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Important News, Belangrijke nieuws, Nouvelles importantes, Wichtige News, Fontos hírek, Importanti novitŕ, Pomembne novice, Importante Notícias, Viktiga nyheter

Ing. Salih CAVKIC
orbus editor in chief
Belang van Limburg
De Morgen
De Standard
Het Laatste Nieuws
La Libre Belgique


Deutsche Welle
West-D. Zeitung

The man of the year

Guy Verhofstadt
Mr. Guy Verhofstadt

The man of the year
L'homme de l'an
De man van het jaar

A proven Democrat, protector and fighter for justice and human rights in the World.

Een bewezen Democraat, beschermer en strijder voor rechtvaardigheid en mensenrechten in de Wereld.

Un prouvé démocrate, protecteur et combattant pour la justice et des droits de l'homme dans le Mond.

Eine bewährte Demokrat, Beschützer und Kämpfer für Gerechtigkeit und Menschenrechte in der Welt.

Dokazani demokrat,
 zaštitnik i borac za pravdu i ljudska prava u Svijetu.

The man of the year

Peace in the World

Mr. Barak Hossein Obama

The man of the year
L'homme de l'an
De man van het jaar

peace in the world

vrede in de wereld

la paix dans le monde

Garantie des Friedens in der Welt

mieru vo svete

mira u svijetu

Murray Hunter
University Malaysia Perlis

Perpetual Self conflict: Self awareness as a key to our ethical drive, personal mastery, and perception of entrepreneurial opportunities.
Murray Hunter

The Continuum of Psychotic Organisational Typologies
Murray Hunter

There is no such person as an entrepreneur, just a person who acts entrepreneurially
Murray Hunter

Groupthink may still be a hazard to your organization - Murray Hunter

Generational Attitudes and Behaviour - Murray Hunter

The environment as a multi-dimensional system: Taking off your rose coloured glasses - Murray Hunter

Imagination may be more important than knowledge: The eight types of imagination we use - Murray Hunter

Do we have a creative intelligence? - Murray Hunter

Not all opportunities are the same: A look at the four types of entrepreneurial opportunity - Murray Hunter

   The Evolution of Business Strategy - Murray Hunter

How motivation really works - Murray Hunter

Evaluating Entrepreneurial Opportunities: What’s wrong with SWOT? - Murray Hunter

 The five types of thinking we use - Murray Hunter

Where do entrepreneurial opportunities come from? - Murray Hunter

  How we create new ideas - Murray Hunter

How emotions influence, how we see the world? - Murray Hunter

People tend to start businesses for the wrong reasons - Murray Hunter

One Man, Multiple Inventions: The lessons and legacies of Thomas Edison - Murray Hunte

Does Intrapreneurship exist in Asia? - Murray Hunter

 What’s with all the hype – a look at aspirational marketing - Murray Hunter

   Integrating the philosophy of Tawhid – an Islamic approach to organization - Murray Hunter

Samsara and the Organization - Murray Hunter

Do Confucian Principled Businesses Exist in Asia? - Murray Hunter

 Knowledge, Understanding and the God Paradigm - Murray Hunter

On Some of the Misconceptions about Entrepreneurship - Murray Hunter

How feudalism hinders community transformation and economic evolution: Isn’t equal opportunity a basic human right? - Murray Hunter

The Dominance of “Western” Management Theories in South-East Asian Business Schools: The occidental colonization of the mind. - Murray Hunter

Ethics, Sustainability and the New Realities - Murray Hunter

The Arrival of Petroleum, Rockefeller, and the Lessons He taught Us - Murray Hunter - University Malaysia Perlis

 Elite educators idolize the “ high flying entrepreneurs” while deluded about the realities of entrepreneurship for the masses: - Murray Hunter

Lessons from the Invention of the airplane and the Beginning of the Aviation Era - Murray Hunter

Missed Opportunities for ASEAN if the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) fails to start up in 2015 - Murray Hunter

Multiculturalism is dead in Europe – MENA oil and the (hidden) political price Europe pays for it

Author: Anis Bajrektarevic

Anis BajrektarevicThere is a claim currently circulating the EU, both cynical and misleading: ‘multiculturalism is dead in Europe’. No wonder, as the conglomerate of nation-states/EU has silently handed over one of its most important debates – that of European identity – to the wing-parties, recently followed by the several selective and contra-productive foreign policy actions.

The Gulf OPEC states and Libya have – by far – the lowest costs of oil extraction thanks to the high crude ‘purity’ which is simplifying and cheapening the refinement process, as well as the close proximity to open warm seas for a fast and convenient overseas shipments. Hence, the costs per barrel of crude for Libya and the Persian Gulf states are under $5, for other OPEC states below $10. This is in a sharp contrast to countries such as the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and many others that bear production costs of several tens of $ per barrel – according to the Intl. Energy Agency (IEA). Thus, although commercially very affordable, Europe presently pays a huge political price for the MENA crude imports.

By correlating the hydrocarbons with the present political and socio-economic landscape, scholar Larry Diamond reveled that currently 22 states in the world, which earn 60% or more of their respective GDP from oil (and gas) are a non-democratic, authoritarian regimes. All of them with huge disparities, steep socio-economic cleavages, sharp political inequalities and lasting exclusions, not to mention dismal human rights records. These represent nearly half of the countries considered by the Freedom House’s annual reports as ‘not free’ – the very same that are predominantly held accountable by the western media for domestic and regional insurgences, intl. armed conflicts, famines as well as for terrorists harboring and financing. Hence, as many as 9 of the 11 top crude exporters are usually labeled as dictatorships and/or despotic monarchies by the leading academia. Prof. Diamond calls it democratic recession. If so, there is not a single economic or political indicator for the MENA (Middle East – North Africa) region to imply a successful ‘Spring’ of anything lately, but only a (permeated perpetuation of a) severe and lasting recession.

Indeed, modern history is full of examples where the crude exporting countries’ development was hindered by the huge windfall revenues. Far too often, the petro-cash flow did not assist but actually delayed or derailed necessary economic diversification and political reform. It also frequently paved the way up for the elites, domestically felt as predatory, and externally instrumented as – to use CIA jargon– ‘useful idiots’. Conveniently though utilising revenues to buy and otherwise subsidise social peace, those regimes (of rentier states) were/are actually creating self-entrapment – ever stronger psychological and political dependence on hydrocarbons. Therefore, a real ‘Spring’, for the Middle East and rest of us, will only come with a socio-economic decoupling and diversification, socio-political horizontalisation, with a decisive de-psychologisation of and departure from oil-dependence. By no means, it would ever come by a pure cosmetic change of the resident in the presidential palace.

Fearing the leftist republican pan-Arabism and Nasserism, the US encouraged Saudi Arabia to sponsor the existing and establish a new large network of madrasah all over the Middle East – Prof. Cleveland reminds us in his capital work: A History of the Modern Middle East. In the last three decades, this tiger became ‘too big to ride’, as Lawrence Wright points out in his luminary book on Al Qaida: The Looming Tower. Wright states that while representing only 1,5% of the world’s Muslims, Saudis fund and essentially control around 90% of the Islamic institutions from the U.S. to Kazakhstan/Xinjiang and from Norway to Australia.

By insisting on oversimplified and rigid, sectarian Wahhabi-Salafist interpretations of religious texts, most of these institutions along with their indoctrinated clerics are in fact both corrupting and preventing an important inner debate about Islam and modernity. Self-detained in a limbo of denial, they largely (and purposely) keep the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world in a dangerous confrontational course with both itself and the rest of the world.

To end this, there is a claim currently circulating the EU: ‘multiculturalism is dead in Europe’. That much from a cluster of nation-states, as if they themselves lived a long, cordial and credible history of multiculturalism. Hence, this claim is of course false. It is also cynical as being purposely misleading. The very sort of Islam Europe (implicitly or explicitly) supported in the Middle East yesterday, is the sort of Islam that Europe hosts today.

Why and How?! (On the wrong side of history?) Who?

Young generations of Europeans are taught in schools about a compact unity (singularity) of an entity called the EU. However, as soon as serious external or inner security challenges emerge, the compounding parts of the true, historic Europe are resurfacing again. Formerly in Algeria, Egypt and Lebanon, then in Iraq (with the exception of France) and now with Libya and Syria; Central Europe is hesitant to act, Atlantic Europe is eager, Scandinavian Europe is absent, Eastern Europe is bandwagoning, and Russophone Europe is opposing.

The 1986 Reagan-led Anglo-American bombing of Libya was a one-time, head-hunting punitive action. This time, Libya (and currently Syria) has been given a different attachment: The considerable presence of China in Africa; successful circumventing pipeline deals between Russia and Germany (which will deprive Eastern Europe from any transit-related bargaining premium, and will tacitly pose a joint Russo-German effective pressure on the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine); boldness (due to a petro-financial and strategic emancipation) of Iran; and finally the overthrows of the EU friendly, Tunisian, Yemeni and Egyptian regimes – all combined – must have triggered alarm bells across Atlantic Europe. 

Thus, in response to the MENA crisis, the EU failed to keep up a broad, single-voiced consolidated agenda and all-participatory basis with its strategic neighborhood, although having institutions, interest and credibility to do so – as it did before at its home; by silently handing over one of its most important questions, that of European identity, to escapist anti-politics (politics in retreat) dressed up in the Western European wing-parties. Eventually, the ‘last world’s cosmopolitan’ compromised its own perspectives and discredited its own trans-formative power’s principle. The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate did so by undermining its own institutional framework: Barcelona Process as the specialised segment of from-Morocco-to-Russia European Neighborhood Policy (EU) and the Euro-Med partnership (OSCE).

The only direct involvement of the continent was ranging between a selective diplomatic de-legitimisation (by Goebbels-izing the media to instrument it for) and punitive military engagement via the Atlantic Europe-led coalition of the willing (Libya, Syria). Confrontational nostalgia prevailed again over dialog (instruments) and consensus (institutions).

The consequences are rather striking: The sort of Islam that the EU supported (and the means deployed to do so) in the Middle East yesterday, is the sort of Islam (and the means it uses) that Europe gets today. Small wonder, that Islam in Turkey (or in Kirgizstan and in Indonesia) is broad, liberal and tolerant while the one in Northern Europe is a brutally dismissive, narrow and vindictively assertive.

Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic is Chairman of the Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies and the author of the forthcoming book ‘Is there life after Facebook’,
Addleton Academic Publishers, NY.

This article is an excerpt from the key-note address: ‘From Lisbon to Barcelona – all the forgotten EU instruments’ presented at the Crans Montana Forum, 18-20 October 2012, Geneva, Switzerland


Malezija: To nikad nije bilo o izborima  -  Uvijek je bilo o tome šta će se desiti nakon toga

Malaysia: It was Never About the Election
It was always about what would happen afterwards

Murray Hunter

It is extremely difficult to find any real winners in the results which dripped out from Malaysia’s Electoral Commission late Sunday night and early Monday morning – although, somewhat surprisingly, one could be Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who ran ahead of his party and who managed to preserve a majority in Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu and Pahang against an opposition onslaught, and to win back Kedah through the clever tactic of sending Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of the long-serving Prime Minister into the fray.

