August 7th, 2014
11:42 AM ET

How Saudi Arabia can avoid an energy crisis

By Maha Hosain Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maha Hosain Aziz is a professor of politics (adjunct) in NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a senior analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat. The views expressed are her own.

Ask most Americans which country is the world’s largest oil producer is, and you will likely hear some familiar names – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Some might suggest Russia, which produces more than 10 million barrels a day. Yet according to recent numbers from the International Energy Agency and Bank of America, it’s another country has taken the lead in global production – the United States. And this new reality raises an interesting question: Is this the beginning of the end of former number one Saudi Arabia’s global oil dominance?

In recent years, everyone from Citigroup to Chatham House has suggested Saudi Arabia – the world’s biggest oil exporter – could face oil shortages in the next 10 to 15 years, prompting many to ask whether the country and its heavily oil-dependent economy are prepared for the potential crisis.

The answer is yes, and no. Local energy demand has skyrocketed, and could increase by 250 percent by 2028, largely due to a population boom that has seen the Kingdom’s population jump from six million in 1970 to over 29 million today. This in turn has prompted the state to explore oil alternatives for domestic energy use. Indeed, in June, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reportedly signed an accord to jointly develop renewable energy and clean technology. In addition, Saudi Arabia has indicated it hopes to become a key market for renewable energy by 2032, with a projected third of the country’s power to come from this source. FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • Energy • Oil • Saudi Arabia
Is Myanmar progress set to unravel?
May 29th, 2014
03:23 PM ET

Is Myanmar progress set to unravel?

By Maha Hosain Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maha Hosain Aziz is a professor of politics (adjunct) at NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a senior analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat. The views expressed are her own. She recently authored the Wikistrat-crowdsourced report on Myanmar’s political risk and futures.

News earlier this month that the White House had decided to extend some economic sanctions against Myanmar may have taken some by surprise. After all, the country is broadly seen as having taken significant political and economic strides after being ruled for decades by a draconian military junta, not least in the freeing of hundreds of political prisoners.

The reforms, which President Barack Obama suggested marked “a new direction” for the country, have prompted foreign investors to flock to the country, for everything from marine tourism, onshore reserves, offshore oil, mineral extraction to the fastest market for new and used cars. In addition, more than 5 million foreign tourists are expected in the country in 2015, and the country also received $4.1 billion foreign investment in the fiscal year 2013-14, up from $1.4 billion in 2012-13 (mostly from China, Thailand and Hong Kong).

Meanwhile, the military’s historical control over the economy is also “significantly weakening” due to reforms, according to a recent report from the International Crisis Group. The report notes, for example, that the military’s holding company, Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, no longer receives tax free status and is being pushed out of key sectors it previously monopolized, such as edible oil imports.

FULL POST

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Topics: Myanmar
Is Asia facing a new wave of religious extremism?
March 28th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

Is Asia facing a new wave of religious extremism?

By Maha Hosain Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maha Hosain Aziz is a professor of politics (adjunct) in NYU's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, a senior analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and advisory board chairwoman of Afghanistan’s first university e-mentoring program (New Silk Road Generation). The views expressed are her own.

Asked to name organizations tied to extremism, most people would likely list the usual suspects – Islamist militant groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. But a spate of recent attacks has highlighted a growing problem that is threatening to destabilize parts of Asia, and it hails from what might seem to many a surprising source – a militant strain of Buddhism.

In Sri Lanka, for example, reports surfaced in January that eight Buddhist monks were involved in an attack on two churches in the southern town of Hikkaduwa. Another group, the Buddhist Power Force, is said to have been targeting Muslim minorities, and has pushed to ban headscarves, halal foods and other Muslim businesses. In July 2013, Buddhist mobs reportedly attacked a mosque in the north-central town of Dambulla; in August that year, a mosque was attacked in Colombo, sparking clashes between Buddhists and Muslims that left at least a dozen people injured. Sadly, the response from the Sri Lankan government, distracted as it is by the ongoing fallout since the end of the civil war with the Tamil Tigers, has been muted at best.

