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Western Sahara Wall in Morocco, Western Sahara. March 22, 2008: Demonstration for the independence of the Sahara Occidental in front of the Moroccan wall

48 years after, there is no time for peace in the Western Sahara

by María López Belloso

In a world marked by growing tensions and conflicts in places such as Gaza, Ukraine, and Yemen, the 48th anniversary of the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on February 27 invites us to reflect on the importance of peace in a context where escalating violence threatens to overshadow any possibility of international harmony. Paradoxically, the Western Sahara conflict does not seem to be one of the conflicts of greatest concern to the international community. Thus, the 2022 annual report of the International Crisis Group did not include the Saharawi conflict among the 10 to be considered in 2023, although it did not foresee the Gaza crisis either. In the current global landscape, peace is at a crossroads, challenged by conflicts that seem to be emerging in different parts of the world. From the live-streamed genocide in Gaza to the conflicts in Ukraine and Yemen, it is clear that the escalation of violence, is on the rise. But this is only the visible side of the coin. According to the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, there are currently more than a hundred-armed conflicts in the world, including 7 in Europe and 45 in North Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, recently the more than 350 high-level participants from over 70 countries who took part in the Munich Security Conference have demonstrated the incoherence of foreign policy by showing double standards in the application of personalized international law in the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine. An appeal for peace and dialogue Although the motto of this conference, which began in 1963, is “Peace through dialogue”, peace and dialogue have disappeared from the equation, eclipsed by an exchange of accusations and requests for armament support. Only the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Layen, reflected on the democratic costs of the current global situation, asking whether “democracy will survive in the world and whether we can defend our values”. In this context, the anniversary of the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic takes on a special relevance, reminding us of the urgent need to prioritize peace over discord. Throughout the decades, the Saharawi people have maintained a firm commitment to peace, even amidst provocations and breaches of agreements by Morocco. Their longing for a peaceful future has been eloquently manifested in their participation in conflict resolution efforts and in their constant willingness to negotiate peace. Despite the adversities, the Sahrawis have shown an admirable resistance, reaffirming their commitment to regional stability in a context in which no one seems to remember that it is now 48 years since the start of the conflict at Europe’s doorstep, with over 250,000 people struggling to survive in the refugee camps in Tindouf, increasingly forgotten by donors and international society. Even though the Sahrawi people have references such as Aminetu Haidar, internationally awarded for her peaceful resistance and struggle for human rights, reminding us that peace, despite the provocations and challenges, remains a fundamental objective for the Sahrawi people, the international community bets on whitewashing Morocco by granting it the presidency of the Human Rights Council. The complex international relations The recent trip of the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, to Morocco has raised questions about his commitment to international law. Ignoring Morocco’s occupation and exploitation of the Sahrawi territory not only contravenes fundamental principles, but also highlights the complexity of international relations in an increasingly interconnected world. In this critical context, there is a need for spaces for reflection that can shed some light on this bleak panorama. The University of Deusto will soon host the conference “Western Sahara: Exploring New Perspectives from International Law and International Relations” to analyze the complexities of the situation in Western Sahara, explore new perspectives and seek solutions from the field of international law and international relations. It will be a space for constructive dialogue, with the hope of finding paths towards peace and justice in a region marked by controversy. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, “in dark times” it is imperative to remember that peace and international cooperation are fundamental to building a sustainable and fair future. The situation in Western Sahara provided us with an opportunity to reflect on how we can move towards a world where respect for international law and peaceful conflict resolution are the norm, not the exception.

Defense & Security
A miracle glass on the Yemen of the world map

The impact of Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea on the Yemen crisis

