Tag Archives: observations of an ex pat

Observations of an ex pat: The fight for the spoils

Politics hates a vacuum. It especially hates a vacuum in the tinderbox cockpit of the Middle East where the conflicting issues of money, vital resources, religious extremism , religious conflicts, historic rivalries and the geopolitical link between East and West dangerously clash.

The virtual collapse in 2011-2012 of Bashar Al-Assad’s despotic regime in Syria created such a vacuum. It was filled by the even more despotic Islamic State Caliphate.

Now the Caliphate is on its knees.  The Western half of Mosul is recaptured.  Only a handful of IS fighters remain in the dangerously narrow winding streets of the Eastern half.

The fundamentalists once boasted that their Syrian-Iraqi base would become a springboard from which to launch an Islamic conquest of the Middle East and Europe. They  have retreated to their spiritual capital of Raqqa in Syria for the final battle to the death.

They will lose . But who will win? And what will they win? Assad, Russia, the US and its Western allies, Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, a score  or more of rebel forces—all are directly involved in the fighting. Then there are there are the backers—or interested parties: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, the EU, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Afghanistan and the wider Islamic world.

It looks as if Assad will regain and remain in power for the foreseeable future—but he will be a political shadow of his former self.   Neither the Trump Administration nor any of its European or Arab allies have any stomach for removing a secular despot who can be replaced by another fanatic Islamic despot. And besides, he will have the military support of Iran and Russia.

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Observations of an expat: Macronian clouds on the horizon

The new French President is the latest international political darling, man of the hour and flavour of—well at least a month.

He is young, multilingual, charismatic, exceptionally well-educated and bright. When he speaks common sense pours forth as from an intellectually gifted Parisian fountain.

His election has saved—at least for now—the European experiment which was reeling from the body blow of Brexit. And when it comes to the politically important field of economics, Emmanuel Macron is one of the world’s top whizz kids.

BUT, just as every cloud has a silver lining, every blue sky has a thunder cloud over the horizon. In the case of France there are potential thunderstorms—foreign and domestic— which could wash away the new French optimism.

There is no doubt of President Macron’s Europhile credentials. At his first speech as president-elect, he ran onto the stage to the strains not of the French, but the EU’s national anthem Ode to Joy. He is, in fact, more of a Europhiliac than his more experienced German counterpart Angela Merkel. And that is the reason for the first cloud.

As a group, the Germans are pro-Europe. But they have started to baulk at the cost of propping up the poorly run Southern European Eurozone economies. This is despite the fact that the same cost has contributed mightily to Germany’s enviable trade surplus with the rest of the world.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 15 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: China at the crossroads

China is at a political crossroads with a nuclear-tipped Mack truck driven by a suicidal North Korean juvenile threatening to plough into its side with disastrous consequences for Beijing and the rest of the world,

President Xi Jinping can avoid the crash. It is not inevitable. But to do so requires a major change of direction in Chinese foreign policy—with some help from America

Korea’s 38th Parallel is the Asian relic of the Cold War. It is also a highly visible and symbolic border which determines whether China or the United States is the major 21st century power in the Asia-Pacific region.

It was China that saved North Korea from defeat at the hands of the American-led UN forces in the early 1950s. It was China that signed a mutual defence treaty with North Korea in 1961 and it is China that provides the food and energy that enables the hereditary communist country to continue oppressing its 25 million citizens and threatening the world with nuclear holocaust.

Why? Not because of any love for Kim Jong-un or his ancestors or because North Korea is communist.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: The lady turned…big time

On five separate occasions since the Brexit referendum British PM Theresa May unequivocally refused to call a general election. The voters would have to wait until 2020 for another judgement vote on Brexit.

Then she wanders off on a walking holiday through the hills and valleys of Wales and returns marching in the exact opposite direction. There will be, she announced, a British general election on June 8th , and the issue will be Brexit, Brexit and Brexit.

Why the U-turn? And what impact will it have on the British political scene, British negotiations with the EU, the EU and British and European stability?

Mrs May is a politician. She has good reason to believe that she will win a snap election, substantially increase her majority in parliament and extend the life of the Conservative government by at least another two years.

