|Thursday 19th of December 2019
Revelation 6:12-13: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood
Revelation 6:12-13: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and
behold, there was a great earth- quake, and the sun became black as
sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky
fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken
by a gale.
Xi Jinping can blame his centralisation of power for a rotten 2019 - and maybe an even worse 2020 @SCMPNews @MinXin Pei
Law & Politics
China’s strongman leader can’t seem to catch a break. From the trade
war with the United States to the crisis in Hong Kong to international
criticism of his human rights record, President Xi Jinping suffered
major setbacks in 2019, and his prospects for 2020 appear even worse.
China could have ended the trade war with the US last May, thereby
giving its flagging economy a significant boost.
Yet, at the last minute, Chinese leaders backtracked on a number of
issues that American negotiators had considered settled.
With the US also incurring high costs from the trade war, President
Donald Trump was furious, and took his revenge.
Beyond imposing new tariffs, Trump escalated his efforts to limit
China’s access to vital technologies. Less than two weeks after the
trade agreement collapsed, Trump signed an executive order barring US
companies from using telecoms equipment from manufacturers that his
administration deemed a national security risk.
The most prominent of these is the Chinese tech giant Huawei, which
Trump had already been targeting for months.
While the US and China have announced agreement on the terms of a new
phase-one trade deal, the technology war – and the broader
confrontation between the two powers – will continue.
This implies that Xi’s problems won’t go away, given China’s enduring
economic dependence on the outside world and the importance of rising
living standards to sustaining the legitimacy of one-party rule.
Further risks arise from Hong Kong, which is engulfed in its worst
political crisis since its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
It all started when Hong Kong’s China-backed chief executive proposed
a bill that would make it easier to extradite criminal suspects from
the city to the mainland.
Viewing this as part of a broader central-government campaign to
assert tighter control over the special administrative region, people
poured into the streets to protest
The government refused to budge, so the protesters became angrier and
their numbers grew. Asia’s commercial hub quickly became a battle
zone, with riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at
black-clad protesters, who responded with Molotov cocktails and
Months passed before the bill was formally withdrawn, and by then it
was too late to return the genie to the bottle. Despite thousands of
arrests, the protesters have shown no signs of backing down.
In late November, after more than six months of unrest, China’s
government suffered the ultimate indignity, when nearly 3 million
voters turned out to hand an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy
forces in local district-council elections.
At this point, a crackdown reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Square
crackdown would likely backfire, leaving Xi with few options.
Xi suffered another serious blow in November, when The New York Times
obtained more than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents concerning
the mass incarceration of ethnic minorities – particularly Muslim
Uygurs – in the Xinjiang region.
Only Chinese government insiders had access to such sensitive
materials, suggesting that Xi’s political enemies may have
deliberately leaked them to the Western press to undermine his
Xi is also losing his grip in Taiwan.
At the end of last year, Taiwan’s ruling pro-independence Democratic
Progressive Party, led by President Tsai Ing-wen, was dealt a painful
general election defeat.
But since the protests erupted in Hong Kong, Tsai has portrayed
herself as defending Taiwan from a Chinese-government stooge who would
accept a “one country, two systems” model.
Tsai now seems set to secure a landslide victory in next month’s
Xi can blame only himself – or, more specifically, his excessive
centralisation of power – for the challenges of the last year. Trade
disputes with the US, concerns about Chinese interference in Hong Kong
and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang all preceded Xi’s rise to power in
The biggest danger to the Communist Party? Itself
But China’s collective leadership, however corrupt and indecisive,
managed to limit the escalation of these crises. For example, when
more than a half-million people in Hong Kong protested against a
proposed national security law in 2003, the Chinese government
immediately agreed to its withdrawal.
As Xi has concentrated political power in his own hands, however,
decision-making has been transformed. Those hoping to influence policy
must gain access to Xi himself, and they have every incentive to
cherry-pick information to support his preferences.
likewise, Xi’s colleagues on the Politburo Standing Committee, fearful
of appearing disloyal, are loath to share information that may
contradict his view. They know that proposing an alternate approach
could be seen as a direct challenge to Xi’s authority.
Xi’s intolerance of dissent and his vulnerability to bad information
have made his government much more prone to policy blunders.
Making matters worse, because a strongman must maintain an image of
virtual infallibility, even demonstrably ineffective or
counterproductive policies are unlikely to be reversed.
For now, Xi’s grip on power is probably secure. But with
decision-making dynamics at the top unlikely to change, he will become
vulnerable to more challenges in the coming months. Indeed, 2020 may
turn out to be Xi’s worst year yet.
Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College
and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the
United States. Copyright: Project Syndicate
07-OCT-2019 :: But Xi has taken the propagation of ideology and the cult of persona- lity to extremes not seen since the days of Chairman Mao.
Law & Politics
Today we know the Chinese economy is slowing, but Xi is relying on
Chinese resilience “If there is a decoupling between the two econo-
mies, so be it. The Chinese people can endure more pain than the
spoiled and hubristic Americans''
“The Folks in Hong Kong [whom Xi is seeking to unmask so he can
exercise algorithmic control over them] are in open rebellion. Joshua
Wong told German Media “Hongkong ist das neue Berlin”
Soldiers of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) march in formation past
Tiananmen Square during a rehearsal before a military parade marking
the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China, /REUTERS
I am sure Xi sees Hong Kong and Taiwan like a virus and he is looking
to impose a quarantine just like he has imposed on Xinjiang.
The Chinese Dream has become a nightmare at the boundaries of the Han Empire.
A People's Guide to Revolution: How Leaderless Revolts Lose the Battle Before it Even Begins @MintPressNews @LaithMarouf
Law & Politics
Since the 2010 Arab Autumn, it has become clear that leaderless
revolts only have two inevitable outcomes.
In the first, a game of musical chairs between right-wing imperialist
forces will be played and only superficial change will be achieved,
like in Quebec, Egypt, Tunis, and Sudan.
The second possibility, a right-wing contra war will take hold of the
country, as it did in Libya, Syria and Yemen.
In both situations, two factors impede the possibility of genuine
progressive change from crystallizing: a lack of revolutionary
television broadcasting that can control messaging, and the lack of a
political vehicle in the form of a party and leadership to capitalize
on that revolutionary media. Without both, real change cannot be
If a popular protest movement doesn’t have control of mass media, it
cannot control the message, and if it doesn’t have a political vehicle
and inspirational leadership, it cannot control the outcome.
In Lebanon and Iraq, popular protest movements lacked both access to
the media and a requisite political vehicle. To expect a different
outcome than was seen in Quebec, Sudan – or Syria for that matter – is
borderline delusional or based on some supremacist ideal that Lebanon
is different than the rest of humanity.
I served as the Executive Director of CUTV, a small community
television station in Montreal, Canada between 2010 and 2013. My
experiences there provide critical insight into the importance of mass
media and political vehicles for the success of a popular revolt.
Since that time, I have been building on this experience in order to
support popular protest movements around the world, including in
Lebanon, my home since 2018.
While the 2012 Quebec revolt had the privilege of a movement-oriented
media to amplify its voice and managed the messaging and narrative in
the public discourse; protesters in Lebanon had no such mechanisms.
When I arrived in Beirut in mid-2018, I was immediately approached by
the country’s “left” parties and their associated media outlets.
