Wednesday, 27 July 2011

US imperialism and the South China Sea crisis

The Obama administration’s aggressive drive to counter China’s growing strategic and military influence in East Asia has seen the South China Sea become one of the globe’s most dangerous flashpoints.

Washington has made a series of provocative statements over the disputed waters. The latest was an address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Saturday at an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) regional forum in Indonesia. She declared that the US was “a Pacific nation and resident power” and had a “national interest in open access to Asia’s maritime domain.”

This echoed Clinton’s comments during last year’s ASEAN regional forum in Vietnam, where she said that the US had a “national interest” in the South China Sea and “was back in Asia to stay.” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi called Clinton’s remarks “virtually an attack on China.”

Clinton’s latest remark follows a series of inflammatory statements by US officials. Last month the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution backing “the continuation of operations by the United States Armed Forces in support of freedom of navigation rights in international waters and air space in the South China Sea.” On July 14, senators John McCain and John Kerry wrote to Dai Bingguo, China’s top foreign policy official, warning that Beijing’s conduct could “jeopardise the vital national interests of the United States.”

The series of incidents in the South China Sea this year—including confrontations between Chinese and Filipino naval vessels—is the direct result of the Obama administration’s aggressive push to get “back into Asia.” Washington is inflaming long-standing, previously localised border disputes between China, Vietnam and the Philippines. This is driving an arms race throughout Southeast Asia that will inevitably be paid for through the further undermining of working people’s living standards in the region as well as in the US itself.

The South China Sea contains rich oil and gas reserves and some of the world’s most geostrategically vital naval routes.

Beijing’s dependence on foreign energy sources is rapidly escalating. It imported 239 million tonnes of oil last year—17.5 percent more than in 2009—and regards the South China Sea as a potential new source of domestic production. A recent article in China’s state-run Daily Times described the South China Sea as a “second Persian Gulf.”

The South China Sea is also the key passageway for China’s energy imports. About 80 percent of all oil brought into China crosses the Indian Ocean from the Middle East and Africa, entering the South China Sea via the Straits of Malacca. Other Asian economies, including Japan and South Korea, are similarly dependent on the daily passage of oil tankers through the South China Sea, making the naval route a key strategic choke point.

Washington has dominated many of the world’s most critical sea-lanes since 1945, including the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca. This state of affairs is no longer tenable for Beijing. Chinese ruling circles are acutely conscious of the active discussions in ruling circles in the US and Europe of potentially threatening China with an energy blockade in the Indian Ocean.

This makes the South China Sea’s oil reserves—which are closer to Chinese territory and easier for China to protect—all the more valuable to Beijing. It is moving to develop a blue-water naval force capable of guarding its trade routes and international investments. Among its main priorities is securing the sea all the way from China’s coast to what Chinese strategists refer to as China’s “first island chain.” This area encompasses the Yellow Sea and East China Sea to the north, the Taiwan Strait to the east, and the South China Sea to the south.

This brings it into conflict with US imperialism, which since the end of World War II has sought to control the entire Pacific Ocean, up to China’s eastern coastline. In the final years of the Bush presidency, important sections of the foreign policy establishment were sharply critical of the administration for devoting too much attention to the Middle East and not enough to China and East Asia. The Obama administration has overseen a definite shift, making repeated statements that the US is “back in Asia,” reflecting a determination to maintain the post-1945 status quo in the Pacific.

The decline of American capitalism and the outbreak of the global economic crisis are undermining the economic foundations of the region and threaten to shift the global balance of forces. The US is the epicentre of the global economic breakdown triggered by the financial crash, and the crisis has exposed the contradictions that underlay the previous period of economic growth. These included the influx of Chinese credit, via the purchase of hundreds of billions of dollars of Treasury bonds, to finance cash-strapped American consumers’ purchases of low-cost consumer goods produced by the super-exploited Asian proletariat.
Under these conditions Washington relies ever more openly on its military superiority to advance its strategic and economic interests. This is all the more reckless in that every government involved in the South China Sea dispute is being driven to divert mounting class antagonisms arising from the social and economic crisis along reactionary nationalist lines.

