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Political Melodrama of Pakistan

Muhammad Zikriya

We all live in a free independent state that enjoys complete autonomy in its affairs. But the idea behind the liberation of Pakistan was not simply to provide a piece of land, as the sub-continent was doing the same. The idea was to provide a sense of security, to have religious autonomy, to provide a place which we could call home and not a house alone, a place which subdued all forms of indifferences. As this country was not made in a day and was certainly not presented to us on a silver platter. Thousands had to sacrifice in order to give us what we have today.

But with time, we lost our identity somewhere down the road as the struggle for power ensued, as would in any power vacuum state of affairs. The fact that the common man lost his value as a human being, marked the establishment of a feudal political system. That benefits the rich and establishes laws for the poor. Democracy became ‘Oligarchy’, and shortly after followed by ‘Dictatorship’. It was then, those very oligarchs retaliated against the dictator to regain what they had lost. Convincing the people that it was in their best interest if they did the same and like herds of sheep we followed and when things fell apart. It was the honourable People of Pakistan that suffered.

Once everything settled down and the leader assumed office. It became his or her children’s birthright and they completely forgot what the people had done for them. As can be seen in many instances when political leaders were met with harsh words when they visited their elected areas for the first time after three years of assuming office.

A new form of melodrama was orchestrated by PTI, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf back in 2014 under the name of “Azadi March”. When they set the trend for a new form of protest. What they had sown is now being reaped in the form of PDM, Pakistan Democratic Movement.

It is but a mere dangerous trend that has been set into motion, that if you lose the elections, the elections have been rigged. For the next five years, the loser would protest and the opposition retaliates in any way possible to compensate the loser itself. Instead of engaging in meaningful debate in the House of Parliament, as is their sacred duty.

Our leaders have lost our Quaid’s vision and cannot differentiate between black and white. The blame game is on, and talks of breaching people’s mandate run high. But we beg to ask a few questions from our leaders, what if one of the members of PDM assumed office, would they still be supported by their allied parties, or would the calls change back to “Imran, Zardari Bhai Bhai”, Imran and Zardari are brothers. Or would they remain intact? The odds of which are dire.

But the question remains that why does the retaliating party always assume that they have the answer to all the issues of Pakistan? Why can they not support each other in matters of state? Are they not breaching their followers vote by protesting day and night across the country in hopes of assuming office? While their constituencies lay in ruins and people are dying every day. Does PPP not see the dire and inhumane conditions in which the people of Tharparkar are living? Does PML-N not see the severe circumstances of lower Punjab? Does PTI not take into account the massive irregularities in the construction of the BRT structure? What they do not realize is that they are exploiting the people’s mandate for their gains.

While neither PTI nor PDM realise the fact that they both are destroying whatever they once promised their people. Imran Khan, Maryam Nawaz, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have nothing to lose apart from their seat on the Prime Minister’s table. They are not the ones who see their children being brought back in coffins, they do not have to see the life fade away from their eyes and they sit helplessly.

It is a race of power and they do not think of us people as anything but pawns in their mere game that they think we cannot hope to comprehend. For how long would this drama continue and for how long would the people have to suffer. But history has taught us, with every rise there is a fall and like every other thing, they will realise this sooner or later.

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How will the future of US foreign policy and economic engagement affect Turkey?

Matthew Bryza

The foundation of the US-Turkey partnership is centered on the NATO alliance. At times, US President Donald Trump has expressed skepticism about NATO, but at the same time his rhetoric has been credited by some for encouraging member states to meet their obligations to increase defense spending. Former Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, represents a much more traditional US approach to NATO. At a time of rising challenges from powers such as Russia and China, the 2020 US presidential election offers two truly contrasting visions for the future of US engagement in the world. The Trump administration has preferred to pursue its foreign policy goals through bilateral relationships based on more narrowly defined national interests, while Vice President Biden has suggested a return to greater multilateralism and more emphasis on values.

We asked three experts to share their thoughts on which policy would best fit Turkey’s perspective and interests, how a Biden administration would affect US foreign policy towards the Middle East as well as in the Mediterranean, and whether the United States can play a mediating role between Turkey and Israel. Additionally, we asked our contributors their thoughts on the prospects of increased economic engagement between the United States and Turkey on trade and investment, including energy, as well as technology in the case of four more years of President Trump versus a Biden administration, and whether is there any potential for practical progress towards the $100 billion bilateral trade goal or a free trade agreement.

Biden’s multilateralism would be to Turkey’s benefit, but economic engagement may stall: Over the long term and strategically, a return to greater multilateralism and more emphasis on values by the United States would serve Turkish interests.

Turkey is the only secular and democratically-governed Muslim-majority country with a vibrant free market economy that enjoys decades-old ties to all western-oriented institutions including NATO. Turkey’s armed forces are the second-largest NATO military force with recent combat experience and an impressive historical record in terms of multilateral peace and stability engagements in conflict zones ranging from Bosnia and Somalia to Kosovo and Afghanistan.

The unique added value of Turkey’s membership in such institutions will be more recognized in a multilateral world order and it will be easier to leverage the cultural and religious diversity that Turkey brings to the table in a value-based environment rather than one that is solely interest-based and focused on bilateral relations. The core fundamentals of US foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle East or even Turkey will not change if Biden is elected in November. Biden personally knows all the actors in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration. As vice president, Biden took the lead in representing the United States after the Gülenist coup attempt in July 2016.

Like President Erdogan, Biden is a pragmatic politician. I believe they would get along much better than most analysts seem to believe. The only real difference will be that Biden will defer more to the opinion of career professionals within key institutions such as the State Department and the Pentagon. The latter could produce a tougher stance towards Turkey on issues such as the S-400 defense system, but over the long run, the basic fundamentals would not change.

Similarly, a Biden administration will not make drastic changes in US policy towards Israel and the larger Middle East and is also likely to continue supporting the recent rapprochement between the Gulf countries and Israel. I would expect Biden to try and mediate between Turkey and Israel. As to the Eastern Mediterranean disputes including Libya, I strongly believe a Biden administration will take a similar stance and favor meditation.

However, Biden’s Syria policy and his approach to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) might be the biggest risk for Turkey if he assumes the presidency in 2021. I would strongly urge Biden and his key staff to immediately disengage the United States from Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in Syria. There is so much potential on the economic front that officials on both sides are talking about quadrupling the existing trade flow. As a member of the Executive Board of TAIK (The US-Turkish Business Council), I am very encouraged by recent bilateral economic developments and trends.

For example, liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from the United States have almost tripled in the last few years. Turkey is still buying more LNG from other countries, but this is where political support can weigh in.

If decision-makers can solve the disagreements and focus on more prosperity instead of more conflict, there is no reason why Turkey would not prefer US products. Similarly, Turkish products are known for being “Chinese prices at German quality.”

At a time that many US importers are looking for alternatives to China, why not leverage Turkey’s capabilities or team up to compete with China in Africa? It is however very difficult to build on such dynamics while the US Congress is threatening sanctions and newspapers are filled with negative stories about Turkey. We must collectively invest in stability and move forward.

From an economic perspective, four more years of Trump would probably be welcomed by business communities because there is substantial existing outreach on this front that might hit a wall if the US administration changes. However, no matter who comes to power in November, the challenges of the pandemic is going to make it quite hard for any administration to make desired level of progress towards 100 billion bilateral trade goal or a free trade agreement in at least near future.

Namik Tan is the former ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the United States. A Biden presidency could reset an adrift Turkey

The Trump administration not only pursued a foreign policy of more narrowly defined national interests, but also made its policymaking more transactional. A president who has neglected values, which previously sat at the heart of the transatlantic alliance, did not help an already struggling NATO in a post-Cold War era. This focus on national interests played into the hands of the Turkish government, which preferred to discredit NATO and its leading members, especially following the coup attempt of July 2016. The Turkish government implied that the allies were supporting the coup plotters The Trump administration’s opposition to multilateralism coupled with the Erdogan government’s anti-Western populist discourse paved the way for Ankara to further drift away from the NATO framework. Although the growing relationship between Ankara and Moscow is highly transactional and dependent on Turkey’s security concerns in Syria, the intensification of the defense cooperation has gone beyond short-term interests.

