12 December 2017
The Arab world's poorest country, Yemen has long been a violent part of a violent region. But the brutal end of the country's long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh opens a new chapter in the country's modern history; unfortunately it is a chapter that looks a lot like the present one. Saleh, who compared running his country to "dancing on the heads of snakes", was apparently killed on 4 December, while fleeing in his car from the rebel-held capital Sanaa after his loyalists had been overrun in fighting there. Other reports have him being executed by his Houthi enemies-turned-allies-turned-enemies when the rebel militia seized his palace in Sanaa. The Iranian-backed Houthis apparently killed Saleh's nephew Tareq Saleh, an influential military commander in his own right, in the same attack. Inevitably in the turbulent tribal politics of Yemen, this has sparked calls for revenge on the Houthis from Saleh's son Ahmed Ali Saleh.
1 December 2017
Venezuelan authorities were guilty of "systematic" oppression of street protestors demanding an end to the regime of leftist President Nicolas Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), a joint report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Venezuela-based Penal Forum has found. The unpopular president and his administration faced four months of protests earlier this year, with demonstrators calling for early elections, the release of political prisoners and detained protesters, humanitarian aid to end the crippling shortages of food and medicine afflicting the country's moribund socialist economy, and demands that the regime cease bypassing the opposition controlled Congress. The PSUV lost its parliamentary majority there in 2015, but ruling elites have circumvented the chamber ever since through the courts and by creating a pro-government constitutional assembly which effectively seized the powers of the opposition-led congress for itself this summer.
15 November 2017
Explosive accusations are being made in US courts that a Mexican drug cartel currently engaged in a vicious turf battle with rivals in north-eastern Mexico controlled two state administrations of Coahuila state (which borders Texas) from top to bottom, and spent millions supporting the political careers of its favoured candidates elsewhere in the violence-wracked country. Atrocities carried out by the infamous Zeta cartel have led to the group being compared to the Islamic State terrorist network, but in recent years the cartel has lost some of its power and influence after a series of kidnappings, arrests and deaths decimated its senior leadership. What is only now emerging is the extent to which the cartel worked alongside Mexican officials and law enforcement agencies during the peak of its influence between 2006-2014. A report released this month also accused Coahuila state policemen and politicians of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes to look the other way as the cartel carried out a string of massacres, including a 2011 rampage through the border town of Allende in which around 300 people are thought to have been murdered.
6 November 2017
In the weeks since the car bomb murder of Maltese journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia the EU's smallest member state has been heavily scrutinised for the signs of corruption and criminal penetration that the crusading writer had written about in both her newspaper columns and her popular blog Running Commentary. While the corruption of the island's ruling elite was Ms. Galizia's main target, it is the signs of organised criminal activity on the island (which she and other observers had long reported on) that are now being taken more seriously since her brutal murder on 16 October 2017. An archipelago situated between Sicily and the North African coast in the central Mediterranean, Malta has long been used as a smuggling hub for various illicit actors. But concerns have also been raised that Malta's vital gambling sector is being targeted by Italian organised crime syndicates and that money laundering and tax evasion are running rampant on the island.
16 October 2017
Lo scorso 15 ottobre, in Kirghizistan hanno avuto luogo le elezioni presidenziali. Il suffragio ha determinato la vittoria di Sooronbay Jeenbekov, con più del 50% dei voti. Il suo rivale più importante, Omurbek Babanov, si è fermato a circa il 30% delle preferenze. Jeenbekov, che era già stato primo ministro, era il candidato supportato dall'attuale Presidente Almazbek Atambayev.
14 October 2017
L'Arabia Saudita è un paese di primo piano nell'assetto geopolitico del Medio Oriente. Situata nel cuore della regione, è uno stato monarchico esteso e con una popolazione di 33 milioni di individui. La sua importanza risiede in una serie di fattori. Primo, detiene le più grandi riserve petrolifere del mondo. Secondo, si trova in posizione tale da avere accesso a due delle rotte marittime più trafficate del pianeta, ovvero quella che passa per Hormuz (unendo Golfo Persico e Oceano Indiano) e quella che attraversa lo stretto di Bab el-Mandeb ed il canale di Suez (che collegano il Mediterraneo all'Oceano Indiano). Terzo, è il campione della frangia sunnita dell'Islam, nonché il paese in cui si trovano le città sacre di Mecca e Medina. Infine (e proprio in ragione dei fattori prima elencati) è uno degli alleati principali degli Stati Uniti nella regione.
13 October 2017
The bloody war on drugs launched by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has entered a new and strange phase over the past few weeks, as the president and his critics trade insults and allegations over the extent of Chinese organised crime's involvement in the Filipino drug trade. Duterte has made moving his country, a former US colony whose ruling elite still maintained close ties to America, closer to Beijing a foreign policy priority. That now seems to be clashing with his signature domestic policy, a campaign promise to brutally eliminate illegal drug use in the Philippines, which many of his voters blame for a wave of crime and violence, by killing up to 100,000 addicts and traffickers if necessary. The problem for Duterte is that China, which he is courting for investment and economic aid, is the main supplier of the chemical precursors for the production and trafficking of methamphetamine, the drug that is ravaging poor Filipino communities. Chinese organised crime groups are also closely involved in the smuggling of the drug into the Philippines, creating an awkward situation for the volatile president.