The United Malays National Organization, the biggest ethic party in the Barisan, needs reform and there is no one in sight who can drive it. Failing to reform will lead UMNO to inevitable extinction within two general elections. The biggest problem is that the party may not want to reform itself. It is evident that Najib over the last few years hasn't been able to firmly steer UMNO into the directions he wanted to go, and his agenda has been hijacked by the likes of the Malay nationalist NGO Perkasa, doing great damage. For these reasons perhaps he should not take total blame

In this light, Najib could be saved from a sudden political death, as there is really nobody within close range to the current leadership who has the necessary charisma, innovation and goodwill to make the necessary reforms. Going against all pundits, Najib may survive. Toppling him now for his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, could lead to very costly rifts in UMNO, which the party may not be able to afford. Any change in the current leadership would most probably signal that UMNO will steer to the conservative right, counterintuitive to what the electorate might be saying.  It was UMNO moderates such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahrir Samad who profited in the election.

Federally, the opposition gained a net seven seats, with the new Parliament comprising 133 Barisan Nasional to 89 Pakatan Rakyat seats. However at the same time Pakatan lost ground, losing federal seats in the northern state of Kedah, as well as the state government.

Notably Parti Islam se-Malaysia Vice President Mohamad Sabu, considered to be a modernizer for PAS, lost the Pendang parliamentary seat in Kedah. Pakatan Rakyat also failed to make any gains in neighboring Perlis, even though it believed it had a chance of doing so. The opposition coalition narrowly failed to regain the Perak state government which it lost through defections in 2009, with the Barisan winning 31 to Pakatan 28 seats. In addition the opposition just failed to win the state government in Terengganu where many commentators believed that Pakatan would have to win if it had any chance of winning the Federal government. Pakatan Rakyat also failed to wrest Negri Sembilan from the BN, with PAS losing all of the 10 seats it contested.

The Barisan had a number of casualties. DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang trounced Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman in Johor, and the Melaka Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam, trying to move to the federal parliament was defeated. Federal Territories Minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin failed in his bid to win the urban seat of Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur from the PKR incumbent Nurual Izzah Anwar. A cabinet minister in Sabah Bernard Dompok, and VK Liew in Sandakan both lost. Yong Koon Seng in Sarawak also lost his seat of Stampin. This has given Pakatan Rakyata a new front in East Malaysia where they now hold three parliamentary seats and 11 state seats in Sabah, and picked up six parliamentary seats in Sarawak.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) went from 15 seats to 6 federally, and to only 10 state seats, although they contested 37 parliamentary and 90 state seats. Gerakan now only has one seat in the parliament. The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) won only four out the nine seats it contested. The Barisan is effectively a bumiputera government with little Chinese or Indian representation.

The two ultra Malay Perkasa candidates, Ibrahim Ali in Pasir Mas Kelantan and Zulkifli Noordin in Shah Alam, Selangor both lost to Pakatan Rakyat candidates, indicating that the electorate is not in favor of extreme politics.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) is probably the exception. It has made massive gains both state and federally, making great inroads and winning many seats in the urban areas of Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Melaka and in Johor. It has consolidated its position in holding Penang, and is now the biggest party in the opposition with 38 seats. This is in contrast to both PAS and PKR, which both lost federal seats.

From the Pakatan perspective, winning government from the 2008 base was probably too ambitious. Rarely can any opposition in a Westminster system make such gains in one election, and it is easy to forget the dissatisfactions back in 2008 with the Barisan that led to that result. Therefore making further electoral gains was not going to be easy, except perhaps in areas like Johor, Sabah, and Sarawak, which hadn't been focused upon before.

From this reasoning perhaps Pakatan lost the election back in 2008 by not choosing to consolidate what it had won, and to pursue gaining government so vigorously. Where Pakatan ran effective and efficient governments they gained, in Kedah, where internal problems were perceived, the state was lost, just as Pakatan lost Terengganu back in 1999.

In retrospect Pakatan's strategy of running a continuous election campaign since 2008 may not have been the wisest. Pakatan's dealing with all the corruption issues arising during the last five years within the Barisan government did little to win over the voters they needed. The issues of good governance and corruption appeal to the middle class urban constituency, but the rural constituency has little interest in those issues.

And this is a problem for the Barisan. This traditional constituency, which has voted according to their prosperity and sense of stability, is shrinking. The demographics of Malaysia are rapidly changing where the rural/urban ratio has turned 180 degrees from being 70/30 to 30/70 over the last three election periods although because of malapportionment rural votes are effectively double the value of urban ones.

Therefore for Pakatan to rule, it must win the hearts and minds of the rural constituency, and for the Barisan it must determine how it can win the hearts and minds of the urban constituency.

This is the basic dilemma facing both fronts, providing different and specific challenges to each.

The Barisan has to make a deeply considered decision about whether it will continue posing its extreme ethnic rhetoric or go back to its traditional philosophy of ethnic consensus, which the electorate appears to want, judging by early analysis of the results. However, much of UMNO is still dominated by an old guard who understand this way of politics. UMNO now has a vacuum in young talent, which in the opposition Pakatan is plentiful. Any change in leadership is not likely to change UMNO's philosophy as it’s embedded within the structure of the party.

The Barisan also faces another challenge in that it has become distinctly three segments. Sabah and Sarawak now have an enormous amount of independence and are facing their own problems. In addition to the cities, the traditional support base for Barisan Sarawak under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud is slowly eroding in the Iban heartlands. The clock is ticking. The divide and conquer politics of Sabah are not easy to control and can easily turn.

However one thing both Sabah and Sarawak aspire to is more autonomy in decision-making from Putrajaya. And with the changing political landscape of the peninsula, with three states in the hands of the non-Barisan, there will be great pressure to redefine how federal-state relationships operate in Malaysia. If economic growth and development is to continue unhindered, some form of new cooperative formula is needed. Federalism in Malaysia could be the big winner of this election.

The loss of Kedah by Pakatan, just like the loss of Terengganu some years ago, indicates this side of politics hasn't got their act together yet. Rural Malaysia wants accountability when a party is elected to government. They have stricter standards for new incumbents than they had for the Barisan, and high expectations. With Mukhriz about to become chief minister, this is a lesson to Pakatan about the formidability of UMNO in the rural areas and the need to get the right message to the people.

Consequently one must question the likes of Harun Din, deputy spiritual leader of PAS bringing up issues of hudud (religious) laws during an election campaign and Amin Hadi's comments about PSM, suggesting disagreement among the parties comprising Pakatan.

This indicates that the electorate in rural Malaysia wants both harmony and moderation, and the concepts of 1Malaysia and Islam Hadhari are ironically appealing. If this is the case, then Pakatan Rakyat still has a lot of work to do in defining what they as a front really stand for.

Pakatan's strategy to take Putrajaya didn't work. Although in many areas they gained ground, they also lost it. This will require an enormous amount of thinking and strategizing for the next general election in five years time.

This leads to the structure of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Anwar’s party, itself. As a one-cause movement to free Anwar back in the late 1990s, it has grown into a multiracial party with a young and ambitious membership. Many feel that it's now the time that PKR shed itself of the possibility of becoming a dynasty, and that the value of the 65-year-old Anwar Ibrahim's direct stewardship should come to an end. This is the Achilles heel and will determine whether it grows into a formidable party that may one day share federal government or just fade away like others before it. PKR has over the last five years had great difficulty in covering up the friction and power struggles going on within it. Maybe within the party it is time to get the next generation prepared to be the vanguard for the next election.

This next five years may see the passing of the guard to a younger generation. It is likely that this may well be the last term for many household names in Malaysian politics. PAS in Kelantan has to work on succession from Nik Aziz Nik Mat, long time Chief Minister of the state. The DAP may have to progress past its evergreen heroes Lim Kit Siang, and Kapal Singh. The DAP has many bright young up and coming stars. All the components of the Barisan if they are to survive need to look towards their youth. If this transition is not made, then PKR with the DAP will be the parties that have the potential to fill the electoral vacuum.

Malaysia can't afford another five-year campaign. The people have spoken and it's time for the parties to reflect and change according to the new electoral realities that now exist. Most independents were passed over electorally, which indicates that it's strong parties the voters want. People want to know about the future of their country.

Yes there is electoral gerrymandering, dubious people on electoral roles, foreigners voting in the election, and other dirty tricks going on, but crying about the system will not change the result, however unjust many think the result was. No electoral system is perfect and Malaysia's still has a long way to go. The role of the opposition is to keep the pressure on the government. This they have been successful in, abate in a slow manner. But the electoral system is only one of the issues, it's the parties themselves that have to ensure they are close to the pulse of the electorate they seek to serve. The 13th General Election was a lesson to all.


Does Australia's 2013 Defence White Paper Signal a Strategic Withdraw?

Murray Hunter


Australia's 2013 defence white paper is a very paradoxical document. Although there were very few surprises in the purchases and future spending outlook, the spirit of the paper appears to signal the country's abandonment of its self view as a "middle power" into what could be argued as "strategic withdraw". This is particularly evident with defence spending expected to be as low as 1.5-2.0% of GDP over the coming decade.

The white paper doesn't choose between China and the US. This time round Canberra has undertaken a much more realistic strategic assessment of China-US rivalry and Australia's position within this nexus. Australia has rhetorically dropped sides and stated that it accepts, and encourages China's rise militarily within the region in line with its growth as an economic power. Australia, unlike the 2009 white paper under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has not taken sides, and effectively through hardware acquisition and spending plans declared itself as an onlooker in the region. This is indeed a major shift in Australian defence policy.

This reiterates Australia's future reliance on security from 'soft power' options. The white paper hopes for a new status quo arising between China and the US, believing that there is actually lots of cooperation between the two powers in existence today which could lead to peaceful co-existence. However this could be seen as being too optimistic where the US is trying to maintain military primacy in the region, and China is trying to assert its emerging status. Australia is betting on 'strategic cooperation' between the two, rather than 'strategic competition'.

The white paper leaves Australia with very little capability in South-East Asia. It has chosen to do nothing to upgrade any regional capabilities, so will be able to do very little in any natural disasters, or political upheavals that could be a threat to Australia. The government is relying on the policy concepts outlined in the "Australia in the Asian Century" white paper to engage Asia through 'soft power' options, bilateral, and multilateral initiatives. However how effective Australia really is at engaging Asia through 'soft power' means is still a big question.

This comes at a time where the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono just announced Indonesia's aspirations of building up military forces to be bigger and more modern than countries like Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, potentially filling the regional military vacuum to the near North of Australia.

Instead Australia has opted to purchase 12 new Superhornet fighter planes with "Growler" technology that can knock out an enemy's communication and electronic capabilities, which will supplement existing fighter capabilities. With the purchase of 72 5th generation joint strike fighters, this makes for a good "budget defence" of the air-sea gap that separates Australia from Asia, along the lines of the old 'Fortress Australia Policy' under the Fraser Government back in 1976.


The submarine issue has been very contentious within the Australian defence establishment. According to the white paper, what Australia wants to do with its submarines is to either upgrade the existing Collins design, or create a completely new design. This is still very vague and indicates the defence establishment itself doesn't yet have the answers. Another question not answered is actually 'what the submarines will actually do?'

This submarine option could have more to do with jobs in South Australia than actually strategic defence considerations. South Australia is in need of employment opportunities and the construction of new submarines would boost the local economy. However any actual work on these submarines would not occur for some years to come.

This paper could be seen as trying to achieve many objectives, where none are really adequately covered. Although it defines a new Australian defence-scape as the Indo-Pacific region and through rhetoric the paper is trying to hold onto an image as a 'middle power'; in reality it is signaling to the region, particularly ASEAN, that Australia will be no power at all.

