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Showing posts from November, 2013

US Sends B-52s to China’s Air Defence Zone

By John Chan

- "WSWS" - In a deliberately provocative move, the US announced yesterday that two B-52 strategic bombers conducted a training mission over the disputed Senkaku Islands (known as Diaoyu in China) in the East China Sea, just days after Beijing declared an “air defence identification zone” (ADIZ) covering the area.

The Pentagon’s claim that it was a routine planned mission lacks any credibility. The overflight was clearly designed to challenge China, in line with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s statement that the US Air Force would simply ignore the Chinese rules in the zone.

The two B-52 bombers, which are designed to carry nuclear bombs and nuclear cruise missiles, flew from and returned to Guam, the key US base in the Pacific. The flight was aimed at sending an intimidating message to Beijing that the US would support Japan in a war against China over the Senkakus. In his statement, Hagel also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the US-Japan Security Treaty.


France Makes Virtue out of Vice to Exploit Central Africa Chaos

By Finian Cunningham

November 28, 2013 - "Forcefulness seems to come easily to Mr Hollande abroad", noted one commentator for the New York Times, who contrasted the French president’s ailing political performance at home with his robust foreign policy.

Where Francois Hollande looks weak and beleaguered on the national stage, registering as the most unpopular French president ever, his fortunes seem to rise abroad with a strident interventionist foreign policy. We saw that in September when the French president unseated the British as America’s "special friend" by declaring his country’s readiness to join Washington in a military assault on Syria.

Elysée Palace may have subsequently regretted that particular gung-ho gambit after US President Barack Obama got cold feet and eventually backed away from military action in Syria, leaving Paris looking like a tin soldier.

Nevertheless, we saw in Hollande’s Syria stance a man who appears more decisive and confident when it c…

The Eastern Orthodox Church

Previously one church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split in 1054 when the patriarch of Constantinople was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and theological differences broke the church in two. Heralded as the Great Schism (which is different from the schism between Catholicism and Protestantism), this event would create the separate Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church is divided by jurisdiction into regional churches such as the Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Greek or Serbian Orthodox churches. Each regional church under the Eastern Orthodox faith has its own patriarch. Starting in the 15th century, when the Ottomans ruled southeastern Europe, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchy in Moscow rose in importance because unlike the other Orthodox churches, it was not under Ottoman rule. The Moscow Patriarchy called itself the "Third Rome," and Russia has since been the largest Orthodox country in the world.

A Right-Wing Party Rises in Slovakia

A Slovak ballot box in Bratislava on Nov. 9. The second round of regional elections took place Nov. 23. (SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images)


One of Slovakia's eight administrative regions, Banska Bystrica, will soon be governed by a far-right nationalist. On Nov. 24, Marian Kotleba, the candidate for the People's Party-Our Slovakia, won 55 percent of the vote in a runoff election after having received roughly 21 percent in the first round. While moderates still dominate Slovak politics, far-right parties are becoming an acceptable political alternative in the country -- a trend that can be seen elsewhere in Europe.


Kotleba has been involved in far-right politics for at least a decade. In 2005, he created the far-right Slovak Togetherness-National Party (also known as the Slovak Congregation), which had pronounced anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric. It also had a strong anti-globalization platform, as evidenced by its opposition to Slovakia's membership in NATO…

Low Expectations at the Eastern Partnership Summit

Pro-European demonstrators, angered at Russia's perceived meddling in Ukraine's attempts to strengthen ties with the EU, protest in the Western city of Lviv, Nov. 27. (YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images)


The European Union will hold a summit of the Eastern Partnership, its flagship program to build closer ties with former Soviet states in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), in Vilnius on Nov. 28-29. The highly anticipated summit was expected to make significant progress with a number of its target states, but the past few months have seen intensified competition between the European Union and Russia over the Eastern Partnership states.

Moscow's notable gains over Brussels, particularly in Ukraine and Armenia, have greatly tempered expectations over what can be achieved at the summit. Various obstacles, including Russian opposition, EU divisions and the domestic political constraints of the target states themse…

Overplaying Its Hand, Israel Still Holds Plenty of U.S. Cards

By Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon

November 27, 2013 - More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.

In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.

While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached…

French Deployment in the Central African Republic

The French government said Nov. 26 that it would deploy about 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic, where the government and African peacekeeping forces have failed to put an end to insecurity. The land-locked African nation has been racked by violence since current President Michel Djotodia's rise to power through a rebellion in March. After the Seleka alliance of rebels brought Djotodia to power, he disbanded the alliance, but his lack of control over the rebels and the limited capabilities of the country's security forces have meant that he has been unable to control the spread of local militias or quell continuing violence against civilians.

At the moment, 410 French soldiers are already in the country guarding the airport and French interests as well as providing logistical support for the 2,500 African peacekeeping forces from Cameroon, Chad, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo deployed there. However, the African peacekeepers operate mainly in the capital, Bangui…

France Increases Its Involvement in the Central African Republic

Security forces of the Central African Republic patrol in the capital, Bangui, on Nov. 22. (PACOME PABANDJI/AFP/Getty Images)


The deployment of French troops to the Central African Republic brings Paris to a new level of commitment in the conflict, where it had previously limited its presence to protecting French interests and providing logistical support to African peacekeepers. The French government said Nov. 26 that it would deploy about 1,000 troops to the landlocked African nation, where the government and African peacekeeping forces have failed to put an end to insecurity. However, the French forces will likely avoid direct engagement with the remaining rebel forces in the country.


