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Defense & Security
China, USA and Iran Flags

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

by Sara Bazoobandi

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cooperation, and convergence,” previous pillars of the ties between the world's largest economic powerhouses, have been replaced by the trade war between Beijing and Washington.2 These changes have influenced strategic choices made by states around the world, including Iran.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

Defense & Security
Colombian flag in the national park

Total peace in Colombia: utopy?

by Daniela Castillo

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

Energy & Economics
Concept of the trade war between the USA and China.

How to better equip the U.S. DFC to compete with China

by Andrew Herscowitz

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français When U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi met in November 2023, Biden remarked that the countries must “ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.” A recent ODI report Hedging belts, de-risking roads: Sinosure’s role in China’s overseas finance illustrates the scale of the competition and reveals how one of China’s less-known institutions – Sinosure – has been giving China the edge. This blog offers some thoughts about how the U.S., through its U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) can better compete. Competing requires resources, but really not as much as you think Competing credibly requires money, dedicated staff, and creativity. It requires studying the competition. Infrastructure development requires low-cost financing, capacity-building, and getting everyone aligned. As Sinosure has demonstrated again and again, deploying guarantees and insurance – particularly from official financing – can de-risk overseas investment, reducing costs of finance and mobilising commercial investment from the private sector. When it comes to infrastructure, China has a far more robust, albeit imperfect, track record when compared to others. The U.S. and its G7 partners have not been much of a match for China in financing infrastructure worldwide. The G7 could successfully compete with China, and doing so does not have to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The U.S. Congress, despite its strong desire to counter BRI, has yet to appropriate the resources necessary to compete credibly in a battle of influence against China in developing countries. There’s been plenty of rhetoric, repurposing of existing programs and resources into initiatives like the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) and the Global Gateway. Each time the U.S. launches a new overseas economic development initiative, however, it rarely dedicates sufficient resources to help it scale – examples include the Partnership for Growth, Power Africa, Prosper Africa, and PGII. When it was fully funded, Power Africa, which coordinated the efforts of 12 U.S. government agencies, helped 120 power projects in Africa get across the finish line in just a few years, building a strong brand for the U.S. in Africa for economic development for the first time in decades. Then the U.S. cut Power Africa’s budget by 75% because of political shifts. The initiative stalled in its progress on new infrastructure, while still helping 200 million Africans get access to more reliable electricity. PGII, which has no dedicated budget, involves a handful of smart people working hard to deliver on a G7 promise of $600 billion in global infrastructure by 2025. Other than the Lobito Corridor project, it has not been clear to date what PGII is able to deliver at scale in Africa without additional resources. That could be about to change, though. The State Department just requested another $4 billion from Congress to up its game against China, which should help tremendously if that funding is secured to support PGII. Why Sinosure has been such an effective tool for China, despite its low margins BRI has not been particularly innovative, but it’s been steady. Sinosure, along with other Chinese export credit agencies, offers highly favorable terms and longer-term finance – this approach has well suited Global South governments in advancing their development and political objectives. While some projects have been problematic, Chinese creditors have provided the low-cost, patient capital at scale that many countries need for long-term productive infrastructure investment. But as the report shows, this approach has challenged established regimes governing the use of public money (link to blog 2). Sinosure insurance covers non-payment up to 95% of the insured equity or debt for up to 20 years, but most OECD Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) only provide 85% coverage for up to 10 years – though this policy soon will soon change [link to blog 2] Sinosure can work anywhere, except where there’s a live conflict or in cases of repayment arrears. By contrast, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has a list of over 100 countries where it cannot do business. Sinosure’s premiums max out at 7% of the total debt servicing cost of a project, making it relatively