Mona Sukkarieh Thanks Douglas! There has always been rivalries among GCC countries, which is probably normal among any coalition/grouping of neighboring countries. There’s always a bit of suspicion towards the strongest country (in this case Saudi Arabia), which explains why some regional projects have failed in the past. Nowadays, they seem to agree on what constitutes a threat to them: (1) What they perceive as the growing influence of Iran; (2) and the recent uprisings in a number of Arab countries. But I guess this is beyond the scope of this article.
Mona Sukkarieh I’m not viewing people as “a potentially dangerous monolith”. I’m viewing certain signs as dangerous and I’m worried that not only they are being tolerated but also that they are beginning to form a trend.
Mona Sukkarieh Thanks Himanil. Not all countries in the middle east are kingdoms. In fact, most are not. What can be expected? I would have hoped that Arab countries that enjoyed relatively more public freedoms than others (ex. Kuwait) would be more protective of freedoms instead of imposing additional restrictions. And I would also expect that societies that have just toppled ruthless dictatorships would be less inclined to restrict free speech and public freedoms. Instead, we’re seeing some worrying signs.
Mona Sukkarieh Habib, It’s true, people are pushing to get rid of their dictators. But whether they are pushing for public freedoms remains debatable. Just to limit ourselves to a couple of examples: The aggressive attitude towards Nessma TV in Tunisia, and the electoral landslide registered by Islamist political parties in Egypt makes you question commitment to public freedoms.
Mona Sukkarieh Prateek, China is certainly not looking to threaten the US in the Indian Ocean, but to secure its interests and exert influence. The Indian navy has also developed rapidly in the past few years and having blue-water capabilities is part of their long-term plan. It is not the case at this point.
Mona Sukkarieh Jonathan, “String of Pearls”… I’m not into such expressions myself, usually coined by people more interested in writing style than anything else. However, the possibility of establishing foreign bases and ports has been mentioned by several Chinese officials. I quoted one of them in my article. No doubt part of a will to project influence, and certainly not in quest for direct confrontations. So ruling it out completely would not be reasonable in my opinion. You’re right, Saudi Arabia did not invade Bahrain. Saudi-led Peninsula Shield troops entered Bahrain.
Mona Sukkarieh Jed, I’m not sure what a “private-law society” is or if it could be a viable system of governance. I don’t share your optimism. After all, wars are waged by humans and are motivated by interests. As long as there are humans and as long as they have interests it would be hard to eradicate wars.
Mona Sukkarieh Steven, No fears of a direct military confrontation between China and the US in the middle east. That’s for sure. But that’s NOT the point of the article. The point is, from an Arab perspective, an emerging China might be (is?) an alternative partner, which they could “use” to exert pressure on their American ally when things between them don’t go smoothly. And I mentioned Saudi Arabia as an example. In 2 words: Political maneuvers.
Mona Sukkarieh Douglas, I agree with you. If indeed China is going to operate naval forces in the region, whether through bases, ports or on specific missions (like anti-piracy), it will seek to cooperate with the major powers already present and not confront them. Given that the rationale behind its presence would be to protect its strategic supplies and not to assert territorial claims (as is the case in the South China Sea or East China Sea) cooperation is much more likely than confrontation.
Mona Sukkarieh Ben, Technology transfer was a key element in the RFP announcement. Bidders knew from the start that, if selected, they would be required to commit to transfer technologies. All of them submitted their offer based on that. I wouldn’t say it’s a dumb deal for France. After all, 18 aircrafts will be built in France. 108 will be assembled in India but most of the parts would still be provided by French suppliers (such as Thales and Snecma). As I said, the deal ensures sustainability for Dassault, allowing it to envision and develop a 5th generation aircraft. This is very interesting for France, which, unlike its other European partners, still has the capability to produce advanced combat aircrafts on its own.
Mona Sukkarieh Ed, It’s true France and the US are allies, but rivalry also works between allies. In fact, beside the deal with India (which is not 100% confirmed yet. Rafale was selected for exclusive negotiations. Until the deal is signed, nothing can be taken for granted), France was having problems exporting the Rafale. In 2007, just when a 1st export deal was about to be signed with Morocco, the US made a last minute offer by proposing 36 F-16s for less than 2 billion $. And that’s just one example. France was irritated, but did not list the US as a “rogue state” :) Regarding India’s collaboration with Russia: It's ongoing. Both countries are currently developing a 5th generation aircraft and a multirole transport aircraft, among other projects.
Mona Sukkarieh Douglas, Incidentally, this came at a time when US military strategy is shifting focus towards Asia. Worth to note however that the US maintains a clear political edge in other Asian markets, such as Japan and South Korea.