REGIONS

This article was written by Uri Dekel, and Originally published by the INSS. Article is available here.

The campaign underway by the Assad regime for the control of southern Syria, with eyes toward the Golan Heights, is yet another stage by the regime for control of the remaining rebel strongholds in Syria. Israel’s acquiescence regarding the deployment of Assad’s forces in the south, including in the Syrian Golan Heights, indicates that Israel is prepared to accept the return of Assad’s control along the border, though his forces are supported by Shiite militias and his army directed by Iranian commanders. Israel is relying on Russia to remove the Iranian forces and the Shiite militias from the border area, in exchange for Israel’s not attacking regime forces. Israel has the positive experience of the quiet and stable border with Syria that existed prior to the civil war, when Assad controlled the Golan Heights and constituted a responsible address for what occurred on the other side of the border. On this basis, Israel should launch a dialogue with the Assad regime, apparently via Russia at this stage, in order to establish stability and calm in the Golan Heights, establish the rules of the game, and discuss the limitations (in terms of geography and weapons) on the presence of Iran and its proxies. At the same time, Israel must continue to prevent the construction of an Iranian military infrastructure in Syria and retain its ability to harm the Assad regime if it deviates from the understandings and rules of the game that are established.

Credit : http://vestnikkavkaza.net/news/Syria-can-be-reconciled-in-parts.html

Over the past two weeks, with the assistance of Russia and other allies, the Assad regime has conducted a military campaign aimed at seizing control of the Daraa district in southern Syria, with its eyes toward the Syrian Golan Heights (the Quneitra district). Its modus operandi is similar to what it has employed in other parts of Syria: heavy artillery fire on rebel strongholds, airstrikes that include Russian fighter aircraft, and a Russian invitation to engage in negotiations leading to the rebels’ handing over their weapons, or in other words, their unconditional surrender. As elsewhere in Syria, this military pressure has led to the collapse of rebel lines and the surrender of many localities without a fight. However, as long as the rebels refuse this offer, the attacks on their strongholds continue with mounting intensity, and Russia’s terms for a cessation of hostilities are increasingly stringent.

Southern Syria is one of the last rebel strongholds. This region has enjoyed relative stability since its inclusion in the “de-escalation zones” by means of an agreement between Russia and the United States formulated in July 2017 with Jordanian and Israeli involvement. However, there was no doubt that this de-escalation was only temporary. The campaign to seize control of Daraa is of symbolic importance for the Assad regime, as it is the region in which the uprising erupted initially in March 2011.

The motivation to violate the ceasefire and launch an offensive aimed at seizing control of the region has a number of levels. The first justification of the Assad regime for the campaign is that the area constitutes a breach through which terrorist elements associated with the Islamic State enter Syria. Indeed, the southern Golan Heights and the Yarmuk basin are still controlled by an Islamic State proxy, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. Second, as argued by the Syrian opposition, the goal of the campaign is to change the balance of power by improving the regime’s positions in the political contacts underway toward a settlement to stabilize Syria, and to establish the fact that Assad controls most of the country’s populated regions. The Daraa district itself is the southernmost part of the “Syrian backbone” (from Aleppo in the north, through Homs and Damascus, to Daraa in the south), which is vital to the regime. Third, once the pro-Syrian coalition completed its conquest of the area surrounding Damascus, southern Syria is a relatively comfortable area to conquer in comparison to the two other regions that remain under rebel control: Idlib in northern Syria, which is a Salafist and Islamist Sunni stronghold, and northeastern Syria, which is controlled by the Kurds via the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are supported by the United States.

In addition to being an internal Syrian struggle and a struggle for Assad’s interests, the conflict is also a power struggle among major powers. From a broader perspective, the campaign is cast as part of a “deal” that Russia is trying to promote vis-à-vis the United States and Israel, which includes the removal of Iranian forces from southern Syria in exchange for the two countries’ acceptance of Assad’s control over Syria in its entirety. In this framework, Israel’s acquiescence to the deployment of Assad’s forces in the south, including the Syrian Golan Heights, would mean de facto acceptance of Russia’s demand that Israel refrain from attacking the Assad regime, in exchange for removing Iranian forces and its proxies from regions that are in close proximity to Israel and Jordan. According to this logic, Israel must refrain from intervening when Assad’s forces bombard the rebel forces and take control of the area adjacent to its border in the Golan Heights.

At the same time, Russia is engaged in contacts with the United States in advance of the presidential summit between Trump and Putin, scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki. At work is an attempt to take advantage of President Trump’s desire to fulfill his commitment to withdraw US forces from Syria. Russia is eager for the United States to evacuate the base in al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, which is an area that is no longer central to the establishment and training of rebel groups but over time became an obstruction along the direct land route from Iran to Syria via Iraq. There is evidence that the United States is reconsidering the necessity of the base, particularly after sending the rebel forces a message that it would not intervene or provide them with support in the fighting in the south. In addition, Russia will find it convenient to make proposals to the United States regarding the removal of Iranian forces from Syria, with the Trump administration’s acceptance of Assad’s remaining in power after he reassumes control over Syria as a whole.

