mursi

America & The Muslim Brotherhood: A Shotgun Wedding

 The military were overthrown once, if they hold onto power, it is likely to happen again.

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter the first round of presidential elections this week in Egypt we know that the next Egyptian president will either be Ahmed Shafiq, a holdover from the Mubarak era, or Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. If the former wins, the Egyptian ‘revolution’ will be a failure, as yet another military man runs the country. If Mursi wins it would be a significant break from Egypt’s past, but could mean problems in its relationship with the west, and for its rather secular history.

There have already been claims of fraud by other candidates over the fact that Shafiq got into the second round. While Egyptian public opinion polling has been seen as unreliable, Shafiq was still considered a dark horse candidate. He was Mubarak’s last prime minister, and is now largely seen as the candidate of SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), the transitional military government.

The success of Mursi is a major break with Egypt’s past.The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, and was put down by the Mubarak government in the years since. In this time they acted like a civil society group or charity. They also tried to work around the ban running members for parliament as independents. After the fall of Mubarak, the Brotherhood’s organizational strength gave them a leg up against other parties. Egyptian liberals were divided over whom to support and had no parties or organizations in which they could coalesce around and win elections. While there have been problems for the Brotherhood (such as going back on their initial pledge not to run a presidential candidate, once they realized SCAF didn’t want a strong parliament), they are still well positioned to do well in upcoming elections.

The United States has long avoided working close with Islamist parties in the Middle East like the Brotherhood, preferring instead the stability that strongmen like Hosni Mubarak and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen could provide. But now that a more democratic-era is on the horizon, American strategy needs to change. Not only is working with the Muslim Brotherhood in America’s own best interest, it will also mean that America’s Middle East policy will finally line up more with American ideals.

While many in Washington would be comfortable working with a military government in Cairo, the fall of Mubarak has already shown that Egyptians are fed up of the army dominating politics and the economy. The military is unlikely to trust the American government in the future, after it rather quickly jettisoned Mubarak, an ally for decades.

As the Brotherhood is likely to be the most successful political party in the near future anyway, it makes sense for the US to side with the winner. While it would have been good if liberal parties had done better in recent elections, the truth is that they fared poorly. If America supports the Brotherhood now, they’ll have more influence over them if they win. The Brotherhood is also better than the Salafist alternative. While the Brotherhood is an Islamist party, with all the problems that could entail, their Salafist rivals, Al-Nour, are much more radical and more likely to do something like back out of the Camp David peace accords with Israel.

By supporting the most popular party (which it appears the Brotherhood is), America would also be supporting the idea of democracy in the Middle East. While American leaders have always talked about the country as a “city upon a hill“, in practice America has been as prone to realpolitik as all states. In recent decades Washington has been more encouraging of democracy in Latin America, ceasing to prop up Caudillos to its south. Now is a good time to do the same in the Middle East. American support of men like Mubarak has long been a cause for anti-Americanism in the muslim world. It’s also been a motivator of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda (the groups current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was tortured by the Egyptian government in the early eighties).

However, there are problems with supporting the Brotherhood. While not as extreme as Al-Nour, they are still somewhat anti-American and anti-Israel. They are also Islamist and in favor of instituting Sharia law. But in this regard, they are much less fervent that Hamas, or the government of Saudi Arabia.

The security of Israel is an important American interest in the Middle East. Any future Egyptian government needs to stand by the Camp David Accords. The Brotherhood has said they will keep to the treaty, but relations with Israel won’t be as friendly as they were under Mubarak. The most likely scenario is that relations decline somewhat, as they have in Turkey under the AK Party. Its doubtful that the situation would become like that after the Iranian revolution, where the new regime became an avowed enemy of Israel.

Despite these arguments against, the United States should still try to make an ally out of the Brotherhood. The military were overthrown once, if they hold onto power, it is likely to happen again. America should support the strongest democratic party, which at the moment is the Brotherhood.

refugees israel

Israeli State Sponsored Xenophobia

The unjust treatment of both illegal immigrants and Arabs stems from the same racist values which are so pervasive in Israel’s public institutions.

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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the most difficult questions for any policy maker today is how to deal with illegal immigration. This is especially a problem for countries whose economy is relatively decent and who border or are close to countries where the basic institutions needed to look after the needs of the population are dysfunctional or nonexistent.

One of the governments having to deal with this issue is Israel. Nearby Eritrea and Sudan have been inefficient towards their citizens for as long as one can remember and Sudan in particular has seen and is still seeing prolonged periods of violence. In the past few years Eritreans and Sudanese have been seeking refuge in close-by countries such as Egypt and Israel.

The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has recorded an influx of 60,000 refugees with 2,000 to 3,000 more every month. For a country with a population of 7.6 million it is a high number indeed. Many of these immigrants end up living in neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv. This has caused rising bitterness among locals who accuse the immigrants of all sorts of “dirty” deeds.

Slowly but steadily, and also due to the recent case of three Eritrean immigrants being accused of sexual assaulting a 19 year old girl, this bitterness has metamorphosed into hatred which has been manifested through a variety of attacks against the immigrant community. The incidents include the throwing of molotovs against a building housing immigrants, verbal abuse against Hotline for Migrant Workers, an aid organization, and, most importantly, an anti-immigrant protest which ended with the demonstrators attacking random immigrants on the street.

Such reactions on behalf of the local population, however heinous, are not irrational bouts. On the contrary, they have a logic of their own, that is, they are the result of specific circumstances. In Israel, these circumstances take the form of political and social institutions imbued with racist and xenophobic values.

In other words, what we are witnessing right now in Israel is the logical outcome of the racist ideology pervasive in its public institutions. The central principle of this ideology is that Israel is and has to remain a Jewish state and it needs to preserve its “Jewish character” by whatever means possible. This ideology can be observed by looking firstly at the statements made by top ranking politicians and secondly at the decisions taken by the political establishment as a whole.

Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, commenting on the possible deportation of migrant workers from Israel in October 2009, asked rhetorically ‘Do [the workers] not threaten the Zionist project in the State of Israel?’. Netanyahu has explicitly declared that the influx of immigrants is jeopardising Israel’s Jewish character. At the anti-immigrant rally held in south Tel Aviv, several Members of Knesset (MK), Israel’s parliament, were present. One of them, Likud MK Danny Dannon, called for deportation. Another, Likud MK Miri Regev, shouted “the Sudanese [are] a cancer in our body”. Notice that these remarks, and the first two in particular, do not mention economic difficulties as obstacles for absorbing immigrants but the preservation of the Jewish character of the state.