FULL POST

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Topics: Asia • Islam • Myanmar • Religion
January 13th, 2014
10:26 AM ET

Four steps to secure lasting peace in Sri Lanka

By Maha Hosain Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maha Hosain Aziz is a professor of politics (adjunct) in the MA program of NYU’s Politics Department, a senior analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and advisory board chairwoman of Afghanistan’s first university e-mentoring program (New Silk Road Generation). The views expressed are her own.

“While building the nation, we have set aside all differences and divisions.  As a result there is today a new political and development culture before the country,” Sri Lanka’s media reported President Mahinda Rajapaksa as saying in his New Year’s message. “Further consolidating this, we must forge ahead in the New Year. Having won freedom and peace for the people, we are committed to give them progress and happiness, too.”

The question many Tamils are no doubt left wondering, four years after the country’s brutal civil war ended, is whether this commitment includes their own happiness. And right now, many appear to have their doubts.

FULL POST

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Topics: Asia
The age of protests
Police clash with masked demonstrators in Athens on October 20, where tens of thousands of protesters rallied.
April 23rd, 2012
10:52 AM ET

The age of protests

Editor’s Note: Dr Maha Hosain Aziz is a Professor of Politics (adjunct) in the MA Program at New York University, a Senior Analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and an Asia Insight Columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek.

By Maha Hosain Aziz - Special to CNN

If you were a politician in 2011 in South Asia, there’s a good chance you might very well have been slapped. In both Nepal and India, a citizen so frustrated by political inertia physically lashed out at his local politician. If you were leader of a country with high youth unemployment in the Middle East or Western Europe, there’s no question you faced waves of anti-government protest. Even in Russia - usually immune to challenges to the state - you experienced some form of public discontent over the status quo.

In fact, on every continent last year, in major, middle and small states, citizens expressed bursts of frustration against their governments. Such sentiment has continued in 2012; recurrent protests indicate citizens’ lack of confidence in their political leaders and their conviction that there must be a better, more legitimate way to govern. FULL POST

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Topics: Global • Protests
April 20th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

The consequences of France shifting left

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

The countdown has begun for France’s first-round presidential election on Sunday, and while socialist challenger François Hollande is expected to beat center-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, there’s a decent chance that a second run-off election will be required for Hollande to crack the 50 percent of the vote mark. Either way, we’re likely on the verge of a major political shift for one of Europe’s pillars – right after the wobbly Eurozone had hoped to close the door on its threatened dissolution.

We know what you’re thinking:  socialists, lots of new government spending, the end of the “Merkozy” tight bond between France and Germany!

So what are we to make of this looming quake?  How high will it register on the political Richter scale?  Wikistrat asked its global community of experts to ponder this, and here are the 8 points they chose to highlight. FULL POST

Topics: Europe • Politics
What are Occupiers really fighting for?
A large gathering of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street Movement attend a rally in Union Square on November 17, 2011 in New York City. (Getty Images)
April 18th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

What are Occupiers really fighting for?

Editor’s Note: Dr. Maha Hosain Aziz is a Professor of Politics (adjunct) in the Master’s Program at New York University, a Senior Analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and an Asia Insight Columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek.

By Maha Hosain Aziz – Special to CNN

Occupy Wall Street has been about more than just corporate greed and income inequality. Occupy protesters around the globe may not realize it but, at various points in the past six months, many have been fighting for the same cause as the peasant communities of rural Vietnam during the 1930s - the moral economy.

Theorists have typically used moral economy rhetoric to explain rural movements where protesters felt their basic right to subsistence was being threatened. In the case of Vietnam, the onset of colonial capitalism in the Great Depression contributed to a food crisis for peasant farmers, prompting significant protests. In effect, an informal contract had been broken between the governing power and the governed involving the individual’s basic right to feed himself.

Today, a similar “contract” has been broken between governing powers and the governed.

Since its global launch in October 2011, the Occupy movement has effectively evolved to challenge governments for depriving citizens of their basic right to subsistence in the Great Recession (or its aftermath) - to work, afford basic goods, or in some cases keep their homes. FULL POST

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Topics: Ethics • Global • Protests
April 16th, 2012
09:40 AM ET

Why South Korea doesn't respond

Editor's Note: Robert E. Kelly is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University, South Korea. A longer version of this essay may be found at his website, Asian Security Blog.