The framers of the 2013 defence white paper probably had two objectives in mind. The first is coming to the recognition that China is important to Australia. This means placating China and making amends for the aggravating rhetoric of the 2009 defence white paper that occurred under the Rudd Government, where China was painted as a threat. This will please China, but will probably disappoint Washington, as the Australian white paper does nothing to support the US "Asian Pivot". Australia's symbolic contribution of 15 specialists in the Korean Foal Eagle exercises last month really shows the impotency of Australia's defence capabilities from any regional perspective.

The second objective was to avoid any higher financial commitment. The 2013 white paper shows that Treasury rules the roost in Canberra and the objective of fiscal restraint overrides any other policy issues in government.   

It could be argued that by default, Australia is actually taking the "New Zealand" option of scaling down its defence forces in want of a threat. No frigate, but purchases of faster patrol boats, updated strike fighters with modern electronic attack measures, and stalled submarine decision, looks like strategic retreat.

The risk in this white paper is that the Gillard Government is signaling to SE Asia that its interests aren't there anymore. Unfortunately, once again Australia has failed to debate the issues facing the nation and opted for a 'band aid' approach, which will severely weaken Australia's defence position. Australia's defence has now become one of the lowest priorities of government today.

However the 2013 white paper may be very short lived as Australian defence policy. Australia faces an election this coming September where opinion polls strongly indicate that the Gillard Government will lose office. The Federal opposition led by Tony Abbot has said that it plans to review Australia's defence needs and options once again. This leaves open the possibility that  the whole process will be gone through again.

May 3, 2013

Where is Saudi Arabian Society Heading?

Abdullah Abdul Elah Ali Sallam & Murray Hunter University Malaysia Perlis


Unlike many other countries within the MENA, Saudi Arabia appeared to be immune from the "Arab Spring" that fell upon the region and changed a number of societies dramatically. Consequently Saudi Arabia looks like a bastion of stability within the region. However this relatively closed society is facing a number of social, religious, political, and economic problems, which if not dealt with in a wise and just manner by the ruling elite of the country, could have grave consequences for the country in the future. This article seeks to look at some of these issues and poses the question "where Saudi society is heading?"

Saudi Arabia has never been under the direct control of a European power, unlike most other states within the MENA. The country was founded in 1932 by Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, who returned to Riyadh in the early 1900s to dispose the Al Rashid Clan, and over the next decade unified the various tribes, sheikdoms, and emirates over most of the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia is geographically the second largest country by landmass within the MENA after Algeria. It occupies approximately 80% of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia shares common borders with Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait to the north, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman to the east, by a portion of Oman to the southeast, by Yemen to the south and southwest, by the Persian Gulf in the east, and by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba to the west.

Saudi Arabia has a GDP of USD 740 Billion (2012 est.), the largest of any MENA state, being ranked 23rd in the world[1]. The economy is growing at an average 6.0% per annum[2]. The economy is dominated by petroleum and its associated industries, where Saudi Arabia along with Russia are the largest producers in the world[3]. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 80% of the government budget revenues, and 55% of GDP. About 58% of GDP comes from the private sector. As of 2011, non-oil manufacturing contributed only 16.4 % to Saudi Arabian GDP[4].

Saudi Arabia has a total labor force of 8.02 million, where more than 80% are immigrant workers[5]. Saudi Arabia has an official unemployment rate of 10.7%[6], but unofficial estimates put unemployment as high as 20%[7]. This rate is even higher for women, where studies indicate an unemployment rate of 24.9%[8]. These rates are even higher for those under 30 years old, where it is estimated that 1 in 4 don't have a job[9]. Reports in the Arab press indicate that 49% of those unemployed have never applied for a job[10], partly because it is cheaper for firms to recruit foreign workers[11].  Foreign workers are paid relatively low wages, often being mistreated, with few laws to protect them[12].

Saudi Arabia's population has rapidly grown from 6 million in the 1970s to almost 27 million today, where 49.9% of Saudi Arabia's population is under 24 years of age [13]. Five and one half  million are non-nationals. Government welfare and employment programs have failed to keep up with this population growth leading to a chronic rise in the incidence of poverty in the Kingdom, estimated at nearly 25% of the total population[14]. This is in great contrast to a middle class that live in moderate wealth, employ maids, cooks, and drivers, and spend lavishly. In addition there is great rivalry between the majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shia Muslims in the country's eastern province which has led to great social friction and open protests on the streets[15].

The Saudi Government has made huge efforts to modernize and diversify the domestic economy to encourage business investment in the non-oil sector. Even though Saudi Arabia has advanced from 67th to 22nd in the International Finance Corporation (IFC)-World Bank annual "Doing Business" Report 2013[16], liberalization of the economy and growth in new businesses and employment has been hampered by corruption from members of the Royal family[17]. Political influence in the Saudi economy is still b and the legal system is still very weak, which is reflected in the Kingdom's fall in the Heritage Foundation 2013 Economic Freedom index in the rule of law, regulatory efficiency, and market openness[18].

Much of the nation's commence is still controlled by the Al Saud family and merchant families from the tribes within the Kingdom[19]. Many members of the Royal family obtain oil royalties based on their land concessions, many holding seats on the boards of petrochemical companies.


Author: Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter

Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 30 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic, and researcher. As an entrepreneur he was involved in numerous start-ups, developing a lot of patented technology, where one of his enterprises was listed in 1992 as the 5th fastest going company on the BRW/Price Waterhouse Fast100 list in Australia.

Murray is now an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis, spending a lot of time consulting to Asian governments on community development and village biotechnology, both at the strategic level and “on the ground”. He is also a visiting professor at a number of universities and regular speaker at conferences and workshops in the region.

Murray is the author of a number of books, numerous research and conceptual papers in referred journals, and commentator on the issues of entrepreneurship, development, and politics in a number of magazines and online news sites around the world. Murray takes a trans-disciplinary view of issues and events, trying to relate this to the enrichment and empowerment of people in the region.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. King Abdullah bin Abdal-Aziz Al Saud performs the duties of prime minister, where the two deputy prime ministers along with a number of members of the cabinet are also members of the Al Saud family. The Al Saud family formed a Family Allegiance Council, comprising of members of Abdal Aziz's son's family lines to decide on matters of succession and the sharing of wealth among the family.

The only form of legislature is a consultative council (or Majlis al-shura) comprising of 150 appointed members by the King. Consequently there are no formal political parties in Saudi Arabia. However there are a number of secret societies including the Muslim Brotherhood, various jihadist groups, and liberals within society. Saudi Arabia has incarcerated around 5,000 political prisoners in jails around the Kingdom.

The second arm of government in Saudi Arabia are the Wahhabi or Salafi Clerics. This fundamental and strict interpretation of Islam, via Sharia law, is an essential element of the Saudi State, which makes Saudi Arabia unique within the MENA. As a consequence society is bly regulated through fatwas issued by the Supreme Religious Council appointed by the king concerning social behavior within Saudi society, where the role of women is defined as subordinate to men[20], and schooling is bly orientated around religious curriculum. 

The late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud laid down a basic law in 1992. This basic lay states that Islam through the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sunnah are the ultimate law, of which the basic law supplements but doesn't contradict.  The document lays down the rights of the monarchy, that all Saudis should be brought up as Muslims, that matters of economy be according to the Sharia, the benevolent rights and duties of the state, that Islam will be the cornerstone of governance, that the King will be the Prime Minister and Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and all cabinet ministers will be Muslims[21]. This basic law did nothing to liberalize the country, but rather reflected what is[22].

Saudi Arabia is at the cross roads. There are undercurrents suggesting that there will soon be massive social change within the kingdom. The rest of this article will examines some of the issues involved.

The concentration of political power could be a recipe for self destruction

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, and the king has absolute executive power of government. All ministers, provincial governors, senior military officers, and ambassadors are selected by the king. All legislation and regulation made by ministries, provincial, and local governments are legally royal decrees. The consultative council's decisions are not binding upon the king.

As succession is tightly controlled to senior members of the family. There is no potential for any young liberal reformer to emerge as the king of Saudi Arabia in the foreseeable future, as the Allegiance Council has remained faithful to the principle of seniority when naming a new king. According to House, Saudi will continue to be ruled by "more old men in their eighties"[23].  Any selection of a younger prince as leader would upset the current balance of power within the Al Saud family and create discord among the various branches of the family, thus the King does not seem to have the power and authority pass the throne onto his son.

As a consequence, most positions of civil power within the Kingdom are held by members of the Al-Saud family or influential tribal and clan members. This makes up a pool of approximately 15,000 people who through their various family and clan leaders exert some political and business influence. This is a very diverse group where competition for power exists within the second generation of the ruling family[24], which has sometimes led to violence and bloodshed[25]. Further division and conflict within the Al Suad family would be inevitable in the future because of the increasing numbers of the clan.

The Ulama in Saudi Arabia is dominated by the Al ash-Sheikh family, descendents of Muhammad ibn Al-Wahhab, who was the 19th century founder of Sunni Islam, who share power with the Al-Saud family. They dominate all religious posts within the kingdom. This makes the family extremely powerful within the kingdom. Through the Al ash-Sheikh family's "moral authority", the Al Saud family has been able to maintain the legitimacy of the monarchy[26]. The Al ash-Sheikh family's power is also closely linked with the Al Suad family through b intermarriage[27].

The Ulama, like their Iranian counterparts are directly involved in government, ruling by Fatwa[28]. Consequently there is a lack of any consistent codification, as different Ulama may issue conflicting Fatwa, giving great unpredictability in the law[29]. The Ulama have a major influence in key government decisions[30], set religious and moral standards, and play an important role in both the judicial and education systems within Saudi Arabia[31]. Other members of the Al ash-Sheikh family have important civilian positions in the religious Department, Judiciary and military.

As we can see, the concentration of political power into just two families within the Kingdom has inherent weaknesses. The growing numbers of family members is creating more divisions within the Al Saud family. Increasing population and demographics is slowly diluting the dominance of Al ash-Sheikh family members in government as more Saudis are  graduating in religious studies, and taking places in government[32].

These two factors alone would be expected to force change within the power structure of the Kingdom within the timeframe of the next generation. Particularly in the Al Saud family's case, it would appear that there will need to be a number of restructuring exercises in power distribution within the family to keep it unified over the next few years.

Saudi Society May be Like a Pressure Cooker

The ruling families of Saudi Arabia are presiding over a changing country. Social, religious, political and economic forces are bringing subtle changes to Saudi Arabia where the current political institutions are beginning to struggle to cope with them. These issues include the youthful population of Saudi, the role of women, Sunni-Shia conflict, and arising economic hardships. These will be briefly examined in the next few sections.

The Youth of Saudi Arabia

Today, Saudi Arabia has 37% of the population under the age of 14 and 51% under the age of 25[33]. Among this group the unofficial unemployment rate is reaching 30%[34]. This will bulge out more in the near future, and thus there will be a need for more job creation. Young Saudis have concerns about job prospects. In the past graduates have been absorbed into the workforce, but this is not the case today. The public service has become bloated and private companies prefer to employ foreign workers[35].  The government has launched programs to promote the hiring of Saudis, but this had little aggregate effect on the numbers of locals employed.

One of the reasons given for this high unemployment rate is a lack of any work ethic among the local youth in the country. There have been changes in the school and university curriculum to install more emphasis on leadership, teamwork, problem solving abilities, and general creativity, however developing this new direction in pedagogy is slow[36]. This is an issue that is frustrating many youths in the kingdom.

Saudi youth are much more complex than the generation before them. There is a large proportion of this group that wants some form of change as can be seen through social media and the blogsphere. However they still remain socially conservative and to some degree traditional in their views and lifestyle[37].

