What Southeast Asian Muslims' Response to US-Jerusalem Embassy Move Means

December 15, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - US President Donald Trump's announcement to move the US embassy in Israel from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has ignited protests, tensions and fears of future conflict across the Middle East. Protests and posturing have followed the announcement from a wide variety of demographics.


Predictably, Muslim communities across the Middle East have voiced their opposition. This includes both Sunnis and Shia'a who have even united at rallies organised by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Middle Eastern Christians have also attended such events as well as having staged their own protests.

Other nations, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have predictably condemned the United States and Israel, while simultaneously continuing their collaboration with both in terms of undermining Syria.

While it is tempting to see the ongoing conflict through a primarily religious lens, however, geopolitics appears to be a much more relevant target and motivation driving US foreign policy and the very predictable reaction it has provoked.

This is especially so, considering how large Muslim communities beyond the Middle East have reacted, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia's Muslims Muted Over Move 

Southeast Asia is home to an estimated 240 million Muslims. They compose a majority of the populations in Indonesia (the most populous Muslim nation on the planet), Malaysia and Brunei. Muslims also make up a sizeable minority in nations including Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.

Despite the significant number of Muslims in Southeast Asia, the fervour over America's announcement was relatively muted.

There were indeed protests held in Malaysia and Indonesia including by parties with past or present affiliations with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but beyond these symbolic protests, little more has unfolded. 


Thailand: US Creating "Space" For Destabilisation

December 13, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - In late November, the US, Canadian and British embassies along with several other European partners as well as the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Amnesty International, organised what they called the "Isaan Human Rights Festival" in northeast Thailand.

Foreign embassies have funded and directed a number of events to breath new life into the political proxies of ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shianwatra in pursuit of regime change in Thailand. 

US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funded media front, the "Isaan Record" in its article, "Rare human rights event gathers Isaan communities and foreign diplomats," claims (our emphasis):
The 8th Annual Isaan Human Rights Festival brought together 17 communities from across the region, activists, scholars, and international and Thai students. Ambassadors from Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom were in attendance, as well as political officers from Canada, the European Union and the United States. National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit also attend the event. 

Hosted by Mahasarakham University’s College of Politics and Governance, the festival opened a rare space to discuss the human rights situation in the Northeast.
While the US-funded media outfit mentioned funding provided by the Germany-based Heinrich Böll Foundation, it failed to mention other sponsors whose logos were clearly visible in media used throughout the event.

Creating Space for Destabilisation and Conflict 

The foreign-sponsored "festival" takes place against the backdrop of a currently dormant Thai political crisis. In 2014, the Thai military ousted then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, sister and publicly admitted proxy of Thaksin Shinawatra, a convicted criminal hiding abroad to evade a jail sentence and who was himself ousted in 2006 in a similar coup.

Since Thaksin Shinawatra's ouster in 2006, he has led a campaign of terrorism, street violence, armed insurrection and assassinations. This includes riots in 2009 that saw sections of Bangkok lit ablaze and at least two shopkeepers gunned down by looting Shinawatra supporters. The following year, Shinawatra organised up to 300 heavily armed militants who fought for weeks in the streets of Bangkok against the military, leaving nearly 100 dead and culminating in citywide arson.

Shinawatra supporters have been banned from gathering in Thailand for good reason. They are used by Shinawatra's political proxies to incite unrest, violence and substantial bloodshed in pursuit of regime change.  

The most recent coup was precipitated when Shinawatra's militants began murdering anti-Shinawatra protesters in the street. Armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers, hit-and-run attacks targeted protest camps across Bangkok and even those that sprung up in other provinces. Over 20 would die, including women and children.


Look Who's Interfering: Tillerson's Thai Election Comment

December 10, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a press statement regarding Thailand's National Day. In it he expressed diplomatic greetings and well-wishing to the Thai people, but failed to resist also expressing American exceptionalism - stating, "we look forward to Thailand holding elections next year."


While the statement may seem rather innocuous at first glance, it is anything but.

Returning a Murderous Proxy to Power 

Thailand's elections have been put on hold, following a 2014 military coup ousting the US-backed regime of Yingluck Shinawtra who served openly as her brother Thaksin Shinawatra's proxy.

Thaksin Shinawatra resides abroad in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a convicted criminal evading a 2-year jail sentence for abuse of power. He too was ousted from power in a military coup in 2006.

Before being removed from power, he oversaw a brutal "war on drugs" in 2003 that left nearly 3,000 extrajudicially killed in the streets over the course of just 90 days. He also attempted to unilaterally sign a US-Thai free trade deal without parliamentary approval, sent Thai troops to participate in the US invasion of Iraq, and allowed Thai territory to be used as part of the US CIA's extraordinary rendition program.