The measures the government has taken against the influx of immigrants also manifest xenophobic values. Firstly, the biggest detention centre in the world is being built in the Negev desert, capable of housing up to 11,000 immigrants. Human Rights groups have criticised the construction of the detention centre pointing out at the inhumane conditions it will subject the inmates. Secondly, the government has resorted also in this case to building a wall on its southern border, just as it is doing in the north with Lebanon and in the occupied Palestinian territories. Thirdly, politicians have pledged to deport the immigrants against their will and knowing that they face severe consequences in their countries of origin. Fourthly, the Knesset passed a bill which defines anyone crossing the southern border of Israel illegally as an “infiltrator” who can be detained up to three years. Fifthly, the government is not recognising the immigrants’ status as refugees. Out of the 60,000 plus people who crossed illegally into Israel in the past few years, only six have been bestowed with a refugee status (and only 170 since 1949), meaning that all the others do not enjoy the rights accorded to refugees. The last of these measures violates the first article of the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees adopted by the UN General Assembly and of which Israel is a signatory.

Moreover, the police have been accused of feeding the public incorrect data about immigrants. For instance, the media has quoted the police as stating that immigrants were responsible for 40% of crimes, a figure repeated by MK Danny Dannon. But at a meeting held by the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers, police data showed that in 2011 immigrants were responsible only for 2.24% of crimes thus showing that much of the fear raised among locals was unnecessary and illogical.

To be sure, the social phenomenon where the local population resorts to extremist actions against immigrants is certainly not peculiar to Israel, far from it. What needs to be appreciated, though, is that the background structure of Israeli society is responsible for and supporting this  phenomenon. Although the government boasts of being the only democratic country in the region, it is actively inciting the population to such actions by both pronouncing inflammatory and racist remarks and taking concrete steps in maintaining the “Jewish character” of the nation, that is, getting rid of anything which threatens the “Jewish demographic”, as the native Arab population knows all too well. In fact, the unjust treatment of both illegal immigrants and Arabs stems from the same racist values which are so pervasive in Israel’s public institutions. And let us not forget the incentives the Israeli state has designed in order to attract Jews wishing to become citizens of Israel, starting with the Law of Return, which shows that influx itself is not the problem.

The sick irony in all of this is unmissable: while Israel points to the repeated persecution of the Jewish people and its culmination in the racist policies of Germany during the 30s and 40s, it turns away foreigners escaping very similar situations precisely in order to preserve its purity.

How Well Do You Know The Middle East: Answers

  1.  David Ben-Gurion declared Israeli independence on the 14th May 1948, the day before the expiration of Britain’s Palestinian Mandate.
  2. The last Shah of Iran was Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. He was deposed in February 1979 in a revolution that resulted in Ayatollah Khomeini assuming power.
  3. Gamal Abdel Nasser was the President of Egypt from 1956 until 1970. He was succeeded by Anwar Sadat.
  4. The main religion in Iran before the Arab conquests and the spread of Islam was Zoroastrianism.
  5. The Ottoman Empire was named the “sick man of Europe” by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
  6. Azerbaijan is the state that shares borders with Iran, Russia and the Caspian Sea.
  7. The body of water between Iran and the United Arab Emirates is the Persian Gulf, also known as the Arabian Gulf.
  8. The capital city of Oman is Muscat.
  9. Mosul is situated in Northern Iraq.
  10. The United Arab Emirates is made up of 7 emirates, the capital of which is Abu Dhabi.
  11. The current Yemeni President is Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi who replaced long-standing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February of this year.
  12. The PFLP, or Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is a hard line Palestinian organisation founded in 1967.
  13. Israel’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Avigdor Liberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu.
  14. King Abdullah II of Jordan made a cameo appearance in Star Trek whilst Crown Prince.
  15. Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi are the two candidates left in the running for the Egyptian presidential election.
  16. Muhammad died in 632 at the age of 62.
  17. Egypt has the largest number of Middle Eastern bloggers, possessing about 30% of the total.
  18. Lebanon is the only Middle Eastern country to not have a desert.
  19. Osama bin Laden, the former leader of Al Qaeda was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
  20. The Baha’i Faith’s Universal House of Justice is located in Haifa, Israel.
paris

The French Cold Turkey

The last French President to visit Turkey was François Mitterrand; as with many things, it’s time for Hollande to pick up where the last socialist French President left off.

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]rançois Hollande’s election prompted an editorial in almost every paper questioning what this meant for Franco-German relations. After all, Merkozy was the European Union’s dream couple. The answer being that pragmatism is likely to take precedence over Hollande’s socialist ideology, especially when it comes to finance. But, when it comes to Turkey and France the election of Hollande could change the tune France and the EU have been humming. Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister, Naci Koru, told reporters in that Turkey hopes problems it had with France will be gone with the new president . Nevertheless, he stressed that Turkey will wait and see, as it is difficult to say anything about future relations. But neither France nor Turkey can afford to wait and see: Turkey’s issues with France are as much their own problems as they are France’s.

Turkish and French relations have been fraught, particularly over the last 5 years. Sarkozy made his feelings regarding Turkey abundantly clear throughout his tenure as President, and they were not positive. The President verged between ignoring Turkey or fervently fighting against Turkey’s accession to the European Union by highlighting its domestic and historical failings. With socialist Hollande we may see an even larger magnifying glass held up to Turkey’s flaws. Now, even more than ever, if France is to have a relationship with Turkey the question of human rights, minority rights, freedom of expression and most importantly the thorny issue of Armenia will be even more pertinent.

Turkey’s accession to the EU has been frozen for the last three years. Sarkozy, as an integral part of the European system, played a significant role in halting Turkey’s accession. Turkey has only passed 1 of the 8 criteria, with France putting the kabosh on five of them. Despite the freeze there is still a movement towards Europe, despite the fact that Turkey has realised it does not need Europe as much as it once did. Nevertheless, Hollande’s election could really be the kick-start Turkey’s accession need but only if both Erdoğan and Hollande collaborate and begin to show gestures of goodwill.

During his time as President, Sarkozy visited Turkey once, in his role as chairman of the G20 rather than in the diplomatic interests of the two countries. In fact, the last French President to visit Turkey was François Mitterand. As with many things, it’s time for Hollande to pick up where the last socialist French President left off and visit. The move would be unprecedented and would signal a marked shift in France’s foreign policy. And more importantly it would be historic change and notable u-turn in France’s position regarding Turkey’s accession. Turkey has much to offer Europe and could in fact be the injection of hope Europe needs now. It’s blossoming economy, the second fastest growing economy in the world, and a young population could be the new beginning for which the EU is desperate.

Under the AKP, Turkey has made real progress towards realising its European dream, achieving candidacy in 2005. At the same time, Turkey was the first state membership candidacy to have the explicit mention of religion as a factor in the decision. Considered an original approach, it moves the consideration of candidacy from the political sphere and shifts the  focus on to civil society. This changes Turkey’s constant political struggle towards Europeanization and instead requires a strengthening of relations amongst factions in its civil society. In this respect, Turkey has had varying success.

