The World Is Doomed And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

Take a look at the world. What do you see?

 

Do you see the vast, open plains of Africa? The forests in Malaysia, seething with life and sounds? Or do you see the other side of the planet? Do you see the corruption, the famine, the thirst, the sickness or the pain? Because I see both, and it saddens me. It saddens me because I see beauty, but not friendship. I see wealth, but it’s not shared. I see happiness, but it’s outweighed by despair. I see the problems and the solutions, but I don’t see any empathy, any reconciliation, or any forgiveness.

I take a look at the world… our world, and I see a mother. I see a mother, struggling to feed her children. I see a mother who stands by and watches her children eat, while all she has, is a solitary, and miserable, piece of fruit.

You see, that’s the problem with our world. The potential is always there, but it’s withering away, at the hand of its inhabitors.

The rise of Far-Right extremism in the UK and indeed, across the world is alarming. Jair Bolsonario has recently taken office in Brazil, resulting in an incomprehensible rise in Brazillian stock market prices, at an incomprehensible cost. Donald J. Trump continues to play his little boy games with Mexico and continues his obsession with the wall. Which, by the way, will never be built. Tensions continue to rise in France, with Macron’s policies unwaveringly upsetting our French friends. Here in the UK, we continue to prove that Britannia does not rule the way, with public support rising for far-right extremists like UKIP and Tommy Robinson.

In fact, Brittania has never really, ruled the way. We traded slaves, invaded over three-quarters of the world, and raped local tribes of their resources. We suppressed Women from voting, we continue to discriminate against people of different ethnic backgrounds and we haven’t closed the gender pay gap. Women are without free essentials like tampons and sanitary towels, leaving the very poorest in society to bleed, all over some of their only clothes. There is a lot wrong with this country… our country. And we are the only ones who can change that.

Because, my friends, the title of this opinion piece was deliberately misleading. We CAN do something about it, and we must. The world is in a deep and dark place. Brexit is looming, and uncertainty and division in the UK, is not unlike that of a civil war. The rise of far-right extremism is reaching its peak, and the civil unrest, disruption and downright murder in Isreali and Palestinian territories, cannot go on. Anti-Semitism, is the newest insult to throw into the dictionary, regardless of what was actually said. We live in a world where the “blue tick brigade” are just simply superior to everyone else. A narcissistic world.

Speaking of narcissists, you forgot to pick that piece of rubbish up didn’t you, you know the one. You looked at it on the high street and thought; “Nah, I don’t want to touch that, it’s manky, it’s probably been there for days.”. Well tomorrow, you’re going to pick it up. Climate Change is a real risk, and it’s already taking effect. I’ve been on this planet for 16 years now, and I’ve seen the climate change, bloody hell I’ve felt it! I’ve seen pictures and videos online, of turtles with plastic straws, embedded in their brains. I’ve seen birds, with stomachs filled with plastic, I’ve listened to 24-hour videos, containing sounds of the rainforest, and I’ve heard chainsaws. You need to stop being so obsessed with your own needs, and start paying attention to others, open your eyes, and see, for the first time.

So, take your eyes off the stock market. Focus your attention, focus on the things that matter. Focus on the Daniel Blake’s of the world, focus on the people who need it most. Focus on your family, on your friends. Ask them if they’re okay. Focus on the world, and how you’re making it better, one step at a time. Because if we all make the world better, well, the world can breathe again. And it’s inhabitants, human-kind or not, can live in harmony. Spread love, not poverty.

These are words, that should be echoed to your local Tory MP. Rebecca Pow, who just so happens to be my MP, recently claimed that, and I quote; “The people of Taunton Deane have told me they have more money in their pockets than ever before” Rebecca, my father is a floor layer, he’s had surgery on his back last year, and broke his leg three years ago. He works through excruciating pain, because he doesn’t have a choice. The government say he isn’t eligible for benefits. Despite him not being able to work a lot of the time because of the discomfort he is put under. All to find himself living off £20 every month. My mother is almost entirely reliant on other people. For a human who practically raised me and my sister on her own, she has coped incredibly well. Her benefits are being slashed. I see how it’s destroying her, I see how it tears her apart. Then there is me. A sixteen-year-old with a dream. I don’t draw attention to myself, like my influencer counterparts. I’ve never spoken at a labour conference, but I have a dream. Just a young lad from Somerset, with a dream, of human harmony. I’m no hippy, I just want everyone to look after each other. I’m no communist, I just want total equality, I’m no capitalist hater, I just want the same opportunities for everyone.

