in imminent danger. He retains a parliamentary majority and all the power of incumbency. Elections are not due until 2018.

Though he will miss the Washington nuclear summit, he was among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders who met Mr Obama in February at the Sunnylands estate in Palm Springs, California.

Investors also do not appear unduly worried. The ringgit, though 6 per cent below its level last summer when allegations about Mr Najib first surfaced, is at a seven-month high against the US dollar.

The stock market has been treading water.“No doubt this is a distraction,” said one senior state department official. “But our relationship is much stronger than it used to be.”

 

ASEAN’s Destructive Elites


March 30, 2016

ASEAN’s Destructive Elites in Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand

by Yuriko Koike

Yuriko Koike, Japan’s former defense minister and national security adviser, was Chairwoman of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council and currently is a member of the National Diet.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/political-crises-can-weaken-asean-by-yuriko-koike-2016-03

 

Just as India, Japan, and the US have been helping to shepherd Burma through its transition, they should take a more proactive role in saving Malaysia and Thailand from their elites’ self-destructive behavior. Standing idly by while two of ASEAN’s core members consume themselves is simply not a viable option.–Yuriko Koike

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has long been envisioned as a foundation stone for stability, security, and increased prosperity in Asia. But with uncertainty plaguing the political systems of Burma, Malaysia, and Thailand, ASEAN may be entering a period of policy and diplomatic inertia. At a time when China’s economic downturn and unilateral territorial claims are posing serious challenges to the region, ASEAN’s weakness could prove highly dangerous.

The problems that are now bedeviling Burma, Malaysia, and Thailand may appear to have little in common. But they all spring from the same source: an entrenched elite’s stubborn refusal to craft a viable system of governance that recognizes new and rising segments of society and reflects their interests in government policy.

And yet, despite the shared roots of these countries’ political dysfunction, their prospects vary. Surprisingly, hope is strongest in Burma, where the military junta recognized the need for change, exemplified in the 2010 decision to free the long-imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and embark on a transition to democracy.

Burma’s former military leaders, it seems, looked ahead dispassionately and saw a stark choice: either relinquish gradually their absolute power, allowing for a democratic transition, or permit China to tighten its grip on their country. China’s efforts to impose development plans that would deliver few, if any, benefits to Burma made the choice somewhat easier.

Today, Suu Kyi is Burma’s paramount leader. Though the constitution imposed by the junta prevents her from serving officially as president, she holds the real power in the current government led by her National League for Democracy, which secured a landslide victory in last year’s general election.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Burma’s democratic transition will succeed; after all, beyond barring Suu Kyi from the presidency, the junta’s constitution reserves all of the “power” cabinet posts for the military. But with Suu Kyi carefully establishing the NLD’s authority, and with friends in India, Japan, and the United States monitoring any potential backsliding, there is a legitimate hope that most of the members of Burma’s military elite will continue to reconcile themselves, if begrudgingly, to modern democracy, just as Eastern Europe’s former communist rulers once did.

The situations in Malaysia and Thailand are less promising. Extreme political polarization is almost as deeply entrenched in these countries today as it was in Burma before 2010. But whereas Burma’s generals recognized the need to escape their cul-de-sac, the Malay and Thai elites seem to be doubling down on political exclusion.

In Malaysia, the problem is rooted in ethnic and racial divisions. Since gaining independence, Malaysia’s leaders have pursued policies that favored the indigenous Malay majority, at the expense of the country’s minorities, most notably the sizable Chinese and Indian populations.

But throughout Malaysia’s first decades of independence, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the country’s largest political party, did seek to incorporate minority interests, despite commanding the loyalty of the vast majority of the electorate. This inclusive approach began to break down with the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when a coalition of political parties was forged by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim – who was subsequently jailed on contrived sodomy charges – to challenge the UMNO’s authority. With Prime Minister Najib Razak and his government now enmeshed in a vast corruption scandal, UNMO is relying more than ever on Malay chauvinism.

In Thailand, the source of deep political polarization is economic. Simply put, the “haves” want to keep the “have-nots” from having a voice.