Turkey’s recent history has been marred by tensions with its minority populations, notably the Kurds. Meanwhile, there has been a positive move towards breaking down the militant laicism that defined the previous 70 years. Religion has been increasingly politicised, framed as in the public’s interest or rationalized as an assimilation of Western nations’ experiences of integrating religion and politics. However, freedom of speech has increasingly been curtailed whether via youtube bans or condemning  the “despotic arrogance of intellectuals” and threatening to cut funding to public theatre. Turkey seeks to revive its accession process to the EU with a new “positive agenda”;  attempts to come to terms with the cracks in Turkey’s civil society could bridge the gap between the two countries.

Hollande is unlikely to rapidly change course when it comes to Turkey. The best Turkey can hope for is progress with regards to the Union of the Mediterranean, using it as a token of support. Undeniably, it would be a small first step but this could spur a renewed interest in Turkey and France would be able to move to remedy its image in the Middle East. Both countries need to make an effort towards reconciliation, and neither can afford to wait.

Merkel, EP

In Defence Of Merkel

The structural problems in Southern Europe, that are also hindering French growth, cannot be swept under the carpet in the hope that Germany will succumb to the idea of collective debt repayments.

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[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack home in France, the election of Mr Hollande was hardly an occasion for national pandemonium, despite the usual clever camera shots to suggest otherwise. The French election has been dubbed by many in France as the day Sarkozy was defeated, rather than the day the French Socialist Party rose from the flames. The man they nicknamed ‘Mr Normal’ was, in many respects, the alternative to President Sarkozy, and not much else.

In Europe, however, he is firmly in the driving seat of the latest popular craze; all aboard the anti-Austerity bandwagon! He has picked up some notable hitchhikers along the way, including Italy’s un-elected Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has taken a seat beside the un-elected Greek Prime Minister Panagoitis Pikrammenos. Surely the most significant of these gentlemen is US President Barack Obama. In the past days he has been quoted as saying ‘’a responsible approach to fiscal consolidation should be coupled with a strong growth agenda’’. The bandwagon is now at full capacity, and carries the very leader of the free world, probably riding shotgun. It is also travelling at alarmingly high speed straight towards Mrs Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union led coalition in Berlin.

Supporters of Hollande, and his merry men, are even claiming that the CDU’s poor performance in North Rhine-Westphalia last week is an indication that Merkel’s own citizens are turning away from Germany’s policies on the continent. This would be a slight misconception. According to the Economist, 82% of voters said that state matters were paramount, and that the CDU’s performance was mostly about former environment minister Norbert Rottgen, who failed to say whether he would stay in Dusseldorf to lead the opposition if he lost. He was simply no match for the campaign led by a minority SPD-Green coalition, which has held NRW since 2010.

Mrs Merkel remains Germany’s most popular politician, largely thanks to the German economy. German GDP expanded by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2012, and has kept unemployment well below the EU average. They have done this with the help of their much coveted ‘Mittelstand’ economic system. This comprises a group of small and medium sized businesses that cluster themselves around big manufactures and work closely with universities and researchers. It is the perfect complement to Germany’s love for apprenticeships, which helps to keep the flow of qualified workers pouring in. Unsurprisingly, Germany is seen by investors and financial markets as Europe’s safe haven, keeping the cost of borrowing to below 2% for 10 year bond yields.

An unfortunate side to the pro-growth movement in Europe is the corresponding resentment towards Mrs Merkel herself, turning anti-austerity into anti-German sentiment. A common feature of Greek protests is the sight of German flags set ablaze and the inevitable depiction of Merkel in a Nazi uniform. Even Merkel’s former European ally, Nicolas Sarkozy was happy to pander to anti-austerity when his battle with Hollande crept ever closer. The German chancellor will always remain the poster girl of current EU policy, despite leaders in Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands pursuing a similar approach in their own countries.

After weeks of vacuous rhetoric, Hollande seems to have discovered a policy he can use to embody his vision for Europe. With the support of Greece and Italy, and ECB President Mario Draghi, the French President is proposing the introduction of euro bonds. These would allow an institution, most likely the European Commission, to borrow on the eurozone’s behalf, thus lowering repayments in the weaker members, for example by €15bn in Portugal, and turning sovereign debt into payments made by all euro members collectively.

The current policy of dishing out bailouts in return for austerity packages is understandably unpopular and has caused political gridlock in Greece. It is seen by some as a way to force nations into staying with the single currency and silencing arguments for the alternative. This may be partially true, but at the very least it enables the stronger European economies to demand structural reform in the southern states and for leaders to put their public finances in order. Euro bonds would effectively remove this incentive and keep the Greek, Italian and Portuguese economies lacking in competitive edge. euro bonds would do nothing to reduce overall levels of debt, and would punish the stronger economies of Europe. If German borrowing costs rose to an EU average, it would cost them an extra €50bn in repayments each year.

Hollande’s insistence on emphasising growth is in many ways commendable and may be just what Europe needs. There are sound ideas coming out of the pro-growth camp, including the idea of project bonds that would allow euro members to collectively raise finance for infrastructure projects to help create jobs. What is unfortunate about the movement is the growing hostility towards successful economies like Germany which, at times, verges on plain jealousy.

Merkel is having to deal with a new French President, eager to show his citizens that he is doing the job he promised he would do. She will soon have to face a new government in Athens with the same agenda, with Dutch and Italian elections not too far away. Once these honeymoons have ended, Europe can hopefully return to the job at hand with a clearer vision. The structural problems in Southern Europe, that are also hindering French growth, cannot be swept under the carpet in the hope that Germany will succumb to the idea of collective debt repayments. There may be more ground that Germany could concede if it means saving the Euro zone, but giving into the jealousy bandwagon is certainly not the way to go about it.

jerusalem

Legally, Israel’s Possession Of East Jerusalem Holds Weight

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, basing their arguments on misinterpreted and irrelevant legal acts.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he question of legal right to sovereignty over East Jerusalem has been disputed among the parties involved and international actors since the establishment of the State of Israel. The UN General Assembly foresaw the internationalization of the Holy City in Resolution 181 in order to prevent any conflicts between Jews and Arabs and marginalize any claims of both sides. The reality however took a different course after the War of Independence in which Jerusalem became divided into two parts: Israeli in the west, and Jordanian in the east. The Six Day War in 1967 gave a chance for reunification of the city; Israel expanded the municipal area of the city by 28 surrounding Arab villages’ land and by doing so declared the annexation of East Jerusalem and treated it as an integral part of Israel proper. Consequently in 1980, the Israeli parliament passed its Basic Law, in which it reiterated the legal status of Jerusalem within Israeli jurisprudence as the undivided capital of Israel and the place of residence for Israeli governmental and other state institutions.

No country around the world has recognized any part of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and no country around the world recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of their state and vehemently oppose Israeli claims to East Jerusalem. The UN Security Council response to the ‘Jerusalem Law’ was Resolution 478 which called the aforementioned law “null and void” and this resolution has been complied with and agreed upon by a majority of states. The last countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv were Costa Rica and El Salvador in 2006.