I had dozens of meetings, and in all of them, I emphasized the
following: Lebanon was on the edge, the war in Syria had delayed any
revolt, the last round of demonstrations in 2015 triggered by a
garbage crisis was an indicator of a sill-glowing ember under the ash
(or trash pile in this case) and that live mobile broadcasting
capabilities were needed.
In almost all those meetings, my pitch was received well and my ideas
acknowledged. Yet nothing panned out as those parties and media hired
consultancy firms or friends to supposedly deliver on the new
When the demonstrations started, it was clear that “left” had failed
to prepare. In stark contrast though, both the pro-imperialist liberal
media and their right-wing counterparts were well prepared for the
In 2012, CUTV’s connections to the popular protest movement in Quebec
and the information gathered while embedded with students allowed us
to acquire requisite technologies, modify them to fit our needs, and
train the crews on the new broadcasting and reporting models before
any strikes were called.
What was shocking in Lebanon was how just seven years later, TV
stations like al Jadeed and MTV Lebanon were ready with the tech and
training they needed to control the narrative of the burgeoning
uprising without ever having used this model of reporting before.
Al Jadeed had at least eight live units broadcasting across the
country, MTV had at least six. Their crews were all trained and ready.
Did they have prior knowledge of the would-be “revolt,” or were they
informed by the power-brokers of what triggers could indicate a
In any case, what al Jadeed and others did was unprecedented in any
country. Here you had corporate-owned stations suspending all regular
programming, as well as advertising, and reporting live from the
streets for upwards of eight hours a day.
Each broadcasting unit costs a minimum of $1,000 per 30 hours of
broadcasting, add to that all of the drones, satellite trucks,
journalists, technicians, camera operators, and anchors, and it
becomes clear that such an operation cost these stations millions of
Not to mention a substantial amount of lost advertising revenue. Why
would profit-driven, corporate-owned stations take on such heavy costs
if not for political gain?
It was clear that these media outlets wanted the demonstrations to
continue, and more importantly, wanted to control and manipulate their
message and outcome.
Compare this to mass protests movements like those affiliated with the
Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, or the Yellow Vest
protests in France, or for that matter any popular protest movement in
wealthy countries with an imperialist bent.
In those countries, no corporate-owned or government-sponsored media
ever suspend their regular programming or deploy live mobile
broadcasting to cover popular protest movements. This, among other
factors, is proof enough of the political motive of such coverage in
Progressive forces in Lebanon did not grasp this reality and allowed
their movement to play into the hand of the country’s establishment
media and outside influencers.
These progressives, by adopting the motto of “all of them, means all
of them” early in the demonstrations, put all of Lebanon’s domestic
political parties, including Hezbollah, into the same boat as the
corrupt politicians who impoverished the nation.
This motto, parroted repeatedly by a media vehicle controlled by
foreign power-brokers, meant that the anti-corruption movement was
instantaneously diverted into a movement against the enemies of those
same by foreign power-brokers.
In a world ruled by multimedia and multi-platform international media
empires; a leaderless movement, one that doesn’t control any mass
media platform or political party, will, without any doubt, be
manipulated by those who do.
To believe otherwise and to insist on leaderless movements, especially
given the many years of experience we now have to draw from; is to be
myopic and delusional, or worse, to be a tool manipulated by those who
wish to take control of those movements.
In an attack on Iran, misunderstanding Qasim Soleimani could be America's downfall @prospect_uk H/T @TamerBadawi1
Law & Politics
He is a canny, ruthless military leader—and Iran's greatest defender.
Has the US fundamentally misconceived the motives of this commander,
and by extension, Iran itself?
In the summer of 2014, Islamic State (IS) blindsided Iran by occupying
a third of neighbouring Iraq.
The self-styled caliphate captured a town only 20 miles from the
border with Iran named Jalawla, where Islam’s second caliph Omar
defeated the Persian Empire in 637.
Jalawla was also where, 1,377 years later, the Iraqi dictator Saddam
Hussein had invaded Iran. For Iranians, the enemy was once more at the
Within days, Tehran dispatched Qasim Soleimani, the commander of its
overseas paramilitary forces. There he co-ordinated the supply of 140
tons of military equipment per day to the Iraqi army and Shia
paramilitary groups: small arms, mortars, Ababil surveillance drones
and tank and artillery ammunition.
The United States-led international coalition against IS would pick up
the slack later in 2014. But right then Iran’s early intervention, led
by Soleimani, was the only thing keeping Iraq together.
Iran also began deploying Soleimani on another front: launching a
propaganda war centring on the self-styled “noble warrior,” a man who
could appeal to both nationalists and religious conservatives.
The “Commander of Hearts” became a fixture on domestic news. Iranian
elites who would refer to him tongue-in-cheek as “Soleiman the
Magnificent,” after the Ottoman sultan who so intimidated Europe,
presented him as the nation’s protector against the barbarism of IS
and the imperialism of the US.
Tehran authorised the translation into Farsi of western articles that
cast Soleimani as a formidable agent of Iranian regional power.
Instagram accounts dedicated to him sprung up, many with hundreds of
thousands of followers.
They showed Soleimani posing with children; Soleimani reading Gabriel
García Márquez; Soleimani in a Palestinian keffiyeh; and Soleimani
posing alongside Iran-backed paramilitary fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Increasingly, he was also held up as a pious and humble servant of the
Islamic Republic. When a state-run news agency asked his father why
America feared him so much, he responded: “They’re afraid of Islam,
not of my son.”
Soleimani has enemies closer to home too—in October Iranian officials
claimed they had foiled an assassination attempt against Soleimani,
pinnng the blame on Israeli and Arab agents.
Tensions with Iran have been growing since Donald Trump’s decision
last year to pull out of the nuclear deal. His subsequent campaign of
“maximum pressure” has included the imposition of sanctions that have
gutted Iran’s middle class and created poverty unseen for decades.
Tehran has responded by using military force against US economic
interests—the recent bombing of US giant ExxonMobil in Iraq and
attacks on pipelines and refineries in Saudi Arabia appear designed to
bounce Trump into a wider security deal that will perhaps lead to a
fresh agreement between Iran and the US.
But if that strategy fails the Middle East could be enveloped by a war
on an unspeakable scale. And Soleimani would be the man leading the
Iranians into battle.
Has the US fundamentally misconceived the motives of this commander
and by extension Iran itself?
And will that miscalculation lead to the US—and perhaps the
UK—stumbling into a war with an enemy we don’t understand?
Soleimani commands the Qods force, an elite paramilitary army that
reports directly to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He gathers intelligence, builds political alliances and creates a
hostile environment for foreign forces opposed to Tehran. The methods
have been consistent, even as the enemies changed.
In Iraq, the enemy was first Saddam and later IS, and—indirectly—the
US; in Syria, it has been the various rebel groups opposed to
President Bashar al-Assad; in Lebanon, the Israelis who are ranged
against his Hezbollah allies; and in Yemen, it is the official
government that is being propped up by western-backed Saudi bombing.
Throughout Soleimani’s two decades at the top, he has had to navigate
the forces unleashed by the US and British invasion of Iraq and
Afghanistan, the associated rise of jihadist insurgents and, later,
the democratic protests of the Arab Spring.
Although his success has a lot to do with him capitalising on his
enemies’ failures, he is a remarkable tactician. More than that, his
life story is that of the generation of revolutionaries who control
Iran today, and helps us to understand the choices Tehran makes, and
does not make, in its Middle East interventions.
