The Daily Brief for Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The DailyBrief

Wednesday September 20, 2017

Myanmar’s Rohingya insurgency: The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claims to be fighting an ethno-nationalist struggle and should therefore not be branded as a terrorist organization, but its leaders and extremist group links point towards a wider regional agenda, Bertil Lintner writes. The ARSA represents an entirely new type of insurgency, one that the Myanmar military has demonstrated it is wholly ill-equipped to combat. Other ethnic resistance armies in Myanmar dress in uniforms and closely adhere to traditional military conventions, while the ARSA’s Muslim fighters wear civilian clothes and mingle with villagers. After their low-grade attacks on security force targets, ARSA insurgents retreat across the border to neighboring Bangladesh, where people speak the same language and adhere to the same religious beliefs. In that sense, ARSA’s tactics more resemble the Muslim insurgents in southern Thailand than Myanmar’s other ethnic armies.

US foreign policy: The Trump Doctrine has finally been enounced and a new axis of evil delineated, Pepe Escobar writes. In his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, the US president declared that a “compassionate” America would wage war against the “wicked few” – Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. Threatening to “wipe off the map” the whole of North Korea (25 million people) and many millions of South Koreans who would likely perish as collateral damage, Trump opened up the possibility of a terrifying upgrade of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was no “deeply philosophical address” and hardly a show of “principled realism” – as spun by the White House – but rather an indication that Washington feels its hegemony is under threat.

China’s sanctions alternative: Beijing has been employing economic bully tactics against South Korea in an effort to get its way on political and security issues since Seoul agreed to install a THAAD missile defense system a year ago, Grant Newsham writes. For example, the Lotte group that provided the land for the missile batteries has since shuttered stores in China after being hit with so-called “fire safety” violations. Chinese tour groups have mysteriously stopped coming to South Korea, and Hyundai Motor Company has had “trouble” with its local Chinese partner, with sales dropping precipitously. Many other South Korean companies have been hit, along with the South Korean economy. These intimidation tactics have so far not attracted the international criticism they deserve, and it is time for Washington to push back.

Iran nuclear deal: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that the Iran nuclear deal must be changed if the United States is to remain in it, suggesting that key limits on the Iranian nuclear program must be extended, Arshad Mohammed and John Irish write. Tillerson said the “sunset” clauses, under which some of the deal’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire from 2025, were of particular concern. “If we’re going to stick with the Iran deal there has to be changes made to it. The sunset provisions simply is not a sensible way forward,” he said. “It’s just simply kicking the can down the road again for someone in the future to have to deal with.” His comments followed US President Donald Trump’s incendiary speech at the annual United Nations General Assembly, in which he accused Iran of exporting “violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

Malaysia’s ethnic divide: Prime Minister Najib Razak relies on Beijing for economic succor, but he’s still viewed skeptically by his country’s ethnic Chinese voting bloc with tight national polls on the horizon, Nile Bowie writes. Addressing the country’s Chinese community at a gathering last week, he called for stronger Chinese representation in his United Malays National Organization-led government and doubled down on promises of delivering prosperity and quality education across all of the country’s ethnic groups. While Najib placed emphasis on Malaysia as a multiracial nation and struck an overall moderate tone, others interpreted his remark as a fear-mongering veiled threat. Opposition parliamentarian Liew Chin Tong accused the premier of trying to win votes by “singling out the ethnic Chinese,” a move he said would actually undermine support for his government.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.