East Jerusalem is home to 428,304 people, constituting 59,5% of Jerusalem’s population, from which 181,457 are Jewish, 229,004 are Muslim and 13,638 are Christian. Obviously, both Muslim and Christian population are predominantly Palestinian, thus constituting a majority. The Arab residents are not, however, given an automatic Israeli citizenship but a permanent residence card and right to vote in municipal elections.  Israeli citizenship can be obtained by an application and swearing loyalty to the State of Israel.

Israel holds a de facto sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The city, from Pisgat Ze’ev and the Mount of Olives to Ein Kerem, it has a unified infrastructure system – roads, sewage system, electricity and gas pipelines – and an open access for all the residents to welfare services, healthcare etc.

As stated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem has never been as significant for other nations as for the Jews. Israelis argue that their right to sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem is rooted in 3000 years history of Jewish affiliation to the city as their capital. Israel has also guaranteed a peaceful administration of the city. Since its takeover of East Jerusalem in 1967, freedom of access was granted to the holy sites to the pilgrims of all the religions, and the government maintained good relations with the administrative bodies of the holy sites, something that was lacking during the Jordanian rule of the Old City (under which the Jewish quarter was destroyed, Christians had a very limited access to the Holy Sepulcher and only Muslims could visit the Temple Mount without any restrictions).

International law experts such as Steven Schwebel, Eli Lanterpacht or Yehuda Blum provide more concrete legal arguments for Israel for her claims. According to those experts, Israel has much better claims to sovereignty over East Jerusalem, since the Six Day War that Israel won was a defensive war on her part and therefore the territories, which were acquired in this war, do not fall under the category of an unlawful occupation. Jordan has rescinded its claims to the West Bank in the Peace Treaty of 1994 and therefore there is no other claimant who could outweigh Israeli claims to the city. As for Palestinians, they have never in history formed a separate state and presented a sense of Palestinian nationhood and only recently did they claim Jerusalem for their capital, whereas Jews, since the establishment of the city by King David, did. Following those arguments, Israeli side claims that the status of Jerusalem is non-negotiable and Israel holds exclusive sovereignty over the city.

The Palestinian position concerning East Jerusalem is quite simple. East Jerusalem is a subject to Resolution 242 and therefore Israel must withdraw from this area as well as from all the areas conquered in 1967. The whole of Jerusalem, including the Western part, is a subject to negotiations on the Final Status as stated in the Declaration of Principles signed both by PA and Israel in 1993. Palestinians also claim that Jerusalem should be an open city without any restrictions on movement whatsoever, and claims that upon the return of East Jerusalem to Palestinian state as its capital, such a state will guarantee free access to the holy sites to the believers of all faiths. Furthermore, Palestinians claim the vital importance of Jerusalem for Palestine as the most important city of the West Bank, a connecting point between the northern and southern part of Palestinian Occupied Territories. Palestinians point to Jerusalem as the only and natural place for the capital of future Palestinian state and clearly indicate the illegality of not only Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but the annexation of East Jerusalem and even its presence in West Jerusalem.

As far as the world public opinion is considered, the stance of the main actors – US, EU and the UN – do not differ greatly. American statements clearly indicate the need for regulating the status of the city in direct negotiations between Israel and PA. As for the EU, on March 1st 1999  the German ambassador in Israel, Theodor Wallau, wrote to Ariel Sharon, confirming “the long standing view” of European Union, which considers the status of Jerusalem in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, i.e. as an international zone. In 2009 the Council of the European Union called in its statement for Jerusalem to become the capital of both states – Israeli and future Palestinian one.

The UN Secretary General, irrespective of who was holding the post, followed the policies adopted by the Security Council and General Assembly. The statement by Ban Ki-Moon confirmed the UN demands for the negotiations of the status of Jerusalem and indicated the need for division of the city and the end of Israeli occupation.

Relevance of the Resolution 181/1947 and Israel – Jordan Armistice agreement

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, in which the states agreed upon partitioning the territory of former British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, included the internationalization of the Greater Jerusalem area as well. Jewish representatives accepted the plan, since it was the first legal international act legitimizing the existence of Israel, however the Arab countries expressed their vehement opposition to the resolution and rejected it outright. The plan did not work out since the Arab states invaded Israel after the British evacuation and the armistice agreements with Egypt, Jordan and Syria formed new borders, which did not reflect in any sense the borders of the partition plan.  The borders of 1949 Armistice line were, in accordance with the armistice agreement with Jordan, solely a military arrangement as stated in Article II, clause 2 of the agreement, void of any political implications:

“It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

 It is therefore legitimate to argue, that neither Jordan nor Israel recognized each other’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, leaving its status subject to final negotiations. Nevertheless, the territory of Israel drawn by the armistice lines, which existed between 1949 and 1967 became internationally recognized as Israel proper. In those years, merely a few countries recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As it was mentioned before, EU considers Jerusalem an international zone in accordance with the Resolution 181, and claims to change its stance only upon a mutually agreed status between Palestinian Authority and Israel. It seems that the international community is willing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over West Jerusalem, as agreed between Jordan and Israel in 1949.

Relevance of the resolution no. 242/1967 and the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty

The Six Day War expanded Israeli territory into West Bank, with East Jerusalem falling under its control. The UN Security Council Resolution 242 issued the same year reads:

Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

- Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

-Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force

The Arab side argues, in contradiction to the real meaning of the resolution, that Israel has to withdraw from all the territories, acquired in the 1967 war. However, even the author of the resolution, Lord Caradon, representative of the UK to UNSC stressed that firstly borders have to be mutually agreed and only then Israel is to withdraw to “secured and recognized borders”, hence it implies the status of East Jerusalem as pending the final agreement between Israel and Jordan. The final agreement was already signed in 1994 in the form of a peace treaty between those two states. Although the treaty stipulates Jordanian recognition of the borders of Israel “without any prejudice to the territories of West Bank”, the treaty fulfills all the conditions presented in Resolution 242.

The resolution does not mention Palestinians in any of its paragraphs or does not demand the establishment of independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The PA’s argument that Israel acts in breach of the Resolution 242 by annexing East Jerusalem is therefore void; Israel and Jordan already fulfilled the requirements of the 242 – they agreed upon the borders and therefore Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem, in the context of 242, is definitely and legally substantiated.

Jerusalem law and Resolution 478

It is not, however, Resolution 242 that puts Israel’s sovereignty in East Jerusalem at odds. In 1980, The Israeli Knesset passed a Basic Law, commonly referred to as Jerusalem law, which states that Jerusalem, undivided and complete, is the capital of Israel. The international public opinion did not accept this motion and the same year UNSC passed a Resolution 478, which called the Jerusalem law “void and null”, followed by a recommendation of moving the embassies outside Jerusalem. Today all countries comply with it. One could argue that Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty has made the Resolution 478 expired, but clearly none of the countries perceives it that way.