As a result, the fighting area in southern Syria embodies a paradox. Russia is proposing to Iran the establishment of a land bridge, which it desires, but in exchange Tehran must agree to the removal of its forces and those of its proxies – Shiite militias and Hezbollah – from southern Syria. Russian-Iranian relations are by nature characterized by a dynamic of “respect and suspicion.” Russia is trying to leverage recent developments, including Assad’s fear that Iran will draw it into a military confrontation with Israel, in order to establish a reality in which it holds the reins of power in Syria. On the other hand, Iran has no intention of giving up its influence and the consolidation of its presence in Syria, and is incorporating Revolutionary Guard commanders and fighters of the Shiite militias that are under its control into the ranks of the Syrian army, which is fighting the rebels in the south (specifically, the Tiger Forces and the National Defense Forces, or NDF).

President Trump has actually come to terms with the Russian dominance in Syria, as well as with Russian assistance that enables the Assad regime to establish control over the regions near the Jordanian and Israeli borders. He has done so in exchange for Russian guarantees that the Syrian regime will not slaughter the US-supported rebel forces, will allow them to leave the regions in southwestern Syria, and will stop forces supported by Iran from entering the region. With regard to the fighting in the region, a Pentagon spokesperson has emphasized that the United States remains focused on defeating the Islamic State, and that all the actors in the region are advised to not attack US forces and their partners in the coalition in the struggle against the Islamic State.

Consequently, opposition elements and rebel forces in Syria are facing the familiar scenario of abandonment by the countries supporting them on doomsday. This time, the countries to do so are the United States, Jordan, and Israel, which supported the rebel forces, and primarily the Free Syrian Army, and are now standing on the sidelines and allowing the pro-Assad coalition to attack them and the Syrian civilians living in the areas under their control. Nassar al-Hariri, head of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, has denounced what he refers to as “the American silence” in the face of the attack,” and has argued that only a “malicious deal” could explain the US failure to respond in light of the events on the ground.

According to information provided by the UN, the current fighting has resulted in the displacement of approximately 300,000 people from their homes. Most of the displaced persons are concentrated close to the border with Jordan, and thousands have settled close to the border with Israel, in the demilitarized area between the two countries that was established under the Agreement on Disengagement signed by Israel and Syria in 1974. Both Jordan and Israel are determined to prevent refugees from seeping into their territory. Israel is providing humanitarian aid to displaced persons who have settled close to its border and has announced that it will not allow the Syrian army to enter the demilitarized zone. To demonstrate its resolve, Israel has reinforced its troops in the Golan Heights.

Implications

The developments in the Daraa region underscore that the opposition is gradually losing control over its primary stronghold in southern Syria, which was the symbol of the uprising, whereas the regime is reasserting its control and influence. Once again, the rebels’ hopes for external aid to withstand the steamroller of the pro-Assad coalition have been dashed, and the rebels are faced with the reality that they are alone in the fight.

It appears that for some reason Israel and the United States are relying on Russia, with the expectation that it will remove the Iranian forces and the Shiite militias to a distance of 60-70 kilometers from the border with Israel and Jordan. Indeed, they would like Russia to eject the Iranian forces and Shite militias from Syrian territory altogether. In exchange, they are willing to come to terms with Bashar al-Assad retaining the post of President of Syria and with the continued rule of the man who is responsible for the murder of close to half a million Syrian citizens. In addition, it appears that the United States and Israel will not prevent the forces of the pro-Assad coalition from liberating the remaining territory that is still under rebel control (particularly in northern and northeastern Syria). Whereas the Trump administration seeks a settlement that will allow the quick withdrawal of US forces from Syria, Israel has chosen to accept that Assad is the winner of the civil war and hope that Russian influence in Syria will take precedence over that of Iran.

Israel has chosen to turn a blind eye to the fact that the forces belonging to the Shiite militias have been absorbed into Assad’s forces and are fighting in the Daraa area. It would thus be a mistake to assume that at the end of the fighting, the Assad regime will accede to Russia’s demand to remove the forces of Iran and its proxies. The Assad regime’s seizure of control of southern Syria and the Golan Heights will result in the perpetuation of a foreign Shiite presence in the south, whether camouflaged within the army and within Syrian militias, or as ostensibly local Shiite militias directed by Iran.

Israel is risking one of its important achievements of the years of the war in Syria thus far: the establishment of a stable and quiet border in the Golan Heights based on understandings with the local communities on the Syrian side of the border, whereby they receive humanitarian and civil aid in exchange for preventing terrorist activity from being launched from their territory against the Golan Heights. Now, Israel is ready to accept the return of control along the border region to the Assad regime, while knowing that Assad’s forces are supported by the Shiite militias and that his army is directed by Iranian commanders – all with the futile expectation that Russia will remove the Iranian forces and its proxies from Syria.

