martes, 13 de diciembre de 2016

The Syrian army’s recovery of Aleppo and defeat in Palmyra: A mixed report of victory and defeat side-by-side

On the 12th of December 2016 the Syrian Arab Army has advanced into the bulk of the former areas held by rebels and several offspring groups of the Al Nusra Front in the Eastern part of the city. Up to the last reports, there is a remaining enclave South-east of Aleppo. Still the smell of the final recovery of Syria’s second city and economic hub was being felt since yesterday, when local residents celebrated the retake of the city from the rebel forces.

Only weeks ago the Syrian regime controlled around 85% of the urban area. An ever advancing movement enabled the army to take district by district off the insurrectionists. Joined by allies such as the Syrian Kurds, the Hezbollah, and the Russians along them, the regime has recovered the whole metropolitan area, except of one remaining enclave of armed branches that did not follow the general withdrawal of their brothers in arms, all willing to draw back to the Idlib province under their control still.

The all so long awaited victory might have fallen short in the media, as simultaneously to that, the ancient city of Palmyra, fortress of the desert retaken last year, fell back to the Islamic State along some airbases in the area that had been secured in the past and taken in a very costly manner and with a lot of Russian military support. Now back under their control, the frontline has again shifted in the central area of the country.

Firstly there are generally speaking improvements in the city of Damascus, and its outskirts, which have been retaking some enclaves either by force or by an agreement of withdrawal. As such the major East Ghouta area has lost some territory to the government. It looks as if the security has seen important improvements in those regards.

A defeat and a victory, or the other way around sure gives a mixed result at the end of the day. Still the psychological impact of the surrender of the main city under insurgent control has had its share. The Idlib province and the areas close to the Syrian-Turkish border taken from the IS are there to stay, unless the army and its allies undertake a military enterprise starting east from Aleppo. The further they could approach the governmental held enclave of Fouad, the sooner the remaining northern bulk of rebel held territory could see heavy losses coming soon.

Nevertheless the battle is far from over, especially if you consider how a gain can be undone in matter of days or hours. Whence the IS continues its retreat in part of its Iraqi held territory in and around Mosul, many fighters are being shifted to the areas around Palmyra in a fashion, which evidently took the Syrians by surprise. Thus the retake might give more headlines for Damascus and Moscow, which now have been overshadowed by its recent fall.

While the UN Security Council overall seems to be quite unhappy for the success of Bashar Al-Assad, as it could be read by the numerous times that Russia and China have vetoed the resolutions in recent days and weeks, unsuccessfully urging for a truce in the Syrian city. Otherwise they always emphasized the humanitarian crisis, etc. in order to call into question the liberation itself. It looks as if a defeat of a “moderate rebel” always will be put into that light, while the battle of Mosul clearly is put forward without the slightest concern for the civilian or armed population among them. As the veto power of the Security Council today favours the Russian and Syrian side, the Western media have saturated the web with the view of the people trapped inside the war. There were allegations about massacres made by the Syrian Army, lacking any proof attached, and even the alleged executions of civilians. All these punchlines are solely there to distract of the obvious superiority of the Syrian army over the Western puppets eager to topple the evil dictator of Bashar Al-Assad.

Their failure comes short to the expectations made by their sponsors, one of which are the US-Americans. The new president-elect has clearly stated his wish to cease the supplies to these rebels despite that the Congress has been pushing a bill contemplating the further arms supplies and money to the insurgents on behalf of the US. This outgoing Democratic administration will do what remains within their reach to help those trapped inside this war. Let’s see how Trump and his Secretary of State nominee will think about this and other issues pending in January 2017.

The current conditions, in favour of the Moscow-Damascus axis are in the verge of reversing the trend and give the government the advantage it had been looking for. Then also the Russian ally has been pushing to maintain their presence in the Mediterranean Sea and with airbases in the coastal area. If the Western powers manage to rearm and the local forces regroup again in their frontlines, it could be again a long time before anyone can call any advance, may it be with the Islamic State or the motley-crew-like groups operating on the ground.