cost-effective. In this aspect, it is surprisingly transparent. DFC’s fees and costs are numerous and opaque, with DFC passing some of its own costs on to its clients. By the end of 2022, Sinosure had provided over $1.3 trillion-worth of insurance on export and investment, with a quarter of this going only to BRI countries. In 2022 alone, it supported a total portfolio of $900 billion through its insurance for over 170,000 clients, of which $80bn went to overseas investment and long-term finance, which mostly supports projects in infrastructure such as power, transportation, construction, telecoms and shipping. It received a total net insurance premium of $1.9 billion and paid out $1.5 billion in insurance claims. Despite its significant payouts, however, Sinosure continues to earn a modest profit of $102 million – not much of a margin, but enough to propel China’s global leadership on trade and infrastructure development.     By contrast, DFC’s current total portfolio-wide exposure is $41 billion, with just over $9.3 billion committed in fiscal year 2023 for 132 transactions – of which only around $3.5bn of this was for guarantees and risk insurance. DFC has many of the same tools available to it as the Chinese government, and DFC is not even legally required to earn a return on its investments. Yet DFC has not made full use of its capital resources and has not deployed its capacity for risk-mitigation finance in the same way. An unleashed DFC could make the U.S. more competitive It’s not too late for the U.S. and others to compete. The U.S. has an opportunity to further change how it conducts business to compete with China, while promoting sustainable development. DFC is starting to flex its competitive muscles with its own insurance product, recently using political risk insurance to support a $1.6 billion debt-for-nature swap in Ecuador and another $500 million debt-for-nature swap in Gabon, which support broader debt relief efforts, as well as channelling money towards climate and conservation goals. Moreover, those deals come at a very low cost to the U.S. government given DFC’s pricing models. DFC is up for reauthorisation in 2025. It has both foreign policy and development mandates. In a previous blog, we laid out 10 recommendations about how DFC could be more effective in achieving its development mandate. Here are 9 recommendations to help DFC be more effective in competing with China and achieving its foreign policy mandate: 1. Spend some money and spend it right All it took for Sinosure’s expansion in the early 2010s was a capital injection of $3 billion. To make its financial institutions just as competitive, the U.S. only needs to commit a few extra billion dollars of appropriated resources per year, just as State Department has proposed, not hundreds of billions. Sinosure, with its somewhat loose investment criteria, still managed to earn over $100 million profit on a $900 billion portfolio in 2022. Even if DFC were to spend $1 billion/year of additional budgetary resources – for the purpose of leveling the playing field with China and providing developing countries with the type of inexpensive financing they need – that could be money well spent for the U.S. taxpayer. That money could cover legal fees that DFC currently passes on to clients. It could be deployed through innovative instruments: to take on some of the currency risk on strategic transactions, to cover first loss on strategic investments, or to provide technical assistance that does not need to get repaid–comparative advantages that Chinese financial institutions still sorely lack. That funding also could be used, simply, to reduce interest rates and fees, at a time when borrowing costs for lower-income countries have risen astronomically. 2. Structure deals to outcompete China Encourage DFC to structure transactions to use its funding to maximize competition with China in a way that promotes a more level playing field. DFC should not crowd out competitively tendered and transparent private sector investment, but where inexpensive or even concessional DFC co-financing might help the private sector out-compete opaque Chinese investment, DFC should be equipped to support those projects. 3. Don’t obsess over returns Even though DFC is not legally required to earn a return on a portfolio-wide basis, most members of Congress expect DFC to be revenue neutral to the U.S. Treasury. If members of Congress would adjust their return expectations even slightly, DFC could significantly advance its development and foreign policy goals. Effective development and foreign policy are not free – especially when competing with China. Even earning back $.95 on the dollar on a portfolio-wide basis would be a significant leverage of 1:20 of appropriated resources to private investment – giving DFC broad flexibility to structure deals that prioritise development impact and foreign policy. 4. Remove DFC’s limits Eliminate ceilings on DFC financing – including the $1 billion transaction limit, the $10 billion annual portfolio limit, and the $60 billion total portfolio exposure. It really doesn’t cost anything to do this. It’s like raising its credit card limit. 