Still, Israel has the positive experience of a quiet and stable border with Syria that existed prior to the civil war, when Assad controlled the Golan Heights and constituted a responsible address for what occurred on the other side of the border. Today, Israel appears to have assessed that in the new situation, Assad will have an interest in maintaining calm along the border, as its interests are not identical with those of Iran and Hezbollah. If so, Israel should launch a dialogue with the Assad regime, apparently via Russia at this stage, in order to establish stability and calm in the Golan Heights, establish the rules of the game, and discuss the limitations (in terms of geography and weapons) on the presence of Iran and its proxies. At the same time, Israel must continue to demonstrate resolve in preventing the construction of an Iranian military infrastructure in Syria, with an emphasis on capabilities that threaten it, and retain its ability to harm the Assad regime if it deviates from the understandings and rules of the game that are established.

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About the Author : 

Udi Dekel, who joined INSS as a senior research fellow in 2012, was head of the negotiations team with the Palestinians in the Annapolis process under the Olmert government. In this framework, he coordinated the staff work and led twelve negotiating committees. In February 2013 he was appointed Managing Director of INSS.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Dekel filled many senior IDF positions in intelligence, international military cooperation, and strategic planning, His last post in the IDF was head of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Directorate of the General Staff, and as a reservist he is head of the Center for Strategic Planning. Previously he served as head of the foreign relations section in the General Staff and head of the Research Division in Lahak, Israel Air Force Intelligence. Brig. Gen. (res.) Dekel served as head of the Israel-UN-Lebanon committee following the Second Lebanon War and head of military committees with Egypt and Jordan. In addition, he headed a working group on strategic-operative cooperation with the United States on development of a response to the surface-to-surface missile threat and international military cooperation. He served on the 2006 commission to update Israel’s security concept and coordinated the formulation of IDF strategy.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Dekel’s areas of research include: decision making processes in Israel and the connection between policy and the military; the multidisciplinary integration in Israel of policy, diplomacy; the military; economics, society, and communications; the peace process with the Palestinians and with Syria; strategic trends in the Middle East and challenges for Israel; the influence of the new media on the Arab world and Iran; security concepts; strategic military concepts; and strategic planning processes.

On July 1, the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrated its 97 th anniversary.

The party has 89 million members and its reach among the college going students has faced any drastic shrinkage with 1.7 million student members. Around a fourth of its members are below 30 years of age.

July 1, 2018 also marks the 21 st anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. Thee have been celebrations and the pro-democracy protests have been amongst the smallest in years. Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive expressed confidence in Beijing’s leadership and Hong Kong’s future

Most FIFA venues have witnessed large number of sponsorships and hoardings from Chinese firms. This may well be an indication of the next super power inching towards the throne room.

China has also extended an additional $1 billion to secure Pakistan’s falling forex reserves. With this transfer China has lent about $ 5 Billion in the financial year ending in June. Pakistan is expected to seek IMF funds after the July 25 election.

Who are the strongest countries in Asia ? Asia has become over the years the most important region of the World for the US but also for the entire West.  Asia has about 60 percent of the world’s population with different historical traditions, cultures and religions. Three of the four most populated countries of the world are in Asia: China, India, and Indonesia. During the 20th century, the world economy’s center has gradually moved from North America to the Asia-Pacific. A huge number of U.S. corporations conduct business in Asia today. It’s therefore important to assess the strength of the countries in the region to understand global Geopolitics.

5/ Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistani army possess a very good military training and high degree of  professionalism, the largest Muslim military power in the world with over 700,000 active troops and the 5th largest in the world, very large and powerful army and air force decent navy.  Its army is an experienced army that fought  wars and skirmishes with neighbouring India. It is the only Muslim nuclear power. It also has a strong alliances with Turkey and the rest of Middle East Muslim countries especially with the Arab states.  China, France, NATO and the US are also considered Pakistani allies despite their reluctant behavior to contribute more in the future to Pakistani Army. Pakistan is also the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions with over 10,000 soldiers. It is the second largest Muslim country and one of the largest in the world in terms of population with 180 million people.
4) Republic of India
One of the largest standing army in the world after China and US, second largest country in the world by population after China with over 1.75 billion people, also one of the largest countries in the world by area/land mass, and rapidly improving and powerful army, navy and air forces in the world, good military training, experienced military with wars over Pakistan and China, growing military weapons production and technology/industry, large military budget, etc. Indian Army should be stronger in 2017 with the help of the newly elected Trump and the Israeli High Tech military technology.
3) North Korea

The most militarized and combat ready army in the world, the 4th largest active army in the world, a very large and powerful army and air force decent navy, over 23 million population.

