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Monthly Review December 2019

Monthly Review December 2019

Europe

UK: Conservative victory

On December 12, snap parliamentary elections were held in Great Britain. The Conservative party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson won, receiving the majority of votes. Johnson is now poised to break the Brexit deadlock.

On December 19, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, in a speech to Parliament on government priorities, said that by January 31, 2020, the country must leave the European Union. On December 21, the British parliament approved an exit plan from the EU.

The victory of the Conservatives demonstrated that the UK population still supports Brexit and will not tolerate any new delays in leaving the EU.

NATO Summit

On December 3-4, a NATO anniversary summit was held in London. In 2019, the Alliance turned 70 years old. However, the event coincided with a serious split within the Alliance. On the one hand, contradictions between France and the United States have become apparent. Shortly before the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that NATO had become “brain dead.” On the other hand, the contradictions between Turkey and the United States (due to Ankara’s purchase of S- 400 from Moscow), Turkey and Greece (due to the signing of the Turkish-Libyan agreements), Turkey and France and Germany (due to the operation “Peace Spring”) were evident, and none of these contradictions were resolved during the summit.

One of the most important decisions of the NATO summit was that space was declared an operational domain for NATO, potentially spurring a new space arms race. For the first time, China was named as a potential challenge for the North Atlantic Alliance.

Montenegro: religious protests

On December 28, the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, signed the law on religious freedom, adopted earlier by parliament. The law is widely seen to discriminate against the country’s largest religious organization – the Serbian Orthodox Church, provoking massive protests from the population.

The country’s long-term leader, Milo Djukanovic, had previously announced his intention to create his own independent church, the law was related to this decision.

The creation of a new church structure will widen the gap between Serbs and Montenegrins, who speak the same language and are both Orthodox. The main goal is deepening Montenegro’s integration into NATO and rupturing Serbian ethno-cultural space. The task of the Atlanticists is to contain Serbia, as the main Continentalist force in the region focused on developing relations with Russia, China and Turkey.

Eurasia

The meeting of the Normandy four

On November 9, a meeting of the leaders of the countries of the Normandy Four took place in Paris, including Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky. The heads of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine discussed the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the situation in the Donbass, agreeing to continue the negotiation process. Plans for the further separation of forces and the exchange of prisoners of war between Russia and Ukraine were announced to the public.

The summit continued with negotiations on the transit of gas between Russia and Ukraine, ending on December 23 with Moscow and Kiev agreeing on a five-year gas contract. Kiev retained the right to be a gas transit country. This was largely influenced by problems with the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, which has been threatened by US sanctions.

Middle East

Operation in Idlib

On December 18, the Syrian Arab army launched Operation Idlib Dawn to liberate Idlib from terrorist gangs. Syrian government forces have been able to make important and deep advances into Idlib.

On December 22, during a speech in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced he would be sending a high-ranking government delegation to Russia to discuss the situation in Idlib. Turkey fears that the seizure of Idlib territory by Syrian government forces will lead to a new wave of refugees in Turkey. In addition, Ankara will lose an important lever of influence on the military-political situation in Syria.

It is expected that Moscow and Ankara will agree on possible concessions regarding the Idlib issue, as well as other key points of interaction in the country and possibly in Libya as well. Finally, the plans for the region may be approved by the presidents of Russia and Turkey at a meeting in early January.

Lebanon: Protests Against New Prime Minister

On December 20, Hassan Diab was appointed the new Prime Minister of Lebanon. He came to power amid months of protests that led to the resignation of his predecessor Saad Hariri; however, the protests continued after his ouster. The new prime minister enjoys the support of the Shiite Hezbollah party, but is a Sunni Arab. From the very beginning, the protests had the support of the US and were aimed at undermining the influence of Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon. It is to be expected that the protests will now intensify, as the new prime minister is categorically unacceptable to the outside patrons of the protesters.