For much of Thai history, the elite’s rule was untroubled. But the enactment in 1997 of what came to be known as the “People’s Constitution” enabled previously discounted political forces to rise. None rose faster or higher than the business tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who exploited the resentments of the long-disempowered rural poor to forge a mighty political machine that challenged the entrenched royalist political establishment, which includes the monarchy, the military, the judiciary, and the civil service.

The clash between the two factions led to two military coups, one in 2006 to push Shinawatra out of power and another in 2014 to drive out his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The conflict became increasingly violent, with both sides willing to go to great lengths to maintain their grip on power.

Today, the ruling military junta is systematically cracking down on dissent; it has banned Thaksin-aligned politicians from entering politics, and is trying to impose a new constitution. And Thailand’s troubles may be about to worsen: With King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health failing, his seven-decade reign may be near its end. Should the royal succession be contested, Thailand could enter yet another period of chaos and violence.

Just as India, Japan, and the US have been helping to shepherd Burma through its transition, they should take a more proactive role in saving Malaysia and Thailand from their elites’ self-destructive behavior. Standing idly by while two of ASEAN’s core members consume themselves is simply not a viable option.

Donald Trump’s Hip Shooting Foreign Policy Babble


March 29, 2016

Donald Trump’s Hip Shooting Foreign Policy Babble

The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Donald Trump might use nuclear weapons to go after Islamic State terrorists. Or maybe not. In a recent spate of interviews, including with The Times, he was unable or unwilling to clarify his disturbing views on this and other critical national security issues, which sometimes shift from one minute to the next.

The recent horrific terrorist attacks around the world have provided a new opportunity for Mr. Trump to fan fears and throw out his alarming prescriptions for dealing with the world’s most complex challenges. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump was asked if he would use tactical nuclear weapons against the Islamic State. “I’m never going to rule anything out — I wouldn’t want to say. Even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to tell you that because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use them,” he said on the Bloomberg Politics program “With All Due Respect.”

He was more measured in his comments to The Times on Friday, saying nuclear weapons are “the biggest problem the world has” and he would use such weapons only as “an absolute last step.” Even if Mr. Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, doesn’t really believe that nuclear weapons should be used against a terrorist group, the fact that he has voiced it lends weight to this insane notion and could make it easier for other nuclear-armed states to think about that possibility.

The consequences of using a nuclear weapon in terms of lives lost, physical destruction and cost to American moral standing would be devastating. The United States and Russia have significantly reduced their nuclear arsenals, and the threat that either would ever use the weapons has greatly receded, in part because advanced conventional weapons can destroy almost any military target. Equally bizarre was Mr. Trump’s casual attitude in endorsing the idea of Japan and South Korea developing their own nuclear weapons, which would reverse America’s longstanding efforts to prevent the number of nuclear-armed states from expanding.

Mr. Trump also challenged decades of American policy by calling NATO “obsolete.” Since the Cold War, the alliance has undergone reforms and remains the primary organization that can deal with military threats. It is central to the stability of Europe, which is vulnerable to terrorist attacks, weak economies and the flood of refugees from the Syrian war. With Russia’s aggressive movements in Ukraine and threats to the Baltics, this is no time to suggest that Washington is rethinking its strongest commitments to its allies. Although Mr. Trump said he doesn’t want to pull America out of NATO, he said it has to be changed so the United States bears less of the cost.

Mr. Trump is confronting most of these issues for the first time, and many of his thoughts are contradictory and shockingly ignorant. In speaking with The Times, for instance, he complained that one problem with the Iran nuclear deal is that American businesses are now losing out to Europe on lucrative deals with Iran. He did not know that that is because Congress has insisted on keeping American sanctions in place.

Mr. Trump claims he is not an isolationist and wants to “make America great again.” It is hard to see how he achieves that when he describes a completely unhinged view of international engagement that denigrates Muslims and other foreigners and international organizations, including the United Nations. Mostly, his vision of cooperation with allies depends largely on how much they would pay the United States for protection.

In his interviews, Mr. Trump has said “unpredictability” is central to his thinking. He seems to have no inkling that operating in a dangerous world — one in which the United States is militarily involved in many conflict zones — requires some ability to communicate intelligently and forthrightly with both allies and enemies. It also seems to have escaped him that American voters deserve to know what a candidate is actually proposing.