The problem we have, in the UK at least, is ridiculously unfair media bias. The Guardian, is arguably the only pro-labour mainstream newspaper we have, with the rest either identifying as Lib Dem or Conservative. The BBC, who consistently confuse impartiality with balance, continue to have an extreme bias to both sides of the political spectrum, depending on who you’re talking to. My friend and colleague Seb Chromiak wrote a fantastic piece on Andrew Niel, after he continually prevented Owen Jones from criticising The Spectator, a paper which Mr Niel chairs.

You can read about that here

So in conclusion. There is a whole lot wrong with this world, and there will be a whole lot that my generation inherit. It’s up to us to fix it. I’m calling on you. I’m calling on you to make a difference, to change the world. To alter the way people think. To change your outlook and see for yourself, just how much the world needs you.

‘Historic’ Deal: Could Donald Trump convince Kosovo and Serbia to sign a Peace Agreement?

U.S. President, Donald Trump has made a direct appeal to the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia, urging them to make peace. The Trump administration is working to score what it hopes to be another foreign policy win, this time by encouraging leaders from Kosovo and Serbia to sign a Peace Agreement in a ceremony that could take place at the White House.

This demand from Trump came by the end of 2018, after Kosovo Government decision on raising taxes on Serbian, Bosnia and Herzegovina products to 100 percent and the decision to create the army.

The above-mentioned Government announced the new tariffs on November 21, two weeks after it decided to slap a 10 percent tax on goods from the two neighbouring states, drawing angry reactions from Belgrade and Sarajevo and calls from the European Union to revoke the measures. The move came a day after Interpol’s general assembly, for a third time, voted not to approve membership for Kosovo, the result of what the U.S. Embassy in Pristina said was “a campaign, led by Serbia, to pressure countries to oppose Kosovo’s bid.”

Official data showed that Kosovo imported some 400 million euros ($456 million) in products a year from Serbia and about 81 million euros ($92 million) in goods from Bosnia. Both these countries are complaining of huge losses since the entry into force of tax decisions.

In this regard, on the Kosovo Government decision on taxing goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there was also a statement by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini. The High Representative underlined that the decision of the Kosovo Government to increase the tax on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by 100% only complicates the situation further and does not bring any solution to people’s problems or to Kosovo’s aspirations for its present and its future. She said that such measures do not help to build good neighbourly relations and needs to be revoked. But Kosovo Government made it clear that this decision will not change until Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s independence.

However, the tensions between Kosovo and Serbia increased more after Kosovo MPs voted to create a 5,000-strong standing army, a week after Serbia’s premier suggested the move could provoke military intervention by Belgrade. Legislation to transform the lightly armed Kosovo Security Force, which was created mainly for crisis response, civil defence and removal of ordnance from the 1990s conflict, into an army was approved by 107 deputies in the 120-seat assembly. Eleven minority Serb deputies boycotted the vote. Kosovo’s constitution mandates the creation of a national army but no action was taken for years while Pristina sought, in vain, to obtain the approval of Kosovo Serbs.

Seeing latest tensions, Trump sent letters to both, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and Serb President Aleksandar Vucic, asking they accelerate negotiations in an effort to resolve their impasse.

In the letter posted on Thaçi’s official page on December 18, Trump says, “Failure to capitalize on this unique opportunity would be a tragic setback, as another chance for a comprehensive peace is unlikely to occur again soon.

“The United States has invested heavily in the success of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign state,” the letter said.

Ongoing Trump said that the U.S. stands ready to assist and that he is looking forward to hosting the two presidents in the White House “to celebrate what would be a historic accord.”

Bringing the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia together for a White House ceremony would be seen as a major accomplishment.

One expert welcomed the increased U.S. attention on the Kosovo-Serbia issue, particularly in the context of the larger Balkans framework.

“The rising tensions between Serbia and Kosovo — and the way in which Serbia and Russia are working together to foment instability in neighbouring Bosnia – pose a real threat to regional peace,” said Daniel Baer, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and advisor to Foreign Policy for America.

“Obviously, offering the White House as a setting is offering a big carrot, but if the administration can use that carrot to achieve a genuine peace between Serbia and Kosovo, including recognition of Kosovo by Belgrade, that would be a significant step forward.”

As known, since Serbia and Kosovo fought a bloody war that ended in 1999, relations have remained tense. Serbia never recognised Kosovo’s independence, declared in 2008. The independence has been recognized by more than 100 countries, including the United States and most EU members. However, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Russia, China and five EU members take the same stance.

Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have been engaged in years-long EU-backed talks, lead by Mogherini, to seal a permanent peace deal, which would open the path to eventual membership of the European Union for both countries. Prospects of a deal seemed to rise in August last year when Thaçi and Vucic appeared together at a conference in Austria. But the leaders also raised the possibility of changing borders, which provoked strong opposition in Kosovo and split Western powers.

Kosovo Government has established a negotiating team for talks to dampen President Thaçi’s role in this process, following his idea of territorial defiance, an idea that is not supported by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and the Government of Kosovo.

Now it’s left to be seen if Trump will succeed to convince Kosovo President and Serbia President to sign a Peace Agreement after last developments, such as changing borders, decision on taxes and creation of Kosovo Forced Army.

AROUND THE WORLD: Venezuelan President Maduro Sworn In For 2nd term, Warns Against Potential Coup

Image result for nicolas maduroVenezuelan president and leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in for his second term following his electoral victory last year with 67.7 percent of the popular vote. His swearing in ceremony comes at a time of great strife for the region as right wing leaders in Latin America are accused of assisting the United States in destabilising Venezuela.

In his speech, the president stated that “We have a powerful enemy in US imperialism, but far worse is those who are corrupt and damage our country”. He also told his crowd of supporters that “Venezuela is at the center of a global war waged by US imperialism and their satellite states,” adding “Here I am, ready to take our country forward. Here we are with our democracy and our people.”

The speech targets the so-called Lima Group, an alliance of 14 right wing American states including Bolsonaro’s Brazil. With an active reactionary opposition still operating in Venezuela, Maduro has reason to be worried with notable counter revolutionary governments now in power in bordering nations Brazil and Colombia.

Bolsonaro, the newly elected president of Brazil,  is one source for special concern for the socialist Great Patriotic Pole led government in Venezuela. In his brief tenure as president so far, Bolsonaro has purged the civil service of hundred of suspected leftists and communists who do not share his far-right ideology. With a reactionary in the mould of the infamous General Pinochet now ruling a nation of over 200 million people, Maduro no doubt intends to combat potential coup attempts with increased vigour.

Similarly, Colombia holds a bastion of problems for the Maduro government. 85 ex-rebels belonging to the FARC organisation have been killed since the peace deal at the hands of right wing death squads who still operate with near impunity in Colombia around the Venezuelan border. Colombian armed forces have likewise, pursued leftists with bloodthirsty intent recently killing Marxist insurgent commander Guacho after his assassination of three Ecuadorans.

Maduro remains one of the select few leaders left from the “pink tide”, the elections of numerous populist and social democratic leaders in Latin America. Since then a counter revolutionary backlash has eclipsed the continent through a rising tide of violent, middle class based protests leading to the return of neo-liberal social conservative governments in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. It comes with a global trend of rising right wing movements from the rise of electoral fascists in France to the violent neo-Nazis operating militias in Ukraine, training like minded American Nazis.

Judging from his speech, President Maduro has no intentions of succumbing to US hegemony in the region which certainly intends on regime change. The US has made no secret of its disdain for the Bolivian Revolution in a similar vein to its dislike for the Cuban communist state. With destabilising forces rocking Venezuela including an attempted assassination of Maduro and a helicopter terrorist attack, Maduro will have to wither the storm by any means if he seeks to continue former president Chavez’s social revolution.

Former MI6 and Defence Chiefs Write Letter to Warn PM’s Deal “Places National Security into Foreign Hands”

Former Head of MI6; Sir Richard Dearlove and former Chief of the Defence Staff; Lord Guthrie have written a joint letter to Conservative Association Offices urging MP’s to vote down May’s deal over Security Concerns.

Dearlove and Guthrie, who served as Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service and Cheif of Defense Staff Respectively, warns May’s deal will alter relationships with the EU drastically. Buried deep in the agreement lies an offer of a ‘New, deep and personal relationship’ with the EU in defence, security and intelligence which cuts across fundamental national security policies including membership of NATO,  our Bilateral Defence and Intelligence Relationship with the USA and the Five Eyes intelligence service.

Downing Street sent an immediate response to the letter, signifying the importance and cruciality of the warning. The Go

vernment rebutted the letter, which Dearlove and Guthrie claim indicated a “worryingly poor understanding of the issues” resulting in our national security being placed into foreign hands.

Dearlove, who currently serves as Chair of Board of Trustees of the University of London, lead MI6 from 1999 to 2004 and is a very well known and trusted figurehead. Guthrie is widely respected throughout the country and is known for his intense, strategic thinking. The decision by the former MI6 employees is widely reflected to be a public backing of ‘No-Deal’, with both being well aware that May and her government have repeatedly stated that the only way to prevent ‘No-Deal’ is by voting for the Prime Minister’s deal. It is unlikely for them to U-Turn and advocate for a second referendum, which continues to gain popularity, considering the duo’s strong Euroscepticism.

