Sunday, 20 October 2013

Geopolitical Snapshot - 20.10.13

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 on the United States, Italy, Angola/Congo, Syria, Somalia, Iran, China and Russia.

United States

There are two points of focus for the United States. One of which is the sheer frustration by Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang in regards to the U.S. default on debts as a consequence of political deadlock in Capitol Hill. A symbolic downgrade of U.S. credit by a Chinese credit rating agency highlights, again, to the world the importance of the U.S's position as the colossus holding the world's economic and financial systems. Indeed, it also highlights how inefficient apparatus the government works in by design. 

Another key point is the greater use of a "Small footprint strategy". A small footprint strategy is the use of small, low-profile units to minimize interaction with the local population, so much so that perceived intervention is minimal. This month, Joint Special Operations Command conducted operations in Tripoli and a Somali coastal town with small, highly trained, elite soldiers to capture high-value targets. This highlights a hybrid use of unmanned aerial vehicles to search and destroy key architects of transnational terrorist organizations. The small-footprint strategy goes hand in hand with this strategy and will most likely be used in the future, particularly given the political ramifications in blood and money when the US traditionally conducts itself in asymmetric warfare. 


On Oct. 19, clashes between authority services and tens of thousands of anti-austerity protests broke out in streets of Rome. The demonstrations are largely in response to high unemployment, government cuts, abandoned construction projects and cuts to social services. Police strategy was to intervene and limit right-wing dominated counter-protesters away from the marchers, highlighting the breeding of right-wing groups in poor socioeconomic conditions. In addition, desensitization to Italian politics by the population is an ongoing narrative A fragile coalition in Italy will limit its ability to navigate the 2014 national budgets for the forthcoming year. 


On Oct 13, Angolan military forces performed an incursion into the Republic of the Congo in response to ongoing rebel activity on the border. Angola has deployed 4,000 troops in Cabinda and has deployed 500 troops as a mechanized infantry battalion in the towns of Kimongo, Pangui, Iloupaya to pursue the rebels. This move is more of a tough stance in diplomatic discourse between the Republic of the Congo and Angola in Angola's pressure to Congo to neutralize rebel groups. Congo's limited ability in interdiction will likely see the rebels activities intensify. 


Syria has recently seen deeper fragmentation within the rebel ranks. On Oct. 16,  70 rebel groups in Southern Syria said that the National Coalition had "failed" and would no longer recognize the Western-backed group. There have been no major territorial changes in the Syrian conflict in recent weeks.

In regards to the Syrian chemical weapon inspectors team to investigate and destroy chemical weapon stockpiles, it is reported that the team are "50%" of the way through operations. However, as anticipated, logistical and security complexities will limit progress when dismantling and destroying chemical weapon stockpiles in areas of conflict.

There have been more instances in recent weeks in terms of insurgent and destabilizing tactics by certain groups including suicide bombings in Hama (killing at least 30) and Jaramana (killing at least 16). These attacks are most likely attributed by the groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda franchise operating in the region. This strategy is to demoralize the population into a point of insecurity whereby the population can be more easily exploited by transnational non-state actors sympathetically loyal to the cause.


Somalia has seen suicide bombings, particularly in Mogadishu. Most notably, a suicide bomber strapped with explosives killed at least 13 people in the Somali town of Baladweyne, outside a restaurant popular among Ethiopian and Somali troops. This illustrates the shift in tactics conducted by the al Shabaab group to an insurgency rather than open ground warfare. This is most likely due to resource constraints and as a consequence, it is likely that more attacks of this nature will perpetuate Somalia in areas where Ethiopian and Somali forces are prominent.


Geopolitical Compass has been monitoring the developments and subsequent actions in regards to the US-Iran rapprochement. One of the plans in the first stages of this rapprochement is the United States' plan to gradually unfreeze Iranian assets overseas in exchange for concessions on Iran's nuclear program. This would give Iran access to billions of dollars that it needs, particularly at the face of a shrinking economy, without the lift of sanctions. Iran's overcommitment in Syria has also seen the cutting of funding to Hamas along with cash subsidies for wealthy families. Western sanctions in Iran have seen the country in a vulnerable position and will likely be more transparent to the West in the following months.   


The Chinese administration is in the middle of the process to launch major reforms to tear down the fat of the Chinese economy. These reforms will likely cause job losses which has been a long, psyche fear for the Chinese governments for decades. Employment and maintaining it has been key to ensuring stability for the regime. However, the careful modernization of the Chinese economy and departure from low-wage, high-export model will present the regime with stability issues. With growth having to come from services and new technologies, it must also transition to a consumer-model. The regime has implemented a free-trade zone a modest area of Shanghai to pragmatically aid this transition whilst minimizing social unrest in the next decade.


On Oct. 10, seven judges of the Russian Supreme Arbitration Court resigned after a recent bill proposed by Vladimir Putin that would merge the body into the Supreme Court. This move would expand the Kremlin's power and influence to politically shape the country. The main premise for this move is the restoration of the judiciary powers being in the sphere of the executive. This move will be the largest structural change since Putin's consolidations in the early 2000s. As Russia is going through a series of social and demographic changes in the next decade, the structural reforms are to curtail the erosion of Putin's influence and control over the country.

No comments:

Post a Comment