by Sergey Serebrov

The U.S.-British coalition’s military intervention in Yemen has become the most dangerous expansion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (PIC), taking a heavy toll on the security in the Middle East and creating a parallel hotbed of military standoff in the Red Sea. There is no consensus in the region’s countries on the root cause of the current escalation, with some governments blaming the terrorist sortie of the Qassam Brigades militants from Hamas’ Al-Aqsa Flood (known as Toofan in Arabic) on October 7, 2023, while others—the abnormal situation of the decades-long occupation and blockade of Palestine by Israel, mentioned by UN Secretary General A. Guterres in October 2023. Yet they are all united in extremely negative assessments of the humanitarian consequences of the Iron Swords operation by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip. The final document of the LAS and OIC summit in Riyadh on November 11, 2023, attended by 57 heads of state, had the most pacifist tone possible, but it clearly condemned Israel’s war crimes campaign and demanded “an immediate ceasefire along with the opening of humanitarian corridors.” While rejecting the adoption of collective non-military measures of pressure on Israel proposed by the so-called Axis of Resistance and a number of other states, a caveat was made that they could be applied individually: “The resolution calls on the members of the OIC and LAS to use diplomatic, political and legal forms of pressure as well as deterrent measures to stop the colonial occupation administration’s crimes against humanity.” Russian scholars V.V. Naumkin and V.A. Kuznetsov attribute the strategy of the Israeli government and the militarist policies of the U.S. and UK as the main reason for aggravation of the PIC: “Rejecting the draft settlement by founding an independent Palestinian state (within the borders as of June 4, 1967 with the capital in Eastern Jerusalem), prescribed by resolutions of the UNSC, which would exist side by side with Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is driving the problem into a dead end. And pumping American and British weapons into Israel only prolongs the bloodshed. Continued attempts to resolve the Gaza conflict by force are disastrous for the future co-existence of the two peoples.” Discussions at the UN showed that this conclusion is shared by most countries in the region, i.e. the fuse for spontaneous outbursts of resistance to the existing order remains unextinguished. Yemen is one such hotbed. Deep political divisions, an unfinished nine-year war with the Arab Coalition (AC) and a massive humanitarian disaster affecting 80 per cent of the population did not prevent the country’s inhabitants from voicing their attitude to the Gaza tragedy. Political activism and anti-Israeli sentiments rose everywhere. The epicenter was 14 of the country’s 22 most populous provinces, controlled by the authorities of Sana’a, where an alliance between the Houthi movement Ansarullah and the core of the country’s former ruling party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), formed a coalition regime in 2016 that recognized Yemen’s current constitution. These provinces are home to more than two-thirds of the country’s population (about 23 million people) as well as the largest cities, such as Sana’a, Ibb and the main Red Sea port of Hodeidah. The internationally unrecognized regime in Sana’a, targeted in March 2015 by a massive AC military operation at the request of the legitimate Yemeni authorities to neutralize it, has suddenly become one of the main centers of the region’s current political dynamics. The Ansarullah leadership’s public support of the Palestinian resistance has become a powerful springboard for strengthening of its status and authority both within Yemen and at the regional level, consolidating the ideological foundations of the Houthi movement as a new national symbol and political platform for the country. Castigating the U.S. and the UK for aiding Israel with its war in Gaza as “complicit in crimes against humanity,” the movement’s leader sayyid Abdul Malik al-Houthi placed an explicit emphasis on the importance of involving the peoples and governments of all Arab and Islamic states in the Palestinian struggle, while underscoring the vanguard role of Yemen. The Ansarullah leader condemned the Arab states that continued to pursue the course of normalizing their relations with Israel, calling on them to abide by the moral principles of Islam, which do not allow tolerance for the “usurper who clearly violates the rights of the Palestinian people.” He described Hamas’ Toofan operation as “a game-changer due to inflicting tangible losses on the Zionist enemy,” and Yemenis’ support for it as their “religious and moral duty.” Sana’a announced joining the Palestinian war on Israel and its readiness to send “hundreds of thousands of soldiers” at the right moment. The authorities organized the collection and transfer of money to Gazans, and they switched to active military support of the Palestinians in mid-October 2023 by launching missiles and drones towards the Israeli port of Eilat in an attempt to divert Israeli forces and hamper the port’s operations. On November 19, 2023, they arrested the ship Galaxy Leader, owned by an Israeli businessman, enforcing a ban they had imposed in mid-November on the navigation of Israeli ships and cargo through Yemeni territorial waters. Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Nebenzya said in early January 2024: “It is impossible to deny what is happening in the Red Sea is a direct projection of the violence in Gaza, where Israel’s bloody operation has been going on for three months,” while the U.S. “has turned the UN Security Council into a hostage by vetoing resolutions on an immediate ceasefire.” Since October 2023, the leader of Ansarullah has personally called on the people to participate in regular mass solidarity actions almost weekly, as part of a campaign he called “The Battle of Allah’s Promised Victory” and the Holy Jihad. To coordinate the mass demonstrations, which often involved more than 2 million people, and to provide ideological guidance, the authorities in Sana’a established the “Support for Al-Aqsa” committee, which turned those protests into weekly grand-scale political actions. The slogans of these marches, especially after the launch of Military Operation ‘Prosperity Guardian’ against Yemen on January 12, 2024, took on an increasingly militant tone: “You are not alone... we stand together with Gaza!”, “From the faithful people of Yemen—help, help Toofan,” “the Flood of al-Aqsa has already come—it will defeat the insolent countries,” “Al-Aqsa Flood, come and wash away the barriers and walls!” The Houthi ideology is based on the concept of the “Quranic path” proclaimed by the founder of this movement, sayyid Hussein B. al-Husi (1959-2004). The key tenet is that the consciousness of each Muslim believer and the Islamic community as a whole needs to be reformed and entrenched upon the rails of spirituality and morality as dictated by the holy book, which will make “ummah”, the entire Muslim community, exemplary and advanced. This progress towards the ideal should be led by a spiritual leader, personifying the selfless service to the faith and having genetic affiliation to the descendants of the Prophet’s house—the sada (hence the singular—sayyid). Among his main functions, as the doctrine has it, is to take care of the community’s readiness to defend the moral values of Islam against its worst enemies. Sayyid Hussein listed their names in his cliché (Arabic: sarkha), which he first uttered in a lecture to a youth audience in January 2002: “Allah is great! Death to America! Death to Israel! Curse to the Jews! Victory to Islam!” This clarion call has become a distinctive marker of the Houthi and the Ansarullah movement, and posters with this text have been a permanent feature of meetings, marches, and wall decorations in public institutions and schools since 2016. After the Prosperity Guardian coalition’s bombings commenced, a new term of the “evil trinity” (ash-shir al-thulathi)—Israel, the U.S. and the UK—appeared in the Houthi narrative. In the expert community, the autonomy and authenticity of the Houthi ideology and socio-political movement with deep Yemeni roots are generally not in doubt. The Houthi were not and are not “agents” or “proxies” of Iran, despite their growing cooperation in recent years. In the Houthi movement, as was correctly noted by the well-known orientalist B. Haykel, the influence of not only Shiite but also Sunni currents of modern political Islam, as well as secular ideologies, including “nationalism and anti-colonialism” [1], is quite conspicuous. The Houthi movement also purports to protect Yemen’s sovereignty, rebuild its economy on the basis of its own resources and modern technology, improve its education system and restore its historical glory as the heart of the entire Islamic world and one of the main hubs of Islamic civilization. Helen Lackner, the British researcher of Yemen, said: “The charge of acting as Tehran’s proxy serves as an insult to an organization that has its own motivations and ideological position.” After 2016, Ansarullah shares equal seats with the General People’s Congress (GPC) on the Supreme Political Council (SPC) representing in a binary coalition government the central executive authorities in a full-fledged state-type republican system that encompasses provincial and local levels. The regime is based on the old bureaucracy created by President Abdallah A. Saleh, remaining loyal to the coalition authorities in Sana’a after Saleh’s death in December 2017 and retaining the same structure and core, with Ansarullah members added as managers and employees. The SPC is spearheaded by one of the movement’s leaders, Mahdi Mashat, while the government of national salvation is headed by GPC member Abdul Aziz bin Habtoor, a former rector of the University of Aden. The shibboleths of external propaganda characterizing the Houthi as “militias,” “jamaat,” “rebels,” “insurgents,” or “tribes” do not correspond to the socio-political nature of the movement, nor do they agree with the contemporary Yemeni realities. Beside the executive branch, the Houthi are represented in parliament, the judiciary and all security agencies, including the army and intelligence. Together with the GPC, they define the regime’s foreign policy as well as cooperation with the countries of the so-called Axis of Resistance that includes Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This comes precisely as a result of the Decisive Storm, a foreign military operation launched nine years ago. According to formal criteria, the Ansarullah organization since 2015, in the situation of a protracted crisis related to the division of the Yemeni nation and the foreign AC intervention, having retained the signs of a socio-political movement, functionally made a leap into the category of transitional actors moving from quasi-state to the state type body. It should also be noted that under the extreme conditions of war and blockade, the coalition regime in Sana’a achieved consolidation, which was not the case (for objective reasons) in the camp of the internationally recognized Government of Yemen (GoY or IRG), which received major military and financial support from the Arab Coalition. Organizationally, since the very beginning, the IRG has been in a state of chronic systemic disintegration that sparked direct armed clashes between its factions. Mass popular demonstrations in support of Palestine in the IRG-controlled part of the country, which covers about 75% of its territory, were sporadic and less crowded. Rashad Mohammed Al-Alimi, Chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), attended the November summit in Riyadh, where he expressed his condemnation of Israel’s military operation in Gaza and Yemenis’ solidarity with the Palestinian people. However, he distanced himself from the hostile stance to IRG policy of the unrecognized regime in Sana’a, especially on the military blockade of Israeli shipping and navigation. “The terrorist attacks by the Houthi in the Red Sea are harming the freedom of global trade and the peoples of the region, doubling above all the suffering of the Yemeni people, whose survival is 90% dependent on imports,” he said. Opinions were divided among the leaders of other factions within the IRG, but most of them supported the establishment of the American-British Coalition (ABC) and the listing of the Houthi as global terrorists by the U.S. on January 17, 2024, which signaled a possible setback of the Yemeni conflict. The most likely scenario for the conflict, which promises to be protracted and extremely unsavory to the ABC, is for the Anglo-Saxon partnership to exploit the complex military and political environment for a further instrumentalization of existing rivalries. The above analysis of the Sana’a policy shows that the ABC command could not expect Sana’a to lift the maritime sanctions against Israel through military blackmail, as this would mean a backdown on the entire ideology of the regime, defined by the mentioned Houthi concept of the “Quranic path.” The lifting of the ban on Israeli shipping was promised by the Sana’a authorities only after the Israeli ceasefire in Gaza and the opening of humanitarian corridors, which was officially voiced at all levels even before the launch of the ABC military operation in Yemen. Official spokesman of Ansarullah, Muhammad Abdulsalam, warned the ABC command about this intention immediately after U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the ABC establishment in December 2023: “the ABC mission is to provide a cover for Israel and to proceed with illegal militarization of the Red Sea that will not stop Yemen which will continue to provide legitimate support to the people of Gaza.” U.S. claims that Operation Prosperity Guardian is designed to “undermine and degrade the ability of the Houthi to endanger seamen and threaten global trade on one of the world’s most important waterways” are questionable as well, as the AC’s attempt to accomplish a similar task militarily for nine years is known to have been unsuccessful, ending with a transition to a de-escalation phase in April 2022. Since March 2015, U.S. and UK officers have been represented on the AC command staff, contributing to the Decisive Storm operation by using the same methods, the same weapons and the same intelligence sources as the ABC currently relies on. One of the major military outcomes of the AC’s “old” campaign was the emergence of a localized industrial base at the Sana’a disposal to build and maintain the kind of modern-day arsenal that made the transition to a political settlement of the crisis the most expedient choice for all sides. Finally, the proposition of the ABC command that the operation in the Red Sea was designed to protect the safety of commercial shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which accounts for about 14% of the world’s commercial cargo turnover, also proved to be completely untenable in the first month and a half. Already at the stage of the Anglo-Saxon coalition formation, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, suggested: “They have assembled a so-called ‘international coalition’ (which quite characteristically consists mainly of American ships), which is supposed to ‘ensure security’, although in reality the legitimacy of its actions raises the most serious questions in terms of international law. We should not have any illusions about the true goals of the authors of the resolution. This is not about ensuring the safety of navigation in the Red Sea at all, but an attempt to legitimize (post factum) the actions of the aforementioned ‘coalition’ and have Security Council’s endorsement for an unlimited time.” Operation Prosperity Guardian per se was the main cause behind the escalation of tensions and a threat to the navigation of all other carriers. It is no coincidence that neither the littoral states of this subregion nor the leading foreign states that use this route have yielded to the pressure or expressed any willingness to join the coalition. Egypt, 10% of whose budget depends on Forex earnings from Suez, saw the ABC action as “a dangerous acceleration of events in the southern Red Sea and Yemen ... with potential risks of a wider conflict in the region due to Israel’s ongoing attacks in the Gaza Strip.” His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, said even before the ABC attacks in Yemen, the “from Qatar’s political perspectives, no military action leads to a resolution. We are closely watching developments in the Red Sea, but our greatest fear is the consequences of being drawn into an endless loop of region-wide tensions. We hope for an early end to what is happening to the civilian ships via diplomatic means. That will be the best way possible.” Essentially, all countries in the subregion agreed that the best way out of the military conflict in the Red Sea would be to fulfill the Sana’a demands to the Israeli authorities, i.e. putting an end to a devastating war in Gaza. Of all the countries in this subregion, only Bahrain, home to U.S. and British naval bases, joined the ABC. Objective data on the ship traffic through the Suez Canal shows that the drop was only about 2% in the first thirty days after the seizure of the Israeli ship by the Yemeni military. A deeper dive began only after the U.S. announcement of the ABC on December 18, 2023, reaching a record 50% by the end of February 2024, after the strikes on Yemen commenced, when the Sana’a authorities added to their sanctions list the U.S. and UK military and their merchant ships, which became the main targets of their attacks starting in mid-January 2024. A summary of the first month of Operation Prosperity Guardian was over 400 air and missile strikes by ABC forces on Yemeni territory and more than 25 retaliatory attacks by the Sana’a authorities against ABC and Israeli naval targets with the sinking of the British merchant ship Rubymar carrying ammonia fertilizers in February 2024. Nor has it been possible to stop the Houthi from launching missiles toward Israel. Besides the military risks to shipping, the ABC operation also threatened the ecology of the Red Sea waters, which is an important traditional source of income for fishermen in the coastal states. The true strategy of the ABC in Yemen can only be judged by the further course and results of the campaign, which promises to have far-reaching consequences for the entire region. Its most likely development will be an attempt to torpedo de-escalation, which has defined the downward dynamic of the “old” military crisis in Yemen involving the AC since April 2022. There are several reasons for this conclusion. First, the decisive move by KSA and Sana’a to remove the regional component of the Yemeni crisis has been highly successful in bringing it out of the stalemate it hit after the failure of the Kuwait round of UN-sponsored talks in 2016. The de-escalation process was accompanied by exchange visits of official delegations from Riyadh and Sana’a in April and September 2023 and their preparation of a compromise settlement formula that would satisfy both sides. The Houthi surrender as the only scenario for ending the war became a thing of the past, and the consolidation of the Ansarullah political alliance with the GPC core within the ruling regime in Sana’a finally appeared to get a sort of recognition. This shift removed the main motive for the AC to continue the war and meant a reorientation of the regional leader, Saudi Arabia, to deep readjustment of the entire system of subregional relations and to zero out its involvement in external military conflicts. To finalize the process, all that remained was to sign a ready-made roadmap and start preparing a national dialogue in the Yemeni format with the participation of Ansarullah under the auspices of the UN. Second, de-escalation was largely achieved due to the normalization of KSA-Iran diplomatic relations in March 2023, mediated by China. For the U.S. and the UK, this change meant, among other things, undermining their fundamental long-term geopolitical construct, which had been used for decades to structure the system and dynamics of regional relations across the Middle East. It was based on the exploitation of Sunni-Shiite and Iranian-Saudi contradictions, into which anti-American and anti-Israeli manifestations were also implanted as a sign of “Shiite” (aka “Iranian”) influence in the countries of this region. The conflict in Yemen has long ago proved its complete unsuitability for analyzing the Yemeni realities. The sociocultural ground in this country has ruled out the transformation of Yemeni contradictions into sectarian ones, as the relations between both dominant autochthonous religious communities of Yemen—Shafi’i (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shia)—have remained traditionally tolerant and friendly. The religious framing employed has been much more influential in sharpening their dichotomies with the proselytizing radical version of the Salafi ideology of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood* operating within the Islah Party. The attribution of the “Iranian agent” label to the Houthi has generally remained very superficial to Yemeni political discourse proper and has not become a fully effective tool for manipulating this rivalry. Third, the very fact that Riyadh entered direct negotiations with Sana’a, mediated by Oman, signaled the increasing role of sovereignty in the system of subregional politics and the process of its transition to a more friendly architecture of relations, less dependent on the military presence of extra-regional superpowers in the Gulf and the Red Sea. Back in the summer of 2019, the UAE unilaterally announced the end of its military involvement in the AC operation in Yemen. The KSA’s new strategy toward Yemen has been heading in the same direction. Various attempts by the U.S. special ambassador to Yemen, T. Linderking, to slow down and derail this process were not quite successful. The U.S. emissary either inspired the KSA with mistrust of Iran’s intentions after the restoration of KSA-Iran diplomatic relations, or warned the Arabian countries that the U.S. would not leave Yemen out of its control anyway, saying, in particular, that the final stage of “an inclusive Yemeni-Yemeni political process [should] take place under U.S. auspices” instead of the UN format recognized by all parties. The UN mission in Yemen, which played an important and very positive role in the success of the “Oman track,” may also have been a source of discontent for the Anglo-Saxon partnership. A roadmap to end the KSA's military involvement in Yemen within three years was prepared by late 2023, which Hans Grundberg, the current head of the mission, publicly announced on December 23. This marked a de facto major step toward the final international legitimization of Ansarullah as a full-fledged participant in the political process. The struggle to keep the roadmap for a Yemeni settlement afloat, albeit in a postponed mode due to the ABC military intervention, is of fundamental importance for the future status and security systems of Arabia and the Red Sea. This is evidenced, in particular, by the KSA’s choice to consolidate the agreements reached with Sana’a after the Western coalition began bombing Yemen. At a meeting with T. Linderking in February 2024, KSA Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to “provide assistance to Yemen in facilitating a dialogue between the parties to reach a political solution under the auspices of the UN.” In addition to the KSA’s own experience of waging war in Yemen, there is a solid scientific basis for this choice: following a comprehensive analysis of the genesis and state of the Ansarullah organization, the authors of The Houthi Movement in Yemen, a fundamental monograph recently published by the KSA, conclude that “regardless of the final result, it seems that the Houthis will remain a key player in Yemen’s cultural, social, economic and political scenes for the foreseeable future [2].” Over the years of war, the leading Yemeni centers of political influence (CPIs) within the IRG and both active participants in the AC—the KSA and the UAE—brought about an amalgam of interests, which, in the context of a military intervention by the powerful ABC, risk being manipulated by the neocolonial project of the Anglo-Saxon partnership. By playing up intra-Yemeni contradictions and staging the pulling of certain Yemeni CPIs to their side, the two leading players of the ABC may try to turn them into an instrument of their policy both in the crisis zone and in the entire subregion. Unfortunately, they have serious and objective prerequisites for this attempt at sowing discord. The success of the “Omani track” within the Riyadh-Sana’a bilateral format in achieving sustainable de-escalation in the conflict zone was achieved almost without the participation of all the other CPIs in the IRG. This narrower format created a ground for their dissatisfaction and natural concerns about the current situation. The Emirati actors on the IRG’s Emirati flank, represented by General Aidarus al-Zubaidi’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) and General Tareq M. Saleh’s Political Council of the National Resistance Forces, were particularly wary, directly criticizing certain provisions of the roadmap that, in their view, provided excessive economic advantages to the hostile authorities in Sana’a—for example, their right to a share of the proceeds from the export of Yemeni oil to pay off debts on the salaries of civil servants. The ABC’s operation against Sana’a provoked something of a revenge attempt on the part of these CPIs within the IRG. President Rashad al-Alimi and the leaders of the Emirati flank of the PLC were quick to express their willingness to cooperate with the ABC, although each of the three CPIs had very different perspectives and goals in mind, both for themselves and for the future of the country. All the old political science constructs introduced to launch and accompany AC’s military campaign began to rapidly return to the Yemeni narrative: the diminutive labeling of the Sana’a authorities as “Houthi,” “militia,” or “rebels”; the reanimation of the Iranian expansion bugaboo through the Ansarullah movement, ostensibly willing to bring the Red Sea under Iran’s heel, etc. At the same time, the political reasons for the rivalry between the CPIs of the Saudi and Emirati flanks in the IRG camp have not disappeared. The probable supply of arms by the ABC to one of the flanks in the AC camp, or even to one of the CPIs on either flank, will inevitably lead to imbalances in the fragile configuration of forces, not only along the IRG-Sana’a Alliance (SA) axis, but also within the IRG camp. The risk of these CPIs clashing with each other is sometimes not lower, and in some scenarios even higher, than with the SA. Suffice it to mention the fact that the official policy of the leading faction on the Emirati flank, the Southern Transitional Council or STC, to withdraw the South within the 1990 borders of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), enshrined in the National Charter of Honor of the South that adopted in May 2023, is emphatically denied by most of the other Yemeni CPIs within the same IRG, as well as by both SA members. The ABC’s military involvement in the internal Yemeni tangle is difficult to coordinate and predict. It carries the risk of completely transforming the situation and ricocheting into the camp of the IRG itself as well as the AC partners backing it. This is exactly the scenario that the Qatari leader warned about, speaking of the endless loop of conflicts into which Arabia is being drawn by the aggression in Yemen recently unleashed by the ABC. *** In conclusion, we should emphasize the importance of historical and socio-cultural factors, underpinning the notion of identities that play a primary role in conflicts both in Yemen and in the region in a broader sense. Especially because these are particularly visible and instrumental in the current escalatory ladder. Amar Bendjama, Algeria’s representative to the UN, described what is happening in the Red Sea as a direct projection of the violence in Gaza, reminding that “the primary responsibility for maritime security rests with coastal States — best positioned to ensure the safety of crucial waterways — and underscor[ing] that any collective effort lacking the active involvement of such States is likely to fall short of achieving the desired results.” He also noted that “the Red Sea is more than just a trade route — it is steeped in civilizations and communities with legitimate aspirations and hopes.” * This organization is declared terrorist and banned in Russia. 1. The Houthi Movement in Yemen Ideology, Ambition and Security in the Arab Gulf / Ed. Abdullah Hamidaddin, I.B. TAURIS, King Feisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Series, KFCRIS, 2022. P. 21. 2. Ibid. P. 3.