Other Considerations

Although the international community clearly sees Israel’s claim over East Jerusalem as void and illegal, some universal legal and technical aspects of  it have to be taken into consideration, if the subject is supposed to be examined in a purely non-politicized fashion. It has been stated numerous times, that the international law is focused on stability and it’s main purpose is to reduce the implications of change in the balance of power. The demanded division of Jerusalem, which advocates stability, is obviously not an option. Jerusalem has been administered peacefully for the last 40 years. The Arab rioters fighting with Israeli police do not really count, since numerous examples can be given drawing upon Europe or USA, where severe riots broke out, but there was no one to question the sovereignty of those states over the riot areas.

The most important consideration is the fact that the division of the city is abnormal and unnatural. The international community sought the reunification of Berlin as soon as possible. The division of Lefkosa/Nikosia in Cyprus is still unacceptable. Dividing the city is also hard to implement because of the topography and unified infrastructure of Jerusalem – the Jewish neighbourhoods are mixed with the Arab ones and splitting all of the city’s infrastructural systems would paralyze both parts of the city.

In sum, it is a general international consensus that creates a legal basis for state’s actions; if then, from day 1, a majority of countries did not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over West Jerusalem, it is hard to argue that Israel holds sovereignty also over East Jerusalem, despite its concrete and strong legal arguments. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, basing their arguments on misinterpreted and irrelevant legal acts. Israelis claim sovereignty over all of Jerusalem in accordance with the international law. Despite this, none of the countries around the world will accept Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, until it is negotiated in the Final Status agreement. In the light of all of the aspects, facts and legal documents presented, it is right, in this author’s opinion, to say that the status of Jerusalem is unregulated and none of the parties holds a de jure sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Obama

Obama: The Foreign Policy Presidential Choice

The decision is not between Obama & Romney, but between a first-term president and one in his second. 

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]atters of foreign policy do not tend to be first on the list of a voter’s priorities coming up to an election, especially in times of economic turmoil. When US voters go to the polls in November they will be asking themselves when unemployment is going to fall, whether the health care system will continue to be of benefit to them and how much money they will have in their pockets once they retire. Perhaps, then, the sensible move on the part of the contenders is to downplay talk of foreign issues and concentrate on the economy.

However, history has taught us that many a presidency has come to be defined by a set of decisions related to manoeuvrings on the world stage. Kennedy’s record was arguably saved from the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs by his firmness during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What respect George Bush Sr. may have lost in failing to capture Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, he made up for with his role in German unification in the early 90’s.

Are we asking the right question?

In the run up to November’s vote, it is perhaps unhelpful to ask whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would best serve the US’s interests on the world stage. The question people ought to be asking is whether a first term president is preferable to one in his second term. This is the case for two main reasons. Firstly, a president’s first term in office has always been more about dealing with the footprint left by the previous administration than about imposing his own foreign policy vision. Secondly, foreign policy is by nature reactionary. No matter how concise a doctrine exists at the outset, there are certain events that one can simply not prepare for.

To argue the first case, we need only go back four years when Obama officially inherited two wars from George Bush Jr. It was clear, despite his commendable desire to ease tensions with Iran, that his Middle Eastern policy was going to be dictated by how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan played out. It is certainly no secret that Iranian involvement in the Iraq War was one of the biggest obstacles the President was going to have to overcome if peace between Tehran and Washington was reachable. U.S officials insist that the training of militant Shiite groups in Iraq by Iranian forces has been a huge challenge for the US army. Iran views Iraq not only as a buffer zone against a possible Israeli aerial assault, but as a sphere of influence through which the Islamic Republic can spread its brand of conservative Shiite Islam. Furthermore, George Bush’s invasive presence in Afghanistan was always going to make Obama’s relationship with Tehran one on a permanent knife edge.

The fact that foreign policy is by nature reactionary is also no great revelation. Unfounded conspiracy theories aside, the Bush Administration could no better predict the events of 9/11 any more than Roosevelt could have predicted the attack on Pearl Harbour. The US’s role in foreign wars tends to be sparked by unforeseen events. These events also tend to determine the strength of alliances. The Arab Spring, the foreign policy head scratcher of 2011, saw the US call for two former allies to step down in the name of democracy, when once they saw them as instigators of peace and regional stability.

This is not to say that Obama and Romney do not differ in their approach to foreign policy. The GOP candidate has expressed concern over Obama’s approach to China, refusing to press hard enough on human rights issues and the amount of US debt China currently holds. Mr Romney has also suggested branding Beijing a ‘currency manipulator’, sparking perhaps unnecessary tension with the Asian power. There are also concerns that Obama’s baby steps towards neutrality over Israel and Palestine would be reversed by a Republican President.

Second time lucky?

A controversial theory in foreign policy, and one this article endorses, is that a Commander in Chief is less restrained in his second term than in his first and is therefore the sensible choice in terms of global peace and stability. One main feature of foreign policy, as opposed to domestic policy, is that it seems to transcend Republican/Democrat divides and becomes less about left and right wing philosophy and more about populism versus prudence. Bush Jr. went from the hawkish categorisation of the ‘Axis of Evil’, to complying with the wishes of the UN over Syria and Iran. Reagan also went from talks of ‘Evil Empire’ to forming a compromise with the Soviets over nuclear proliferation. In contrast, Clinton’s second term was arguably less ‘dovish’ than his first, with military missions in the former Yugoslavia, a region which desperately needed international interference.

Following on from this, one useful indication of a need for change in the Oval Office is whether a President has been allowed to successfully achieve his foreign policy goals. Despite sorry levels of global popularity, Bush was always the sensible choice in 2004 given the unfinished to-do list he had left in the Middle East. Where ever your political allegiances lie, in terms of foreign policy, an incumbent is always the safer pair of hands.

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Where Art Thou, Green Movement?

Iran’s reform movements have always needed time to gestate, the Green Movement is no different.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is perhaps an understatement to say that the 2009 presidential elections was a pivotal moment in Iran’s recent history; the effects of those events are still being felt today. The demonstrations that erupted were in protest of the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Iranian Presidency, and in support of the candidate du jour, Mir Hossein Mousavi. A former Prime Minister of Iran, he was politically allied with former President Mohammad Khatami, and was a favourite of Iranian youths and professionals who sought change and reform in their country. This mix of politicians and their supporters became known as the Green Movement, with their distinct green headbands, wristbands and t-shirts.

For many months following the eruption of demonstrations, the Green Movement was at the forefront of political hope: what started as a protest against the election results quickly became a cry of revolution. The pictures of the demonstrations seemed no different from the images of 1979. Cries against an oppressive regime were being shouted, rallies were organised not just in Iran but abroad, placards of a popular leader (in this case, Mousavi) were displayed, and people were killed. The shooting and killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young female protestor, became a rallying point for many international organisations, including Amnesty International.

However, the ensuing crackdown by the government stifled any potential the reformists could have had. Activists were forced underground or were given no option but to leave the country. It was just not activists who were intimidated, but their families, associates, colleagues and friends. The regime rounded up many activists; sometimes even just people associated with the movement were imprisoned for months (some, years). Its leaders, including Mousavi, have been placed under house arrest or have been effectively forced into political silence.