During the chaos of the 1960s White Revolution—the Shah’s botched land
reform programme—Hassan Soleimani, a farmer in Iran’s tribal
southeast, fell into debt.
As he struggled to support his family, his 13-year-old son Qasim left
the farm to get work in construction in nearby Kerman.
The teenage Soleimani supported the exiled cleric—and the current
regime’s founding father—Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and spent his
free time at the zourkhaneh, a traditional Iranian gym that teaches
martial arts, wrestling and self-discipline.
Like all great careers, Soleimani’s was blessed with serendipity. He
is said to have been introduced to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—the second
and current supreme leader—who was then in hiding from the Shah.
When the revolution came in 1979, Soleimani joined the Army of the
Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, known in the west as the
Revolutionary Guards and in Iran simply as the Guards.
He was sent 2,000km north to help put down an attempted annexation by
Kurdish Leftist groups. It was here that he made contact with an
ambitious guard named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who would rise to the
presidency in 2005.
In 1980, armed with western military equipment—including chemical
weapons—Saddam Hussein launched a war against Iran that would kill one
million Iranians and Iraqis.
A 23-year old Soleimani was despatched to the trenches of Khuzestan
province to take part in the war known to religious Iranians as the
“Holy Defence” and to the secular as the “imposed war.”
Wartime stories about many of Iran’s major figures are shrouded in myth.
One of the more entertaining tales about Soleimani explains how he
earned his nickname “Toyota thief.” Finding himself behind enemy
lines, he dressed up in the uniform of a dead Iraqi soldier and
casually helped himself to dinner at the Iraqi mess before returning
to his barracks with a new Japanese-made truck.
Soleimani earned the respect of Guards commander Mohsen Rezaee, who
promoted him in 1982 to lead the 41st Saarallah Division made up of
recruits from Soleimani’s own Kerman province.
He had a decisive role in Operation Fath-al-Mobin, a six-day counter
offensive that cost tens of thousands of Iranian and Iraqi lives.
But in 1986, Soleimani disagreed with Rezaee over the war’s other
major operation, Dawn 8, which he believed could not hold Iraq’s
Al-Faw peninsula, a strip of marshland southeast of Basra.
Before the deployment, he took his concerns to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, who was helping to run the war, but the operation still
Soleimani was bleakly vindicated: 30,000 Iranians were killed in a
Pyrrhic victory that led inexorably to Khomeini’s decision to call a
ceasefire in 1988.
In the decade after the war, Soleimani’s disagreements with Rezaee
stymied his ascent. He entered the political wilderness, tasked with
the unenviable job of chasing Afghan drug cartels that were moving
heroin into Europe to finance what would later become the Taliban’s
takeover of Afghanistan.
But in 1997 Rezaee was fired and Supreme Leader Khamenei promoted
Soleimani to head the Qods brigade.
The Iran-Iraq war might have been a bloody stalemate, but Soleimani is
mindful that this was the first war in a long time in which Iran had
not lost territory.
For hundreds of years the country has lacked stable borders.
-Relations with Afghanistan have been fraught since the country was
carved out of Iran in 1747.
In the 19th century, Russia snapped up Iranian territory in Dagestan,
Azerbaijan and parts of Armenia. The US and Britain invaded Iran
during the Second World War and—more recently—the US has backed
regional states and minority groups within Iran that challenge its
With this history, perhaps, any Iranian commander is likely to see
enemies on many fronts.
After being promoted by Khamenei, Soleimani’s first assignment was to
send arms, cash and intelligence to anti-Taliban forces. The Taliban
had recently assumed control of Afghanistan, and in 1998 the group
killed 10 Iranian diplomats and a journalist, almost provoking war.
After 9/11, the anti-Taliban forces would become known as the Northern
Alliance, which allied with Nato during its 2001 invasion. Soleimani
encouraged the militias loyal to him to help the Americans oust the
Taliban and al-Qaeda.
But that co-operation came to an abrupt end in 2002, when President
George W Bush labelled Iran, Iraq and North Korea an “axis of evil.”
A year later, the US-led invasion of Iraq caused a national security
crisis for Iran. Soleimani was faced with three problems.
The first was the occupation. Iran feared that the US would establish
a client state in Iraq that could serve as a base to challenge Iran
along the 900-mile border. This wasn’t just paranoia.
In Bush’s first term, the refrain among hawkish neocons was “Boys go
to Baghdad, but real men go to Tehran.” But as America got bogged
down, the threat ebbed away.
His second problem was Saddam’s ousted Baathists, many of whom had
joined the Sunni insurgency against both the US and Iraq’s
newly-ascendant Shia majority.
Soleimani supported the Shias and especially the Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a coalition of Iraqi Shia
political exiles, which Iran had nurtured and planned to establish as
an incoming government if they had won the 1980-8 war.
Soleimani drew on SCIRI’s military wing to assassinate Saddam-era
officials—partly to forestall any attempt for Baathists to return to
power and partly for simple vengeance.
Ironically, though, the biggest challenge for Soleimani was not the
US, Sunni militants or former Baathists. It was a 29-year old Iraqi
nationalist Shia cleric named Muqtada al-Sadr.
Sadr’s influential family of Lebanese clerics had settled in Iran in
the 1500s at the invitation of Iran’s first Shia dynasty, before later
migrating to Iraq.
The Sadrs were instrumental in the 1979 revolution and related to many
members of Iran’s political elite. But Muqtada fiercely opposed
Iranian influence in Iraq and commanded the support of millions of
poor Iraqis, many of whom had fought against Iran during the war.
Sadr was raised in bloodshed. Saddam murdered his father and uncles
during the 1990s, but he never fled. He took a dim view of Soleimani,
SCIRI exiles and other outsiders.
His allies hacked to death one returnee cleric from London,
Abedel-Majid al Khoei, soon after the US invasion of 2003.
Nonetheless, with his large loyal following Sadr was indispensable to
undermining both the US occupation and its Iraqi proxies.
To do that effectively, he needed arms and communications equipment.
Soleimani could—and did—furnish him with supplies, and made himself
useful by brokering ceasefires between Sadr’s Mahdi Army and other
Shia groups aligned to Iran.
In post-2003 Iraq, Iran was also a powerbroker that Sadr could simply
not ignore. Soleimani kept a tab on the independent-minded cleric by
embedding spies in his ranks.
Over time, despite Sadr’s best efforts and strong domestic support,
Soleimani’s SCIRI allies became the best-organised and best-funded
political group in Iraq.
As Iranian influence on Iraq increased, the US was losing its
grip—principally due to the Baathist/Sunni insurgency. Yet still it
In a message to the US ambassador to Iraq, Soleimani wrote: “I swear
on the grave of Khomeini, I haven’t authorised a bullet against the
US,” but acknowledged that his Qods brigade had targeted the British.
He may have protested too much, but his capacity for restraint is
real. Attacking the US was risky. And while he did funnel arms to
so-called “special groups” that attacked US troops, he was happy to
patronise other forces who worked with the Americans against the Sunni
Soleimani was less animated by his anti-Americanism than his
determination to advance Iranian regional interests.
