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Ecuador - Mexico flags

Mexico-Ecuador: Coordinates of a diplomatic crisis foretold

by Rafael Velazquez Flores

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском President López Obrador's announcement of the rupture of diplomatic relations with Ecuador marks a turning point in Mexico's foreign policy. Since 1979, the country had not interrupted such a relationship with another nation. In recent years, breaking relations had not been a common practice by Mexico. In the 19th century, Benito Juárez suspended ties with countries that recognized Maximilian's Empire. In the 20th century, the government severed links with the Soviet Union in 1930 for promoting communist ideology; with Spain in 1936 during its Civil War; with the United Kingdom in 1938 after the oil expropriation; with Germany, Japan, and Italy in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor; with Guatemala in 1958 after Guatemalan planes fired on Mexican vessels in the Pacific; in 1974 with Chile after the coup against Salvador Allende, and in 1979 with Nicaragua due to the Somoza dictatorship. But in the last 45 years, the country had not resorted to this practice. The recent announcement was somewhat surprising because Mexico is known for projecting friendly relations with Latin America and is recognized for its defense of peace. Additionally, President López Obrador had proposed to have friendly relations with Latin American countries and adhere to the principle of Non-Intervention. Prior to the rupture with Ecuador, Mexico had been involved in some diplomatic crises with certain Latin American countries. During Vicente Fox's presidency, Mexico expelled the Cuban ambassador in 2004, and later a similar incident occurred with Venezuela, but ties were not broken. In both cases, the level of interaction shifted from Ambassador to Chargé d'affaires. In the current administration, Bolivia and Peru had declared Mexican ambassadors ‘personas non gratas’ and they were recalled. Moreover, Peru announced the same status against President López Obrador. However, in both cases, there was no outright rupture of relations. On the other hand, Mexico has been a generous actor in granting diplomatic asylum to political refugees. For example, the country hosted Leon Trotsky in the 1930s and a significant number of Spaniards fleeing the civil war in that nation. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mexico received hundreds of asylum seekers from South America after military coups in those countries. Even López Obrador granted this status to Evo Morales and offered it to Pedro Castillo, former presidents of Bolivia and Peru respectively. Partly, the origin of the diplomatic crisis between Ecuador and Mexico stemmed from Mexico hosting Jorge Glas, former vice president of Ecuador, accused of corruption, since December 2023. Since the beginning of 2024, the Ecuadorian government requested Mexico to extradite Glas to serve his sentence as he had already been convicted. When the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused and López Obrador criticized Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa's government, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared Mexican Ambassador Raquel Serur ‘persona non grata’. In response, the Mexican government granted political asylum to Jorge Glas. Fearing a possible escape, the Ecuadorian government decided to forcibly enter the Mexican embassy in Quito to arrest Glas. The incident constituted a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states in Article 22 that "the premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them without the consent of the head of the mission." The incident set a negative precedent in inter-American interactions. In response to this action, President López Obrador decided to sever diplomatic relations with Ecuador. The measure represented a milestone in Mexico's foreign policy, but it was consistent with Ecuador's actions. Although Mexico had other options, severing diplomatic relations was the appropriate decision given the gravity of the situation. The possible alternatives the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) had—without the need to completely sever ties—were: 1) sending a protest note to the Ecuadorian government; 2) recalling the Ecuadorian ambassador to Mexico; 3) presenting the case to the Organization of American States (OAS); 4) suing Ecuador to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the UN; 5) breaking diplomatic relations but maintaining consular relations. The first option was too soft from a foreign policy standpoint and might have been ineffective. The second was feasible but not highly impactful. The third is appropriate because the OAS serves to resolve differences among its members. The fourth is the best alternative without the need to sever diplomatic relations. The fifth option could be feasible to avoid leaving the Mexican community in Ecuador unprotected and to not affect the economic and tourism relationship between the two countries. Specifically, a suitable decision was to combine some of the mentioned alternatives; for example: presenting the case to the OAS, suing Ecuador in the ICJ, and maintaining consular relations. However, severance was the decision made due to the gravity of the situation. But it's also important to consider the domestic context. In part, AMLO made that decision for domestic political reasons. Defending sovereignty strengthens his popular support base. His followers see him as the president who defends the nation's sovereignty. Additionally, the measure aids MORENA and Claudia Sheinbaum's electoral campaign by bolstering Mexico's position abroad and domestically. For example, there was broad consensus among the Mexican public. Even the opposition candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, supported the decision. Moreover, the majority of Latin American nations condemned the act and showed solidarity with Mexico. The UN, OAS, and European Union also condemned the violation of international law. Additionally, the United States and Canada expressed displeasure with Ecuador's action. Not all public opinion supported López Obrador's decision. Some criticized Mexico for granting political asylum to a criminal. Similarly, there was an opinion that AMLO's statements – criticizing the Ecuadorian government – constituted a violation of the principle of Non-Intervention and were the cause of the diplomatic crisis between the two countries. In other words, from this perspective, Mexico also bore responsibility for the conflict escalating to the severance of diplomatic relations. Indeed, the Caracas Convention on Diplomatic Asylum of 1954 establishes that a government cannot grant political asylum to a person with a criminal conviction. However, the same instrument states that "it is up to the granting State to qualify the nature of the offense or the reasons for persecution." In other words, Mexico was applying this criterion and decided to grant asylum to Glas. Therefore, there is a divergence on this point. For Ecuador, Mexico could not grant asylum because Glas was a convicted criminal. However, for Mexico, Glas is a politically persecuted individual and, therefore, has the right to asylum. The most appropriate course would have been for Ecuador not to invade the embassy, not to grant Glas safe passage, and to present the case to the ICJ for this body to decide whether he was a criminal or a politically persecuted individual. What factors explain the escalation of the crisis between these two countries—the embassy assault and the rupture of relations? Understanding these decisions requires first knowing the context in Ecuador. Firstly, Daniel Noboa is a young president with little political experience. He is a right-wing businessman who came to power when the previous president established the "cross death," a mechanism that allows for the removal of the Ecuadorian president and the dissolution of the National Assembly. In this context, Noboa is filling the remainder of the former president's term and must leave office in 2025 to call for new elections. Additionally, in recent months, Ecuador experienced a period of intense insecurity when some inmates took over prisons and held the guards as hostages. Drug trafficking, linked to Mexican cartels, has increased in the country. Last year, a presidential candidate was even assassinated. Faced with this situation, President Noboa needed strong actions to consolidate his power and gain legitimacy. However, some groups within Ecuador have criticized the invasion of the Mexican embassy and are calling for his resignation due to his inability to govern. The opposition party criticizes the foreign minister for her lack of diplomatic experience and the minister in charge of the operation, who is of Mexican origin. Both the president and the foreign minister have justified the action based on the possibility of Glas's escape; the consideration that he was a convicted criminal and that the asylum request was illegal; and the defense of Ecuador's dignity. On the other hand, in Mexico, President López Obrador has developed an inconsistent foreign policy towards Latin America. If governments are aligned with his ideology, then there is an amicable treatment. But if they are opposed to his way of thinking, then he criticizes those governments, which constitutes a violation of the principle of Non-Intervention in the internal affairs of another country. In other words, the president applies principles in a discretionary manner. Furthermore, the president has appointed ambassadors in Latin America without diplomatic experience, which contributes to generating conflict in some cases. AMLO's often improvised statements do not contribute to maintaining stable relations with right-wing governments in Latin America. In this administration, three ambassadors were declared ‘personas non gratas’, which represents a failure in the foreign policy strategy. The consequences of the diplomatic relations rupture are broad and negative. For instance, nationals of each country will lack diplomatic protection. In the near future, obtaining visas for travel and trade between both countries may become difficult. Ecuador was exploring the possibility of joining the Pacific Alliance. With what happened, that option is now canceled. Therefore, strengthening Latin American integration may encounter obstacles. The embassy invasion and the diplomatic relations rupture can affect inter-American relations and generate polarization in the region. Cooperation for combating drug trafficking between Mexico and Ecuador may likely halt. Potential joint solutions to Latin American migration to the United States may face obstacles if the incident creates divisions. Ecuador's prestige in the region may be affected by the clear violation of international law. Perhaps not all countries will support Mexico, but they will defend the principle of embassy inviolability. In summary, both parties contributed to the escalation of the conflict. Both Ecuador and Mexico made wrong decisions. However, nothing justifies a country storming an embassy and violating one of the most respected principles of international law. Therefore, Mexico's decision to sever diplomatic relations with Ecuador is justified by the gravity of what happened.

Israel-Palestine conflict in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Political Insights (6): Determinants of the Egyptian Stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood and the Israeli Aggression on Gaza Strip

by ‘Atef al-Joulani

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском An opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), published on 20/3/2024, revealed that only 12% of Palestinians were satisfied with Egypt’s stance during Operation al-Aqsa Flood. The survey results suggest that Egypt’s handling of the situation has weakened its role in the Palestine issue and negatively impacted its image, status and regional role. Determinants of the Egyptian Official Position The Egyptian stance on Operation al-Aqsa Flood was shaped by various determinants and influencing factors, foremost among them: 1. The desire to uphold Egypt’s pivotal role in the Palestine issue was driven by its significance in bolstering Egypt’s regional standing and fostering ties with the US. Throughout recent decades, Egypt has aimed to monopolize influence in Palestinian affairs, thwarting the rise of Arab or regional competitors. This ambition extends particularly to managing mediation efforts between Palestinian resistance and Israel, as well as facilitating Palestinian reconciliation. 2. The Camp David Accords have yielded significant benefits, fostering advanced political, economic and security relations with Israel. These ties have notably strengthened during the tenure of Egyptian President ‘Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 3. The security concern revolves around the potential escalation of sympathetic popular movements for Palestinian resistance, in Egypt and the wider Arab region. There’s apprehension about reigniting the Arab Spring and revitalizing the Arab street, fueled by the profound inspiration from Operation al-Aqsa Flood and the belief in altering the status quo by countering the Zionist project. This sentiment is further compounded by escalating anger over Israeli atrocities in Gaza Strip (GS) and a growing discontent with Arab regimes, either due to perceived neglect of their duty towards Palestine or internal governance failures. 4. Concerns about the significant political and security impact of a potential large-scale displacement of Palestinians from GS to Egyptian territory, which could drag Egypt into conflict with Israel, jeopardize the Camp David Accords, and disrupt the stability of Egyptian-Israeli relations. 5. Ideological reservations within the Egyptian government regarding the Islamic orientation of the Palestinian resistance, particularly amid strained relations with the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (MB) movement and broader skepticism towards Islamic movements in the region. There’s a perception that Egyptian and many Arab officials are hesitant about the victory of the Palestinian resistance in Operation al-Aqsa Flood, fearing potential destabilizing effects on Egypt’s internal dynamics and the broader Islamic movement presence in the region. 6. The Egyptian official stance in the Palestinian landscape is characterized by strong alignment with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its political objectives. Egypt maintains cautious and unfavorable relations with Hamas, showing reservations towards its resistance efforts and its inclination to maintain an independent stance and political autonomy in managing relations with Egypt and other Arab and regional entities. 7. The Egyptian economy has been grappling with a deteriorating economic crisis, marked by the sharp depreciation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar. This situation prompted urgent foreign intervention to stabilize the economy. Notably, on 23/2/2023, Egypt signed a $35 billion deal with the UAE for the Ras al-Hekma development project. Further assistance came from the European Union, which announced a substantial financial support package for Egypt worth €7.4 billion for 20242027, including $2 billion in emergency funding slated for disbursement in 2024. 8. The geopolitical determinant lies in Egypt’s control over the Rafah crossing, the sole land access point for GS to the outside world. This control has served as a potent pressure tool on both Gaza’s resistance factions and its populace, contributing to the tightening of the GS siege since 2007. During Operation al-Aqsa Flood, this control exacerbated accusations against Egypt, alleging complicity in the siege, exacerbating suffering and scarcity, while Israeli aggression targets the GS population and resistance. Facets of Egypt’s Official Position on Operation al-Aqsa Flood By observing Egypt’s actions in handling Operation al-Aqsa Flood, the following facets emerge: 1. Politically, Egypt adhered to the resolutions set forth in the joint Arab and Islamic summit held in Riyadh on 11/11/2023, advocating for an end to Israeli aggression against GS and the facilitation of aid entry, although without specified follow-up mechanisms for implementation. 2. Egypt enforced the closure of the Rafah crossing and aligned with Israel’s stance opposing aid flow to GS, despite the crossing being under Egyptian-Palestinian jurisdiction, and the Israeli side has no authority over it. This marked a direct challenge to Egyptian sovereignty, as practical control over the crossing shifted to Israel, granting it sole authority over individual movement and aid entry. Egypt is increasingly apprehensive about the US decision to establish a seaport for Gaza aid, fearing it may diminish Egypt’s influence and control over aid entry via the Rafah crossing. 3. Egyptian authorities pressured Palestinian resistance movements to concede on prisoner exchange deals with Israel, pushing for exclusive Egyptian mediation while attempting to sideline competing mediation efforts, especially the Qatari mediation. Despite Egypt’s desire to monopolize the mediation, Qatar successfully entered the fray, becoming a favored mediator by the United States. 4. Egypt has actively opposed Israeli plans to displace GS residents to Egyptian territory, reinforcing security measures at the Rafah crossing. Diaa Rashwan, the chairperson of the Egyptian State Information Service stated, on 16/2/2024, that such displacement constitutes “a direct threat to Egyptian sovereignty and national security.” 5. During the initial days, Egyptian authorities permitted certain popular events condemning the Israeli war on GS. However, they subsequently enforced stringent measures to curb public protests sympathetic to the Palestinians, leading to a noticeable silence on the Egyptian streets. This repression contrasts with past instances where the Egyptian public reacted to lesser events in Palestinian affairs. Conclusion Operation al-Aqsa Flood’s political and field developments have cast a negative impact on Egypt’s role in the Palestine issue and its regional standing. Accusations have surfaced regarding Egypt’s cooperation with Israel in tightening the GS siege. There’s little indication of a significant shift in Egypt’s stance or political strategies regarding the ongoing war. Politically, Egypt is likely to maintain its adherence to the established official Arab and Islamic stance, over which it holds significant influence in shaping. It’s anticipated that Egypt will persist with its current policies regarding the closure of the Rafah crossing and tying aid entry to Israeli approval. Regarding its engagement with Palestinian resistance groups, particularly with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Egyptian authorities are expected to maintain a cautious and conservative stance. There’s little anticipation for a positive shift in Egypt’s position regarding permitting pro-resistance public events or condemning Israeli aggression against GS.

