Sunday, 30 March 2014

Obama in Saudi Arabia: Will Riyadh really go it alone?

Saudi officials are highly displeased over Washington’s overtures to Iran and reluctance to strike Syria and have threatened to break away from the US sphere, but the monarchy may still see an oil-for-security partnership with the US as the safest policy.

Following his visit to Brussels where US President Barack Obama underscored the common values and principles shared between the United States and its European allies, the American president jetted off to meet another strategic ally. Saudi Arabia, a state that is the antithesis of those very western values that Obama passionately espouses, has been in the US sphere of influence for decades, and its opulent royal family has traditionally maintained close personal ties to American leaders.

Obama’s visit comes in the midst of a policy rift that has emerged between the two allies over Washington’s policies in the Middle East, which threaten to undermine this significant economic and security partnership. The two allies appear to be strange bedfellows at first glance, but when the relationship is examined within the context of a long-standing geopolitical and economic oil-for-security partnership, lofty rhetoric about western values becomes subservient to the harmonious marriage of convenience.

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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at

Monday, 24 March 2014

On Beijing’s bad side: Malaysia faces political costs of MH370 disaster

The puzzling disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has seriously harmed Malaysia’s image abroad, and the government’s handling of the crisis has garnered criticism from domestic opposition parties and key ally, China.

As the search for the missing flight MH370 enters its third week, hopes are high that the large objects spotted in the inaccessible southern Indian Ocean might be related to the aircraft. Enormous resources have gone toward an extensive multinational search and rescue effort, said to be the largest in history, and a plentiful array of theories and speculation have been considered in the absence of hard facts.

The case of MH370 – the longest civil aircraft disappearance in modern history – is unprecedented, and aviation experts will likely be trying to put the pieces together for the next several months, if not years. It should be noted that any government would be ill prepared to deal with such an unusual disaster scenario.

For Malaysia – a country that has rarely faced disasters, terrorism or emergency situations – the shortcomings of the government’s response have been magnified by a lack of experience. Malaysia’s leaders have been thrust into a very unenviable position in the global spotlight, while the contradictory statements of government officials, a delayed release of information, and critical inaction of Malaysia’s military in responding to the aircraft as it flew wildly off course have all compounded the frustrations of the relatives of those onboard.

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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Will Israel’s demand for ‘Jewish state’ acceptance legitimize apartheid?

A lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestine will forever be hypothetical as long as ethnic Arabs are forced to acquiesce to punishing structures of discrimination as part of the Obama administration’s new framework for peace.

In the two decades since the historic, but unrealized, Oslo agreement, the Palestinian leadership under the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has consistently met Israeli demands. The promise that a permanent Palestinian settlement based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 would be founded, and that Israel would withdraw to pre-1967 borders, looks as distant today as it was in 1993.

Palestinians were told to renounce violence and recognize the state of Israel, which effectively amounted to relinquishing Palestinian claims on a full 78 percent of their country, in exchange for Israel merely recognizing the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

The historic and overwhelming compromise of the Palestinian leadership has met all equitable demands that could be imposed on them with regard to recognizing Israel without being reciprocally recognized as an independent Palestine. Aside from being strong-armed into making punishing – even humiliating – diplomatic compromises, the Palestinian people have endured an occupation that displays a callous disregard for human life by killing thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children, in Gaza and the occupied West Bank with near total impunity.

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An edited version of this article appeared in the print edition of the New Straits Times.

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

US hypocrisy over ‘Russian aggression’ in Ukraine

As divisions deepen between the eastern and western regions of Ukraine, the backers of the putsch regime in Kiev portray Russia as a reckless aggressor to absolve their own responsibility for engineering the crisis.

While denunciations of Moscow have streamed out of western capitals in recent days over the standoff in Crimea, it should be understood that the political crisis currently unfolding in Ukraine could have been wholly avoided. In attempts to defuse unrest and maintain legal and societal order, ousted President Yanukovich offered remarkable concessions in his proposal to install opposition leaders in top posts in a reshaped government, which was rejected.

Russia expressed readiness to engage in tripartite negotiations with Ukraine and the European Union with the hope that both Moscow and Brussels could play a positive role in Ukraine’s economic recovery, but the EU was unwilling to accept such a proposal. The February-21 agreement was mediated by Russia, France, Germany and Poland and aimed to end the bloodshed in Kiev by reducing presidential powers and establishing a framework for a national unity government, in addition to electoral reform, constitutional changes, and early elections.

There was clearly no shortage of opportunities to ease the polarization of the Ukrainian state through an inclusive political solution, and yet the opposition failed to uphold its responsibilities, resulting in the ouster of Ukraine’s democratically elected leader to the detriment of the country’s political, economic, and societal stability.

As the new self-appointed authorities in Kiev dictate terms and push legislation through a rump parliament, the reluctance of western capitals to address the clearly dubious legitimacy of the new regime suggests that the US and EU condone what is effectively a coup d’├ętat with no constitutional validity.

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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at