Category: Politics

Implications of Ramadi (Iraq) falling to ISIS?

  • Until this, ISIS was on the defensive in Iraq, after losing Tikrit to triple force of Iraq army (Shia), Iran-sponsored Shia militias, and US airforce.
  • Ramadi loss looks more like weak Iraq army (& hence weak Iraqi president Haidar al-Abadi) as opposed to strong ISIS.
  • Good news for Iran-sponsored Shia militias in Iraq, as Iraq government becoming more dependent on them to fight ISIS.

Where does Turkey stand vis-a-vis ISIS?

  • Apparent foot-dragging despite commitments to west.
  • Has provided only limited military aid to anti-ISIS coalition.
  • Has done little to prevent the flow of arms and fighters across the border to ISIS.

Lebanon-Yemen Shia connection?

  • Hezbollah = Lebanon Shia political/military force.
  • Houthis = Yemen Shia rebel force.
  • Apparent strengthening of military relations between them = sign of regional Shia cross-border co-operation (in bigger picture regional rivalry between Shia Iran and Sunni Gulf states).

Why is Obama meeting Gulf leaders in Camp David?

  • Gulf countries = Sunni and are scared of growing Iranian (Shia) power.
  • They fear US nuclear deal will embolden Iran.
  • Obama therefore seeking to allay these concerns by assuring them the US will check Iran regional influence once deal done.

First black leader for South Africa’s opposition party?

  • ANC = majority party (approx. 62% of national vote).
  • Democratic Alliance (DA) = main opposition party (approx. 22% of national vote).
  • DA just elected their first black leader, Mmusi Maimane (the "Obama of Soweto"), to succeed Helen Zille (who has been leader for the last 8 years).

Macrosnap China infrastructure projects in Africa?

  • $1.9bn residential real estate project in bankrupt Zimbabwe + $3.5bn intercity rail line in cash-strapped Nigeria just announced.
  • Follows 12bn rail project in Nigeria announced last year.
  • So China's “One Road, One Belt” infrastructure plans for Asia also extending to Africa (infrastructure & aid in exchange for commodities and market access).

Macrosnap US/Japan relationship?

  • New defence agreements signed April 2015.
  • Japan (with US approval) shedding postwar pacifism in face of rising Chinese regional power.
  • For US, consistent with Obama's "pivot to Asia" (US expanding military co-operation with other regional allies like the Philippines, Australia & Vietnam).

Russia and Argentina new BFF?

  • Putin courting Argentina - seen as more strategic than commercial - a tier 3 friendship for Russia.
  • Putin looking for political allies anywhere (Ukraine crisis has left him with few friends in the west) and is seeking to strengthen relations with countries historically antagonistic to the US.
  • Argentina's Cristina Fernández looking for potential investors anywhere (her standoff with hedge funds over Argentine debt has left the international investment community wary).

US trade position and party politics?

  • Obama administration hoping to soon seal massive Pacific trade pact (TPP) - geopolitically significant to counter China's growing regional influence.
  • But majority of Democrats against it (trade pacts tend to threaten US manufacturing jobs).
  • So Obama relying on Republicans (who are supportive) to get TPP through Congress (Republicans hold majorities in both houses).

Macrosnap China/Pakistan?

  • Rapidly strengthening economic & military ties as US influence wanes & China becomes Pakistan's biggest ally.
  • China's President Xi pledges $45bn of infrastructure investments.
  • China sees Pakistan and neighbours as a market for its exports, so is trading investment and aid for access.
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