“[The US] is stuck in the mud in Iraq,” warned Rafsanjani in 2004, and
added a warning: “that if Iran wanted to it could make their problems
In 2006, Soleimani personally brokered the selection of Iraq’s new
government, handing the presidency to Iran’s pirnical allies in
Kurdish Iraq, reassuring Sadr’s men they would get ministerial
positions, and swinging everyone behind Nouri al-Maliki as prime
minister—in return for the shared understanding that the Americans
would soon be out.
Maliki had a complex relationship with Iran. Tehran had provided him
with a home and supported his resistance to Saddam during and after
the Iran-Iraq war, but he had fallen out with his hosts and spent the
end of his exile in Syria.
Still, he was deeply entrenched with Iran’s security services and
would provide a bulwark against American domination of the new Iraqi
During this same period, Soleimani was also focusing on Lebanon.
Tehran was helping the Shia militant group Hezbollah to build a
military capability to deter Israel both from invading Lebanon (after
its withdrawal in 2000), and from acting on its threat to bomb Iranian
The Qods force sent Hezbollah $100m (£81m) each year and worked to
formalise its forces, modelling them on Iran’s Guards.
Soleimani had a close relationship with Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s
international spy chief, and also reportedly established classes in
Tehran’s embassy in Beirut to teach Hebrew to Hezbollah personnel.
In 2006 war came. Following tensions over prisoners of war in both
countries—Soleimani is said to have been involved with an ambush of
Israel Defense Forces soldiers—Israel invaded southern Lebanon and
bombed the country for 34 days.
But it faced fierce resistance from Hezbollah, and the stalemate was
viewed by Arabs as a victory for the Shia group. Iran’s stock in the
Arab world had not been higher since the 1979 revolution.
This would dramatically change with the Arab Spring. Tehran initially
supported the protests believing that friendly Islamist governments
But when the protests reached Syria, Iran fell into a quandary. Syria
had been the only Arab country to support Iran during its long war
Conscious of this debt and mindful of their shared support for
Hezbollah, Soleimani was convinced his country could not afford to
jettison the Assad clan that had ruled Syria for 50 years.
Soleimani visited Damascus in 2011 along with Tehran’s chief Guard,
Hossein Hamedani, who had successfully put down similar popular
protests in Tehran two years earlier.
They warned Assad that the police, and not the army, should be used to
quell protests. Yet Assad used the army to prosecute several massacres
of civilians throughout 2011, turning a protest into a full-blown
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad calculated that Assad was not worth the
candle. This left Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which
comprises representatives from both the government and the Supreme
Leader’s office, split on whether to accept Assad’s panicked request
for Iranian paramilitary support.
Non-interventionists argued that defending Assad would be unpopular,
doomed and expensive. Interventionists, including Soleimani, believed
that if Syria fell to US-backed rebels, Iran would be next.
“If we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran,” warned an influential
The Iranian system of governance is often said to combine democratic
and theocratic elements, but Soleimani has increasingly demonstrated
the independent clout of a third arm of power: the military.
It was he who, in 2012, broke the deadlock by persuading Iran’s
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani to join the interventionists.
Soleimani flew to Syria and established the National Defence Forces
(NDF), local paramilitary militias, whose leaders received training
from Hezbollah in Lebanon and his own Qods force in Iran.
In Soleimani’s view, the Syrian Army, which had suffered mass
defections, was “useless.” The NDF’s immediate job was to fight the
insurgency, but it was also a back-up military network in case Assad
In 2014, Soleimani was dispatched by Tehran to Iraq to help Shia
militias fight a new force: IS. Its rise, both in Iraq and Syria,
initially turned the tide against Assad.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which until then backed different
rebel groups in Syria, overcame their differences and threw their
weight behind a separate coalition of rebels, the Army of Conquest.
Rebels secured major victories in Idlib, eastern Homs and Daraa, while
IS took Palmyra.
Iran needed another ally. In July 2015, Soleimani went to Moscow to
meet the Russian defence minister and, -reportedly, President Vladimir
Putin. The plan was for Iran to defeat rebel strongholds on the ground
with the support of Russian air power.
Two months later Russia started bombing, generating waves of refugees.
Within three months of the intervention, Soleimani was pictured in
Aleppo’s Old City, following its bloody recapture by the regime, a
major turning point in the war.
The past three years have been characterised by the slow but
inevitable destruction of IS and myriad rebel groups that grew out of
Syria’s failed revolution. Soleimani, a born revolutionary, was now
deploying Iranian power to shore up a brutal and secular established
In an Iranian television documentary aired following Iran’s
intervention in Syria, Soleimani is shown watching footage of himself
as a commander in the Iran-Iraq war. The clip shows him before a
squadron of troops weeping inconsolably, naming martyrs recently
fallen in battle.
“My heart aches,” says the young Soleimani. “Their bodies lay on the
front, glowing even under soil.” Soleimani and other men in his
generation that fought to overturn a US-client monarch, the old Shah,
shared a definite ideology.
They believed in the revolution’s restorative value not only for
Iranian Muslims but also Muslims across the world dispossessed by
western imperialism. Like Trotsky (but unlike later Soviets), they
envisaged their revolution spreading across national borders.
US foreign policy gurus continue to view Iran through the lens of the
1980s. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, refers to “Iran’s
violent export of revolution”: he sees the Trump administration’s
protection of Israel and opposition to Iran as a God-given mission
that he will pursue until “the rapture.”
But while the Americans still regard Iran as an agent of revolution,
for Iran’s elites revolutionary talk has become mere rhetoric.
You can see it in Soleimani’s career, which has just as often pursued
counter-revolution in the Islamic world as the opposite—propping up
the Iraqi and Syrian governments against revolutionary, often
millenarian, currents in their societies.
What he offers the country is not ideology, but rather the ruthless
pursuit of Iranian interests as he sees them.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has a specific strategy in the region,”
said Soleimani’s adviser Sadollah Zarei in a recent speech.
“We have definite principles, friends, and capabilities. And we have a
coherent understanding of our enemy and we know where we should stand
in the next 20 years.”
And, despite the sanctions and isolation, Soleimani’s single-minded
approach is working. Even the US admits that its strategy is blowing
in the wind when it comes to countering Iranian influence in the
“Soleimani’s accomplishments are, in large part, due to his country’s
long-term approach toward foreign policy,” wrote Stanley McChrystal,
the former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, earlier this year.
“While the United States tends to be spasmodic in its responses to
international affairs, Iran is stunningly consistent in its objectives
The truth is that Iran’s original expansionist revolutionary ideology,
which was seen from Tehran as a means to protect Muslims worldwide,
but by America as a means to spread terrorism, died during the
Iran-Iraq war along with half a million Iranians.
Khomeini’s declaration that his acceptance of a ceasefire with Iraq in
1988 was akin to “drinking from the cup of poison” acknowledged the
pain he felt in breaking with this ideology.
After that war, Iran became just another nation seeking to preserve
its territorial integrity and pursue its own economic and national
security interests. Soleimani understands this better than anyone.
While Iran’s elites have moved on, their US counterparts are stuck in
13 MAY 19 :: Iran is at the Hunter S. Thompson[Ian] edge
Law & Politics
Iran is at the Hunter S. Thompson[Ian] edge. “There is no honest way
to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are
the ones who have gone over''
if the US thinks that Tehran will just roll over, which appears to be
the case, then they are exhibiting the same deluded ideas that they
exhibited a day before the peacock Throne got plucked. Iran is a
geopolitical bleeding edge.
