This is to note that I have received a research grant from the Qatar Foundation for a study of indigenous knowledge of the seasons and time-telling in the Gulf. I have created a separate webpage to indicate progress through updates on the progress. This page is at http://tabsir.net/?page_id=2903

For my post on the Arab youth views of democracy, click here.

The GCC States and the Viability of a Strategic Military Partnership with China

By Imad Mansour, Qatar University, The Middle East Institute, Mar 17, 2015

The term “strategic partnership” has been increasingly used in GCC circles to signify that relations with China are important and worthy of long-term investment. In a March 14, 2014 speech during his visit to Beijing, Saudi Arabia’s then Crown Prince Salman announced that “we are witnessing the transformation of the relationship with China to one of strategic partnership with broad dimensions, to the benefit of both our countries.”[1] Saudi Arabia’s position was echoed by the emir of Qatar during a 2014 visit to China in which issues of common concern to all GCC states, especially combating terrorism, were discussed.[2] Abdel-Aziz Aluwaisheg, GCC general assistant secretary for negotiations and strategic dialogue, has also noted that there is growing interest in the Gulf to develop a “strategic dialogue” with China.[3]

Despite this growing GCC recognition of China’s strategic role in the region, what exactly a “strategic partnership” or “strategic dialogue” would look like remains unclear. This essay discusses why officials in GCC member states might be hesitant to embrace the idea of China as a viable strategic military partner, while at the same time recognizing the need to further develop relations with China.

Securing Independent Military Capabilities

From the perspective of GCC leaders, the main military advantage of partnership with China is Beijing’s potential willingness to provide weapons that the United States is currently reluctant to sell. Given the United States’ lukewarm responses to recent regional unrest, the GCC countries are seeking to augment their independent capabilities, and China could be an important supplier, whether or not it is a full “strategic partner.”[4] These GCC views are based on the understanding that as economic interdependence grows, China might be more willing to provide advanced weapons systems in greater quantities. It is important to note that looking to China for arms sales is consistent with the GCC states’ broader strategy of expanding their network of suppliers.[5]

However, GCC leaders continue to assess the benefits of such an arrangement through the prism of their enduring relationship with the United States. This is largely due to historical momentum. GCC states have long procured most of their military hardware, training, intelligence systems, and combat systems directly from the U.S. government or from American businesses. In addition, the United States and its allies share GCC concerns about containing regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as the region-wide threat posed by al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates.[6] Furthermore, it seems that despite its reluctance to sell certain weapons directly to the GCC, the United States has tacitly approved GCC purchases of such weapons from China.[7] This balance―whereby the United States sells the GCC most of its conventional weapons systems, while GCC states purchase other approved weapons elsewhere―allows the GCC to accrue the benefits of remaining within the U.S. umbrella while also buttressing its defenses. Obtaining military hardware from China that the United States has not approved would involve an extremely delicate diplomatic game—one in which the GCC stands to lose more than it would currently gain. (more…)

Check out the nicely illustrated online article by Kuwaiti ethnomusicologist Ghazi Al-Mulaifi on the music of pearling in the Arabian Gulf.

‘All the men died at sea,’ Ghazi Al-Mulaifi’s grandfather would respond, every time his inquisitive grandson questioned him about his days as the master of a Kuwaiti pearling ship during the 1930s and 1940s. Naturally, his grandfather’s ambiguity only served to exacerbate the young Al-Mulaifi’s interest. ‘Who was this grandpa-captain of mine, who didn’t want to talk to me about the sea?’
he wondered.

As Al-Mulaifi – now a 37 year old PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at New York University – became more and more interested in music as he grew older, he found himself increasingly drawn to one particular aspect of the Kuwaiti pearl diving tradition – its soundscape. For the whole article and illustrations, click here.

Given all the unhappiness, it is refreshing to find a little happiness in the Middle East, even if it is musical. Enjoy the following:

Happy in Yemen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JzNxo5m8vI)

Happy in Abu Dhabi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=audy0aHjdyg)

Happy in Algeria (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr3-6H6P6Ng)

Happy in Egypt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D5dO5cn1PQ)

Happy In Kuwait (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQzDDg2poOc)

Happy in Jerusalem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oszKeU7lEs)

Happy in Jordan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyXGv-7b_xo)

Happy in Lebanon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RqSFiVUhDw)

Happy from Morocco (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnuNA8HkVp0)

Happy in Qatar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8N5TkduFjA)

Happy from Saudi Arabia (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKi4iAl_qb0)

Happy in Turkey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a12vAtzbe68)

Zahed Sultan Releases ‘Revolutionary’ New Song & Music Video

Watch Zahed Sultan’s new ‘Like This (ha-ka-tha)’ music video on www.youtube.com/zahedsultan

Sign up on www.mousemusic.org and download free ‘Like This (ha-ka-tha)’ wallpaper for your computer.

Zahed Sultan announces the release of his new song & music video entitled “Like This (ha-ka-tha).” The song pays tribute to the social frustrations that have plagued the MENA region prior to the Arab Spring. In classical spoken-word Arabic, Zahed calls upon the Arab people to stand in unity, against tyranny, with a sense of civic pride.

In his music video, Zahed gives a gripping account of the revolutions as they sequentially unfold in each Arab country through use of raw-footage (shot by protestors with cell-phones) and stop-motion animation.

Be an active part of the change happening around you and share Zahed’s latest song & music video with your network!

About The Artist

Zahed is a music producer and social entrepreneur from Kuwait. He released his debut album “Hi Fear, Lo Love” on April 1st 2011and attained success with his 2nd single “I Want Her But I Don’t Want Her.” Parisian Dj, Stephane Pompougnac, featured the single on the internationally acclaimed Hotel Costes 15 compilation, which was released on Sept. 26th 2011. (more…)

The Guardian has an interactive and updated timeline on the events labeled the “Arab Spring,” with links to articles in The Guardian. You can choose the time period and the country and the type of event or issue. It is current through September 26, 2011.

Modern photograph of the Pleiades

The Pleiades in Arab Folklore

The most famous star in Islamic folklore is undoubtedly the Pleiades. Commentators regard the reference in surah al-Najm (#53) of the Quran as the Pleiades; in fact the Arabs often referred to the Pleiades simply as al-najm (the star par excellence), a usage parallel to that in Sumero-Akkadian (Hartner 1965:8). In a well-known tradition, Muhammad links the early summer heliacal rising of the Pleiades with the beginning of the heat, crop pests and illnesses. In another tradition, more political than weather-related, Muhammad is supposed to have told his uncle Abbas (for whom the Abbasid caliphate was later named) that kings would come from his descendants equal to twice the number of stars in the Pleiades. This would imply that Muhammad thought there were 13 stars in the asterism, since the Abbasid caliphs numbered twenty-six (Ibn Mâjid in Tibbetts 1981:84). (more…)

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