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Monthly Review January 2020

Monthly Review January 2020

Europe

Brexit: the new dawn

On January 31, 2019, Great Britain officially left the EU. Earlier, the relevant law was passed by parliament and signed by Queen Elizabeth. A transitional period will last throughout the year, after which London will finally break its last ties with the European Union. London will reestablish its foreign policy after leaving the EU within the framework of the concept of Global Britain, this implies, among other things, the increasing influence of London in the former colonies in Asia and Africa.

France: protests continue

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of French cities in January, protesting the pension reform of President Emmanuel Macron.  The government intends to revoke privileges for workers in certain industries. In addition, the authorities intend to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 years, which has stirred a great deal of controversy.

Despite the large scale of the protests, the French authorities do not intend to abandon their neoliberal plans. On January 24, a draft reform of pension legislation was presented at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers of France. In February, the document will be submitted to Parliament

Eurasia

Russia: constitutional reform

On January 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a constitutional reform in the country. Putin’s proposals strengthen the position of the prime minister and the country’s parliament, subordinating judges to the president and the rule of national law over international law. Putin also proposed strengthening the role of the State Council – an organization with ambiguous powers.

Immediately after the president’s announcements, the Russian government, which was headed by Putin’s longtime ally Dmitry Medvedev, resigned. The new cabinet will be headed by a little-known bureaucrat, Mikhail Mishustin. Putin’s reforms were seen by some as an attempt to reform the political system to allow him to remain in power after his term ends in 2024, but the details of how that would actually work are not clear.

Middle East

The Killing of Soleimani: the US sides with ISIS

On January 3, 2020, the US killed in Iraq Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. Soleimani is a national hero in Iran and all Shiites of the entire region. The leader and founder of the militarized Iraqi Shiite group “Kataib Hezbollah,” Abu Mahdi Muhandis, was also assassinated alongside Soleimani.

By killing Suleimani, President Donald Trump demonstrated that the United States is committed to pursuing an exclusively neo-conservative policy in the Middle East aimed at destroying the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US’ erratic and aggressive actions are destabilizing the entire region. It is significant that ISIS shortly after declared their support for the killing of Soleimani.

In response to the killing, on January 8, the IRGC fired a volley of missiles at the US’ Ain-al-Assad base in west Iraq. More than 50 US Army personnel were present. On the same day, due to an error in the calculation of air defense, a Ukrainian Boeing 737 was shot down at Tehran’s airport. 176 people were killed, most of them Iranians. The responsibility for this tragic accident lies mostly with the US, which was responsible for escalating tensions in the region.

Iran protests: a cause for American intervention

A few days after the Iranian authorities admitted that the plane crash occurred due to their own error, protests began in Iran. Most of those protesting were pro-Western youth.

The US media and even president Donald Trump actively encouraged the protesters. The US supported the protests hoping to achieve two goals: to continue destabilizing Iran on the eve of the parliamentary elections in February and to promote the idea in the international media that Iranians support regime change. This will justify further interference in the affairs of Iran.

Start of the TurkStream

On January 8, the Presidents of Russia and Turkey – Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan- launched the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. The official commissioning ceremony for the facility took place at the Halich Congress Center in Istanbul. The TurkStream project is a gas pipeline consisting of two lines with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas per year each. The first line is intended for the supply of Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second – for gas supply to the countries of Southern and Southeast Europe.

The launch of the Turkish Stream strengthens Turkey’s position as the largest gas hub in the region. Also, the ability to receive cheap Russian gas should positively influence the growth of industrial production in Turkey.

Lebanon: new government, new protests

On January 22 in Lebanon, Prime Minister Hassan Diab formed a new government. The government of technocrats was supported the bloc of pro-Syrian and anti-Zionist parties led by the Hezbollah party. Nevertheless, the ministers represent all the ethnic and religious groups of Lebanon.

The appointment of the new government did not stop the mass demonstrations in the country… in fact, they intensified. Earlier this month, demonstrators attacked bank offices and tried to storm the Central Bank of Lebanon. The protesters enjoyed the support of the United States all the same. The protests, from a geopolitical point of view, are aimed at undermining Iranian influence. The new government will have to face both a worsening economic crisis and subversive actions from the outside.

Israel and Palestine: the so-called “Deal of the Century”

On January 28, US President Donald Trump presented Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival, General Benny Ganz, a plan to resolve relations between Israelis and Palestinians. However, it is worth noting that the Palestinian side was not even invited to the presentation.

Trump’s plan is part of his broader effort to legitimise the sovereignty of Israel over the West Bank and Jerusalem. The Palestinians, meanwhile, are left with miserable crumbs – the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem, Gaza and small enclaves on the West Bank. At the same time, Israel retains full military control over the territory of Palestine. In order to convince the Palestinians to agree, Trump promised them billions of dollars in investments.

However, Palestinian leadership rejected Trump’s plans. Most Arab and Islamic countries support the Palestinians… however, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman favorably spoke about Trump’s initiative, exposing their position of rapprochement with the Zionists.

Africa

Turkey and Russia agree on Libya

On January 8, the Presidents of Turkey and Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, held talks in Istanbul. One of the main outcomes of the meeting was a statement by two leaders on the establishment of a ceasefire in Libya on January 12. Parties to the conflict in Libya – the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez Sarraj and the Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar, agreed with this proposal.

Earlier, the Turkish parliament approved the memorandums on maritime borders and security cooperation between Turkey and GNA. Turkey sent military experts and militants from Syria to Libya to show its support.