Tech expert on streaming wars: 'They're all going to come back to @netflix $NFLX' @YahooFinance
When Disney+ (DIS) launched last month, doomsayers believed it could
be the ultimate “Netflix-killer” — but a tech expert says not so fast.
He believes that over the next six to 12 months, we’ll see what he
calls an “and” strategy, where consumers leave Netflix (NFLX) to try
something else but ultimately come back.
“So Disney+ we’ll try something else, we’ll try Roku (ROKU), we’ll try
Apple (AAPL), we’ll try whatever’s coming out there, but [ultimately]
they’re all going to come back to Netflix,” said R “Ray” Wang, CEO of
Constellation Research on The Ticker.
In a new 8-K filing, the streaming giant boasted revenues of $2.76
billion in the third-quarter from its global markets, up 39.8% from a
year ago of the same quarter.
“International subscriber growth is not something easy to do — it’s
not like other people are going to jump out and get into these
markets,” Wang said.
“The main thing is, growth has slowed down in the U.S. and Canadian
markets, and the streaming wars are coming.”
Moreover, Netflix has been excelling at creating original content.
Variety recently reported that Netflix created 371 new TV shows and
movies in 2019 — up from 240 last year.
Still, Wang said Disney has an advantage entering the streaming wars,
because it is about “content, network, technology, and consumer” — all
four components the media giant has from the start.
Other streaming newcomers including Comcast (CMCSA) and HBO (T) are in
the lineup next year and could heat things up.
While Apple made a lukewarm entry into the streaming wars, Wang warns
against dismissing its potential outright.
“Apple itself is coming in at a very, very slow pace, but think about
that — you’ve got almost a billion iPhone users that can suddenly
become an Apple TV subscriber,” said Wang.
Still, Wang believes investors holding onto Netflix for the long-run
are “going to be fine.”
“It’s going to be Netlfix plus something else, Disney+ plus Netflix…
that’s going to be what the landscape will look like in North
America,” he said.
23-SEP-2019 :: Streaming Dreams Non-Linearity Netflix
My Mind kept to an Article I read in 2012 ‘’Annals of Technology
Streaming Dreams’’ by John Seabrook January 16, 2012.
“This world of online video is the future, and for an artist you want
to be first in, to be a pioneer. With YouTube, I will have a very
small crew, and we are trying to keep focused on a single voice. There
aren’t any rules. There’s just the artist, the content, and the
“People went from broad to narrow,” he said, “and we think they will
continue to go that way—spend more and more time in the niches—
because now the distribution lands- cape allows for more narrowness’’.
And this brought me to Netflix. Netflix spearheaded a streaming
revolution that changed the way we watch TV and films. As cable TV
lost subscribers, Netflix gained them, putting it in a category with
Facebook, Amazon, and Google as one of the adored US tech stocks that
led a historic bull market [FT].
Netflix faces an onslaught of competition in the market it invented.
After years of false starts, Apple is planning to launch a streaming
service in November, as is Disney — with AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Com-
cast’s NBCUniversal to follow early next year.
Netflix has corrected brutally and lots of folks are bailing big time
especially after Netflix lost US subscribers in the last quarter.
Even after the loss of subscribers in the second quarter, Ben
Swinburne, head of media research at Morgan Stanley, says Netflix is
still on course for a record year of subscriber additions.
Optimists point to the group’s global reach. It is betting its future
on expansion outside the US, where it has already attracted 60m
subscribers. And this is an inflection point just like the one I am
signaling in the Oil markets.
Netflix is not a US business, it is a global business. The Majority of
Analysts are in the US and in my opinion, these same Analysts have an
international ‘’blind spot’’
Once Investors appreciate that the Story is an international one and
not a US one anymore, we will see the price ramp to fresh all-time
09-DEC-2019 :: Time to Big Up the Dosage of Quaaludes
we were all popping Quaaludes [Quaaludes ‘’to promote relaxation,
sleepiness and sometimes a feeling of euphoria. It causes a drop in
blood pressure and slows the pulse rate. These properties are the
reason why it was initially thought to be a useful sedative and
anxiolytic It became a recreational drug due to its euphoric
Today wherever you care to look [There are a few exceptions, Egypt is
one, Cote D’Ivoire another], we are looking at ‘’the decay of that
Ethiopia's surveillance network crumbles, meaning less fear and less control @ReutersAfrica @MaggieFick
Rahmat Hussein once inspired fear and respect for the watchful eye she
cast over her Ethiopian neighbourhood, keeping files on residents and
recommending who should get a loan or be arrested.
Now she is mocked and ignored.
Her fall - from being the eyes and ears of one of Africa’s most
repressive governments to a neighbourhood punchline - illustrates how
Ethiopia’s once ubiquitous surveillance network has crumbled.
“My work is harder now,” she said, wistfully. “People don’t listen anymore.”
Rahmat worked for a system set up by the ruling Ethiopian People’s
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition in the early 2000s,
officially to help implement central policies across the country of
105 million people.
But the system, which detractors say was twisted into a tool to
silence government critics, began to unravel with the outbreak of
deadly protests in 2015 which undermined the EPRDF’s authority.
The election of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has vowed to
make society more open and took office in April 2018, has accelerated
That has been welcomed by many.
“People were afraid and could not speak up,” said Agenagnew Abuhay,
Rahmat’s colleague at a local women’s affairs office.
Others, like Rahmat, mourn its loss, saying the network drove advances
in health, education and agriculture.
It is widely acknowledged among Ethiopians as having played a
significant role in society, although many are still too nervous to
speak openly about it.
Some officials and academics question whether Abiy can control a
restive population, amid outbreaks of deadly ethnic violence, and
deliver promised economic and political reforms without the system he
has allowed to fray.
“The local administration is collapsing in some places,” said one
civil servant in the capital Addis Ababa, who asked not to be
identified because he was not authorised to speak with journalists.
“The government doesn’t seem to have much control.”
Abiy holds regular public meetings and is active on Twitter, said an
official in the prime minister’s office, when asked how he would
communicate with people now the old network has weakened. Most
Ethiopian households do not have the internet.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman referred Reuters to the civil service
commission for comment.
Its head, Bezabih Gebreyes, said the system was formed for the “noble
rationale” of development but acknowledged that ultimately it had been
“The structure was very active for at least five years,” he told
Reuters. It failed, he said, because workers did not like taking
orders from political appointees.
Stacked on top of Rahmat’s kitchen cabinet in the town of Debark, 470
km (290 miles) north of Addis Ababa, are a dozen bulging folders
detailing the lives of 150 neighbours: who has money troubles, who has
HIV, who is caring for an orphan and who is hosting a stranger.
The 27-year-old kept a copy of her handwritten notes and delivered
duplicates to a local government office, which crunched the numbers
and reported them upwards.
“It made me very happy to do this work,” she told Reuters one cold
morning, as she cooked bean stew in her one-room home. “I did it to
serve the people.”
If there were strangers in the neighbourhood, she reported them to police.
Rahmat was more than a neighbourhood fixer. She was a loyal party
member, encouraging residents to join the EPRDF and promoting its
policies at monthly meetings.
She was also part of a network of millions of people in cities and
villages, universities and workplaces.
The system was popularly called “one-to-five”, because volunteers
would typically be assigned five other people to monitor. Some, like
Rahmat, supervised more.