Elections in Portugal

What in at stake in the portuguese elections of march 10, 2024?

by Ángel Rivero

Portugal and Spain are two countries that share the same geopolitical position and parallel histories too. This makes mutual knowledge a source of information that should be valued by both countries, because one has much to learn from the experiences of the other. Unfortunately, as in the last century, it seems that getting to know oneself by studying one’s neighbor has little audience in both Spain, and Portugal. That is why it is worth it to insist on paying attention to what is at stake in the upcoming Portuguese legislative elections on March 10, 2024. The first thing to note is that this is an early election since the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, decided to dissolve the Parliament because of the corruption scandal involving António Costa, the socialist prime minister, who resigned on November 7, 2023. Costa´s resignation was agreed with the President of the Republic, and this explains the long period of time given to the Socialist Party so that it could recompose its leadership and face elections. The President of Portugal, elected by direct suffrage, has the power to dissolve the Parliament, even if the Government enjoys majority support as was the case, a prerogative reminiscent of the monarch in the old constitutional monarchy. The new leader of the Socialist Party is Pedro Nuno de Oliviera Santos, former Minister of Infrastructure and Housing under Costa and an enthusiastic supporter of the government agreements with the far left, known in Portugal as the “geringonça”. This data is important because it signifies that the radical sector of the Socialist Party has triumphed over the traditional moderate wing, and therefore, if the parliamentary numbers add up, a government like Costa’s first one in 2015 could be repeated. In that scenario, after losing elections, the Socialist Party was able to form a government with the support of the Communist Party and the Bloco de Esquerda. A novelty that deeply altered what had been until then the Portuguese party system. It is also relevant that, as a minister, Santos blocked the high-speed connection between Madrid and Lisbon, an infrastructure that should have been completed decades ago, and displayed a provocative and swaggering rhetoric in his relations with Spain. As a compliment, he has been dubbed as the Portuguese Pedro Sánchez. However, the chances of him reaching the government seem remote. That is why Santos has stated that if the center-right, which is running under the acronym of its historic coalition Democratic Alliance (AD), were to win the elections, he would allow them to govern as a minority, so they could not have to rely on the far-right Chega! Party. But these manifestations neither express moderation nor political generosity because, in fact, the only possibility for the PS to govern is, precisely, that, as was the case before 2015, the right-wing would allow it to govern in a minority if it wins the elections, that is, if it manages to be the force with the most votes and seats. Santos has demanded reciprocity from the AD after making his attractive offer. Meaning that, if the PS comes out on top, it should be able to govern. It is somewhat ironic that this approach is taken by an enthusiastic supporter of what happened in 2015 when Passos Coelho was ousted from the government after winning the elections thanks to an agreement between the PS and the far left. However, if the PS was able to capitalize on the results of 2015 to achieve an absolute majority in the 2022 elections, at the expense of the weakening of the far left – it came close to doing so in the 2019 elections –, things are quite different today. 2015 was an exceptional moment for the Portuguese far left as it garnered nearly 20% of the votes. But since then, it has continued to decline, and polls for these elections confirm the demise of the Communist Party, whose voters have moved to Chega!, and the likely confirmation of the weakness, if not irrelevance, of the Bloco de Esquerda. The latest Portuguese elections of 2022 resulted in the following outcomes shown in table 1: But recent polls from the last few days show the PS with between 20 and 30% of the vote, indicating a severe blow with the loss of half or at least a quarter of its votes; the Alianza Democrática between 21 and 33%, a slight increase compared to the last elections. The party that is growing the most is Chega!, which would go from 7.28 to 15 or even 19% of the votes, according to the polls. In contrast, the far left would be annihilated. If the 2022 elections were already one of the worst results in their history, these could still worsen. The latest polls indicate that the Communist Party would reach between 2 and 4%, with most surveys placing it at 2%, and the Bloco de Esquerda between 3 and 8%, with most polls placing the vote for this party between 3 and 4%. In short, even if the PS were to win, it would not have the option of repeating the “geringonça” of 2015, so strongly defended by its current leader Santos. That is, Santos could only govern if the old tradition of allowing the party with the most votes to govern were to be revived, a tradition he helped to destroy. But on the right side, things are also not clear. Although recent polls consistently indicate that the AD will surpass the PS, it seems difficult for them to reach a sufficient majority with the seats of IL Iniciativa Liberal, center-right, which polls give between 2% and 6.6%, although polls that give it 6% dominate. Luis Montenegro, the leader of the PSD who presents himself as the head of the AD coalition, along with the CDS-PP and the PPM, has established a political exclusion with Chega!; and André Ventura, its popular leader, has indicated that he will not support an AD government if they are not allowed to be part of it. So, as things stand, there could be the paradox in Portugal where the Assembly of the Republic is largely dominated by the right-wing parties, yet the AD government would be extremely weak. Paulo Raimundo, leader of the Portuguese Communist Party, says that their former voters now support Chega! because they are desperate. But something must have to do with the fact that Chega! has voted in favor of all social policies of the Costa government, particularly regarding the increase in the minimum wage, pensions, and other benefits. Portugal’s evolution in its party system shows a closer proximity to the European trend than Spain: the decline of the far left, the rise of the far right, and a certain fragmentation and weakening of the central bloc of governing parties. This means that in a context of weakness in the left Portuguese, the governing right may not be able to capitalize on it, despite being majority, due to being divided and having incompatible projects. The Democratic Alliance points the way to the necessary unity of the right to win elections and form a solid government, but its components are weakened parties whose main asset is their history, something that, according to the polls, lacks sufficient appeal to halt Chega! and thus offer a consistent government alternative.