For now the major victory of Syria has been accomplished: the retake of the city of Aleppo and its outskirts. Now comes to see if the remaining areas are likely to fall too, or how long will it take to the Syrian forces to completely regain the sovereignty and territorial integrity that any country wishes to have.

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016

The last tour of Obama to Europe before the new era of Trump

Now that the world has slowly got accustomed by the fact that Donald J. Trump is the president-elect of the United States of America, it seems reasonable to think that the international has shifted , or will so, beginning on the 21st of January 2017, when he will make his oath as the 45th president. Until then the outgoing lame duck Barack Obama will be making his last moves as a Democratic leader in the White House. One of them being his last trip to Europe, which started in Greece, where he met Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras, surrounded by a massive rally protesting against his visit. His trip which started in Hellenic soil, will lead him further to Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

For his farewell tour, Obama comes with a lot of assuring messages for his European counterparts, within a very delicate timeframe. The electoral promises held by the republican president-elect have raised some eyebrows in several capitals, and also at the NATO, led by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who seems particularly concerned about the future of the organization he represents. If the new policies of Washington, under this new administration was to severe the expenditures into the organization, as being its main contributor, it could call seriously into question its permanence as such, and its viability militarily speaking. Thus the worries which Barack has to try to appease somehow in this last tour.

The Trade Agreements between the US and the European Union also went sour lately, again putting the feasibility into doubt, if ever the biggest consumer market, made up by both of them, were to be merged. This seems more remote than ever, considering the new ideas of protectionism rising in the Northern American nation.

Hence the new uncertainty remains whole, as of the state of affairs worldwide and in the US in late January of next year. Will there be the massive expelling of illegal aliens back to Mexico and Central America? Will the border be effectively be sealed off by a gigantic Wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico? Who will be paying for its expenses? And furthermore, who will be in charge of what on the Hill? Obama meanwhile takes advantage of the time remaining as a head of state, and will try to reach whatever intermediary result he can achieve, whether it may be in Syria, Yemen or elsewhere, before the new team will take over the controls. 

It seems as if the nominee for the post of Secretary of State has been between the former US Ambassador John R. Bolton, having served shortly before the United Nations under the administration of Georg W. Bush, or Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York. Both of the have had hard stances regarding international affairs, but certainly the one more embedded into this is Bolton. He not only withdrew the signature of the Rome  Statute of the International Criminal Court on behalf of the US, but he also claimed several times his personal considerations about the UN, which he despises as a whole.

He dismisses the international law as such, seeing before anything else, the sole interests of the United States. As much as this can be of help to that purpose the UN is welcome to coexist in the world affairs. But beyond that it is as insignificant as can be. Combining the viewpoints of Trump himself, added to the likely Secretary of State Bolton, things might get sour in years to come.

Whomever shall step into these shoes, the new era has started worldwide. The former establishment, warrantied by the continuity of Clinton dynasty, has since decades set the rules to follow. It may be risky to try speculating about the contours of this new age to come. What is sure is that nothing is the way it used to be anymore, or will be.

This is a time of shifts and turns, which could take by surprise everyone. While waiting for the dust to settle, when everything will be clear to see, changes are being made as we speak within the team in the making of president-elect Donald J. Trump. Wait and see.  

miércoles, 9 de noviembre de 2016

The land sliding victory of Donald Trump in the midst of the fall of Hillary Clinton

The ballots in the US elections have spoken and since today the winner is known: Donald J. Trump. As it looks, the people of the USA, -or rather its biased electoral system-have resolved to make the republican nominee the 45th President of the United States.The now president-elect has stood tall all the way up to the White House, despite all the resistance coming from within the Republican Party, and from the Democratic campaign of Hillary Clinton, among other dissident voices from smaller formations. The media as a whole were frankly speaking if not with the former Secretary of State, but certainly against Donald Trump. This included the circle of artists, singers, the mainstream media, the academics, etc., who were mostly united against a common foe.

