Skip to content

Category archive for: International Relations

Real or not, North Korea’s ‘h-bomb’ is part of a well-planned agenda

Written by Robert Winstanley-Chesters.

North Korea’s announcement that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb was met with shock and surprise around the world – but there have been months of indications that something in just this vein was on the way.

Kim Jong-Un’s visit to Phyongchon Revolutionary Site near Pyongyang in December 2015 would have passed with little comment were it not for the young leader’s passing mention that his state was ready to detonate a hydrogen bomb. North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, what it calls its “treasured swords”, has only briefly and tenuously been demonstrated, and when Kim made this unexpected announcement, the outside world was sceptical that Pyongyang had really mastered this complicated and demanding technology. Continue reading Real or not, North Korea’s ‘h-bomb’ is part of a well-planned agenda

Obama shows the flaws in America’s efforts to combat ISIS

Written by Simon Reich.

Winston Churchill famously suggested that:

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.

Speaking with his characteristic mix of the compassionate and cerebral, the articulate and analytic, President Obama reminded Americans of the need for “strategic patience” in battling ISIS on Sunday night. He largely rejected Churchillian grand rhetoric. The nearest he got was when he said that “freedom is more powerful than fear.”

What he did was to lay out America’s policy approach. It is one that mixes the domestic and the foreign: a greater emphasis on the regulation of the visa program, community outreach and gun control at home; intensified support for the multilateral forces and the use of intelligence abroad. Continue reading Obama shows the flaws in America’s efforts to combat ISIS

Is this the end of the socialist dream in Venezuela?

Written by Iñaki Sagarzazu.

An alliance of centre-left, centrist and right-wing opposition parties has scored a resounding victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections – marking a seismic shift for the country.

Breaking two decades of dominance by the socialist government, the Democratic Unity alliance has won the vast majority of seats, after promising economic and social change.

The government will stay on because president Nicolas Maduro holds executive power, but the sizeable majority won by the opposition is a strong signal that a recall referendum could take place in 2016. Continue reading Is this the end of the socialist dream in Venezuela?

Canada’s new prime minister: who is Justin Trudeau, and how did he win?

Written by Steve Hewitt.

After a hard-fought election, Canada’s Liberal party has won a decisive parliamentary majority, and Canada will soon have an unfamiliar prime minister with a familiar last name. But 43-year-old Justin Trudeau’s rise to the top of Canadian politics was far from certain, even despite his remarkable political pedigree.

His father, the late Pierre Trudeau, dominated Canadian politics between 1968 and 1984, winning four elections and – uniquely for a Canadian politician – building a substantial reputation outside of his home country. Though lionised at the time of his death in 2000 (two of his honorary pallbearers were Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter) he was a controversial and divisive figure in Canada. Loved by many, he was equally loathed throughout his federal political career by numerous voters, particularly across Western Canada and among Quebecois separatists and nationalists.

While the elder Trudeau’s career was unquestionably a success, he still never managed to get higher than 46% of the popular vote. He left his Liberal Party in disarray when he retired, and although the party has won elections since, it has never truly recovered. Continue reading Canada’s new prime minister: who is Justin Trudeau, and how did he win?

Why defeating ISIS with military might is starry eyed idealism

Written by David Alpher.

This past weekend, US-led coalition aircraft targeted the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. It was one of the “largest deliberate engagements to date,” said a coalition spokesman, and it was executed “to deny [ISIS] the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq.” The scale of these responses gives a hint both to how concerned we are about such groups–and to how badly we misunderstand how to deal with them.

ISIS–the self-proclaimed “Islamic State”–is the monster of our times, our Grendel. Every pundit, commentator, armchair warrior and presidential candidate, declared and otherwise, claims to have a strategy to defeat them. A steady stream of political statements offering answers to “what do we do about them?” have gotten progressively more hawkish.

Continue reading Why defeating ISIS with military might is starry eyed idealism

How Indonesia’s 1965-1966 anti-communist purge remade a nation and the world

Written by Asvi Warman Adam.

Between October 1965 and March 1966, members and supporters of Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI), the third largest in the world at the time, were hunted down and murdered. Historian Robert Cribb estimates 200,000 to 800,000 people were killed.

The anti-communist violence brought Suharto to power in 1967, replacing the country’s founding president Sukarno. In the midst of the Cold War, the tragedy changed Indonesia from a fiercely independent Asian nation into a pro-Western country.

Historian Asvi Warman Adam explains what happened and the impact it had on Indonesia and global politics. Continue reading How Indonesia’s 1965-1966 anti-communist purge remade a nation and the world

Disputes over the South China Sea could put East Asia at war again

Written by Timo A. Kivimäki.

Philippine authorities have released satellite pictures of six reefs in the Spratly archipelago that indicate that the Chinese are building artificial structures in the disputed territories of the South China Sea. According to some observers, these features could allow China to extend the range of its navy, air force, coastguard and fishing fleets into the disputed areas.

In response, the US and the Philippines announced they would further strengthen their alliance to increase their military capacity. The Philippines have already given the US military access to bases on Philippine soil, two decades after the closing of the last American bases there.

The news about Chinese building projects and the possible military consequences have not yet been commented on by the Chinese media or by Chinese officials, but it seems clear that the reinforcements are yet another move in a long, steady game of escalation between the US and China. Continue reading Disputes over the South China Sea could put East Asia at war again

North Korea unveils its nuclear ‘treasured swords’ to the world again

Written by Robert Winstanley-Chesters.

North Korea’s announcement that “normal operation” was again underway at its Yongbyon reactor complex sent a characteristic wave of anxiety through the world’s Pyongyang watchers. The country’s nuclear ambitions had, after all, been largely forgotten in what seemed like a lull in North Korea’s fractious relations with the wider world.

Even as the Korean peninsula itself endured a summer of high tension, the West’s complicated fear of North Korea has been displaced by a myopic public narrative currently fixated on the European refugee crisis, the murderous idiocy of Islamic State, and the travails of Donald Trump.

Things are clearly rather different on the inside. The regime’s primary tool of geo-political leverage can have slipped nobody’s mind – and North Korea’s recent statements speak volumes about how the Kim regime conceives of its nuclear programme. Continue reading North Korea unveils its nuclear ‘treasured swords’ to the world again

How Turkey began the slide towards civil war

Written by Cengiz Gunes.

The speed with which Turkey has became engulfed in violence since the Suruç massacre on July 20 2015 is causing mass anxiety.

While public discussion has largely focused on questions of whose fault it is and why the country has suddenly descended into violence, one thing everyone agrees is that the country is passing through an extraordinary period in its history. While the current crisis has much deeper roots, the developments of the past year provide us sufficient clues about why the spiral of violence is likely to continue. Continue reading How Turkey began the slide towards civil war

Why are the Gulf states so reluctant to take in refugees?

Written by Rana Jawad.

Europe’s reaction to the refugee crisis has hardly been a calm and considered one; with fences erected and border controls reinstated, the continent’s governments are struggling to agree on a response.

But at least Europe’s governments are acting. In the Middle East, things are rather different. In particular, the Arab Gulf States are catching serious flack for their response to the crisis – or rather, their failure to respond.

One big question is reverberating in the minds of the general public, expert observers and policy-makers; why have the Gulf states, who are among the richest countries in the world, not taken in any Syrian refugees? There’s no need to rewrite the commentary that’s already out there: many articles have provided useful statistics and background information on the international conventions and treaties the Persian Gulf countries are signed up to, and their failure to honour them.

Continue reading Why are the Gulf states so reluctant to take in refugees?