The work was unpaid, but there were rewards. Rahmat got a government
job. Others received preferential access to farming supplies or loans,
she and other participants in the system say.
The government used the system to drive rapid agricultural and
industrial reforms, aimed at transforming a mostly rural society
dogged by famine into a middle-income country by 2025.
Volunteers taught farmers how to space their seedlings and use
fertilizer, promoted safe birthing practices and kept track of
The system was also used “for surveying the population and to
intimidate any kind of opposition,” Lovise Aalen, an Ethiopia expert
at Norway-based research institute CMI, wrote in a 2018 paper.
Some former and current officials and aid groups credit “one-to-five”
for helping Ethiopia achieve development goals.
For years, government officials had trumpeted relentless progress.
Barley and wheat production always beat forecasts. Vaccination
campaigns reached every village.
“We lied left and right,” former information minister Getachew Reda
told Reuters. “That’s why people got angry.”
The system began to disintegrate in the tumultuous years of protests
that propelled Abiy to power in April 2018.
Since that time, Rahmat’s dossiers have been gathering dust.
Zimbabwe Faces Mining-Asset Seizure Over Canceled Joint Ventures @economics
Zimbabwe, which is banking on investment in its natural resources to
arrest an economic free-fall, faces having the assets of the state
mining company seized after a final appeal of a 2014 arbitration
Companies linked to British Virgin Islands-based Amari Holdings Ltd.
won the right to seize assets worth $65.9 million in compensation for
Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp.’s cancellation of nickel and
platinum ventures formed in 2007 and 2008.
The ruling by the International Court of Arbitration was made after a
hearing in Lusaka, Zambia.
The development comes at a difficult time for Zimbabwe, with the
government forecasting the economy will contract 6.5% this year
because of crippling foreign-currency, fuel, wheat and power
The state is seeking to convince investors from Cyprus, South Africa,
Russia and Nigeria to spend billions of dollars developing its
platinum reserves, the world’s third-largest. It’s also rich in gold,
chrome and iron ore.
“We are by law entitled to attach any asset belonging to the ZMDC or
their 100% shareholder, the Zimbabwean government,” Ian Small-Smith, a
lawyer acting for Amari, said Monday.
“They seemingly still don’t appreciate how adversely this will impact
the credibility of Zimbabwe as an investment destination.”
The dispute arose over plans Amari had to develop mines in Zimbabwe.
The company formed platinum and nickel ventures with ZMDC that were
50% and 45% owned by the state company respectively.
Zimbabwe’s assertion that the deals weren’t appropriately approved by
ZMDC officials and the nation’s mines minister were rejected by the
Amari will seek to seize fixed assets owned by Zimbabwe and ZMDC both
in the country and elsewhere and may also target shipments of diamonds
and tobacco, Small-Smith said.
“The Ministry of Mines is aware of this development and the matter is
under control through a number of stakeholder engagement processes,”
Zimbabwean Secretary for Mines Mazai Moyo said.
Amari has been approached by Benedict Peters, a Nigerian billionaire
who was awarded the platinum prospect initially held by Amari,
Small-Smith said. Peters had been seeking a settlement with Amari, he
This was denied by a representative of Peters’ Bravura Holdings.
“There is no truth that any entity or party has been approached by it
to settle any such disputes,” said Lionel Mahlanga, Bravura’s
representative in Zimbabwe.
“Bravura holds legal and rightful titles to exploit some platinum
claims in Zimbabwe awarded to it after interests ostensibly held by
the previous owners were forfeited by the Ministry of Mines as a
result of their non-performance of key statutory and commercial
obligations,” he said.
Amari was founded by Mike Nunn, the South African mining entrepreneur
who established Tanzanite One Ltd. to exploit the blue precious stone
found only in Tanzania.
Genocide, gold and foreign wars: Sudan's most feared commander General Mohamed 'Hemedti' Hamdan Dagalo speaks out @Independent
The messaging was clear as soon as Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo entered the room.
Clad in a traditional white jalabiya, or tunic, and headdress, Sudan’s
most powerful man known "as Hemedti" looked more like the camel trader
he once was, rather than the chief of a paramilitary force accused of
raping and killing protesters in Khartoum and committing genocidal
violence in Darfur.
It was a careful shift from past appearances both before and after the
April revolution which ousted his boss, Sudan’s former president Omar
Gone were his signature military fatigues and khaki baseball cap. Gone
too were his offices overlooking the base of the Rapid Support Forces
(RSF) he commands.
Instead, this rare interview took place within Hemedti’s residence in
the capital, where he sat on a tiffany-blue gilt sofa of nail-salon
From there he was quick to urge Britain to form a partnership with the
RSF, citing the militia’s supposed efforts to combat illegal migration
“My priority is not to rule. I swear to God I see myself as Sudanese,
I am a normal citizen, I am simple and have no power,” he said, with
the soft paternal cadence deployed by the likes of Egyptian president
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“We stress to the British people that this change is a real change.
True, there may be problems here and there, but they are all being
“And so, we hope the UK will be close to us and build a real partnership.”
This year the billionaire militiaman made the unlikely transition from
Bashir’s close confidante, who jokingly nicknamed Hemedti “Hemayti”,
meaning my protector, to a leader of the very security apparatus that
toppled the president.
The April revolution forced Bashir out of power and he is now in
prison facing corruption charges.
Hemedti, 43, became the deputy head of the country’s Sovereign
Council, a joint civilian-military transitional body which runs the
country for now.
But with a powerful army of soldiers in the RSF and considerable
wealth behind him, he is often talked of as the real power behind
He wants to portray himself as the protector of the revolution; but
the RSF he heads has a bloody history in Darfur and stands accused of
continuing to carry out attacks against protesters.
No one knows exactly how many people have been killed since the
conflict first erupted in Darfur in 2003, but estimates range from
300,000 to half a million dead. The fighting also displaced some 2
million people, according to the UN.
Despite a post-revolution ceasefire, over a dozen people in Darfur,
including tribal leaders, told The Independent there are regular raids
in the eastern Marra mountains in Darfur.
“The largest attacks on civilians in 2014, 2016, 2017 were carried
about by the RSF. The UN panel of experts on Sudan and the UN
assistance mission there have all said this happened against people
who stayed put in eastern Marra mountains,” said Suliman Baldo from
the Enough Project, an NGO that has researched the genocide.
“It is still happening today.”
This summer Amnesty published disturbing new evidence showing Sudanese
government forces, including the RSF and its allied militias,
continuing to destroy villages, commit unlawful killings and sexual
Local media has also logged a steady track of vicious attacks and
killings although no overall death toll has been officially announced.
He dismissed the claims as “systematic targeting of the RSF... by the
old regime”, and called the RSF the “guardians of Darfur” and
“protectors of the revolution”.
“Who is guarding Darfur? Who is guarding the internally displaced? Who
is compensating them? Who is bringing the rights of the people back?
It is us,” he continued, his voice scaling in pitch.
“And our top priority right now is the success of the civilian government.”
He also batted off other allegations of violence in the capital.
Last month, Human Rights Watch published an investigation largely
blaming the RSF for the 3 June break-up of an anti-government sit-in
Khartoum during which at least 120 were killed.
The commander conceded his forces were “not angels” and there “may
have been crimes” in the past, but insisted there was internal
accountability, including an investigation into the sit-in raid.