North Korea’s bloated armed forces outnumber those of its southern neighbour by a large margin. When it comes to soldiers and artillery pieces, North Korea enjoys a two-to-one advantage over its old enemy.Yet an abundance of soldiers carrying light arms does not translate into military dominance. North Korea’s armed forces might be immense, but their weapons and equipment are largely obsolete.On paper, the Stalinist state’s air force possesses 563 combat-capable aircraft; in reality, every one of these planes was grounded for a short period in 2014 thanks to problems with maintenance and serviceability. “North Korea remains reliant on a predominantly obsolescent equipment inventory across all three services,” is the verdict of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

2) People’s Republic of China

Largest standing army in the world as well as the largest country in the world with a population of over 1.3 billion. Equally large and powerful navy and air force.Good military training, improving navy and air force. Between 200-300  nukes making it between 3rd-5th largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Second highest military budget after US, growing economy and rapidly improving technology, self-sufficient in military production and huge military weapons technology, permanent member of the UN Security Council, most powerful Asian military. Trying to improve its technological gap by purchasing Israeli Military Technology.

1) The Russian Federation

Soldier in helmet holding machine gun with national flag on background – Russia
One of the largest army in the world with over 1,000,000 troops. The largest nuclear arsenal in the world (one of the two most advanced nukes in the world, the other being US), largest country by area/land mass by far, one of the largest countries as well with a population of over 142 million people. The most powerful Eurasian country, very disciplined and professional military training, large and powerful navy . Powerful air force as well as seen with their military prowesses in Syria.  One of the best military technologies and weapons producers in the world, stable and growing economy after the Soviet collapse in 1990. Permanent member of the UN Security Council, large military budget. Finally  one of the most experienced militaries in the world that is currently engaged in Eastern Ukraine and sucessfully managed to invade Crimea and deter the Ukrainian Military Forces and NATO. Also engaged in Syria where their totally turned the tide in Assad’ favor by efficient military maneuvers. Russian greatest achievements in 2016 was the capture of Crimea and the Conquest of Aleppo in Syria.
The Factor X  : Israel
Israel has become over the year a military technology exporter. His Military Tech is considered as good as the American one.
Israeli Military is known for having one of the thoughest military training in the world. Israel possess an extremely experienced army that fought several wars with its neighbors. They posesses by Far the strongest air force in the entire Middle East. They are militarily self sufficient by having created their own military weapons industries. As a consequences this small but powerful country has become a military technology exporter. That could become a game changer for Asian countries. Israeli Military Industries are specialized in Radar technologies, combat and surveillance drones, tanks armors, space technology and other high tech technologies. This could clearly improve the ranking of the countries mentioned above if they can get Superior Israeli Military Technology.  For the moment Israel is slowly but surely getting closer from India and China. Still Israel is constrained in its sales by the fear that its allies could sell its technology to Arab Countries , that are its ennemies but also have to consider if this will not endanger their special relationship with their great ally the US, especially if they intend to sell to China or Russia.

 

 

 

Ever associated the hot Middle-East with chocolates? Why not , Bassam Ghraoui made some of the best in Syria.

 

Armies are considered an important part of a country and its security. Every year, a large fortune is allocated out of the budget for fighting battles. Countries take special initiatives to strengthen themselves militarily. If we try to compare the armies of the different nations to gauge the countries with strongest armies, it would probably not be possible to do so hypothetically. However, without leading to a bloodbath, we can have a fair idea about the military strengths of countries by taking into account the arsenal in their possession, advanced technologies implemented, training, power and number of allies, size of the army, budget allocated, etc. While it is a rather subjective issue, several organizations, such as Business Insider, conduct their own studies to rank the military powers. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Countries with Strongest Armies.

10. Japan

Japan was the land of Samurais, and Japan was a leading military force in WW-II. Interestingly, its peace treaty at the end of WW-II prohibits it from having an offensive army. In response to its growing disputes with the ever-expanding China, Japan started military expansion, first time in 40 years, placing new base on outer islands. It increased its military spending, first time in 11 years, to $49.1 billion, the world’s 6th highest. It has over 247,000 active personnel and almost 60,000 in reserve. With 1,595 aircraft, it is the 5th largest air force. The army is also equipped with 131 war ships. Besides, through its recent defence initiatives, it maintains a solid military presence in Asia.

9. South Korea

South Korea shares its border with North Korea which has an extremely powerful army at its disposal, and hence, is a constant threat to South Korea. But, its offensive neighbour is not its only problem. To meet the increasing armament of China and Japan, South Korea has been increasing its defence expenditure, which is now $34 billion. It maintains a large army of over 640,000 active personnel and 2,900,000 additional personnel in the reserve, alongside the 6th largest air force with 1,393 aircraft, as well as a small 166 ships. The country has about 15,000 land weapons, including rocket systems, as well as 2,346 tanks. It routinely participates in military training with the US.

