As ASEAN Shifts East, ISIS Follows

July 18, 2017 New Eastern Outlook 

As protracted warfare continues in southern Philippines between government forces and militants linked to the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS), fears that the US is leveraging the terrorist group far beyond Syria and Iraq where it was created are rising. Nations opposing or obstructing US interests beyond America's borders now find themselves likely targets of this covert form of armed coercion.

The United States is increasingly at odds with nations and political orders across Southeast Asia it had once counted among its closest allies in the region. Included is Thailand, a nation of nearly 70 million people, who as of 2014, ousted a US-backed client regime in a bloodless military coup.

Since then, Bangkok has definitively shifted further away from Washington's influence, toward BeijingMoscow, and virtually any other nation-state that can provide Thailand with alternatives to Washington's monopoly on geopolitical, economic, and military influence.

Much of Thailand's military inventory - for decades consisting of US hardware - is now being replaced by a combination of Russian, Chinese, European, and even domestically developed weapon systems. These include orders of Chinese main battle tanks, Russian helicopters, Swedish warplanes, and both armored personnel carries and rocket artillery systems developed by local industry.

More recently, Thailand sealed a significant arms deal with China for the purchase of the Kingdom's first modern submarines. In total, three submarines will be bought, enhancing Thailand's naval capabilities across the region - and more specifically - drawing the navies of Thailand and China closer together in both technical and strategic cooperation.

Following Thailand, is a number of other nations including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even to certain degrees, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Trump's ASEAN Policy Isn't "Confused," It's a Continuation of Decades of Coercion

July 14, 2017 New Eastern Outlook  

In an effort to reinforce public perception that policy changes when a new administration assumes the White House, US and European analysts have made several attempts to push forward narratives describing US President Donald Trump's foreign policy as "confused" or "unclear" in contrast to his predecessor, President Barrack Obama.

However, upon closer examination, from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, US foreign policy has continued, virtually uninterrupted, for decades.

Thailand-based newspaper, The Nation, in an article titled, "Asean under pressure due to uncertain US policy, China’s ambitions: researchers," would illustrate this by claiming:
Asean will be under tremendous pressure as the United States under Donald Trump’s administration tries to be more engaged without a clear strategy while China competes for the grouping’s favour, experts at the Hawaii-based East-West Center said. 

While it was still hard to see what the Trump administration wanted to do regarding the relationship with Asean, it was expected that the US would continue to see Asean as a useful partner, said Denny Roy, senior research fellow at the research and education institute.
The article also cites former US diplomat Raymond Burghardt reporting:
Burghardt, former US ambassador to Vietnam and deputy envoy to the Philippines, said Vietnam needed to take a crucial role in leading Asean to deal with China regarding the South China Sea as the Philippines seemed to be taking a softer stance to please Beijng. 
However, the article reveals that:
Of the 10 members, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim sovereignty over islands, rocks, shoals and reefs in the contentious sea. Indonesia is not a claimant but has some conflicts over fisheries. 

The US, which is not a claimant in the area, has championed freedom of navigation as well as urged Asean to speak with one voice in dealing with China.
Thus, nations allegedly involved in claims in the South China Sea are not actually seeking confrontation with Beijing, while other ASEAN members have categorically abstained from becoming involved altogether. The United States, which has no claims whatsoever in the South China Sea, serves as chief antagonist, pressuring states to seek and expand confrontation with Beijing.

It is a process that heightened drastically amid the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia," including a high-profile court case fought by American lawyers on behalf of the Philippines. Despite a predictably successful verdict being delivered, the Philippine government itself refused to use the ruling as leverage against Beijing and decided instead to open bilateral talks, excluding Washington.

A Pattern of Coercion 

In response, the US has increased pressure on the Philippines both openly and covertly.

Overtly, the US has cancelled weapon shipments to Philippine police forces supposedly on humanitarian grounds regarding the government's current "war on drugs" and allegations of sweeping extrajudicial killings. However justified withholding weapons on such grounds may be, US policy presents a paradox when considering record arms deals being simultaneously made with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two nations notorious for their human rights abuses and two nations currently engaged in brutality both within their borders and beyond them specifically enabled by torrents of US weaponry.

Covertly, terrorism and now even armed combat allegedly linked to the Islamic State has coincidentally made its way to Southeast Asia, targeting not only the Philippines, but also Indonesia and Malaysia for their continued, incremental shift eastward toward Beijing. While US and European media sources insist that terrorist organisations like the Islamic State carry out their atrocities independent of state sponsorship, US intelligence reports and leaked e-mails from among American politicians have revealed otherwise.

Saudi Arabia: What's Really Behind Trump's Hypocrisy?

July 14, 2017 New Eastern Outlook  

US President Donald Trump's support came in no small part from those Americans who believe terrorism, and more specifically, "Islamic" terrorism pose an existential threat to the United States and the wider Western World.

It is curious then that President Trump's first trip abroad was to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the sociocultural source code of the very extremism infecting both the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as well as the wider, global extremism it inspires and fuels everywhere from Southeast Asia, western China and even in the streets of North America and Europe.

