Author: Tannishtha Pramanick

The Bitter Pill of Syria: From Militant Optimism to Desperate Compromise

As hard as it is to believe now, barely six months ago it appeared that the Damascus-based regime of Bashar Al-Assad was on its last legs. Pressed by both Western-backed moderate rebels and ISIS alike on a front ranging from Idlib in the north and Homs in the east, and with his own forces disintegrating under an increasing number of both defections and desertions, the main question seemed to be whether Assad would even be able to hold on to his western Syrian, Alawite coastal strongholds and the capital city itself, or if even those pillars of loyalty to the regime were now in danger. The days of the House of Assad as the rulers of Syria appeared to be numbered.   Well, that was then and this is now. President Putin, determined to rescue his puppet and Russia’s sole naval base in the Mediterranean, choose to directly insert himself into the conflict under the guise of fighting ISIS, but in reality directing the bulk of his fire upon opposition rebel forces. Buoyed by the …

Israeli Gas: The Tug of War for Energy Security

Israel’s fourth Prime Minister Golda Meir once lamented that  “Moses dragged us for 40 years through the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil.” With the development of the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields, this fate has been rewritten, entrusting Israel with a sum of 532 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) of natural gas, some of which will begin flowing from the offshore platforms by 2019. Alongside a new report by French consulting firm Beicip-Franlab that estimates 2,120 BCM’s of gas in Israel’s territorial waters, another recent discovery at Daniel East and West has revealed an additional 252 BCM’s. In stark contrast to Meir’s perspective, Prime Minister Netanyahu has called the gas “a gift from God,” but this seemingly divine power demands the responsible management of Israel’s domestic needs alongside the rewards offered by export.   On 14 February, 2016, Israel’s relationship with its partners for gas production and exploration came to the forefront when Prime Minister Netanyahu took the extreme length of appearing before the …

The Rise of the French Far Right: Old Media Hype and New Media Influences on Hidden Pasts

By Ultan Gannon The media has being widely reporting a rise of far right, anti-immigration, Eurosceptic and outright Neo-Fascist parties across Europe since the start of the Great Recession. Last year the focus was on France, a country more usually known for its strong unions, shorter working hours, socialist governments, 60s Situationationist student riots and Nazi resistance movements than its far-right hate groups. Since the 2015 EU elections, the National Front has been making headlines, taking nearly 25% of the vote and almost a third of France’s European seats. A shocking success for a party founded with leaders ranging from Nazi collaborators to actual SS members.  Headed by their new leader, Marine Le Penn, with the same name brand recognition as her father, the former leader, but with less of the scandalous associations and a softer, denazified for PR purposes veneer image. The National Front have been able to hide their skinhead roots, partly by suing anyone who suggests that they are far right, despite a list of racist comments longer than the Maginot line, …

The Russo-Turkish Split: 2016 and Beyond

By Oleg Oshchepov Comparing ties between Moscow and Ankara in January 2016 to those a year ago, relations between the two nations have deteriorated significantly in respect to international cooperation, trade & investment, and diverging national interests. The catalyst for the latest tensions is the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by a Turkish F-16 fighter. In the aftermath, Russia and Turkey both presented alternate accounts of the event. Moscow claimed its bomber was flying within Syrian airspace, under its military intervention campaign which Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad had requested from Russia. Ankara claims the Su-24 bomber had crossed into Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, and violated repeated messages to alter course, with the Turkish military forced to scramble fighters in response. Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted immediately afterwards with calling the downing a “a stab in the back” , warning of “serious consequences” to the Russian-Turkish relations. Crimea – Tensions across the Sea Prior to this latest impasse between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey, the two countries had been at …

No Man’s Land: The Decline of War and Peace

By Adrian Piecyk “War. War never changes.” It is an undeniably powerful quote, and one that has entered the pop culture lexicon through no shortage of references in video games, film, and literature. But for all the phrase’s topical pithiness, the past decades have proven it wrong time and time again. War changes, and not only does it change, it is transforming at a rate that has left generations of policy-makers and generals dumbfounded and in the occasionally quite literal dust. The long decline into irrelevance of conventional and nuclear military strategies has not only re-imagined how wars are fought, but how a state of war is even defined. The past year’s high-profile terrorist attacks in Paris and resulting mobilization of French military assets are only the most obvious example, with thousands more being killed across the globe in terrorist attacks with nary a single, formal declaration of war to be seen. Yet France’s newfound vigour for intervention is, by this point, decidedly passé when compared to the United States’ global drone campaigns, Russia flexing …