Since being deposed from power in 2006, Shinawatra has organized street mobs, militants, and terrorists, killing scores of people, conducting campaigns of mass arson, bombings, and assassinations as part of his bid to seize back power.

He regularly meets members of his Pheua Thai Party (PTP) in Hong Kong, and has been allowed to travel across Europe, to the UK, and even to the US to conduct business despite being a fugitive and despite his human rights record.


ISIS Helps US Keep Military's Foot in Philippines' Door

December 7, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - Current US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, recently congratulated the Philippines' armed forces and the US military for their successful completion of KAMANDAG, a joint military exercise held for the first time this year.


The US embassy in the Philippines on its website noted that:
KAMANDAG, which will run until October 11, is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” or “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” emphasizing the close partnership between the Philippine and United States militaries. KAMANDAG will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region, and further reinforce our illustrious decades-long alliance. Leading up to the commencement of KAMANDAG, AFP and U.S. forces completed bilateral humanitarian and civic assistance projects at schools earlier this month in Casiguran, Aurora.
The embassy also made particular note that the exercise would "increase counterterrorism capabilities," which is particularly convenient considering the current crisis Manila faces on its southern island of Mindanao, where parts of the city of Marawi are still being held by militants linked to the Islamic State.

News outlets including across the United States and Europe, have noted that fighting in Marawi is backed by foreign interests and includes foreign fighters. Reuters in an article titled, "ISIS-Linked Mmilitants Fighting in Marawi City are 'Paralysed': Philippine Army," would report:
The battle for Marawi has raised concern that ISIS, on a back foot in Syria and Iraq, is building a regional base on the Philippine island of Mindanao that could pose a threat to neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore too. 

Officials have said that, among the several hundred militants who seized the town, there were about 40 foreigners from Indonesia and Malaysia but also fighters from India, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Chechnya. 

The strike on Marawi City suggested to many that pro-Islamic State factions wanted to establish it as a Southeast Asian "wilayat" – or governorate - for the radical group, a view reinforced by video footage the military found last week showing the fighters plotting to cut the town off completely.
With militants in Syria and Iraq clearly the recipients of extensive state sponsorship, particularly from the United States and its closest regional allies, it stands to reason that their ambitions thousands of miles away in the Philippines are likewise state-sponsored.


As to why the US and its allies would sponsor terrorism in the Philippines, the answer is surprisingly simple and straight forward.

US Seeks to Keep Its Foot in the Door

With the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, US-Philippine relations became increasingly strained. Beyond the political leadership in Manila, overall pragmatic considerations regarding Washington's waning influence in Asia Pacific and Beijing's rise have put increasing distance between the United States and its former colonial holdings in the Philippines.

Manila's unwillingness to help Washington leverage tensions in the South China Sea against Beijing have become a particular point of contention, hindering Washington's attempts to use the Philippine armed forces as a proxy to hem in Chinese interests across the region.


The US and the Global Artificial Intelligence Arms Race

December 4, 2017 (Ulson Gunnar - NEO) - Artificial intelligence (AI) is already widely used by tech firms worldwide for everything from search engines to social media. It is also increasingly being developed for other applications including monitoring systems and decision making. Experimental platforms are already being tested that can review medical records and images to diagnose patients. There are also autonomous AI agents being developed and tested that carry out and defend against cyberattacks.


While the US is perceived to hold a large advantage in this crucial and ever-emerging technological field, Russian and Chinese leadership have publicly recognized the importance of AI and the need to prevent any one nation from monopolizing it.

Russian media would report regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin's regarding the future of AI that:
Vladimir Putin spoke with students about science in an open lesson on September 1, the start of the school year in Russia. He told them that “the future belongs to artificial intelligence,” and whoever masters it first will rule the world. 

“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
Regarding Beijing's view on AI, Chinese media would report that:
China unveiled a national artificial intelligence (AI) development plan on Thursday, aiming to build an AI technologically world-leading domestic industry by 2030. 

Released by the State Council, the plan formulates the key strategy for the development of China’s AI industry.
Russia and China's recognition of the importance of AI in both economic and national defense terms has been noted by US policymakers and industry leaders who seek to maintain what is, for now, a primarily American dominated industry.

US Plans and Vision for AI 

The Washington DC-based Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has recently rolled out its Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative.

The initiative seeks to bring together technology experts, policymakers and the media to explore the impact AI will have on all aspects of security from more indirect threats to infrastructure, the flow of information and economics, to AI deployed directly on the battlefield in the form of autonomous weapon systems.


CNAS' early November 2017 Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit included Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. (Google), Andrew Moore of Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Dario Amodei of OpenAI and Dr. Kathleen Fisher of Tufts University's computer science department.