A Turkey who has lost both its NATO anchor and the potential of full EU membership (given the lack of appetite on both sides), would lose a great deal of its strategic value in its region. Turkey can never fully realize its potential if democratic values keep being degraded. Likewise, in the 21st century NATO can never fully realize its potential as a military alliance if it cannot connect with civil society. For Turkey to stay on the democratic path, its NATO membership must play a role. That is why Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s vision could be helpful to resetting Ankara’s perspective in the next decade.

The United States has always had the potential to play a mediating role between Turkey and Israel. Former President Barack Obama’s intervention in April 2013 to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pick up the phone and apologize to Erdogan for the killing of Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara flotilla is a perfect example.

We know that the United States was always a hidden actor in the talks that eventually led to a rapprochement between the two co-untries in 2016. However, the Trump administration’s imprudent approach of empowering Israel and its decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem led to a loss of confidence in Turkey. US foreign policy will need to undergo a major shift if Washington is to regain its balancing role in the region.

There is a similar kind of distrust in Ankara regarding Washington’s relations with the Gulf countries, since the Trump administration openly took the side of Saudi Arabia and UAE on various occasions. Although Turkey-US trade has real potential, announcing a $100 billion bilateral trade goal was a tactic to divert attention from the mounting problems between the two countries.

When President Erdogan was finally invited to Washington in November 2019 to meet President Trump, there was a desperate need for a positive item on the agenda given the outcry in the United States against Ankara’s ‘Operation Peace Spring’ in Syria. The $100 billion bilateral trade goal or a free trade agreement made decent talking points in a press conference which made the contention points between Ankara and Washington very visible, despite the efforts of Turkish spin doctors to highlight only the trade points.

A real increased economic engagement between Turkey and United States will not be possible if Ankara keeps strengthening its defense cooperation with Russian entities which are already sanctioned by the US Treasury. Penalties for violating sanctions can be severe for Americans. More importantly, the opaque economic policies of Ankara, who has a reputation of meddling with state tenders, on top of the increased volatility of Turkish markets, make it hard for American investors to show interest in doing business in Turkey. Turkey, more than Trump or Biden, must promote itself as a reliable business partner. Cansu Çamlibel is the Editor-in-Chief of independent online newspaper Duvar English and former Washington correspondent for the daily Hürriyet.

Turkey and NATO: With just a few days before the US presidential election, Turkey’s relations with the United States, France, and Greece are as tense as at any time since the 1974 Cyprus crisis. A change in the US president is unlikely to reverse this negative trajectory and could in fact lead to even greater discord and misunderstanding.

Ankara believes its assertion of its maritime and diplomatic rights is based on solid legal ground and therefore merits its Allies’ support. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish Government argues the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) calls for an “equitable” resolution of conflicting maritime boundary claims between two neighboring states, while Greece focuses instead on another provision of UNCLOS that Ankara believe would limit Turkey’s exclusive economic zone severely and unreasonably. In Libya, Turkey argues it is the only country offering decisive military support to the North African country’s UN-recognized government. In Syria, Turkey lauds itself as the only NATO member who was willing to confront both Russia and the Assad regime militarily and force them to end their bombing of civilians in Idlib Province, which are widely viewed as war crimes. And in Azerbaijan, Ankara maintains that its military support is legally justified because it is helping to end the occupation of Azerbaijani territory and restore Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in keeping with four United Nations Security Council Resoluti-ons dating back to 1993.

Other actions by Ankara, however, have made it difficult for some of its key NATO Allies to appreciate these legal arguments.

The purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system has boxed the US president into a legal corner: The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) requires sanctions against Turkey in response to this purchase. President Trump has simply ignored this law until now. If Trump is reelected, it is unclear how long he will be able to resist growing political pressure in the US Senate to adhere to the law. On the other hand, if Joseph Biden is elected, he will almost certainly sanction Turkey under CAATSA, and early in his administration, thereby aggravating bilateral tensions even further.

Indeed, a Biden administration will probably take a more confrontational approach toward Turkey on several other issues. In contrast to President Trump, who has declared his admiration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, candidate Biden stated in late 2019 that Erdogan should be removed from office. Biden has also attacked Trump recently for “coddling” Turkey in the context of Turkey’s maritime boundary disputes with Greece and Cyprus and the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

After a rough start with Ankara, a President Biden can be expected eventually to embrace the strategic importance of strong relations between Turkey and the rest of NATO. After all, Biden is a foreign policy traditionalist, which means he places NATO at the center of US national security planning. Black Sea security could be a key area of focus for a Biden administration. As vice president, Biden led the US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He should therefore appreciate the recent agreement between Turkey and Ukraine on cooperation between their defense industries, which focuses on naval vessels, military aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Turkey is also among the staunchest supporters of Georgia’s membership in NATO, which should appeal to a President Biden.

And if Trump is reelected, he will most likely continue looking for ways to improve relations with the country led by Erdogan, including by trying to fulfil both leaders’ aspirations to increase bilateral trade to $100 billion, (a tall order outside exports of liquified natural gas exports from the United States to Turkey).

Matthew Bryza is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. He served as a US diplomat for over two decades, including as US ambassador to Azerbaijan and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

Dynamics driving US foreign policy unlikely to drastically change: I would caution against any presumption that a Biden administration would be able, even if it were strongly predisposed, to return to something like the status quo ante Trump with respect to America’s role in the world.

For better or worse, the pre-Trump international order, in my view, is irretrievably disrupted. More to the point, this is very much as President Trump and about half of the American electorate intended for him to accomplish—to the limited extent that foreign policy was a salient factor in the 2016 elections or will prove to be in 2020. Even if Biden resoundingly defeats President Trump at the polls, it’s not at all clear to me that a Biden administration could confidently interpret this as a clear and well-defined popular “mandate” with respect to America’s global interests and role, and how best to pursue them. Consistent with US tradition even in “normal” times, neither candidate has made foreign policy issues—with the exceptions of some relatively minor and relatively transient or narrow-constituency issues—major planks in their campaigns.

It’s safe to suppose that a Biden administration broadly would adopt a more obviously collaborative, traditional US “internationalist” approach and foreign policy goals. But any US administration both leads and responds to US popular opinion regarding engagement in world affairs. I believe that President Trump has both pressed and reflected historic shifts in US popular outlooks on the costs, benefits, requirements, and modalities of US leadership and engagement with the world.

Moreover, quite apart from the traditionally leading role of the executive branch in US foreign policy, Turkey is one of the handful of countries that has enjoyed sustained interest from the US Congress—usually of a critical nature. Hence Turkish diplomats are always among the most energetic and expert in engaging with the Congress. That necessity for skillful Turkish engagement with the US Government and people through the Congress as well as the administration is unlikely to change, regardless which party prevails in the coming elections.

I believe that economic engagement between the two countries will continue to run its natural course based more on economic factors and regional developments than on any particular policy choices of either a Trump or Biden administration. I suspect that a historical analysis would indicate that both (traditional) Republican and Democratic administrations have approximately equally promoted foreign trade, investment, and security cooperation as a global principle, and especially with Turkey as a formal treaty ally and one of the top twenty world economies. Even the free-est of American “free traders” administrations have negotiated very elaborate measures to protect US industries, so US “free trade” agreements remain rare, and few would expect them to proliferate in future under either Republican or Democratic administrations.

Likewise, administrations of each party have presided over regrettable (and usually regretted) periods of extreme tension with Turkey. Since at least the time of Presidents Johnson and Ford, neither party can claim a monopoly on the episodic US resort to imposing or threatening to impose various forms of sanctions, whether for specific expressed economic or regional security policy purposes.