Defense & Security
The flag of Russia painted on a wall. Military cooperation between Russia and North Korea

Russia and North Korea: Current State and Prospects of Relations

by Konstantin Asmolov

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea, or the DPRK, which has been under discussion since January 2024, could not only be perceived as a reciprocal visit after the North Korean leader’s visit to the Russian Far East in the fall of 2023 but also as an extremely important step in bolstering relations between Moscow and Pyongyang. Vladimir Putin visited North Korea in 2020, and along with the inter-Korean summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000, this was a landmark event that allowed the DPRK to overcome its foreign policy isolation and Russia to embark on its “pivot to the East.” One could say that the Russian president’s visit to a country, which the Collective West had brandished as a “pariah” state, was a demonstration of Moscow’s reluctance to join the collective condemnation of the Pyongyang regime. Russian-North Korean relations have seen both ups and downs due to Russia’s view on the DPRK’s aspiration to join the nuclear club. On the one hand, Moscow understands Pyongyang’s position, but on the other hand, it does not accept it because it would destroy the existing world order built on the authority of the UN and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Moscow has rather tried to play by the established international rules, and although Russian and U.S. diplomats could argue at length about the extent of sanctions following another nuclear test or missile launch, the idea that every step by the DPRK toward becoming a nuclear power would generate opposition was never questioned. However, since the late 2000s and even more so since the early 2010s, the world has been moving towards a new model of the world order, or rather, it has been a gradual transformation of the old one. The confrontation between the “Collective West” and the “Global South” intensified; the UN and other structures began to turn into a system of justifying double standards, losing the role of an impartial arbiter; and war began making its comeback to politics. In this precarious environment, we see the malfunction of the accepted mechanisms and, although the contours of the new world order have not yet been defined, many elements of the traditional structure of global security are losing their significance. The common political, economic and information space is giving way to the era of blocs, which, due to the competition in the Russia-China-U.S. triangle, inevitably affect Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. In the meantime, the “Asian NATO,” which was being formed after the trilateral summit in Camp David, seeks to justify its existence by a hypothetical alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang or Pyongyang and Beijing, positioned as an alliance of authoritarian regimes threatening democracy and democratic values. Meanwhile, this cooperation is unproven, to put it mildly, and it is based on innuendos or facts that at best (highly likely) can be regarded as circumstantial rather than direct evidence. Note that the intensification of speculations about some secret arms deals between Moscow and Pyongyang did not begin on the eve of Kim Jong-un’s visit to Russia. This narrative has been on since June-August 2023, against the backdrop of the apparent failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had suffocated from a shortage of ammunition, among other reasons. This is why the campaign could be viewed as putting pressure on Seoul to reconsider its policy on the supply of ammunition and lethal weapons to Ukraine. In this context, one of the options for further unfolding of events is the so-called “self-fulfilling prophecy” coming true, when cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang may become a response to the actions of their adversaries within the framework of the “security dilemma.” North Korean statements in late 2023 and early 2024 about a radical change in inter-Korean policy and rejection of the unification paradigm caused a stir in expert circles and were even positioned as preparations for a forceful solution to the inter-Korean problem, even though it was more like a model of “non-peaceful coexistence” – something similar to the Soviet-American confrontation in the Cold War era. Meanwhile, South Korean President Yun Seok-yol’s speech in honor of the March First Movement for Independence in 2024, where he actually declared that the liberation of Korea would be fully accomplished only after the elimination of the DPRK, which should take place with the help of the international community, went virtually unnoticed, although in terms of inflaming regional tensions this was a much more serious step. As a result, a more substantial revision of Moscow’s policy toward Pyongyang is expected from the Russian president’s visit to North Korea. The most radical forecasts concern the legitimization of military or military-technological cooperation and, more importantly, Russia’s withdrawal from the regime of international sanctions against the DPRK. As preliminary steps in this direction, Western experts refer to Russia’s position in the UN Security Council, where it first blocked the attempts of the United States and its satellites to further increase sanctions pressure on Pyongyang, and then, using its veto, paralyzed the official group of experts that formally monitored the sanctions regime and its violations that, in fact, proved to be nothing else than another instrument of pressure and name-calling. In this context, Russia’s withdrawal from the sanction regime seems logical, but Moscow is now seriously weighing the risks. On one side of the scale is the benefit of expanding cooperation with the DPRK, as many of its areas are currently blocked by sanctions. On the other is restrictions through the UN, since a situation when a permanent member of the Security Council, which voted in favor of sanctions, openly violates the relevant resolution, will clearly become a reason for a new round of pressure. The arguments that Russia as an aggressor should be expelled from the UN or deprived of its veto power periodically leak into the public domain, and these will have to be reckoned with. That is why Russia’s position currently boils down to the fact that it is against new sanctions, but intends to comply with the old ones, although proceeding from the principle of “what is not forbidden is allowed.” Therefore, when speaking about further expansion of cooperation between the two nations, it is necessary to divide this cooperation into several levels of involvement, the depth of each to depend on a whole set of factors. First of all, the level of confrontation between Russia and the Collective West, the regional situation in Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula, and, to a much lesser extent, on the military and political situation on Russia’s borders. It is not quite likely that Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un sign a number of documents “on the transition to the next level” straight off. Rather, this will be a matter of developing a road map, where a system of cooperation will be worked out in advance, depending on the further development of the situation, with preliminary preparations being made first. The first level of cooperation involves advances in existing areas for collaboration – their intensification is already clearly visible from the increased contacts between the two states in certain areas. First of all, this is the search for ways of economic cooperation that would not violate sanctions or exploit the “gray zones,” at best, to avoid direct accusations. Such work is carried out, including through an intergovernmental commission. The intensification of economic ties, which Western experts pass off as the consequences of the “arms deal,” indirectly proves this, since we are talking about the movement of ships with unknown cargo on board. Second, it is the further development of transportation and communication infrastructure: we can expect not only the construction of a cross-border road bridge and the emergence of a regular railroad service, but also the arrival of Russian cellular communications in the DPRK or the connection of certain segments of the DPRK to the Russian Internet. It is not a question of replacing the existing intranet with something more, but those who have the right or ability to go online will do better. At the same time, cooperation of hacker groups or the training of North Korean specialists in such things will not be possible at the current level of cooperation, but only at the next level, where both countries will be galvanized by a common threat. Third, there are prospects for cooperation in technology. Yet, so far, we’ve been talking not so much about transferring offensive military technologies to the North, but rather about North Korean satellites being launched on Russian carrier rockets, for example, or Russian computing power helping calculate the processes by which a nuclear test will be dictated only by political rather than technological necessity. Fourth, there are prospects for cooperation in tourism, which does not fall under sanctions, given that the DPRK has been investing in attempts to create appropriate infrastructure organized according to European standards. The first group of tourists has already started visiting the DPRK, and if the “first pancake” is not a blob, more tourists will flock to the DPRK from Russia than even from China, as the Chinese have not been visiting Pyongyang too eagerly, despite the fact that the tourist cluster in Wonsan and the modernized cluster in the Kumgang Mountains were originally intended for them. Finally, cooperation in education, healthcare, sports, and culture is very important. Contacts at the level of ministers or their deputies are the clearest sign of diplomatic activity intensification in the spring of 2024. In the future, it may even be a question of saturating North Korean medical centers with Russian equipment or opening a branch of a Russian hospital in Pyongyang with Russian medical staff and modern equipment, designed not only for Russians or other foreigners, but also for the local population. The next level of engagement implies that Moscow and Pyongyang may enter into covert cooperation that violates the sanctions regime but does not directly disregard the UN resolution. Here, it is primarily a matter of using North Korean labor, which has earned a good reputation for its combination of value for money, the lack of criminal inclinations, and relative invisibility not only in Russia’s Far East. Some Russian officials have already announced their desire to import North Korean construction workers, so some Western experts have already accused the countries of organizing such cooperation under the guise of importing students, for example, who, according to Russian law, have the right to work part-time. Other potential areas of cooperation include increased supplies of energy or prohibited dual-use goods that would nevertheless be used for peaceful purposes. In essence, everything that the Western media and biased experts have long accused Moscow and Pyongyang of doing would finally become a reality at this stage. The next level of engagement implies that Russia may bluntly despise the sanctions regime in favor of a full-scale cooperation with the North, including in the military-technical domain. In particular, North Korean construction workers may openly travel to Russia’s Far East under this arrangement. As for military-technical cooperation, Russian carriers will then start launching satellites for dual or military purposes, plus Moscow may start transferring something useful to Pyongyang – more likely elements of technology rather than military equipment. In the extreme case, we could talk about single samples as prototypes for subsequent localization. The same may apply to the transfer of North Korean technologies to Russia, not so much as direct supplies of weapons or armaments, but rather as the creation of opportunities for screwdriver assembly or other options of creating equipment clones. Theoretically, it is possible that the DPRK, while rearming its military units and switching from old to new equipment – for example, from 152 mm caliber to 155 mm caliber – will be dropping “obsolete ammunition” to Russia. However, such options look highly unlikely, because the possibility of an inter-Korean conflict is not going anywhere, and the experience of the North Korean Defense Forces shows how quickly peacetime ammunition stocks are depleted in the event of their use by the standards of a full-scale military conflict rather than a local skirmish. The final level of cooperation, where all restrictions are lifted, can only be possible in case of extreme necessity, as the author believes, because it is associated with too high a level of associated risks. Thus, despite the fact that some representatives of Russia’s patriotic camp would like to take literally the statement that “Russia and the DPRK are in the same trench,” any option of internationalization of the conflict on the Russian side, in the author’s opinion, is not worth the consequences. First, it opens the door for similar actions on either side, which is fraught with volunteers from NATO appearing in sufficient numbers. Second, this would cause logistical and communication problems. Third, a significant part of the Russian mass consciousness will perceive such a step as a weakness of the Kremlin, failing to complete the SMO without external assistance. That is why the author believes that the consequences of the Russian president’s visit to the DPRK are unlikely to have a quick and direct impact on the course of the special military operation. Moreover, in any case, the implementation of the summit decisions will take some time, and the more extensive they are, the more time will be needed to put them into practice. And given the international situation, it will be difficult to separate the long-term consequences of the summit from the reaction to a possible change in the current situation. Anyway, when Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea takes place, this will be a landmark demonstration of the new level of relations between the two nations and Moscow’s diplomatic support for Pyongyang. Specific agreements may well be classified as secret, which is why “Scheherazade stops the allowed speeches,” preferring to deal with the analysis of events that have already taken place.

Former President Rouhani in meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

Iran's shadow in South America: the foreign policy of the ayatollahs' regime in the region