A version of this editorial appears in print on March 29, 2016, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Dangerous Babble on Foreign Policy. Today’s Paper

Rosmah Mansor does NOT understand that the US is a Nation of Laws


March 29, 2016

Rosmah Mansor does NOT understand that the US is a Nation of Laws

by John Berthelsen

Rosmah Mansor, the wife of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has repeatedly called US Ambassador Joseph Y. Yun in the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in a vain attempt to get the United States Attorney Preet Baharara for the Southern District of New York to call off his investigation into financial dealings involving the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, sources say.

The story of Rosmah’s attempts to rein in the US investigation is circulating widely in Kuala Lumpur’s small diplomatic circles. They say that despite the fact that other investigations are ongoing in Switzerland, Singapore, the United Kingdom and France on another case, they think the Americans most likely to bring charges if there has been wrongdoing.

Yun is said to have told Rosmah that Bharara (above) operates independently of the State Department and the Foreign Service, and that not even President Obama would be able to influence the investigation if he wanted to.

Attempts to verify the story through the US Embassy went unanswered.“She has been told, ‘If you have done nothing wrong, don’t worry about it,’” a source said. “’The United States is a country of laws. ‘”

That news comes as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation issued a press release saying its Four Corners investigative team tonight (March 28) was to broadcast new details of deposits between 2011 and 2014 from “mysterious individuals and companies” both in Malaysia and overseas, via wire transfers and in cash, to his personal accounts. That, the news organization said, is in addition to the mysterious US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) that ended up in Najib’s accounts in 2013.

Nonetheless, despite a torrent of international news reports that would classify the 1MDB scandal among the world’s biggest, the Malaysian government has managed to keep it in check domestically even though Swiss authorities have said as much as US$4 billion in 1MDB funds may have been misused. Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali, appointed by Najib after the previous attorney general was fired because he was said to be on track to indict Najib, “cleared” the Prime Minister in a January press conference that convinced almost nobody.

Najib and his family “aren’t scared of anything in Malaysia,” said a longtime observer of local politics. “But they are scared of this guy Preet Bharara.” Indeed, the Pakistani-born law enforcement official’s district has been called by angry defense attorneys “the southern district of the world” given that he has prosecuted nearly 100 Wall Street executives and has sent agents to as many as 25 other countries to investigate suspects of arms and narcotics trafficking and terrorists, bringing them to Manhattan to face charges. It is his office that nailed the rogue Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, where he had been hiding in Thailand, and brought him to justice in the United States.

Opposition figures have been questioning 1MDB’s massive debt since 2010. However, the scandal blew wide open in 2014 when reports circulated that the state-backed investment fund faced as much as RM42 billion (US$10.7 billion at current exchange rates) of unfunded liability.  A cascade of scandals has ensued, ensnaring, among others, Tim Leissner, the former wunderkind Singapore-based chairman of Goldman Sachs’ Southeast Asia operations who has since taken leave and moved to Los Angeles.

It was Leissner who engineered three bond sales in 2012 and 2013 that totaled US$6.5 billion and yielded fees, commissions and expenses for Goldman of almost US$6 billion—9.1 percent of the funds raised, almost twice the normal cuts for investment banks.

US Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been operating in Kuala Lumpur over the matter, asking officials for details of Leissner’s dealings and other matters.  In addition, the US attorney’s office is said to be looking into money-laundering charges involving the purchase of opulent New York and California properties purchased on the Najib family’s behalf by agents believed to be connected to Jho Taek Low, the flamboyant young Penang-born financier that helped Najib set up 1MDB in the first place.

The investigation is also said to encompass the funding of the Hollywood blockbuster Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo di Caprio and produced by Red Granite Productions, partly owned by Rosmah’s son Riza Aziz.  Jho Low, as he is known, is also said to be a target of the investigation. He has been spending much of his time in Taiwan or aboard his gigantic yacht, the 91-meter Equanimity.

Najib has operated a marathon campaign to keep office, neutralizing investigations, firing his own Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, and the attorney general as well as other law enforcement officials.

The common wisdom in Malaysia today is that Najib will prevail in office at least until elections, which must be called before May of 2018, and, given the state of the opposition, may well remain beyond that time.  A bellwether state election is looming in Sarawak, perhaps as early as mid-April although it isn’t constitutionally necessary until September.  At the moment, according to political analysts in Kuala Lumpur, the Barisan Nasional holds an overwhelming lead in the polls, thus the possible decision to call for an early snap election.