Demonstrators marching along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to encourage the Biden administration in ending its support of Haitian dictators

Haiti Mission Lacks Interlocutor Plus Peruvian Congress Purges Top Judges

by Shannon K. O'Neil , Will Freeman

No interlocutor for Haiti mission’s international troops and Peru’s “pact of the corrupt” is succeeding where Guatemala’s failed without international pressure. No interlocutor for Haiti mission’s international troops. Haiti’s acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced he will resign. The timeline for his resignation is still unclear—it depends on the appointment of a transitional presidential council, jointly proposed by the United States, the Caribbean Community, and Henry’s administration. Henry’s announcement comes less than two weeks after he and Kenyan President William Ruto agreed to send 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti as part of a Kenya-led multinational security mission (MSS). The mission’s aim is to support Haiti’s overwhelmed and outgunned national police force, less than 10,000-strong. The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Benin, among others, may join their mission, potentially adding thousands more troops and police officers. And donor nations, including the United States, Canada, Germany, France and Guyana, have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in support. Yet the response looks to be too late and too little. Kenya’s promise to send officers is still in doubt, as courts have blocked government plans for over six months, and opposition lawmakers may mount a fresh challenge. Donor financial pledges total less than half the UN’s estimated need. And even if the troops arrive, they may not have a functioning government to work with. As the international community dithered, the situation on the ground deteriorated. Gangs now control over 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and have attacked police stations, a port, Port-Au-Prince’s international airport, and two prisons, releasing some four thousand inmates. With Henry having agreed to resign—but no new government currently in place—it’s unclear who can play the role of interlocutor for the MSS. Without stability, more Haitians will flee. Already, over 126,000 Haitians have arrived as part of the Biden administration’s new humanitarian parole program that allows them to come and work for two years, outnumbering tens of thousands of Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants that also qualify. Mexico received more than 40,000 Haitian asylum requests in 2023 alone. And more look to join the hundreds of thousands of Haitians living across the Western Hemisphere if the Haitian state fails. Peru’s “pact of the corrupt” is succeeding where Guatemala’s failed without international pressure. Last year in Guatemala, an incongruous coalition of lawmakers from different parties earned the nickname the “pact of the corrupt” as they joined forces to erode the rule of law and overturn election results. Thanks in large part to sustained international pressure, including targeted U.S. sanctions against nearly 300 lawmakers, Guatemala’s “pact” failed to keep President Bernardo Arévalo, an anti-corruption reformer, from taking office. A group of far-right and far-left Peruvian lawmakers is conducting a similar move, passing laws to reduce judicial independence and undermine conditions for free and fair elections. On March 7, Peru’s “pact” fired two of the seven top magistrates from the National Justice Board, which names prosecutors and judges and helps choose election authorities. This could enable lawmakers to influence the selection of election authorities next year in the run-up to Peru’s 2026 general elections by threatening further purges. Last year, a coordinated joint statement from U.S., EU, and Latin American embassies in Peru forced lawmakers to back down from firing the National Justice Board magistrates. But this time around, similar democracy eroding moves triggered less unified international pushback. Senators Tim Kaine and Ben Cardin released statements in defense of the National Justice Board, and the State Department’s global anti-corruption coordinator met with the magistrates before the ouster. That could help explain why Peru’s congress fell short of the votes it needed to suspend more magistrates, including the National Justice Board president. But without more coordination and the threat of targeted sanctions, Peru’s “pact of the corrupt” seems to have won this round.

A look at the massive protest march in Gaza at Freedom Plaza and the White House

Will Gaza Defeat President Joe Biden?

by Dennis Altman

Election prospects for Joe Biden are looking dimmer as the war in Gaza steadily worsens and the casualties of civilians increases. How will Americans vote on the Palestinian issue? Lyndon Johnson decided not to seek re-election because of opposition to his policies in Vietnam. Jimmy Carter’s chances of re-election were crushed when the attempt to rescue US hostages in Iran failed. Will the war in Gaza have the same effect on President Joe Biden? The United States is increasingly isolated internationally over its support for Israel. It has had to use its veto in the Security Council on three occasions to prevent calls for an immediate ceasefire, when not even the United Kingdom was prepared to do more than abstain. Biden has a long history of support for Israel, but even he has clearly lost patience with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After the initial Hamas attacks he flew to Israel to express solidarity, but also to warn against over-reaction. He has repeated that warning consistently, both publicly and privately, but the United States continues to provide Israel with arms and to protect it in international fora. Until recently that was a position supported by most Americans. However the last few months have seen a major rift develop among Democrats, with increasing numbers criticising Biden for his unwillingness to put further pressure on Israel. Vice President Kamala Harris has publicly pressured Israel to halt its ongoing assault on Gaza. At the same time some of the most strongly pro-Israeli lobbyists have deep connections with Democratic politicians. It’s important to recognise that some of Israel’s strongest defenders are not Jewish, and particularly on the Republican side are often associated with fundamental Christians who accept the claims of the Israeli right to all of Palestine. Traditionally, American Jews have tended to vote Democrat at a higher rate than their economic status might suggest. But there are significant Republican connections with both right-wing Jews and the Israeli lobby, and Netanyahu made little secret of his preference for Donald Trump, who both recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and brokered peace with some of the Gulf states. The Jewish population of the United States is less than three percent, but it is heavily concentrated in a few states and Jews tend to vote more often than other groups (the figures are rubbery, in part because many people with Jewish backgrounds are non-religious and not connected to organised community organisations). The Palestinian population is small, and even the Arab-American population is probably less than that of Jewish-Americans, unlike the situation in Australia. Not all Jews support Israel, and opposition to the Netanyahu government is larger and better organised than in Australia. But there are sufficient Jewish and Arab Americans for whom Gaza is an important enough issue to determine their vote. And here lies the problem for Biden. Trump, who has managed to combine friendship with anti-Semites and unwavering support for Israel, has little to lose through the unfolding tragedy in Gaza. Few of his supporters would be concerned with his closeness to Netanyahu, but he may well increase his support among former Democratic Jewish voters who like his support for Israel. Of the six states that are generally regarded as likely to swing the results of the presidential election only two, Arizona and Pennsylvania, have sufficient Jewish voters that even a slight decline in their support could cost Biden the state. The bigger problem for Biden is people on the left who are so outraged by his continuing support for Israel that they may choose to either not vote or vote for a third-party candidate. In the American system, with first past the post voting for president in all but a couple of states, a third-party candidate could erode Biden’s lead in a number of crucial states. Voters who feel they cannot support his policies can of course choose not to vote—or could vote for Greens Party leader Jill Stein, who has called for an immediate ceasefire, or Robert Kennedy Jr, who speaks more vaguely of peace and a less militaristic foreign policy. Neither of them is a potential winner, but they have the capacity to take left-wing votes away from Biden. The Biden campaign are clearly worried about this, particularly in Michigan which has a sizeable Arab-American population. The presidential election is over ten months away, and no-one can predict whether the war in Gaza will be over, although it would be absurdly optimistic to assume any realistic settlement. Domestic issues—the economy, immigration—will be more significant, as will the apparent health of the two men who are fighting to be the oldest US president in history. But there are enough Americans for whom the scars of Gaza are sufficiently traumatic to determine how they will vote—or not vote—in November. And on balance this can only help Donald Trump.

Vladimir Putin

What can we expect from six more years of Vladimir Putin? An increasingly weak and dysfunctional Russia

by William Partlett

There is very little drama in Russia’s upcoming presidential election this weekend. We all know Vladimir Putin will win. The only real question is whether he will receive more than 75% of the vote. It could be tempting to see these results as a sign of the strength of the Russian system. Recent gains by the Russian army in Ukraine seem to further support this. But my own research – soon to be published in a forthcoming book – shows the election results and Russia’s military gains in Ukraine hide a much more problematic reality for the country. Russia’s system of government is not only undemocratic, rights abusing and unpredictable. It is also increasingly dysfunctional, trapped in a cycle of poor quality and weak governance that cannot be solved by one man, no matter how much power he has. The constitutional dark arts The weakness stems from the hyper-centralisation of power in Russia around the president. This centralisation is the product of an increasingly common logic that I call the “constitutional dark arts”. This logic generally holds that democracy and rights protection are best guaranteed in a constitutional system that centralises authority in one elected leader. This line of thinking is present in many populist, authoritarian countries, such as Hungary and Turkey. The foundation of this kind of system in Russia is the 1993 Constitution. It was drafted by then-President Boris Yeltsin and his supporters (many in the West) as an expedient for dismantling communism and implementing radical economic reforms. As such, it contains a number of rights provisions and democratic guarantees, alongside provisions that centralise vast power in an elected Russian president. Yeltsin (and his Western supporters) described this system as democratic because it made the president answerable to the people. They also argued that rights provisions would allow courts to limit any abuses by the centralised state. These reformers hoped Yeltsin could use this concentrated power to build democracy in Russia. Thirty years later, however, we can see how this use of the “constitutional dark arts” backfired spectacularly. Since 2000, Putin has ruthlessly deployed this centralised authority to eliminate any checks on power. He has also transformed elections, the media and the courts from sources of accountability into mechanisms to project the image of strong presidential power. The upcoming presidential election is just the most recent example. Poor quality governance in Russia Although this centralised system has allowed Putin to dominate politics, it fosters weak and poor governance, particularly outside Moscow. At least two factors are at play. First, centralised decision-making in Russia is often made using incomplete or false information. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is an example. It was based on intelligence that the operation would be over quickly and Ukrainians would likely welcome Russian forces. Second, centralised directives are delegated to under-resourced, incompetent and weak institutions. Russia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was disastrous, in large part due to the poorly resourced regional authorities who were overwhelmed by a crisis of this scale. This dysfunction has been a central message of the political movement led by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Before his death last month, Navalny and his team harshly criticised the corruption and weakness of the Russian regime and its inability to fix roads, provide health care and adequately pay teachers or doctors. This message was potent, making Navalny the first opposition politician to build a broad coalition that spanned Russia’s 11 time zones. This broad coalition frightened the Kremlin to such an extent that it led to Navalny’s poisoning in August 2020. Although it remains to be seen how his political movement responds to his death, this central criticism of the government remains one of its most potent messages. Although it’s impossible to get independent polling on domestic issues during the Ukraine war, it does appear Putin and his administration are concerned about this weakness. In his February 29 address to parliament, Putin tacitly acknowledged these problems, promising new national projects to improve infrastructure, support families and enhance the quality of life. These kind of promises, however, are unlikely to be implemented. Putin has traditionally promised these kinds of changes around presidential elections. But, when it comes to implementing them, Russia’s regional sub-units are often given no resources to do so. With so much money now going to the war, it is unlikely the latest set of promises will be any different. An increasingly dysfunctional Russia With Putin soon to start his fifth presidential term, this centralisation and personalisation of power is only going to increase. Externally, this centralisation is likely to produce an increasingly unpredictable Russia, led by a man making decisions on the basis of an increasingly paranoid world view and incorrect or manipulated information. As former German Chancellor Angela Merkel once described Putin, he is really “living in another world”. This is likely to lead to more foreign policy adventurism and aggression. It will likely foster harsher repression of any dissenting voices inside Russia, as well. We are also likely to see an increasingly dysfunctional Russia, one in which roads, housing, schools, health care and other infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, particularly outside of Moscow. This extends to the military, which remains weak despite its recent battlefield gains. For instance, Russia’s overly centralised command structure has decimated the officer class and led to stunning losses of equipment. Although Russia has managed to muddle through by relying on its vast human and industrial resources, these systemic problems are taking a serious toll on its fighting capacity. Despite escalating repression, these problems pose an opportunity for a democratic challenger, particularly when Putin is inevitably replaced by another leader. Russia’s dysfunctional government is also an important reminder for Western media, policymakers and commentators. While it should not serve as a reason for complacency, highlighting Russia’s poor governance is an important tool in combating the Kremlin’s carefully curated image of power and control.