Francis J. Ricciardone is president of the American University in Cairo and former US Ambassador to Egypt and Turkey.

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Afghanistan today

Iqbal Khan

More than one prophesies are being aired about the future prospects of Afghan peace process. Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace has confirmed the predictions by many other individual thin tanks and individual strategists that there had been no progress in Doha Talks. Taliban have effectively time out Donald Trump. And they are looking forward for a fresh start with Joe Biden.

There have also been suggestions about a breakthrough in the talks, reporting that both sides have agreed to include the US-Taliban agreement, UN endorsements for the Afghan peace process, commitments of the negotiating teams and the will of the Afghan people as the foundational base for upcoming negotiations.

Being beneficiary of ongoing chaos in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani’s dispensation was never in favour of engaging Taliban and it made sure that the process does not move ahead on the pretext that “the Taliban’s demand are against Afghanistan’s Constitution”. Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters on November 25 that the Taliban’s demand is “against the Constitution.” Sediqqi said peace is a priority for President Ghani and that the Taliban should join the peace process as it is supported by the international community. He added that the deadlock in the talks has not broken so far; “Afghan Republic’s negotiating team is trying to break any deadlock and keep the Taliban at the table of negotiations.”

International community continues to show concern about the high level of violence in the country resulting into snowballing of civilian casualties. Nearly 50 percent spike in violence has been reported amid peace talks, causing around 6,000 civilian casualties during this year. As reported by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its quarterly report to the US Congress on November 5, attacks, both, against Afghan forces and civilians were 50 percent higher in the three months towards the end of September when compared to the previous quarter. The watchdog reported 2,561 civilian casualties this quarter, including 876 deaths, up by 43 percent from the April to June period.

An immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan is the most sought after item in the peace process. Reportedly, Afghan chief negotiator Mohammad Massoom Stanikzai and presidential peace advisor Salam Rahimi made an unannounced trip to Kabul, seeking President Ghani’s approval for the agreed formulation.

The Taliban and the Afghan government have been engaged in talks in Doha, since September. The discussions quickly became bogged down by disputes on the agenda, the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations.

Dozens of foreign nations, international institutions and the European Union took part at a virtual global conference hosted from Geneva. Donor fatigue was evident during the November 24 UN hosted donor conference.

Though donors pledged billions to Afghanistan, most of them also attached strings. Many countries imposed restrictions over pledged funds, like, progress in talks between the Taliban and the government, among others. United States and Germany, introduced restrictions on future funding and some committed for just the next year – departing from four-year pledges made in the past. “We’re pleased to pledge today $300m …with the remaining $300m available as we review progress in the peace process,” US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said in a virtual address to the conference.

The US has been contributing roughly $800m a year in civilian aid in recent years. Hale said “significant progress” had recently been made, including a tentative agreement on ground rules that could allow negotiators to proceed to the next stage of forming an agenda, however, an increased level of violence in the country seems to depict a different reality in terms of progress. Germany pledged 430 million euros ($511m) in 2021 and signalled it would keep contributing until 2024 but also stressed that progress towards ending almost 20 years of war was needed.

The European Union pledged 1.2 billion euros ($1.43b) over four years, but emphasised aid was conditional. Norway will keep aid to Afghanistan at around NOK 650 million in 2021, and continue at same until 2024. However, Norway could reduce the aid if the peace talks and anti-corruption efforts fail. “Our support and further levels (of support) will be assessed on the basis of the authorities’ efforts against corruption,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide (H) said. She added that satisfactory progress in the peace process is also important.

“Our assistance will support the Afghan authorities’ goals of democracy, sustainable development and modernization, help lift people out of poverty, improve governance, reduce corruption, and improve the daily lives of Afghans,” EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said.

Uncertainty over whether the compromises needed for peace might lead to backsliding on human and women’s rights has also made some countries wary about making long-term commitments to an Afghan administration, which needs foreign money to cover about three-quarters of its spending. “Afghanistan’s future trajectory must preserve the democratic and human rights gains since 2001, most notably as regards to women and children’s rights,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. “Any attempt to restore an Islamic emirate would have an impact on our political and financial engagement,” he added. The UK said it would pledge $227m in annual civilian and food aid. Curbing corruption was another wish on the part of countries considering donations.

Afghanistan is likely to receive 15 to 20 percent less funding than the roughly $15.2b pledged at the last conference in Brussels in 2016 due to uncertainties over the peace process and Covid-19. President Ashraf Ghani has estimated that aid covers about 75 percent of the country’s public spending.

Breshna Omarkhel has reported for VOA that former NATO commander expects Joe Biden Administration to Keep Troops in Afghanistan James Stavridis, retired US Navy admiral and former military commander of NATO, said the US and its allies should keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, for the foreseeable future to pressure the Taliban into a peace agreement with the Afghan government.

He said, “My sense is the international community will in fact continue to support Afghanistan, really, for the indefinite future. I certainly believe the United States, in particular, with a Biden administration coming in, will be very likely to want to conclude a successful peace agreement.

I think the entire international community wants that. So, the level of aid may be reduced a bit, but I think as a general proposition, the support will continue, frankly, because we are getting closer and closer to a peace agreement, inshallah (God willing)”.

Two narratives: all is well in Afghanistan, as well as, it’s as bad as in 2001 are being kept afloat to either continue with Trump’s policy of complete withdrawal of troops, or to switch over to Biden’s concept of keeping around 10,000 boys in Afghanistan.

Writer is a freelance c-olumnist; e-mail:

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Can Trump change a key census count? Supreme Court hears his claim

Nina Totenberg

Even as the Trump administration is heading out the door, President Trump is trying to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial census. If he succeeds, it will be the first time unauthorized immigrants will not be counted for purposes of drawing new congressional districts.

Three lower courts have ruled unanimously that the president’s action violates either the Constitution, the federal census statute, or both. On Monday the US Supreme Court hears arguments in one of those cases — from New York.

The start of the US census: The United States was the first country to put a mandatory national population count into its Constitution. The plan was to count every person living in the newly created United States of America, and to use that count to allocate how many votes each state would get in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

The census was to be a reflection of “We the People” in the preamble to the Constitution, according to Margo Anderson, perhaps the leading census historian in the country, and author of The American Census: A Social History. She says that when the Founding Fathers convened for the Constitutional Convention, the question was, “How do we measure ‘the People?’… Should we do voters? Should we do property owners? Should we do this? Should we do that? And they decided … look, let’s count everybody and be done with it.”

The Constitution’s “Great Compromise” was that every state would receive two senators, no matter what the state’s population, and the House of Representatives and Electoral College would be apportioned to represent the “whole number of persons” counted in the census of each state.

There were only two exceptions: Native Americans living on tribal lands, who did not pay taxes to the US government, were deemed part of a different sovereign nation; and the enslaved population in the South was counted but each slave counted only as three-fifths of a person. That changed after the Civil War when the Fourteenth Amendment counted the former slaves as whole persons, too.

In fact the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment firmly rejected attempts to change the apportionment base from a whole population count to a count based on voting eligibility or citizenship. As Rep. James Blaine of Maine said at the time, “Women, children, and other non-voting classes” may have “as vital an interest in the legislation of the country” as those who actually have the right to vote. The result has been that, as census historian Ande-rson observes, no census h-as ever been conducted that did not aim to count everyone on US soil, regardless of immigration status. Until now.

Trump tries to change the census: In July Trump issued a memorandum ordering the Census Bureau to send him two sets of numbers. The first set was for the whole number of persons in each state. And the second set — for apportionment of the number of seats in each state — was to subtract the number of undocumented immigrants from the total count.

As the memorandum candidly admitted, that might mean that California, for instance, would lose two congressional seats. Trump’s stated aim was to “not reward” states where large numbers of undocumented immigrants live.