This serves as yet another blow to Theresa May’s botched deal, with the Prime Minister already delaying parliaments vote on the deal until January 2019. This was because the PM believed her deal wouldn’t get enough votes to pass through parliament. Delaying the deal was a last-ditch attempt at buying some time to convince MP’s to back her deal, resulting in her own MP’s calling a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, which she won by a mediocre margin. With May facing her second defeat in Parliament within the last 24 hours and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn confirming Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the Government if her deal is voted down, things are looking bleaker and bleaker for the PM.

Protester arrests at TransCanada pipeline show violence of Neo-Liberalism

On Monday the 7th of January 2019 the Canadian armed police force (RCMP tactical forces) broke the peaceful blockades formed in British Columbia and arrested 14 Wet’suwet’en people, escalating already high tensions over the proposed TransCanada oil pipeline.

The struggle against the proposed oil pipeline has been ongoing since 2010 when the first blockade was set up as the Unist’ot’en camp by members of the Wet’suwet’en nation. The Wet’suwet’en, a First Nations people who live on the Bulkley River, are opposed to the pipeline on the grounds of potential damage to the watershed and wildlife. However, their arguments go beyond damage to the environment and emphasise the rights of the people to the land, their right to self-determination, and the right to protect it for future generations. But their desire to protect the land comes from a deeper desire to preserve it not only for themselves but for the whole of Canada. In one of the videos of the siege, a protester tearfully pleads with the police that this is for “your families too” so they “can enjoy this beautiful land”.

The RCMP were acting on an injunction granted on December 14th, allowing them access to the road where the barricades have been erected in order to begin constructing the pipeline. The pipeline itself will cost $6.2 and is being built by CoastalGasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada Corp. They received environmental certification in 2014 and have agreements from 20 First Nations groups whose land the pipe will lie but they have not had approval from the hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en’s five clans, who are actively resisting the construction by erecting barricades and camps at the only bridge that can be crossed.

The pipeline has not just faced resistance from the Wet’suwet’en people but from people across Canada, who have taken to the streets in protest at the pipeline and the treatment of the first nations people struggling against it. Many protesters have highlighted the hypocrisy of the prime minister Justin Trudeau’s administration, in breaking their promises to respect and rekindle a relationship with the first nation peoples across Canada, after years of historic oppression and maltreatment.

The siege undertaken by the RCMP tactical force is part of a trend of international government-sanctioned, corporate take-over of indigenous lands. We have already witnessed both the Dakota access pipeline at standing rock and the Keystone pipeline leak (another TransCanada-owned pipeline), among others. But the violation of local people’s rights to determine the use of their land isn’t confined to America and Canada, the people of Preston new road in the north-west of the UK have been battling the construction of fracking sites since the government overturned a council decision to stop prevent their construction. So intertwined are these seemingly different struggles, that members of clans at standing rock have visited the local protesters at Preston new road to express solidarity and the protesters of Preston new road have returned the favour.

Whether it is North Lancashire or Dakota, across the world we are seeing a battle being fought between the wedded power of neoliberal governments and corporations against the environment and the people. Places like Standing Rock and now the Wet’suwet’en lands are the front-lines of this fightback and the tragedy of the unfolding siege in British Columbia begs the question, who benefits from all of this?

Climate Change: The UK Must Do More

 

Madagascar, Androy 2018. Gripped by 5 years of unprecedented drought, a humanitarian crisis has emerged in the depths of Southern Madagascar. Local farming has been ravaged. More than a million face the risk of malnutrition. The centuries of stability for the inhabitants of Androy is over, forcing residents such as Alatsoa to flee this inhospitable, deserted land. “There is famine there, there is no water. Our future would have been very bleak if we had stayed,” said Alatsoa. The forces of nature have the power to create and destroy worlds; Madagascan life has been transformed by violent shifts in our geography. And we have only ourselves to blame.

Policymakers have finally awakened to the stark reality which scientists have for so long predicted. Arctic sea ice levels have fallen 13% per decade since 1970. of the Great Barrier Reef has been severely damaged. And 21.5mn refugees have been created by climate change since 2008 – from North African desertification to the flooding of coastal Bangladesh. For so long it was just rhetoric; a doomsday brainchild of the academic community, forcing us to change our behaviour when nobody really understood why. But a new, darker era has dawned. Our misuse of the planet is leading Earth into a dangerous, desolate future.