Notwithstanding the storm, on the past 8th of November the voters, the US-Americans showed off, at key states such as Florida or Ohio, which all of a sudden fell –at times by very slim margins- in favour of Trump. Seemingly the voting polls were either totally wrong, or they never reflected the whole horizon of how society was at. The persistence of an establishment, blended together among politicians, businessmen, members of Congress or Senate, and on top of this network the dynasty of the Clintons. Those two privileged members of the Hill, which since the election of Bill Clinton back in 1993 lasting over two mandates. Since then Hillary Rodham Clinton had taken the lead, being nominated under the first mandate of Barack Obama Secretary of State. Henceforth the presence and influence, let it via the Clinton Foundation, the US diplomacy, or by connections within society, has grown at least until the incident of the US Consulate of Benghazi, Libya, and Clinton leaving her office.

The political breach that Trump opened on his unusual campaign using a selection of the finest of his personality: misogynist, sexist and/or xenophobic comments, incitation towards violence, political intransigence and attacks ad hominem to anyone who happened to be in the way of the tycoon in the rise. His most concrete political ideas, which came quite late in the run, defined him as someone willing to break the seal of the current state of affairs. Renegotiation of Free Trade Agreements, i.e. NAFTA; TTIP, etc., ceasing to be the NATO main actor and material supplier, closing the borders, thus introducing trade barriers, which have been eliminated by the two-decades-old NAFTA Treaty, amongst other actions. Also there is a different view upon the foreign relations, as it seems, where the Russian president is treated in a totally new light, away from the sanctions and containment policy upheld by the current Secretary of State John Kerry.

In general the business world has woken up in shock by the news of the president-elect Donald Trump. When the economy today relies heavily on the fluctuations provoked by political events, here it has not been any different. As Wall Street saw a phase of recovery in the last days of campaign, now what is to be seen is the total opposite. Elsewhere in the world, especially in areas under its economic hegemony such as Mexico, it has provoked not only a lot of shock on behalf of most Mexicans, but also an historical low in the exchange rate of the Mexican currency since 1995.

Hence it is only natural that for instance the Mexican government has stated measures to be taken, if the economic ties should weaken or break between Washington and Mexico City, as it offers an historic opportunity to have trade with some Asian emerging economies, for real. Not only on a written paper, whereupon Mexico should and could have trade with around forty nations worldwide. Yet it depends still in over 80% of its international trade on the US, let it be in its exports as well as the imports. Now we have the chance to see elsewhere, maybe even into South America, a long time unseen area for the Mexican economy, despite being part politically of Latin America.

We are facing a new age, most probably having witnessed the last democratic president, now with a country in which the Senate and the Congress are under the control of the Republicans. Such conditions will give the presidency of Donald Trump margins for governing, unless the very own Republican Party becomes his adversary when passing his policies, whichever they may be. The president-elect Donald Trumo will be sworn January 2017, leaving Obama the time to make way in the White House until then.

martes, 25 de octubre de 2016

Venezuela: The failed coup d’état and the return in extremis of Nicolas Maduro from the Middle East

President Nicolas Maduro has narrowly escaped a coup d'état today, operated by the parliamentary opposition along with mass rallies on the streets. The president had been travelling to OPEP and Non-OPEC such as Azerbaijan, Iran, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, amongst other capitals. He started his Middle East Tour on the 23rd of October 2016 and added a leg, by meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican on his way back to Caracas. 

His presence here was of great importance, as the recent activities of the self-proclaimed Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de Unidad Democrática, MUD), and its member and current Chairman of the National Assembly (Parlament, NA), Henry Ramos Allup, was promoting not less than a political impeachment process, alike the one that hit his former Brazilian counterpart Dilma Roussef. The title of the document could be understood in the following terms: The NA agrees to start a proceeding aiming at declaring the political responsibility in the major breach of the constitutional order. Meant was the statement made by the CNE, the Venezuelan electoral tribunal, which determined that the second phase for gathering of signatures for the revoking referendum was to be cancelled. The reason being that there were irregularities among the first 1% analysed by the latter. Henceforth the revoking referendum could not possibly be held before February 2017.