If the March 27 Grand Coalition held in Kuala Lumpur is any indicator, there appears little impetus for the opposition to bring down the Barisan Nasional, the national ruling coalition led by the United Malays National Organization.  The meeting, organized by former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, has called for 1 million signatures to be compiled against Najib by next year.

A Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer who refused to be identified said, “But they need a million signatures by tomorrow, not next year.” Other sources said that despite the attendance of perhaps 1,000 members of opposition groups, NGOs and other parties, with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the lead, there is no traction between them.

They will all end up fighting with each other, with the only glue welding the movement together being the desire to get rid of the Barisan Nasional. One questioned why, for instance, those arrested in the 1987 crackdown Operation Lalang by Mahathir would be at all interested at all interested in cooperating with Mahathir.

That, the source said, includes Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The former premier engineered Anwar’s imprisonment in 1999 on what were universally condemned as spurious charges of sexual deviance and abuse of power after the two fell out.  Others arrested and prevented from contesting 2000 elections, were Vice President Tian Chua, N.Gobalakrishnan, Youth leader Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, Mohamad Azmin Ali – now the Selangor Chief Minister – as well as, Fairus Izuddin and Badrul Amin Baharun.

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/pm-najib-wife-ask-us-call-off-fbi-probe/

ASEAN centrality vital for regional stability


March 29, 2016

ASEAN centrality vital for regional stability

IMG_5030

Din Merican, Singapore’s Ambassador at Large Ong Keng Yong (center) and Ms Nem Sowathey

Together with my University of Cambodia colleagues,Dr. Michael Minehan and Ms. Nem Sowathey I attended the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP) Conference titled Cambodia and ASEAN: Managing Opportunity and Challenges beyond 2015 at the Cambodiana Hotel  in Phnom Penh yesterday.

The event which was organised by CICP and sponsored by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung brought together a select group of academics, regional and Cambodian foreign policy experts and policy analysts and public officials to discuss the Post-2015 ASEAN agenda in the context of emerging shifts in major power relations and new security issues that impact on ASEAN centrality beyond 2015. The conference also discussed Cambodia’s initiatives to take advantage of opportunities that would emerge from economic integration as envisaged in the ASEAN 2025 Agenda.

The conference agreed that ASEAN member states should pursue vigorously the ASEAN 2025  agenda, resolve their differences with regard to such issues as the South China Sea, and the Mekong River water resource sharing,  and play a positive role in promoting regional peace and stability through socio-economic development. Making ASEAN relevant to its people remains its most important challenge. Internal differences and priorities of member states should, therefore, not be allowed to interfere with the pursuit of the common good of economic integration.

Among the prominent the key overseas speakers were Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Former ASEAN Secretary-General and current Singapore Ambassador at Large and Vice Chairman, The Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Tan Sri Rastam Mohamed Isa, Chairman and Chief Executive, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS-Malaysia) and  Malaysia’s  former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and Dr. Termsak Chalermpalanupap, ISEAS- Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.  ASEAN centrality (the central role of ASEAN in managing power relations in Southeast Asia–Ong Keng Yong) was the main topic of the conference. –Din Merican

South China Sea: Satellite Imagery Shows China’s Buildup on Fiery Cross Reef

 

 Recent satellite imagery of Fiery Cross in the Spratly Islands reveals that China’s construction of facilities on the reef is more ambitious than previously appreciated, with one of its building complexes on track to rival the Pentagon in size. The complex, located in the midsection of the manufactured island a thousand kilometers off China’s coast, has a current footprint of approximately 61,000 square meters, not including large adjacent tracts where additional foundations are being laid. As a benchmark, the Pentagon has a footprint of 116,000 square meters, not including its interior courtyard.

FieryCross intens const 2.4M_GE_9-3-2015_Ortho

FieryCross with Penta 2M_GE_9-3-2015_Ortho

Increasingly sophisticated installations have appeared on Fiery Cross since an image was taken on July 13, including a circular antenna array and a likely radar tower rising from what was a bare sector of sand two months ago. Construction of the new military base at Fiery Cross appears to have suffered some setbacks and changes to plans, however.

