King Abdullah. Photo: Zamanalsamt/flickr.
LONDON – Ever since the Al Saud clan established in 1932 the Kingdom to which they gave their name, the exercise of power in Saudi Arabia has been shaped by the intrigues and intricacies of royal politics. But never before has this internal struggle had such far-reaching ramifications for the region and beyond as it does now.
With some 22,000 members, competition is rife within the world’s largest ruling family – a dynamic set in motion by the Kingdom’s founder, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, as he sought to secure the role of his 43 sons as future rulers, and sustained by King Abdullah’s succession strategy today. » More
Photo: Bluemoose/Wikimedia Commons.
As the United States pivots towards the east, China launched the so-called “Marching West” strategy to avoid a direct confrontation with the Americans – a strategy first articulated by a prominent Chinese scholar Wang Jisi.
While much of the attention has been given to the strategic and diplomatic importance of countering the US pivot to Asia and on China’s overseas quest for energy resources, food could be an important driver behind China’s Marching West strategy. » More
German members of the Stabilization Force (SFOR) Bosnia. Photo: USAF/Wikimedia Commons.
At last: Leading German politicians, first and foremost the Federal President Joachim Gauck, are setting the tone for a more engaged and higher-profile German foreign policy.
In his well-received – perhaps historic – speech at the opening of the Munich Security Conference President Gauck called for Germany to play a more responsible role in the international community – commensurate with its economic standing and political influence in the world.
Even more remarkable is that it is a well-coordinated approach by the German government and not simply a Sunday’s address by a figure-head President devoid of any legislative powers. » More
Photo: Gwenael Piaser/flickr.
Anyone looking at North Africa and the Middle East today would be forgiven for thinking that the Arab Spring has rapidly turned into a bitter winter. The revolutionary road embarked upon by a number of countries looks ever more precarious. Syria is still being torn apart by civil war, in Libya the government is struggling to impose its authority and Egypt appears to be experiencing a reversal of the democratic gains it had made as the ‘deep state’ consolidates its position. Yet, within this overwhelmingly gloomy picture, recent developments in Tunisia are cause for optimism.
Tunisia provided the spark for the Arab uprisings three years ago with the self-immolation of Mohamad Bouazizi in Tunisia’s neglected interior. As the transition got underway, hopes were high for this small North African country. Tunisia’s domestic situation seemed to augur well for the transition process. The country’s largely Arab and Muslim population was well-educated and traditionally orientated towards moderation. Indeed, promising first steps were made toward democratic transition, with free and fair elections, and the establishment of a transitional government tasked with drafting a new constitution. Economically, the country’s lack of natural resources seemed to be compensated by its vibrant tourist industry. » More
17th Ordinary AU Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Photo: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea/flickr.
When Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo stepped up to the podium at the African Union (AU) this week to sign up to the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), it was not clear whether this was a high point or a low point for the initiative.
Was it a great triumph for the 11-year-long effort by the APRM to reform the political, economic and social governance of Africa that it had managed to entice one of the continent’s most notorious autocrats into its democratic embrace? After all, when the APRM was launched in 2003, it was strongly criticised for being a voluntary mechanism that would leave the least democratic African leaders untouched. And yet, here was one of them joining.
Or was Obiang’s signing onto APRM a Groucho Marx moment instead: as one journalist quipped, a case of ‘who would want to join any organisation that would have Obiang as a member?’ » More