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.
5 August 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte has called upon Filipino police to kill dozens of drug suspects every day as recent raids on so-called "drug personalities" left 32 people dead and over 100 in custody. The death toll was the highest number of causalities in one day since the controversial Filipino strongman launched his war on drugs last year. Despite a pause in January to "clean-up" frequently corrupt police units, thousands of suspects have now been slain in suspected extra-judicial executions by police and masked vigilante groups encouraged by the Duterte administration. Human rights groups say that more than 7,000 people, mostly poor urbanites, have been slain. Even these figures underestimate the true number of deaths since anti-drug operations have continued for months since their publication.
1 July 2017
A mass surveillance scandal in Mexico has raised disturbing questions about the rule of law in the troubled state. Last month it was revealed that journalists, activists and critics of the Mexican government had been targeted by a spyware system which Mexico had purchased to penetrate smartphones. The system, known as Pegasus, is used to track calls, read texts and emails, and exploit a phone's microphone and camera features for surveillance purposes. The software's manufacturer, Israeli cyberarms manufacturer NSO Group, sells the system exclusively to government clients for use in monitoring criminal groups and terrorist suspects...
24 June 2017
In recent years, as the so-called ESG (environmental, social and governance) revolution has rocked the world of policy makers and investors alike, both have begun to wake up to the importance of a new trend of investment in the fixed income market - that of the green bond...
15 June 2017
Non-Arab powers like Turkey and Iran have moved promptly to offer a lifeline to the besieged independent emirate of Qatar after diplomatic relations with the tiny kingdom were brusquely cut off by a Saudi-led coalition, which included the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and non-Arab Saudi allies like the Maldives. On June 5 the Saudis and their Gulf allies also closed their borders and (together with Egypt) halted air and sea traffic with Qatar. Qatari citizens in these neighbouring countries were given just two weeks to leave and return home. The Saudi coalition says it has taken action against Qatar on the pretext that its policies are fuelling extremism and terrorism in the Middle East; in fact the crisis has probably erupted now over Saudi fears that Qatar was moving too close to Saudi Arabia's arch-enemy Iran...
14 June 2017
Negli ultimi giorni, la crisi diplomatica nel Golfo Persico ha attirato l'attenzione dei maggiori media internazionali. La disputa ha avuto origine quando una coalizione di paesi comprendente l'Arabia Saudita (la "guida" del gruppo), l'Egitto, lo Yemen e gli Emirati Arabi Uniti ha deciso di interrompere i contatti politici ed economici con il Qatar, accusandolo di finanziare gruppi terroristi come l'auto-denominato Stato Islamico (ISIS)...
This article is presented in Italian
8 June 2017
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that potential political instability may slow economic growth in Kenya as presidential elections in August loom. The fund has already cut its predicted growth rate for Kenya's $69.4 billion economy this year from 6.1 percent to 5.3 percent ahead of the close election where turnout and ethnicity will play a pivotal role. The Kenyan opposition has always alleged that both the 2007 and 2013 presidential elections were rigged, fuelling tensions ahead of the latest poll. The present incumbent is President Uhuru Kenyatta, is now standing again against Raila Odinga, a former Prime Minister and four-time failed presidential candidate. Mr Odinga was the main opposition candidate during the disputed 2007 presidential elections when Kenya was rocked by widespread ethnic violence. Meanwhile Mr Kenyatta faced charges of crimes against humanity stemming from the same election, which were only dropped by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2014.
25 May 2017
Long the preferred destination for the super-wealthy as a safe place to invest and secure their money, Switzerland is facing new challengers for its crown as it approaches the third decade of the 21st century. Fuelled by the rapid economic growth of the Asia-Pacific region in general, and a new class of Asian multi-million and billionaires created by the rise of China as a superpower, rivals like Hong Kong and now Singapore are rapidly catching up with the Swiss as prime destinations for foreign capital....
15 May 2017
Islamic State - Sinai Province (IS-SP), the Egyptian franchise of the better known Islamic State (IS) terrorist group presently headquartered in Iraq and Syria, has been among the most active and dangerous of the parent organisation's offshoots in recent years. Blamed for a number of fatal attacks on religious minorities, foreigners, and Egyptian political and military targets, IS-IP has also taken its insurgency to the Egyptian mainland. The group is also reported to have recently created a morality police unit, known as a Hisba, to impose its hardline interpretation of Islam on the Sinai's local population. This step is a sign of growing confidence on the part of Islamic militants that their strategy of armed struggle is succeeding, partly through stoking sectarian tensions and social unrest by exploiting local prejudices and provoking a heavy-handed response by Egypt's brutal security services...
19 April 2017
Turkish voters appeared to have narrowly chosen to back Turkey's incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a controversial constitutional referendum this month, after a fiercely fought campaign on both sides. The "Yes" camp claimed victory after results showed it had won a 51.4% share of the vote compared with the "No" camp's result of 48.6%. Turnout exceeded 80% and was high even among expatriate Turkish communities abroad. The victory was narrower than Erdogan and his supporters had hoped for but still set the seal on a plan to change Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential republic; arguably it marks the biggest constitutional change for Turkey since the end of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the Turkish Republic...
14 April 2017
L'utilizzo di armi chimiche avvenuto in Siria lo scorso 4 aprile ha suscitato forti reazioni internazionali, da parte sia della societá civile che dei governi. L'attacco, che ha causato decine di vittime civili in un quartiere sotto il controllo dei ribelli, é stato condotto con gas sarin. Il regime di Bashar al-Assad é stato indicato come responsabile, ed é stato oggetto (assieme alla Russia, suo principale alleato) delle consuete dichiarazioni di condanna. Ma la risposta piú decisa, piú "spettacolare", piú discussa a livello mediatico e politico é certamente l'attacco missilistico ordinato dal Presidente Trump contro la base aerea del governo siriano dalla quale sarebbero partiti gli aerei che hanno rilasciato il sarin. Molti commentatori hanno visto nell'azione condotta dalle forze militari americane un punto di svolta, se non una rottura da parte dell'amministrazione Trump rispetto alla linea politica piú cauta seguita da Obama. Ma é davvero cosí?
This article is presented in Italian
3 April 2017
A number of dangerous trends seem be coming together to signal a general decline in security for ocean-going traffic in the Gulf of Aden. Since the autumn of last year the international waterway has seen a number of violent incidents between criminal groups and commercial vessels, contending military units and suspected incidents of so-called friendly fire. Some of these, such as the hijacking of the Aris 13, an oil fuel tanker passing through the Bab-el-Mandeb straits, suggest an ominous return to the sort of instability of ten years ago, which cost the shipping industry billions of dollars to address in insurance costs and private security fees...
31 March 2017
Marzo 2018. Una data che potrebbe apparire priva di significato, ma alla quale si dovrebbe invece fare molta attenzione, a causa di ciò che potrebbe verificarsi in quel momento. Infatti, secondo quanto ipotizzato dal quotidiano online Linkiesta, fra esattamente un anno l'Italia potrebbe ritrovarsi ad essere di fatto commissariata...
This article is presented in Italian