“That’s illegal,” says the ACLU’s Dale Ho, who represents a coalition of immigrant-rights groups. It’s illegal, he maintains, “because the Constitution and federal statutes require the House to be divvied up according to the census,” including everyone in the total population.

The ACLU and 22 states, led by New York, are challenging the president’s order. “The decision that the Founders made, [and] that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment made, was that states get representation in Congress based on the number of people that they are responsible for and have to represent,” Ho says. “And it doesn’t matter whether those people are voters or not, if they’re citizens or not, or what their immigration status is or not.”

And he adds that one reason for linking apportionment to the census was to set an objective standard and prevent political manipulation of the process of determining how many congressional seats are allocated for each state. The Trump administration, however, contends that under the federal law governing the census the president has “unfettered discretion as to what data will be used” when it comes to who counts for purposes of apportionment.

States’ stakes: Interestingly, the usual red-state coalition that in other cases has supported the administration in the Supreme Court is not present in this case. Texas, Florida, Arizona and other Republican-dominated states that usually support the Trump administration’s legal positions are missing in action. That is because they might well lose congressional seats and Electoral College votes if Trump prevails.

So far the president has lost his argument in three lower courts, with both Democratic and Republi-can-appointed judges ruling against him unanimously. Just 10 states — accou-nting for a mere 52 congre-ssional seats and Electoral College votes — are siding with the administration. Among them is Alabama, which would likely lose a seat if the usual census procedures are followed.

Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour Jr. echoes some of the themes in the Trump administration’s argument. He maintains that the Constitution’s mandate to count the “whole number of persons” for the census actually meant counting “inhabitants.” And he argues that the Founding Fathers would have viewed inhabitants as people who have permission from the sovereign to be in the US, and who have publicly stated they intend to remain here.

“Our argument is that illegal aliens do not meet either of those requirements,” says LaCour. “They are not here by permission of the federal government … and therefore they are not inhabitants, as the Framers would have understood it when deciding to divide up federal power among the states.”

Alabama in fact goes further than the Trump Administration, contending, in essence that every previous census has been unconstitutional because they all counted individuals not authorized to be in the US. LaCour notes that the concept of illegal immigration did not really exist when the Constitution was written. That is because the Unites States very much wanted people to immigrate back then.

Still, as census historians note, even after the first law was passed restricting immigration in 1875, and after the Chinese exclusion laws were passed, the census still continued to count everyone, whether here legally or not, for purposes of apportioning congressional districts.

The only hiccough in the census system came in 1920 when a gridlocked Congress refused to reapportion itself, leaving the seats apportioned as they were in 1910. As a result of that stalemate, Congress in 1929 passed a law creating an automatic reapportionment system, based on a census count of the “whole number of persons” in each state; it called for those numbers to be reported to the president, who in turn would, according to the numbers, allocate the number of congressional seats in each state, and within a week of a new Congress convening, report those numbers to the clerk of the House of Representatives for certification.

Pandemic affects census count timeline

And that is where Monday’s case runs into some extra wrinkles. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Census Bureau has already indicated it likely will not be able to meet the usual Dec. 31 deadline for reporting the new state population figures to the president.

Census workers have simply not been able to make as many visits to homes that have not returned census forms. Because the Census Bureau’s major work was to occur just when the pandemic led to lockdowns and because of last-minute changes by the Trump administration the bureau has not had enough time to finish processing and checking its figures. Earliest estimates for completing the job are for the end of January.

And that’s just for the regular census tabulations. But the bureau has not been able come up with a way to ascertain with any precision what portion of those people living in each state are not there legally. Even if the Census Bureau is able to meet the usual Dec. 31 deadline, which seems increasingly unlikely, Trump, by law, has just 10 days to carry out what is termed his “ministerial duty” to convey to Congress how many congressional seats each state is supposed to get.

Bottom line: Trump may not be able to send reliable figures to the House for certification before he leaves office. And if he does send figures that do not include all residents counted by the census, the House might well refuse to certify those figures, leaving the completion of the census and the task of assigning the number of congressional seats based on total population in each state to the Biden administration.

Courtesy: NPR

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Russia loses patience with Belarus dictator Lukashenka

Vladislav Davidzon

Russian Foreign M-inister Sergei La-vrov arrived in Mi-nsk on November 26 amid much pomp and ceremony for a face-to-face meeting with embattled Belar-us dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Moscow is one of Lukashenka’s few remaining geopolitical allies but this was not to be a friendly visit. Indeed, Lavrov appears to have flown to Belarus with the express intent of pushing for a managed transition of the country’s leadership.

Publicly, at least, Lavrov offered a soothing confirmation of Russia’s continued support. He also took the opportunity to somewhat cynically accuse the West of meddling in Belarus’s internal affairs. However, Lavrov’s main message was aimed not at Warsaw, Washington DC, or Vilnius, but at Lukashenka himself. During a very tense televised meeting, Lavrov proceeded to lecture the Minsk strongman in a manner that underlined the vastly unequal power dynamic between the two men.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Lavrov’s aim was to lay out a political ultimatum on behalf of an increasingly impatient Kremlin. The exact terms of this ultimatum still remain undisclosed, but they appear to be based on a deal struck during Lukashenka’s September 2020 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russian Black Sea resort city Sochi.

Lavrov reminded Lukashenka that the Russian side is now waiting for him to implement the agreements reached in Sochi. He specifically referenced reform of the Belarusian Constitution, a process that would curb the power of the Belarusian presidency. These constitutional changes are widely seen as an opportunity for Russia to engineer a Kremlin-friendly transition of power in Minsk. It is a transition that Moscow has desired for a very long time.

The political theater of Lavrov’s visit created the distinct impression that Russia recognizes the fundamental weakness of Lukashenka’s present position and does not plan on propping him up indefinitely. Instead, Moscow is attempting to find a solution that will calm the current crisis without threatening Russia’s geopolitical interests in the country. Moscow well understands the adage that “things must change to stay the same.”

When pro-democracy protests first broke out in Belarus at the start of August 2020 following a flawed presidential election, Russia intervened promptly to prevent the regime from collapse. The Kremlin provided Lukashenka with teams of television propagandists as well as a series of financial lifelines, while Putin also publicly declared his readiness to deploy security forces if the situation escalated further.

This Russian intervention in Belarus was not intended as a show of support for Lukashenka himself. Instead, it was driven by a deep-seated Russian fear of pro-democracy uprisings in the post-Soviet neighborhood, what political scientists refer to as “democratic contagion.”

The collapse of the Soviet Empire remains the formative political experience of Putin’s inner circle, who are haunted by the specter of a similar democratic wave sweeping the present regime away. This is the logic behind the doctrine of intervention that drew Russia into Ukraine in 2014 and led to the current support for Lukashenka. However, there is little love in the Kremlin for the Belarusian strongman. Ste-pping in to save his regime was an act of pure expediency.

The clearest hint regarding the nature of the recent message conveyed by Lavrov came from Lukashenka himself. Speaking the day after his meeting with the Russian foreign minister, the Belarusian leader appeared to indicate that he was indeed preparing to resign. Many international media outlets seized on Lukashenka’s remarks and reported that he had promised to step down as soon as he had introduced changes to the Belarusian Constitution. In reality, Lukashenka’s words were far more ambiguous and open to interpretation. Specifically, the Belarus leader said: “I am not making a new constitution for myself. With a new constitution, I will no longer work with you as president.”

This comment could mean all manner of things. It may mean that Lukashenka does indeed plan to step down. Equally, it could indicate that he intends to remain as national leader but in a different post under a reorganized constitutional structure. Given Lukashenka’s history as a cunning political operator, the likeliest interpretation is probably that he is playing for time and does not intend on going anywhere at all.

It is reasonable to conclude that Lukashenka’s vague commitment to step down was made under Russian duress. While it generated considerable international media coverage, his statement is unlikely to have convinced anyone in the Kremlin. Instead, Moscow will be expecting to see concrete steps towards a political transition in Minsk.