5. Let DFC work anywhere when necessary Give DFC the authority to determine the countries where it can do business on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the foreign policy and development priorities are. DFC should be required to continue to prioritize investments in low and lower-middle income countries, but it should have flexibility to respond quickly and selectively anywhere that doing so will credibly advance a compelling U.S. national security interest, such as financing a strategic port or lithium processing. To prevent DFC from sliding into becoming just a national security tool, abandoning its development mandate, DFC should be required to clearly articulate the compelling national security interests of projects and should provide a detailed report to Congress each year on its investments in upper-middle income and high-income countries to explain these interests (even classified, if necessary). 6. Empower DFC to support “nearshoring” DFC can help the U.S. diversify its supply chains and reduce dependencies on China. To encourage companies to move operations out of China and into the Americas (if operating in the U.S. is not commercially viable), give DFC broader authority to support strategic transactions in the region. 7. Make it easier for DFC to support equity investments in strategic infrastructure When DFC takes an equity position in a company or an investment fund, it gets a seat at the ownership table. That allows DFC to drive decisions regarding sourcing of goods and services (i.e., making sure contracts do not always go to Chinese companies). Investing in equity funds that develop and finance a portfolio of infrastructure projects is an effective way for DFC to increase and spread its strategic influence -- except that DFC often struggles to make these types of investments because U.S. legal requirements make DFC a slow and clunky, and hence, an unattractive investment partner. DFC needs flexibility to bypass some of these requirements. 8. Help DFC scale its risk insurance instrument For years, DFC has been hugely innovative in deploying its insurance products to leverage capital from others. DFC used its political risk insurance tool to crowd in private investment in Ukraine, and to catalyze pioneering debt-for-nature swaps worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Ecuador and Belize. But according to recent reports, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has been threatening to start treating insurance investments like guarantee instruments from a budgeting standpoint. This will make it more expensive for DFC to deploy this tool. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? As we’ve shown, one of the main factors behind China’s competitiveness abroad is through Sinosure’s expansive use of its insurance tool: OMB’s changes will make it more expensive and difficult for the U.S. to scale its own. OMB needs to read the room. We’re not going to suddenly balance the U.S. budget by tinkering with a formula that has worked for decades. Let DFC do more of what it does well. 9. Help speed DFC up Before committing any transaction over $10 million, DFC is required to notify Congress in advance. This “Congressional notification” requirement provides a valuable extra level of oversight to ensure that DFC does not doing anything out-of-whack with Congressional priorities. But the process slows DFC down, when Chinese financiers are known for their speed. Even though DFC only is required to “notify” Congress of its deals, and not seek “approval,” practically and politically speaking nobody wants to run afoul of any one of the 535 members of Congress. Consequently, DFC rarely moves forward on a project until it can resolve the concerns of members of Congress. DFC needs to work with Congress to come up with a reasonable alternative to the Congressional notification process that balances speed with continued close collaboration with Congress. In addition, DFC’s Board can help speed things up by focusing its efforts on high level policy guidance instead of individual transactions. The Board should delegate more decision making on individual deals to DFC’s CEO. It makes no sense for the Secretary of State, who chairs DFC’s Board, to dig into a $20 million investment into a healthcare fund, not to mention the hundreds of State Department staff with little development finance experience who review the documentation before it goes to the Secretary with a recommendation for a vote. U.S. taxpayers probably would prefer to have the State Department focus on resolving the Middle East conflict. From the perspective of many Global South countries, this competition between the G7 countries and China is not inherently bad if it brings them more desperately needed resources and improves the quality of their infrastructure. The U.S. could be more competitive if it empowered its development finance professionals to use DFC’s tools the way they were designed to be used. DFC must be properly resourced with enough people and enough money to allow it to grow its portfolio. While development impact remains the key priority for DFC, delivering for the needs of partner countries is what also will deliver long-term influence. That is how the U.S. can compete – and all at relatively low cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