Boredom is becoming a major issue where males can be seen lingering around shopping malls. There is a distinct lack of leisure and recreational activities available, leaving home as the only place of entertainment where they watch television and spend time on the internet to pass time. This brings close family ties but weak community integration. Very few undertake much physical activity or exercise[38]. Strict gender segregation is causing sexual frustration, as many cannot afford the cost of a marriage. This is bringing depression, 'delinquent behavior', illicit drug use, and a rise in HIV cases as some cross the border to Yemen to hire prostitutes[39].

The 'Arab awakening' did influence Saudi youth to think about their society. Although the young express great respect for their king and have a b love for their country. However, they are not without criticisms of the extended Royal family, and frustration about aspirations that have not been met.

Some young people launched a petition on the Internet that was signed by more than 9,000[40]. The petition presented  to King Abdullah demanded that the government tackle the problem of unemployment, release of all prisoners of conscience, compensate them and to stop political arrests and spying on citizens, reform the judiciary, criminalize all forms of favoritism, bias , territorial discrimination, tribal and sectarianism among citizens in the distribution of wealth, and also called to fight all forms of financial and administrative corruption, activating the principle of full transparency in the oversight in government budgets and all work that carried out. They also called to end all forms of discrimination against women, and give them full political ,economic, social and cultural rights, and the right of people to participate in political decision-making through the election of their representatives.

Again in 2011 a 'day of rage' was called through Facebook, but nobody turned out on the streets. This 'no-show' was most probably due to a fear of brutal repressive force the police are known to use during protests, and general apathy and a hesitancy to protest publicly[41].

There appears to be a tendency towards conformity with the status quo, and complacency about political activism within Saudi youth. This doesn't mean that the youth of Saudi Arabia don't want more say in the decision making processes of government.  These aspirations can be seen on Youtube where many video clips poke fun at Saudi Royals and Clerics.

In regards to religion, many young Saudis take a more contemporary view of Islam, and not the conservative approach that the generation before accept. Consequently the influence of the Clerics upon society today is slowly weakening. The continued training of Saudis as professionals is slowly bringing a new religious culture to the country.

Through changing demographics, Saudi society will be under great pressure for change. This is particularly relevant to the current leadership in the country. Royals are enjoying privileges that the new generation are noticing and questioning. If the Royal family doesn't adapt to changing perceptions, there could be some conflict in the future as political awareness grows. The greatest challenge to the Saudi Government will be generating employment. If this is not solved there will be fiscal issues to contend with, as well as economic difficulties within the country.

The Role of Women

One of the most publicized issues within the 'western' media is about the role of women in Saudi society, which therefore requires some focus, and evaluation as to whether this issue is a b force for change within the Kingdom.

Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are defined by the Ulama's Sunni interpretation of Islam and tribal customs under patriarchal culture of the country. However, these interpretations are not always consistent, where for example Sheikh Ahman Qassim Al-Ghamdi, Chief of Mecca Region Mulaween or religious police said that prohibiting ikhtilat or gender mixing has no basis within the Shariah[42]. However in contradiction, another prominent cleric Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Barrak issued a Fatwa that proponents of iktilat should be killed[43]. In addition, the enforcement of restrictions varies by region, where Jeddah is relatively relaxed, but Riyadh and the surrounding regions are much stricter.

Under tribal customs all women are required to have a male guardian, who is either a father, brother, or husband. A guardian has both rights and duties over the person they protect. Male guardianship concerns the concept of namus or honor. This carries connotations of modesty and responsibility where the protection of females provides honor to the male[44]. This is a social convention rather than a law, however this custom is observed throughout Saudi society. The stationing of US troops after 911 in 2001 saw some relaxation of restrictions upon women[45].

When a male believes the actions of a woman has brought dishonor  to the family, punishment is the way the male seeks to cleanse this dishonor[46]. There have been many abuses of guardianship where the b embeddedness of this custom within society makes it very difficult for any woman to make a formal complaint[47]. Saudi activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider claims that the concept of guardianship descends women to the status of pets, and at worst is a form of slavery, where ownership of a woman can be passed from male to male like a piece of merchandise[48]. However from the point of view of many Saudi women, this custom is accepted and valued[49]. Consequently, its Saudi custom rather than any mandate within Islam that appears to be defining the rights of women within the country[50].

The conservativeness of Saudi society can be seen in a poll that indicated 80% of Saudi women don't think women should work in mixed gender environments[51]. Further, many women believe that they shouldn't hold political office, claiming that gender roles changes are opposed to Islam and would exert an unwelcome western cultural influence, and they already have a high degree of independence[52].

This can be seen with the controversial  issue of the niqab in Europe. The niqab is a custom that predates Islam on the Arab Peninsula, and has been interpreted as repressive by many within 'western' society'[53]. There are also differences in opinion as to whether the niqab is obligatory in Islam[54].

King Abdullah opened Saudi Arabia's first co-educational university in 2009. He also appointed Norah Al-Faiz as the county's first woman deputy minister during the same year. In 2010 women lawyers could represent females in court over family matters[55]. Thirty seats in the consultative assembly have been allocated for women in 2013[56]. New decrees against women's violence have been enacted and women have been granted the right to vote and run for public office in the 2015 local government elections. However some commentators have argued that the above reforms are more symbolic rather than substantive[57].  But it must also be pointed out that there is a deep conservative element within government and society that seeks to preserve the traditional gender role in Saudi Society[58].

Women's advancement is also shaping up in education where more females now receive secondary schooling and tertiary education than males[59]. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is a major social experiment where co-education, and unveiled dress is permitted on campus.

Another area where women's rights have been dramatically liberalized is in the area of employment. Traditionally girls had been taught that their primary role in society was to raise children and take care of the household[60]. Women's employment opportunities have increased dramatically over the last few years where mixed gender workplaces have developed particularly in the areas, of banking, finance, and medicine. However, the percentage of Saudi women in the workforce is far behind other Islamic countries[61]. Saudi women are now becoming medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business leaders. However again, conservatism within the Saudi Labour Ministry has not always been enthusiastically supportive of the growing trend of women in the workplace[62].

Women's freedom of movement is still severely restricted. Women are forbidden to leave their house and neighborhood without permission of their male guardian. However in practice this is not the case. Women actually drive in rural areas where enforcement of strict rules are much more relaxed. Women are also forbidden to use public transport, but this is also often unenforced[63]. Technically hiring a taxi or having a driver who is not a member of the family is technically khalwa, or illegal, but occurs on a daily basis. There have been a number of attempts to legalize women driving in the Kingdom, but traditional values within society and government have severely hampered these attempts[64].

Although the deprivation of women's rights is seen from a western perspective as a major force for change, this in Saudi Arabia according to reports on "the ground" doesn't appear to be the case. There are mixed ideas about the change of women's roles in Saudi society, where change is seen by many to be a threat to Saudi culture[65], while at the same time others see the current changes going on as being too slow. Saudi's see their society as an Islamic one, based on tribal customs and wish to preserve this.

Sunni-Shia Conflict

Sunni Muslims make up approximately 85% of Saudi Arabia's population. The remaining 15% are Shia, who tend to inhabit the oil rich eastern part of the country, with other Shia communities along the border with Yemen. Relations between the Sunni and Shia in Saudi Arabia are strained over the disagreement of certain beliefs and rituals, although Shia have been allowed their own mosques. However Shia religious books, certain Shia rituals displayed at rituals like the Ashura[66] are forbidden. The government has restricted the names Shias can use for their children, and even characterized Shia beliefs as heresy, and something worse than Christian or Judaism[67]. In addition reports suggest that Shia citizens of Saudi Arabia face discrimination in employment, been marginalized economically, and are prevented from political and cultural expression as well[68].

Some commentators draw the analogy of economic deprivation and political marginalization of the Shia in Saudi as religious apartheid[69].

On a number of occasions, Sunni-Shia friction has broken out into violence. For example after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Saudi Shia celebrated Ashura openly defying the Government , which led to three days of rampage where cars were burned, shops looted, and banks attacked. The Shia movement against the Saudi monarchy was supported by Iran, leading to numerous arrests and detention of Shia activists by the Saudi authorities over the years. The Salafis (also called Wahhabism) are an ultra conservative branch of Sunni Islam. Most Saudi's follow Salafi teachings which could be considered an orthodox version of Sunnism that follows the examples of early Islamic practice[70]. Salafism has become associated with the strict traditional practices that occur within Saudi society today. It is based upon a morality and piety by following tradition and rejecting any 'speculative philosophy' that would be put by any modern interpretation of Islam. Consequently, the scope of Islamic beliefs rests with the Qur'an, Hadith, and consensus of "approved" Ulama.

Some of the ultra-extreme elements of Salafism has become associated with fighting international jihad. One of Saudi Arabia's leading Ulamas issued a Fatwa denouncing Shia as heretics, and the most vicious enemies of Muslims[71]. In 2006, 38 Saudi Clerics called on Sunni Muslims around the world to mobilize against Shia Muslims[72]. Some Salafi groups have been heavily involved in violent attacks and suicide bombings at Shia gatherings and mosques[73]. A large number of Saudi Sunni extremists have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight Shia.

A number of events have lessened the tension between Sunni and Shia in Saudi Arabia. A moderate Shia  Cleric Sheikh Hasan al-Saffar preached reconciliation in the 1990s, calling for an abandoning of the rhetoric of the Iranian Revolutionary leader Khomeini to a more pragmatic stance. However the Shia community is deeply splintered with many militant minorities[74], such as the Saudi Hezbollah that undertook attacks on oil infrastructure and murdered Saudi diplomats in Ankara, Bangkok, and Karachi. In 1996 another splinter group bombed the City of Al-Khubar.

Since 2005, the then monarch of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah relaxed some of the restrictions on the Shia[75]. In 2007, the then Saudi King Abdullah met with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a summit on Sunni-Shia relations. Although there was general agreement to try and stop the escalating tensions between the two groups, no concrete agenda was produced.

Today there are only four Shia members on the Consultative Council, no cabinet ministers, no governors, mayors, or police chiefs. However violent uprisings later occurred in Medina by Saudi Shia pilgrims, which led to a major crackdown by the authorities. The Shia Ulama Nimr al-Nimr called for the Shia to consider succession from Saudi Arabia.

Attitudes of hate between the Sunnis and Shias have developed over generations in Saudi Arabia. They are ingrained from childhood and run deep, where potential violence can erupt over any mishap. There are outspoken people on both sides that seem to have vested interests in conflict. With the Syrian conflict still ongoing, a rise in Iraqi tension and repression of Shia in neighboring Bahrain, not forgetting rivalry between Iran and Saudi within the Gulf, Sunni-Shia rivalry appears to be on the rise again within the Middle East. Many analysts give a pessimistic assessment about the future[76]. The Sunni Royal families of the Arabian Peninsula have tended to see the "Arab Spring" as a Shia revolt, and as a consequence there is every potential that sectarian conflict could flare up again in Saudi Arabia[77].

Arising Economic Hardships

Despite Saudi Arabia being one of the world's wealthiest nations, much of the country is living in poverty. As previously discussed, unemployment is extremely high and job development initiatives have failed to keep up with the demands of a growing population. Reports suggest that between 2-4 million people in Saudi Arabia live in poverty[78].  Many of those experiencing poverty are the youth, single mothers without any support from a male, and approximately 70,000 stateless people not entitled to any government support[79]. Poverty is causing a number of social problems like the sale of child brides to old men in the countryside[80].