Assessing the Regional Implications of the Iran Nuclear Deal

  By: Cailean Madden Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on The Times of Israel. The Foreign Observer’s editorial team has made minor alterations to the text with the author’s permission to best match the magazine’s style. For the next 50 or so days, the Unites States Congress will review the most -mportant deal on nuclear non-proliferation since the treaties enacted in 1968. This agreement took more than six months to finalize, and now faces the difficult prospect of being enforced. However, the success of this agreement hinges not on what sanctions are to be removed and when, nor on what military restrictions have been imposed. Rather, it depends on what level of influence the West has accepted as reasonable for the Iranians to exert over the Middle East, and maybe more importantly, on how much control America’s regional allies are willing to depart with. Iran remains one of the most worrying examples of where the policy of nuclear non-proliferation has struggled. The regime, especially after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, has remained determined …

Greece: Stuck in Economic Purgatory

  By: Declan Walker  In the past week, it appears that the realities of a Greek exit from the euro – Grexit – have diminished substantially, and a third bailout looks almost inevitable at this point, amidst current negotiations. Although continued austerity is certainly not what the majority of the Greek public wanted, a Grexit may have been just as – if not more – undesirable in the long run. Ultimately, neither a third bailout nor a Grexit are ideal for the Greek economy. The structural fallacies of the eurozone system (i.e. the impossibility of paying off austerity-induced debt absent of any monetary policy tool) is, among other factors, largely responsible for bringing Greece to its current position. However, the reality is that the past can not be undone, and this reality must be calculated into the cost-benefit analysis of determining whether Grexit would have been feasible. If current developments remain constant, and the terms of a third bailout are agreed upon, it would appear that the lesser of two evils will have prevailed. The …

Winning Back the Land: Indigenous Peoples and International Law

By: Claudia Dessanti The relationship that indigenous peoples’ have with their land goes far beyond its monetary and productive value. Land is both a fundamental aspect of the their identity and a necessary means for their cultural and physical survival.  Since the 1970s, the transnational indigenous movement has pushed for greater recognition of their rights on international fora. Gradually, their efforts have produced treaties, UN bodies, and a series of domestic constitutional reforms. Not surprisingly, obtaining the right to access traditional lands forms an integral part of this struggle. The indigenous right to collective land ownership is affirmed by the two main international legal instruments on indigenous peoples’ rights: the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Convention No. 169 (C169), and the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Access to traditional lands has become widely recognized as a fundamental indigenous right. Historically, these lands were taken from indigenous peoples around the world using a combination of force, threats, and deceit. In theory, states agree that what sets these communities apart from other minorities under international law is their special privileges, including land rights, that result from this history. …

Reflecting on the Global Arena

  Recently very little has been going on in the world. The faux conflict in Syria and Iraq has continued while the US has increasingly relied on Iran to support its round mission there. The Pentagon continues to live under some fantasy that Shiites will suddenly agree to share power with Sunni former ISIS Daesh subjects. Expect atrocities, published or not, to occur as Shiite militias occupy more territory. Still this issue will continue to drag on.  The same is true of Ukraine where the Russians have made some progress but not enough to set the world on edge. Major European leaders meanwhile seem one part uninterested and another part impotent. The Pentagon is continuing to languish under sequestration even as it comes up with new designs to make ever higher budget overruns possible. New defense secretary Ashton Carter will have to wrestle with these issues. The US détente with Cuba has made initial progress but is being held up by differences on matters of substance rather than pride for the first time. With a …

Was Obama Sending a Message?

In Defense of Defense: An Attempt to Jolt Europe out of its Stupor Lately there has been a lot of controversy about the failure of any senior US official to travel to Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack. The media has called this “a lapse of judgment” and “a mistake”, but was it really? It seems incredible that everybody in the White House and senior levels of the executive branch would fail to notice a major terrorist attack and the subsequent journey of most NATO leaders to Paris. If high school kids can tell which events everyone is showing up to, why can’t the president’s staff. Of course there is a more intriguing possibility than that of the White House committing an epic mea culpa. For years NATO and the DoD have been urging European countries to pull their weight on national security. Almost none of them spend the official minimum 2% of GDP on defense, much less the roughly 4% the US spends. Currently, the US is in the midst of its …