Defense & Security
The national flags of NATO members fly outside the organization's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 3, 2023.

NATO anniversary 2024 - 75 years of the defense alliance

by Christina Bellmann

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français What is required of member states between now and the Alliance's anniversary summit in Washington D.C. from July 9 to 11 75 years after its founding, NATO is facing an unprecedented set of challenges. The global security landscape is changing rapidly - from the ongoing war in Ukraine to crucial elections on both sides of the Atlantic. The summit in Washington D.C. will not only be a celebration of the past, but also a crucial marker for the future direction of the Alliance.  NATO is in troubled waters ahead of its 75th birthday - on the one hand, it is not 'brain dead' but offers protection to new members - on the other hand, the challenges are enormous in view of the war in Ukraine.  In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The military is coming under increasing pressure and European partners are delivering too little and too slowly.  Western support must be stepped up in order to influence the outcome of the war - Russia's future behavior towards its neighbors also depends on this.  Elections will be held on both sides of the Atlantic in 2024 - the US presidential election in November will be particularly decisive for NATO.  Two thirds of NATO member states are well on the way to meeting the two percent national defense spending target - Germany in particular must ensure that this target is met in the long term.  Now it is up to the leadership of larger countries such as Germany, France and Poland to develop traction in European defense in order to present a future US president with a resilient burden-sharing balance sheet and not leave Ukraine - and the European security order - in the lurch. Return to the core mission In the 75th year of its existence, the North Atlantic Defense Alliance has returned to its core mission: deterrence and defense against a territorial aggressor. NATO defense planning will be reviewed for its resilience before the NATO summit in Washington D.C. from 9 to 11 July 2024. What challenges does the Alliance face in its anniversary year and what needs to happen between now and the NATO summit to make the summit a success? The state of the Alliance ahead of the summit NATO is in difficult waters ahead of its 75th anniversary. On the one hand, it has proven since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression that it is capable of acting and not brain-dead. The two new members, Finland and Sweden, have given up their decades of neutrality because their populations are convinced that they are better protected against Russian aggression within the 30 allies, despite the excellent condition of their military. On the other hand, the admission process has taken much longer than was to be expected given the high level of interoperability of both countries with NATO standards. It took a good twenty months since the application was submitted for both flags to fly on the flagpoles in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels - the internal blockade by Turkey and Hungary is an expression of the Alliance's challenge to maintain a united front against the Russian threat. The Vilnius decision of 2023 to adhere to the previous two percent target for annual defense spending as a percentage of national gross domestic product (GDP) as a minimum figure in future and even to strive for additional spending beyond this is an enormous effort for the members of the alliance - and the biggest point of criticism from its sceptics. The implementation of this goal goes hand in hand with the further development of the defense posture, which was also decided in Vilnius. This includes new regional defense plans that provide for more combat-capable troops that can be deployed more quickly. The Washington summit will show how far the Alliance has come in this respect in a year - gaps between targets and actual capabilities would consequently have to be covered by investments that go beyond the two percent GDP contributions. There are also a number of other important events and factors that will influence the summit. Ukraine's military situation In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The fighting has largely turned into a war of position, with high casualties on both sides. The sluggish supply of support from the West means that the Ukrainians have to make do with significantly less than their defense needs. The European Union has failed to meet its promise to deliver one million 155-millimetre shells within a year (by March 2024), while the Russian war economy is producing supplies in multiple shifts. This imbalance is making itself painfully felt in the Ukrainian defense - due to the material deficit, nowhere near enough Russian positions can be eliminated and Russian attacks repelled, and Ukrainian personnel on the front line are depleted. President Volodymyr Zelensky is coming under increasing pressure to mobilize fresh forces for the front. As a result, the Ukrainian military is having to give up some of its terrain in order to conserve material and personnel and take up the most sustainable defensive position possible for the coming weeks and months until relief hopefully comes. comes.1 The Czech initiative to procure half a million rounds in 155 millimeter caliber and 300,000 rounds in 122 millimeter caliber on the world market for Ukraine by June 2024 is urgently needed - but it does not change the fact that Europe and the West are delivering too little and too late, despite the efforts that have been made so far and must continue to be made.2 Even if the US and Europe were to produce at full speed, it would only be half of what Russia produces and receives in support from its allies. Western support therefore urgently needs to be ramped up, as it is of crucial importance for the outcome of the war - and for Russia's future behavior in its neighborhood. Upcoming elections A series of landmark elections will take place on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to the summit. The US presidential elections in November 2024 will be of the greatest importance for the future direction of NATO. To