FieryCross circ antan 1.8M_GE_9-3-2015_Ortho

The primary runway in the July 13 image shows seven locations where the concrete has been removed and replaced (three of the alterations appear to have been made to accommodate conduits beneath the main runway, possibly for drainage, irrigation, or sewage outfalls). All of the runway retrofitting was completed and no longer visible by early September, and the runway was quickly extended by 60 meters on each end, with a current length of approximately 3,125 meters.

FieryCross Redos and close on tunnels 2.1M_7-13-2015_GE_50cm_ColorBalance

A new dark strip appearing in September images, paralleling the southern third of the primary runway, has been interpreted by some analysts as the paving of an additional airstrip, but it is more likely an agricultural buffer zone, according to Professor J. David Rogers, of the Geological Engineering program at the Missouri University of Science & Technology, who has familiarity with military installations in the Pacific region.

FieryCross close color strip 2.4M_GE_9-3-2015_Ortho

Rogers, who is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, points out in an email interview the “tillage/planting rows, perpendicular to the main runway axis” visible at higher resolution. He adds that a cultivation zone could “semi-stabilize the seaward side of the main runway, helping to reduce storm-induced erosion,” as well as potentially provide fresh produce.

FieryCross side by side soil 13 July 3 sept 2015 2.1M

The July 13 image of Fiery Cross reveals what appear to be piles of imported topsoil additives dumped by trucks alongside the runway, to be spread and graded. Ribbed patterns now seen on parts of the dark strip are probably agricultural fabric row covers.

FieryCross close up of soil dump 2M_7-13-2015_GE_50cm_ColorBalance

Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef are China’s largest military installations in the Spratlys, but they are still under construction and do not exhibit the more sophisticated defensive capabilities now present at China’s smaller bases on four other reefs in the Spratlys: Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes, and Johnson South. These facilities are being equipped with state-of-the-art sensor towers, weapons tracking and firing platforms and tracking/firing guidance radars, as well as an array of electronic sensors and satellite communications infrastructure. For example, a satellite image taken August 23 shows that Cuarteron has a new antenna farm that Rogers considers reminiscent of Australia’s Jindalee over-the-horizon radar network, which has a range of up to 3,000 kilometers.

Cuarteron antennas 2.1M_WV3_8-23-2015_40cm_Ortho_Darker

Cuarteron’s sensor array, still under construction, appears to be a matrix of pole antennas up to 19 meters high, as estimated by shadow analysis. Over-the-horizon radar has been cited as one system the PLA could use to cue the launch and trajectory of China’s so-called “carrier killer” missile, the DF-21D, which featured prominently in Beijing’s military parade in early September and is a potential threat to U.S. Navy warships. An over-the-horizon radar system positioned at Cuarteron, more than a thousand kilometers from China’s nearest coastline, could significantly extend the theater for the PLA’s anti-ship ballistic missiles as well as provide redundancy if satellite or airborne guidance is compromised.

Hughes close CIWS 2.7M_PL_9-3-2015_Ortho

The new bases at Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes and Johnson South additionally all have what appears to be a substantial billeting/command-control-communications building on the order of eight to ten stories tall, with elevated polygonal platforms that may eventually serve as weapons pads; the four platforms on the central building at Hughes show raised features consistent with a radar-controlled CIWS (close-in weapons system), but this cannot be confirmed at the resolution of the current images.

Four Flak towers 2.2M

The size, shape and likely purpose of these buildings is evocative of a structure not seen anew since World War II: flak towers, some of which still grimly stand, due to the difficulty of destroying them, in Vienna, Berlin and Hamburg. The Pentagon, dating from the same wartime years, was frenetically built on wetlands using millions of cubic yards of trucked-in earth and 700,000 tons of sand dredged from the Potomac River – not unlike the massive and much larger undertaking now visible at Fiery Cross Reef.

Victor Robert Lee reports on the Asia-Pacific region and is the author of the espionage novel Performance Anomalies.

Note: Fiery Cross Reef is known as Kagitingan in Filipino, Đá Chữ Thập in Vietnamese, and Yongshu Jiao (永暑礁) in Chinese.