8. Turkey

It was perhaps the struggle of the other countries sharing borders with the regions where the Islamic State has a strong presence, the struggle in Syria or the probability of clashes with the Kurdish separatist organization, PKK, which made Turkey realize that it needs to prepare itself to face danger head on, if and when it approaches, and decide to increase its investment in defence in 2015 by 10%. Its defence budget is at $18.18 billion. Its army size, including regular troops and reserves, is just above 660,000. Turkey’s air force has 1000 aircraft. The military also claims to 16,000 land weapons. It has strong diplomatic ties with the US, and partakes in initiatives around the world.

7. Germany

Germany is one of the strongest economic forces in the world, but despite spending around $45 million every year, the army’s condition seems to have deteriorated in the past few years. This is perhaps because, the generation born and growing up in the 1950-60s were against war and its atrocities, and the fear of being beaten by countries with strongest armies, still discourages the people to join the army. In 2011, mandatory military service was eliminated to prevent the country from being a militarized country. It has only 183,000 active frontline personnel and 145,000 reservists, alongside 710 aircraft in total, and on-land armament of nearly 5,000 of various kinds.

6. France

France is another country to follow Germany’s lead because, in 2013, it took the decision to ‘effectively ‘freeze’ its military spending, and cut down on the defence jobs by 10%, to save money for technologically advanced equipment. Its current military budget stands at $43 a year, which is 1.9% of the country’s GDP, much below the spending target as set by NATO. Over 220,000 regular force combines with reservists to form a force of about 500,000. It has just over 1,000 aircraft, along with 9,000 ground vehicles. Even if these do not make France a formidable army, its position in the EU and UN, a total 290 nuclear weapons, and significant deployments strengthen the country.

5. The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, another member of the EU, also has a plan of reducing the size of the armed forces by 20% between 2010 and 2018, and apply smaller cuts to the Royal Navy and RAF. The defence budget of the UK currently stands at $54 billion. It has a regular force of only about 205,000, along with a small air force of 908 aircraft, and an even smaller navy of 66 ships. However, the army of the UK is still a powerful one, with its superior training, equipment and its 160 nuclear weapons being the main strengths. The Royal Navy is planning to put to service HMS Queen Elizabeth, in 2020. It is an aircraft carrier, planned to carry 40 F-35B joint strike fighters around the world.

4. India

India has put its massive population to use, and built an army of a sizeable 3.5 million, including 1.325 million active military. The huge size of the Indian military is one of the reasons why it has always remained among the countries with best armies in the world. The man force of the army is complemented by almost 16,000 land vehicles which include 3,500 tanks, as well as 1,785 aircraft, alongside nuclear weapons. Its ballistic missiles can hit all of Pakistan or most of China. Its current defence budget stands at $46 billion, but it is expected to rise, in a drive to modernize the military power and become the 4th highest spender by 2020. It is the world’s largest military goods importer.

3. China

China’s defence budget officially stands at $126 billion, and, in a relentless drive to invest massively in defence, there is likely to be an increase of budget by 12.2%. It has a formidable size of army, with 2.285 million active frontline personnel and a further 2.3 million reservists, making it the world’s largest land force, along with nearly 25,000 land vehicles. It has another 2,800 aircraft on its air force. China is in possession of about 300 nuclear weapons, alongside 180 different methods of their deployment. China recently acquired sensitive information about the new F-35, and is noted for successfully stealing sensitive military technology. China is rightly among the top 3 armed forces.

2. Russia

Russia’s defence budget stands at $76.6 billion, and is expected to grow 44% more in the next three years. In fact, the military spending of Kremlin has increased by about a third since 2008, especially since Vladimir Putin took hold of Russia in 2000. The Russian army has shown substantial growth since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago. It has 766,000 active frontline personnel and almost 2.5 million on the reserve force, though the soldiers receive mediocre training. The man force is backed by 15,500 tanks, making Russia the largest tank force in the world, though it is aging, like the other equipment. The country is the world’s leader, with almost 8,500 active nuclear warheads.

1. The United States

The United States spends a whopping $612.5 billion on the military, more than the other nine countries’ budgets combined. It maintains a remarkably large army composed of over 1.4 million soldiers, and a further 800,000 reservists. To complement the active ground force comprising well-trained men and women in uniforms, its biggest advantage is that it is the world leader in aircraft production, with a fleet of 19 aircraft carriers, while the carriers operated by the world together sum up to 12. The US implements cutting-edge technology like the Navy’s new rail gun, and the country also has 7,500 nuclear warheads at its disposal. No wonder it is no.1 military force since WW-II.

Thus, the defence budget, man power, air force, navy, etc. together help to determine the most powerful military forces in the world. The countries with strongest armies are the nations that are considered the biggest threats to global security, and these are the nations that also become the heavyweights in global affairs. While the US has projected a formidable military force for a long time, Russia has risen well, and China, too a force to reckon with. These countries clinch the top 3 positions, and the strategies of other countries may gradually make them recognizable forces in the world in a not-so-distant future.

This article was written by Wonderlist.com and is available here.

The scope of this program is to promote young professionals who have a track record of commitment to the field of international affairs, who demonstrate high potential and have been involved in a variety of activities at local, regional and global level.