Despite government efforts through the building of apartments and social welfare programs, there is growing anger over poverty and corruption in the Kingdom. To a great degree, the government has suppressed the problem and jailed two young activists Feras Bughnah and Hosam al-Deraiwish who produced a Youtube video about the problem[81]

Conclusion: What's install for Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is faced with both internal and external pressures.

There must be a massive diversification of the economy to absorb more employment over the next decade. This at present does not appear to be happening quick enough and as a consequence there will be; 1) increasing unemployment, particularly among the youth, 2) fiscal pressure upon the government in future to provide welfare to citizens, and, 3) a dissatisfied population that could through organization become a politically conscious force.

Given the political turmoil in the rest of the Middle East, Saudi leaders must have concerns over the potential spread of turmoil within Saudi Arabia itself. The protests in the neighboring Kingdom of Bahrain, and Oman are a particular concern for the Saudi Royal family.

The intuition of the Saudi leadership has been to deal harshly with any dissent. Most of these protests have been by the youth of the country, students in particular. However, the news of these protests can't be suppressed by the government as before, due to the widespread access to social media.

The Shia community is of utmost concern. There are continual small protests outside government ministry buildings in Riyadh, Taif and Tabuk, and in Qatif and other small towns in the eastern region, such as Al-Awamiyah, Hofuf, and Qatif, which is composed of the majority of Saudi Shia citizens who face discrimination in government jobs by the authorities.

One of the reasons why Saudi Arabia has not faced the turmoil like Tunisia , Egypt , Libya, Syria, or Yemen is because political parties are formally prohibited. The only way for opposition groups to communicate is through home meetings and social media. Mass protests on the street is still beyond the "threshold" of discontent at this stage, where there is little precedent for such protests.  In addition, the authorities in an attempt to avoid any popular protests issued a decree banning public protests, which has been reinforced by a number of fatwas from clerics who are support the Saudi government.

However this doesn't mean that Saudi society is not evolving naturally. Saudi society is likely to strata into a large middle/professional class with more contemporary Islamic beliefs, and a core of Islamic traditionalists. The nature of economic modernization and education are the forces behind this, and it remains to be seen what reaction the more conservative religious elements in the country will do, if they can do anything. This trend could lead to a steady liberalization of society, or further enforcement of religious rituals and traditions to maintain the status quo. The important question here is "Will the Ulama allow Saudi culture to evolve into a modern Islamic society, balanced with tribal customs that Saudis value?"

Generally Saudis are not pushing for radical political reforms. Employment, social problems, equity, fairness, and discrimination seem to be the major issues of concern, although there is some yearn to participate more in decision making that affects their future. There will be pressure on the Royal family to go down the path of allowing more participation in government, and this must be handled appropriately and wisely.

The emergence of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and Saudi support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war contributed to a rekindling of confrontation between the Shia and Saudi authorities.  Economic hardship, coupled with the lack of opportunity within mainstream Saudi society, have contributed to the reopening of these wounds. given that the Shia still tend to be religiously and politically dependent upon outside influences, any upsetting events could potentially trigger calls for autonomy or independence from the Saudi state. Such aspiration would no doubt lead to protests, violence and even an insurgency in the future, if not handled wisely.

Consequently, Saudi Arabia is at the crossroads and the leadership must look very closely at its economy and needs of the younger generation within society. Urbanization and industrialization has brought massive changes to indigenous cultures all around the world, and there is no reason to believe that the same would not happen within Saudi society. The question is how the Saudi royal family will see this; as a threat to their position in power, or as inevitable change, to which they must adapt.



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[76] Murphy, C., (2013), Conflict between sunni and Shia Muslims seen as escalating across the Middle East, Global Post, February 16,, accessed 28th April 2013.

[77] Taqi, M., (2011), "Saudi Arabia: the prized domino".
[78] Poverty Growing in Saudi Arabia: report, PressTV, January 5, 2013,, accessed 1st May 2013.

[79] Nelson, S., S., (2011), Poverty Hides Amid Saudi Arabia's Oil Wealth, npr, May 19,, accessed 1st May 2013.

[80] Toumi, H., (2013), Poverty blamed for forced union in Saudi,, January 12,, 28th April 2013.

[81] Are we fine? Two Saudi men detained over Youtube video, 18th October 2011,, accessed 1st May 2013.


Critical Similarities and Differences in SS of Asia and Europe

Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic

How to draw the line between the recent and still unsettled EU/EURO crisis and Asia’s success story? Well, it might be easier than it seems: Neither Europe nor Asia has any alternative. The difference is that Europe well knows there is no alternative – and therefore is multilateral. Asia thinks it has an alternative – and therefore is strikingly bilateral, while stubbornly residing enveloped in economic egoisms. No wonder that Europe is/will be able to manage its decline, while Asia is (still) unable to capitalize its successes.

Following the famous saying allegedly spelled by Kissinger: “Europe? Give me a name and a phone number!” (when – back in early 1970s – urged by President Nixon to inform Europeans on the particular US policy action), the author is trying to examine how close is Asia to have its own telephone number.

By contrasting and comparing genesis of multilateral security structures in Europe with those currently existing in Asia, and by listing some of the most pressing security challenges in Asia, this policy paper offers several policy incentives why the largest world’s continent must consider creation of the comprehensive pan-Asian institution. Prevailing security structures in Asia are bilateral and mostly asymmetric while Europe enjoys multilateral, balanced and symmetric setups (American and African continents too). Author goes as far as to claim that irrespective to the impressive economic growth, no Asian century will emerge without creation of such an institution.

* **
For over a decade, many of the relevant academic journals are full of articles prophesizing the 21st as the Asian century. The argument is usually based on the impressive economic growth, increased production and trade volumes as well as the booming foreign currency reserves and exports of many populous Asian nations, with nearly 1/3 of total world population inhabiting just two countries of the largest world’s continent. However, history serves as a powerful reminder by warning us that economically or/and demographically mighty gravity centers tend to expand into their peripheries, especially when the periphery is weaker by either category. It means that any absolute or relative shift in economic and demographic strength of one subject of international relations will inevitably put additional stress on the existing power equilibriums and constellations that support this balance in the particular theater of implicit or explicit structure.

Click to enlarge

Lessons of the Past

Thus, what is the state of art of Asia’s security structures? What is the existing capacity of preventive diplomacy and what instruments are at disposal when it comes to early warning/ prevention, fact-finding, exchange mechanisms, reconciliation, capacity and confidence– building measures in the Asian theater?

While all other major theaters do have the pan-continental settings in place already for many decades, such as the Organization of American States – OAS (American continent), African Union – AU (Africa), Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – OSCE (Europe), the state-of-arts of the largest world’s continent is rather different. What becomes apparent, nearly at the first glance, is the absence of any pan-Asian security/ multilateral structure. Prevailing security structures are bilateral and mostly asymmetric. They range from the clearly defined and enduring non-aggression security treaties, through less formal arrangements, up to the Ad hoc cooperation accords on specific issues. The presence of the multilateral regional settings is limited to a very few spots in the largest continent, and even then, they are rarely mandated with security issues in their declared scope of work. Another striking feature is that most of the existing bilateral structures have an Asian state on one side, and either peripheral or external protégé country on the other side which makes them nearly per definition asymmetric. The examples are numerous: the US–Japan, the US– S. Korea, the US–Singapore, Russia–India, Australia–East Timor, Russia–North Korea, Japan –Malaysia, China–Pakistan, the US–Pakistan, China–Cambodia, the US–Saudi Arabia, Russia –Iran, China–Burma, India–Maldives, Iran–Syria, N. Korea–Pakistan, etc.

Indeed, Asia today resonates a mixed echo of the European past. It combines features of the pre-Napoleonic, post-Napoleonic and the League-of-Nations Europe. What are the useful lessons from the European past? Well, there are a few, for sure. Bismarck accommodated the exponential economic, demographic and military growth as well as the territorial expansion of Prussia by skillfully architecturing and calibrating the complex networks of bilateral security arrangements of 19th century Europe. Like Asia today, it was not an institutionalized security structure of Europe, but a talented leadership exercising restraint and wisdom in combination with the quick assertiveness and fast military absorptions, concluded by the lasting endurance. However, as soon as the new Kaiser removed the Iron Chancellor (Bismarck), the provincial and backward–minded, insecure and militant Prussian establishment contested (by their own interpretations of the German’s machtpolitik and weltpolitik policies) Europe and the world in two devastating world wars. That, as well as Hitler’s establishment afterwards, simply did not know what to do with a powerful Germany.

The aspirations and constellations of some of Asia’s powers today remind us also of the pre-Napoleonic Europe, in which a unified, universalistic block of the Holy Roman Empire was contested by the impatient challengers of the status quo. Such serious centripetal and centrifugal oscillations of Europe were not without grave deviations: as much as Cardinal Richelieu’s and Jacobin’s France successfully emancipated itself, the Napoleon III and pre-WWII France encircled, isolated itself, implicitly laying the foundation for the German attack.

Finally, the existing Asian regional settings also resemble the picture of the post-Napoleonic Europe: first and foremost, of Europe between the Vienna Congress of 1815 and the revolutionary year of 1848. At any rate, let us take a quick look at the most relevant regional settings in Asia.

Multilateral constellations

By far, the largest Asian participation is with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation – APEC, an organization engulfing both sides of the Pacific Rim. Nevertheless, this is a forum for member economies not of sovereign nations, a sort of a prep-com or waiting room for the World Trade Organization – WTO. To use the words of one senior Singapore diplomat who recently told me in Geneva the following: “what is your option here? sign the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), side up with the US, login to FaceBook, and keep shopping on the internet happily ever after…”

Two other crosscutting settings, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – OIC and Non-Aligned Movement – NAM, the first with and the second without a permanent secretariat, represent the well-established political multilateral bodies. However, they are inadequate forums as neither of the two is strictly mandated with security issues. Although both trans-continental entities do have large memberships being the 2nd and 3rd largest multilateral systems, right after the UN, neither covers the entire Asian political landscape – having important Asian countries outside the system or opposing it.

Further on, one should mention the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization – KEDO (Nuclear) and the Iran-related Contact (Quartet/P-5+1) Group. In both cases, the issues dealt with are indeed security related, but they are more an asymmetric approach to deter and contain a single country by the larger front of peripheral states that are opposing a particular security policy, in this case, of North Korea and of Iran. Same was with the short-lived SEATO Pact – a defense treaty organization for SEA which was essentially dissolved as soon as the imminent threat from communism was slowed down and successfully contained within the French Indochina.

Confidence building – an attempt

If some of the settings are reminiscent of the pre-Napoleonic Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – SCO and Cooperation Council for the Arab states of the Gulf – GCC remind us of the post-Napoleonic Europe and its Alliance of the Eastern Conservative courts (of Metternich). Both arrangements were created on a pretext of a common external ideological and geopolitical threat, on a shared status quo security consideration. Asymmetric GCC was an externally induced setting by which an American key Middle East ally Saudi Arabia gathered the grouping of the Arabian Peninsula monarchies. It has served a dual purpose; originally, to contain the leftist Nasseristic pan-Arabism which was introducing a republican type of egalitarian government in the Middle Eastern theater. It was also – after the 1979 revolution – an instrument to counter-balance the Iranian influence in the Gulf and wider Middle East. The response to the spring 2011-13 turmoil in the Middle East, including the deployment of the Saudi troops in Bahrain, and including the analysis of the role of influential Qatar-based and GCC-backed Al Jazeera TV network is the best proof of the very nature of the GCC mandate.