9 October 2017
Geopolitical tensions between Morocco's government and Scandinavian countries have generally been low in the decades since Moroccan independence was restored in 1956. But one sore point from the colonial era, when Moroccan territory was still partitioned between France and Spain, can still disrupt an otherwise tranquil and low key set of diplomatic relations. That issue is Moroccan control over the region known as the Western Sahara, or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, if one is speaking with the Algerian backed Polisario Front. Decolonised by Spain (1975) and Mauritania (1979) the swathe of phosphorus rich territory was occupied first in part, then in whole, by Moroccan forces following the famous Green March. A ceasefire ended a guerrilla war between the Moroccan government and Polsario in 1991, but the problem of the territory's status has never been officially resolved, and it remains a frozen conflict between the two sides.
2 October 2017
French decline and growing German influence has been a trend in continental European politics for several decades now. Yet it is one which has seemingly reversed, albeit perhaps briefly, with the results of the German elections on 24th September. As predicted, Germany's longstanding leader Angela Merkel proved unstoppable in her bid for a fourth term in office as Germany's Chancellor. But while this cemented her place in history as one of post-war Germany's longest serving and most popular leaders, her right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party took a beating at the polls. It and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) won only 33% of the vote, their worst result since 1949. Their coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP) fared even worse, slumping to just 20.5% after years in government with Merkel as part of a grand governing coalition.
30 September 2017
Il 25 settembre 2017 è una data che nel Kurdistan iracheno avrà sicuramente un impatto notevole sul piano politico; sia a livello locale che, almeno potenzialmente, a livello internazionale. Infatti, il popolo della regione autonoma, situata al nord dell'Iraq, è stato chiamato a pronunciarsi in sede referendaria sulla creazione di uno stato curdo indipendente. Come ci si attendeva, il referendum ha sancito la netta vittoria del fronte del "sì", con circa il 92% dei voti. Tuttavia, l'indipendenza del Kurdistan (iracheno e non) presenta numerose difficoltà; e non solo per via delle normali complessità del processo di state-building che devono affrontare tutti gli stati che ottengono l'indipendenza, ma anche per via delle numerose forze politiche che si oppongono alla nascita del Kurdistan indipendente ed ai problemi giuridici a livello di diritto internazionale.
8 September 2017
Deadly boundry clashes between different ethnic communities in Ethiopia's east have have disturbed supporters of the East African country's ethnically-based model of federalism. The fighting has killed at least 32 people and briefly led to the main road from the capital Addis Ababa to Jijig (the capital of the Somali Region) behind shut by security forces. The ongoing conflict is potentially embarrassing for the autocratic central government in Addis Ababa, which has won plaudits from international institutions like the World Bank in recent years for its work in developing Ethiopia's economy. The Bank forecasts that the Ethiopian economy will grow by 8.3 percent in 2017, making it the fastest in East Africa this year. However years of equally rapid growth have not stemmed the bloodletting, which even involves local security forces in the employ of Ethiopia's Somali and Oromia regional state governments.
5 September 2017
Morocco and the United Kingdom are two nations which on the surface are linked only by the 600,000 British tourists who visit the North African country's scenic beaches and cities every year. But in fact diplomatic ties between the two kingdoms date back to the thirteenth century, when the Angevin King John Lackland (also known by his long-suffering subjects as "soft-sword" for his lack of martial abilities) secretly sent two envoys in 1213 to visit the court of Sultan Modamed Ennassir, fourth ruler of the Almohad dynasty. Facing disaster at home in England (Scotland was a separate kingdom at this time), John offered to convert to Islam if the Sultan would send him military aid. Wisely suspecting the shifty Anglo-Norman monarch's motives, the Sultan sent his emissaries packing, but it was the beginning of a long series of diplomatic relations between the two kingdoms. Several centuries later, Shakespeare is said to have been inspired by the Moroccan ambassador at the court of Queen Elizabeth I when writing his tragedy Othello.
15 August 2017
Nelle scorse settimane, Cina ed India sono state coinvolte in un confronto politico-militare a causa di una zona disputata, in uno degli episodi del genere più seri degli ultimi anni.
Nello specifico, il territorio conteso è un altopiano situato lungo la frontiera tra India e Buthan, conosciuto come Doklam in India e Donglang in Cina. Pur non essendo direttamente parte della disputa, Nuova Delhi è comunque coinvolta; dal momento che supporta la posizione del Buthan, stato con il quale intrattiene intensi legami di sicurezza (al punto che l'India è garante della sicurezza del piccolo paese, sul quale esercita dunque una forte influenza). La recente crisi è scoppiata in seguito al tentativo dei cinesi di costruire una strada attraverso la regione, provocando così la reazione indiana. Soldati di Nuova Delhi sono infatti intervenuti per bloccare i lavori, dando così inizio ad un confronto militare con le truppe di Pechino, che per tutta risposta avrebbero distrutto due posizioni fortificate costruite dalle forze indiane. Il governo cinese avrebbe poi condannato l'intrusione indiana nella zona, considerata inequivocabilmente territorio della Repubblica Popolare. In questo contest, alcune migliaia di soldati sono stati mobilitati da entrambe le parti.