date, the USA has been the largest single supporter of Ukraine in the military field; in addition, the USA has decisive weight in the coordination of concrete support from NATO countries - the German Chancellor has repeatedly oriented himself towards US arms deliveries when it comes to the question of German support or even made this a condition for his own commitments.3 While the Democrats in the US Congress continue to support aid packages to Ukraine, the Republican Party is dominated by voices around presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for this "European war" to be left to the Europeans and for domestic challenges to be addressed instead.4 This has led to a months-long blockade of further aid amounting to 60 billion US dollars in the US House of Representatives, which is led by a wafer-thin majority of Republicans. Ukraine urgently needs these supplies to avert shortages in ammunition and air defense. At the time of publication of this Monitor, a release of the funds is not in sight. In terms of foreign policy, there is a bipartisan consensus that the real danger for the USA lies in a systemic conflict with China. Among Republican supporters, impatience with the continuation of the war is increasing, while approval for further support for Ukraine is decreasing. The mood among the general population is similar: between April 2022 and September 2023, the view that the US is doing "too much" for Ukraine increased (from 14% to 41%).5 On the European side, the most important milestone for further support for Ukraine is the election of the new European Parliament from 6 to 9 June 2024. Since the outbreak of the war, approval ratings in the EU for support for Ukraine have been remarkably stable.6 Even in the face of a sometimes difficult economic environment in the 20 eurozone states, approval ratings for the continuation of aid to Ukraine have only fallen slightly in a few EU states - starting from a high level. While the broad center of the EP groups (EPP, S&D and Renew) are united in their support for Ukraine and the transatlantic alliance, the foreign and security policy positioning of the far-right parties of the ECR and ID groups and the non-attached groups is not always clear. According to Nicolai von Ondarza and Max Becker from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), while the ECR parliamentary group "largely plays a constructive and compatible role" in foreign and security policy, including with regard to NATO and Ukraine, parts of the ID parliamentary group such as the French Rassemblement National (RN) or the German AfD either voted against resolutions critical of Russia in parliament or abstained.7 According to Olaf Wientzek from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, both the ECR and ID can expect significant seat gains in the upcoming EP elections.8 In terms of numbers, the ID and ECR groups are competing with Renew to be the third strongest force behind the EPP and S&D - according to current estimates, they all have between 80 and 90 seats. It would be conceivable for the currently non-attached Hungarian Fidesz (currently 13 MEPs) to join both the ECR and ID. In view of the increasing co-decision role of parliament - including for further Ukraine support packages - it is important for the EU how these parties and party alliances position themselves in terms of foreign and security policy.9 In fact, parties in the ID faction represent Russian propaganda within Europe in order to exert influence through disinformation, subversion and mobilization and thus undermine the social consensus with regard to Ukraine and NATO.10 This may also become apparent in individual elections, such as in the eastern German states in September 2024. Economic pressure - prioritizing defence? Global inflation averaged 6.2% in 2023. Current forecasts assume falling inflation rates in the Euro-Atlantic region over the course of 2024 to 2026.11 At the same time, however, global economic growth of 3.1% (2024) and an expected 3.2% (2025) compared to the previous year is well below the projections for the post-pandemic recovery.12 The combination of higher consumer prices and slower economic recovery continues to pose the risk of declining approval for strong support within the populations of the European Ukraine-supporting states. Protests in the face of announcements of cuts in various policy areas have demonstrated this in Germany and Europe over the past year. This does not make it easy to prioritize defence spending from a national perspective for the coming years. In the case of Germany, the defense budget is competing with all other departments in the budget negotiations for 2025, which are calling for an increase in social spending and investments in view of the current burdens on the population.13 At the same time, inflation does not stop at military procurement. As early as 2022, Germany therefore had to cancel a number of planned procurement projects due to increased costs.14 The cost increase also affects the maintenance of existing equipment and personnel. Even if Germany nominally reaches the two percent target in 2024, the increases in national defense spending within the Alliance will actually be lower when adjusted for inflation. Systemic threat from China The increasing systemic confrontation with China is not only identified in the US national security strategy; for the first time, China was classified as a concrete threat by NATO in its Strategic Concept of 2022. China is threatening to annex the democratically governed island of Taiwan to its territory, possibly by military means.15 This would have enormous global escalation potential and far-reaching effects on important international sea routes. Concerns about free trade routes are leading to a convergence of threat perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, many European partners are rethinking their relations with China - as is Germany in its China strategy. China's global ambition to restructure the existing multilateral order according to its own ideas does not only affect Taiwan's independence. China's supremacy in key technical and industrial sectors as well as critical infrastructure, rare raw materials and supply chains would lead to a deepening of existing dependencies. Because the USA sees China as a systemic threat to