The situation in the South China Sea is fraught with danger. In one of the world’s busiest naval routes there are deepening military rivalries and no coordinated communications between the rival countries’ naval forces. The region is a tinder box, with innumerable possibilities for an accident or misunderstanding—or even a provocation—to trigger a clash that could escalate into a full-blown war between the US and China.

The international working class has to intervene and advance its own independent solution to the crisis. Working people and the rural poor in China and Southeast Asia have no stake in the rival territorial claims being issued by their governments. The task is to unite with the American and international working class in a joint struggle against US and world imperialism, the profit system, and the destructive division of the world into rival nation states, and for a rationally planned and democratically controlled world economy. This requires an uncompromising struggle against the Maoist ruling elite in China, the Stalinist elite in Vietnam, and the national bourgeoisie in the Philippines. (WSWS)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Partition of Sudan prepares way for further conflicts

South Sudan formally declared its independence on July 9. President Barack Obama was among the first to recognise the new country. He welcomed the “birth of a new nation”.

“I am proud to declare that the United States formally recognises the Republic of South Sudan as a sovereign and independent state upon this day, July 9, 2011. Today”, Obama said, “is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible”. This is simply rubbish.

The war to which he was referring was the civil war between the Khartoum-based Northern government and the separatists of the South. A US-brokered peace deal ended that conflict in 2005 after more than 20 years. In January, a referendum was held under the terms of the peace agreement. Some 99 percent of Southern voters opted for secession from the North. What was formerly Africa’s largest country is now divided into two.

Despite the celebrations and Obama’s soothing words, there are major question still unresolved. The line of the border between the two Sudans has still not been agreed; the Abyei region remains a matter of dispute; and the division of oil revenues, which are vital to survival of both countries, is still undecided.
Most of Sudan’s oil reserves are in what is now South Sudan. Since 2005, there has been a revenue-sharing agreement, but that agreement is in doubt with the secession of the South. Southern leaders have threatened to keep the oil revenue. In response, President Omar al-Bashir has threatened to cut off the pipeline that passes through North Sudan on its way to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Even if South Sudan keeps all the oil revenue, the sector does not provide a stable long-term future for the new country. Reserves are expected to peak in 2011/2012. With little infrastructure except what has been built by foreign companies in the oil fields for their own use, the prospects of diversifying the economy are not great.

Military conflict is even more pressing. In South Kordofan, a region on the border between North and South Sudan, a little-publicised civil war is already under way. Thousands of civilians have fled from bombing, as the Khartoum government attempts to take control of one of the few areas that it could claim that has oil reserves.

There are reports of house-to-house executions. Khartoum’s internal security forces are said to be identifying potential leaders among the Muslim and Christian communities and slitting their throats. Aid agencies have been driven out the area. The airfield they use to bring in humanitarian flights has been bombed, and road access has been blocked.
Conflict is not confined to the border. South Sudan faces internal conflicts from opposition elements opposed to the Juba government. A South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) has emerged, under the leadership of Peter Gadet, and another force led by George Athor, a former general in the Southern army.

These legacies of the civil war that claimed nearly 2 million lives are not the only threats facing Sudan. Other issues may yet become the sparks that ignite what could be a wider conflict. Far from stepping into a new dawn, North and South Sudan face the danger of wars on a number of fronts.

As the drought in East Africa and the Horn of Africa worsens, there is growing conflict over the use of the waters of the Nile. The Nile runs through nine countries. Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya have signed a deal on water sharing. Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have not yet decided whether to sign up to the new agreement. But Egypt and Sudan, which currently get the lion’s share of the river’s water and can veto the construction of dams upstream, have refused any new scheme to share this vital resource. Meanwhile, Ethiopia is pushing ahead with its Grand Millennium dam, a $4.5 billion project that will make Ethiopia an exporter of hydroelectric power.

Access to Nile water is vital for Egypt. It uses the river to generate hydroelectric power, and its agriculture is entirely sustained by irrigation. Agriculture accounts for a third of the Egyptian economy. It cannot afford to lose any of the 84 billion cubic metres of water it currently draws from the Nile.

The division of Sudan injects a further element of uncertainty into the rivalry over water. Satellite pictures clearly show the stark distinction between the lush green of South Sudan and the barren desert landscape of the North, with only a strip of green provided by the Nile.