With the president on his way back from Europe and Middle East, possibly aware of the activities happening at the NA, Maduro landed in Caracas and met with a massive pro-government rally receiving him at the Miraflores Palace. There he held a speech, where he emphasized that the opposition shall never accomplish their goals, of turning Venezuela into the next chain of successful coups in the region, in which centre-left oriented governments were toppled among other strategies, through parliamentary ways; namely Honduras, Brazil and Paraguay. His country would resist and overcome any attempt to destabilize his socialist government.

While the political hit is underway, it has not had any real chance on the side of the Armed Forces. The Commanders have reiterated their loyalty in regard with the constitution and the president. Still the streets are filled either by pro- or anti-government rallies, which have filled the avenues of the capital today. This shows just how polarised the society stands today.  

Maduro finds himself in a quite complicated situation. He finds himself with several fronts at the time. First is the internal opposition, which clearly have pushed more and more aggressive moves to force him to leave office. Then again the petrol prices are not being the most helpful in his fainting economic situation. With an astronomic inflation affecting the economy and falling revenues from oil, he could soon be short of funds for his vast social expenditure. This could also be the reason of his trip to other oil-exporting countries.

The membership of Venezuela in the Southern Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur, Mercosur) has been called into question lately by most of its members. The most keen have been Paraguay and Brazil, who by now are leading the bid to expel the South-American nation out of the economic block. Also Argentina, now run by Mauricio Macri has blended into the side of the foes of Venezuela. The recent visit of Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez to his Argentine counterpart at his residency at Buenos Aires, shows that even the strongest ally of Caracas has been drifting away from their original position. As it seems the recent events in the nation have raised concern, even to the leftist president Vázquez. Thus all members of Mercosur, except Venezuela herself, are agreeing on invoking the democratic charter of the organization.  

Formally speaking Maduro is the pro-tempore president of Mercosur. Despite that all other Foreign Ministries of the group have largely ignored any statement made by Caracas, Uruguay “handed over” the presidency to Venezuela. Notwithstanding the efforts made by Foreign Secretary Delcy Rodríguez, to maintain the fiction of that, reality shows that far more than that is at stake. More than the pro-tempore turn, their full membership seems to be called into question.

The stakes are high for the Venezuelan government, confronted with falling approval rates and a bad economy. Back then the revenues of oil could balance the lack of any activity not linked with petrol. It seems as if oil is the only business in town, or at least the major one. After more than a decade under the rule of socialists, the economic structures of the country remain poor, as the dependence upon oil money for the government budget is overwhelming (above 90%). So when this pillar collapses, the whole system gets out of balance at once.

The arrival of the Pope’s Envoy Monseigneur Emil Paul Tscherrig to Caracas on the 22nd of October comes on behalf of the Pope in order to foster the dialogue between the MUD and the government. Not only has the private interview at the Vatican between Maduro and Francis shown the good spirits on both sides in achieving a climate of dialogue among the Venezuelans.

Time will tell whether the opposition will rather orchestrate a coup d’état via the parliament or the Army, or sit at the negotiating table with the government, under the mediation of the Vatican and the presence of former heads of states within a Unasur-Committee. The question remains also on how long this status quo could possibly last, before bursting into some form of chaos.

Could this be the major and definite push of the inner and outer enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution, perfectly aligned in their final hit, to reconquer Venezuela back to the Washington Consensus, and put an end to this socialist regime?

There are many reasons this regime could crumble as fast as a house of cards, but some mistakes are definitely accountable to some sort of mismanagement on behalf of late president Chavez, and later on Maduro. Others are clearly signs of foreign intervention, such as the pressure groups, non-existent in the past, or the recent shift of the NA into the hands of a majority of the MUD. These cases would have not been considered even possible under the administration of late Hugo Chávez.

Until then the normality seems to be restored while the ever going negotiating rounds and confrontations between government and opposition continue. This analysis will have to be continued, as soon as new events come to rock this South-American nation.