by María Gabriela Fajardo Mejía , Mario Marín Pereira Garmendia

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском The events in the Middle East have the international community on alert. Iran understood the April 1st attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus as a blow to its own territory and a violation of its sovereignty. After several days of threats, on April 13th and for five hours, Iran used 300 projectiles (170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles) to attack Israeli territory, 99% of which were intercepted. These movements in the geopolitical scenario can be felt in geographically distant regions such as Latin America. To interpret this new scenario, it is necessary to understand how Iran is currently positioned in this region. Its approach to the region is focused on creating ties with states that may be ideologically sympathetic. This is demonstrated by the relationship with Cuba since the end of the first Gulf War, the close relationship with Venezuela, the closeness with Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship in Nicaragua and with Bolivia since the mandate of Evo Morales. Iran has seen the leftward shifts in Latin America as an opportunity to acquire new trading partners, increase its influence in the region and carve out an increasingly important space in the US backyard. Current Iranian Minister of Defense, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, stressed that “South American countries have a special place in Iran’s foreign and defense policy because they are located in a very sensitive area”. In this sense, we can highlight two key countries: Bolivia and Venezuela. Bolivia, Argentina, and the Triple Frontier Bolivia represents the greatest Iranian foreign policy success in Latin America. Diplomatic relations between these two states date back to 2007. With less than twenty years of friendship, the two signed in July 2023 a memorandum of bilateral cooperation in terms of security and defense that may pose a threat to the stability in the region. The agreement is aimed at assisting Bolivia in its fight against drug trafficking and supporting the state in monitoring its borders. The agreement includes the sale of material and training of military personnel. However, the details of the agreement were not disclosed because they are protected by a confidentiality clause. The Bolivian Minister of Defense, Edmundo Novillo, described Iran as a scientific, technological, security and defense example “for nations that want to be free”, despite the current international sanctions. The agreement entails benefits for both parties. Bolivia will receive weapons, will improve its cyber-operations capabilities and training of military forces’ personnel. On the other hand, Iran will have access to Bolivia’s natural resources, including lithium and gas. It would also be strategically positioned in the heart of South America, where its proxy, Hezbollah, has activities in the Triple Frontier (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay) and a relationship with the various cartels operating in the region, according to a report by the Wilson Center. This same report notes that the area of the Triple Frontier has for decades been the center of Iranian and Hezbollah activity in Latin America, taking advantage of the large Lebanese and Shiite diaspora communities. According to the late Argentinian special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Hezbollah established its presence in Latin America in the mid-1980s, starting in the Triple Frontier area, a relatively lawless region. Argentina and the AMIA case Two days before the Iranian attack on Israel, the Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation of Argentina, the highest criminal court in the country, condemned Iran for the 1992 attacks in Argentina against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 against the Israelite Mutual Association of Argentina (AMIA, in Spanish). This ruling proves that the attacks, carried out by the terrorist group Hezbollah, were committed at the behest of the government of that theocracy. After the trial in absentia, it was ratified that those attacks constitute a crime against humanity. This implies that the crimes committed are considered imprescriptible, and the verdict describes Iran as a terrorist state. A series of events has resulted in three decades of impunity. The scandals that led to the imprisonment of the judge and prosecutors in the case, the issuance of Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) red notices against five former Iranian officials and the investigation against two former presidents, Carlos Menem (1989-99) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-15), torpedoed the process. These events, along with the death under strange circumstances of the special prosecutor for the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, hours before presenting key evidence to the Congress in 2015, explained the delay in the sentencing against Iran. Brazil and the Operation Trapiche In November 2023, the Brazilian Federal Police in collaboration with the Mossad and the FBI carried out Operation Trapiche, which led to the apprehension of three Brazilian nationals. An international arrest warrant was also issued for Mohamad Khir Abdulmajid (Syrian) and Haissam Houssim Diab (Lebanese), accused of recruiting for Hezbollah in Brazil for terrorist purposes. Operation Trapiche was carried out as part of the fight against electronic cigarette smuggling in the Triple Frontier area. The profits from this fraudulent trade were destined to finance illicit activities of the Commercial Affairs Component of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization. Following the events in the Middle East over the last two weeks and Argentina’s full support for Israel, Argentinian Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, has expressed her concern about the security on the border with Bolivia and has denounced the presence of 700 Iranian members of the Quds forces, a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard., in this country. Bullrich believes that Argentina could be subject to retaliation by Iran. The causes of this fear include the recent ruling condemning Iran as a terrorist state for the AMIA case and the announcement by the president, Javier Milei, of the decision to move the Argentinian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Not to mention the purchase of 26 supersonic F16 aircraft from Denmark, as well as the request to NATO to add Argentina as a “global partner of the organization”. Venezuela Bilateral relations between Venezuela and Iran have been fortified through a series of agreements implemented in recent years in response to the economic sanctions faced by both states. During the visit of Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, to Caracas in June 2023, 25 economic agreements worth approximately US $3,000 million were signed. Details were not disclosed. A year earlier, in June 2022, a cooperation agreement was established for the next 20 years covering science, technology, agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, tourism and culture. In the same year, Iran signed a contract for 110 million euros to repair and reactivate the El Palito refinery, located in the state of Carabobo, which has a production capacity of 146,000 barrels per day. Thus, despite the tough economic sanctions, the operation of “extraterritorial refineries” increases Venezuela’s dependence (also under economic sanctions) on Iranian crude and oil expertise. Regarding the arms sector, while the cooperation memorandum with Bolivia was being signed, an Iranian cargo ship allegedly arrived at Venezuelan shores to deliver vehicles to the Maduro regime. A few days later, Iranian fast attack vessels and anti-ship missiles were exhibited during the bicentennial celebrations of the Venezuelan Navy. Thus, Iran has made possible that Venezuela becomes the first Latin American country to have access to this technology. On the eve of the Venezuelan presidential elections scheduled for July, the Iranian regime has supported the persecution and disqualification of opponents of the Maduro regime to the detriment of the Barbados Agreement. Indeed, it is in Iran’s interest to maintain the status quo in Venezuela, whose regime publicly supports terrorist groups linked to the Ayatollah’s regime. In short, Iran’s interest in maintaining and establishing close cooperative relations in Latin America seek to create ties of dependence with nations sympathetic to the regime. While the international community is on alert for the situation in the Middle East, Iran, which has been gaining ground in the region through alliances with those governments where the influence of the United States is not desired, is closely watching the stance taken by Latin American countries.

Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India during a roadshow ahead of the Lok Sabha election 2024 in Guwahati India on Tuesday April 16, 2024.

India 2024: anatomy of an election

by Julio Sotes

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Last March 16th, the Election Commission of India informed the public media about the schedule for the upcoming legislative elections in the country for the period 2024-2029. However, this announcement does not mark the beginning of the Indian electoral process, as since 2023, different national political parties had been shaping their candidates and, in some cases, initiating their political campaigns in preparation for the elections. The schedule, announced by the electoral authority, is divided into seven phases, and will be extended from April 19th, 2024, until June 1st of the same year, with vote counting taking place on June 4th. India’s independence from the British Colonial Empire in 1947 marked the beginning of a profound process of political, economic, and social transformations that determined the life of the society and the surrounding countries. The founding fathers of the country, not without setbacks, promoted the drafting and subsequent approval of a constitution that recognized the secular character of the country, reinforcing the idea of a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multi-religious India. Additionally, in the text, the foundations of the country's political system were declared, and consequently, its electoral system. India’s political and electoral system: General aspects India is a federal parliamentary democratic republic, so its political system is a combination of the parliamentary and presidential systems with a greater emphasis on the parliamentary system, where the President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The President is elected by an Electoral College composed of members of Parliament and cannot act without the approval of the Council of Ministers, who are chosen by the Prime Minister. This is why the Prime Minister is more important than the President. The Indian Parliament is bicameral, meaning it consists of the ‘Lok Sabha’ (House of the People or Lower House) and the ‘Rajya Sabha’ (Council of States or Upper House). The ‘Rajya Sabha’ comprises 238 members, representing the States and the Union Territories, and 12 members designated by the President. Candidates are elected by the Legislative Assembly of the States and Union Territories through the single transferable vote system via proportional representation. On the other hand, the Members of Parliament of the ‘Lok Sabha’ are elected every five years directly by the electorate; the Prime Minister is typically the leader of the party with the most seats in the ‘Lok Sabha’. The party which has the majority of the 543 seats in the Lower House of Parliament can form a government and appoint a Prime Minister from among its winning candidates. In case that no party holds a simple majority, different parties form coalitions until they acquire the necessary number of seats to elect a Prime Minister. [1] While some alliances are formed before elections, many alliances are negotiated after results are announced and may even change during a government's term. The legal framework to conduct elections specifies that the supervision, direction, control, preparations, and behavior of the elections shall be established in the Election Commission, independently of the incumbent government (Article 324). The Election Commission also establishes the principle of adult suffrage (Article 326) and makes a general stipulation regarding the reservation of seats for backward castes, tribes, and the so-called Anglo-Indians (Articles 330-333). A person is qualified to be a candidate for election if they are over 25 years old for the ‘Lok Sabha’ and 30 for the ‘Rajya Sabha’, in addition to being a voter in a parliamentary constituency (Times of India, 2024b). The seats are distributed among the states in proportion to their population: more people mean more seats. Approximately 25% of the seats are constitutionally reserved for members from two disadvantaged communities: the Scheduled Castes (SC), also known as Dalits, and the Scheduled Tribes (ST), which represent India’s tribal populations or Adivasis. Eighty-four seats are reserved for SC candidates, and forty-seven seats are reserved for ST candidates (Times of India, 2024a). In these electoral constituencies, only candidates from the protected groups can participate in the elections, although all eligible adults can cast their votes. Although the Indian Parliament recently passed a new measure to reserve one-third of legislative seats for women, the implementation of this law has been postponed until after 2024. 2014 and 2019 general elections in India. A comparative analysis India’s unique characteristics make any political process there highly complex. The extensive geographical dimension, the contrasts between different climates and terrains, the remote nature of settlements, especially in mountainous regions, and the challenge posed by large, overpopulated cities, make election, whether state or general, become an event of immense proportions. In fact, general elections in India are considered the largest political, democratic, and logistical exercise in the world. In the electoral process of 2014, according to the numbers published by the Pew Research Center, there were 788 million voters, including nearly 150 million who would have been eligible to vote for the first time. In a survey conducted by the same Center between December 2013 and January 2014, the Indian public, by a three-to-one margin, preferred the BJP over the then-ruling INC. Additionally, 60% of the respondents stated they had a very favorable opinion of Modi, while only 23% held the same opinion about Rahul Gandhi, the INC candidate (Stokes, 2014). From April 7th to May 12th, 2014, the Sixteenth General Elections were held in India, they were divided into ten stages across the country's 35 states and Union Territories. Voting took place for representatives from 543 constituencies, with 412 for the general population (General), 84 for the Scheduled Castes, and 47 for the Scheduled Tribes. The total number of candidates for these constituencies was 8,251, of which 7,577 were men, 668 were women, and 6 were "others". The average number of candidates per constituency was 15. There were 927,553 polling stations distributed across the country. The electoral roll consisted of 834,082,814 citizens, with 553,020,648 voters participating, reaching an effective electoral participation rate of 66.30% (Moreno Hernández, 2015). The BJP campaign, which presented Narendra Modi for the first time as its strongest candidate for Prime Minister of the country, was characterized by building an image around Modi as the "development man" — the man who would facilitate comprehensive development in India, having successfully implemented his governance model for over 10 years as Chief Minister in Gujarat. The campaign capitalized on popular discontent and sought to focus its message on the upper and middle classes, as well as the youth, through a developmental discourse that extensively utilized information technologies such as social media and unprecedented media bombardment in India at that time. Modi personally addressed over 400 rallies in a span of 7 months, traveling more than 300,000 kilometers to participate in nearly 200 campaign events, while the holographic projections of his figure and broadcasts of his speeches reached nearly all Indian constituencies (Muralidharan, 2014), effectively transforming the parliamentary campaign into what resembled a presidential-style elections. On May 16th, 2014, the total vote count was conducted. The results showed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the BJP, as the clear winner, securing most of the constituencies, specifically 336 out of 543, which represents 61.8% of the total seats. It is noteworthy that the BJP alone won 282 seats, accounting for 31.34% of the total votes, meaning that out of the 834,082,814 citizens eligible to vote, only 171,660,230 decided to cast their ballots in favor of the BJP. However, the indisputable victory of the right-wing requires a deeper analysis, as the outcome in 2014 does not compare to the 1984 elections when the Congress Party won 414 seats. This highlights the need for caution when referring to the "orange wave" as a pan-Indian phenomenon (Moreno Hernández, 2015). Voter turnout in Indian elections tends to be high: the parliamentary elections of 2019 saw a 67% turnout of the total eligible population. Votes are cast electronically in over a million polling stations, requiring around 15 million employees during voting. To reach all possible voters in villages and isolated islands in the Himalayas, electoral officials travel by any means available, including trains, helicopters, horses, and boats. In 2019, the elections took place in seven phases between April 11th and May 19th, with all votes being counted on May 23rd. Typically, the first phase of elections is held in a specific set of geographic regions, and subsequent phases gradually move across the country to cover other regions. Without primary elections, party leaders have complete control over the nomination of their candidates. If candidates fail to secure the party endorsement, they may run as independents, putting them at a disadvantage compared to party-backed candidates. Out of 543 Members of Parliament elected in 2019, only four were independent candidates (Roy-Chaudhury, 2019). While they are considered the elections with the highest number of voters in the world, due to being the most populous country globally, this exercise is also considered one of the most expensive. According to studies, in the 2019 elections, political parties spent over $7 billion. Specifically, parties and candidates spent approximately $8.7 billion to attract more than 900 million eligible voters (Roy-Chaudhury, 2019). Regarding the total number of candidates fielded and the electoral roll, in 2019, 8,054 candidates representing 673 parties contested the elections to have the opportunity to become Members of Parliament. Nearly 615 million people (67.4% of Indians) voted in 2019: this was the highest voter turnout recorded. For the first time in history, the persistent gender gap between male and female participation disappeared. In these elections, the ‘Bharatiya Janata Party’ (BJP), in power since 2014, increased its strength by 21 seats to 303 in the ‘Lok Sabha’, securing 38.55% of the votes cast. The number of seats won by its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) also rose to 350, but fell short of a two-thirds majority, and its percentage of votes increased to 45%. In monetary terms, the BJP received over 73% of the declared donations from India's largest political parties in 2017-2018 and over 94.5% of the electoral bonds, totaling at least £19 million. Overall, it is estimated that all political parties spent a total of over £6.7 billion, more than three times the cost of the United States presidential elections in 2016 (Roy-Chaudhury, 2019). Mistakes made by the principal opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), led to it winning only 52 seats out of 545, just eight more than in the 2014 elections. This was a result of differences among political leaders within the organization, a complacent approach to its program in the elections, betting on its voters repeating the trend of rejecting the incumbent government, and a refusal to accept pre-electoral alliances with regional parties in key States (Roy-Chaudhury, 2019). India’s 2024 General election: approximations On March 16th, 2024, the Election Commission of India publicly announced the schedule for the ‘Lok Sabha’ elections to appoint the 543 seats. This schedule will be implemented nationwide in seven phases, from April 19th to June 1st, with the vote count taking place on June 4th, including assembly elections, by-polls, and general elections. The current government’s term ends on June 16th, 2024 (Hindustan Times, 2024a). Additionally, the data provided reveals that in this political process, the electoral roll amounts to a total of 968.8 million voters, of which 497 million are men and 471 million are women. It was also reported that 18.4 million voters fall in the age group of 18 to 19 years, 26.3 million are new voters, and 48,044 are senior citizens.  Source: The Times of India Similarly, according to the mandate of the Supreme Court of India, data related to electoral bonds issued to each contesting party between April 12th, 2019, and January 11th, 2024, were published. The figures revealed that the largest recipient of donations was the BJP, and the largest national donor was the company Future Gaming and Hotel Services. This company accounted for bonds worth 1,365 million rupees distributed among several parties. The second-largest donor was Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) with 966 million rupees, of which 60.5% went to the BJP. In financial terms, the BJP received a total of 6,061 million rupees, with MEIL being its largest donor, followed by Qwik Supply Chain and Vedanta. For the INC, the largest donor was Vedanta with 125 million rupees, followed by Western UP Power Transmission Company Limited and MJK Enterprise, amounting to a total of 1,422 million rupees (Hindustan Times, 2024b). Currently, in India, there are two main coalitions competing in the 2024 general elections: the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), both of which include several parties. The NDA, led by the BJP, is a coalition of right-wing conservative parties formally established in 1998 to counter the then-dominant INC. Prominent parties in the alliance include the National People's Party (NPP), Shiv Sena, Janata Dal, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Janata Dal, Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP), and the currently dominant Bharatiya Janata Party since 2014. The candidate for prime minister is the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has stated the intention of securing over 400 seats for the NDA in these elections (Mint, 2024). The INDIA bloc was formed in 2023 by 26 opposition parties. It is currently led by the president of the INC, Mallikarjun Kharge, who is also the leader of the opposition in the Upper House of the Parliament. Other parties comprising the bloc include the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (WION, 2024).  Source: Hindustan Times On Friday, April 5th, the INC released its manifesto, this time focusing on equity, youth, women, farmers, workers, the Constitution, the economy, federalism, national security, and the environment. Its 2019 counterpart, mainly focused on the economy and livelihoods, also committing to cover government contracts and eliminate regulations to start a business. It also promised a budget for farmers and pledged to make the non-payment of agricultural loans a civil crime (Hindustan Times, 2024c). On the other hand, for the 2019 general elections, the BJP's electoral manifesto (Sankalp Patra) addressed issues related to nationalism, agriculture, infrastructure, governance, and zero tolerance towards terrorism. Similarly, commitments to amending the citizenship law to protect religious minorities from neighboring countries and the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution addressing the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and its change to a semi-autonomous position were fulfilled during the party's and Modi's mandate over the last 5 years. In the 2019 manifesto, the BJP also promised a pension scheme for all small and marginalized farmers in the country, a macroeconomic stability, as well as job generation and gender equality (Hindustan Times, 2024c) Final Considerations The main surveys point to the BJP with Modi at the helm as the primary winning force in the elections. While the intention of both his party and the alliance he leads to conquer more than 400 seats is somewhat ambitious and hasn't been achieved since 1984 when the INC won 144 seats, the NDA is poised as the clear winner in these elections. On the other hand, India is divided by rivalries, political defections, and ideological clashes. "Analysts say that discussions about the allocation of seats within the alliance have cooled off, partly due to the demands of the Congress Party to field its own candidates in most seats, even in states where it is weak" (Agrawal and Anand, 2024). The truth is that the 2024 elections in India are shaping up as an exercise where the BJP and its coalition appear as clear winners. At the same time, it is very challenging for opposition leaders and parties to confront Modi, who after 10 years of national governance and 13 years of state administration, has demonstrated mostly successful implementation of his governance model. The INC and INDIA start from a very disadvantaged position when facing an overwhelming media machinery, a government that promotes laws to silence opposition, thus playing on favorable ground. Additionally, it's worth noting the growing popularity of the Prime Minister, who ranks as one of the most popular leaders worldwide with a 78% national approval rating. In a politically and religiously polarized India, where the government has been promoting an economic, social, and religious agenda aligned with the leading party for the past 10 years, and with a powerful technological and media mechanism, it is unthinkable to imagine that Modi will not secure his third consecutive term at the helm of the country. References Agrawal, Aditi y Anand, Utkarsh (2024). Electoral bonds: Donor-party link public after SC push. Hindustan Times. Mint (2024). BJP’s first list of candidates for Lok Sabha elections 2024 to be out today. Rai, Indrajeet (2024). How BJP’s strenghts and weakness match up with Congress’s. Times of India. Times of India (2024b). Congress releases fourth list of 46 candidates for Lok Sabha polls. Wion (2024). Lok Sabha Elections 2024: List of parties competing in the upcoming polls. Moreno Hernández, Dulce J. (2015). De Gujarat a India: Análisis de la trayectoria política y candidatura a Primer Ministro de Narendra Modi. Tesis de Maestría en Estudios de Asia y áfrica, Centro de Estudios de Asia y África, Colegio de México. Stokes, Bruce (2014). Indians’ support for Modi, BJP shows an itch for change. Pew Research Center. Molina Medina, Norbert y Duarte Peña, Juan J. (2015). Narendra Modi y la India de hoy (Primera Parte). Universidad de Los Andes, Centro de Estudios de África, Asia y Diásporas Latinoamericanas y Caribeñas “José Manuel Briceño Monzillo”. Muralidharan, Sukumar (2014). Modi, media and the feel-good effect. Himal Southasian. Roy-Chaudhury, Rahul (2019). Modi’s return as prime minister of ‘New India’. International Institute for Strategic Studies. Hindustan Times (2024a). Lok Sabha Election 2024 Highlights: Polls begin on April 19, results on June 4; MCC kicks in. Times of India (2024a). Lok Sabha elections: BJP releases fifth list of candidates, fields Kangana Ranaut, Naveen Jindal. Hindustan Times (2024b). BJP’s 5th candidates list for Lok Sabha election: Kangana Ranaut from Mandi, Arun Govil from Meerut. Hindustan Times (2024c). In 2019, Congress’s manifesto primarily focused on economy, livelihoods. [1] An important feature of the process of electing the Prime Minister of India is that all candidates must be a member of the ‘Lok Sabha’ or ‘Rajya Sabha’, which means the candidate must contest elections to secure a seat representing a particular locality.