Energy & Economics
Border between USA and Mexico

How the US Regime Subsidizes Immigration—both Legal and Illegal

by Ryan McMaken

In recent months, stories from both the legacy media and the independent media have continued to pile up on how undocumented foreign nationals—also known as "migrants" and "illegal aliens"—are able to take advantage of a vast network of taxpayer funded benefits in daycare, medical care, housing, and more. For example, both the New York Post and Denver Post report that these foreign nationals have "overwhelmed" the Denver Health hospital system in Denver, and that the situation is "unsustainable." Meanwhile, public schools report classrooms are filling up quickly with the children of these foreign nationals. Denver is hardly alone. The New York Post notes that both the City of New York and the state government have expanded local welfare programs, including pre-paid credit cards, to further ensure that migrants continue to receive cash and resources from American taxpayers. This is in addition to the approximately 66,000 foreign nationals who are housed in hotels and shelters, care of both New York and federal taxpayers. USAToday reports that colleges "across the country" are receiving millions in taxpayer money to offer housing to migrants at no charge. Chicago's mayor is bragging he's giving away $17 million in taxpayer-funded giveaways to "asylum seekers" who are presently living off the sweat of the taxpayers in government shelters. This, of course, is just a downpayment on many more planned giveaways. Just how much in taxpayers' resources is going to foreign nationals? It's difficult to estimate for a number of reasons. The spending is done through numerous different government agencies at various levels of government. Moreover, much of the money if filtered through non-profits (i.e., "NGOs") that are labeled "charities" but are simply adjuncts of the regime. Once we add up $1 billion here and $77 million there, after a while we're talking about real money, and one thing becomes abundantly clear: the regime and its partners are subsidizing the influx of foreign nationals who are promised a variety of both cash and in-kind benefits. It must also be noted that, contrary to certain myths, the largesse is not reserved for only the so-called "illegal aliens." Legal immigrants can take advantage of the generous and well-funded American welfare state even more readily than can the undocumented migrants. What is the effect of subsidizing a particular product or activity? It is usually the same everywhere we look: you get more of what you subsidize. This is true of student loans, it's true of ethanol, and it's true of migrants. Economic theory tells us that the government cannot possibly know the "correct" number of migrants, nor should the regime be free to centrally plan some arbitrary number. On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that the number of migrants—even with lax border enforcement—would be as high as it is without the regime's incessant subsidization of migrants, both legal and illegal. How Many Foreign Nationals Live in the United States? According to the Congressional Research Service, it is estimated there were approximately 45-46 million foreign-born residents of the United States in 2022. Of those, about 53 percent, or 24 million, are naturalized citizens. In addition to this there are 12.9 million legal permanent residents (LPRs) and approximately 11 million more are so-called "illegal" immigrants. All combined, we find that 23 million non-citizen US residents—i.e., "foreign nationals"—are living in the United States. That's about 51 percent of the overall foreign-born population. As we will see, many of them receive financial support and resources from US taxpayers. (This measure does not count the approximately 3.2 million nonimmigrant workers, students, exchange visitors, diplomats, and their relatives who have sought only temporary residence in the United States. These nonimmigrant groups are not eligible for public benefits.) Are Foreign Nationals Eligible for Welfare? Among immigrant foreign nationals, most are eligible for some form of taxpayer-funded "public" benefits. For example, undocumented foreign nationals may legally access "treatment under Medicaid for emergency medical conditions," a variety of in-kind services such a soup kitchens and temporary housing, and "programs for housing or community development assistance or financial assistance administered by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development..." That's just the direct federally-funded services. State and local government may elect to provide additional services at local taxpayers' expense. The welfare programs available to legal foreign nationals are far more broad. Legal foreign nationals (LPRs) can access most federal welfare programs after an initial five-year period. This includes non-emergency Medicaid, CHIP, TANF (i.e., cash assistance), food stamps, and SSI. Access to these programs have been further broadened by state governments. As noted by the National Immigration Law Center: Over half of the states have used state funds to provide TANF, Medicaid, and/or CHIP to immigrants who are subject to the five-year bar on federally funded services, or to a broader group of immigrants. A growing number of states and counties provide health coverage to children, young adults, or pregnant persons regardless of their immigration status. Several states offer or will offer health coverage to older adults regardless of their immigration status. And five states (California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington) and the District of Columbia offer or will offer public or private health coverage with state subsidies to all otherwise eligible immigrants regardless of their immigration status. It is not necessary to be employed to maintain legal permanent resident status, even if one is of working age. After all, LPRs are not the same at temporary nonimmigrant workers like H1B visa holders: "Green card holders [LPRs] can also collect unemployment compensation the same way citizens do ...nor can a legal permanent resident be deported for being unemployed." Legal immigrants do not jeopardize their legal status by applying for additional taxpayer funded benefits such as food stamps: "SNAP enrollment will NOT affect your ability to remain in the United States, get a green card/permanent resident status, keep your green card/permanent resident status, or become a U.S. citizen." In short, nearly the full gamut of taxpayer-funded welfare programs are open to legal foreign nationals after the initial five-year bar. Moreover, many migrants aren't even held to that, including "[r]efugees, people granted asylum or withholding of deportation/removal, Cuban/Haitian entrants, certain Amerasian immigrants" and other specific groups are exempted from the waiting period. All these foreign nationals, regardless of status, are free to send their children to government childcare centers known as "public schools." How Much Do Foreign Nationals Use American Social Benefits? A variety of organizations have attempted to quantify the extent to which both naturalized immigrants and current foreign nationals use welfare programs. This study from the National Academies concludes that the data show[s] that the immigrant households use several programs, most notably food assistance and Medicaid, at higher rates than do households led by the native-born. ...This higher use of welfare programs by immigrants is attributable to their lower average incomes and larger families. In the NA study, immigrant households with children utilized welfare programs at higher rates in nearly every US state. In California, 61.5 percent of households utilized welfare while 40.7 percent of immigrant households did. In Texas, the same measures are at 66.3 and 44.2 percent, respectively. Similar proportions are found in Florida and New York. This report unfortunately does not differentiate between naturalized immigrants and foreign nationals. However, given that naturalized immigrants tend to earn 50 to 70 percent more than non-citizen immigrants, it is safe to conclude that foreign nationals utilize welfare programs more than naturalized immigrants, and therefore more than the native population. An increasingly important addition to legal immigration in recent decades has been the population of immigrants legally designated as refugees. In total, this all costs the taxpayers nearly two billion dollars per year, or $80,000 per refugee per year in the form of federal and state programs including food stamps, child care, and public housing. The Center for Immigration Studies has published studies similar to the NA study. These CIS studies show similar results. In 2012, 51 percent of households headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) reported that they used at least one welfare program during the year, compared to 30 percent of native households. Welfare in this study includes Medicaid and cash, food, and housing programs. Immigrant households have much higher use of food programs (40 percent vs. 22 percent for natives) and Medicaid (42 percent vs. 23 percent). Note that these conclusions reflect immigrant households rather than immigrant individuals. This is an important distinction because many immigrant households contain citizen children who became citizens at birth due to being born in the United States. Thus, the household may contain both citizens and foreign nationals—some of whom may be illegal foreign nationals. These households, however, enjoy access to welfare programs by virtue of the underage members' citizenship. Thus, immigrant households can access taxpayer funded healthcare, food stamps, housing programs (and more) through the native-born children. Similar trends persist when non-citizen households are measured separately from all immigrant households combined. Some researchers insist that welfare benefits for foreign nationals ought to be measured only on an individual, per capita basis. For example, in this report from the CATO institute, the researchers conclude that for 2020, native-born residents, on average, cost welfare programs $8,335 per capita while immigrants cost welfare programs $6,063. These proportions can vary by program. For example, the per capita Medicaid cost for immigrants is $1,859, while the cost for native-born residents is $2,081. The use of food stamps is similar ($190 per capita for immigrants versus $214 per capita for natives), Immigrants usage of SSI is slightly higher ($188 per capita) than it is for natives ($169 per capita). How much taxpayer funding are we talking about overall? The CATO report estimates that the total cost of welfare going to non-native US residents in 2020 was $290.4 billion, That's a sum equal to the combined budgets of the Departments of Education and Homeland Security. Yet, only about half of non-natives are non-citizen foreign nationals. To find the sum used by non-citizen immigrants, we can't just divide the sum in half because foreign nationals tend to use welfare more than naturalized immigrants. So, given the $290.4 billion total for immigrant welfare spending, we can estimate that at least $150 billion of that is consumed by foreign nationals—a sum about equal to the combined budgets of the Departments of Education, State, and Housing and Urban Development. (This spending total excludes state and local spending on government schools for the children of foreign nationals.) An older CATO study (from 2013) does break out non-citizens from immigrants overall. Here, the researchers conclude that low-income immigrants use food stamps more than naturalized immigrants, and only slightly less than native-born residents. When it comes to taxpayer funded healthcare: one in five non-citizen immigrants collect this benefit while slightly more than 1 in 4 natives collects this particular form of taxpayer largesse. The Migration Policy Center reports that in 2021, 32 percent of immigrants (both citizen and non-citizen) used government health insurance. That's comparable to 38 percent of natives. Yet, even by this conservative measure of immigrant welfare usage, the best we can say is that immigrants use welfare at a rate slightly lower than that of natives. One could argue that, at the low end, immigrants receive (per capita) about 70 to 75 cents for every welfare dollar that goes to natives. That's not exactly "good news" given that overall federal spending on social benefits amounts to about half of the annual $6.3 trillion budget and is clearly out of control. The fact that natives get most of this is hardly an exoneration of immigrants. It's more of an indictment of native-born Americans, millions of whom exploit their most productive fellow citizens every month to keep the government benefits flowing. In any case, we find tax money flows freely to foreign nationals, and immigration to the United States is heavily subsidized. We should not be surprised when a lot of immigrants show up to get their share.