This interview is part of a series of interviews with young professionals across the world who are part of the generation of future leaders.

  • Gentiana, thank you for giving us this interview, let’s start with you telling us more about your background?

I would like to thank you for this unique opportunity and congratulate you on your work and successes. It is always nice and heartwarming to see young enthusiasts and young people being passionate about different things and working on promoting them.

When it comes to my background, I am originally from Kosovo but due to difficulties there, my family moved to Croatia when I was less than two years old and ever since we have been living there. I study Political Science at the University of Zagreb and during my studies, I have been actively involved in many different international activities. Some of them include Model United Nations (MUN)  and Model European Union (MEU) simulations, internships at embassies and at UNDP, summer schools and several conferences. I have also been a participant at Young European Council (YEC) 2016 and the year after, I have helped organizing the same event. What YEC and I have achieved during that time, is to develop ideas for the European Solidarity Corps, which eventually have been accepted by the European Parliament.

  • What does your current activities consist of?

Besides studying, I am involved in many other activities of which I am proud of. Since 2017, I am a Councilwoman at Youth Council of the President of Croatia, madam Kolinda Grabar Kitarović. This is the first time in history that a President of Croatia has such a council and it is an honour to be a part of it. Our activities are mostly related to solving or highlighting the main problems that youth in Croatia is facing and as such, we have organised several successful round tables together with the President herself.

I am also the Secretary General of the ‘International Association for Political Science Students’, a non-profit organisation that gathers young students from all over the world and offers them an opportunity to present their work. I am also involved in Young European Leadership who have won the European Charlemagne Youth Prize. At my Faculty, I have been an active member of the ‘Diplomatic Club’, where I have organised round tables, conferences and other international activities.

  • In your opinion, what are the main challenges the world faces today/What are the challenges your region is facing today?

The world is facing many challenges – the conflict in Syria, relations between Israel and Palestine, Brexit, etc. However, I think the greatest challenge is the change in diplomatic relations, mostly caused by the United States. This is quite interesting to observe, how the relations between G7 countries have changed and how the US is getting more distant from its allies

From a regional perspective, Southeast Europe is facing many problems. One of them is definitely ‘to find a seat’  in an international arena. The difficulty is even bigger when we remember that these countries have had a strong partnership with the US and with the EU. When it comes to choosing between these two allies, it will be quite challenging for most of them.
Another challenge for these countries is to move forward. Young people are still victims of  the conflicts in the past and these countries need to move forward, learn how to cooperate and to forget their differences.

  • What are the most important qualities for young people to be successful in this field?

In my opinion, the most important qualities in this field are, to be persistent and stubborn towards your goals. As a young diplomat, one faces many challenges and many losses as well trying to prove the skills and talent. It is important that you do not give up at the very first obstacle or failure. Failure is actually good at some points, because it gives valuable lessons and makes all successes that come after greater and better. Another quality to have is, to be moderate and know what to say, when to say and in front of whom. It is one of the most important qualities that many, even elder people, do not have.

  • How do you empower young people to get involved in youth activities/conferences etc.?

From my experience, young people are mostly empowered from personal experience, meaning that they will most likely join a conference or an activity, if someone they know, has had positive experience while participating in it.
As such, it is important to share your stories and your experience in different activities and people will always approach you and ask for advices. We have been very lucky to have amazing professors, who have supported us and helped in promoting these activities. They even invited us to help the faculty in organizing our activities.
What has also helped is the fact that students at our Faculty have a TV – and radio channel and newspapers where we can promote these activities and our work.

  • What advice would you give to young people who embark on study/career path in this field?

It is an advice that everyone keeps on giving, but it is the best advice that can be given. It is to never give up and always be passionate in what you are doing. This field has many challenges and it is quite important to face all of them and learn from them. As I have said previously, failure is good and it should not stop you from doing what you love.

One of the best advices I have received so far is that whenever I am facing a difficult decision, the best thing to do is to ask three to four people about their opinion and then create your own. It is quite useful in many situations, especially considering the fact that it is normal not to know everything about everything. Linked to that, my advice would also be to ask for help and not to be ashamed of doing so.

  • How important is having a mentor?

Unfortunately, I have not had the experience of having a mentor who would help me and I believe that many young people are not lucky enough to have one. Having a mentor is useful and important since it gives you a unique input and lessons from a personal perspective. However, having a mentor is not crucial. If you are determined and stubborn in achieving your goals, you will achieve them with or without a mentor.

  • Do you have a model or an inspiration?

I think everyone has a model and inspiration that changes as we grow older. It is difficult to select only one model or one inspiration since there are so many examples of successful people in history and even today. Although, I would have to say that one person that stands out is definitely Angela Merkel. Let us face it, international relations are still a men’s world and as such, it is really motivating to see a strong, powerful woman sitting with other men and making the most important decisions. It is a great example for all of us, young professionals, who want to fulfill our dreams. When it comes to inspiration, I am a bookworm and always find inspiration in different classic poems and novels.