Yeouido, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, South Korea - July 18, 2021: National Assembly building

Parliamentary elections in the Republic of Korea and their possible impacts

by Ruvislei González Sáez

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Introduction The recent parliamentary elections held in the Republic of Korea on April 10th, 2024, with the purpose of forming the XXII Legislature of the National Assembly, have had a significant political significance almost halfway through the current president’s term, Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative People Power Party (PPP). Since the beginning of his presidency in 2022, most of the Parliament was dominated by the liberal Democratic Party (DPK), which had won the previous elections of this type in 2020 amid the impact of Covid-19. To understand the political system of the Republic of Korea, it is necessary to know that, during the period of authoritarian government in the 20th century, politics were controlled by a single dominant party, although others formally existed. Since the democratization stage, there has been a marked bipartisanship that has dominated the political landscape. This process has been characterized by the alternation between government and opposition. Initially, the evolution of these two parties has not been under the same name, as they have changed frequently, so they are commonly known as conservatives (identified by the red color) and progressives (identified with the blue color). The change of political branding has accompanied the process of merging political organizations, both before and after elections. These organizations continue to be largely led and centered around the figures of the leaders, showing a high level of factionalism and personalism. Although formally the Republic of Korea presents a multi-party system, it has been de facto a two-party system, characterized by a low level of institutionalization. Its key characteristics are deeply rooted in regionalism and ideology, with generation, class and gender associated with these. Meaning that, traditionally the western part of the country has had a more progressive tendency, while the eastern part has been more conservative, and in 2024 this was no exception (figure 1). The DPK is currently identified as the first and the PPP as the second, respectively; it should be added that in terms of gender, women generally identify more with the DPK, while young men with the PPP. Figure 1: Partisan delimitation by color after vote counting for the 22nd National Assembly elections.     Source: Naver (2024) Year 2022 marked the first time that 18-year-olds were eligible to vote in presidential elections and participate in local elections. Both the former People’s Party, and the PPP saw these young voters as a key demographic group. As the PPP consolidated support among young male votes with the rise of Lee Jun-seok and his claim of reverse discrimination, the DPK intensified its efforts to attract young female voters (Kim, 2022). While the country’s politics are dominated by two main parties, which have changed names at certain times, there is also a group of parties with lesser proportional representation or even none in the National Assembly. The major political forces currently are the DPK and the PPP, although others include the Green-Justice Party (center-left position, supporting dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), New Future (centrist reformist), New Reform Party (conservative), Rebuilding Korea Party (centrism, liberalism, and reformism), Liberal Unification Party (far-right), among others. In total, there are more than 15 minor right-wing parties, around seven that are centrist, and about five that are progressive. There are also others that are focused on a single issue, such as the Women’s Party, and some that have attempted to register without success, like the Nuclear Nation Party, with a fascist conception. [1] For the 2024 parliamentary elections, the Electoral Advisory Committee, composed of 33 experts from various fields including media, academia, legal circles, public relations, and civic groups, was tasked with ensuring fair election management and advancing the electoral system. In a meeting in February 2024, the council promoted new measures to enhance public confidence in electoral management. It was decided to respond to illegal acts such as videos created by artificial intelligence, as had previously occurred against the country’s president, and to improve the objectivity and reliability of electoral opinion polls. Measures were taken, including the addition of verification procedures in the vote counting process; changing the notation format, such as from serial numbers on postal ballots to 1-dimensional barcodes; and managing surveys and vote counting, with constant dissemination of videos from cameras in storage locations, such as advance ballot boxes, to determine the transparency and reliability of the electoral management through the establishment of a plan to improve procedures (National Election Commission of the Republic of Korea, 2024). Parliamentary elections 2024, results and impacts While the National Assembly was controlled by the DPK in May 2022 when conservative President Yoon came to power, the PPP’s efforts were focused on gaining control of the legislature in the recent April 2024 elections. Unfortunately for the latter, the results have once again been dominant for the DPK. The general elections on April 10 saw the highest turnout of the country in 32 years, following a historic peak in early voting, as announced by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The total turnout reached 67%, representing an increase of 0.8% compared to the general elections of 2020, which recorded a turnout of 66.2% (see figure 2). Out of 44.88 million eligible voters, approximately 29.66 million people cast their votes in 14,259 polling stations to elect 300 lawmakers for the 22nd National Assembly. (…) Voters cast two votes, one for the 254 single-member constituencies and another for the remaining 46 proportional representation seats. A total of 21 parties contested the elections based on districts, while 38 political parties competed for proportional representation (Jung, 2024). Figure 2: Voting trends in the different elections from 2016 to 2024 in the Republic of Korea.     Source: National Election Commission The main opposition party, the DPK, is poised to achieve a decisive victory in the general elections, with the broader liberal opposition bloc expected to secure up to 200 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. This projection deals a significant blow to President Yoon Suk-yeol. Exit polls conducted by the nation’s top three broadcasters KBS, MBC, and SBS indicated that the DPK was projected to secure between 178 to 197 seats when combining electoral victories with proportional representation seats obtained by its satellite party, the United Democratic Party. This outcome will solidify the DPK’s participation in the current Assembly controlled by the opposition for the next four years. Meanwhile, the ruling PPP was projected to secure between 85 to 105 seats, including those obtained through proportional representation from its satellite party, the People's Party (Lee, 2024). The results were fairly accurate, with almost all votes counted, as the DPK won 161 out of 254 directly contested seats, while the PPP only secured 90 seats (Lee C., 2024). The Rebuilding Korea Party (RKP), a progressive-leaning party led by former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, was on track to secure between 12 to 14 seats, marking a notable debut in its first elections since its launch in March. The party chose not to field candidates in the constituencies but focused solely on proportional representation seats. Among other minor parties, the New Reform Party, led by former PPP leader Lee Jun-seok, was projected to secure one to four seats. The New Future Party, headed by former DPK leader Lee Nak-yon, was expected to secure up to two seats (Lee, 2024). The emergence of the RKP is related to internal divisions within the DPK following the conclusion of President Moon Jae-in’s presidency (DPK), which intensified after the 2022 presidential elections when supporters and opponents of Moon divided. Its leader, former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and a supporter of Moon, who emerged as a political phenomenon, is expected to represent a new threat to the administration of Yoon Suk-yeol, as the party made it clear during the electoral campaign that its goal is to punish the “autocratic” administration that, it claims, is controlled by former prosecutors, including Yoon (Nam, 2024). If the final election results, which will be confirmed in the early hours of July 11th (night of July 10th Cuba time), fall within the range of the exit polls, the RKP will be the third largest political party in South Korea, after the main opposition DPK and the ruling PPP. Cho, who served as the Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs and Minister of Justice during the previous administration of Moon Jae-in, is widely described as one of Yoon’s main antagonists for the presidency. He has been under scrutiny for years over allegations that he and his wife fabricated academic documents to get their daughter admitted to medical school. Yoon, who was the prosecutor general at the time (2020), insisted on investigating Cho, leveraging those actions to rise in politics among conservatives and eventually be elected president. (…) Cho lost his job as a professor at Seoul National University, his wife went to prison, and their daughter lost her medical license. Under the Yoon administration, the Cho family has literally lost everything, and this background has transformed him into a political champion who has lost everything and is standing against the administration (Nam, 2024). As of 2 am on April 11th in South Korea (1 pm on April 10th, Cuba time), the count stood at 92.95%, with the DPK (더불어민주당) accumulating 158 elected seats out of the 254 seats for single-member constituencies; the PPP (국민의힘), 93, while the New Future Party (새로운미래), New Reform Party (개혁신당), and the Progressive Party (진보당) has each obtained one seat up to that point (see figure 1). Lee Jun-seok, candidate of the New Reform Party, was elected as a member of the National Assembly after 13 years of entering politics. He was the leader of the PPP (the youngest in the party’s modern political history) at the time of the 2022 presidential elections and contributed to President Yoon’s landslide victory. In late 2023, he split from the party and formed a new one after a long-standing feud with the majority faction of the PPP, composed of loyalists to President Yoon Suk-yeol. Lee is considered by the DPK as a leader who could lead the development of far-right populism and is followed by young men who are negative towards feminism. Political figures like former Foreign Minister Park Jin, who resigned from his position to run in the elections, lost with 46.3% against his DPK rival who obtained 53.8%, causing further negative impacts on President Yoon's presidency (박기호, 2024). Even though he loses the majority, it is important for President Yoon to have key figures from his party in the National Assembly. Currently, he is facing internal political challenges regarding the rejection of increases in medical school admissions, questions about his wife's corruption issues, among other elements. The president's popularity level ranges between 34-40% in recent times, so such a setback will affect him for the remainder of his term. These election results could lead Han Dong-hoon, interim leader of the ruling PPP, former prosecutor, and close to the president, to diminish his prominence and wait for the local elections in 2026. The results of the DPK, combined with the satellite parties that support it in the National Assembly, could lead to a series of future conflicts with the executive, making it difficult for Yoon and the PPP to govern freely. The DPK has several contradictions with the PPP from domestic policy to foreign policy. Particularly on foreign policy issues, they are more inclined to improve relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), strengthen ties with China, and not overly reinforce links with the United States. On issues with Japan, they oppose the current policy of rapprochement and maintain firm stances on unresolved historical issues. Regarding China, there have been some recent signs of change with the idea of holding a trilateral summit between South Korea, China, and Japan at the end of May. Final considerations The results of the parliamentary elections in favor of the DPK and against the PPP will complicate the mandate of the current President Yoon Suk-yeol, especially on many domestic policy issues, with three years remaining in his term. In this scenario, the DPK, from the opposition, would have the ability to unilaterally enact contentious bills, neutralizing the power of the presidential veto. In an even worse scenario, which remains plausible, they might attempt to pass a bill to impeach the president. In recent months, they have already tried to take actions, including those related to corruption allegations against the president's wife, involving a gift from the "Dior" brand. So far, President Yoon Suk-yeol has been able to navigate some executive actions through presidential decrees to fulfill several of his political promises without going through parliament. Additionally, he has unilaterally vetoed some bills passed by the DPK. However, several of Yoon's key initiatives, including the abolition of the income tax on investments and the relaxation of the inheritance tax, have remained pending due to the need for law revisions. Losing his party in the elections further complicates the power of veto, as once the president vetoes a bill, it returns to the legislature for a second vote, and to be approved again, it requires the support of more than half of all legislators and approval by two-thirds of those present. During the 2024-2026 period, there could be a political stalemate that not only increases the contradictions between the president and the National Assembly dominated by the DPK, but also within his own party. Escalation of the situation in the Korean peninsula could be a factor that also puts pressure on the DKP-led legislature regarding the executive. REFERENCES Jung Da-hyun (2024). Voter turnout hits 32-year high at 67%. Disponible en: Kim Kaitlyn (2022). Evolution of South Korean Party Politics. Disponible en: Lee Hyo-jin (2024). DPK poised to clinch landslide victory in general elections. Disponible en: Nam hyung woo (2024). Disgraced ex-Minister Cho Kuk returns as political phenom. Recuperado en: National Election Commission of Republic of Korea (2024). NEC Holds the 22nd National Assembly Election Advisory Committee. Disponible en Naver (2024). 제22대 국회의원선거 경기 성남시분당구갑 개표. Disponible en: Swissinf (2024). Cierran los centros de votación en Corea del Sur sin incidentes de importancia. Disponible en: 박기호 (2024). 서울 민주 34곳·국힘 14곳 앞서…양천갑·도봉갑·영등포을·마포갑 접전. Disponible en: [1] Un partido hitleriano que ha presentado su intento de registro por séptima vez. Ver en Comisión Electoral Nacional:

Defense & Security
China, USA and Iran Flags

Iran’s Strategies in Response To Changes in US-China Relations

by Sara Bazoobandi

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Bazoobandi, S. Iran’s Strategies in Response to Changes in US-China Relations. Middle East Policy. 2024;31:120–132. Abstract The dynamics of the relationship between the United States and China have been shifting. This has prompted changes in strategic calculus and policy adoption by the friends and foes of each side. Iran, given its decades-long links with China, has made several. First, it has deepened its ties with the Asian power beyond collaboration in business and trade. Second, it has revised its policies in the Gulf region to be a part of what it sees as China's network of influence, hoping to better position itself in a multilateral global order. Third, it has been seeking opportunities to project power through showing off its military capabilities in Ukraine. This article examines these strategic responses and concludes that Iran has been pursuing an agenda in line with the world vision of its senior leaders. The end goal for Tehran is to gain more power and relevance in the global strategic calculus. This analysis is part of a special issue examining the responses of Gulf countries to rising Sino-American competition, edited by Andrea Ghiselli, Anoushiravan Ehteshami, and Enrico Fardella. Over the past decade, the relationship between China and United States has been going through fundamental changes.1 “Engagement, cooperation, and convergence,” previous pillars of the ties between the world's largest economic powerhouses, have been replaced by the trade war between Beijing and Washington.2 These changes have influenced strategic choices made by states around the world, including Iran. The country has increased its commercial ties with China, which has been instrumental in Tehran's efforts to circumvent US sanctions and maintain the regime's financial bloodline. As a result, China has remained Iran's largest trade partner for more than a decade.3 The Islamic Republic perceives the changes in US-China relations as a sign of US decline and foresees the end of unipolarity in the global system. This has emboldened Tehran's attempt to pursue three main strategies: deepen its ties with China, revise its policies in the Gulf region, and project power through showing off its military capabilities in Ukraine. This article analyzes Tehran's strategic calculus in pursuing these strategies. It aims to provide a holistic understanding of Iran's vision for a multipolar world system that the country's senior leaders sense as increasingly viable. The article starts with a brief review of the expansion and strengthening of Iran-China ties, which has undoubtedly been crucial in Iran's economic survival. This section underscores that in addition to economic hardship, the changing dynamics between Beijing and Washington, combined with Iran's ideological framework of the “new world order” and the regional struggle over the balance of power, have influenced Iran's relations with China. In 2022, Iran's supreme leader, its most senior political figure, stated: “The world is on the threshold of a new world order” in which “the United States is becoming weaker day by day.”4 The analysis indicates that Iran sees this as the starting point for the emergence of a multipolar order, in which the global clout of non-Western powers such as China and Russia is on the rise. By expanding and strengthening its ties with China, Iran is aiming to align itself with the leading global powers that are both deemed to be trustworthy by the senior political leaders and expected to emerge as stronger than the United States. The second section focuses on the impact of US-China relations on Iran's strategy toward the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. China has been visibly increasing its involvement in the Gulf region. Trade and investment levels have been rising, and both sides have indicated their intentions to boost their strategic partnership. The United States has for several decades played the role of the security guarantor of the Arab nations in the Gulf. Given Iran's perception of America's weakening, navigating these regional dynamics, particularly the strengthening of GCC-China ties, has influenced Tehran's strategy in the region. The article argues that Iran is seeking to improve ties with the GCC, in line with its strategy of expanding relations with China as a non-Western power in an emerging global multipolar system. For example, the consolidation of the ties between China and the GCC has motivated Iran to shift its hostile approach toward some member states, particularly Saudi Arabia. This section provides an overview of the Gulf-China partnership in light of changing relations between Washington and Beijing. It aims to provide a better understanding of how Iran's strategies have been shaped by its perception of the shifting dynamics among the Western and non-Western powers in this region. Next, the article investigates the impact of US-China relations on the ties between Tehran and Moscow, given the perception of Iran's senior leaders of American decline and their determination to gain more significance in the global order. Russia and China's mutual desire to redefine the normative principles of the international order has strengthened their cooperation in various areas, including military, energy, and finance.5 Their interest in pushing against the US-led, liberal global system has motivated them to form networks of partnership with like-minded states across the world.6 They have used international platforms and frameworks to promote their visions and constrain the West.7 Unlike the Western powers, both China and Russia seem to have been able to navigate Iran's complex and ideology-oriented political system.8 As a result, Tehran has been inspired to pursue strategies that share Moscow and Beijing's vision for the world order, and to seek to establish itself as a more powerful global player.9 The final section examines the influence of the visions and ideologies of Iran's political leaders on the country's strategic direction. It argues that Iran's quest for power projection is its main response to the changing US-China relationship. This shift has prompted Iran's leaders to seek ways to pursue the “resistance strategy” beyond its traditional realm of influence in its immediate neighboring region. As part of this, Russia's war in Ukraine has offered Iran the opportunity to project power through military collaboration. This article concludes that Iran's strategic response to the changing relationship between Beijing and Washington is based on anticipation of the decline of US hegemony and aimed at claiming a powerful position in the new world order. Iran's aspiration to increase its relevance and strength in the global and regional strategic calculus is reflected in official government documents that highlight the regime's vision. “The Islamic Iranian Progress Model” and the declaration of “The Second Phase of the Revolution” by Iran's supreme leader provide an outline of the regime's vision, which includes economic and political independence from the West and resistance against global imperialism.10 Against this backdrop, the analysis concludes that this ideological framework, built around the notion of American decline and the emergence of a new global order, has been Iran's main strategic response to the changes between the superpowers and the most effective driving force for Tehran's policies toward China, the GCC, and Russia. The study uses qualitative analysis to trace the processes of policy formation, considering states’ visions and ideologies, as well as regional and global events. It employs a variety of sources, including academic literature, news articles, and government websites. CHINA-IRAN RELATIONS: AN OVERVIEW The need to build and strengthen links with the world's strongest non-Western economic powerhouse, particularly in times of harsh US-led economic sanctions, has driven Iran's relations with China. Other factors have influenced the development of non-economic aspects of Tehran-Beijing ties, including the changing dynamics between Beijing and Washington, domestic ideological frameworks, global and regional balance-of-power struggles, and domestic dissent. Iran's relations with China began before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Despite the country's “no East, no West” slogan that marked its policies in the early years after the revolution, the regime has consistently maintained its ties with China.11 The presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a significant period for the bilateral relationship, and it was considered the starting point of Iran's “Asianization” era. During that period, Tehran accelerated its nuclear program and reactivated the anti-West narrative.12 Since then, China has wavered between promoting a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear file, supporting a decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2006 to refer the file to the United Nations Security Council, and helping Iran in its efforts to circumvent sanctions. The two countries began a nuclear-cooperation agreement in the early 1990s, which quickly ended under US pressure. In 2006, China agreed with IAEA's decision to refer Iran's file to the Security Council. This was a turning point in the decades-long nuclear dispute. Between 2006 and 2010, China agreed to Security Council resolutions that led to increasing economic pressure on Iran through international sanctions. Despite that, during the Ahmadinejad presidency, bilateral trade between Iran and China increased from $10 billion to $43 billion. This was a clear signal of their cooperation to bypass the sanctions, which at times had negative consequences for China and for globally recognized Chinese businesses, such as Huawei. Such strengthening of Iran's relations with the East (non-Western great powers) was largely influenced by the personal views and foreign-relations goals of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.13 In recent years, he has openly driven the strategy of strengthening ties with China, publicly declaring Beijing a trustworthy partner and explicitly stating that the Islamic Republic will never forget its support in bypassing the sanctions.14 Following Khamenei's guidance for closer ties with China, President Ebrahim Raisi has in recent years described “the friendship” between the two countries as based on mutual respect and trust.15 Such political language indicates a long-lasting and perhaps all-encompassing commitment to maintain and expand ties with China. In response, the Iranian regime has received Beijing's support beyond the bypassing of sanctions. For example, despite the concern raised by other regional players, particularly GCC members, China supported terminating the arms embargo on Iran in 2020.16 This, in theory, allows Iran to purchase weapons and upgrade its military armaments.17 A year later, in March 2021, the two countries announced a comprehensive strategic partnership aimed at strengthening bilateral relations in energy and the economy, as well as cybersecurity and the military.18 Not much detail is available on the agreement, which Khamenei described as a wise decision, and its implementation.19 China has been Iran's most important trade partner for more than a decade.20 Before the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in 2018, Tehran had hoped to benefit more from freer trade and investment by both the Asian power and Europe. In 2015, Iranian officials announced plans to rebuild relations with Europe and expand ties with China.21 However, the calculus changed with President Donald Trump's decision to impose a maximum pressure campaign on Iran. Despite European and Asian leaders’ initial disagreement with the US decision, European firms quickly responded by ceasing business with Iran.22 The Chinese banking system also limited the scope of its operations with the country.23 This has posed a major challenge to all aspects of bilateral trade and investment. Undoubtedly, the Chinese business and economic collaboration promised by the framework of the comprehensive strategic partnership was affected by American pressure. Considering its location, Iran has the potential to be a valuable element of Chinese economic initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).24 Hacked documents obtained from the Centre for Strategic Studies, a research entity within the Office of the President of Iran, revealed that Raisi has officially ordered the Foreign Ministry to facilitate economic collaborations with China.25 This reflects the government's desire to turn Iran into a key player in the “Chinese value chain.”26 This expansion of economic ties with China has been challenged by the Western sanctions.27 Consequently, Iran has not been successful in attracting Chinese investment, either in the BRI or other projects. The pressure eased under the Biden administration, which restored some sanctions waivers.28 Iran's oil exports to China, through subterranean methods, have continued to flow relatively steadily. This has benefited both sides, maintaining Iran's vital revenue stream and helping facilitate the import of Chinese goods and services in return for discounted energy.29 Collaboration between Iran and China has expanded into areas such as technological exchange. Beijing's cooperation model is more favorable toward Tehran in comparison to those of the Western governments, as it does not impose values on partners.30 While Western companies have been reluctant to engage with Iran due to sanctions, China has offered technological assistance. This has been, in part, facilitated by China's strategy to develop its technological and scientific industries, civil-military integration, and dual-use technologies through the export of products and standards.31 Iran has also been pursuing strategies to expand its scientific and technological capabilities, driven by the views of its senior political leaders. In his 2006 Persian New Year speech, Khamenei stated, “Knowledge is authority, it is equal to power; whoever finds it can rule; a nation that finds it can rule; a nation that cannot [build its scientific and technological capacities] must prepare itself to be ruled by others.”32 This clearly indicates Iran's motivation and intention. Khamenei has frequently encouraged the country's policy makers to promote strategies that support the “jihad of knowledge.”33 This phrase has gained significance in Iran's strategic planning in recent years, driving the country's efforts to advance its defense and military capacities. Technological assistance in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity has been a major area of collaboration between China and Iran.34 For example, the Chinese firm Tiandy, one of the world's leading video-surveillance companies, has been reportedly working with the Iranian government.35 Rising domestic dissent over the past few years may have played a role in advancing this technological collaboration. There is very little public information about the nature of such cooperation. However, technologies accessed through collaboration with Chinese companies have helped Iran spy on its citizens, crack down on protests, and monitor dissidents.36 Trade and business partnerships have dominated the bilateral relationship.37 China has cooperated with Iran to get around sanctions while taking advantage of discounted energy prices.38 At the same time, the two countries have been expanding into other areas, such as technology. The regime in Tehran, heavily influenced by the supreme leader, sees China as the main challenge to US hegemony and is determined to consolidate its ties with Beijing while trying to maximize its power in the global system. The next section explores the changing relationships between Iran and the GCC, analyzing the impact of US-China relations on Tehran's strategies toward its neighbors. US-CHINA RELATIONS AND IRAN'S STRATEGIES IN THE GULF Senior Iranian politicians have frequently stated that they foresee a new international order to replace the US-led unipolar system.39 As the previous section demonstrated, such anticipation has motivated Tehran to maintain close ties with Beijing. This section investigates how Iran's vision of a new world order has prompted the strategy of normalization with the GCC. It examines the regime's understanding of the future Chinese and American roles in the region and how this impacts Tehran's strategy toward its southern neighbors. In the years before the 2023 Iran-Saudi agreement that re-established diplomatic ties between the two countries, the dynamics between Iran and the GCC were predominantly based on “intra-regional threat perceptions and intense mutual securitisation.”40 The deal brokered by China seems to have shifted this formulation. One factor that played a significant role in changing Iran's policies was the advancement of the China-GCC relationship. In 2021, Beijing officials described this as a part of building a “synergy” between the “new development paradigm in China” and “major development strategies” in the region.41 Such statements may well have been perceived by Tehran as indicating Beijing's increasing strategic influence and its pushing back against US involvement in the security structure of the region. This has motivated Iran to be a part of what it sees as a newly emerging realm of influence for China. Further, the normalization of diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia is anticipated to pave the way for a much needed, yet challenging, “tripartite peace deal between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Houthis”42 that can address one of the most pressing security concerns across the GCC. Iran has long desired a new security structure forged by eradicating US influence and presence. In 2019, the Iranian government proposed the “Hormuz Peace Endeavor” (HOPE), a security-cooperation initiative that would include all of the Gulf's littoral states.43 Motivated by Iran's long-held aspiration to undermine US hegemony, it was presented during the GCC's internal crisis with Qatar, which coincided with the initial stage of the US-China trade war.44 During the long-running hostilities between the GCC and Yemen's Houthi rebels, Washington was not able to offer any meaningful solutions. The Saudi government, disappointed by this inability to protect its security, therefore welcomed the Chinese-backed rapprochement with Iran. As for Tehran, this shift toward Riyadh demonstrates how the perception of US decline and Chinese rise influenced its strategic calculus in relation to the GCC countries. Iran's decision to normalize with the GCC came at a time when policy makers anticipated an increase in China's regional power and saw it as helping fulfill their strategic vision. Collaborations between the GCC and China have convinced Tehran that Beijing is determined to increase its engagement with the region. Iran assumes this will be to the detriment of the United States. Against that backdrop, the Islamic Republic is also motivated to be a member of the newly emerging realm of influence. Over many decades, the GCC countries have had warm relations with the United States, leading to a strong American military presence in the region that has excluded Iran from a position of influence in the Gulf. Iran sees an expansion of China-GCC cooperation as an opportunity to enter China's realm of influence that will, according to its senior leaders, end the US-led global system. Whether Iran's assessment of China's intentions for expanding ties with the GCC is accurate can be debated. Nevertheless, Tehran perceives China's ties with the region to be aimed at creating a new area of influence, one hospitable to its own vision. Moreover, Iran has for a long time perceived high strategic value in its economic ties with China and is hoping to improve such relations with both China and the GCC.45 The Iran-Saudi deal is estimated to boost bilateral trade to $2 billion, and Iran's drive to improve relations with the GCC could similarly be motivated by the prospect of economic gain.46 To highlight the impact of China-US relations on Iran's strategies in the Gulf, it is important to review the development of Beijing's relations with the GCC countries. The most significant aspect has been business and trade cooperation. China