Say what you will, but the Iranian government has somewhat successfully taken the wind out of the Green Movement’s sails. Now, with the current infighting between the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, it seems that political conflict in Iran has taken a different turn. Furthermore, with the Arab Spring, it seems that attention from Iran’s Green Movement (and perhaps rate of “success” seeing that the Arab has lost four of its dictators) has somewhat been diverted.

So, where are they today? Despite the crackdown and the lack of mainstream media attention, it would seem that the Green Movement continues on, albeit clandestinely or from outside Iran. The movement has been forced abroad with the new Iranian political émigrés now becoming activists in foreign countries. A small group of supporters have remained in Iran, to keep the movement as alive as possible, and in order to maintain a connection with its members who have fled the country.

However, like all movements, the Green Movement is riddled with infighting and conflicting ideas. Khatami and his supporters have taken a less extreme approach and do not look to topple the regime, but rather suggest working with it. Recently, the members in Iran produced a document listing and detailing the changes they want to see in the country. The members abroad did not accept this blueprint, and this is reflective of the conflict between the two groups. Each has their own influences and work within their own limitations. Unfortunately, instead of cohesion, this has produced conflict. Those within Iran are forced to keep the movement alive under trying circumstances with constant intimidation while those abroad are arguably too distant to participate or contribute effectively, or risk exposing their families and friends in Iran.

The Green Movement, for now at least, has been successfully muted enough for it not to pose any dire threat to the regime. When once we thought it could bring down the regime, it would seem that the Islamic government itself is going through its own internal crisis, with the conflict among the conservatives themselves. The Green Movement has however shown its potential as a political and social movement. It may not have been successful in 2009, but knowing the patterns of Iran’s history, change takes a while to gestate.

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Hezbollah Is Shooting Itself In The Foot

Nasrallah’s support of the Assad regime is not only debilitating for Hezbollah, but the Middle East at large.

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[dropcap]D[/dropcap]uring the more than two decades of its existence, Hezbollah earned the allegiance of the Lebanese Shia population by building its image as a group whose sole interest is a combination of social justice in the form of resistance to Israel’s belligerence, coupled with strict Islamic piety. Although many Western countries have defined it from its inception as a terrorist organisation, Hezbollah has earned the respect of many within and outside the Arab world not only for the courage exhibited in its repeated confrontations with Israel, but especially for the social work carried out in the poorest parts of Beirut and South Lebanon.

It is then all the more disconcerting to hear the words of its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, when discussing the Syrian crisis. Nasrallah has blamed the fighting on the (mainly Sunni) resistance movements rather than on the cruelty of the Assad regime. Further, he has provided the regime with diplomatic support by stating, for instance, that the opposition is the result of American and Israeli interference, rather than a genuine rebellion of the native population in response to decades of ruthless rule.

As Hezbollah has thrived on Iranian and Syrian financial and military support, Nasrallah’s statements might not come as a surprise. All the same, the legitimisation on behalf of Nasrallah of the Assad regime backfires by having the obvious result of deligitimising Hezbollah’s role as a bastion of justice for the weak. The problem is that this self-inflicted deligitimisation has severe implications both for the group and, more importantly, for the complex dynamics within the region.

Hezbollah’s loyalty to the Assad family is viewed by many as the result of religious affiliation due to both being Shiite and not as what it truly is, namely the outcome of pragmatic agreements and mutual political interests. This has the consequence of fostering distrust of the Shias on behalf of the Sunnis and thus of creating disunity between the two sects. This disunity has a triple effect. Firstly, as Michael Hudson, the director of the Middle East Institute at the National University in Singapore, argued, disunity among opposition movements is one of prime hindrances to the fall of whichever regime is being fought. In the case of Syria, disunity postpones indefinitely the demise of Assad’s rule. This is attested by the known fact that many Syrian (Shia) Alawites support Assad merely out of fear of Sunni retaliation.

Secondly, disunity is exacerbating sectarian strife within Lebanon itself. Reports abound of rising tension between the two communities in the Northern city of Tripoli, a tension which has recently given rise to deadly clashes . Moreover, the two leading coalitions, the pro-Assad March 8 and anti-Assad March 14 coalitions, are growing ever more distant. In a country renowned for its political fragility and for a past defined by fifteen years of civil war such tensions should alarm anyone interested in Lebanon’s stability. Thirdly, the question of whether such disunity might impact rebellions in other countries, such as Bahrain, becomes imperative. If so, then it would seem as if Hezbollah’s uncompromising position on the Syrian crisis is helping Arab regimes to stay in power by  fractioning and thus weakening the various oppositions.

Furthermore, Hezbollah’s decision to back up Assad is backfiring against its own raison d’etre: the fight against Israel. This is so for two reasons. Firstly, Hezbollah’s loss of legitimacy means at the same time that one of the most important players in the resistance against Israel and for the Palestinian cause is losing legitimacy. Israel can then justifiably state that its main opponent  is a group which supports dictatorships and thus has no credibility in judging the demeanor of other nations. Secondly, it is recognised among various Middle East experts that contrary to what Assad’s speeches might assert about his hatred for Israel, the Jewish majority state has actually enjoyed stability on its borders with Syria since the Assad family took over. In fact, it is plausible that Israel would have a much tougher time if a different Islamist group ruled Syria.

Finally, Hezbollah, by losing credibility, is also losing many potential votes in next year’s Lebanese elections. This also means that many parties in the March 8 coalition might reconsider their affiliation with the group lest they themselves lose the appeal of the electorate. This could potentially leave Hezbollah with little if any political power at the executive level.

Hezbollah has answered criticisms expressed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar about its support of Assad by pointing to their hypocrisy since both are tyrannical in their rule against the respective Shia communities and both have a close relationship with the US. Moreover,  Hezbollah has noted that nobody else does as much for the Palestinian cause and thus it cannot be criticised. But the fact of the matter is that it is not about Israel, the US or Palestine: it is about the thousands of brave Syrian men and women who have lost their lives and the thousands who keep on defying the Assad regime regardless of their religious affiliation.

Ultimately, the sad irony is that while Hezbollah has built its image as the resistance movement of the poor and weak against the great power of Israel and the US, it is now acting the other way round. Hezbollah must not be afraid of distancing itself from the Assad regime because although it will lose a pragmatic albeit powerful ally, it will earn the support of a much greater power: the people.

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Just When You Were Getting Used To The Old Design…

We went and changed it.

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e’ve consumed Colombia’s annual coffee crop, officially become nocturnal, and spent more time staring at screens than Bill Gates ever has (or will do), but we are finally there. Well, almost.