Far from a geopolitical gaff, US associations with Saudi Arabia and their mutual link and contribution to (not fighting against) terrorism is increasingly becoming an embarrassing, "open secret."

It was the US Defense Intelligence Agency in a 2012 memo leaked to the public that revealed the creation of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (referred to in the memo as a "Salafist principality") were encouraged by "the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey."

Leaked emails from former US Secretary of State and 2016 US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would include direct references to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in regards to their complicity in arming the Islamic State. More specifically, both nations were accused of, "providing clandestine financial and logistic support" to the Islamic State.

While the US postures to the world as engaged in a global war on terrorism, it is clear that those nations in the Middle East cooperating closest with Washington are in fact those also perpetuating this seemingly endless war. Why?

It turns out that perpetual war is a lucrative affair in both terms of acquiring wealth and power. It is this equation of wealth and power that takes precedence, even at the expense of narrative continuity and political legitimacy.

Dollars, Oil and Arms

Was President Trump's visit to Riyadh to deliver a stern warning regarding its extensive history of state sponsorship of terror? On the contrary. It was to seal an unprecedented weapons deal with Saudi Arabia amounting to an immediate $110 billion, and $350 billion over the next 10 years, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times also revealed the participants in the massive arms deal to include Lockheed Martin.

It was no surprise then that US policy think tanks like the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) encouraged members to submit op-eds praising President Trump's trip to prominent US and European media sources including The Hill.

The Hill's op-ed, "Trump gets it right in Saudi Arabia," for example, was penned by Anthony Cordesman, a CSIS member. His op-ed would conclude by passionately arguing:
This speech is the right beginning — in remarkably well crafted terms — and it deserves bipartisan and expert respect.
It is no surprise considering the sponsors who keep the lights on at CSIS and Mr. Cordesman in a job. The think tank's most prominent corporate donors include Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and, most telling of all, Lockheed Martin. It is also sponsored by Saudi Aramco, the central nexus of the US-Saudi petrodollar network propping up what many think tanks call the US-led "international order."

Terror in Europe - Why Terrorists Are Allowed to Strike

June 9, 2017 New Eastern Outlook 

The London Bridge terror attack saw a repeat of a now familiar narrative in which every suspect involved had been long-known to both British security and intelligence agencies.

The London Telegraph in an article titled, "Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba named: Everything we know about the London Bridge terrorists," would reveal:
The ringleader of the London Bridge massacre never bothered to hide his violent, extremist views. Khuram Butt was so brazen that he openly posed with the black flag of the so-called Islamic State in Regent’s Park in the centre of London for a Channel 4 documentary, entitled The Jihadis Next Door. 
Butt and other extremists linked to the banned terror group al-Muhajiroun were even detained by police for an hour over the stunt in 2015 but were released without being arrested.
The al-Muhajiroun terror group is headed by British-based extremist, Anjem Choudary, who for years helped fill the ranks of militant groups fighting governments the US and UK sought to overthrow in Libya, Syria and beyond. Choudary inexplicably escaped the consequences of his open advocacy and material support for known terrorist organizations for years, with the London Guardian in an article titled, "Anjem Choudary: a hate preacher who spread terror in UK and Europe," going as far as speculating he did so because he was actually an informant or operative working for the British government.

The article would also admit that Butt was under investigation by British intelligence up to the day of the attack:
MI5 and counter-terrorism officers began an investigation into Butt, which remained ongoing even as the 27-year-old launched his terror attack on London Bridge. Butt, who was wearing an Arsenal shirt and a fake bomb strapped to his chest, was shot dead by police on Saturday night.
A second suspect, Rachid Redouane, was repeatedly brought to the attention of police who ignored warnings he was an extremist and a member of the so-called "Islamic State."

The Telegraph reports that a third suspect, Youssef Zaghba, was also known to police:
He was reportedly arrested at Bologna airport in March 2016 trying to get to Syria and was also understood to be on an Italian anti-terror watch list.
The fact that these three suspects evaded capture and were able to carry out their attack despite being known and even monitored actively by British security and intelligence agencies lends even further credibility to the notion that they and others like them work for the British government, not against it.

Unable to Reach Syria, West's Dogs of War Bite Local Population 

Networks like al-Muhajiroun and the extremists they cultivate help fill the ranks of "moderate rebel" groups the US, UK, other European nations including France, as well as regional allies like Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar are arming, funding and providing direct military support for in Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond.

How the Western Media Revises Reality

July 6, 2017 New Eastern Outlook 

The goal of informing an audience is straightforward and employs equally straightforward methods. The goal of manipulating an audience, however, is more complicated. It involves not only manipulating the current facts, but also reaching back and forth through time to revise both distant and recent history.

A recent example drawn from Bloomberg, illustrates how this process is done as the Western media works to target and undermine one of many nations slated for Western-induced political unrest and regime change.

Rewriting Reality Regarding Thailand's Rice Crisis 

In 2011, the US-backed political party of Thaksin Shinawatra bought off voters with promises of unprecedented government handouts, including unheard of subsidies promised to the nation's rice farmers. The predictable result was a glut in rice supply, immense corruption as the Shinawatra government attempted to move the rice as prices crashed, and the incremental collapse of Thailand's long-standing, well-established position in global agricultural markets.

