All posts filed under: Foreign Affairs

The Sykes-Picot Agreement: What Is It? Why Should We Care?

When Vladimir Lenin derides a secret treaty as the machination of “colonial thieves”, there is an incentive to dig a bit further. However, to examine such a document, one must consider how it was situated contextually while extracting the minutiae, structure, tone, and shape it takes on. The Sykes-Picot agreement was first leaked by the ever-scheming ogeavda, and the tepid wording of its contents engendered a legacy of post-occupational strife, subversion, and unrest. It would be speculative of this work to attribute every instance of tension to the treaty, although some of its provisions were to have ingrained ramifications for the Middle East. Bearing this in mind, is the colonial legacy of Sykes-Picot still present in Iraq or Syria, and how does this inform, complement, or crystallize our understanding of the communiqué itself? The Sykes-Picot Agreement has its early formation in the British and French enticement of belligerents in the Arab Revolt (June 1916), promising independent Arab states in exchange for the extrication of Ottoman influence. Mark Sykes, the designer of the Revolt’s flag of …

The Wars To Come: The Future Of Iraq

Earlier this month the last ISIS stronghold has been overrun by coalition forces in the Middle East. While Kurds, Syrians, and Iraqis alike may rejoice in their victory over crazed fanatics, this is not the end of the bloodshed, the misery, and the depravity of the Middle East. For there are many questions still lingering in the realm of the Middle East: There is the Kurdish question, that is, do Kurdish forces have the right to self-determination in constructing their own state? There is the Iraqi question, that is, how will the Sunni north react to the Shia government of Iraq? There is the Syrian question, that is, how and when will the conflict end? In the face of these questions, the penultimate one is: What is the future of the Middle East? One of the principle victories of the coalition intervention of 2003, executed by then-President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair under the guise of American exceptionalism and liberation, was the establishment of a semi-autonomous Kurdish state in the northern area of …

Catalonia, Iraq, and Ambazonia: The Separatist Epidemic

With news of the separatist tensions rising, if not reaching a breaking point altogether, in Catalonia as they pressure Spain to recognize their independence, it must be stated that other regions are facing similar issues as well. Iraq and Ambazonia, two other countries probably more known for their troubles than a first-world, developed, OECD nation like Spain, have issues of their own, with smaller factions looking to assert their autonomy and secede from the jurisdictions of their formal national governments. However, this begs the question: is separatism an epidemic at this point in time, and furthermore, what drives a group to seek their own status as a nation-state in this era?  The Catalan Conflict As tensions spark in the whole world, the one on the cover of most newspapers these past few weeks is the Catalan conflict. But what is Catalonia, and why is it so important? Catalonia ranks as one of Spain’s 10 richest regions with a high GDP, a large concentration of renowned companies’ social headquarters, and constant  tourism. Yet, Catalonia’s different cultural …

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 …

The Deterioration of Diplomacy in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Split

On January 3rd, officials of the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry announced that Iranian ambassadors within the Arab Kingdom have 48 hours to evacuate the country, thereby ceasing formal diplomatic relations between the two nations. This severance of diplomacy between the two Middle Eastern rival states is the direct result of the violent protests against Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other individuals convicted of terrorism charges on January 2nd. The protests culminated in attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad, which had the effect of flaring sectarian tensions between Saudi Arabia—a predominately Sunni state—and its Shiite neighbour. The Islamic Republic’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini warned Saudi Arabian leaders of “divine revenge” in wake of the executions. In conjunction with this declaration, President Hassan Rouhani hastily condemned the embassy attacks on Iran’s state-run television network, yet concurrently criticized Saudi leaders for the executions of the Shia leaders. Sectarian division between the aforementioned nations is not a recent phenomenon: Shia and Sunni Muslims have suffered from antagonistic …

Ordoliberalism and the Fractured European Project

The balance of influence which exists in Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is, on a institutional level, skewed. Structurally, Germany retains a larger degree of clout in the form of veto powers, a reality that can be attributed to the political factors which lead to the EMU’s formation. Germany has utilized their influence to effectively dictate the entire nature of the Eurozone’s economic recovery policy since the onset of the currency area’s crises. Indeed, Germany has exercised its veto power to deny the implementation of policies of fiscal stimulus called for by the periphery economies which sought to combat deflationary pressures by stimulating domestic demand. Germany rationalized its ardent stance against such measures by citing the Maastricht Treaty, which did not grant the European Central Bank (ECB) the powers to act as a ‘lender of last resort’. This strict adherence to rules is reflective of the German free market philosophy of Ordoliberalism— Germany’s own brand of neo-liberalism. Ordoliberalist rhetoric has been ever present in Germany’s political culture, its institutional make-up, and by extension, has also proved to …

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 …

High Politics and Netanyahu’s High Warning

  By: Brian Malczyk   On March 3, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech replete with expansive analogies, bombastic rhetoric, and truisms to Congress. Following the same rhetorical trail as his previous speeches, Netanyahu proclaimed his thanks to President Obama, while proceeding to dismiss the logic of the President’s actions in regards to Iranian nuclear ambitions—paradoxically eroding bipartisan support while extending an olive branch to both sides.  To be fair, his presentation was rather tame, as the prime minister was armed with his words, rather than a vivid diagram presenting the level at which uranium enrichment would pose a regional, and, by extension, international threat. Certainly, a superficial description concerning the domestic and regional policy of the Islamic State of Iran discounted considerations vis-à-vis a domestic electorate, and the dual-power balance between Ayatollah Khameni and President Rouhani, both capable statesmen. Yet, despite all this, the tone of his speech was well placed and deserving of an audience. Regional nuclear monopoly is less of a fait accompli than others believe, and Netanyahu has done well in …