international order, freedom and prosperity, it has been refocusing its efforts since President Obama took office. European NATO partners are therefore expected to invest in Europe's security themselves. Only greater burden-sharing by the Europeans would enable the USA to focus its attention more strongly on the Indo-Pacific. Challenges in new dimensions In addition to the geopolitical challenges outlined above, NATO designated space in 2019 as an additional battlefield to the existing fields - land, air, sea and cyberspace - due to its increased importance.16 In recent decades, China has rapidly expanded its presence in space in both the civilian and military sectors.17 The war in Ukraine has once again underlined the importance of satellite-based intelligence and the significance of connected weapons for combat. In addition, the effects of man-made climate change, which also have an impact on security in the Euro-Atlantic alliance area, have recently become increasingly apparent. At the 2021 NATO summit in Brussels, the Alliance set itself the goal of becoming a leading international organization in understanding and adapting to the effects of climate change on security.18 To this end, it adopted the "Climate Change and Security Action Plan". The NATO countries' homework A successful NATO summit in the anniversary year 2024 would send an important signal of the unity and defense capability of the Euro-Atlantic alliance in the face of Russia's breach of international law in a time of systemic competition. NATO member states are confronted with a complex threat situation ahead of the next summit in Washington D.C.. These give rise to various requirements: More NATO members must reach the two percent target In financial terms, the Washington summit will probably be considered a success if a substantial number of member states reach the two percent target. In 2023, this was the case for eleven countries (Poland, USA, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, UK, Slovakia).19 In February 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Brussels that 18 countries would reach the target by the summit.20 Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Albania and North Macedonia are the countries that have recently reached the target.21 The newest NATO member, Sweden, increases the number to.19 Achieving the two percent target for defense spending is not an end in itself. The discussion within NATO as to whether one should deviate from the numerical contribution target and instead assess the actual capabilities contributed by the individual member states is not a new one. Amounts of money to measure collective defense remain the simplest way to approximate burden-sharing within NATO - and until all countries have achieved this, it will remain the relevant metric in the political discussion. From NATO's perspective, the gap between the desired capabilities listed in the defense plans and the troop contingents registered by the member states has widened steadily of late. In reality, there is no way around increased defense spending in order to adequately equip the required personnel, who would have to be subordinate to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) in an emergency - from a military perspective, the demand is therefore increasingly being made that two percent should be the minimum target. In order to achieve all the required capabilities, larger contributions are needed from all nations. Due to the threat situation and political pressure, it seems possible that 21 countries, i.e. two thirds of the member states, will meet the two percent target by the NATO summit in Washington. In addition to the 19 countries mentioned above, these are France22 and Montenegro.23 Turkey wants to achieve the target by 2025,24 although this commitment is uncertain in view of the poor economic situation. Italy wants to spend two percent within the next two years25, while Norway should reach the target by 2026 according to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere26. Slovenia has set 2027 as the target date for meeting the commitments27, while Portugal, Spain and Belgium have set 2030 as the target date. Canada (1.38%), Croatia (1.79%) and Luxembourg (0.72%) have not provided any information. Reduce bureaucracy, speed up procurement In material terms, the main aim is to convert the increased defense spending into "material on the farm" in a timely manner. To achieve this, the planning and procurement processes in many European countries need to be accelerated, made less bureaucratic and at the same time better coordinated. The common European defense will require massive improvements in the coming years. Some announcements have already been made during the pre-election campaign for the European Parliament; here, too, what counts is how the announcements are implemented after the election. Progress must also be made in the area of research and development in order to invest scarce resources in state-of-the-art systems. The question of joint development versus off-the-shelf procurement of available equipment will also have to be decided in many cases. A rethink in European procurement is essential for this. This is primarily the responsibility of the European nation states: long-term contracts with the arms industry must be concluded urgently, cooperation initiated and loans granted for production. Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and NATO partnership policy NATO's Strategic Concept and the EU's Strategic Compass show a strong convergence in threat analysis. The EU has effective starting points and tools, particularly for cross-cutting challenges such as combating climate change, the threat of hybrid attacks and the protection of critical infrastructure. With the European Peace Facility and other instruments, a concrete institutional framework has been created to strengthen the European pillar in NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and NATO should further intensify the exchange on common challenges and utilize the strengths of the respective forum. In addition to the partnership with the EU, the member states should continue to promote NATO's partnership policy. 