Likewise, Lukashenka’s domestic opponents were notably unimpressed. In response to his comments, Belarusian pro-democracy activists quickly assembled a long list of Lukashenka’s previous promises to resign. The earliest of these commitments dated back to 2002, when he reportedly stated that eight years in power was already more than enough.

Moscow’s apparent eagerness to push forward with a managed transition of power in Belarus suggests that valuable lessons have been learned from Russia’s heavy-handed and counter-productive approach towards pro-democracy protests and nation-building processes in neighboring Ukraine. Russia’s use of force since 2014 has not achieved the desired outcomes in Kyiv, with Ukraine now firmly set on a path away from the Russian sphere of influence.

The Kremlin is understandably eager to avoid repeating these mistakes in Belarus. There are already indications that Moscow’s backing for Lukashenka is eroding public support in Belarus for closer ties with Russia. A recent survey conducted in early November found that the number of Belarusians who favored alliance with Russia had dropped from 51.6% to 40% in the space of just two months. Once again, Putin’s informal empire is in danger of shrinking.

Russia has an obvious interest in overseeing Lukashenka’s departure, but it remains unclear whether the man himself feels obliged to leave. Throughout his 26-year reign, Lukashenka has made a habit of bluffing the Kremlin, mostly in order to avoid committing to any deepening of bilateral ties in line with the Union State agreement between the two countries. For the past two decades, he has fought tenaciously to keep his realm from being totally consolidated into the Russian Federation. Lukashenka’s slipperiness has become the stuff of legend in post-Soviet political circles, leading many to assume that he will now attempt to backtrack on any earlier promises he may have given to step down.

While Lukashenka’s future intentions remain shrouded in characteristic ambiguity, Lavrov’s recent visit to Minsk leaves little doubt that Russia is losing patience with the Belarusian dictator and has no intention of providing limitless support. Moscow’s attempts to orchestrate a favorable transition in Belarus could also be evidence of an increasingly pragmatic new tone in Russian policy towards the former Soviet republics.

With Russian influence in retreat throughout the region, Moscow no longer appears keen to intervene directly. Instead, we may be witnessing the beginnings of a more nuanced approach that sees Russia in the role of adjudicator rather than enforcer. This was evident in the Kremlin’s ability to skillfully and advantageously direct the outcome of the recent Azerbaijani-Armenian War. Similar thinking now appears to be shaping Russian policy towards Belarus.

Such maneuvering takes time, but Moscow may yet be obliged to force Lukashenka’s hand. With US President-elect Joe Biden committed to supporting the pro-democracy movement in Belarus and threatening to impose tighter sanctions following his January 2021 inauguration, the clock is now ticking.

Few in the Kremlin will relish the prospect of entering into a confrontation with the new US President in order to defend one of the world’s most toxic politicians. Lavrov’s visit to Minsk suggests Moscow would much prefer to see a compromise solution in Belarus that would bring Lukashenka’s 26-year reign to a carefully choreographed end. However, Russia now has less than two months to resolve the crisis before the US enters the fray.

Vladislav Davidzon is a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

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Independence of Kashmir in the guise of interests

The OIC is the second largest organization of 57 Muslim countries after the United Nations, but it does not look like there should be unity and consensus among its member countries. Many countries of this organization are pointing guns at each other, but there is no difference on Palestine and Kashmir issues, all countries individually fully support Palestine and Kashmir cause. The OIC member states must first resolve their differences, and even if they do not, it is time to take a firm stand on the Kashmir issue. In particularly, the rhetoric, criticism, concern and condemnation from the Islamic countries is not doing anything. The way India is violating the sanctity of the chaddar (veil) and the char divari (four walls of home) in the occupied valley, playing with the blood of innocent people, this blood is also on the heads of those who can stop the hand of the oppressor, but the world is a victim of worldly interests. Unless OIC member states disguise their interests and unite in good faith against nihilist forces, OIC meetings will continue to lead to sit-ins and denunciations, and will not be able to convince the international community of their position.

 It is gratifying that the Kashmir issue has come to the forefront of the OIC member states’ meeting, a major diplomatic victory for Pakistan over India over the Kashmir issue. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting passed a resolution on Occupied Kashmir. The OIC rejected India’s August 5 move in Occupied Kashmir and also passed a resolution against Indian atrocities in Kashmir. According to the text of the resolution, the Kashmir dispute has been on the agenda of the Security Council for more than seven decades, OIC has rejected India’s move on August 5, 2019 and demanded that India withdraw all its illegal actions by saying Indian actions are a direct violation of Security Council resolutions. It was also said in the resolution that the Indian measures were aimed at snatching other rights of Kashmiris, including the referendum, all illegal unilateral measures taken in Jammu and Kashmir should be withdrawn and the Indian government should refrain from taking all possible steps to change the current population ratio in the disputed region. The resolution also condemned the Indian attitude, the Balakot tragedy, the aggression on the LOC and Working Boundary.

There is no doubt that India is fully mobilized to defeat Pakistan in the diplomatic arena, but for the first time, Prime Minister Imran Khan has raised the issue of Kashmir on all platforms, including the United Nations, and India is failing despite its diplomatic conspiracies. In this regard, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is right to say that India has nothing to show in Kashmir, they can only show the story of atrocities in occupied Kashmir. India is automatically unveiling itself in front of the world as India had started propaganda before the OIC meeting that Kashmir is not on the agenda, but the world has seen that the OIC meeting is not just a resolution on the Kashmir issue. It also strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the Indian government and demanded withdrawal of all illegal unilateral measures. Similarly, Opposition parties in the country were also accusing the government of not conducting effective diplomacy on Kashmir situation, but after the OIC meeting passed a resolution on occupied Kashmir, it became clear that the government’s diplomatic efforts are proving to be fruitful. However, merely condemning statements and approving resolutions is not going to solve the Kashmir issue

There is no doubt that even if the OIC meeting passes resolutions on Kashmir, Palestine and Islamophobia, it will not have a significant impact on the people of the oppressed regions and the global wave of Islamophobia because The approval of these resolutions will not free Kashmir, nor will the oppressed people of Palestine be liberated from the domination of the illegitimate state of Israel, nor will the extremist elements of the Western world refrain from blasphemy and insulting the Holy Prophet (SAW). The resolutions passed in the past bear witness to the fact that these resolutions without enforcement have proved to be absolutely ineffective and useless. The status of such resolutions is nothing more than moral pressure, which countries like India and Israel are not ready to realize. The only practical way, recently, Azerbaijan has shown the oppressed of the Islamic world that through a bold move the Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region has been liberated by the sword. As a result of the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Azad Kashmir was able to be liberated with the blessings of the courageous act of Jihad. Although Pakistan had just come into being at that time, it had neither army nor economy, but Quaid-e-Azam had succeeded in the world only with the spirit of jihad. Wherefore, Kashmir issue will not be resolved with condemnation statements and the approval of resolutions in OIC, for the independence of Occupied Kashmir, we will have to take off the cloak of expediency.

Article by Attiya Munawer

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Joe Biden has problems: The world has solutions

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

The worst factor that President-elect Joe Biden can do proper now could be to spend any extra time with election attorneys. The irritations of President Donald Trump’s unseemly rearguard motion are already fading away. The problem of governing the nation will solely develop. The ugly reality is that the brand new president’s inheritance is a a lot harder one than most of Biden’s supporters notice — on two counts.

First, as Covid-19 has revealed in painful element, the U.S. is falling behind a lot of the world, not simply in well being care but in addition in many of the features of presidency. Second, little of this falling behind is de facto Trump’s fault. The disruptive youngster being dragged out of the White Home is extra a symptom of what ails the U.S. than a trigger. Merely eradicating him won’t resolve a lot.

From this angle, Biden ought to do what different nice U.S. presidents have executed when their nation has began to fall behind: Look overseas and replica what works.