Our last site, hosted on Blogger, was the perfect fit when TRS launched back in January. In the last 5 months a fair amount has happened: attracting the attention of President Paul Kagame & US presidential candidate Buddy Roemer are our top highlights, though having over 20 MPs, boundless political commentators and numerous journalists tweet about us or our content has been incredibly exciting and encouraging.

The increase in our traffic has surprised us hugely; back in January the site was receiving a few hundred hits a day – weekdays now average over 1,000. Back then almost all our visitors came from the UK, now we receive substantial hits from our cousins across the pond as well as India, Australia, France & Canada and over 130 other countries.

Given this massive increase we thought a new, speedier and easier to use website was in order. It will allow us to expand and try out a few new things (you should start seeing them mid-June) and gives us far greater control over the back-end of the site, making things more efficient behind the scenes and giving us more time to spend promoting the site.

Undoubtedly we will suffer teething issues over the next few weeks so please bear with us if the site suddenly goes down or content becomes unavailable. We will probably be working on it if that happens so give it a day or so and if it’s still not working then drop us an email at [email protected]

We hope you like the new design – if you have any comments or suggestions (constructive criticism is highly encouraged) please send us an email at the same address.

The TRS Team

P.S. Not all the content on the old site has been transferred to the new one just yet, but this will be completed within the next couple of days. Any comments that were made on the old site in the last week have unfortunately been lost in the realms of cyberspace. If you can remember what you wrote, do re-post it.

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Terrorism & Entrapment Within The Occupy Movement

Small, tight knit groups may begin to break away from Occupy and choose a different strategy, a violent one, in the pursuit of the same goals.

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[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast Thursday 5 men were indicted in Ohio on multiple charges related to an attempt to blow up a bridge in Brecksville, just south of Cleveland. The men have been described by the government as ‘anarchists’ and were acting ‘out of anger against corporate America and the government’. The men had connections, of varying degrees, with Occupy Cleveland and this foiled plot and the investigation surrounding it present some interesting and pressing points about how domestic terrorism cases are pursued and the state of left-wing terrorism in America.

FBI Informants

The FBI is likely thrilled with this latest bust, not only from a homeland security standpoint, but because it relieves a little bit of the pressure from civil rights groups who claim that the Bureau unfairly uses informants in Muslim communities for domestic terrorism investigations. This bust, where fake explosives were provided by an FBI informant, sends a message that, fair or unfair, the FBI uses informant based prosecutions for everyone. Entrapment? Perhaps, but at least they’re not profiling!

However, regarding entrapment, this raises two questions: 1) When did the FBI informant make contact with the group? Before or after they had mobilized and committed themselves to violent action? Understanding this is crucial in determining what the process of radicalization was like and how much guidance the informant had in the development of the plot. This distinction has proven to be legally irrelevant in the past, but in assessing the likelihood of future plots from former occupiers this could prove important. And 2) How many informants does the FBI have within the Occupy movement and what is their directive? Are they being sent in with the express purpose of making counterterrorism busts? Are they being given specific targets or broad instructions to make cases?

An Emerging Left-wing Threat?

Occupy was quick to distance themselves from the Ohio 5, however some on the right have highlighted that an ideological connection exists between Occupy and the plotters and additional evidence shows that some were involved in Occupy at a fairly high level (leasing property for the movement). With its broad reach and agenda for societal change, Occupy can best be classified as a social movement. Social movements can provide the necessary milieus from which for more extreme forms of political action, sometimes violent, can emerge. People can meet, exchange ideas, and form cliques. The Weather Underground in the U.S. and the Red Army Faction in West Germany both emerged from the broader left-wing social movements of their day. The major debate is over whether these milieus should be regarded as ‘conveyor belts’ or ‘safety-valves’, moving individuals or groups towards violent extremism, or serving as a non-violent political outlet. The Ohio case seems to provide evidence favoring the former but it’s also important to keep in mind that outside of this incident the movement has been almost entirely peaceful. So what does Occupy have to do with the Ohio 5? I would argue nothing when it comes to endorsing, planning, funding, or supporting a terror plot but the existence of the Occupy milieu provides a base from which violent extremism can emerge.

Whether more, frustrated occupiers choose to pursue violence remains to be seen, but it’s important to remember that non-violence is not exclusively a moral choice in conflict, it’s also a strategic one. Simply because individuals have used non-violence in the past does not necessarily mean they are opposed to violence in principle. Especially in a large, international movement it’s impossible to assess what every participant’s moral stance on the use of violence is, even if there is nearly universal strategic unity on non-violence at the moment. Small, tight knit groups may begin to break away and choose a different strategy, a violent one, in the pursuit of the same goals. I’m not writing this as an alarmist, it would be irresponsible and unfounded to predict a new wave of left-wing terrorism, but large, decentralized social movements comprised of educated and unemployed young people, who frankly have achieved little through non-violent means throw up some red flags.

Hopefully this case will serve as an impetus for the leaders of Occupy to reassert their commitment to a non-violent strategy, and become tactically innovative within that realm. However the alternative scenario is that this serves as inspiration for frustrated individuals who may undergo a risky shift.

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Debrief

Introducing theriskyshift.com’s Debrief

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We are excited to announce the start of our new podcast series Debrief and even more excited to reveal our first guests for the series. Introducing:

David Goodhart, Demos

David is the director of Demos, a London-based think-tank. He is editor-at-large of Prospect magazine, which he founded in 1995 and grew into Britain’s leading current affairs monthly. An established broadcaster, author, commentator and journalist, David regularly contributes to some of Britain’s leading newspapers including the Guardian, the Independent, the Times and the Financial Times.

Lieutenants Kurt Albaugh (President) & Scott Cheney-Peters (Founding Director), CIMSEC

The Center for International Maritime Security is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain.

All views expressed during this Debrief are those of the speaker(s). They do not represent official viewpoints or opinions of the United States Navy, the United States Department of Defense or the United States Government.

Yasmin El Derby, London MENA Film Festival

Yasmin is founding director at the London MENA Film Festival (LMFF) with responsibly for programming and artistic development. She is keen for the festival to achieve its objective of being accessible to everyone, and forming a cross-cultural platform in the Capital.

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If you are interested in being featured on Debrief please get in touch with one of the following:

James Sheehan
Washington D.C., USA
{[email protected]}

Jamiesha Majevadia
London, UK
{[email protected]}

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Pakistan & The Bipolar World Order

As we drift ever closer to a bipolar world order, why not let economic stagnation become the mutual enemy that all nations share?

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ukuyama’s ‘The End of History’ essay may not have correctly predicted everything it was supposed to, but one realisation certainly holds true to this day: realist manoeuvrings and proxy inter-state wars have always been an inevitable feature of a bipolar world. With the fall of the USSR, and the US’s securing of uncontested, top dog status, inter-state warfare has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, making this the most peaceful period of modern history. The explanation being that in a world with two competing super powers, fragile alliances are held together by mutual enemies.