China and Taiwan's flag

Is Taiwan a De Facto Sovereign Nation or a Province of the PRC?

by Jeremy E. Powell

It is a running gag among the pro-Taiwan camp that if you were to ask ordinary folks about Taiwan five years earlier, most could not locate Taiwan on a map. At the time, matters relating to China were mainly debates about Donald Trump’s protectionist stance, as relations between Taiwan and China didn’t receive the attention many would warrant in the face of a potential war. However, ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus—now probably having originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology—and the narrative of a grand alliance between Beijing and Moscow during the war in Ukraine, comparisons have been drawn between the fate of Taiwan and Ukraine. Even though CNN became confused between Taiwan and Thailand a year ago, any mention of Taiwan now will ring the alarm about how the United States can be deprived of semiconductors should it not respond to an imminent threat posed by China. As we move toward 2027, people have been arguing that the US should cease intervening elsewhere to concentrate its ability on defending Taiwan—in other words, Taiwan is the only case worthy of intervention. Unlike Ukraine, the case of Taiwan is more black-and-white as Taiwan stands as a victim of Chinese coercion. Whether on a purely strategic or moral argument, there is a lot of sympathy for Taiwan, regardless of political orientation. Nevertheless, war is still war, and in such a scenario, a confrontation between two superpowers is to be avoided at all costs. Even with nuclear weapons factored out, a clean victory for the US and Taiwan is unlikely due to logistical problems, encirclement, and the high cost of lives. In an interview on Tom Wood’s podcast, Joseph Solis-Mullen argued that the only possible way out is to abide according to the principles of the One China Policy—to lead Taiwan into reunification with China under the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Again, we should oppose a war with China, as it would only deliver catastrophe for the US, China, Taiwan, and likely the other countries surrounding Taiwan regardless of the outcome—though Solis-Mullen did acknowledge that should Taiwan fall under the control of the PRC, human rights in Taiwan will take a sharp turn for the worse. Even though the recent elections haven’t decisively favored the pro–Taiwan independence and anti-PRC Democratic Progressive Party, virtually no Taiwanese identifies himself as Chinese. Even the Kuomintang—the only large party that supports a One China Policy—argues that while Taiwan belongs to China, China is the Republic of China (ROC), not the PRC, and the Kuomintang has recently distanced itself from former president Ma Ying-jeou over comments that reunification is acceptable for Taiwan. After all, by the principle of self-determination and voluntary association (as close as it may get), Taiwan is effectively a country in all but on paper. As far as adherence to the principle of armed neutrality goes, Taiwan shouldn’t receive US arms shipments or a security guarantee (which it has under the Taiwan Relations Act). However, the constraint is that China forces countries that want to establish diplomatic ties with China to adhere to its version of the One China Principle, which stipulates that the legitimate government of China is the PRC. Taiwan, however, can’t move away from the One China Principle but can argue that the ROC is the legitimate government of China. However, the reality is different off-paper where Taiwan is a country. China can coerce countries into either choosing the PRC or the ROC, but it can’t afford to fully coerce everyone. While there’s a strategic side to US-Taiwan relations—given Taiwan’s position in the first island chain—the commercial side is undeniable, thanks to the dominance of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company in the semiconductor industry. In other words, there’s a reason why the so-called Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices (or Taipei Representative Offices) are there as de facto Taiwanese embassies. While there is a strong element of strategy at play, the US need not abolish all ties with Taipei, just arms sales and defense guarantees as neither China nor the US is willing to risk trade relations to a level too deep. While this may trigger alarm bells for people who support Taiwan, chances are that Japan, Australia, and even some Southeast Asian countries would prefer Taiwan to remain as it is. For many of these countries, a takeover of Taiwan means a step further for China to infringe upon their territories and disrupt trade routes. While it didn’t announce whether it would directly intervene, Japan has labeled Taiwan as a matter of national security and has been bolstering its own defense over the fears that the US might not help Japan. With a military persistently known for corruption and now a diplomatic emphasis on softening tensions, Beijing sees war as undesirable as well. As stated before, the world is not as remarkably united and can be separated into three blocs as it was during the Cold War. “Allies” of the US would prefer to delegate their responsibility to defend themselves to the US, even if they can do the job themselves and keep a check on one another. As for how we should see Taiwan, it’s a country that in some cases might be more libertarian than the US (except for conscription). Whether people want to debate the similarities or differences between “acknowledging” and “affirming” the One China Principle, it doesn’t erase the fact that Taiwan for all intents and purposes is a sovereign country.

Chancellor Sholz and Prime Minister Ibrahim in Berlin

Press conference by Federal Chancellor Scholz and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, on Monday, March 11, 2024 in Berlin - Wording