The basis for this acrimonious dispute over water was laid in colonial times, when the region was under British rule. The agreement that gives Sudan and Egypt the largest share of the Nile was drawn up by the British in 1929. Both North and South Sudan, despite having been independent since 1956, continue to be dominated by imperialism. The latest independence ceremonies do nothing to diminish that domination. South Sudan’s independence is purely formal.

The economy and social structure of these two countries were formed by decades of colonial dominance. Rivalries between tribes, language groups, and religious communities were exacerbated by British rule that favoured one group over another. Initially, Britain used Arabic-speaking Northerners in its colonial administration. But after the Egyptian uprising of 1919 and the 1924 uprising in Khartoum, the British authorities turned increasingly towards what they claimed were traditional tribal forms of rule. What had been a purely ecological distinction between north and south became a major political division, as Britain expunged all trace of Arab culture from the South. Sudanese had to have passports to move between the north and south of their own country.

This cultural cleansing was done on the grounds of protecting the African identity of the local communities who had long cooperated with Arabic-speaking herders. The South proved resistant to British rule. From 1927, Britain used air strikes in an attempt to subdue the Nuer of South Sudan and uprooted whole populations in a bid to bring them under the control of the colonial administration. Anthropologists were employed to discover more pliable leaders and to designate what were and what were not valid tribal and ethnic identities. South Sudan was in many respects “Made in Britain”.

The emerging regional conflicts owe just as much to British colonialism. The current borders were the creation of British imperialism. British rule prevented the emergence of larger economic and political entities. From the battle of Omdurman in 1898, when Britain took control of Sudan, it worked to prevent the union of Egypt and Sudan. For Britain to rule this vast region and keep it out of the hands of its imperial competitors, it was vital to foster local loyalties among the elite that would become national rivalries after independence.

Britain’s original invasion of Sudan was justified on the spurious humanitarian grounds of suppressing the slave trade. Claims of humanitarianism underpin the present wave of colonial expansionism no less than that which took place in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Obama administration has presented itself as a champion of human rights in Africa. But the peace agreement and the partition of Sudan it has sponsored will produce new conflicts in Sudan itself and threaten to draw in the rest of the region.

Potentially, the conflicts that are now developing in Sudan may even have global implications. Most of the oil fields in South Sudan have been developed by Chinese companies. Beijing has invested $20 billion in the Sudanese oil industry. Half a million barrels of oil a day are pumped mainly by the Chinese National Petroleum Company, with Malaysia’s Petronas and Indian companies responsible for a smaller share. China buys between 55 and 60 percent of Sudan’s oil, which accounts for 30 percent of China’s imports. By world and even African standards Sudan is not a major producer, with only 5 billion barrels of proved reserves of oil. It comes fifth in Africa, behind Angola, which is the world’s eighth biggest oil producer, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and the Republic of Congo. But it is China’s most successful investment in the continent.

Beijing has offered to provide loans to South Sudan while it builds a new pipeline that will take the oil to the Kenyan coast and give it an alternative to the now vulnerable northern pipeline. The fuel that powers Chinese industry is at stake. A dispute between North and South Sudan over the use of the present pipeline raises the possibility of major disruption to the Chinese and the world economy.

Washington sees in Sudan an ideal opportunity to strike at an ever more threatening rival. The US has long been arming its southern ally. Kenya has served as a conduit for weapons. According to cables published by WikiLeaks, the tanks captured by Somali pirates of the coast of Kenya were destined for the Juba regime, and the US was aware of the shipment. In the run-up to the referendum, the US has trained and re-equipped the Southern army.

It is notable that Obama did not offer to lift US trade sanctions against Khartoum, or to remove it from the list of terrorist states--despite frequent suggestions that this would be the reward for co-operating with the partition of Sudan. A flood of news reports are highlighting the atrocities committed by Northern forces, but have little to say about the military build-up in the South. The ground is thus being prepared for yet another US military-backed conflict and possibly even a direct intervention under the banner of defending a civilian population. (WSWS)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Justice through Islamic Governance

·   The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said "A single day under a just ruler is better than 60 years of ibadah" [Bayhaqi/Tabarani]


The continuing protests in the Arab world are demanding change rather than more of the same Western interference.