For all of the discuss American exceptionalism, the very best American leaders have by no means been ashamed of studying from overseas, particularly in occasions of hassle. The founding fathers rigorously studied the world’s most profitable political programs, notably these of Britain, France and historical Rome. James Madison pored over comparative constitutions whereas at Princeton, whereas John Adams and Thomas Jefferson drew on their expertise as envoys to France.

A century in the past, the Progressives stole concepts from Europe: President Woodrow Wilson even started writing a common historical past of the state with the intention to redesign U.S. establishments for a post-laissez-faire age. Throughout the Nice Melancholy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt primarily based Social Safety on international pension programs and turned to John Maynard Keynes for financial concepts. President Lyndon B. Johnson borrowed the phrase “Nice Society” from one other British tutorial, Graham Wallas, whereas the Ronald Reagan administration borrowed “privatization” from Margaret Thatcher. America’s most influential statesman of the late twentieth century, Henry Kissinger, primarily based a lot of his diplomacy on the European idea of steadiness of energy.

These days, Kissinger nonetheless attracts on Metternich and Talleyrand when he thinks in regards to the U.S.-China relationship, however when it comes to public coverage he’s a cosmopolitan exception. Washington, sadly, has stopped studying from overseas when it comes to concepts and has turn into the wealthy world’s most parochial capital metropolis.

The lobbyists and attorneys who infest the city are preoccupied with exploiting their data of the intricacies of the U.S. system to win benefit for his or her purchasers. In fact, a president whose international coverage was summed up by “America First” has not helped, however Trump’s blinkeredness is hardly uncommon. With John McCain gone, are you able to title a senator who understands what is occurring in the remainder of the world?

No, neither may we.

The distinction with the personal sector is particularly stark. U.S. companies nonetheless steal concepts from across the globe: Silicon Valley and Wall Avenue suck in foreign-born expertise. However politicians in Washington are obsessive about their bases, which, given the U.S. major system, means a extremely ideological sliver of the inhabitants. Not that the media are a lot assist: One U.S. newsroom assumed the fireworks that exploded over London on Nov. 5 have been to rejoice Trump’s elimination, apparently unaware that Man Fawkes Day has been celebrated by Britons for hundreds of years.

The historical past of nice empires which have turned inward will not be a cheerful one. The following president all the time wanted to confront this — however Covid-19 has proven that this insular U.S. has fallen a lot additional behind than even pessimists appreciated.

The worldwide pandemic has been, amongst many issues, a world check of presidency capability. Final week Bloomberg Information revealed its research of “virus resilience.” The U.S. got here in 18th of 53 nations. It might have been far decrease, if not for its personal sector’s success in producing vaccines. On the essential Hobbesian check of retaining its folks alive, the American Leviathan has failed.

The U.S. is closing in on 800 deaths for every million people. That may be a barely higher document than Britain and Belgium, however it’s far worse than most of its allies. Germany, with 170 deaths per million, has executed six occasions higher. However the actually surprising comparative numbers come from East Asia, the place loads of governments {that a} technology in the past seemed throughout the Pacific to the U.S. as the good function mannequin have now outperformed their erstwhile exemplar.

Japan has misplaced fewer than 2,000 folks, or a hundredth of the U.S. dying toll, regardless of having an aged inhabitants and a supersized capital metropolis. Taiwan has gone greater than 200 days with no home case of Covid-19. Singapore is thrashing itself up as a result of its mortality price is edging shut to 5 deaths per million.

Maybe most pointedly of all, China is now nearly again to work as regular. Even permitting for Beijing’s sluggish begin in coping with the virus, and throwing in some skepticism about its official dying toll of simply three deaths per million, it has plainly been much better at defending its folks from dying than the U.S. And the remainder of the world has seen it.

There are two lame excuses for this — each of which Biden ought to dismiss. The primary is that top U.S. mortality charges are a part of the value you pay for freedom and democracy. Although China’s success actually has one thing to do with autocracy, all the opposite nations on the high of the Covid-19 league tables are additionally freedom-loving democracies; they’re simply better-organized freedom-loving democracies than the U.S. As an illustration, New York Metropolis and Seoul are each vigorous cities with crowded subways and a wild nightlife. However New York has misplaced greater than 22,000 folks, whereas Seoul has misplaced just a few dozen.

East Asia’s supremacy at Covid-19 was not a fluke. Have a look at the worldwide rankings for prime faculties and well being care:

East Asian nations are clustering on the high alongside the Scandinavians. Or take a look at infrastructure. The hole between Asian airports and New York’s La Guardia or JFK are apparent to any traveler, however simply as putting is the hole within the underlying wiring: Some three-quarters of the world’s “good cities,” which have up to date their infrastructure for the web age, are in Asia.

For almost 50 years, Asian nations, led by Singapore, have been quietly constructing smarter and higher governments in the identical manner that Toyota and Honda as soon as constructed smarter and higher vehicles. The distinction is that, whereas Detroit and the remainder of U.S. trade finally copied Japan’s “lean manufacturing” so they might struggle again, Washington’s politicians haven’t copied Singaporean lean authorities; certainly, they barely know what it’s.

The second excuse that Biden ought to dismiss is that America’s failures are all Trump’s fault. The outgoing president could have actively obstructed U.S. makes an attempt to cope with Covid-19, however he didn’t create a well being system that was designed to assist the previous and the wealthy, not the poor. A pandemic was all the time sure to show that. All these individuals who died in New York Metropolis did so beneath a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor.

The identical goes for a lot of different issues the place the U.S. is falling behind the remainder of the world. Trump mentioned some unhelpful issues after George Floyd’s dying, however he didn’t invent racist policing — one in all us coated the Rodney King riots almost three a long time in the past. Polarized politics? Poor faculties? A convoluted tax system? Trump hardly made any of those issues higher, however the U.S. public sector began falling behind its friends lengthy earlier than he even grew to become a actuality TV star.

With a little bit studying, the president-elect may uncover that different nations are doing loads of intelligent issues that the U.S. may copy. Previously socialist Scandinavia is a world chief in contracting out components of the general public sector to the personal sector, together with in delicate areas reminiscent of well being care and schooling. Germany has an exemplary decentralized well being system that covers everybody at a fraction of the price of the U.S. system.

India has given each citizen — greater than a billion folks — a digital id that can be utilized to ship advantages to a inhabitants that has excessive ranges of illiteracy.

Tiny Estonia has made it attainable to do a number of issues on-line, together with voting, submitting tax returns, taking part within the census and organising companies — sufficient to avoid wasting about 2% of gross home product by means of effectivity.

So many different governments are clearly doing higher than Washington. However East Asia presents essentially the most urgent problem, not least as a result of China has the potential to rival the U.S. as the middle of the worldwide financial system. Its faculties are following Singapore’s ways of selling good lecturers, firing dangerous ones and utilizing assessments to observe the system. Its 15-year-olds sit on the high of the Group for Financial Cooperation and Growth rankings for studying, science and math; their U.S. equivalents languish in 14th, nineteenth and thirty eighth locations, respectively. Sure, China cheats by together with solely 4 cities, however nobody thinks American college students come shut — and the U.S. outcomes look particularly awful provided that it outspends most of its rivals.

If a dysfunctional public sector is a geopolitical legal responsibility for the U.S., additionally it is a political legal responsibility for Biden’s Democratic Get together. The Democrats can declare that, in contrast to the damaging Republicans, they imagine in authorities and the great that it could possibly do. However in follow, they’re the political arm of public-sector unions that may transfer heaven and earth to avoid wasting their members from being fired.

Democratic Presidents Invoice Clinton and Barack Obama managed to introduce just a few reforms, however they bought far lower than they wished. Regardless of elevated constitution faculties and benefit pay, it’s nonetheless very tough to reward good lecturers and hearth dangerous ones:

Yearly, incompetent and even legal lecturers are shuffled from college to high school (“the dance of the lemons”) or allowed to spend their days doodling in metropolis workplaces (“rubber rooms”).