The SCO is internally induced and more symmetric setting. Essentially, it came into existence through a strategic Sino-Russian rapprochement[1], based, for the first time in modern history, on parity, to deter external aspirants (the US, Japan, Korea, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) and to keep the resources, territory, present socio-economic cultural and political regime in the Central Asia, Tibet heights and the Xinjiang Uighur province in line.  

The next to consider is the Indian sub-continent’s grouping, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – SAARC. This organization has a well-established mandate, well staffed and versed Secretariat. However, the Organization is strikingly reminiscent of the League of Nations. The League is remembered as an altruistic setup which repeatedly failed to adequately respond to the security quests of its members as well as to the challenges and pressures of parties that were kept out of the system (e.g. Russia until well into the 1930s and the US remaining completely outside the system, and in the case of the SAARC surrounding; China, Saudi Arabia and the US). The SAARC is practically a hostage of mega confrontation of its two largest members, both confirmed nuclear powers; India and Pakistan. These two challenge each other geopolitically and ideologically. Existence of one is a negation of the existence of the other; the religiously determined nationhood of Pakistan is a negation of multiethnic India and vice verse. Additionally, the SAARC although internally induced is an asymmetric organization. It is not only the size of India, but also its position: centrality of that country makes SAARC practically impossible to operate in any field without the direct consent of India, be it commerce, communication, politics or security.

For a serious advancement of multilateralism, mutual trust, a will to compromise and achieve a common denominator through active co-existence is the key. It is hard to build a common course of action around the disproportionately big and centrally positioned member which would escape the interpretation as containment by the big or assertiveness of its center by the smaller, peripheral members.

Multivector Foreign Policy

Finally, there is an ASEAN – a grouping of 10 Southeast Asian nations[2], exercising the balanced multi-vector policy, based on the non-interference principle, internally and externally. This, Jakarta/Indonesia headquartered[3] organization has a dynamic past and an ambitious current charter. It is an internally induced and relatively symmetric arrangement with the strongest members placed around its geographic center, like in case of the EU equilibrium with Germany-France/Britain-Italy/Poland-Spain geographically balancing each other. Situated on the geographic axis of the southern flank of the Asian landmass, the so-called growth triangle of Thailand-Malaysia-Indonesia represents the core of the ASEAN not only in economic and communication terms but also by its political leverage. The EU-like ASEAN Community Road Map (for 2015) will absorb most of the Organization’s energy[4]. However, the ASEAN has managed to open its forums for the 3+3 group/s, and could be seen in the long run as a cumulus setting towards the wider pan-Asian forum in future.

Before closing this brief overview, let us mention two recently inaugurated informal forums, both based on the external calls for a burden sharing. One, with a jingoistic-coined name by the Wall Street bankers[5] - BRI(I)C/S, so far includes two important Asian economic, demographic and political powerhouses (India and China), and one peripheral (Russia). Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran are a few additional Asian countries whose national pride and pragmatic interests are advocating a BRIC membership. The G–20, the other informal forum, is also assembled on the Ad hoc (pro bono) basis following the need of the G–7 to achieve a larger approval and support for its monetary (currency exchange accord) and financial (austerity) actions introduced in the aftermath of still unsettled financial crisis. Nevertheless, the BRIC and G-20 have not provided the Asian participating states either with the more leverage in the Bretton Woods institutions besides a burden sharing, or have they helped to tackle the indigenous Asian security problems. Appealing for the national pride, however, both informal gatherings may divert the necessary resources and attention to Asian states from their pressing domestic, pan-continental issues.

Yet, besides the UN system machinery of the Geneva-based Disarmament committee, the UN Security Council, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – OPCW and International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA (or CTBTO), even the ASEAN Asians (as the most multilateralized Asians) have no suitable standing forum to tackle and solve their security issues. An organization similar to the Council of Europe or the OSCE is still far from emerging on Asian soil.

Our history warns. Nevertheless, it also provides a hope: The pre-CSCE (pre-Helsinki) Europe was indeed a dangerous place to live in. The sharp geopolitical and ideological default line was passing through the very heart of Europe, cutting it into halves. The southern Europe was practically sealed off by notorious dictatorships; in Greece (Colonel Junta), Spain (Franco) and Portugal (Salazar), with Turkey witnessing several of its governments toppled by the secular and omnipotent military establishment, with inverted Albania and a (non-Europe minded) non-allied, Tito’s Yugoslavia. Two powerful instruments of the US military presence (NATO) and of the Soviets (Warsaw pact) in Europe were keeping huge standing armies, enormous stockpiles of conventional as well as the ABC weaponry and delivery systems, practically next to each other. By far and large, European borders were not mutually recognized. Essentially, the west rejected to even recognize many of the Eastern European, Soviet dominated/installed governments.

Territorial disputes unresolved

Currently in Asia, there is hardly a single state which has no territorial dispute within its neighborhood. From the Middle East, Caspian and Central Asia, Indian sub-continent, mainland Indochina or Archipelago SEA, Tibet, South China Sea and the Far East, many countries are suffering numerous green and blue border disputes. The South China Sea solely counts for over a dozen territorial disputes – in which mostly China presses peripheries to break free from the long-lasting encirclement. These moves are often interpreted by the neighbors as dangerous assertiveness. On the top of that Sea resides a huge economy and insular territory in a legal limbo – Taiwan, which waits for a time when the pan-Asian and intl. agreement on how many Chinas Asia should have, gains a wide and lasting consensus.

Unsolved territorial issues, sporadic irredentism, conventional armament, nuclear ambitions, conflicts over exploitation of and access to the marine biota, other natural resources including fresh water access and supply are posing enormous stress on external security, safety and stability in Asia. Additional stress comes from the newly emerging environmental concerns, that are representing nearly absolute security threats, not only to the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu[6], but also to the Maldives, Bangladesh, Cambodia, parts of Thailand, of Indonesia, of Kazakhstan and of the Philippines, etc[7]. All this combined with uneven economic and demographic dynamics[8] of the continent are portraying Asia as a real powder keg.

It is absolutely inappropriate to compare the size of Asia and Europe – the latter being rather an extension of a huge Asian continental landmass, a sort of western Asian peninsula – but the interstate maneuvering space is comparable. Yet, the space between the major powers of post-Napoleonic Europe was as equally narrow for any maneuver as is the space today for any security maneuver of Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and the like.

Let us also take a brief look at the peculiarities of the nuclear constellations in Asia. Following the historic analogies; it echoes the age of the American nuclear monopoly and the years of Russia’s desperation to achieve the parity.

Besides holding huge stockpiles of conventional weaponry and numerous standing armies, Asia is a home of four (plus peripheral Russia and Israel) of the nine known nuclear powers (declared and undeclared). Only China and Russia are parties to the Non-proliferation Treaty – NPT. North Korea walked away in 2003, whereas India and Pakistan both confirmed nuclear powers declined to sign the Treaty. Asia is also the only continent on which nuclear weaponry has been deployed.

Cold War exiled in Asia

As is well known, the peak of the Cold War was marked by the mega geopolitical and ideological confrontation of the two nuclear superpowers whose stockpiles by far outnumbered the stockpiles of all the other nuclear powers combined. However enigmatic, mysterious and incalculable to each other[9], the Americans and Soviets were on opposite sides of the globe, had no territorial disputes, and no record of direct armed conflicts. 

Insofar, the Asian nuclear constellation is additionally specific as each of the holders has a history of hostilities – armed frictions and confrontations over unsolved territorial disputes along the shared borders, all combined with the intensive and lasting ideological rivalries. The Soviet Union had bitter transborder armed frictions with China over the demarcation of its long land border. China has fought a war with India and has acquired a significant territorial gain. India has fought four mutually extortive wars with Pakistan over Kashmir and other disputed bordering regions. Finally, the Korean peninsula has witnessed the direct military confrontations of Japan, USSR, Chinese as well as the US on its very soil, and remains a split nation under a sharp ideological divide. 

On the western edge of the Eurasian continent, neither France, Britain, Russia nor the US had a (recent) history of direct armed conflicts. They do not even share land borders.

Finally, only India and now post-Soviet Russia have a strict and full civilian control over its military and the nuclear deployment authorization. In the case of North Korea and China, it is in the hands of an unpredictable and non-transparent communist leadership – meaning, it resides outside democratic, governmental decision-making. In Pakistan, it is completely in the hands of a politically omnipresent military establishment. Pakistan has lived under a direct military rule for over half of its existence as an independent state.     

What eventually kept the US and the USSR from deploying nuclear weapons was the dangerous and costly struggle called: “mutual destruction assurance”. Already by the late 1950s, both sides achieved parity in the number and type of nuclear warheads as well as in the number and precision of their delivery systems. Both sides produced enough warheads, delivery systems’ secret depots and launching sites to amply survive the first impact and to maintain a strong second-strike capability[10]. Once comprehending that neither the preventive nor preemptive nuclear strike would bring a decisive victory but would actually trigger the final global nuclear holocaust and ensure total mutual destruction, the Americans and the Soviets have achieved a fear–equilibrium through the hazardous deterrence. Thus, it was not an intended armament rush (for parity), but the non-intended Mutual Assurance Destruction – MAD – with its tranquilizing effect of nuclear weaponry, if possessed in sufficient quantities and impenetrable configurations – that brought a bizarre sort of pacifying stability between two confronting superpowers. Hence, MAD prevented nuclear war, but did not disarm the superpowers.

As noted, the nuclear stockpiles in Asia are considerably modest[11]. The number of warheads, launching sites and delivery systems is not sufficient and sophisticated enough to offer the second strike capability. That fact seriously compromises stability and security: preventive or preemptive N–strike against a nuclear or non-nuclear state could be contemplated as decisive, especially in South Asia and on the Korean peninsula, not to mention the Middle East[12].

A general wisdom of geopolitics assumes the potentiality of threat by examining the degree of intensions and capability of belligerents. However, in Asia this theory does not necessarily hold the complete truth: Close geographic proximities of Asian nuclear powers means shorter flight time of warheads, which ultimately gives a very brief decision-making period to engaged adversaries. Besides a deliberate, a serious danger of an accidental nuclear war is therefore evident.

Multilateral mechanisms

One of the greatest thinkers and humanists of the 20th century, Erich Fromm wrote: “…man can only go forward by developing (his) reason, by finding a new harmony…[13]

There is certainly a long road from vision and wisdom to a clear political commitment and accorded action. However, once it is achieved, the operational tools are readily at disposal. The case of Helsinki Europe is very instructive. To be frank, it was the over-extension of the superpowers who contested one another all over the globe, which eventually brought them to the negotiation table. Importantly, it was also a constant, resolute call of the European public that alerted governments on both sides of the default line. Once the political considerations were settled, the technicalities gained momentum: there was – at first – mutual pan-European recognition of borders which tranquilized tensions literally overnight. Politico-military cooperation was situated in the so-called first Helsinki basket, which included the joint military inspections, exchange mechanisms, constant information flow, early warning instruments, confidence–building measures mechanism, and the standing panel of state representatives (the so-called Permanent Council). Further on, an important clearing house was situated in the so-called second basket – the forum that links the economic and environmental issues, items so pressing in Asia at the moment.