by Olaf Scholz , Anwar Ibrahim

BK Scholz: A warm welcome, Mr. Prime Minister! I am delighted to welcome you here to Germany for the first time. Your visit is a very special start to a Southeast Asia Week with several high-ranking visits from this important region of the world here in Berlin. The Indo-Pacific region is of great importance to Germany and the European Union. We therefore want to intensify political and economic cooperation. Germany already maintains close economic relations with the region. Malaysia is Germany's most important trading partner in ASEAN. This is of great importance because it is associated with many direct investments in the country, but also with all the economic exchange that results from this. We would like to further expand this partnership. Of course, this is particularly true with regard to the objective of further diversifying our economic relations with the whole world. We want to have good economic and political relations with many countries. We also want closer cooperation on climate protection and the expansion of renewable energies. We are therefore very pleased with Malaysia's announcement that it will stop building new coal-fired power plants and dramatically increase the share of renewable energies. We think this is very important. Malaysia and Germany are established democracies. We are both committed to multilateralism and compliance with international law. It is therefore also right that we deepen our security and defense cooperation. The defense ministries are already working on the necessary cooperation agreements. Of course, we also discussed developments in the Middle East, developments in Gaza and the situation following the Hamas attack on Israeli citizens. It is no secret that our perspective on the Middle East conflict is different to that of others. But that makes it all the more important to exchange views with each other. In any case, we agree that more humanitarian aid must reach Gaza. This is also our clear call to Israel, which has every right to defend itself against Hamas. We do not believe that a ground offensive on Rafah is right. An important step now would also be a ceasefire that lasts longer, preferably during Ramadan, which has now begun and during which we broke the fast together today. Such a ceasefire should help to ensure that the Israeli hostages are released and that, as I said, more humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza. We also have a very clear position on long-term development. Only a two-state solution can bring lasting peace, security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. That is why it is so important that we all work together to ensure that a good, peaceful perspective, a lasting common future is possible for Israelis and Palestinians, who coexist well in the two states. Of course, the world is marked by many other conflicts and wars, especially the dramatic war that Russia has started against Ukraine. It is a terrible war with unbelievable casualties. Russia, too, has already sacrificed many, many lives for the Russian president's imperialist mania for conquest. This is against all human reason. That is why we both condemn the Russian war of aggression. It is important to emphasize this once again. The Indo-Pacific is of great importance for the future development of the world. Of course, this also applies to all the economic development and development of the countries there. I therefore welcome the efforts of Malaysia and the ASEAN states to settle disputes peacefully and to find ways to ensure that this becomes typical of everything that has to be decided there. Any escalation must be avoided at all costs. Peace and stability must always and everywhere be maintained on the basis of international law. This applies in particular to the freedom of the sea routes and compliance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That is why the ongoing negotiations on the Code of Conduct are so important. Thank you once again for coming to Berlin on the first day of Ramadan, at least for our location. We broke the fast together earlier. For me, this is a good sign of peaceful coexistence and solidarity. I see it as something very special. Ramadan Kareem! PM Anwar: Thank you very much, Mr. Chancellor, dear Olaf! Thank you for your wonderful hospitality and for bringing us together today to break the fast! Germany is of course one of our most important partners in Europe. We have seen a huge increase in trade and investment. We can see that major investments have been made. We have visited Siemens. Infineon is a big investor in Malaysia and is showing its confidence in the country and the system here. There are many other examples of companies operating in Malaysia. Of course, my aim is always to expand bilateral relations in the areas of trade and investment and also to benefit from your experience, both in the field of technology and in environmental and climate protection issues. We have set ourselves clear goals for the energy transition. We have drawn up an action plan that is also in line with your policy. Renewable energy, ammonia, green hydrogen - we are pursuing these very actively. Fortunately, Malaysia is also a hub within ASEAN for these renewable energies and technologies. We welcome the German interest in this, also with regard to new investments in the renewable energy sector and with a view to climate change. We have of course discussed this cooperation on this occasion and I am pleased with the Chancellor's willingness to tackle many of these issues. Sometimes we have small differences of view, but it really shows the trust we have in each other. As far as the war in Gaza is concerned, we agree that the fighting must stop. We need a ceasefire immediately. We also need humanitarian aid for the people of Palestine, especially in Gaza. Of course we recognize the concern about the events of 7 October. We also call on Europeans, and Germany in particular, to recognize that there have been 40 years of atrocities, looting, dispossession of Palestinians. Let us now look forward together! I agree with the Chancellor on what he said about the two-state solution. It will ensure peace for both countries. Together we can ensure that there is economic cooperation and progress for the people in the region. We have also positioned ourselves with regard to the war in Ukraine. We have taken a very clear stance against aggression, against efforts to conquer. This applies to every country and, of course, also to Russian aggression in Ukraine. We want a peaceful solution to the conflict. Because this conflict has an impact on trade and economic development as far away as Asia. We have a peaceful region. ASEAN is currently the fastest growing economic area in the world, precisely because it is so peaceful - apart from the issue in Myanmar, but that is contained within Myanmar. The conflict has not spread to the region, although there are of course refugee movements. Within ASEAN, we have jointly agreed on a five-point consensus and the parameters by which the issue can be resolved. The ASEAN countries have agreed that Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia would like to lead the troika together and resolve the conflict with Myanmar. Then there are other issues such as the South China Sea and China. I assured the Chancellor that we are getting along well with China. We have not seen any difficult incidents, but of course we see ourselves as an absolutely independent country. We are of course a small country, but we stand up for our right to cooperate with many countries to ensure that the people of Malaysia also benefit from these mechanisms and from cooperation with other countries. Once again, Mr. Chancellor, thank you very much for this meeting. I am very impressed by your insight, by your analysis of the situation. It is very impressive to see what a big country like Germany is doing, and it was also good to share some of our concerns. I am pleased with the good cooperation. It's not just about trade and investment, it's also about the overall development of bilateral relations in all areas. I also told the Chancellor that the study of Goethe is gaining interest in Malaysia. Questions from JournalistsQuestion: Mr. Prime Minister, can you tell us something about the progress of German investment in Malaysia and can you say something about the challenges for the government in the transition to renewable energy in Malaysia? Mr. Chancellor, in 2022 you spoke about the turning point in German foreign and security policy. But if you now look at ASEAN or Southeast Asia: How does Germany see Malaysia in terms of its bilateral importance, trade and also regional issues? PM Anwar: Within the European Union, Germany is our biggest trading partner. They have made large investments, up to 50 billion US dollars. I have already addressed Infineon and many other leading German companies and I have said in our discussions that we are very pleased that they have chosen Malaysia as an important hub, as a center of excellence, as a training center in the region and I look forward to further cooperation in this area. Of course, I also mentioned that education should be a priority. There are 1000 Malaysian students here in Germany and also several hundred German students in Malaysia. We are also very happy about that. We are working with many German companies to train people and strengthen cooperation. We have taken important steps in renewable energy. We are investing in solar energy, in green energy and in our renewable energy export capacity. There is now an undersea green energy cable to the new capital of Indonesia, another to Singapore, and another cable to the Malay Peninsula. You can also see from the fact that data centers and artificial intelligence are growing and thriving in the Malaysian region that this has great potential. BK Scholz: Thank you very much for the question. - First of all, the turning point lies in the Russian attack on Ukraine. This was the denunciation of an understanding that we have reached in the United Nations, in the whole world, namely that no borders are moved by force. But the Russian war of aggression is aimed at precisely that, namely to expand its own territory as a large country at the expense of its neighbor - with a terrible war. We cannot accept this - not in Europe and not anywhere else in the world. That is why it is right for us to support Ukraine and to do so in a very comprehensive manner. After the USA, Germany is the biggest supporter - both financially and in terms of arms supplies - and in Europe it is by far the country that is making the greatest efforts to help Ukraine defend itself. But this touches on an issue that is important for the whole world. Anyone who knows a little about the history of the world - and it is colorful and diverse - knows that if some political leader is sitting somewhere, leafing through history books and thinking about where borders used to be, then there will be war all over the world for many, many years. We must therefore return to the principle of accepting the borders as they are and not changing them by force. That is the basis for peace and security in the world. That is why we are also very clear on this together. For Germany, however, this does not mean that we lose sight of our own economic development, the development of Europe and the world. As you may already have noticed, it is particularly important for the government I lead and for me as Chancellor of Germany that we now make a major new attempt to rebuild relations between North and South and to ensure that we cooperate with each other on an equal footing in political terms, that we work together on the future of the world, but that we also do everything we can to ensure that the economic growth opportunities and potential of many regions in the world are exploited to the maximum. This is why economic cooperation between Europe and ASEAN, between Germany and ASEAN, between Germany and Malaysia plays such an important role, and we want to make progress in the areas we have just mentioned. Renewable energies are central to this. We know that: We need to increase the prosperity of people around the world. Billions of people want to enjoy a level of prosperity similar to that which has been possible for many in the countries of the North in recent years. If this is to succeed, it will only be possible if we do not damage the environment in the process, which is why the expansion of renewable energies is so important. New and interesting economic opportunities are also emerging, for example in the area of hydrogen/ammonia - this has been mentioned - because the industrial perspective of the future will depend on more electricity, which we need for economic processes - and this from renewable energies - and on hydrogen as a substitute for many processes for which we currently use gas, coal or oil. Driving this forward and creating prosperity together all over the world is a good thing. The fact that the German semiconductor industry and successful German companies in the electronics sector are investing so much in Malaysia is a good sign for our cooperation. We want to intensify this. Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Your government supports Hamas and, unlike Western countries, has not described Hamas' attack on Israel as terrorism. In November you said that Hamas was not a terrorist organization. Do you stand by this assessment and are you not afraid that this position on Hamas could affect relations with countries like Germany? Mr. Chancellor, I have a question for you: Do you think that Malaysia's position on Hamas could damage bilateral relations between Germany and Malaysia? And if I may, one more question on Ukraine: Germany is still discussing the delivery of cruise missiles to Ukraine. The Foreign Minister said yesterday that a ring swap with the UK was an option, i.e. Germany sending Taurus cruise missiles to the UK and the UK then sending its Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. Do you think this is also an option? PM Anwar: Our foreign policy position is very clear and has not changed. We are against colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and dispossession, no matter in which country it takes place, in Ukraine or in Gaza. We cannot simply erase or forget 40 years of atrocities and dispossession that have led to anger in the affected societies and also action after action. Our relations with Hamas concern the political wing of Hamas, and we will not apologize for that either. This cooperation has also helped to raise concerns about the hostages. We have no links with any military wings. I have already said that to my European colleagues and also in the US. But we have some different views. The Australian National Congress also recognized long before the Europeans or Americans that this apartheid policy must be abolished. That's why we have taken that position. We need to understand what the fundamental problem with this is. We cannot allow people to be plundered, to have their homes taken away from them. This has to be solved. Am I in favor of people, of children being killed? Absolutely not. No, nobody should do that. That is the consistency in our politics. But I am against this obsession, this narrative, as if the whole problem started on October 7 and would end then. It didn't start on October 7, and it won't end then either. It started 40 years ago and it's still going on today. Against this background, I am of the opinion - and I have also said this to the Chancellor - that we should now look to the future. We have a problem. Do we want to deal with history now, with the atrocities that have happened, or do we want to solve the problem now? Solving the problem now means: the fighting must stop, the killing must stop. Then the whole international community - Germany, Malaysia and all neighboring countries - can ensure that there is no more violence, from any group, against anyone - not against Muslims, Christians or Jews. People must be able to live in peace. Thank you very much. BK Scholz: I have already said it and I would like to repeat it again: Germany's position is clear. Israel has every right to defend itself against the terrorist attack by Hamas. We have always made that clear in recent days, weeks and months, and it remains so. Israel can rely on that. At the same time, we have clear positions on further developments, and these have already been stated. Let me say this once again: we want more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. We want the hostages to be released, unconditionally. We want there to be no unnecessary victims. That is why we have said very clearly what forms of military warfare are compatible with international law and what we find difficult. I have spoken out on Rafah and on the need for a long-term peaceful perspective with a two-state solution that makes it possible for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to live peacefully in a separate, self-governing state alongside Israel - as a democracy in the region, and where the citizens of Israel can also rely on us. That is the perspective we are working for and what is at stake now. That is why we are working - despite the different assessments of the specific issue - on a peaceful perspective, which is necessary. I would like to repeat what I have to say on the issue of supporting Ukraine in its defense. Germany is by far the country that is providing the most support for Ukraine - financially, but also in terms of arms deliveries. All in all, the deliveries to date and those promised amount to 28 billion euros and 30 billion dollars. That is a considerable sum. We have mobilized everything to ensure that Ukraine receives the necessary support from us - ammunition, artillery, tanks, air defence of various kinds, which is also highly efficient and very much appreciated. Our support is reliable and continuous. Ukraine knows this, and we hear time and again how much this great support is appreciated there. As far as the one weapon system is concerned, I am of the opinion that it cannot be used without control in view of its effect and the way in which it can be used, but that the involvement of German soldiers is not justifiable, not even from outside Ukraine. I have therefore said that I do not consider the deployment to be justifiable and that it is therefore not a question of direct or indirect involvement, but of us being clear on this specific issue. My clarity is there. It is my job as Chancellor, as head of government, to be precise here and not to raise any misleading expectations. And my answers are correspondingly clear. Question: Good afternoon, Excellencies! You both mentioned the situation in Gaza and said that we must look ahead to a two-state solution. But how much influence can this meeting have on a humanitarian ceasefire? PM Anwar: Germany is an important country in Europe and has established good relations with Israel, and we have somewhat better relations with Palestine, with the Palestinian Authority and also with the political Hamas. Other Arab countries and neighboring states of Palestine and Israel are doing what they can. We should also be a little more positive. It is of course a chaotic situation, an uncertain situation. There is no easy solution. The Palestinians have suffered a lot. The Netanyahu government has also been very clear in its stance. There is no easy solution. We have to stop the killing of innocent people on both sides, the killing of civilians. We now need a permanent ceasefire and, ultimately, a two-state solution. This is also possible if the international community has the courage and determination. I have said: sometimes you get really depressed when you have the feeling that this case has already been morally abandoned and that there is no real will from all countries to stop the war and find a solution. I am sure that the countries of the Middle East, the international community, Germany and the other parties involved want this peaceful solution. BK Scholz: We would all have liked the start of Ramadan to have been accompanied by a longer-lasting ceasefire, which would have been linked to the release of the hostages by Hamas and also to an increase in humanitarian aid reaching Gaza. Having said that, the aim now is to bring this about as soon as possible. I believe that would be very important for everyone and could also create prospects for further developments. That is what is at stake now. We are in agreement with the American government and the European Union in everything we do. Many people around the world are also trying to work in this direction - as we have heard here, but this also applies to neighboring countries. What we must prevent is an escalation of the war. We also warn against Iran or the Iranian proxies becoming more involved in this war than is already the case. This must be resolved soon. As I said, how this can be done is something that is very clear to me, to the European Union, to the USA and to many others, and it has also been mentioned here together. Question: Mr. Prime Minister, you said that history should be left behind. But for the Israeli hostages, October 7 is still the present, also for their families. Regarding the talks you are holding with the political leadership of Hamas: What are you talking about? How much hope do you have that these hostages will be released soon? Can you also say something about what you saw on October 7 and the fact that these hostages are still being held by this terrorist violence? Mr. Chancellor, you recently met the Pope, who has now caused controversy with his statements on the white flag, which Ukraine has taken to mean, as the Foreign Minister said, that the Church is behaving more or less as it did at the beginning of the 20th century, in other words that the Church did nothing against Nazi Germany at that time. How do you react to the Pope's statements? PM Anwar: Thank you. I have already made my opinion clear. You cannot simply overlook the atrocities of the last four decades, and you cannot find a solution by being so one-sided, by looking only at one particular issue and simply brushing aside 60 years of atrocities. The solution is not simply to release the hostages. Yes, the hostages should be released, but that is not the solution. We are a small player. We have good relations with Hamas. I have told the Chancellor that, yes, I too would like the hostages to be released. But is that the end of it, period? What about the settlements, the behavior of the settlers? No, it goes on every day. What about the expropriations, their rights, their land, their dignity, the men, the women, the children? Is that not the issue? Where is our humanity? Why is there this arrogance? Why is there this double standard between one ethnic group and another? Do they have different religions? Is it because of that? Why is there a problem? Yes, we want the rights of every single person to be recognized, regardless of whether they are Muslim, Jewish or Christian. I am very clear on that. But of course I cannot accept that the issue is focused on just one case, on one victim, and that the thousands of victims since 1947 are simply ignored. Is humanity not relevant? Is compassion not relevant? That is my point. Do I support any atrocities by anyone towards anyone? No. - Do I want hostages to be held? No. But you can't look at the narrative in such a one-sided way. You can ask if I disagree with some subgroups. But that's not the way to solve the issue. We have to be fair, just, and find an amicable solution that is just, that is fair. BK Scholz: Once again what I have already said: Germany has a special and good relationship with Israel. That is very important to us. That's why Israel can also rely on us. You have a clear position on what is necessary now. That includes the release of the hostages. That includes humanitarian aid. It includes the prospect of a two-state solution. I have already spoken about this, I just want to mention it again here. This is also important for us. We were very supportive of the founding of the state of Israel, and German policy will continue to develop along these lines. As far as the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is concerned, Germany's position is very clear: Ukraine has the right to defend itself, and Ukraine can rely on us to support it in many, many ways. I have already said that we are very far ahead when it comes to the volume and quality of the arms supplies we have provided. That is also true. That is why, of course, I do not agree with the position quoted.