Sliding way from the rhetoric of previous interviews, where he had
spoken of his forces being goaded into action by “unspeakable
provocations”, he said instead those that committed the horrific
attacks in the capital were intruders posing as RSF forces.
“The break-up of the sit-in was actually a coup,” he continued, saying
at least 200 people had been arrested for impersonating his men in an
attempt to discredit his forces.
“We found that some officers attached to us, different ranks,
including brigadiers and major generals, from the time of the old
regime were responsible,” he added.
Accusations of violence aside, Hemedti was keen to address the tricky
subject of gold, one of Sudan’s most valuable and also controversial
Just days after Bashir’s fall, Hemedti claimed in a televised address
he had deposited $1bn in Sudan’s Central Bank sourced from the trading
of gold and money paid to the RSF by the Gulf to fight in Yemen.
It sparked a slew of investigations into his family’s company Al
Gunade, which is said to work in areas ranging from transport and
construction, to running mines in Darfur and South Kordofan – all
guarded by RSF soldiers.
The gold business is so successful, they allegedly fly planeloads of
gold bars to Dubai.
Hemedti has since downplayed his relationship to the country’s gold
rush. In this interview, the commander frames himself as a tax-paying
patriot who had “partnerships” and “shares” in companies, separate to
the work of the RSF.
“I don’t have mines ... There is only one mine in Jabal Amer and some
partnerships with others,” he continued, though somewhat falteringly.
“We pay taxes. We pay Zakat [Islamic charitable donations]. We pay
customs. We pay export fees,” he insisted.
He wanted to emphasise that Al Gunade operates legally and the RSF
does not “mix power with trade”.
But government and industry sources, as well as eyewitnesses, paint a
slightly different and more shady picture.
In North Darfur’s capital El-Fasher there are tales of night flights
to the Emirates with planes loaded with gold.
“I actually saw one of the trucks once, the gold bars spilled out, and
they shut the entire airport down,” said one resident, who asked to
In a recent Reuters investigation, current and former government
officials, as well as gold industry sources, said that Bashir had
given first Hemedti “free rein” to sell gold through this family firm
Al Gunade in 2018, when Sudan’s economy was imploding.
In return, Hemedti would hand some of its export earnings to the
state, to pay for the government’s fuel and wheat purchases.
Airway bills and invoices obtained by the newswire showed that over a
four-week period in 2018, Al Gunade sent around $30m of gold bars to
Dubai, around a ton in weight.
Al Gunade’s spokespeople denied any wrongdoing and any connection with
Hemedti or the RSF. But in this interview, Hemedti spoke of the
company as if he was part of it.
He is also believed to have profited substantially from the war in
Yemen. Over the last few years, thousands of RSF fighters have fought
in Yemen for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies
the Yemen government against the Iran-backed Houthis.
RSF officers and Sudanese journalists investigating the RSF told The
Independent the Gulf paid Hemedti billions of dollars for the use of
the soldiers who occasionally lead the assaults against the Houthis,
but were largely deployed to secure recently captured cities.
At great risk, they also acted in a bodyguard capacity for the UAE
forces on the ground.
“It’s lucrative,” one officer said. He claimed profits were made by
converting the dollar payments into Sudanese pounds using better
black-market exchange rates, before paying salaries in local currency
and pocketing the difference.
Hemedti denies all of this vehemently, adding said the RSF were
withdrawing from Yemen.
“It was an agreement regarding the legitimacy in Yemen,” Hemedti said
of the reason to join the war.
“The state took that decision, we have only been ordered. It is not a
personal agreement,” he added.
With the possibility of a complete withdrawal from Yemen, he sought to
portray the future of the RSF as taking centre stage in the battle
against terrorism and illegal migration from North Africa to Europe.
The EU has poured millions of euros into Sudan to try to stop the flow
of migrants through the country. Mr Baldo, who investigated this, said
the money has ended up in the pockets of the RSF that committed
Hamdan insisted the RSF “saved” migrants and “was working in place of the EU”.
Born into a sub-clan of the powerful Arabic Rizaget tribe, he started
life as a nomadic camel trader in Darfur, Sudan’s western region.
After dropping out of school early, he helped establish the family
livestock business, selling animals across Sudan and even exporting to
His personal fortunes changed when he joined what was then known as
the “Janjaweed”. The hodgepodge force of local militias and Arab
tribesmen that was furnished with weapons by Bashir in 2003 to battle
rebels who had taken up arms against the government they accused of
oppressing Sudan’s non-Arab population.
Rights groups say that Bashir used these forces to launch ground, air
and even chemical-weapon attacks on rebels and civilians, prompting
wave after wave of displacement in a campaign that amounts to ethnic
In 2009 and 2010 the International Criminal Court issued an arrest
warrant against Bashir on charges of genocide over the killings.
It was in this bloody period that Hemedti steadily rose through the
ranks to become a prominent mid-range commander, but it wasn’t until
2013 when he really made a name for himself.
Bashir promoted him to head the newly formed RSF to quell an internal
rebellion from within the latest iteration of the Janjaweed.
While the former regime has tarnished Europe’s opinion of Sudan,
post-revolution times had changed, he insisted.
“The RSF does a lot more than this but the good side is not visible. I
can talk about their efforts for a month without finishing.”
Tech Giants Are Engaged in a New Scramble for Africa @WPReview @hofrench
By his own account, Jack Ma, the founder of the hugely successful
Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, only visited Africa for the first
time in 2017, when he went to Kenya and Rwanda.
And yet there he was earlier this month in the Opinion pages of The
New York Times, full of supposed wisdom about how the continent can
leap into the future by cultivating his own brand of
“If we all work together to support entrepreneurs,” Ma gushed, “then
Africa will become a hub of innovation and growth, the global leader
we know it can be.”
It is worth noting that after founding Alibaba in 1999, Ma became one
of the world’s richest people not only as an innovator, but also,
perhaps even primarily, as an astute adopter of trends set in motion
Early Alibaba, after all, essentially copied elements of the business
models of eBay and PayPal.
But putting aside how Ma got rich, as well as his overly simple and
confident prescription for Africa’s problems, consider instead how his
engagement with the continent fits in with another big, recent trend.
Global tech billionaires and their companies are competing to proclaim
their love for the continent and offering to help Africa by funding
scholarships, setting up contests for young entrepreneurs and taking
on other initiatives that flirt with philanthropy.
In Ma’s case, there is something he named the Africa Netpreneur Prize.
Ma said that 10,000 people applied to the inaugural, continentwide
competition earlier this year.
The top 10 could directly pitch him—and a group of judges—during a
televised event “for a chance to win a monetary prize, as well as
mentorship and training opportunities,” as he publicized it in The New
Ma’s op-ed came as Facebook has touted its own recent record in
Africa. The social media giant claims it has “trained over 7,000
woman-owned businesses in digital skills across sub-Saharan Africa.”
In a long list of its own accolades across the continent, steeped in
the language of Silicon Valley, Facebook also said it “celebrated 79
Community Leadership Circle meet-ups, with over 2,654 people
attending” and had reached its “45th Developer Circle, now in 17
African countries with more than 70,000 members.”
“Africa is important to Facebook, and we’re committed to investing in
its youth, entrepreneurs, the creative industries, tech ecosystem as
well as its many other communities,” Facebook’s regional director for
Africa, Nunu Ntshingila, said in promoting the “year in review.”