has been a net oil importer since 1993.47 The country's reliance on foreign energy has played a crucial role in its policies toward the Gulf's oil-exporting countries. Bilateral trade between China and the GCC increased from $182 billion in 2014 to about $229 billion in 2021, making China the region's largest trading partner.48 This volume has been substantially larger than that of China-Iran trade (about $16 billion in 2022).49 While energy demand has been a key element of bilateral trades with the GCC, business relations have been expanding into other areas, such as infrastructure investment and the exchange of technology, goods, and services. Iran has undoubtedly been envious of this cooperation between China and its southern neighbors. This has induced Tehran's efforts toward normalization in the hope of benefiting from collaboration with both Beijing and the GCC. This is manifested in the comprehensive strategic partnership and other forms of collaboration examined in the previous section. Chinese political leaders have adopted an effective narrative in describing their strategy for engagement with the GCC, emphasizing “equality between countries regardless of their size” and support for their “independent sovereignty.”50 This is aimed at persuading local leaders to see expanding ties with Beijing as “an opportunity to enrich the strategic substance” of the relationships.51 Such a narrative has undoubtedly been well received by Tehran, as it advances multilateralism. Saudi Arabia, until recently considered Iran's most obvious regional rival, has been one of China's most important partners and largest recipient of its investment in the region.52 Tehran sees normalization with a former foe—one becoming an even closer partner of China's—as both strengthening anti-US collaboration in the region and winning for itself a place in a network of partnerships based on equality and independence, as expressed in the Chinese narrative. Being part of such a network will help Tehran position itself better in a multilateral global order. Ultimately, Iran is pursuing its agenda in line with the world vision of its senior leaders, the goal of which is to gain more power and relevance in the global strategic calculus. For decades, the United States was considered a close ally of some of the regional powers. By brokering a deal between Tehran and Riyadh, China has undertaken a role that the United States and Europe have failed to play in recent years. Iran-Saudi normalization came at a time when European policy makers, who have been seeking to facilitate a regional dialogue, failed to achieve any tangible results between Tehran and Riyadh. Indeed, Iran has become skeptical of the EU's potential in resolving regional issues, particularly in the aftermath of Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal.53 The Iran-Saudi rapprochement highlighted China's mediation capacity and boosted the country's status among regional leaders. By welcoming Beijing's intervention, Iran sought to demonstrate that the United States and its Western allies can no longer shape regional dynamics. Iran has envisioned a multipolar world order and aspires to play a role in achieving this in the Gulf region. Beijing seems to have successfully managed to convince the regime in Tehran, along with the leaders of the Arab Gulf countries, of its capacity and willingness to support their aspirations. While the Western world has failed to maintain the regional leaders’ trust, China has gained it. These developments have been motivated by the changing relations between Beijing and Washington, which Tehran sees as signaling China's deep strategic influence in the region. Further, it serves Iran's belief in the decline of US power, particularly in the Gulf. THE US-CHINA RIVALRY AND IRAN'S POWER PROJECTION This section analyzes the effects of the changing dynamics between the United States and China on Iran's power-projection strategies. Tehran's perception of the decline of American global power, particularly in the Gulf, has driven Iran to restore ties with its main regional competitor, Saudi Arabia. Regardless of the future of normalization between Tehran and Riyadh, China's mediation indicates Tehran's anticipation of the strategic role the Asian power will play in the Gulf. It has also influenced Iran's power-projection strategies, particularly beyond its traditional realm of influence. Senior Iranian leaders have long seen realism as the main pillar of their relationship with China and Russia.54 More recently, however, Iran has pursued a policy of “looking East,” largely aimed at strengthening relations with those two powers. In 2019, Iran, Russia, and China conducted a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean symbolizing their commitment to breaking down American global unilateralism.55 Undoubtedly, the aims, motives, and extent of the relations among these countries varies. However, the common denominator is their anti-hegemonic sentiments, which have gained significance with the shift in dynamics of US-China relations. The Russian war in Ukraine has provided Iran a chance to project power, demonstrate its military capability, and remain relevant in the international calculus given the changing world order.56 This section argues that anti-hegemonic principles shared among Russian, Chinese, and Iranian political leaders play a significant role in strengthening their relationships, and the Ukraine war is a great opportunity for Iran to pursue its world vision and power-projection aspirations. Russia's overarching global strategy has been focused increasingly on challenging a unipolar system dominated by the United States.57 This has resonated with political ideologies in Tehran and China.58 Iran's supreme leader, who exerts a strong influence over the country's strategic policy making, has frequently emphasized maintaining and expanding “strategic depth” as one of the country's fundamental strategies.59 Moreover, he has expressed his anticipation of a “new world order” and accentuated the significance of “Geography of Resistance.”60 This ideology reflects Tehran's desire for influence in global and regional systems and has played a crucial role in driving the country's power-projection aspirations. Khamenei's use of theological concepts like jihad and resistance indicates his strong anti-hegemonic and anti-West views.61 He sees the West's policies as continuing the historical clash over identity and destiny between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. According to this view, Iran is located at the heart of the geography of resistance and is the main powerhouse of the Muslim world.62 Therefore, joining non-Western security and economic initiatives will help Tehran gain a more powerful global position to advance its strategic agenda. The Ukraine war presented Iran with new arenas in which to project power.63 The synergy between the Russian vision, manifested by its invasion, and that of Iran is perceived in Tehran as promising for the new global order. Iran's delivery of hundreds of Shahed-136 drones to Russia has been a clear signal of its determination to collaborate with powers that share its perception.64 In an order in which US power is challenged by China, Iran aspires to advance its ambitions, demonstrate its military capabilities, and gain relevance outside of its traditional realm of influence. The perceptions of Iran's political leaders and their visions for Iran's position in the world system are a driving force behind their strategic decisions.65 Their anticipation of the decline of the West, particularly the United States, is the crucial foundation. Historically, Iran's strategy of building a “Resistance Axis” has been used to project power through “a mix of strategic alliance, security community, and ideational network”66 in the Middle East and North Africa region. The war in Ukraine presented a new arena for this. CONCLUSION The relationship between the United States and China has been going through fundamental changes, prompting strategic responses by Iran on various fronts. Tehran believes American global power is declining while China's is rising. This interpretation has dominated Iran's policies and its envisioned regional and global roles. The senior political leaders in Tehran have been advocating for what they refer to as “the new world order.” This is a multipolar system in which the West, specifically the United States, no longer dominates. Iranian officials perceive the war in Ukraine and the October 7 attacks on Israel as powerful blows to the Americans. Khamenei has referred to the Hamas attacks as the starting point for the formation of a new map in the Middle East based on “de-Americanization.”67 Iran has welcomed these crises and supports the aggressors, with rhetoric based on the notion of resistance to the Western oppression of the Muslim world.68 Iran's understanding of the changing China-US relationship has prompted three strategies. First, the country has been seeking to deepen its ties with the Asian power. The relationship between Iran and China has been formed mainly around trade and business collaborations that have been strengthened by Tehran's efforts to circumvent sanctions. Iran sees China as the main challenge to US hegemony and a key player in fulfilling its envisioned world order. It is therefore determined to consolidate ties with Beijing, along with implementing strategies that can establish a more powerful position for Iran in the global system. Second, Iran has revised its policies in the hope that it can help contribute and be a part of what Tehran perceives as China's new realm of influence in the Gulf region. Iran's envisioned multipolar world system drives its aspirations of making itself more relevant and influential in the regional strategic calculus. Tehran interprets China's engagement in the Gulf as not negating its desired role in the emerging multipolar world. Third, Iran has been seeking to project power by aiding Russia in Ukraine, thus showing off its military capabilities, and forging an anti-Israeli front. These conflicts have presented Iran with new arenas to project influence, within and beyond its traditional regional realm. Tehran understands the synergy between the Russian vision and its own as the most promising for materializing a new global order. This analysis of how the changing US-China relationship is perceived in Tehran is crucial to understanding its strategic calculus and policy choices. In Iran's view, a new global order is emerging because of these shifting dynamics. As US power declines, Iran is seeking every opportunity to emerge as a powerful global player. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. REFERENCES 1 An earlier version of this article was first presented at “The Persian Gulf and the US-China Rivalry,” a roundtable held in Rome on July 6, 2023. That event and this special issue have been sponsored by the ChinaMed Project of the TOChina Hub and the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Programme at Durham University. 2 Evan S. Medeiros, “The Changing Fundamentals of US-China Relations,” Washington Quarterly 42, no. 3 (2019): 93–119,; Pablo Fajgelbaum et al., “The US-China Trade War and Global Reallocations,” National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021, 3 China Daily, “China Remains Iran’s Largest Trading Partner for 10 Consecutive Years,” 2023, 4 Al-Monitor, “Khamenei Urges Iranians to Prepare for ‘New World Order,’” 2022, 5 Brett Forrest, Ann M. 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(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 8 Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Gawdat Bahgat, “Iran’s Asianisation Strategy,” ISPI, 2019, 9 Masoud Akbari, “اینگونه است که آنها «گذشته» هستند و ما «آینده‌»ایم [This is why they are ‘the past’ and we are ‘the future’],”, 2023, 10, “Islamic Iranian Progress Model [الگوي اسلامي ايراني پيشرفت],” 2018,; Tasnim News, “Statement of the Second Phase of the Revolution [بیانیه «گام دوم انقلاب» امام خامنه‌ای خطاب به ملت ایران منتشر شد],” Tasnim News, 2017,; Sara Bazoobandi, “Re-Revolutionising Iran: Condemning Prosperity and Jihadi Management,” GIGA Focus, November 3, 2022, 11 Bazoobandi, “Re-Revolutionising Iran.” 12 Ehteshami and Bahgat, “Iran’s Asianisation Strategy.” 13 Hongda Fan, “China–Iran Relations from the Perspective of Tehran’s Look East Approach,” Asian Affairs 53, no. 1 (2022): 51–67, 14 Deutsche Welle, “Mission of Khamenei's confidant to implement the ‘wise’ agreement with China [ماموریت معتمد خامنه‌ای برای اجرای توافق ‘حکمت‌آمیز’ با چین],” 2023,; BBC Persian, “Khamenei's advisor defended the cooperation agreement with China [مشاور آیت‌الله خامنه‌ای از سند همکاری با چین حمایت کرد],” 2020, 15 China Daily, “Xi Holds Talks with Iranian President, Eyeing New Progress in Ties,” February 14, 2023, 16 Mohsen Shariatinia and Hamed A. Kermani, “Iran, China and the Persian Gulf: An Unfolding Engagement,” Global Policy 14, no. 1 (2023): 36–45, 17 Nasser Karimi, “UN Arms Embargoes on Iran Expire despite US Objections,” Associated Press, 2020, 18 Mher Sahakyan, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Middle East and Iran,” in The Belt and Road Initiative in Asia, Africa, and Europe, ed. David M. Arase, Pedro Miguel Amakasu Raposo de Medeiros Carvalho (London and New York: Routledge, 2023), 107–25. 19 Deutsche Welle, “Mission of Khamenei’s confidant.” 20 Taylor Butch, “Iran’s ‘Belt and Road’ Role,” Middle East Quarterly 28, no. 2 (2021): 1–8. 21 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iran Hopes To Rebuild Economic Ties With Europe After Sanctions,” 2015, 22 Ellen R. Wald, “10 Companies Leaving Iran As Trump’s Sanctions Close In,” Forbes, 2018, 23 Jonathan Fulton, “The China-Iran Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: A Tale of Two Regional Security Complexes,” Asian Affairs 53, no. 1 (2022): 145–63, 24 Mohmad Waseem Malla, “China’s Approach to the Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry,” Middle East Policy 29 (2022): 25–40, 25 Radio Farda, “افشای سند «محرمانه» مرکز زیرنظر ریاست‌جمهوری؛ ایران به «کارخانه غرب آسیا» چین تبدیل شود [Leaking a ‘confidential’ document produced by the Presidential Office; Iran should become China's ‘West Asia Factory’],” 2023, 26 Radio Farda, “Leaking a ‘confidential’ document.” 27 Yo Hong, “China-Iran Deal Complements the BRI, but Faces Iranian Domestic Opposition and US Sanctions,” Think China, 2021, 28 Humeyra Pamuk, “U.S. Restores Sanctions Waiver to Iran with Nuclear Talks in Final Phase,” Reuters, 2022, 29 Shirzad Azad, “Bargain and Barter: China’s Oil Trade with Iran,” Middle East Policy 30, no. 1 (2023): 23–35, 30 Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “Asianisation of Asia: Chinese-Iranian Relations in Perspective,” Asian Affairs 53, no. 1(2022): 8–27, 31 Meia Nouwens and Helena Legarda, “China’s Pursuit of Advanced Dual-Use Technologies,” IISS, 2018, 32 Seyed Ali Khamenei, “کارکردهای قدرت علمی در اندیشه‌ مقام معظم رهبری [Application of power of knowledge in the Supreme Leader's thoughts],” Islamic Revolution Documents Center, 2006, 33 Sara Bazoobandi, “Populism, Jihad, and Economic Resistance: Studying the Political Discourse of Iran’s Supreme Leader,” Digest of Middle East Studies, 2023, 1–19, 34 Mohammad Eslami, Nasim Sadat Mousavi, and Muhammed Can, “Sino-Iranian Cooperation in Artificial Intelligence: A Potential Countering Against the US Hegemony,” in The Palgrave Handbook of Globalization with Chinese Characteristics: The Case of the Belt and Road Initiative, ed. Paulo Afonso B. Duarte, Francisco Jose B.S. Leandro, and Enrique Martinez Galan (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), 543–62. 35 Tate Ryan-Mosley, “This Huge Chinese Company Is Selling Video Surveillance Systems to Iran,” MIT Technology Review, 2021, 36 Steve Stecklow, “Special Report: Chinese Firm Helps Iran Spy on Citizens,” Reuters, 2012, 37 Anoush Ehteshami, Niv Horesh, and Ruike Xu, “Chinese-Iranian Mutual Strategic Perceptions,” The China Journal 79 (2018): 1–20, 38 Bloomberg, “China Gorges On Cheap, Sanctioned Oil From Iran, Venezuela,” 2022, 39 Mashregh News, “ماجرای «نظم نوین جهانی» مورد اشاره رهبر انقلاب چه بود؟ [What Did the Supreme Leader Mean by ‘New World Order’?],” 2022, 40 Benjamin Houghton, “China’s Balancing Strategy Between Saudi Arabia and Iran: The View from Riyadh,”Asian Affairs 53, no. 1 (2022): 124–44, 41 Sabena Siddiqui, “Can China Balance Ties with Iran and the GCC?” Al-Monitor, 2021, 42 Betul Dogan Akkas, “The Complexities of a Houthi-Saudi Deal and Its Impact on Yemen’s Future,” Gulf International Forum, 2023, 43 Nicole Grajewski, “Iran’s Hormuz Peace Endeavor and the Future of Persian Gulf Security,” European Leadership Network, 2020, 44 Fajgelbaum et al., “US-China Trade War.” 45 Iranian Students’ News Agency, “روابط ایران و چین و پیامدهای استراتژیک آن [Iran-China Relations and Their Strategic Consequences],” ISNA.IR, 2021, 46 Javad Heiran-nia, “مزایای اقتصادی بهبود رابطه ایران و عربستان [The Economic Benefits of Improving Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia],” Donya-e-Eghtesad, 2023. 47 Kadir Temiz, Chinese Foreign Policy Toward the Middle East (London and New York: Routledge, 2022). 48 GCC STAT, “China-GCC Economic Relations,” 2021, 49 Financial Tribune, “China Remains Iran’s Largest Trade Partner for Ten Consecutive Years,” 2023, 50 Xi Jinping, “Keynote Speech by President of China at the China-GCC Summit,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2022,; Flavius Caba-Maria, “China and the Wave of Globalization Focusing on the Middle East,” in Duarte, Leandro, and Galan, Palgrave Handbook of Globalization with Chinese Characteristics, 563–74. 51 Xi, “Keynote Speech.” 52 Ishtiaq Ahmad, “Saudi Arabia and China Linked by Shared Interests, a Promising Future,” Arab News, 2022, 53 Jane Darby Menton, “What Most People Get Wrong About the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Foreign Policy, 2023, 54 Nicole Grajewski, “An Illusory Entente: The Myth of a Russia-China-Iran ‘Axis,’” Asian Affairs 53, no. 1 (2022): 164–83, 55 Reuters, “Russia, China, Iran Start Joint Naval Drills in Indian Ocean,” 2019, 56 Arash Saeedi Rad, “افول هژمونی ایالات‌متحده آمریکا و نظم جدیدجهانی [Decline of the United States’ hegemony and the new world order],” American Studies Center, 2023, 57 Martin A. Smith, “Russia and Multipolarity since the End of the Cold War,” East European Politics 29, no. 1 (2013): 36–51,; Eugene Rumer, “The Primakov (Not Gerasimov) Doctrine in Action,” Carnagie Endowment for International Peace, 2019,; Jolanta Darczewska and Pitor Zochowski, “Active Measures: Russia’s Key Export,” Centre for Eastern Studies, 2017, 58 Tasnim News, “امام خامنه‌ای: امروز جهان در آستانه یک نظم جدید است/ آمریکا در همه چیز از بیست سال قبل ضعیف‌تر شده است [Imam Khamenei: today, the world is beginning a new world order/ America is weaker in every respect than 20 years ago],” Tasnim News, 2022,; Pang Ruizhi, “China Wants a Multipolar World Order. Can the World Agree?” Think China, 2020, 59 Sara Bazoobandi, Jens Heibach, and Thomas Richter, “Iran's Foreign Policy Making: Consensus Building or Power Struggle?” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, March 16, 2023, 1–24,; Hamshahri Online, “عمق استراتژیک ایران [Iran's strategic depth],” 2019, 60 Al-Monitor, “Khamenei Urges Iranians to Prepare”;, “بیانات در دیدار مجمع عالی فرماندهان سپاه,” October 2, 2019, 61 Bazoobandi, “Populism, Jihad, and Economic Resistance”; Bazoobandi, “Re-Revolutionising Iran.” 62 Karim Sadjadpour, “Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran’s Most Powerful Leader,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008, 63 Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon, “Iran and Russia Are Closer Than Ever Before,” Foreign Policy, 2023, 64 David Brennan, “Shahed-136: The Iranian Drones Aiding Russia’s Assault on Ukraine,” Newsweek, 2022, 65 Yahia H. Zoubir, “Algeria and China: Shifts in Political and Military Relations,” Global Policy 14, no. 1 (2023): 58–68, 66 Edward Wastnidge and Simon Mabon, “The Resistance Axis and Regional Order in the Middle East: Nomos, Space, and Normative Alternatives,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2023, 67, “Khamenei's Speech on meeting with Basij Forces [بیانات در دیدار بسیجیان],” 2023, 68 Sara Bazoobandi, “Iran Confident Israel-Hamas Conflict Can Advance Its Geostrategic Position,” Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, 2023,