On January 13 in Moscow, the parties to the conflict in Libya met. Prime Minister Sarraj and General Haftar personally attended the meeting, mediated by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Turkey and Russia. Sarraj signed the final communique of the meeting. Although Haftar did not sign, he also did not explicitly reject the proposal. Turkish-Russian interaction in Syria provides the chance for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Conferences on Libya: Berlin and Brazzaville

On January 19, Berlin hosted an international conference on the resolution of the conflict in Libya. The event was attended by leaders of several countries: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The conference became possible only after Turkey and Russia agreed on a ceasefire and gathered Sarraj and Haftar in Moscow. Western countries could not add anything new to their efforts. The only real outcome of the conference in Berlin was the creation of a ceasefire commission from the warring parties. However, this commission in the 5 + 5 format was also discussed in Moscow.

On January 30 In the Republic of Congo, the African Union held a summit, the participants of which discussed the situation in Libya and further settlement of the situation in the republic. Representatives of 55 countries, as well as UN Special Envoy to Libya Hasan Salam, took part in the international event. However, this international effort did not lead to any breakthrough in resolving the conflict.

Erdogan’s Tour

From January 26 to 28, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan toured three African countries. He visited Algeria, the Gambia and Senegal. The President discussed the situation in Libya with African leaders, as well as issues of economic cooperation.

Erdogan’s visit to the Gambia was of historic importance because it was the first ever official visit of the President of Turkey to the country. Relations between Turkey and African countries are developing very intensively. Ankara positions itself as a profitable partner who is not burdened by colonial experience and continues to strengthen its position on the continent.

A few days before the African tour, Erdogan announced that Somalia had invited Turkey to begin oil production on its shelf.

US as Nile Mediator

On January 15, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met with the head of the White House, Donald Trump and US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin in Washington. The key topic of the meeting was the discussion of the implementation of the project for the construction of the Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile. The American leader noted the importance of signing a comprehensive agreement as soon as possible, which will contribute to the construction of this building, which will be important for the entire region.

A major problem in the implementation of the dam construction project was the disagreement between Cairo and Addis Ababa on the use of the water resources of the Nile River. It is noteworthy that the meeting with the heads of the foreign affairs agencies of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia was not included in the official schedule of the American president, and only took place after Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el Sisi requested Washington mediate in the settlement of disputes over the construction dams.

Asia

Coronavirus: the geopolitics of an epidemic

In mid-January, media sources began to publish news about the outbreak of a viral disease in China. It was a new form of SARS – a severe acute respiratory syndrome that affects the lungs and is characterized by its epidemic nature. The disease is quickly and easily transmitted by airborne droplets, making it extremely dangerous. More than two thousand people around the world have already been infected. China became the epicenter of the epidemic.

However, the owner and producer of this strain is listed as the Pirbright Institute in the United States, which also contains samples of swine flu and other dangerous viruses. The first patents of this Institute are dated 2007.

While the United States might not actually be behind the spread of coronavirus, the epidemic has been used in the global media to demonize China. The borders of the country are being closed as a result. This could lead not only to the deaths of thousands of people, but also to a significant drop in China’s GDP billions of dollars in economic loss. Coincidentally, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross declared that coronavirus might be good for the US economy and “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”

Taiwan Elections

On January 12, the governing Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which opposes rapprochement with China, won the island’s parliamentary election. The Island’s new leader, Tsai Inven, will push for further independence. The victory of the separatists on the island will help maintain tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

India: Muslim protests

In January, Muslim protests against India’s citizenship law continued. Earlier, the country’s parliament facilitated the adoption of Indian citizenship by the religious minorities of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Muslims believe that the law discriminates against members of the Islamic community.

Amendments to the Citizenship Law are closely related to another controversial document adopted in India – the National Register of Citizenship. It was composed by the Assam state authorities who are concerned about the problem of illegal migration in the region.

The list is comprised of people who can prove that they lived in India by March 24, 1971 – the moment of recognition of independence of neighboring Bangladesh. About 2 million local residents were not included in the citizenship register.

Protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s law were organized by Muslim and civil Society Organizations across the country. The Protests have intensified the split in Indian society and undermine public support for the actions of the authorities.

North America

The US: impeachment trial

On January 15, the US House of Representatives voted to transfer the articles of impeachment of the president to the Senate. The following week, the impeachment trial in the Senate began.

The impeachment process has reached the finish line, and will likely go no further. The most likely scenario is that impeachment will end in February when the majority Republican Senate exonerates the president. However, the impeachment process could still serve as leverage for the American Deep State against Trump, forcing him to pursue tougher neoconservative policies.

US-China: The first phase of trade deal

On January 15, US President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the first documents in the framework of the trade agreement between the countries. Under the agreement, China must buy $ 200 billion worth of agricultural products and other goods from the United States within two years.

At the same time, the already established tariffs of 25% on goods from China with a total value of $ 250 billion remain valid until the countries conclude a second stage of the deal. So far, the US has shown that it can seek concessions from China. However, the confrontation between the two powers is ongoing.

South America

Bolivia: Jeanine Añez running for president

The so-called “interim president” of Bolivia, Jeanine Añez, who came to power in a coup last year, announced on January 25 that she will participate in the presidential elections on May 3, 2020. Previously, she had stated that she would only serve as a temporary figure, and that for her to run for president would be “immoral.” Following the new decision, she announced a reshuffle in her cabinet and fired those who opposed her nomination for president. Explaining her decision, Agnes said she would not give up power to the “savages,” allegedly referring to Evo Morales, the country’s first Indigenous president.

A group of ultra-right politicians who came to power after the overthrow of Morales intend to retain power in their hands by any means. Agnes invited “experts” from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to Bolivia to help organize the election. Given USAID’s destructive influence around the world, it is expected that the election will be rigged in favor of the pro-American president.

 
United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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