But what is the UK doing about it?

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the origin of global warming lies on British shores. The UK Earth overshoot day was May 8th in 2017, meaning that if the world consumed energy at the ravenous rate of the British, it would take 2.87 Earths to sustainably provide the resources. Britain is not doing enough.

Some see us as net beneficiaries; no longer the land of the cold, the 2018 summer heatwave was welcomed by British sun-worshippers alongside farmers benefiting from longer growing seasons. Yet our island is not immune to the perils of global warming. A predicted tripling of global flooding would cost the world £340bn by 2030, affecting low-lying coastal and estuary regions. The Thames Barrier, the sole fortress protecting the capital from the forces of nature, can withstand only a 1-metre rise in water levels; after which we must spend billions on a replacement, or risk losing central London to our self-made destruction.

Yet policies are being implemented, symbolised by the groundbreaking 2008 Climate Change Act which outlined performance targets until 2032. This Act also leads to the creation of the CCC, the Committee on Climate Change who oversee the government’s progress on its green goals. Renewables investment and the shift away from coal have resulted in a momentous 59% decrease in electricity generation emissions since 2008 in the march towards energy decarbonisation, yet progress in other areas has plateaued.

Britain may revel in its low carbon electricity as coal continues to fuel energy in India and China, but power is the easiest sector to change – since it requires minimal changes in the behaviour of the people. As the world battles against the biggest challenge humanity have yet faced, changing the layman’s behaviour is the biggest challenge of them all. Encouraging recycling, home insulation and energy-efficient vehicles to protect farming regions in the Sahel is tough to sell to the average British worker – worlds apart, we must find incentives to encourage green behaviour for the benefit of our common humanity. The gilets jaune are symbolic of this attitude, a rampant protest borne out of an inability to see the impact of Macron’s fuel taxes past the hit to their own personal finances.

With home insulation down 95% since 2012 and tree planting rates ⅔ below target, British efforts are dangerously below the levels needed for a sustainable future. Yet hope is on the horizon. In October 2017 the government launched the Clean Growth Strategy – aiming to phase out diesel by 2040, achieve 85% of power from low-carbon sources by 2032 and support the development of green technologies. Both parties are aligned on climate policy; with May stating it is our “moral imperative” and Corbyn highlighting it as the greatest challenge facing mankind. Yet, as always seen in political spheres, words and action do not match up. Labour’s 2017 manifesto signalled a desire to transition to a green economy with hardly any clear-cut policies, and Conservative rhetoric has taken a hammering from their continued support for fracking.

But the government is not the only way. Individual efforts, brimming with ambition and a desire to save the planet, can together create a sizeable contribution. Food Intercept – a student-run organisation at Warwick University – collects leftover food from shops and markets to redistribute to the homeless in an effort to minimise food waste. With livestock contributing 14.5% to total greenhouse emissions, increasing food efficiency is integral to keeping a lid on global temperatures. Young startups are springing up across the country, that, free from the political and bureaucratic nightmares faced by government, can achieve positive change at a faster and more efficient rate.

In a world of constant political drama, from Brexit furore to Trumpian scandals and Chinese expansionism, climate change has all too often been relegated to background noise. Politicians, hungry to win their current battles, have been all too willing to delay climate policy to the next administration. No longer can this be. 2018, the year of the European heatwave, California wildfires and Puerto Rico hurricane has elevated climate change to the upper echelons of political priority. The world has begun to awaken to the barren reality we face; act now or risk an attack of natural disasters, leaving our species, the most successful in Earth’s history, fragile and vulnerable to the power of nature.

The capitalist economy borne out of the British Industrial Revolution has its roots in private trade. With it has come to satiation of our materialistic desires, producing ever more output without regard for its external impacts. This economic model cannot sustain our future. A newfound global attitude must compel the UK to create an economic system enshrined in green, sustainable principles. As the climate world order negotiated at Paris begins to disintegrate under the weight of President Trump, the UK and other countries who wish for change must keep moving forward in unity. All of our livelihoods depend on it.

AROUND THE WORLD: Israel Bombs Syrian Capital, Damascus on Christmas Day as Turkish Invasion Looms

On the 25th of December, Israeli warplanes struck Damascus during Christmas celebrations allegedly targeting Hezbollah senior figures and strongholds in the city. It has been reported that Syrian government air defences destroyed 14 of the 16 missiles fired by the Israeli Air Force during the strikes.