  • What are the main challenges that you had to overcome in this field until now?

For me, the main challenge has been to learn how to raise my voice and make my opinion matter. You face so many judgements and prejudice and sometimes it is difficult to overcome them. It has been a long process for me to learn how to do that. There are still meetings, where I am the youngest or the only woman. In the beginning, it was really difficult for me to raise my voice and express my opinion without being interrupted. However, I have learnt that I have an equal right to raise my voice as everyone else and that my opinion does matter!
It is an ongoing process of course, but so far I am happy with my achievement in it.

Because of the border connectivity, South Asia holds a great importance for China. Two of its neighbouring countries are nuclear powers (Pakistan and India) and one (Afghanistan) is a war-torn land. Thus, making South Asia a vital part of China’s geoeconomic strategies. China and Pakistan are all-weather friends. Because of China’s growing geoeconomic strength, India is also getting closer to China. Afghanistan cannot be left burning down so, China wants to achieve mutual development and safety.

This article aims at highlighting the geoeconomics of China in the South Asian region.

China’s influence in South Asia:

Within South Asia, China wants to create a stable environment. Five of the South Asian countries share a border with China. Because of acrimony, distrust and hostility among the countries within the region, it would be naïve to consider China’s geoeconomic strategy within the region as a whole. China’s geoeconomic influence can be analyzed differently with different countries.

China and Pakistan:

According to Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, role and influence of China in Pakistan is mostly viewed positively. China has heavily invested in Pakistan, from partnership in civil nuclear energy to $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)- an infrastructure and transportation investment.

Glenn Diesen (2017) in this context argues that one of the most remarkable developments in China’s Southern land Corridor is CPEC. Along with infrastructure and energy investment for Pakistan, the port of Gwadar enhances the energy security for China because of its proximity with Strait of Hormuz. Access to Gwadar Port enables China to bypass the Straits of Malacca which will mitigate threats for China from US naval supremacy. It is a positive-sum game for both China and Pakistan.

China and India:

Hina Rabbani Khar argues that India views the growing ties between Pakistan and China as Chinese containment strategy of India within the region. China also considers Indo-US alliance in the region as a China containment policy.

India is not part of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, Wade Shepard (2017) writes for Forbes that China has surrounded India. India has been wrapped up by land and sea via Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In 2018, India ordered its officials to stay away from Dalai Lama rally. According to Financial Times report, India has done that to improve its ties with China. India is not the first country to do that. In 2014, Norwegian Prime Minister did not meet Dalai Lama. Norway’s Foreign Minister, Borge Brende told the reporters at that time that Norway wanted to focus on its relationship with China. Norway’s neighbouring country Denmark followed suit and Danish PM did not meet Dalai Lama as well (Harris and Blackwill, 2016). Therefore, it is likely that India is on its way to improve its ties with China because of latter’s growing geoeconomic influence.

China and Afghanistan:

Angela Stanzel (2014) argues that China has stepped into Afghanistan after the reduction of NATO and the US forces from Afghanistan. Afghanistan has become an attractive destination for Chinese investment because of various reasons. Afghanistan holds significance for China because of its Central and South Asian location. In addition to this, Afghanistan’s natural resources have also attracted China to step into the great game.

According to Hina Rabbani Khar, China is the largest single investor in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will get $400 million in royalties from its Aynak Copper Mine which is a sizeable portion of Afghanistan’s budget. China has also become politically involved in Afghanistan and openly accepts a role in the intra-Afghan dialogue.

China in other countries of South Asia:

China’s economic interests in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is also booming. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are becoming good trading partners for China. China has invested in infrastructure projects such as airport and port in Sri Lanka. Bangladesh is part of China’s Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor. Nepal has also become part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Conclusion:

Because of border proximity, South Asian Region holds a great significance for China. China does not want to lose its influence in the region. It works and will keep working on strategies to gain strategic depth in the region. Furthermore, India is the biggest challenge to China’s hegemony in the region (though China claims not to seek hegemony). Whatever the US does to contain China in the region, China plays the same game to contain India. Geoeconomics has played a significant role in favour of China in South Asia. China has vividly adopted geoeconomic strategies to achieve its geopolitical ends.

 

Muhammad Murad has been writing for different magazines and blogs since 2011. He initially started writing on social issues of Pakistan and later on, he began writing on internal and external issues related to Pakistan. Currently, he is Young Diplomats’ ambassador in Pakistan. He believes in a peaceful liberal democratic world away from war and conflict which would be possible by the power of the pen, not the gun. Muhammad is a business graduate turned  social scientist and aspires to be a writer. 

 

 

The worldwide excitation around Macon’s personality, his reform and communication skills make us almost forget that populism has not disappeared in France, neither in Europe yet. 

