Monday, 5 August 2013

Geopolitical Snapshot - 05.08.13

Geopolitical Snapshot seeks to condense world affairs by focussing its lens on regions and countries of relative strategic value. The world continuously changes on a daily basis so in order to properly manage and assess the geopolitical landscape, analysis must be condensed on the prominent pillars of international politics at any given time.  In this installment, Geopolitical Snapshot will focus Iran, Spain, Italy, India, Yemen and Taiwan.


On Aug 4, Iran sworn in its new President Hassan Rouhani. In essence, this symbolizes the change in security of Iran's geopolitical position in the region. For example, at this present time, it is devoting an abundance of resources to Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and pro-government forces as fighting continues in Syria. Such devotion of resources become costly and with its strategic position in the region diminishing, particularly given the rise of sectarian violence spearheaded by the Sunni-Salafist fighters in Iraq under the flag of the "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" in recent weeks targeting the Shia populace.

As a consequence, Tehran will be more open to negotiations with the West over its nuclear programme in a bid to remove sanctions that have detrimentally impacted its economy. The inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani provides an ideal window of opportunity for Tehran to enter negotiations with the West. The political establishment of Iran will change for the better with a figurehead President who is more in the clerical interests than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Spain & Italy 

The reason for brushing Spain & Italy in one segment in this circumstance is because of a common thread that binds them. Firstly, they have an abundance of youth unemployment. Italy has around 30-50% youth unemployment. Spain is calculated to burden approximately 50%+ of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is a particular area of focus as, historically speaking, the youth circles of society are the catalysts of invoking social instability due to disparity and grievances of the political system.

Social instability has been predominantly attributed to the Eurozone and unemployment crisis in recent years but another systematic issue fuels the population's grievances towards its governments - corruption. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been forced by Spanish parliament to defend his role in an ever-growing scandal involving irregular finances to the ruling Popular Party. In Italy, the Supreme Court upheld the decision on former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the conviction of tax fraud.

Whilst the ruling powers of Spain and Italy will remain in power, the problem lies in the ongoing discontent between voters and the political infrastructure. As a consequence, political institutions will further become questioned by the population which will hinder the countries agility to maneuver through the economic crisis for the foreseeable future.

There has been popular opposition to austerity measures put forth by the Spanish government
Image: Getty Images


With India, there are great considerations that need to had when approaching this country. India is primarily defined, nationally, by its post-colonial struggle for independence against the British Raj and thus binds the nation in political unity. For decades and since its independence, India has had the national, geopolitical challenge of unifying a diverse collection of nationalities, ethnicities and diverse regional cultures under one flag.

On July 30, India gave the approval of Telangana's statehood. The development of such an event underlines New Delhi's objective of managing the internal complexities that dominate the Indian political system. The Telangana movement is a piece of a greater puzzle in India's position in the world.

The struggle of unifying the nation undermines India's ability of becoming the next major power is aspires to be. As of right now, New Delhi is predominately concerned its position in respect to its neighbours. India is certainly a regional power and it will continue to be so for the next decade as resolvement onto the variety of national, bureaucratic inefficiencies will continue to wear India's progression. However, India's expansion into the Pacific Basin will occupy Indian foreign policy. Despite the death of a Pakistani soldier by Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir, the status quo will remain with no forecast of escalation. Pakistan is engaged in domestic security operations more so than it is concerned with disputed territory with India.


Yemen comes into light in regards to the activity of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. al-Qaeda in the region have been, for the past six months, tenacious in their attacks of both soft and hard targets. Whilst al-Qaeda's influence has diminished to the point of not administrating towns in the Abyan province, they are still a threat to political stability and security exploitation. The surge of prison breaks across North Africa and the Greater Middle East and the nearing end of the Islamic holiday, Ramadan, has resulted in a variety of security precautions by Western administrations by closing embassies across the regions.

The reason for this is simple - al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are perhaps the most successful al-Qaeda franchise and a fragmented government and military give al-Qaeda a significant opportunity to further undermine and capitalize the territory of Yemen. This is in part down to the repeated insubordination of members within the Yemeni military ranks that are unable to combat the enemy effectively. The division of the security apparatus means that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will continue to entrench themselves in Yemeni society.


Taiwan is undergoing a military modernization. This is not coincidental as ongoing pressure anchors around the maritime disputes of the South China Sea. Throughout the next decade, the United States and China will focus their strategic interest in the arterial maritime trade routes that the South China Sea provides. Taiwan, given its location along with the Philippines, are of strategic value for the United States but Taiwan must also be reasonably self-sufficient in its military capability. Taiwan has driven to attract high-quality recruits by transitioning to an all-volunteer force. The main reason for this is the prospect of any conflict which results from an invading Chinese force.

Thousands protest in reaction to the death of army conscript Hung-Chung-chiu
Image: France-Presse/Getty Images 

Mainland China does not have the amphibious capability to seize Taiwan through landings. As a result, Taiwan understands that its geopolitical position and military capability cannot win conventionally so a shift to high-quality recruits and conducting a war of asymmetry is the most logical option in Taipei's toolbox.

However, the transition hasn't been smooth. After the death of Cpl. Hung-Chung-chiu who died from heat stroke as a result of a military punishment resulted in a protest of 100,000 across the country. Still, whilst Taiwan will maneuver political bumps in the road ahead, it remains of utmost strategic importance for Taipei to have a professional, disciplined and high-quality force for the next decade.

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