Iraq: deepening crisis

On December 26, Iraqi President Barham Saleh warned parliament of his readiness to resign due to the inability of parties to agree on a new prime minister. Saleh is opposed to the appointment of Asaad al Idan, the candidate of the pro-Iranian parliamentary bloc Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of the Righteous). The president specified that the constitution prohibits him from rejecting candidates for the prime minister’s chair and that he does not want to aggravate the political crisis in the country.

However, the President’s actions did de facto lead to an escalation of the crisis. Representatives of pro-Iranian political forces have already accused the president of taking a pro-American political direction.

It is worth noting that, traditionally, a Kurd is chosen as president of the country.  Barham Saleh represents the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls territory centered in Sulaymaniyah.

Sultan of Oman near death

In December, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman was reported to be in poor health. The court of the Sultan is preparing for a change of power. Qaboos bin Said has ruled the country for nearly 50 years. He came to power as a result of a bloodless coup with the support of Great Britain and worked to prevent a socialist uprising in Dhofar.

The Sultan adhered to a multi-vector policy which allowed Oman to become a center of stability in the Middle East and an important platform for backstage negotiations, including between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The present sultan has no children or brothers. The impending change of power could potentially lead to instability.

Asia

India: protests against Modi

In early December, thousands of protests against new citizenship legislation began in India. The protesters were supported by authorities in several states where power is in the hands of the opposition. The new law passed by parliament provides simplified citizenship for members of religious minorities (non-Muslim) who have arrived in India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Critics of the law believe that this is part of a government policy to marginalize the Muslim community, and that the law is contrary to the principles of a secular state, as approved by the country’s constitution.

Residents of the north-eastern states of the country expressed indignation, as they are afraid that now millions of people from Bangladesh will legally be able to settle in their regions. This, according to the organizers of the protests, threatens the interests of the local population.

In general, the new law meets the ideology of the ruling BJP party, which seeks to strengthen its position using the support of of new citizens of non-Muslim origin.

At the same time, protests against Modi’s government are being exploited by globalist structures. American media has heavily criticized Modi’s India, accusing the ruling regime of “hindu-fascism.”

North America

Trump’s impeachment

On December 18, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump. The president has been charged with two Articles of Impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In January 2020, the trial will begin in the senate, which will ultimately decide whether to remove the president from power or not. However, few believed that the Republican controlled Senate will actually choose to remove Trump from office. Nevertheless, Trump’s impeachment demonstrates the intensification of the internal political struggles ahead of the 2020 elections.

Sanctions against TurkStream

On December 21, after the signing of the US military budget by US President Donald Trump, sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream gas pipelines came into force. Sanctions primarily threaten the Swiss company Allseas, which provided vessels for laying pipes at sea.

However, most of the TurkStream has already been built. The presidents of Russia and Turkey will open it on January 8.

Nord Stream 2 is in a much more complicated situation, a significant part of the pipeline has not yet been built. For Turkey, the damage from sanctions will be minimal.  Sanctions will cause the most serious problems for Russia and Germany.

Turkish-American Conflict

During December, the United States continued to exert pressure on Turkey. On December 13, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the “Armenian Genocide” in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Soon, the Senate lifted the arms embargo on Greek Cyprus. Both steps are a demonstration of open hostility towards Turkey.

In response, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said that Turkey could deprive the US of access to Incirlik airbase. Relations between the two countries remain tense, while Washington is clearly not ready for compromises, and is waiting for Ankara to make concessions.

New US Front in the Middle East

On December 29, US forces launched airstrikes on Shiite militia targets (Kataib Hezbollah) in Syria and Iraq, killing 25 people. The Pentagon said the attacks were a response to the aggressive actions of Kataib Hezbollah, which led to the death of a representative of an American contractor.

Kataib Hezbollah itself has already promised to brutally respond to the American actions. The leadership of the armed forces of Iraq condemned the actions of the United States. In the Iraqi parliament, deputies are calling for the withdrawal of US troops.