Admittedly, the III OSCE Basket was a source of many controversies in the past years, mostly over the interpretation of mandates. However, the new wave of nationalism, often replacing the fading communism, the emotional charges and residual fears of the past, the huge ongoing formation of the middle class in Asia whose passions and affiliations will inevitably challenge established elites domestically and question their policies internationally, and a related search for a new social consensus – all that could be successfully tackled by some sort of an Asian III basket. Clearly, further socio-economic growth in Asia is impossible without the creation and mobilization of a strong middle class – a segment of society which when appearing anew on the socio-political horizon is traditionally very exposed and vulnerable to political misdeeds and disruptive shifts. At any rate, there are several OSCE observing nations from Asia[14]; from Thailand to Korea and Japan, with Indonesia, a nation that currently considers joining the forum. They are clearly benefiting from the participation[15].

Consequently, the largest continent should consider the creation of its own comprehensive pan-Asian multilateral mechanism. In doing so, it can surely rest on the vision and spirit of Helsinki. On the very institutional setup, Asia can closely revisit the well-envisioned SAARC and ambitiously empowered ASEAN[16] fora. By examining these two regional bodies, Asia can find and skillfully calibrate the appropriate balance between widening and deepening of the security mandate of such future multilateral  organization – given the number of states as well as the gravity of the pressing socio-political, environmental and politico-military challenges.

In the age of unprecedented success and the unparalleled prosperity of Asia, an indigenous multilateral pan-Asian arrangement presents itself as an opportunity. Contextualizing Hegel’s famous saying that “freedom is…an insight into necessity” let me close by stating that a need for the domesticated pan-Asian organization warns by its urgency too.

Clearly, there is no emancipation of the continent; there is no Asian century, without the pan-Asian multilateral setting.

Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, Chairman Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies

(author of the forthcoming book ‘Is there life after Facebook’, Addleton Academic Publishers, NY)

Vienna, 14 FEB 13

Post Scriptum

How can we observe and interpret (the distance between) success and fall from a historical perspective? This question remains a difficult one to (satisfy all with a single) answer...      The immediate force behind the rapid and successful European overseas projection was the two elements combined: Europe’s technological (economic) and demographic expansion (from early 16th century on). However, West/Europe was not – frankly speaking – winning over the rest of this planet by the superiority of its views and ideas, by purity of its virtues or by clarity of its religious thoughts and practices. For a small and rather insecure civilization, it was just the superiority and efficiency in applying the rationalized violence and organized (legitimized) coercion that Europe successfully projected. The 21st century Europeans often forget this ‘inconvenient truth’, the non-Europeans usually never do. The large, self-maintainable, self-assured and secure civilizations (e.g. situated on the Asian landmass) were traditionally less militant and confrontational (and a nation-state ‘demarcational’), but more esoteric and generous, inclusive attentive and flexible. The smaller, insecure civilizations (e.g. situated on a modest and minor, geographically remote and peripheral, natural resources scarce, and climatically exposed continent of Europe) were more focused, obsessively organized and a “goal–oriented” (including the invention of virtue out of necessity – a nation-state). No wonder that European civilization has never ever generated a single religion (although it admittedly doctrinated, ‘clergified’ and headquartered the Middle East-revelled religion of Christianity). On the other hand, no other civilization but the European has ever created a significant, even a relevant political ideology.


For the last ten years I hosted over 100 ambassadors at my university, some 30 from Asia alone. Several of them are currently obtaining very high governmental positions in their respective countries (including the Foreign Minister posts). It would be inappropriate to name them here. However, let me express my sincere gratitude for all the talks and meetings which helped an early ‘fermentation’ of the thesis claim as such. Finally, I would like to name the following personalities for the valuable intellectual encounters and their sometimes opposing but always inspiring and constructive comments in the course of drafting the article:

H.E. Mr. Dato’ Misran KARMAIN, the ASEAN Deputy Secretary General

H.E. Mr. I Gusti Agung Wesaka PUJA, Indonesia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and other IO’s in Vienna

H.E. Ms. Nongnuth PHETCHARATANA, Thai Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the OSCE, UN and other IO’s in Vienna

H.E. Ms. Linglingay F. LACANLALE, the Philippines’ Ambassador to Thailand and the UN ESCAP

H.E. Mr. Khamkheuang BOUNTEUM, Laos’ Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and other IO’s in Vienna

H.E. Mr. Ba Than NGUYEN, Vietnam’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and other IO’s in Vienna

H.E. Mr. Ibrahim DJIKIC, Ambassador and former OSCE Mission Head to Ashgabat

However, the views expressed are solely those of the author himself.


Bajrektarevic, Anis, “Verticalization of Historical Experiences: Europe’s and Asia’s Security Structures – Structural Similarities and Differences”, Crossroads, The Mac Foreign Policy Journal, Skopje (Vol. I Nr. 4) 2007  

Bajrektarevic, Anis, “Institutionalization of Historical Experiences: Europe and Asia – Same Quest, Different Results, Common Futures”, Worldviews and the Future of Human Civilization, (University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, November 2008) Malaysia (2008) 

Bajrektarevic, Anis, “Destiny Shared: Our Common Futures – Human Capital beyond 2020”, the 5th Global Tech Leaders Symposium , Singapore-Shanghai March 2005  (2005)

Bajrektarevic, Anis, “Structural Differences in Security Structures of Europe and Asia  – Possible Conflicting Cause in the SEA Theater”, The 4th Viennese conference on SEA, SEAS Vienna June 2009  (2009)

Duroselle, J.B., “Histoire Diplomatique – Études Politiques, Économiques et Sociales”, Dalloz Printing Paris (first published 1957), 1978

Friedman, George, “The Next 100 Years”, Anchor Books/Random House NY (2009)

Fromm, Erich, “The Art of Loving”, Perennial Classics, (page: 76) (1956)

Hegel, G.W.F., Phänomenologie des Geistes (The Phenomenology of Mind, 1807), Oxford University Press, 1977 (page: 25 VII)

Mahbubani, Kishore, “The New Asian Hemisphere”, Public Affairs, Perseus Books Group (page: 44-45) (2008)

Sagan, S.D. and Waltz, K.N., “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed”,  (page: 112) (2003)


Following the famous saying allegedly spelled by Kissinger: “Europe? Give me a name and a phone number!” (when – back in early 1970s – urged by President Nixon to inform Europeans on the particular US policy action), the author is trying to examine how close is Asia to have its own telephone number.

By contrasting and comparing genesis of multilateral security structures in Europe with those currently existing in Asia, and by listing some of the most pressing security challenges in Asia, this article offers several policy incentives why the largest world’s continent must consider creation of the comprehensive pan-Asian institution. Prevailing security structures in Asia are bilateral and mostly asymmetric while Europe enjoys multilateral, balanced and symmetric setups (American and African continents too). Author goes as far as to claim that irrespective to the impressive economic growth, no Asian century will emerge without creation of such an institution.

Key words:

Security, multilateralism, Asia, geopolitics, geo-economics, preventive diplomacy, (nuclear weapons, border disputes, Council of Europe, OSCE, OAS, AU, EU, NATO, OIC, NAM, ASEAN, APEC, SAARC, GCC, SCO, KEDO, SEATO, BRIC, G-7, G-20, Japan, China, the US, Russia/SU, Alliance of Eastern Conservative Courts, pre-Napoleonic Europe, growth, middle class, nationalism)

[1] Analyzing the Sino-Soviet and post-Soviet-Sino relations tempts me to compare it with the Antic Roman Empire. The monolithic block has entered its fragmentation on a seemingly rhetoric, clerical question – who would give the exclusive interpretation of the holy text: Rome or Constantinople. Clearly, the one who holds the monopoly on the interpretation has the ideological grip, which can easily be translated into a strategic advantage. It was Moscow insisting that the Soviet type of communism was the only true and authentic communism. A great schism put to an end the lasting theological but also geopolitical conflict in the antique Roman theatre. The Sino-Soviet schism culminated with the ideological and geopolitical emancipation of China, especially after the Nixon recognition of Beijing China. Besides the ideological cleavages, the socio-economic and political model of the Roman Empire was heavily contested from the 3rd century onwards. The Western Roman Empire rigidly persisted to any structural change, unable to adapt. It eroded and soon thereafter vanished from the political map. The Eastern Empire successfully reformed and Byzantium endured as a viable socio-economic and political model for another 1,000 years. Feeling the need for an urgent reshape of the declining communist system, both leaders Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping contemplated reforms. Gorbachev eventually fractured the Soviet Union with glasnost and perestroika. Deng managed China successfully. Brave, accurate and important argumentation comes from diplomat and prolific author Kishore Mahbubani (The New Asian Hemisphere, 2008, page 44-45). Mahbubani claims that Gorbachev handed over the Soviet empire and got nothing in return, while Deng understood “the real success of Western strength and power … China did not allow the students protesting in Tiananmen Square”. Consequently, Deng drew a sharp and decisive line to avoid the fate of Russia, and allowed only perestroika. China has survived, even scoring the unprecedented prosperity in only the last two decades. Russia has suffered a steep decline in the aftermath of the loss of its historic empire, including the high suicide and crime rates as well as the severe alcohol problems. Gorbachev himself moved to the US, and one vodka brand labels his name.

[2] The membership might be extended in the future to East Timor and Papua New Guinea.

[3] Symbolic or not, the ASEAN HQ is located less than 80 miles away from the place of the historical, the NAM–precursor, the Asian–African Conference of Bandung 1955.

[4] Comparisons pose an inaccuracy risks as history often finds a way to repeat itself, but optimism finally prevails. Tentatively, we can situate the ASEAN today, where the pre-Maastricht EU was between the Merge Treaty and the Single European Act. 

[5] The acronym was originally coined by Jim O’Neill, a chief global economist of Goldman Sachs, in his 2001 document report: “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”. This document was elaborating on countries which may provide the West with the socially, economically and politically cheap primary commodities and undemanding labor force, finally suggesting to the West to balance such trade by exporting its high-prized final products in return. The paper did not foresee either creation of any BRIC grouping or the nomadic change of venue places of its periodic meetings. O’Neill initially tipped Brazil, Russia, India and China, although at recent meetings South Africa was invited (BRICS) with the pending Indonesia (BRIICS).

[6] Tuvalu, a country composed of low-laying atoll islands, faces an imminent complete loss of state territory. This event would mark a precedent in the theory of intl. law – that one country suffers a complete geographic loss of its territory.   

[7] Detailed environmental impact risk assessments including the no-go zones are available in the CRESTA reports. The CRESTA Organization is powered by the Swiss RE as a consortium of the leading insurance and reinsurance companies.  

[8] The intriguing intellectual debate is currently heating up the western world. Issues are fundamental: Why is science turned into religion? Practiced economy is based on the over 200-years old liberal theory of Adam Smith and over 300-years old philosophy of Hobbes and Locke – basically, frozen and rigidly canonized into a dogmatic exegesis. Scientific debate is replaced by a blind obedience. Why is religion turned into political ideology? Religious texts are misinterpreted and ideologically misused in Europe, ME, Asia, Americas and Africa. Why is the secular or religious ethics turned from the bio-centric comprehension into the anthropocentric environmental ignorance? The resonance of these vital debates is gradually reaching Asian elites. No one can yet predict the range and scope of their responses, internally or externally. One is certain; Asia understood that the global (economic) integration can not be a substitute for any viable development strategy. Globalization, as experienced in Asia and observed elsewhere, did not offer a shortcut to development, even less to social cohesion, environmental needs, domestic employment, educational uplift of the middle class and general public health.    