The Central African Republic has been racked by violence since current President Michel Djotodia's rise to power through a rebellion in March. After the Seleka alliance of rebels brought Djotodia to power, he disbanded the alliance, but his lack of control over the rebels and the l…

U.S. backs Japan as China tensions soar over air zone


The United States on Monday joined ally Japan in vowing not to recognize China’s declaration of an air defense zone over much of the East China Sea, a move that has sharply escalated tensions.

China and Japan each summoned the other’s ambassador after Beijing said Saturday it had established an Air Defense Identification Zone—which would require aircraft to obey its orders—over an area that includes islands administered by Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has vowed no compromise on sovereignty issues, called on China to “restrain itself” over the move, which put Tokyo’s conservative government in rare unison with South Korea and Taiwan.

“I am strongly concerned as it is a profoundly dangerous act that may cause unintended consequences,” Abe told the Diet.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has vowed to defend Japan and said that the islands—known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyus in Chinese—fall under the US security treaty with its ally, whi…

Japanese airlines say they will obey China's air zone rules


Japanese airlines on Tuesday said they would follow rules set by China when it declared an air control zone over the East China Sea, even as Tokyo said they should ignore them.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) said that since Sunday it has been submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities for any plane that was due to pass through the area. Its affiliate Peach Aviation said it was doing the same “for now”.

The announcements came after former flag carrier Japan Airlines said it was complying with demands Beijing set out on Saturday when it said it had established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) where all aircraft were required to obey its orders.

The zone covers the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

“We have taken the measures in line with international regulations,” an ANA spokesman said. “Safety is our top priority. We have to av…

Israelis, Saudis and the Iranian Agreement

By George Friedman

A deal between Iran and the P-5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) was reached Saturday night. The Iranians agreed to certain limitations on their nuclear program while the P-5+1 agreed to remove certain economic sanctions. The next negotiation, scheduled for six months from now depending on both sides' adherence to the current agreement, will seek a more permanent resolution. The key players in this were the United States and Iran. The mere fact that the U.S. secretary of state would meet openly with the Iranian foreign minister would have been difficult to imagine a few months ago, and unthinkable at the beginning of the Islamic republic.

The U.S. goal is to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons before they are built, without the United States having to take military action to eliminate them. While it is commonly assumed that the United States could eliminate the Iranian nuclear program at will with airstrikes, as with most …

Ukraine's Balance Between the EU and Russia

Pro-European lawmakers hold the EU and Ukrainian flags in the Ukrainian parliament on Nov. 22. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)


Ukraine's decision to halt the process for signing landmark political and economic agreements with the European Union has caught the Europeans and much of the media by surprise, but the move fits within Stratfor's ongoing analysis of the issue. At root is Ukraine's geopolitical imperative to balance between the European Union and Russia, without getting too close to one or the other. The same fundamental forces that drove Ukraine's decision on the EU agreements will temper any future compromise or settlement with Russia.


A week before Ukraine's Nov. 21 decision to freeze negotiations with Brussels, we noted, "Kiev has so far attempted to balance both sides [the European Union and Russia] without committing too firmly to either. The time for Ukraine to make a concrete decision is approaching, however, and recent devel…

Geopolitical Calendar: Week of Nov. 25, 2013


Editor's Note: The following is an internal Stratfor document listing significant meetings and events planned for the next week. Stratfor analysts use this to stay informed of the activities and travel of world leaders and to guide their areas of focus for the week.

Nov. 25: Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit Pope Francis in Rome.
Nov. 26: Germany's Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union and Social Democratic Party hope to conclude coalition negotiations.
Nov. 26: Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to meet Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta in Trieste.
Nov. 26-27: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will visit Romania to attend the summit between China and Central and Eastern European countries.
Nov. 27: The Italian Senate is expected to vote on the expulsion of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from the parliament.
Nov. 28-29: The Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in Vilnius. It brings together leaders from the European…

Next Steps for the U.S.-Iran Deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran after talks in Geneva on Nov. 24. ARASH KHAMOOSHI/AFP/Getty Images

What was unthinkable for many people over many years happened in the early hours of Nov. 24 in Geneva: The United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran struck a deal. After a decadelong struggle, the two reached an accord that seeks to ensure that Iran's nuclear program remains a civilian one. It is a preliminary deal, and both sides face months of work to batten down domestic opposition, build convincing mechanisms to assure compliance and unthread complicated global sanctions.

That is the easy part. More difficult will be the process to reshape bilateral relations while virtually every regional player in the Middle East seeks ways to cope with an Iran that is no longer geopolitically encumbered.

The foreign ministers of Iran and the six Western powers that constitute the so-called P-5+1 Group clinched a six-month deal that begins the curtail…

UK 'right to develop offensive cyber capabilities', but risks remain

The UK must place itself at the forefront of cyber warfare capabilities while remaining fully cognisant of the consequences of weaponising cyberspace, according to Andrew Beckett, head of cyber services at Cassidian UK.
Briefing journalists on 20 November at a location close to Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes (the UK's famous Second World War deciphering station), Beckett argued that "in this day and age, having a strong defensive and a strong offensive capability in cyber is absolutely essential".
He cautioned, however, that cyber-weapons need to be very specifically targeted. "You tend to target a cyber-weapon based on the hardware, the software, the infrastructure of your target organisation," he explained, but "no matter how much you target, you cannot guarantee that only your intended target is going to be affected".
"A traditional kinetic weapon has a defined blast radius; you know what it's going to do and, once it's been used, tha…