Statue of Karimov

Hyper-Presidentialism and Human Rights: Uzbekistan’s domestic and international political profile

by Joel Moffat

As its constituent states emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has often struggled to balance both its inter-state hostilities and surrounding international geopolitical competition. While all five states have adopted remarkably different means to navigate this challenging context, largely the region has proven victim to the excesses of authoritarian and despotic regimes. The inheritance of a distorted Soviet-era centralisation and the prevalence of lucrative natural resource deposits has facilitated this unfortunate state of affairs across the region. Uzbekistan is no exception in this regard, with an increasingly hardline hyper-presidential system. Covering much of the land between the Caspian sea and the Pamir Mountains, the region’s most populous country is emerging into a critical regional player. Under both leaders since independence, the country has attempted to balance its geopolitical profile to ensure state and regime security. It has attempted to ensure this whilst perpetuating an economic system and domestic political establishment that ensures the perpetual poverty of the population. Faced with both an increasingly challenging regional environment and greater interest from external parties, the future Tashkent carves out for itself has critical implications for that of the region. Politics and Poverty in Uzbekistan – Uzbekistan’s domestic politics are defined fundamentally by hyper-centralisation. The geographical unitary power structure, with minimal rates of devolution are indicative of this approach. The tendencies for hyper-centralisation are clearly inherited from the Soviet era. State power is highly concentrated in the executive branch. Ostensibly Uzbekistan is a democratic country, constitutionally allowing for a proliferation of distinct political parties. However, requirements of state-registration severely curtail the development of regional parties, with every new party requiring a minimum number of signatures throughout the whole country. This highly bureaucratic system for party registration ensures there is no effective opposition within the Olij Majlis (Uzbek Parliament). The shadows of Soviet history also appear within the economic construction of the state. Nearly all major strategic industries remain under the control of state-owned companies. This has ensured skewed economic development, producing a significant bias for the more urbanised and industrialised eastern regions of the country, whilst leaving peripheral regions perpetually poverty-stricken. Police barriers along inter-urban roads and mandatory population registration restrict internal economic migration. The environmental destruction of the Aral Sea has left Karakalpakstan the most deprived and destitute of all these peripheral regions. As the singular grantee of an autonomous status from Tashkent, the area holds a unique position within the domestic Uzbek political establishment. This is in spite of the consistent efforts by the government to complete the centralisation of the state. In 2022, attempts to revoke the region of its autonomous status resulted in protests that saw 18 people killed, and hundreds more wounded or detained. Despite Mirziyoyev decision to pull back on this, the violent reaction towards the protests indicates the great degrees of subjugation and desperation the region remains under. Despite the better attempts by propaganda to ensure the image of the State as the singular guarantor of peace and security, frustration is felt everyday through the lack of substantial opportunities and persistent security sweeps . Foreign Policy of Karimov – Islam Karimov quickly rose to power from the collapse of Soviet rule. Prior to independence, Uzbekistan was characterised by very few nationalist popular movements, with independence really occurring as a sudden moment. Indeed, the initial reluctance was shown to break from the Soviet Union. From Moscow, Karimov inherited a highly centralised political establishment. This provided the blueprint for the hyper-presidential system he doggedly maintained throughout his presidency. The most important foreign policy directive for Karimov was to ensure a strategic balance of larger powers. Despite ostensibly securing the maintenance of the country’s sovereignty, the most important motive for Karimov was the preservation of his personal regime. This focus on strategic balancing primarily emerged from a structural paranoia. Perceived regime threats became especially pertinent with the rise of the ‘Colour Revolutions’. Tashkent’s relation with the US declined dramatically following American support for these movements in analogous states (Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan). The direct US criticism of the state’s role in the Andijan massacre, ensured Karimov saw deepening relations with DC as a threat to regime survival. The Andijan massacre saw 700 civilians killed by security forces over fears of rising Islamist movements. Re-engagement with Russia escalated during its aftermath as Moscow promised to reject all calls for independent investigation. Foreign Policy of Mirziyoyev – Following the death of Karimov in 2016, Mirziyoyev quickly positioned himself as the state’s successor. The initial months of Mirziyoyev’s presidency were treated with a great deal of excitement from those wishing for reform. He publicly vowed to address the states dismal human rights record, beginning with reforms for the rule of law and transparency in courts. Most importantly he abolished the practice of forced labour for large swathes of the population in the country’s vast cotton fields, a practice representing one of the greatest instances of slave labour in the modern world. This potential era of reform was quickly brought to an unfortunate end. Following an 87.1% majority in a snap election last year, Mirziyoyev initiated a series of reforms that extended the presidential term limit from five to seven years and removed term limits. Since coming to office, Mirziyoyev has pursued a distinctly expansive and open approach to foreign relations, especially compared to his predecessor. Whereas both can be defined by pragmatic use of strategic balancing, the methods both presidents have used to achieve this have been remarkably differently. Indeed, Mirziyoyev considered his predecessor’s foreign policy as a major economic and security constraint for the state. Whilst Karimov focusses on utilising a singular larger power at one time, Mirziyoyev sees greater utility in a simultaneous multilateral approach. This has had a notable regional effect, as Uzbekistan has engaged with neighbours previously ignored in the state’s foreign policy. For example, a visa program has been initiated for short term stays for Kyrgyz people living in the cross-border communities in the Fergana Valley. As with other Central Asian states, many ethnic Uzbek communities remain separated from Tashkent due to the complications of drawing post-Soviet border demarcations. Where this has caused significant regional hostilities, most notably with the consistent violence across porous Kyrgyz-Tajik border, Uzbekistan has chosen to not claim any of these communities. The new president has also initiated new strategic engagement with Tajikistan, with which relations remained frozen for two decades due to water security issues. Uzbekistan has further expanded its close allies, with a Turkish-Iranian-Pakistani summit held in Tashkent last year. In this regard, the new foreign policy initiated under the presidency of Mirziyoyev represents an expansion of multilateral relations without focussing too much on the pursuit of one singular relationship. The Future of Uzbek Strategic Balancing – The future of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy is dependent on how it manages its strategic partnerships moving forward. Mirziyoyev has made important moves to increase regional outreach. However, the most important relations still pertain to the larger powers. A Sino-Russian rivalry over Uzbekistan has long been predicted by analysts. In the immediate picture, China appears to be the more lucrative option for the President. Offering financial aid and infrastructure investment bereft of the implied threats to regime survival that initially undermined Tashkent’s relation with Washington. Russia continues to suffer financial restrictions from the ongoing Ukrainian invasion. Remittances from migrant workers, an agreement that previously held significant mutual benefit, have declined rapidly. Indeed, the most important human factor in relations now appears to be the mass emigration of Russians leaving to avoid the Moscow draft. Last year, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also completed a large diplomatic effort to draw Central Asian leaders closer to the US and to ensure these states aren’t used by Russia to evade Western sanctions. It is unlikely that Uzbekistan will take a hardline stance against Russian aggression, but the declining utility of Moscow as a strategic partner does indicate a shift of relations. In this regard, Uzbekistan will continue to retain its relations with Russia, but will enlarge and diversify its portfolio of engaged actors. Following the Mirziyoyev foreign policy pursued so far, beneficial relations with regional neighbours will remain an important development but the manner in which Tashkent manages its larger partnerships will be critical to the country’s future.  More about this: Bibliography – • Anceschi, Luca. "Integrating Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy Making: The Cases of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010): 143-158 • Dadabaev, Timur. "Uzbekistan as Central Asian Game Changer? Uzbekistan’s Foreign Policy Construction in the Post-Karimov Era." Asian Journal of Comparative Politics 4, no. 2 (2019): 162-175 • Gulyamova, Lola. The Geography of Uzbekistan: At the Crossroads of the Silk Road. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2022 • Laruelle, Marlene. Constructing the Uzbek State: Narratives of Post-Soviet Years. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2017 • Spechler, Dina Rome and Martin C. Spechler. "The Foreign Policy of Uzbekistan: Sources, Objectives and Outcomes: 1991-2009." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010): 159-170 • Yilamu, Wumaier and SpringerLink (Online service). Neoliberalism and Post-Soviet Transition: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2018 References- 1 Yilamu, Wumaier and SpringerLink (Online service). Neoliberalism and Post-Soviet Transition: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 59 2 Yilamu, Wumaier and SpringerLink (Online service). Neoliberalism and Post-Soviet Transition: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 59 3 Gulyamova, Lola. The Geography of Uzbekistan: At the Crossroads of the Silk Road. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2022, 152 4 Spechler, Dina Rome and Martin C. Spechler. "The Foreign Policy of Uzbekistan: Sources, Objectives and Outcomes: 1991-2009." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010), 165 5 6 Laruelle, Marlene. Constructing the Uzbek State: Narratives of Post-Soviet Years. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2017, 72 7 Yilamu, Wumaier and SpringerLink (Online service). Neoliberalism and Post-Soviet Transition: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 48 8 Spechler, Dina Rome and Martin C. Spechler. "The Foreign Policy of Uzbekistan: Sources, Objectives and Outcomes: 1991-2009." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010), 164 9 Anceschi, Luca. "Integrating Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy Making: The Cases of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010), 145 10 11 Anceschi, Luca. "Integrating Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy Making: The Cases of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010), 152 12 13 14 Dadabaev, Timur. "Uzbekistan as Central Asian Game Changer? Uzbekistan’s Foreign Policy Construction in the Post-Karimov Era." Asian Journal of Comparative Politics 4, no. 2 (2019): 165 15 Spechler, Dina Rome and Martin C. Spechler. "The Foreign Policy of Uzbekistan: Sources, Objectives and Outcomes: 1991-2009." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010), 160 16 Spechler, Dina Rome and Martin C. Spechler. "The Foreign Policy of Uzbekistan: Sources, Objectives and Outcomes: 1991-2009." Central Asian Survey 29, no. 2 (2010), 160 17 Dadabaev, Timur. "Uzbekistan as Central Asian Game Changer? Uzbekistan’s Foreign Policy Construction in the Post-Karimov Era." Asian Journal of Comparative Politics 4, no. 2 (2019): 167 18 19 Dadabaev, Timur. "Uzbekistan as Central Asian Game Changer? Uzbekistan’s Foreign Policy Construction in the Post-Karimov Era." Asian Journal of Comparative Politics 4, no. 2 (2019): 170 20 News Sources – On the Reform Path: Uzbekistan opens up after years of isolation (2018). Pakistan/Turkey/Iran Leaders visit Central Asia in Diplomatic Push (2023) Uzbek President re-elected for Seven Year Term in Snap Election (July 2023) Uzbekistan’s President Seeking to Extend Grip on Power: Analysts Uzbekistan 10 Years After the Andijan Massacre In Central Asia, Blinken Will Urge Distance from Russia, and Ukraine War (2023) Uzbekistan Imposes Regional State of Emergency after Deadly Unrest –