[9] The Soviet Union was enveloped in secrecy, a political culture, eminent in many large countries, which the Soviets inherited from the Tsarist Russia and further enhanced – a feature that puzzled Americans. It was the US cacophony of open, nearly exhibitionistic policy debates that puzzled Russians – and made both sides unable to predict the moves of the other one. The Soviets were confused by the omnipresence of overt political debate in the US, and the Americans were confused by the absence of any political debate in the USSR. Americans well knew that the real power resided outside the government, in the Soviet Politburo. Still, it was like a black-box – to use a vivid Kissinger allegory, things were coming in and getting out, but nobody figured out what was happening inside. Once the particular decision had been taken, the Soviets implemented it persistently in a heavy-handed and rigid way. Usually, the policy alternation/adjustment was not coming before the personal changes at the top of the SU Politburo – events happening so seldom. On the other hand, the Soviets were confused by the equidistant constellation of the US executive, legislative and judicial branches – for the Soviet taste, too often changed, the chaotic setup of dozens of intelligence and other enforcement agencies, the role of the media and the public, and the influential lobby groups that crosscut the US bipartisanism – all which participated in the decision prep and making process. Even when brokered, the US actions were often altered or replaced in zigzagging turns. The US was unable to grasp where the Communist Party ended and the USSR government started. By the same token, the Soviets were unable to figure out where the corporate America ended and the US government started. Paradoxically enough, the political culture of one prevented it from comprehending and predicting the actions of the other one. What was the logical way for one was absolutely unthinkable and illogical for the other.

[10] As Waltz rightfully concludes: “Conventional weapons put a premium on striking first to gain the initial advantage and set the course of the war. Nuclear weapons eliminate this premium. The initial advantage is insignificant…”… due to the second strike capability of both belligerents. (‘The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed’ by Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N Waltz, 2003, p. 112).

[11] It is assumed that Pakistan has as few as 20 combat/launching ready fission warheads, India is believed to have some 60, and Korea (if any, not more than) 2-3 only. Even China, considered as the senior nuclear state, has not more than 20 ICBM.

[12] Israel as a non-declared nuclear power is believed to have as many as 200 low-powered fission nuclear bombs. A half of it is deliverable by the mid-range missile Jericho II, planes and mobile (hide and relocate) launchers (including the recently delivered, nuclear war-head capable German submarines). Iran successfully tested the precision of its mid-range missile and keeps ambitiously working on the long-range generation of missiles. At the same time, Iran may well have acquired some vital dual-use (so far, peaceful purpose) nuclear technologies. There is a seed of nuclear ambition all over the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey as the least shy ones. 

[13] “The Art of Loving”, Erich Fromm, 1956, page 76. Fromm wrote it at about the time of the Bandung conference.

[14] The so-called OSCE–Asian Partners for Cooperation are: Japan (1992), Korea (1994), Thailand (2000), Afghanistan (2003), Mongolia (2004) and Australia (2009). Within the OSCE quarters, particularly Thailand and Japan enjoy a reputation of being very active.

[15] It is likely to expect that five other ASEAN countries, residentially represented in Vienna, may formalize their relation with OSCE in a due time. The same move could be followed by the Secretariats of both SAARC and ASEAN.

[16] In Europe and in Asia – even when being at the HQ in Jakarta, I am often asked to clarify my (overly) optimistic views on the ASEAN future prospects. The ASEAN as well as the EU simply have no alternative but to survive and turn successful, although currently suffering many deficiencies and being far from optimized multilateral mechanisms. Any alternative to the EU is a grand accommodation of either France or Germany with Russia – meaning a return to Europe of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries – namely, perpetual wars and destructions. Any alternative to the ASEAN would be an absorptive accommodation of particular ASEAN member states to either Japan or China or India – meaning fewer large blocks on a dangerous collision course. Thus, paradoxically enough in cases of both the EU and of ASEAN, it is not (only) the inner capacitation but the external constellations that make me optimistic about their respective success. 



      Islamic Freedom in ASEAN - Murray Hunter

      Multiculturalism is dead in Europe – MENA oil and the (hidden) political price Europe pays for it - Author: Anis Bajrektarevic

      Malaysia: It was Never About the Election It was always about what would happen afterwards - Murray Hunter

      Enriching the Sustainability Paradigm - Murray Hunter

      Does Australia's 2013 Defence White Paper Signal a Strategic Withdraw? - Murray Hunter

      Where is Saudi Arabian Society Heading? - Abdullah Abdul Elah Ali Sallam & Murray Hunter University Malaysia Perlis

      Critical Similarities and Differences in SS of Asia and Europe - Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic

      Searching for an end game in the Korean Crisis - Murray Hunter

      Turks suspicious towards German Government - Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann

      The high Australian Dollar: Whose interests is the Reserve Bank of Australia looking after? - Murray Hunter

      Is Secretary Kerry's trip to China a "face saving" measure? - Murray Hunter

      Asia-Pacific at the Crossroads - The Implications for Australian Strategic Defense Policy - Murray Hunter

      Obama's Korean Peninsula "Game" Strategy seeks to achieve a wide range of objectives in his "Asian Pivot" - Murray Hunter

      Institute for the research of genocide - IGC Letter Regarding Vuk Jeremic Agenda in UN

      Who rules Singapore? - The only true mercantile state in the world - Murray Hunter

      The Thai Deep South: Both Malaysia and Thailand Desperately Seeking Success - Murray Hunter

      The desperate plight of Islamic education in Southern Thailand - Murray Hunte

      Who makes public policy in Malaysia? - Murray Hunter

      MENA Saga and Lady Gaga - (Same dilemma from the MENA) - Anis H. Bajrektarevic

      Australia's National Security Paper: Did it amount to lost opportunities? The policy you have when you don't have a policy - Murray Hunter

      Are "B" Schools in Developing Countries infatuated with 'Western' Management ideas? - Murray Hunter

      The Stages of Economic Development from an Opportunity Perspective: Rostow Extended - Murray Hunter

Who Really Rules Australia?: A tragic tale of the Australian People - Murray Hunter

      Europe: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue - Murray Hunter

      Back to the future: Australia's "Pacific Solution" reprise - Murray Hunter

      Hillary to Julia "You take India and I'll take Pakistan", while an ex-Aussie PM says "Enough is enough with the US" - Murray Hunter

Entrepreneurship and economic growth? South-East Asian governments are developing policy on the misconception that entrepreneurship creates economic growth. - Murray Hunter


Australia "Do as I say, not as I do" - The ongoing RBA bribery scandal - Murray Hunter

      Australia in the "Asian Century" or is it Lost in Asia? - Murray Hunter

      Surprise, surprise: An Islam economy can be innovative - Murray Hunter

      Do Asian Management Paradigms Exist? A look at four theoretical frames - Murray Hunter

      What China wants in Asia: 1975 or 1908 ? – addendum - prof. dr. Anis Bajraktarević

      ASEAN Nations need indigenous innovation to transform their economies but are doing little about it. - Murray Hunter

      From Europe, to the US, Japan, and onto China: The evolution of the automobile - Murray Hunter

      Missed Opportunities for ASEAN if the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) fails to start up in 2015 - Murray Hunter

      Lessons from the Invention of the airplane and the Beginning of the Aviation Era - Murray Hunter

      Elite educators idolize the “ high flying entrepreneurs” while deluded about the realities of entrepreneurship for the masses: - Murray Hunter

      The Arrival of Petroleum, Rockefeller, and the Lessons He taught Us - Murray Hunter - University Malaysia Perlis

      Ethics, Sustainability and the New Realities - Murray Hunter

      The Dominance of “Western” Management Theories in South-East Asian Business Schools: The occidental colonization of the mind. - Murray Hunter

      How feudalism hinders community transformation and economic evolution: Isn’t equal opportunity a basic human right? - Murray Hunter

      On Some of the Misconceptions about Entrepreneurship - Murray Hunter

      Knowledge, Understanding and the God Paradigm - Murray Hunter

      Do Confucian Principled Businesses Exist in Asia? - Murray Hunter

      Samsara and the Organization - Murray Hunter

      Integrating the philosophy of Tawhid – an Islamic approach to organization. - Murray Hunter

      What’s with all the hype – a look at aspirational marketing - Murray Hunter

      Does Intrapreneurship exist in Asia? - Murray Hunter

      One Man, Multiple Inventions: The lessons and legacies of Thomas Edison - Murray Hunter

     People tend to start businesses for the wrong reasons - Murray Hunter

How emotions influence, how we see the world? - Murray Hunter

     How we create new ideas - Murray Hunter

     Where do entrepreneurial opportunities come from? - Murray Hunter

     The five types of thinking we use - Murray Hunter

     Evaluating Entrepreneurial Opportunities: What’s wrong with SWOT? - Murray Hunter

     How motivation really works - Murray Hunter

     The Evolution of Business Strategy - Murray Hunter

     Not all opportunities are the same: A look at the four types of entrepreneurial opportunity - Murray Hunter

     Do we have a creative intelligence? - Murray Hunter

     Imagination may be more important than knowledge: The eight types of imagination we use - Murray Hunter

The environment as a multi-dimensional system: Taking off your rose coloured glasses - Murray Hunter

     Generational Attitudes and Behaviour - Murray Hunter

     Groupthink may still be a hazard to your organization - Murray Hunter

  Perpetual Self conflict: Self awareness as a key to our ethical drive, personal mastery, and perception of entrepreneurial opportunities - Murray Hunter

     The Continuum of Psychotic Organisational Typologies - Murray Hunter

There is no such person as an entrepreneur, just a person who acts entrepreneurially - Murray Hunter

     Go Home, Occupy Movement!!-(The McFB– Was Ist Das?) - prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic

     Diplomatie préventive - Aucun siècle Asiatique sans l’institution pan-Asiatique - prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic

Democide Mass-Murder and the New World Order - Paul Adams

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Maasmechelen Village

Maasmechelen Village


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prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic
prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic

MENA Saga and Lady Gaga - (Same dilemma from the MENA) - Anis H. Bajrektarevic

Go Home, Occupy Movement!! - (The McFB – Was Ist Das?) -
prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic

Diplomatie préventive - Aucun sičcle Asiatique sans l’institution pan-Asiatique - prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic\/span|

prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic

Gunboat Diplomacy in the South China Sea – Chinese strategic mistake -
Anis H. Bajrektarevic

Geopolitics of Quantum Buddhism: Our Pre-Hydrocarbon Tao Future
prof. dr. Anis Bajrektarevic

The Mexico-held G–20 voices its concerns over the situation in the EURO zone - Anis H. Bajrektarevic

What China wants in Asia: 1975 or 1908 ? – addendum - prof. dr. Anis Bajraktarević

‘The exhaustion of Greek political system and a society in flames’ - by Dimitra Karantzen

Maasmechelen Village

Maasmechelen Village


Institute for the research of genocide - IGC Letter Regarding Vuk Jeremic Agenda in UN

Critical Similarities and Differences in SS of Asia and Europe - Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic



From Europe, to the US, Japan, and onto China: The evolution of the automobile - Murray Hunter

ASEAN Nations need indigenous innovation to transform their economies but are doing little about it. - Murray Hunter

Do Asian Management Paradigms Exist? A look at four theoretical frames - Murray Hunter

Surprise, surprise: An Islam economy can be innovative - Murray Hunter

Australia in the "Asian Century" or is it Lost in Asia? - Murray Hunter

Australia "Do as I say, not as I do" - The ongoing RBA bribery scandal - Murray Hunter

Entrepreneurship and economic growth? South-East Asian governments are developing policy on the misconception that entrepreneurship creates economic growth. - Murray Hunter

Hillary to Julia "You take India and I'll take Pakistan", while an ex-Aussie PM says "Enough is enough with the US" - Murray Hunter