AMERICA’S FADING ROLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

by Gunnar Eigener

America’s influence in the Middle East is beginning to fray at the edges. This is bad news for both the region and the global community. America has, over the past decade, became something of a pariah in the area. Its foreign policy, already distrusted by enemies and allies alike, has looked increasingly unclear and erratic under the current administration.

While previous Presidents acted with caution and measure, the Trump White House presses on, having found in its new National Security Advisor John Bolton the man who would seemingly give weight to any decision that Donald Trump would be likely to favour, yet is already being rumoured to be behind Trump’s decision to withdraw from the North Korea Summit. Continue Reading

DO PROTESTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

by Gunnar Eigener

If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.

                                                    unattributed African proverb

 

Protests and demonstrations are an important part of democracy. They allow the people the opportunity to express their feelings about the behaviour of the state and its agents. They are a chance to point out society’s ills to those who can do something about it. But do they truly make a difference? Do those who are targeted by the protests feel their impact or are they just able to ignore (or worse) any public displays of anger or upset?

The election of Donald Trump saw mass protests take place across the US. Protests in Gaza have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Every G7 or G20 summit is greeted by demonstrations. In Nicaragua, protests against the government intensified after flippant remarks by the President, Daniel Noriega, and his wife, the Vice-President, demeaned the people. There have been protests in India over the caste system and the Supreme Court, in Tunisia against the cost of living, in Venezuela over the lack of food and medicine, and high inflation rates. The Women’s March globally, protests against abortion laws, the list goes on but the changes do not. Too often nothing seems to change. This is not to say that change should happen purely based on a protest but many protests are about the same thing. So what is the issue?

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IRAN AND THE ART OF THE DEAL

by Gunnar Eigener

The US President, Donald Trump, has announced that the US will pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran much to the dismay of all those involved and many other countries around the world. The deal was viewed by Trump as ‘the worst deal ever’, possibly an overstatement since Iran surrendered 97% of its enriched uranium stockpile and limited to installing at a maximum 5,060 centrifuges, making the production of a nuclear weapon impossible. Still, time limits were placed on these and other elements of the deal, meaning that in 15 years, Iran could have begun its nuclear programme again. While the JCPOA can, and should, be viewed as a successful deal, it is another example of not dealing with the root cause of the problem, which is the part Iran plays in propping up terrorist organisations and brutal regimes worldwide.Continue Reading

JOURNALIST SHOT DEAD. SLOVAKIA IN TURMOIL. CAN NOTHING TOUCH THE INDESTRUCTIBLE ROBERT FICO?

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by Jonathan Lee 

Content warning: article mentions racism, anti-Roma sentiments, and contains offensive and discriminatory language.

It’s been almost two weeks since Slovak investigative journalist, Ján Kuciak, and his partner Marina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their Velka Maca apartment. The couple were both murdered by single gunshots, with the crime bearing the hallmarks of a contract killing according to Slovak police.

Prior to his death, Kuciak had been investigating the theft of EU funds by businessmen linked to the Ndrangheta Calabrian Mafia, and to high-up ministers in Prime Minister Robert Fico’s office. In his final unfinished article, Kuciak names the Secretary of the State Security Council, and the Chief State Advisor to Fico, as being linked to the corruption. Both of whom have taken indefinite leaves of absence while the investigation continues, in an attempt to avoid their names being used against the Prime Minister they say.

The deaths have plunged Slovakia into turmoil. Not even during the communist regime was a journalist ever murdered in the country, and it has highlighted the already considerable concerns surrounding corruption in the Slovak government.Continue Reading

RUSSIA AND THE SYRIAN PROBLEM

by Gunnar Eigener

Content warning: mentions drone attacks, conflict, and terrorism.

While the US President, Donald Trump, has made it clear that the US presence in Syria was to carry out the extermination of Daesh, Russia’s intentions have always been to support their ally, Bashar al-Assad. Last September the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, made a surprise visit to Syria to announce that Russia had succeeded in its mission. While both might be correct, it is Putin who is in a more difficult position and the risk that Russia will be dragged further in has become ever more likely.

Syria was an opportunity for Putin’s Russia to flex its muscles on the international stage again after creating trouble in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Having already interfered in the election in the US and potentially in other elections in Europe, Russia remains largely unchallenged. Sanctions brought about by the US Congress do little to curb the ambitious plans of a nation seeking to relive past glories. Russia continues to forge relations with former satellite states and the lack of US involvement in NATO does nothing to deter the risk of another cold war breaking out in Eastern Europe. Yet, as with so many Western states, Russia has found itself stuck in the political and religious quagmire that is the Middle East.Continue Reading

THE UNSPOKEN OCCUPATION

by Stu Lucy

With all the madness that has been taking place across the pond on a near daily basis since the 2016 inauguration of the comb-over-in-chief, it is all too easy to overlook many of the less sensational affairs carried out by the United States. While we are familiar with the war on terror, defined by US military occupation of significant areas of the Middle East for almost all of the 21st Century, there are areas of the world in which the US remain equally as active in this same regard, despite much less public awareness.

In October of last year, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara attacked a small group of Nigerien and US soldiers in the Tonga Tonga region of Niger, killing three Americans and five Nigeriens. Although the incident was indeed broadcast  by the mainstream media, the event represents a far greater issue developed on the continent: the increasing military presence of the US in Africa.Continue Reading

UNDERSTANDING PREVENT REFERRALS: YOUNG PEOPLE, ISLAMISM AND EDUCATION

By Richard McNeil-Willson

At the start of November 2017, the UK Home Office released its official figures for referrals to the Prevent Counter-terror Programme for the 2015-2016 period. It showed that, of the 7,631 of all referrals, ‘Islamist extremism’ represented the greatest threat, young people were the most vulnerable to radicalisation, and authorities only needed to respond to a minority of cases. But there are problems with this reading, which are shown by exploring the nature of referrals and the political context in which they sit.Continue Reading