The opinion polls put the Conservatives 20 points ahead of the opposition Labour Party. One of the reasons for their success is the no-nonsense firm leadership of Mrs May compared to the lacklustre efforts of Jeremy Corbyn (and that is being kind to Mr Corbyn). Mrs May has a net approval rating of plus 17 points. Corbyn’s standing has fallen to minus 38.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Hungary vs Soros

As far as the proverbial man in the street is concerned, there is very little that separates the extreme right from the extreme left.

The results are the same: Power concentrated in the hands of a small circle of political leaders, suppression of human rights and academic freedom, political prisoners, torture, absence of a free press, no free speech, no freedom of assembly, rule by decree, corruption and politically-appointed judges presiding over show trials.

That is not say that there are no differences. There clearly are. The left tends to find its suppressive roots in an all-embracing ideology or – in some cases—a religion which claims to offer solutions to all of mankind’s problems. You need only embrace it.

The far right, on the other hand, is generally based on a belief that one nation or group of people are superior to all the others, and the inferior people should be treated accordingly. These are the ultra-nationalists.

Both groups are adept at conjuring up external threats to justify repression which is really aimed at controlling internal dissent. In modern history we can point to Hitler and the Jews, Stalin and capitalist West, McCarthy and the “Reds under the beds.”

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Brexit goes nuclear, chapter 2

She’s done it. Mrs May has gone and linked Britain’s nuclear deterrent to Brexit trade negotiations.

I can honestly stick out my chest, jut out my chin and proclaim: “I told you so. And I told you exclusively.”

Alright, Mrs. May didn’t actually use the n-word in her letter to the European Commission which triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and the start of Brexit negotiations. But in just one document she explicitly linked economic concessions with security issues nine times.

It requires only the smallest leap of imagination to realise that the British Prime Minister was talking about more than exchanges of DNA databases with continental police.

But be warned, the consequences of this link will be dire. Messing with the balance of strategic weapons capable of incinerating the world several times over is a dangerous policy.

Mrs May knows that, but the problem is that nuclear missiles are just about the only weapon the British have in their negotiating armoury. Their backs are against the wall.

There is, of course, a question mark, over whether or not the UK will be allowed to play the security card. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it crystal clear that she opposes negotiations on any future relationship until the terms of the divorce are settled. That means Britain has to cough up $60 billion, allow EU citizens to remain in Britain and accept that it will no longer be part of the European Single Market. All this before any talks on a future relationship which may or may not involve security. This is a direct contradiction of Mrs May’s tandem approach.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Observations of an Ex Pat: Brexit goes nuclear

The EU is worried about losing their American nuclear umbrella.

The UK is worried about losing their European market and their seat at the European top table.

Britain has nuclear weapons. The EU has markets. Is there a fit?

If so, the result could be a tectonic strategic shift with far-reaching political repercussions.

My sources say there is enough of a fit for Prime Minister Theresa May to be thinking of offering to extend the British deterrent to EU countries in return for Brexit concessions.  This is most likely to be in cooperation with the French.

The reaction of the strategic eggheads ranges from “not incredible” to “logical,” to “totally unrealistic” and then “utterly crass” with a lot of “no comments” thrown in for good measure.

No comment was what the British Ministry of Defence said. No reply was all I could elicit from The Foreign Office and Downing Street. But The Department  for  Exiting the European Union, was more forthcoming. It referred me to Mrs May’s 18 January  Brexit strategy speech in which she said: 

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJames Baillie 29th Jun - 12:52am
    Eddie - whether resignations from the party happen is not in the gift of the radical wing, it's dependent on the leadership. If Vince wants...
  • User AvatarClive Lindley 29th Jun - 12:27am
    I think we are fortunate to have Vince prepared to do the job. Reading the above posts, I think that some of our colleagues and...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 29th Jun - 12:11am
    Is the leadership election not being cancelled? Isn't the "coronation" going ahead? There seems to be a lot of panic in the radical pro EU...
  • User AvatarSteve Way 29th Jun - 12:02am
    A joint body is the only equitable solution as no single party to an agreement should get to unanimously decide whether the terms of that...
  • User AvatarJoebourke 28th Jun - 11:40pm
    Dave Orbison, What the Lib Dems believe is succinctly set out in this link https://www.markpack.org.uk/150076/what-liberal-democrats-stand-for-poster/
  • User AvatarAndy Hinton 28th Jun - 11:36pm
    "Remember, you can only nominate one candidate." A sentence with what appears right now to be an unfortunate double meaning! I wouldn't sign Vince's nomination...
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