With the Arab spring in full flow, it is becoming clearer that many players are competing for the space created by the overthrow of some rulers in the Middle East. Whilst the Ummah braved the brutal crackdown on the streets to end the architecture of client rulers, foreign interference and foreign dependency constructed by the Western colonial powers, the West continues to call the Arab spring as a call for democracy, Western values and more Western involvement. The decades of oppression by the dictatorial rulers has led to some confusion on where Capitalism ends and where Islam begins.

However, the Islamic system is fundamentally different in that it takes the Qur’an and Sunnah of the prophet (saw) as the basis of governance. What follows are some of the key aspects of the Islamic system:

• The Khilafah applies the Islamic constitution, it replaces the existing plethora of constitutions that keep the Muslim world subjugated and backward. The Khilafah guarantees elections, and regional and ‘nationwide’ assemblies which form the pre-requisite governance institutions, including a judicial authority to check the actions of the executive, and protect the rights of all citizens – men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. The Islamic state will neither be theocratic nor does it model itself on any other contemporary Muslim state.

• The new Islamic constitution will have one head of state (Khalifah) to replace the current unstable and ill-defined roles of Monarch, President or Prime Minister. A new People’s Assembly (Majlis ul Ummah) will replace the plethora of lower and upper houses and a strengthened judiciary, with a new court targeting state injustice (Mahkamat ul-Madhalim), will replace the existing politically manipulated legal system. Both the new judiciary and elected People’s Assembly will provide the requisite institutional checks and balances in the Islamic political system.

• Both the head of state and the new People’s Assembly will be elected via an open, transparent and fair process. The People’s Assembly comprises representatives from across the Khilafah and will include Muslims and non-Muslims. The council is designed not only to make representations to the state, but also has the power to scrutinise and overturn state policy, analyse the budget and hold leaders to account.

• All judges in the new Court of Injustices and other courts will be independent from the executive and consultative assembly. No individual – not the Khaleefah, armed forces and their chiefs, the elite, or industrial barons – is above the law. The rule of law will be implemented without fear or favour. All policies of the state can be challenged in court. Where the court is actively investigating a complaint against the head of state, the head of state has no right to remove any judge involved in the case. Any verdict by a Judge is final irrespective of the wishes of the ruler.

• The appointment of a Chief Justice and Qadi in the Court of Madhalim (injustices) creates a dedicated office of the judiciary charged with checking the state’s compliance with the law. The Madhalim court does not rely on a plaintiff raising a specific complaint against the state and is charged with ongoing monitoring of all organs of state. The Madhalim has the power to remove the head of state if he breaches his terms of contract.

• Islam obliges the people to criticise, account and denounce, if necessary, any action of the ruler, his advisors or any policy carried out by the state that disagrees with Islam or oppresses the people. This is done by individuals, scholars, the media and political groups and parties.

• The independent judiciary and People’s Assemblies institutionalise the culture of accountability and scrutiny that is a collective obligation in Islam.

• The state believes torture, spying and arbitrary arrest as carried out by the Muslim world’s intelligence and security apparatus under the supervision of the US is forbidden under Islamic law. Such activities therefore are absolutely illegal (haram), have no place at all in any civilised society and would be prosecuted under the Shariah.

• The Khalifah will introduce radical Islamic policies that tear down any provisions that enforce the Police State. Citizens of the Khilafah, Muslims and non-Muslims, will have the right to take any member of the enforcement agencies, regardless of rank, to court and/or register a complaint to an independent judiciary (Mahkamut ul-Madhalim) without any implications for his/her wellbeing.

Whilst the West has a history of developing checks and balances fundamental problems exist in every secular democracy, advanced, emerging, large, small, western or eastern. They all show the same thing: they serve the elite and not the public; their politicians are largely corrupt; wealth remains confined to a tiny minority; and long term challenges are consistently ducked – this is the reality of democracy. To copy and paste this system in the Islamic lands will just turn the uprisings from dictatorships to examples of democratic failures.

وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ تِبْيَانًا لِّكُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً وَبُشْرَى لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ

And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allah as Muslims). [TMQ An-Nahl 16:89] (Ends)

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