And as the Shinawatra government's reckless vote-buying subsidies destroyed the Thai rice market and undermined confidence in Thailand's trade partners regarding rice quality, Thailand's neighbors continued improving their ability to grow rice at competitive prices and with superior quality.

By the time the Shinawatra government was removed from power after failing to brutally suppress street protests and being swept from power by a bloodless military coup, over a million Thai rice farmers had been left with their rice rotting in government warehouses and without the subsidies promised by Shinawatra's political party.

The military-led government that replaced Shinawatra would be tasked with not only paying the farmers their promised subsidies, but to also rebuild Thailand's rice industry. This would include initiatives to help farmers diversify their economic activities with the demand for Thai rice having been significantly reduced between 2011-2014.

Despite this reality, Bloomberg in its recent article decide to start its coverage of the crisis in 2014, blaming the damage to Thailand's rice crisis on the weather rather than economic mismanagement and corruption beginning under Shinawatra in 2011.

ISIS "Coincidentally" Appears Along China's One Belt, One Road

July 1, 2017 New Eastern Outlook 

Two Chinese teachers based in Pakistan's southwest province of Baluchistan were reportedly abducted and murdered by militants from the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (ISIS).

CNN, in an article titled, "'Grave concern' over Chinese teachers reportedly killed by ISIS in Pakistan," would attempt to portray the act of terrorism as a random strike aimed at China's expanding economic activity abroad.

In reality, the terror attack was very precise in terms of location and purpose, and fits into a larger pattern of violence and political instability that has plagued Pakistan's Baluchistan province and China's ambitions there for years.

US Using Proxies to Disrupt China-Pakistan Economic Corridor 

Baluchistan, and more specifically, the port city of Gwadar, serve as the central nexus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is a complex and expanding system of rail, roads, ports, and other infrastructure projects built jointly with the Pakistani government to facilitate regional economic growth - and an integral component of the much larger One Belt, One Road initiative.

Disrupting China's economic lifelines to the rest of the world is an open objective of US policymakers. A paper published in 2006 by the Strategic Studies Institute titled, “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral.” identified Gwadar by name as one of several components of China's "String of Pearls."

The report states explicitly in regards to a possible "hard approach" toward Beijing that:
There are no guarantees that China will respond favorably to any U.S. strategy, and prudence may suggest to “prepare for the worst” and that it is “better to be safe than sorry.” Is it perhaps better to take a hard line towards China and contain it while it is still relatively weak? Is now the time to keep China down before she can make a bid for regional hegemony? Foreign policy realists, citing history and political theory, argue that inevitably China will challenge American primacy and that it is a question of “when” and not “if” the U.S.-China relationship will become adversarial or worse.
What better way to contain China's regional ambitions than to mire economic development in places like Baluchistan with armed militancy, or obstruct it altogether with a US-backed independence movement in the province?

US policymakers have noted just that. In a 2012 paper published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace titled, "Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism" (PDF), it would be stated unequivocally that (emphasis added):
If Baluchistan were to become independent, would Pakistan be able to withstand another dismemberment—thirty-four years have passed since the secession of Bangladesh—and what effect would that have on regional stability? Pakistan would lose a major part of its natural resources and would become more dependent on the Middle East for its energy supplies. Although Baluchistan’s resources are currently underexploited and benefit only the non-Baluch provinces, especially Punjab, these resources could undoubtedly contribute to the development of an independent Baluchistan. 
Baluchistan’s independence would also dash Islamabad’s hopes for the Gwadar port and other related projects. Any chance that Pakistan would become more attractive to the rest of the world would be lost.
Not only would it be Pakistan's loss regarding the Gwadar port, it would be China's loss as well.

Thai-Russian Cooperation Seeks Thai Alternatives to Facebook, Google

June 24, 2017 New Eastern Outlook 

Russian and Thai telecom interests have begun preliminary discussions toward creating local alternatives to social network and Internet search giants Facebook and Google in Thailand. The move, if successful, would represent another step toward breaking Facebook and Google's monopoly over international information space and set further precedent for nation-states to take responsibility for their own respective information space.  

Thailand's The Nation would report in an article titled, "Russia keen to offer network, search services," that:
Russia's Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications has proposed offering social network and search engine services in Thailand based on Russian platforms. 

Takorn Tantasith, the secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecom-comunications Commission, said this week that the Russian ministry proposed that both countries seek ways to set up a holding firm in Thailand to provide the services here, with the partners to share revenue from these services. 

The Russian ministry floated the idea to the NBTC on Tuesday when it and the NBTC signed an agreement in Moscow to collaborate on telecom services and cybersecurity.
The article notes that Russia already has two successful local alternatives to Facebook and Google, Vkontakte (VK) and Yandex respectively.

A Matter of National Security 

The move by Russia and Thailand follow similar moves made by Vietnam to likewise secure its own information space amid increased US meddling vectored through US-based tech giants like Facebook and Google.

Both tech giants have a long and sordid history of collusion with the US State Department, the danger of which is best illustrated in both companies' role in triggering and fuelling the so-called Arab Spring.