Although not yet a bipolar world by most people’s evaluations, the rising influence of China will undoubtedly lead to nations asking serious questions of themselves and who they choose to associate with. This week, while the US ambassador to Pakistan stepped down for what Washington insisted was for personal reasons alone, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan met with President Zardari to discuss matters of mutual cooperation and bilateral trade.

In recent years, Ambassador Munter may well have held the least coveted role in international relations. Following the arrest of a CIA contractor in Lahore and the US led mission to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden, Munter has had to deal with the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011 when the US strayed across the border from Afghanistan. His resignation may appear, after all this, to be the icing on a rather stale and crumbling diplomatic cake.

A Difficult Friendship

The most worrying aspect of these recent events is the fact that they do not come as much of a surprise to anyone. The US and Pakistan have quite a history of sharing mutual enemies and their relationship has, therefore, always been one of convenience and insincerity. Whether it was Nixon and Kissinger using Pakistan’s friendship with China to make Sino-US inroads, or Pakistani support of anti Soviet groups in Afghanistan, the US has always been able to find some beneficial reason to keep Pakistan within arm’s length.

The most recent chapter of this tale has certainly been the trickiest yet. Shortly after 9/11, President Musharraf ended his alliance with the Afghan Taliban while officially entering the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. Since 2001, Pakistan has handed over 5000 members of Al Qaeda to American authorities and received nearly $10 Billion in aid for its troubles. Despite this closeness, Pakistan has constantly been accused of ‘looking both ways’ when it comes to terrorism. Pakistan’s Inter-Services-Intelligence Agency (ISI) has been accused of training and sponsoring groups that the Americans claim to be fighting across the border in Afghanistan. Indeed, it was Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency that was instrumental in bringing the Taliban to power in Afghanistan in the mid 90’s with a view to setting up a favourable regime in a neighbouring country. With the US planning to withdraw a substantial number of troops from Afghanistan in 2014, all bets are off as to what condition Pakistani – US relations will be in if the Taliban were ever to re emerge in Afghan political life.

China may be far from another USSR in terms of economic ambition and political philosophy, but one very unfortunate consequence of their rise to power may be a return to the days of short lived alliances based on mutual enemies. Courting Pakistan may prove to be a way for China to counter US influence in the sub continent, particularly given the improving relationship between the US and Pakistan’s long term rival India.

The New Mr. Popular

On April 19thIndia launched its new Agni 5 Missile in the Bay of Bengal. Possessing missiles with the ability to reach key Chinese cities, and a new missile defence shield installed this week, President Singh has praised the ‘credibility of his country’s security and preparedness’. In contrast to the standard reaction of the Western powers to missile testing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed almost no concern, instead citing India’s ‘solid non-proliferation record’. Similarly, the Chinese have not openly condemned India’s actions and have insisted that the two nations remain ‘partners’. The most binding of India’s bargaining tools currently is the state of its economy. India and China have increasingly managed to let economic integration and trade overcome border disputes in the South China Sea, starting a process that must be continued if the subcontinent has any chance of seeing long lasting peace.

This ought to come as a warning to Pakistan. Trade will continue to be more effective at maintaining relationships than simply possessing the same enemies. Economic growth and an expanding middle class are Pakistan’s best chance of securing credible status. A lack of commitment from its democratically elected politicians to end the influence of the army and the ISI will only seek to damage its chances of gaining its fair share of economic prosperity in the sub continent.

As for the US and China, learning the lessons from the days of the Cold War should hopefully remind them that the likelihood of a rise in inter-state warfare in the Indian subcontinent, or indeed anywhere, is only likely to increase if tensions between themselves become too strained. As we drift ever closer to a bipolar world order, why not let economic stagnation become the mutual enemy that all nations share?

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No Hope, No Vote?

A lack of hope is often a contemporary reason for people not to vote in elections in the UK.

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter being relentlessly confronted by news reports providing coverage of the Arab Spring, for over a year the UK observed tremendous movements of solidarity, and witnessed people in their masses risking their lives to fight for democracy and the power to exercise their human rights. With an unknown overall death toll - an estimated 30,000 in Libya alone - how fortunate we Westerners must feel to not have to live fighting for emancipation from dictatorship. But no, what should be an attitude of gratitude for democracy has increasingly proved to be instead one of significant apathy.

With just 32% of the UK’s population having voted in local elections on May 3rd 2012, what is most concerning is not the fact that the turnout was the lowest since 2000, but that democracy in this country is diminishing.

So, why did the vast majority of presumably relieved members of this democracy not vote? Or perhaps more appropriatly, how could they choose not to exercise their freedom to vote in the face of those sacrificing themselves for such a privilege? The undeniable, unremitting problem is quite simply but surely this; a lack of passion. To follow politics you need a vehicle fuelled by a certain level of conviction. People follow a religion on the basis that they believe in it, hence why it is called a Faith. This is very similar to how a minority of people follow politics – because they believe in its power to change things for the good. Thus, to be bothered about politics you need to have faith in it. A contemporary reason for people not participating in elections in the UK is most often their lack of hope.

What is the root of this hopeless apathy that is cast upon us? Primary sources reveal the infamous ‘MP’s are all the same’ ethos to be the perpetrator of all disillusions. This is a factor all of us may be empathetic towards; my personal experiences have led me to abstain from political party alignment. Once a fervent Liberal Democrat supporter engulfed by their bright promises to truly reform with policies such as lowering the voting age, I was in my element as I strongly believed if they were to rule government than the future of politics really could be bright. The coalition ensued and I was fortunate enough to be on a delegation with my then hero Nick Clegg. I questioned him about how the Liberals were to push their manifesto promise to lower the voting age, he told me it ‘isn’t on the agenda at the moment’. I left the delegation a Lib Dem no longer, astonished at how MP’s expect the people to follow their party’s beliefs, when they incessantly fail to stand by them themselves.

Alas, I voted on Thursday. I voted for Ken Livingstone as London Mayor, who not only pledged chiefly to lower public transport fares – something of great urgent necessity – but to resign if he did not achieve his promises. He gave me hope for positive change, and I voted for him. Furthermore, after waiting an exasperating 18 years to vote, the opportunity was really quite exciting so even if Mr Livingstone did not present convincing conviction in his campaign, I would have voted nonetheless for what may be referred to as ‘the least worse’ of the candidates.

Therefore, while hope and passion are potent factors in encouraging oneself to be directly involved in politics, the absolute underlying problem is lack of political education. It is extremely difficult for any individual to feel obliged to concern themselves with something they know nothing about. Politics from a young age is infamously classified as boring which is ironic because unless they’ve been educated at Eton or the like, the likelihood is they will not know much about politics at all. It is merely a regurgitated prejudice response.

This is because in the year 2012 we are still living in an elitist run society where politics is not accessible to everyone; in some people’s eyes activities such as voting remains the sport of ‘gentlemen’, whilst many were not even aware nor bothered that the election was occurring.

Awareness is key for fairer politics, but the key needs to fit through everybody’s door – not just the big expensive ones.