Biden is in an unusually good place to interrupt this dismal sample. With 30 years on the Senate’s International Relations Committee, he is aware of as a lot about “overseas” as anyone. As a average Democrat, he can place himself on the very important heart, between the previous left, which is tied to the unions, and the do-nothing Republicans.

At 78, he’s unlikely to run for a second time period (which might imply asking Individuals to maintain him on this planet’s most tough job till he’s 86), so he most likely has uncommon freedom to reform the general public sector. That is absolutely the place most Individuals additionally belong: Greater than 60% of voters, together with a majority of Democrats, tell pollsters that they assist critical structural reform of presidency.

So look all over the world, Joe: Arrange an workplace to review what works in different nations; copy the very best and keep away from the worst; construct again higher not simply on the premise of U.S. examples, however international ones too. China is a very vital instance to review. Not solely can it train the U.S. a factor or two about how one can construct airports and harness the ability of the web of issues, however it could possibly additionally train what occurs when nations turn into complacent and parochial.

When Columbus reached the Americas on the Santa Maria in 1492, China accounted for a fifth of the world’s financial system, it and boasted the world’s most refined authorities and its strongest navy (some Chinese language ships have been greater than 400 ft lengthy, to the Santa Maria’s 70 ft). However finally, complacency set in: Whereas European states fiercely competed towards one another, copying expertise and concepts to enhance their administrative and army machines, China atrophied, with mandarins studying the identical Confucian texts decade after decade and century after century, and emperors turning their backs on the world.

In 1525, China destroyed its world-beating fleet, setting hearth to some ships and leaving others to rot, with the intention to stop the nation’s purity from being contaminated by contact with different nations. In 1792, the Qianlong emperor famously dismissed a British envoy, George Macartney, who had come bearing a treasure trove of items in an try to influence China to speak in confidence to commerce: “We’ve by no means valued ingenious articles, nor do we have now the slightest want of your nation’s manufactures.”

Inside a technology, China was a plaything of international powers. The trendy Chinese language have realized from that lesson. Has Joe Biden?


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China solves Freeport’s $3bn problem in Indonesia

John McBeth

The long drawn-out saga of mining giant Freeport Indonesia’s (PTFI) proposed new copper smelter has taken a new turn with China’s Tsingshan Steel agreeing to build the US$1.8 billion facility at its Weda Bay nickel processing complex in Halmahera, eastern Indonesia.

Maritime Affairs and Investment Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan disclosed in an interview with Asia Times that the deal is expected to be signed before next March. “We are happy with the agreement,” he said, “but the two sides are still in detailed discussions.”

Up to now, the choices have been to either expand Mitsubishi’s existing copper smelter at Gresik, East Java, build a new and much more costly smelter at a nearby industrial estate or shift the whole project to Halmahera as part of an integrated smelting hub.

Panjaitan and other sources familiar with the deal say Tsingshan has agreed to complete the smelter within 18 months, leaving Freeport to build a $250 million extension to the Mitsubishi plant in what could be seen as a token gesture of its commitment to the in-country processing of all of its ore.

Mitsubishi and Freeport signed an agreement on November 13 to add 300,000 tons to the current facility’s one million ton capacity, but the sources say Freeport is still ready, however reluctantly, to build a new smelter if the Tsingshan deal falls through.

The company is also committed to the construction of a precious metal refinery on the same site now that its export license has expired for so-called anode slime, the sediment rich in gold, silver, selenium and tellurium left over from the smelting process.

Confusion had reigned over the smelter issue for the past two years, with senior bureaucrats and politicians seemingly at variance on where it should be located. Once the Tsingshan deal is concluded, it will still need government approval.

As late as last week, Mines and Energy Minister Arifin Tasrif was continuing to dance around the subject. “The important thing for the government is that copper concentrate processing takes place in the country,” he said, without offering any further explanation.

Panjaitan has been the main proponent of the move to nickel-rich Halmahera, taking Freeport and the Indonesian mining community completely unawares last June by revealing that President Joko Widodo had already agreed to the plan.

He is also the prime mover behind a planned electric vehicle industry, with South Korea carmaker Hyundai as an initial $1.5 billion investor and LG Chemical interested in building a lithium battery plant on the same site near Jakarta.

With Tsingshan also planning to complete a lithium battery factory at Weda Bay by 2023, the new copper smelter will provide it with the sulphuric acid needed to produce low-grade ferronickel for the stainless steel market and also to recover cobalt from spent lithium batteries.

Indonesia has 80% of the elements needed for lithium battery production, including cobalt, manganese, aluminum and even rare earth elements. But on the horizon as well is a recycling plant at Halmahera that may eventually remove the need for new minerals in the production process.

Freeport’s copper will be a source of wiring and other parts for the home-grown electric car industry Panjai-tan envisages. According to one expert estimate, battery electric vehicles use as much as 83 kilograms of copper, compared with 23 kilograms for an internal combustion engine.

Investment service Seeking Alpha said recently that the Indonesian subsidiary’s parent company, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX), has “a unique opportunity in a high copper priced world” to take advantage of the growing demand for electric vehicles.

If it goes ahead, as now seems likely, a deal with Tsingshan would save the Indonesian government and FCX about $3 billion, the estimated cost of building their own smelter at the Gresik Industrial Estate, north of the port city of Surabaya.

As the new majority owner of PTFI, the government is already having to pay for half of the cost of a major underground expansion at the Grasberg mine in Papua’s Central Highla-nds, the world’s largest gold reserve and second-biggest copper mine.

Regarded as one of the world’s most profitable mining operations, thanks to its rich gold deposits, the proven reserves at the high-altitude Grasberg contribu-te to about a third of FCX’s total portfolio, which also includes copper mines in the United States and Chile.

Unlike nickel, copper refining is a notoriously marginal business when the final process of turning concentrate into copper cathode adds only 5% to the overall value. By some estimates, any new Gresik smelter would have lost $10 billion over the next 20 years.

Asia Times understands that Freeport has undertaken to pay treatment and refinement charges (TCs/RCs) to Tsingshan that are higher than the market price by an amount equal to the 5% export tax the company currently forks out for the half of its concentrate it currently exports to mainly Japan and Spain.

While that would serve as a subsidy to Tsingshan’s operating costs and the overall synergy appears compelling, financial experts still question the economic viability of building a copper smelter in a place as remote as Halmahera, a proposition Freeport would never have considered.

They say that dangling the export tax as a “subsidy” may be a clever idea, but even that may not produce a positive cash flow in the current environment. As one source put it: “Realistically, the only way to improve the economics is to cut the capital cost, which means no environmental controls.”

Transporting Freeport’s concentrate is not considered a major factor, but the distance between Freeport’s port at Timika on Papua’s south coast to the Halmahera site is only 2,660 kilometers, compared to the 4,000-kilometer passage to Gresik.

Tsingshan and French mining company Eramet began nickel smelting operations at the $2.2 billion Weda Bay Processing Park in April last year, adding to a pioneering multi-billion-dollar complex the Chinese group operates at Morawali on the east coast of Central Sulawesi.

Although the Gresik smelter has not attracted any ancillary industry over the past 20 years it has been in operation, Panjaitan is still confident of drawing overseas investors to Halm-ahera, particularly Chinese manufacturing companies anxious to move offshore.

China already has an iron grip on Indonesia’s nickel industry, inciting some controversy by bringing in thousands of its workers to construct the two processing centers in Central Sulawesi and now Halmahera.

At Sulawesi’s $7.8 billion Morowali complex, Tsingshan and Indonesian partner PT Bintang Delepan operate a three million ton a year nickel pig iron smelter, a 500,000-ton carbon steel facility and a 600,000-ton high-carbon ferrochrome plant.

