October 31, 2017        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

Peter van Buren explains that Tehran could be the dominant geopolitical power in the Middle East. Image credit – Curioso_Travel_Photography / depositphotos



Myanmar’s Problems Go Far Deeper than the Rohingya Crisis, South China Morning Post, by David Dodwell, Executive Director of Hong Kong-APEC Trade Policy Study Group

[T]he temptation is to see the Myanmar problem as a Rohingyan problem … But the ‘Myanmar problem’ is much more than this.

  • David Dodwell argues that the oppression of the Rohingya community is part of a broader political crisis in Myanmar, and should not be addressed as an isolated issue.
    • Myanmar hosts about 100 ethnic communities, of which 17 have their own ethnically-based armies.
    • Myanmar was subject to five decades of military rule, a system which still pervades politics today.
      • Since 2011, companies controlled by the military have accounted for a disproportionate share of Myanmar’s investment inflows, amounting to approximately to USD 30 billion. This imbalance stymies prospects for reform.
    • In addition, Chinese strategic interests further complicate domestic issues.
      • Myanmar is integral to the Belt and Road Initiative. A recently opened oil pipeline from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to the Chinese Province of Yunnan is expected to deliver a significant percentage of China’s oil needs.



Look for Tehran to Emerge Dominant in Post-IS Middle East, The Japan Times, by Peter van Buren, Former US Foreign Service Officer

“Religious differences are not the focus; this is a classic geopolitical power struggle for control of Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan, and for expanding diplomatic and strategic reach … ”

  • Peter van Buren contends that there is an increasing geopolitical power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for diplomatic and strategic influence in Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan. This is a contest from which Iran could emerge dominant.
    • Iran’s role in Syria will increase if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad maintains control over parts of Syria; Iran has supported President al-Assad, which leaves little room for Saudi Arabia to expand its influence in Syria.
    • Saudi Arabia appears to be developing closer ties with Iraq. However, Saudi Arabia would need to untangle years of close cooperation between Iran and Iraq to substantially expand its influence in Iraq.
    • Iran is a relatively stable polity in the Middle East. It has held increasingly democratic elections, is largely homogenous and, unlike Saudi Arabia, it does not fear an Islamic revolution.

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