Defense & Security
Colombian flag in the national park

Total peace in Colombia: utopy?

by Daniela Castillo

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском One of the most important and ambitious banners of Gustavo Petro’s government for Colombia is the Total Peace. His bet seeks a negotiated path with the illegal armed groups in the country, this includes guerrillas and criminal groups, aiming to end or significantly reduce the violence in the territories, without a doubt, it sounds dreamy, ambitious, and challenging. Unfortunately, throughout Colombia’s history, armed conflict has been a daily feature that “pari passu” has led different governments to propose strategies aimed at overcoming it, but when it comes to implementing them, it is more complicated than one might think. It would sound illogical for someone not to want peace, but the interests, the vulnerability of the population and the dynamics of the conflict in Colombia are so complex and diverse that they hinder the implementation of peace in all its spheres. The strategies to achieve peace have traditionally been at the center of the national debate by those who want to lead the country. Petro’s government has not been an exception in this purpose and has prioritized it in a particular way: with openness to human rights and human security, expressing a special commitment to the guarantee of rights and the protection of human life and the environment, trying to build a new relationship between citizenship and institutionality. In November 2022, President Petro sanctioned Law 2272 defining the Total Peace policy, which prioritizes the initiation of dialogues and negotiations with the ELN, FARC-EMC, Segunda Marquetalia and criminal gangs. This shows the government’s importance and willingness to achieve various dialogues that help strengthen the pacification and transformation of the territories. However, it has been observed that, from the speech to practice, the execution of the policy is much more complicated than it seems. While it is true that President Petro received a country with great challenges in terms of security and peace, the panorama has not changed. Petro’s government proposes through the Total Peace policy to reduce or end violence, but ultimately, this has not been a reality. Violence in the territories continues to be a constant for the population, with extortion, murders, kidnappings, recruitment, among others, still happening. According to INDEPAZ, in 2023 there were 94 massacres, 189 leaders and 42 assassinated peace signatories; then in 2023 there were 94 massacres, 188 leaders and 44 peace signatories murdered. So far in 2024 there have been 14 massacres, 36 leaders and 9 peace signatories murdered. This shows that we are still in a dynamic of rhetoric rather than the implementation of policies for the protection of life. We hear frequent speeches about the protection of life or Colombia as a world power for life, but in reality, violence and serious human rights violations do not diminish, let alone stop. At this point, the orientation and implementation of the government’s peace policy is of concern, as it transcends only the lack of rigor, planning and implementation. One of the positive factors of the policy is the chance to have 9 dialogue tables with armed groups of totally different origin and thinking. The government has been able to engage in talks or rapprochements with i) ELN, ii) FARC-EMC, iii) Segunda Marquetalia, iv) AGC, v) ACSN, vi) Shottas y Espartanos, vii) Oficinas en Medellín, viii) Las Fuerzas Armadas RPS, Los Locos Yam y Los Mexicanos and ix) Ex AUC, although some of these spaces for dialogue are weakened with the change of the new Peace Commissioner. This plurality of spaces is the novelty that changes the historical phenomenon in Colombia, since traditionally governments have focused on dialoguing with only one armed group, while militarily fighting the others. Enabling 9 simultaneous dialogue spaces is a highly challenging task that requires a programmatic structure, experts, and direction. With these spaces, the government aims for the armed groups to demonstrate their willingness for peace and achieve a negotiated solution to the dynamics of violence in the territories. Another positive measure of the peace policy is that bilateral and temporary ceasefires have been signed with some of the armed groups, with the objective of advancing in the dialogues. In fact, some of these have been extended. This measure also seeks to reduce the impact of the conflict on the civilian population, thus seeking the pacification of the territories. Agreements have also been reached, including the establishment of humanitarian corridors to deliver food or medicine to specific villages or truces between groups to halt killings. The idea of dialogue with various armed groups is that they demonstrate their willingness for peace by reducing their violent strategies of social control against the civilian population. However, the armed groups continue to operate violently against the population, they are growing in number and are expanding rapidly in the territory. Paradoxically, it is said that, thanks to the temporary ceasefires signed with the national government, these groups have been facilitated in their strengthening. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that something similar has happened; one cannot forget when, during the Pastrana administration, in the “distension zone”, the FARC expanded their armed power. According to the Early Warnings of the Ombudsman’s Office, it is confirmed that FARC-EMC and Segunda Marquetalia have increased their presence, going from controlling 230 municipalities to 299 by 2023. The most affected departments are Antioquia, Guaviare, Meta, Caquetá, Cauca and Nariño. Even the lack of state presence has been evidenced in some parts of the country, where armed groups are inaugurating roads and handing out school supplies to children, this ultimately only demonstrates the strengthening of the groups in the territories and the absence of the social rule of law. On the other hand, the numbers of ELN members are alarming, the military forces indicate that this group had 4,000 members and now they are around 5,000. Another group that is highly alarming is the AGC, its expansion has not stopped, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace said in early 2023 that this group had about 10,000 members and currently, the group claims to have up to 13,000 members, that means a worrying growth of about 30%. The strengthening of armed groups is a reality. This only means that something within the peace policy and the spaces for dialogue with the groups is failing. Some groups and their dissidents have repeatedly mocked the Colombian population and the agreements reached in the spaces. Illegal groups have engaged in armed strikes in vulnerable communities, forced displacement and recruitment. By 2022, 41% of the inhabitants of the most affected areas felt safe; by 2023, only 37% feel safe, this shows that the sense of insecurity is growing and, ultimately, institutional trust is not improving; on the contrary, it is generating a lack of credibility in the institutions. According to the 2023 report of the Ombudsman’s Office, forced displacement is one of the fastest growing phenomena. Nariño was affected by 58 events that impacted almost 24 thousand people, there were also 215 instances of confinement last year, affecting more than 18 thousand families; it is said that there was an increase of 63% compared to 2022, when there were 132 instances of confinement. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Peace has also reviewed 11 codes of conduct developed by non-state armed group imposed on communities in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Guaviare, Huila, Meta, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, and Nariño. These codes of conduct contain social control guidelines that restrict rights and aim to subject the civilian population to the control of the armed group. Actions to reduce violence and its impact on communities must be concrete and immediate. While it is true that confrontations between armed groups and the security forces have decreased, it is a fact that confrontations between armed groups, with the undesired impact on the population, have increased significantly, and even today they are the main source of violence, thus generating a disarticulation between the security policy and the Total Peace policy. The Ministry of Defense spent almost the entire first year defining and planning the security policy, despite the efforts, today only a passive public force is evident in its actions, absent in regions, without articulation with local entities and without guidelines or specific strategies to combat violence and seek the protection of life. The Total Peace policy for now is not giving the expected response to the territories, many times even the population itself perceives that it does not have a clear north. The armed groups must demonstrate their real will for peace, as an agreement to reduce violence against the civilian population. It is necessary to reinforce and improve the articulation between the Total Peace policy, the dismantling policy, and the human security policy in the territories. Based on the figures mentioned, the Total Peace policy should undergo a radical shift, becoming much more grounded and aware of the real dynamics of the conflict in Colombia and understanding very well the extent it can have, given that there are only two and a half years left in the government’s term. Colombia cannot continue to normalize violence; it needs a peace policy that generates concrete results and truly protects life. Weapons are not the solution, and we must continue to strengthen the dialogue for the pacification of the territories, as long as this path has a structure, a north and a clear agenda, otherwise, it will continue to be just an encouraging and even hopeful discourse, while in reality there are still deaths, massacres and human rights violations.