Further down the coast, in Southeast Sulawesi, China’s Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry last year completed the $1.4 billion first stage of its three-phase Konawe complex, which will eventually boast a production capacity of three million tons of ferronickel a year.

President Widodo’s closest adviser on a range of subjects, Panjaitan has always treated the Freeport smelter as the ultimate test of the government’s resolve to add value to its minerals and vault the country in global supply chains.

Phoenix-based FCX has been reluctant to build a new smelter because of the high capital cost involved and the reality, which the government has always stoically ignored, that smelting has never been a profitable business at the best of times.

But circumstances may have changed with the government’s 2018 acquisition of a 51% stake in PTFI, in exchange for the extension to FCX’s contract, and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that has put an additional strain on state finances.

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The monstrous capitalist global system that gave rise to the pandemic must be questioned!

Yusuf Kaplan

They are transforming the world into a herd.

They are treating the world like a herd. They are thus terribly insulting humanity!

Who is doing this?

The global system and its lords.


The global system is a massive machine that sanctifies money and power while insulting humanity.

It is soulless. It is ruthless. It is tyrannous. It is a draconian mechanism that embodies demonic and chilling characteristics!

These are the footsteps, the harbingers of the global capitalist techno-pagan digital civilization. As a matter of fact, it is encroaching upon us in an eerie fashion.

Its god is money, and banks are its temples. Its prophets are scientists, and all of humanity is its slave.

Contrary to popular belief, Westerners did not value humanity.

The idea that the West values humanity is nothing but modern-day superstition!

The West trivialized God; they destroyed the essential hierarchic structure of existence; they deified humankind, and legitimized its establishment of hegemony, control and colonization over other beings and the world.

By positioning humankind not as human but as a superhuman being, they caricaturized God, and placed humankind in a divine position.

Hence, they opened wide the door towards the monstrosity of humanity.

Humankind became monstrous and crossed the line.

It transformed the world into purgatory; an unlivable place!


The Westerners, of course.

Westerners invaded all continents. They looted all cultures. They launched a barbaric attack against humanity’s accretion of civilization in order to fossilize all religions!

They took control over nature.

They processed and exploited nature to the end and, this time, they pressed the button that would bring upon the end of humanity, and the sort of science and technology that produces weapons – which will destroy and eradicate humanity – was sanctified.

This sanctified science and technology reached the verge of straying out of human control and instead taking control of humanity.


It is gradually becoming globally understood that the coronavirus disease is a pandemic like never before seen in history. A notable medical circle in Germany is fuming at the disaster we call the pandemic that has been produced, and at humanity’s being transformed into a herd through this disaster.

These protests observed in Germany’s medical circles could not have eme-rged extraneous of German state control. The German state (note: the German state, not the German government) would never allow certain groups questioning a pandemic, which is killing people almost in masses, to do this alone!

We know now how the Baider Mainhoff gang that emerged among medical circles (this time intensively among psychiatric doctors) after the 1968 operation was eliminated (slaug-htered) by the German state.


We have to reflect in depth about the form the world will take post-coronavirus.

We have no clue about the kind of world awaiting us, that awaits humanity after the coronavirus.

The only thing that we do know is that it will be the end of the world as we know it, that the means of how the entire world has been dragged to this point, to this dead-end will be questioned everywhere.

Hence, we can now answer the question about the sort of process we may go through by meticulously analyzing how we reached this point.

The world as we know it will be no more, but those who dragged us i-nto this quagmire, who plu-nged us into a nightmare ar-e going to try and determi-ne the world of the future!

In order to achieve this, they are first going to cause chaos – or rather stage economic coup after economic coup following the pandemic process.

These coups are going to devastate the weakest countries only, however, by driving “developing countries” into political and social chaos that will devastate and push them to the brink of destruction, it is going to become easier to pull the plug connecting these states to the global system.

I have increasingly growing suspicions that this pandemic did not emerge coincidentally, that it was developed in a laboratory and spread through the world to bring a new order to the world from scratch, to prolong the lifespan of the capitalist global system.

Therefore, we must be prepared for both the post-corona process and the chaos that will be artificially developed and transformed into reality.

Let us never forget that similar to other countries around the world, they are going to try and corner and force into submission an economically growing medium-sized country like Turkey thro-ugh “economic coups,” and when they find the opportunity, they are going to drag it to a war to make it kneel.

In summary, this global capitalist system, which is determining the pandemic process as well as its aftermath must be questioned loudly on all global platforms.

The reasons behind the pandemic must be thoroughly investigated; incorrect policies concerning the fight against the pandemic that will lead the country into economic chaos must be avoided, and care should be taken to develop policies based on social justice to minimize the effects of this process on the economically weakest factions of society.

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America first; drives US in wrong direction with world roadmap

Li Haidong

“America First” is the core policy of the Trump administration. It pursues economic nationalism and de-globalization, rejecting multilateral trade mechanisms and only emphasizing US’ own unique trade advantages. It refuses to undertake global responsibility, yet expects other countries to serve it. It denies the core position of the United Nations in the international system but tries to maintain the country’s monopoly based on its own selfish greed and arrogance.

This policy stance intends to create a chaotic international pattern that ignores existing rules and destroys the closely connected international system formed over the past few decades. It thus allows the US to be less restrained and more unilaterally interventionist in international affairs.

The Trump administration’s four-year practice of the “America First” policy has arguably brought disaster to the US and the world.

Withdrawals from the Paris Climate Agreement, UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council and many other multilateral agreements and institutions have seriously struck down important efforts that all countries have made to address major challenges facing humanity and different regions.

The trade wars that Trump started with other countries in order to enhance US domestic economy and solve employment problems by setting trade barriers have failed. Actually, it has compounded US economy’s current recession, dampened employment prospects and dismantled a sustainable status quo that will be difficult to reassemble.

Upholding the “America First” policy has also allowed Trump to reject international cooperation in the anti-COVID battle – thus causing the US to become the worst hit country in the world with more than 266,000 fatalities.

The “America First” policy has led to widespread dissatisfaction both at home and abroad. It destroyed US’ international credibility and worsened existing domestic problems. Biden’s victory was based on a complete rejection of the “America First” policy. And his administration will be fighting tooth and nail to regain international respect and to advance US interests. Still, domestic politics may severely hamper this.

First of all, Biden will return the US to actively participate and lead international multilateral institutions to solve its internal and external problems.

The Biden team will also likely join international operations to combat the COVID-19 – something that the US must face domestically too as a first priority.

Secondly, Biden will embrace globalization and open the domestic market for more international trade flows.

In fact, Trump’s disastrous trade wars will see a turning point under Biden administration as his team might work out some feasible ways to end them. Besides, he will try to promote the benign development of international trade as much as possible through more active interchanges with other countries.

Thirdly, Trump’ foreign policy towards China will be adjusted.

Objectively, Biden team has an urgent need to cooperate with China on many issues, even though competition still exists between the two powers. Issues such as solving pandemic challenges, economic recovery and climate change, which are all top priorities for Biden once he assumes office, have to be addressed through international cooperation, especially with China.

Pursuing cooperative efforts with China will be a key element of Biden’s future global strategic planning. It will be a far cry from the Trump administration’s morbid commitment to a total lose-lose approach to China.

Trump’s “America First” policy lacks consistency and strategic thinking. It clearly bears the characteristics of Trump himself as selfish and unpredictable. The mess that Trump caused with the “America First” policies in both domestic and foreign affairs will make it hard for Biden to mop up.

Still, Biden will be able to go along with current patterns of globalization, overtaking Trump’s blind and lame attempts at governance.

Overall, the US is at a crossroads with its domestic political and social divisions.

These will set limits on any plans no matter who governs. But the “America First” policy has proved more harmful to the country than good.

Biden’s time will make it possible for the US to have new ideas to solve its own problems. Some of these might be able to restore the damage done to US image and participation on the world stage.

The author is professor at the Institute of Inter-national Relations of the China Foreign Affairs U-niversity.