A Malaysian Muslim Intellectual’s Peaceful New World Order


March 29, 2016

“The Causes of ‘Islamic State’ Violence, the Resolution of Which Would Result in a Better New World Order”.

by Kassim Ahmad

I looked up all references and listened to all expert commentators on the subject, yet I failed to get a satisfactory answer. In this essay, I shall try to probe the matter.

There are some telling clues. First, the perpetrators claim to represent Islam. Second, the targets are all Western countries whose populations are mostly Christians (United States, France and Brussels ), Thirdl the latest targets were the Christian minority community in Pakistan.

Fourth, look at present-day Iraq. It is chaos-in-chief, consequent upon three American-led coalition of 33 countries’ invasions of that country, thanks to the inducement by British Empire-created Irael (in  the midst of Arab countries) and imperial Iran. Remember Iraq was the home of the first human civilization, dating from Prophet Abraham in Ur of 5000 years ago.

Iraq and Syria, two ancient civilizations, is said to be the home of “Islamic State”, carrying the banner of Allah and Muhammad, a clearly mistaken banner.  The true banner of Islam is that of One True God, the God of all the peoples, Jews, Christians, Muslims  and others — all believers in monotheism, openly declared or kept secret.

All these clues point to a long conflict extending from 15th century up to the present between Muslims and Christians. Furthermore, do not forget the Western crusades against Islam. There were nine crusades altogether, extending from 1095 of the first crusade, to 1271 of the ninth crusade. The crusades were ordered by the various popes who were then also kings sitting on the thrones of Medieval Europe.

The crusaders’ purpose was to retake the holy city of Jerusalem, which the Muslims conquered from the Byzantine Empire.  Jerusalem is known as Baitul-Maqdis to the Muslims, also one of their holy cities.

All these acts of Muslim violence against the Christian West, starting from the 9/11 attack on the New York World Trade Centre, through Paris, Brussels and the Christian community in Pakistan, must be looked as a whole as Muslim revolt against the Christians. As can be seen, it has a long history, from 16th Century colonization of the Malay World, including the Philippines, most of which it has christianised, up to the 18th century.  In the 18th century European colonialism awakened Asian nationalism, resulting in new independent nation-states. But nation-states cannot unite the world that has become interconnected into a global village.

We need a philosophy, a new world-view for our interconnected world. As Islam is a “revolutionary, life-affirming and death-defying” world-view, as I have defined it in another location, that must have been the basis and reason for the rise of the “Islamic State” movement.

That being so, what solution can we offer to resolve this deep psychological-cum-physical conflict? Let us ask ourselves what type of world we want to see emerge for our and for future generations. Surely a peaceful, secure and just world.

What type of world do we have now?First , it a non-Muslim dominated world. It is ruled by two non-Muslim blocs led by two self-appointed superpowers, the United States of America and the Russia (and rising powerhouse China). Be it noted that the United States and Russia are both Christians. This world is neither peaceful, nor secure, nor just. The Sword of Democles hangs over us. It is imperative the justice-loving peoples of the world must change it before we commit ourselves to a mutually-assured self-destruction.

The West for all its physical and apparent mental might – can it face this this challenge of “insane’ violence? Certainly it cannot. But the west is too proud to admit defeat, although defeated it will be. “Islamic State” violence in increasing by the day, as all can see. But even Muslims cannot tolerate this violence commited in the name of Islam. It is not Islam’s solution. (When I speak of Islam I means the Islam of all prophet-messengers from Adam to Muhammad, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.)

Thus both the essentially Christian West and the Muslims must come to an amicable agreement in order to bring about a peaceful, secure and just world. The Christian West must openly apologize for their colonization of the world and pay token compensation. Then all countries, Muslim and non-Muslim, which have been the victims of colonialism must openly forgive their colonisers and agree to live in peace with the countries that had colonized them.

The non-Muslim dominated United Nations Security Council, a relic of the Second World War (1939-1945), must be democratized. All countries must renounce and destroy all weapons of mass destruction. The “Islamic State” violence  and terror must cease immediately. And finally all countries, big and small, must undertake to live in peace with one another, solve all their differences and conflicts peacefully, and cooperate and help one another to progress in all fields of human endeavor.

All these must be included in a revised and expanded the United Nations Charter, and  UN Universal Rights Declaration.Then a peaceful, secure and just world will come into being, and a new chapter in human life in this Universe will begin.