Defense & Security
Tehran Enghelab Iran - April 29, 2022: Al Quds day march against Israel in Iran

Iran Has Retaliated Against Israel for Its Killing of Several Quds Force Generals

by Michael Young

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Spot analysis from Carnegie scholars on events relating to the Middle East and North Africa. What Happened? On the night of April 13–14, Iran retaliated for the killing by Israel of senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, including Brig. Gen. Mohammed Zahedi, the commander for Syria and Lebanon, Gen. Hossein Aminullah, the chief of staff for Syria and Lebanon, and Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hadi Haj Rahimi, the commander for Palestine. The Iranians fired around 200 missiles, cruise missiles, and drones at Israel, but Israeli military officials said most were shot down and the destruction was minor. The Iranian retaliation had been expected, with U.S. officials even predicting the exact time of the anticipated attack to news outlets. The considerable publicity before the event, Iranian assurances that the response would seek to avert a regional conflict, and the fact that Iran knew that Israel and the United States would be able to monitor the launches of the missiles and drones early on and shoot down a large number of them, suggest the Iranians may have been looking to achieve more of a psychological impact than cause major death and destruction. In this regard, few images were more powerful from the Iranian perspective than that of missiles flying over Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This symbolized best Iranian ambitions to liberate one of Islam’s holiest sites from Israeli control, while personifying Israel’s vulnerabilities against the Iran-led Axis of Resistance. Why Is It Important? Israel has long assumed that it’s security can only be guaranteed by ensuring that the balance of military power with its enemies leans heavily in its favor. This harks back to the notion of the “iron wall,” first enunciated by the Revisionist Zionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who argued in an essay in 1923 that Jewish colonization of Palestine had to proceed behind an “iron wall” of Zionist military superiority. The only way that Arabs would agree to the Jewish presence in Palestine, he wrote, “is the iron wall, which is to say a strong power in Palestine that is not amenable to any Arab pressure. In other words, the only way to reach an agreement in the future is to abandon all idea of seeking an agreement at present.” Today, that principle has been expanded by Israel to encompass the entire region. Though Jabotinsky was an enemy of the Labor Zionists who ultimately dominated Israeli political life for decades, his idea of an “iron wall” has been embraced by Israel’s leadership and military for some time. That is why the response to the October 7 Hamas attacks in Gaza has been so ferocious. It is also the reasoning behind the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine,” which was notably articulated by an Israeli general, Gazi Eisenkot, currently a government minister. The doctrine, which first emerged during Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, holds that Israel will engage in a disproportionate destruction of its foes’ civilian and military infrastructure in order to dissuade them from ever attacking Israel. However, when Israel bombed the Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus on April 1, it crossed an Iranian red line. While the Iranians had more or less accepted the systematic Israeli killing of IRGC figures over the years in Syria, along with members of Hezbollah, this could be justified by the fact that Iran was successfully setting up a military infrastructure in southern Syria with which to bomb Israel and the occupied Golan. It made no sense to jeopardize that effort by entering into a major conflagration with the Israelis, and perhaps even the United States. The embassy compound attack was a different matter. Not only did it affirm Israel’s willingness to ignore diplomatic protection (even though Israel’s supporters argued that the building where the IRGC figures were killed was not, technically, a diplomatic facility), it took place in a broader context since October 7 in which Israel has sought to alter the rules of engagement in Syria and Lebanon to their advantage, narrowing Iran’s and Hezbollah’s margin of maneuver. In other words, it went to the heart of the rivalry between Israel and Iran over regional hegemony, and it was obvious that Iran would not allow this to happen. More worryingly, the embassy compound bombing could also have been an effort by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to drag the United States into a conflict with Iran. To decisively weaken the Iranians and their nuclear program are Israeli priorities, but Israel needs U.S. participation in any bombing campaign against the Islamic Republic for this to succeed, with the added hope that Iran’s leadership can be overthrown. Washington has repeatedly avoided this. According to NBC News, President Joe Biden expressed concern about Netanyahu’s intention to provoke a wider war, and he quickly moved to limit Israel’s options. What Are the Implications for the Future? For the immediate future, the main news item on the morning of April 14 was Biden’s conversation with Netanyahu in which he made two things clear: First, that Iran had failed to do much damage, so that Israel should consider this a success. “You got a win. Take the win,” Biden reportedly said. And second, in light of the Iranian failure, the United States saw no need to escalate the situation further and provoke a region-wide conflict. Therefore, if Israel decided to hit back against Iran, the Biden administration would not participate in any such operation. How Israel will react to this remains unclear. Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that the tensions with Iran “were not over,” after Netanyahu had stated, on the evening of April 13, that “Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination.” It’s conceivable that Netanyahu will chose to respond on his own, but if the aim is to reestablish an equitable deterrent, the prime minister cannot afford to allow such a response to come up short. All the signs are that Iran retains a wide array of means to harm Israel and wear it down through a thousand small cuts. Moreover, Netanyahu’s forces are still fighting in Gaza, so that escalating the conflict regionally would only further complicate the grinding battle against Hamas. More generally, for the first time in its history, Israel looks dangerously exposed. The country may not be facing an existential threat, but it is reaping the fruits of a cynical policy largely built on ignoring Palestinian and Arab rights, while blocking all avenues that might force Israel to surrender occupied land. The Iranians have exploited this well, and even if their latest attacks did not cause major devastation, subsequent strikes, particularly ones with less prior signaling, may be much bloodier. On its own, this is enough for Iran to say that it has reimposed a balance of deterrence, even if it remains to be seen whether further attacks against Iranian officials in Syria will invite similar retaliation from Iranian territory. It is this perception of helplessness that is stuck in the craw of Israeli leaders. Israel has long projected an image of strength. The Iranians have succeeded in scratching that image. It’s difficult to see how Netanyahu can go along with Biden’s suggestion that he “take a win,” when everything about Iran’s assault suggested less than that.

Defense & Security
Washington DC, USA - October 21, 2023: Pro-Palestine, anti-Israel protesters.

Gaza: a litmus test for the humanitarian sector’s commitment to decolonisation?

by Zainab Moallin , Nosheen Malik , Leen Fouad

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Despite shifts in governance, vast sums of international aid and various peace talks, the Occupied Palestinian Territories cannot escape perpetual crisis due to Israel’s decades-long occupation. Amidst the latest surge of violence in Gaza since 7 October, the world contends not only with a devastating civilian death toll but also a battle of narratives – with questions of how this violence is being framed, depicted and portrayed publicly, or the ‘stories’ that are shaping the public’s perception of the conflict. The limits of neutrality While much of the world has, quite rightly, focused on unpicking the narratives shaped by political figures and the media, as well as their consequences, much less attention has turned to narratives emanating from the humanitarian sector. Profound disagreements are rife between humanitarian leadership and staff, revealing concerns about the presence of ‘neutrality’ as staff highlight insufficient acknowledgement of longstanding Palestinian oppression and question the proximity of some United Nations agencies’ leadership to the United States government. The repeated refusal of the United Kingdom and the US governments to call for a ceasefire has been mirrored by some international organisations, and many of those who did used underwhelming language when talking about Palestinian rights and Israeli accountability. The New Humanitarian reports on a disconnect between aid workers from the Global South, where most humanitarian activity is situated, and the sector’s disproportionately Western decision-makers, raising the question: is the humanitarian principle of neutrality increasingly at odds with decolonisation? By promoting an objective, non-partisan approach, neutrality inadvertently aligns with ‘saviourism’, implying that international aid actors are the only ones capable of fair and neutral arbitration. This notion reflects disturbing racist underpinnings, as it appears to privilege international actors above community members. Ending the occupation For many international organisations, neutrality is seen to improve access to affected populations in conflict. However, if aid agencies are willing to trade access for truth and justice, what is the genuine purpose of humanitarianism? Many aid professionals are urging humanitarian organisations to step out from behind the long-held tones of measured neutrality to instead be ‘more representative of the Global South’. According to one aid worker, ‘It did not start with the war on Gaza. Our organisations know better. It is a bit shocking to see that some organisations are even reluctant to say, “end of occupation.”’ Prior to the Oslo Accords, most aid to Palestinians was ‘emergency’ in nature. However, following the agreement, the focus shifted towards supporting the establishment of a two-state solution – a goal that remains unachieved 30 years later. This shift has overlooked a critical issue: humanitarian efforts have not effectively confronted the root cause of the need for aid, which is effectively Israel's occupation. Across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UNRWA’s presence has enabled Israel to maintain its system of control, without having to assume full responsibility for the livelihoods, essential services and basic rights of the occupied population. In other words, by not directly challenging the root causes of Palestinian suffering, humanitarian aid has placed Palestinians on life support for the last 75 years. The interplay between humanitarianism and decolonisation The enduring challenges faced by the humanitarian sector are not without precedent. The ‘first wave’ of global NGO expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, a period marked by widespread decolonisation, saw humanitarian efforts aiming to fundamentally alter the course of the newly independent nations. This reciprocal influence between a decolonising world and the evolving field of humanitarianism set the stage for both its achievements and its limitations. But nowhere were the moral hazards of humanitarianism during twentieth-century decolonisation more apparent than in relation to the forced resettlement of civilians. Forced resettlement, often undertaken in the guise of humanitarian intervention, laid bare the complex ethical dilemmas and unintended consequences that can arise when aid intersects with political agendas and colonial legacies. Today, over 80% of Gaza’s population has been internally displaced since October, and Israel’s military offensive has turned much of Gaza’s landscape into uninhabitable land as whole neighbourhoods and agricultural land have been erased. The Israeli government has not publicly confirmed any plan for Gaza’s population, but Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel suggested in December that an ‘option’ would be ‘to promote the voluntary resettlement of Palestinians in Gaza, for humanitarian reasons, outside of the Strip’. An active commitment to decolonisation In confronting Israel’s settler-colonial military tactics, the humanitarian sector must stay true to its decolonisation commitments. The sector can learn from the ways in which humanitarian need was framed during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. As the anti-apartheid movement developed into a global political discourse, it revealed how Black South Africans were not only victims of racial injustice, but of a system designed specifically for collective punishment. A humanitarian discourse against apartheid developed, highlighting it as a driver of crisis that must be dismantled. Global solidarity was paramount. Decolonisation is not an academic pursuit. It is not a metaphor, nor is it a box-checking exercise. The humanitarian sector’s commitment to decolonisation is more critical now than ever – it is essential when entire families are wiped out, countless Palestinian children are orphaned and hundreds of thousands of people are on the precipice of famine. It is vital when Western media continues to peddle age-old racist and Orientalist tropes of ‘violent’ and ‘savage’ Arab men to justify Palestinian suffering. Decolonisation means the humanitarian sector must amplify Palestinian narratives, highlighting the ways in which Palestinians have endured decades-long occupation and oppression. Humanitarians’ influence must be leveraged for long-term justice for Palestinians. Anything less will perpetuate the sector’s role as an ineffectual bandage to a 75-year-old wound.