Not to be outdone in this same season of self-declared generosity and
warmth, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey surprised many, including in his own
company, when he said he would soon be moving to Africa for up to six
My point is not to be entirely cynical about all of this tech
outreach, which I believe represents just the beginning of a new era
of attempts to draw Africa more tightly into the embrace of these
enormous and hugely powerful companies.
But, with apologies to Virgil, I’d still urge the continent to beware
of geeks bearing gifts from afar.
A clear-eyed view of this situation requires recognition that with
their quasi-philanthropic initiatives, these tech giants—and others,
such as Netflix and Amazon—covet a couple things from Africa.
The continent will account for nearly half of global population growth
by mid-century and generate lots more middle-class consumers along the
Companies like these are beginning to compete with each other to
control the continent’s online marketplaces not just for goods and
services, but also for data.
While doing so, they would like to snatch up as much of Africa’s
talent as they can for harnessing to their own projects.
For Africa, the immensity of the stakes bound up in the future of the
internet are hard to imagine, just as they were for inhabitants of
rich countries whose lives and economies have already been radically
transformed by the internet revolution.
To surrender control of this vital realm to all-powerful entities like
Facebook and Alibaba would be to subject oneself to a new round of
colonialism, this one virtual, that would profoundly and indefinitely
injure Africa’s future prospects.
This is because of the history of Africa’s colonization, which left it
far more Balkanized than any other continent. The internet offers
Africa a unique chance to create a more integrated life for its
inhabitants, which they were deprived of when Europe sliced the
continent up like a cake late in the 19th century, drawing borders
that had little or nothing to do with the needs and sensibilities of
Today, big tech companies are engaged in their own scramble for
Africa, but rather than carve it up anew, they want to integrate it
into their spheres on their own terms.
Hints of what this might mean can be seen in the renegotiation of the
NAFTA trade pact, rebranded the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement,
The deal, which may serve as a model for future U.S. trade agreements
with other parts of the world, according to The Wall Street Journal,
prohibits tariffs on digital products, among other things.
It is only by coming together that Africa’s 54 countries will be able
to negotiate more equitable terms with tech behemoths and create their
own African champions.
Africa’s best hope for the next phase of the internet age does not lie
in playing junior partner with globally dominant companies from East
or West, however superficially generous they seem.
Instead, it is in constituting integrated regional or continent-wide
markets of its own. This approach alone can give it a fighting chance
to leverage its growing purchasing power, the sharply rising value of
its data, and the potential of local talent pools in internet-based
industries as well as in financial services and entertainment.
African integration was the dream of founding fathers in the
independence era of the late-1950s and 1960s. Leaders like Ghana’s
Kwame Nkrumah advocated for something he called Pan-Africanism as a
way of overcoming the continent’s poverty and weakness after
This dream of a reconstituted continent foundered on the reluctance of
national elites to surrender any of their lucrative new political
prerogatives for a theoretical benefit that supposedly lay somewhere
down the road.
Today, even traveling from one African country to another is like
running a gauntlet of obstacles—from road networks that were designed
to ease exports to the West rather than integrate neighboring
countries, to suffocating corruption by police, immigration and tax
officials who prey on all but the well-connected.
The internet offers the possibility of bypassing so many of these
baked-in weaknesses of more tangible, traditional infrastructure.
As the likes of Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg eye millions of new users
and customers across Africa, the question is whether the continent’s
politicians will appreciate the importance of this moment at its true
value. The time for them to act is now, before it is too late.
Sasini Tea and Coffee reports FY 2019 EPS [1.39] results through 30th September 2019
Par Value: 1/-
Closing Price: 17.25
Total Shares Issued: 228055504.00
Market Capitalization: 3,933,957,444
Sasini PLC FY 2019 results through 30th September 2019 vs. 30th September 2018
FY Revenue 2.794830b vs. 3.515220b -20.493%
FY [Loss]/gain arising from fair value changes on biological assets
[5.843m] vs. 55.559m -110.517%
FY Results from operations [392.109m] vs. 354.615m -210.573%
FY Finance income 51.736m vs. 112.663m -54.079%
FY Finance cost [20.926m] vs. [18.472m] -13.285%
FY [Loss]/ profit before tax [361.299m] vs. 448.806m -180.502%
FY [Loss]/ profit for the year [337.737m] vs. 293.523m -215.063%
FY [Loss]/ profit attributable to owners of the company [317.429m] vs.
EPS on operating activities [1.38] vs. 1.13 -222.124%
EPS on biological assets [0.01] vs. 0.17 -105.882%
EPS [1.39] vs. 1.30 -206.923%
Total Assets 14.674359b vs. 12.961380b +13.216%
Total Equity 12.885055b vs. 11.323783b +13.788%
Cash and cash equivalents at the end of the period 429.264m vs.
Dividend 0.50 vs. 1.00-50.000%
COMMENTS ON THE AUDITED RESULTS FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 SEPTEMBER 2019
Our expectation for the year’s performance was severely affected by
the significant dip in the tea and coffee prices experienced during
This was further compounded by severe weather conditions, high cost of
production manifested in labour and input costs and lower production
volumes especially in tea.
The prices were lower than the cost of production throughout the
financial year, leading to the absorption of cash reserves to support
the continuation of the business.
Despite these challenges, the diversification strategy is on course
and the new lines of business are active and are expected to improve
performance in the next year.
Tea production during the year declined by 14% to 9,318 tonnes of made
tea down from 10,804 tonnes achieved in the previous year.
The coffee estates produce went through a challenging period following
prolonged extreme cold weather in prior year coupled with a dry period
in the second quarter, which affected quality and size of the coffee
beans and price.
Coffee production however, was higher at 986 tonnes exceeding 891
tonnes produced in the previous year. Generally, global coffee and tea
prices dipped to their lowest in over 10 years.
The avocado business maintained a steady and profitable performance
during the second year of full operation despite effects of a poor
crop and harvest due to the failed rains in the year.
During the year, we launched the macadamia commercial processing and
trading activities having completed the capital investments of the
factory in late 2018.
The business however only started trading in the last quarter of the
financial year and there are indications that going forward, this
business unit is poised to be a central part and key contributor to
our operations and profits.
The Group recorded a decline in turnover of 20% to Kes.2.8 billion
compared to Kes 3.5 billion last year, the cost of sales declined by
11% to Kes 2.4 billion against prior year of Kes 2.7 billion and
consequently a reduction in gross profit to Kes434.7 million compared
to KShs. 852.1 million for the previous year.
The Group posted an overall loss after tax and non-controlling
interest (including the changes in value of biological assets) of Kes
337.7 million (prior year Kes 293.5 million profit).
This comprises of a loss from operating activities of Kes 314.2
million compared to a profit of Kes 256.6 million in the previous year
for the group.
The net loss from changes in the value of biological assets was Kshs
3.2 million (prior year gai n o f Kshs 38.9 million).
An interim dividend of 50% (Kes 0.50 per share: 2018 50%: Kes 0.50 per
share) was declared and paid on 16 July 2019.
The directors do not recommend the payment of a final dividend (2018
50%: Kes 0.50 per share).
Small improvement second Half versus First Half.
Tea and Coffee Prices ave turned higher of late
significant drawdown of Cash and Cash equivalents of -62.20%
however, interestingly, Total Assets uplifted +13.216%