The aggressive strikes come as US president Trump has announced that his administration will pull troops out of Syria. The decision comes as Trump has harked back to his anti interventionist campaign rhetoric as part of his “America First” plans. The resolution has already led to defence secretary James Mattis’ resignation as United States foreign policy has seen a seemingly remarkable change of pace compared to the last 50 years of hawkish interventionist foreign policy.

With the US withdrawal also comes a loss of support for the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) whom US forces have been assisting against the so-called Islamic State. It has thus also led to the emboldening of Erdogan’s Turkey whose military have long since wished to displace and attack the Syrian Kurds whom they see as connected to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group who have participated in a decades long guerrilla conflict against the Turkish government.

The bombing of Damascus can be seen as a play by Israel to take a leading role in Syrian civil war as the US pulls out. The hawkish display of power is no surprise to anyone who knows Israels interventionist military history which includes the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The conflict saw Israel topple leftist pro Palestinian forces and attempt to remove Syrian influence from Lebanon. It also helped lead to the creation of Hezbollah, the very same force Israel now seeks to combat in Syria.

Hezbollah have taken a large role in the war on the side of the Assad government. Its a relationship that goes back to the Lebanese civil war where Hezbollah and Baathist backed militias fought the Israeli backed rightist Phalange for control of the nation. Hezbollah is a commanding military presence, as shown during its strategic victory against the IDF in the 2006 Lebanon war. Its intervention on behalf of Assad cannot be emphasised enough with regards to the continued survival of the Syrian Arab Socialist Baath Party. It has recently played a leading role against rebel forces near the occupied Golan Heights during the Beit Jinn offensive and spearheaded the capture of Abu Kamal from the so-called Islamic State.

The withdrawal of the US from the region and the display of Hezbollah military prowess had no doubt worried Israel. The events reminisce in the happenings of the Lebanese civil war where America similarly withdrew for the conflict, after a suicide bombing killed 241 US troops, and Hezbollah gained a decisive edge in the closing chapters of the 15 year war. Now, Hezbollah has yet again proven itself decisive as the Assad government asserts itself day after day.

Israel meanwhile has been in somewhat of a crisis over the last few months. Its reputation has once again been tainted after a series of shootings of Palestinians during Gaza border protests earlier this year. A corruption scandal has emerged against Israel’s long running rightist PM Benjamin Netanyahu and a tactical victory by Gazan armed factions last month has directly led to the collapse of the Likud led right wing governing coalition. With fresh elections around the corner, the Netanyahu administration has no doubt attempted to claw back some legitimacy with these recent strikes on the Syrian capital.

The situation in Syria remains unstable. With the US withdrawal, a Turkish invasion against YPG militants in the north now looms and a deal seems to be on the horizon between Kurdish and Baathist forces. A more determined Israeli intervention into the conflict will unquestionably have untold consequences for the future of the region.

Is it the end of the war in Syria?

Recently headlines have been muted about Syria and while the eye of the Western media has been drawn away a conflict still endures.

As it stands, Assad is the dominant force in Syria. However it has taken the regime a long time to regain a foothold on the nation. At one point the FSA “Free Syrian Army”, held huge swathes of territory in South West Syria, and more in the North West, but after Russian intervention on the side of Assad the FSA have been pushed out of the south. The YPG/SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) who are mainly Kurdish forces currently control the majority of the north after winning the region from ISIS. The government of Bashar Al Assad regained territory from FSA and ISIS territory, most focused in East and South West, as well as North West.

Assad’s grip on the country is its strongest its been since before the protests that sparked the civil war but he still lacks control of significant areas of the country, namely Idlib Provence and most if not all of northern Syria. Trump’s withdrawal has been called moronic by most inside Washington, despite America’s unclear position in the war, and America’s NATO allies have felt insulted by the President’s sudden decision to pull out of the region.

It is very likely that Turkey had something to do with Trump’s decision, especially considering they released the Pastor Trump and Erdogan were at loggerheads about. Trump wouldn’t need much persuasion, as he has said and proven many times he has no interest in remaining in the Middle East.

The extremism and ideology of ISIS thrives in poverty and in times of extreme hardship, it is not something you can destroy or fight, it is something you battle with education, food. That is the only way to stop ISIS recruiting.

At this stage in the Syrian civil war, ISIS is no longer President Assad’s main threat. He will send reinforcements to hold the former ISIS regions but Assad will now focus on the FSA, or “Free Syrian Army” as well as the YPG/SDF Kurds in the north. The North contains vital resources like oil that are critical to the recovery of the Syrian economy, resources that Assad will not want to leave in Kurdish hands.