By Robert E. Kelly - Special to CNN

Why does North Korea seem to get away with provocations like last week's rocket test? Jennifer Lind argues that North Korea manages to deter counter-strikes through a bizarre mixture of the ‘madman theory’ (what will the loopy, hard-drinking, megalomaniacal Kim family do next?), regional fear of what would follow a North Korean implosion, and traditional nuclear deterrence.

None of that is wrong, but I think she’s missing the big factor – South Korean domestic politics. Lots of countries and other international actors do crazy stuff; the question is whether the target wants to counterstrike and risk escalation. So it is South Korea ultimately (not the U.S. or Japan) that decides whether or not to hit back. And South Korea doesn’t want to strike back for two reasons. One, South Korean population centers are extremely vulnerable to Northern aggression. Two, South Koreans just don’t care that much about North Korea anymore.

FULL POST

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Topics: North Korea
What should the government cut?
April 13th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

What should the government cut?

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

America is in the midst of yet another long-term government deficit problem that we once thought we had licked in the go-go Nineties.  Remember when we were going to retire the federal debt?

Just like back then, political candidates now regularly foam at the mouth about which “redundant” federal agencies they’d whack the minute they set foot inside the Beltway. This begs the question: What activities are inherently federal? FULL POST

Topics: Governance • United States
New global sources of demand
April 6th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

New global sources of demand

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

When Americans are warned that the “era of cheap credit is over,” we’re really being told that the inherent advantage of owning the world’s reserve currency is coming to an end. No, it won’t happen overnight, because China’s renminbi is still far from becoming a serious rival.

But the end is coming all right, and it’ll make all that Thomas Friedman hyperbole about a “flat world” a whole lot more real. America simply won’t have the advantage of being able to float debt - of all kinds - as easily as we did in the past, which means we’ll need to compete more intensely on the price and quality of our goods.

The primary driver here is China’s need to shift from a super-saving economy to a super-consuming economy. It’s gone about as far as it can go with export-driven growth, and now it needs to turn on its domestic consumption big-time, but doing that means China’s willingness to finance the debts of others will decrease - thus the end of cheap credit.

FULL POST

Topics: Economy • Global
How China could counter Obama's Asia 'pivot'
Chinese President Hu Jintao gestures the way forward for visiting U.S. President Barack Obama in Beijing in November of 2009.
April 5th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

How China could counter Obama's Asia 'pivot'

Editor's Note: Robert E. Kelly is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University, South Korea. A longer version of this essay may be found at his website, Asian Security Blog.

By Robert E. Kelly - Special to CNN

For all the talk about how the US might ‘pivot’ to Asia, there is little Western discussion of how China might respond to its semi-encirclement. Here are five possibilities:

1. China might pull South Korea into its orbit

China’s regional problem is that no one really trusts it. Its allies are weak – North Korea and Myanmar. The best way to head-off encirclement is to break the ring with some decent allies. Nasty, dependent dictatorships are not enough. South Korea is a central link in any semi-containment ring around China, but one where China has a lot of leverage. FULL POST

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Topics: Asia • China • East Asia • Foreign Policy • Military • Strategy • United States
Three visions for America
March 29th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Three visions for America

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

The U.S. economy is most definitely in recovery mode, but it’s the sort of recovery one experiences after a scary heart attack.  There is little confidence in being able to go uptempo. Fears persist about slipping into a permanent sort of disability.

Worse, many are resigned to the fact that big structural problems such as health care, tax reform, the federal deficit and education remain unaddressed by a political system that remains fiercely divided.

So America finds itself in a funny position: Clearly getting better and doing better than most of the West but almost completely lacking in self-confidence.  If this is “morning in America,” then most citizens have hit their snooze button.

This week’s Wikistrat’s drill explores this ambivalence in the face of mounting good economic news, asking our global community of experts to present their arguments for the U.S. economy’s possible mid-term (3-5 year) paths ahead.  We’ll start with the optimism and then let the darker thoughts pile up - much like most Americans today. FULL POST

Topics: United States
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