Kataib Hezbollah is part of the Hashd Shaabi, Iraqi Shiite groups, which played a major role in the defeat of ISIS in Iraq. Now it is these formations that are ensuring the country’s security and fighting ISIS. The United States is de facto acting in favor of the terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The attacks against Shiite forces in Iraq and Syria took place against the backdrop of increased pressure from the United States on Iran and US-sponsored anti-Iranian protests in Iraq and Lebanon. The result of military action by the United States could be increased tension on the border with Iran. The United States provokes pro-Iranian forces to a tough response in order to increase pressure on Iran, up to and including air strikes.

Latin America

Argentina: New Opposition Center to the US

On December 10, Alberto Angel Fernández assumed the presidency of the Argentine Republic. In October, he defeated the neoliberal Mauricio Macri in the presidential election. The inauguration of Fernandez means the return of power to the Peronists. They want to focus on a socially oriented economy, and to oppose the hegemony of the United States.

Argentina’s transition back to a Peronist course is restoring the balance between sovereign and pro-American regimes in Latin America, which was shaken after Jair Bolsonaro came to power in Brazil last year. Together with Mexico led by Manuel Lopez Obrador, Argentina is now becoming the pole of a moderate left sovereigntist course in Latin America. Both countries oppose pressure on Venezuela and support the ousted leader of Bolivia, Evo Morales.

Africa

Libya: Turkish-Russian tensions

On November 11, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in Libya with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. In December, Erdogan twice criticized Russian military assistance to the head of the Libyan National Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The current situation threatens to complicate Russian-Turkish relations, however, Ankara and Moscow have good experience working together from their interaction in Syria, which they can theoretically use to come to an agreement in Libya.

At the same time, Erdogan announced his intention to send troops to Libya as soon as a request is received. On December 26, the Government of National Accord (GNA) officially asked Turkey to send troops– however, so far, there have only been transfers of militants from Syria to Libya. Unlike actual Turkish military personnel, these forces are unlikely to seriously change the situation in Libya. The arrival of the Turkish military could lead to deaths, which could strongly impact Erdogan’s popularity.

Algeria: the death of Salah

On December 23, Ahmed Gayd Salah, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Algeria, died of a heart attack. After the unchallenged president of the country Abdel Aziz Bouteflika was forced to resign in April, Salah became the de facto leader of the country. He helped prevent the so-called “Democratic reforms” advocated by protesters from being realized, but ensured order in the country.

Less than a week before Salah’s death, Algeria hosted the inauguration of the country’s new president: Abdelmajid Tebboun. The death of Salah could lead to a serious conflict between the elites of the country for power. The new president was considered close to Salah, however, after his death, the inner circle of ex-president Bouteflika may try to take revenge. Salah had previously begun to prosecute representatives of this circle for corruption.

In conditions of instability, this could lead to a revival of the Islamic underground, fueled from neighboring Libya.

Oceania

Bougainville Independence

Residents of the island of Bougainville voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in a referendum by an absolute majority (97%). The referendum on the independence of Bougainville from Papua New Guinea began on November 23 and lasted two weeks. Formally, it is only advisory in nature, but this gives a chance for a new state to appear on the world map. Bougainville is the largest island in the group of Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean (slightly smaller than Cyprus in size).

The island has one of the largest copper deposits in the world. As a result of the armed conflict between local residents and the government army from 1988 to 1998, more than 15,000 people have died.

A referendum on independence was held amid increasing China’s attention to this part of the Pacific Ocean – the neighboring Solomon Islands recently refused recognition of Taiwan. There was also information about China’s intentions to rent one of the islands of the archipelago, which is of strategic importance. The islands saw bloody battles between the Americans and the Japanese during the Second World War.

The irony is that another Asian state, China, might gain control over this part of the Pacific. However, on the other hand, both China, Australia and the United States are interested in increasing their influence in Papua New Guinea because of its vast mineral resources, and therefore will not rush to recognize the independence of Bougainville.

 
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