The FSA currently only hold Idlib province, and retaking it is going to be extremely difficult. With the Turkish military entrenched in many territories held by the FSA, and maintaining outposts in Idlib, It seems the only way Assad will be able to retake Idlib province and any other areas held by the FSA is through dialogue. The FSA has surrendered many places through Russian mediated talks, they could do it again with Idlib.

The main loser of Trump’s withdrawal is not NATO however. It is the Kurdish SDF. The Kurds that have been the West’s most reliable allies on the ground but now find themselves surrounded by enemies with no powerful support.

The Kurds have had many battles with the Turkish military, some involved many casualties such as when Turkey invaded Afrin with the support of the FSA. One of the main reasons it didn’t go any further was because of US intervention that may not be a factor in the future.

This might force the Kurds into the arms of Assad but there are a number of stumbling blocks mainly due to ideology differences. The Kurds have created a  democratic region which enshrines civil liberties for both genders and all ethnicity in a codified constitution. The region’s politics is also heavily socialist with co-operatives forming a large part of the economy alongside private property. This is also controlled locally by councils and is in complete contrast to Assad’s authoritarian governing, and Baathist politics and policies. The Kurds face a stark choice of trading their liberty for their lives should Turkey and Assad both mount serious campaigns into the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria”, the new name of the region.

At this stage fighting on is not something which is in the Kurdish people’s benefit, they have never stated that they are looking for independence rather autonomy. And their best bet now is to go into negotiations with the Syrian government, and attempt to retain their hard-fought democracy within Syria. A tricky task but they face an armed struggle they cannot win.

As of now, it seems the winner of the war will be Assad and his Russian allies. He controls most of Syria, and with Trump pulling out leaving the Kurds vulnerable he may also end up controlling all of the north once again. 

Ultimately President Assad wants a united Syria under his control, and it looks like he will get it.

The Federal Reserve: Trump’s Biggest Threat

The Federal Reserve. The Central Bank of the world, and the most important non-governmental institution in the United States. It has guided America through the Gold Standard, Bretton Woods and the wreckage of the 2008 Financial Crisis, with its impact reverberating across the global economy. Shielded from the tentacles of the White House, politics is barred from permeating the hard economic data that the Fed uses to ensure strength and stability in the US economy. But it is under attack. President Trump has quarrelled with just about every institutional opponent he can think of, but this one is unique.

“My biggest threat”, this is how President Trump declared that sees Fed.

The size, the scope, the power of the Federal Reserve make it a formidable opposition; one for which Trump must tread carefully, or risk ravaging the economic miracle that he believes he created.

As millions of loans were called in, the immovable banking behemoths began to crumble and dark clouds rose above the US economy in October 2008, the Federal Reserve was there to save it. Dark memories of the 1930s lingered in the fears of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Yet by orchestrating the $700bn Troubled Asset Relief Programme to save the banks, slashing interest rates from 4.5% to 0 and implementing emergency credit programmes to calm the turbulent credit markets, the Fed prevented total financial destruction. Recession did not become Depression.

As the Presidential race heated up, Trump turned his fire towards the ultra-low monetary policy of the Fed; a decade on from the crisis, Chairman Janet L. Yellen was attacked for supporting Obama through her obstinacy towards interest rate hikes. The economy was booming, 15 million jobs had been created and out of the wreckage, America’s financial system had grown stronger. Yellen should be “ashamed”, Trump scolded, for keeping stock markets buoyant on cheap credit to bolster Obama’s image – and so began the pressure on the Fed to raise rates.

But such an attitude has changed. The economy has continued to strengthen in the first 2 years of the Trumpian era. But all of a sudden, the President wishes Yellen had never left.

Last Thursday the Fed raised rates by a further 0.25% on their path to recovery from the unprecedented lows that history had never before seen. Setting in chain a sequence of events culminating in Mnuchin calling the 6 biggest US banks to calm their fears, stock markets collapsed. Trump hit out at the Fed as “the only problem our economy has” as stock markets tumbled towards their worst December since the depths of Depression in 1931. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones suffered their worst Christmas Eve declines in history. After previously venting of Obama’s political stranglehold on the Fed, he now wished he had such a weapon at his disposal.

Trump has attacked and scapegoated almost every potential opposition he can think of, from the Supreme Court to Wall Street to Mexico. But what makes the Federal Reserve different is its impact on The Donald’s holy grail, the one reliable source for which he could always turn when political turmoil arose, the one omnipotent force that has defined the success of the Trumpian era: the stock market.