Since last French elections in 2017, Marine LePen and her Front National are in disarray. After having lost against Macron during the presidential elections, she only secured eight parliamentary seats. Nevertheless, there is still a global appeal of nativist populism: as Steve Bannon reminded us during his speech at the national FN congress in Lille: identity politics have not disappeared. Macron’s work to erase far right populism is not over yet, his recent victory needs to be tempered.

The current situation of a brand-new politician’s class, trying to completely change the way of governing and doing politics meanwhile being threatened by identical issues and increasing populism is not new.

In 1869, William Jennings Bryan was the democratic populist candidate and already defended the little person, forgotten by the elite of a country: the east-coast capitalists. So does LePen: targeting a population that felt totally forgotten by its elite, claiming for more national protection measures to secure its people. Back in 1901 in the United States, Bryan lost the presidential elections and Theodore Roosevelt, a young 42-year-old cavalry officer, won with a progressive program. To see off the populist ground, he decided to regulate the negative externalities of capitalism by bringing social reforms.

This situation echoes Macron’s election last year. Macron is 39 years old, described as a progressive politician, blowing up the traditional French political landscape to clean up inefficient policies, responding to populism by introducing market friendly measures and reforming the public sector towards globalization and competition. Both Macron and Roosevelt have similarities. They both were educated at the elite institutions in their respective country (Havard and Ecole Nationale d’Administration) and both have developed an advanced passion for philosophy and literature. Macron’s speech at the Sorbonne reminds Roosevelt’s in 1910; both showed their desire to restore national confidence in the capacity of the whole nation to compete within the globalization.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of differences also between the former American cavalry officer and current French president. Roosevelt served as an officer, creating his Progressive Party only after leaving his presidency, whereas Macron worked in the private sector for the Rothschild bank and built his party En Marche as a vehicle to access presidential functions.

Macron currently responds to the populism menace by putting in place market friendly measures and negotiating alongside unions and employers. He is currently trying to impose new rules to preserve French economical interests while preserving the free market inside the European Union. Nonetheless, is a market friendly policy a good strategy to respond to populism and so assuage voter’s fears? If yes, Macron will teach a new lesson to America on how to response to populism

In the midst of the great turbulence in the Brazilian financial markets – with the strong devaluation of the real and the fall of the stock indices – the result of the pre-sal auction, disclosed on June 7, 2018, almost goes unnoticed.

For those who do not know exactly what “pre-sal” is, I refer to this article (in Italian), which clearly describes its potential:

http://www.mondoforex.com/brasile-petrobras-e-progetto-pre-sal/

The government auctioned 4 areas, of which the most coveted was that of Uirapuru (located near to Santos).

The auction was attended by 16 major oil companies, most foreign: a record, demonstrating the renewed interest in the potential extraction of pre-sal.

The auction mechanism foresees a fixed “subscription bonus”: the consortium wins by committing itself to delivering the highest percentage of extracted oil to the Brazilian government, discounted production costs.

In the case of the Uirapuru area, the “bonus” was 2.65 billion reais (about 700 million dollars) and the starting point was a percentage of 22.18% of production: the winning consortium, formed by Exxon , Statoil and Petrogal offered 75.49%, signifying the exceptional potential of this area.

Petrobras, which was part of the losing consortium (having offered “only” 72.05%), exercised the right of preference (established by a law of 2017) and became part of the winning consortium with a 30% stake .

The “Dois Irmaos” area, of lesser importance, went to a consortium formed by Petrobras, BP and Statoil.

The “Tres Marias” area, the smaller of those offered, went to a consortium formed by Petrobras, Shell and Chevron (at its debut in Brazil).

For the fourth area (Itaimbezinho) there were no offers.

It is estimated that, thanks to the oil that will be delivered by the winning consortia, the extra income for the government will amount to about 40 billion reais.

 

This article has been initially published by Update Brazil and can be found here.

China launched the Gaofen-6 earth observation satellite on June 2. It was launched using a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite launch center. This marks the 276th mission of Long March 2D. It will be used for agricultural resource research and disaster monitoring.

This satellite is part of the Gaofen satellites already in orbit. This is a family of remote sensing satellites.

Sina, a major share holder in Weibo plans to have a secondary listing in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It is already listed in NASDAQ.

This comes after Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Market the show runners at The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited decided to loosen norms to attract mainland Chinese tech firms. Shanghai and Shenzhen based stock exchanges have also been trying to lure the same companies using Chinese Depository Receipts. According to Chinese securities regulator: China Securities Regulatory Commission’s norms only Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JingDong are eligible for the depository receipts.

 

Seeking Arrangement an American dating platform with a twist might face regulatory restrictions in China. This portal has seen rapid growth in the Chinese market. However its ability to connect couples for financial reasons is something that has been frowned upon.

In the last one month the Taiwan (Republic of China) government lost two diplomatic allies Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso. With this Taiwan is left with eighteen diplomatic allies in the world. The list can be found here

On May 25, the Taiwanese military flew its jets close to PLA Airforce bombers carrying out a drill close to Taiwan.