No President has ever tied themselves closer to the markets than Trump. Having tweeted about the stock market buoyancy 63 times from his election to February 2018, the President has claimed this asset market victory for himself. Isaac Newton’s symbolic acknowledgement that his discoveries were achieved by ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ has been all but lost in Trump’s masquerading belief in his own self-importance. He, alone, has been the divine spirit that has marched the markets to soaring heights. In fact, it was the solid economic foundation provided by Obama that provided confidence to investors to return to the stocks they frightfully abandoned during dark times a decade ago.

Trump has also lead himself down a seriously dangerous road; spreading the myth that stock markets are a perfect indicator of the US economy. They are not. Markets do reflect economic fundamentals, but they are lost in an ocean of algorithmic traders, market jitters and foreign currency movements. This supposed special relationship between the markets and the economy worked well in the early period of Trump’s reign; now it has come to haunt him. No longer are the markets only a measurement of economic success; they are now a measurement of his success.

And that is what makes the Fed an opponent like Trump has never faced before. He can attack the Clintons, the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill. But just one tweet has sparked uproar that the integrity of this historic institution, smoothing markets and the economy for the past 105 years, has been consumed in the wave of Trumpian destruction. Whilst Trump may endear to his godly stature that has created American economic success, there is only one god which market investors watch with eagle-eyes: the Federal Reserve.

Back in 2016, Trumps was symbolised by his hatred for the establishment. Troops of die-hard supporters rallied on his path to destruction to create a new world order, crushing all institutions in its wake. But the financial system will never be tamed by the President. Operating within their own separate world, a credible central bank can stabilise even the most volatile political events. Bashing the Fed will not win supporters, but only drive markets further towards their doom. Trump has always revelled in his omnipotence, transforming the world economy through his trade wars and shutting down government in response to Democrat obstinacy against funding the Mexican Wall. But now, at last, he has found an enemy that he cannot beat. Trump must tread carefully against the Federal Reserve; if not, stock markets will tumble ever further, and he will crumble with them.

AROUND THE WORLD: Mexican President, AMLO announces budget and reaches agreement with US as migrant crisis continues

December has seen the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly referred to as AMLO) who won a landslide electoral win in Mexico. The leader of the National Regeneration Movement has long been regarded as a left wing populist and can be seen as a latecomer to the “pink tide” of left wing electoral victories that swept Latin America in the 2000’s. Promising a range of commitments from inequality to crime to corruption, he now also faces a different issue as numerous migrant caravans from Central America have entered the country.

Many of the migrants are from Honduras, escaping the consequences of a US backed coup in 2009 and fleeing from persecution from death squads. The United States long running “war on drugs” has not stemmed the rise of gangs and drug squads who still extol influence in many Latin American states. The result has been a high profile shift of migrants seeking asylum in both Mexico and the US.

Meanwhile AMLO’s rhetoric has been progressive on the issue sharply contrasting with US president Trump who has become infamous from his anti immigration rhetoric. Trump has recently stirred up his nativist voting base once again, against the migrant caravans even implying that troops will shoot resisting migrants. His rhetoric has so far been matched by US immigration policy. Last week saw the tragic and entirely preventable death of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and shock in the custody of U.S. border enforcement officials. The case is a clear example of the result of the draconian US immigration system, indicative of the world wide treatment of migrants and shows the inhumanity of the US administration.

As a result of this, Mexico and the US have agreed on a $35.6-billion development plan to curb migration. The plan which seeks to fund the central American states and thus improve the livelihoods of many low income citizens, has however been met with scepticism as most of the United States’ contribution is not new funding. Also with most of the money coming from private sector loans, it is unlikely to address the long terms problems that neo-liberalism and the “Washington Consensus” have created for the region.

AMLO’s election can however, be clearly seen as yet another reaction to the austerity policies set out by the IMF, the US and the WTO on Latin America. Despite this, the president has presented a rather sober budget, pursuing a goal of social democratic income reform whilst calming the markets. This has resulted in a rather limp reformist budget which sets a target for a primary surplus of 1% of gdp after an expected 0.8% this year. There were plans to spend 125 billion pesos on scholarships for the young but the programme will now get a little more than a third of that. The budget also allocates 60 billion pesos of new money for a universal pension for old people, 20 billion pesos less than originally proposed.

AMLO will no doubt seek to fulfil his promise of transforming Mexican society but held in the restrictions of social democracy and with heavy US economic pressure coming from above, the president will no doubt have to change his game as migrancy continues to rise and the “Washington Consensus” remains so far unbroken in the country.