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of NATO's eastward enlargement and the 30th anniversary of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. In view of a global confrontation with Russia and an increasingly aggressive China, it is worth taking a look at the instruments that were devised during the Cold War with a view to 'like-minded' partners outside the Alliance. NATO's partnership policy - adapted to the new circumstances - is an ideal instrument for forging close ties with democratic nations in the Indo-Pacific that share NATO's interests and values.28 Investing in interoperability NATO must continue to act as a "guardian of standards" in favor of military interoperability. This year's major exercises as part of "Steadfast Defender 2024" and "Quadriga 2024" will show, among other things, which weaknesses still exist in the various dimensions of interoperability in practical tests. In addition, care must be taken to ensure that military innovations from pioneers within NATO do not leave the Alliance's other allies behind in technical terms. This does not mean that technological progress is slowed down in a race to the bottom; instead, member states with lower expenditure on research and development must be enabled to catch up more quickly - especially in areas such as space technology and the use of artificial intelligence in warfare, it is becoming increasingly important to avoid the technological gap between the members of the alliance. What does this mean for Germany? The Federal Chancellor's announcement on February 27, 2022 that the establishment of the 100 billion euro special fund heralded a turning point in Germany's security policy was seen everywhere in Germany and within the Alliance as the right decision in view of Russia's aggression. In his speech, Olaf Scholz emphasized that Germany was not seeking this expenditure to please allies. The special fund serves national security. However, the acute threat to European security remains and although the NATO target will be reached in 2024, the future of Germany's defense budget is anything but certain. However, investment in the Bundeswehr's defense capabilities is essential to contribute to credible deterrence. The foundation for securing sustainable defense spending in Germany's medium-term financial planning must be laid now, otherwise two percent - depending on the spending status of the special fund - may already be unattainable in 2026, when the regular federal budget is once again used as the basis for calculating the NATO target. As the budget for 2025 will not yet have been decided at the NATO summit in July 2024, the Chancellor will need to make a credible commitment to the allies that Germany will not fall behind. The Bundeswehr will also have to stretch itself enormously in order to achieve the troop levels announced for the new defense plans. The number of servicewomen and men is currently stagnating at just under 182,000. 29 In order to be able to provide the brigade in Lithuania in addition to the nationally required forces and to meet the division commitment for 2026, the Bundeswehr must come significantly closer to the target figure of 203,300 active servicewomen and men by 2027.30 The questions of how many of the 182,000 soldiers available on paper are also willing to become part of the brigade in Lithuania and how many of the total number are actually deployable in an emergency have not even been asked at this point. What counts now - political leadership The security situation in Europe is serious and NATO has no shortage of challenges in its 75th year of existence. It is in good shape to meet these challenges and has welcomed two strong nations into its ranks, Finland and Sweden. However, it is now important not to let up in the efforts that have been agreed. A united external stance is key here, as the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg never tires of emphasizing. His successor will have to continue this. Even more important, however, are actual, concrete and substantial actions - the English expression "put one's money where one's mouth is" must be the leitmotif of all European NATO nations in view of the US elections at the end of the year, regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, political leadership is what counts within the alliance in virtually all the areas mentioned - and it matters now. Many smaller countries in Europe look to the larger member states such as Germany, France and Poland for leadership. This applies both in terms of sustainable compliance with the two percent target and when it comes to political agreement and cooperation in the field of armaments. Here, the larger states have a role model and leadership function that can develop traction and pressure on the Alliance as a whole. This political leadership will be more important than ever for the European representatives in NATO in 2024. At the moment, however, it seems questionable whether the current leadership vacuum can be filled before the NATO summit. Germany, France and Poland have not yet been able to develop a jointly coordinated stance that could have a positive effect. It is therefore also questionable whether the NATO summit will be able to send important signals beyond the minimum objectives. The US presidential election hangs over everything like a sword of Damocles - the erratic leadership style of another US President Donald Trump could be difficult to reconcile with the strategic goals of the alliance. Imprint This publication of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. is for information purposes only. It may not be used by political parties or election campaigners or helpers for the purpose of election advertising. This applies to federal, state and local elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. Publisher: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V., 2024, Berlin Design: yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR Produced with the financial support of the Federal Republic of Germany. References 1 Reisner, Markus: So ernst ist die Lage an der Front. In: Streitkräfte und Strategien Podcast, NDR Info, 12.03.2024, online unter: 2 Zachová, Aneta: Tschechische Initiative: Munition für Ukraine könnte im Juni eintreffen. Euractiv, 13.03.2024, online unter 3 Besonders eindrücklich bleibt das Beispiel der Lieferung schwerer Waffen in Erinnerung: so rang sich Bundeskanzler Scholz zur Freigabe der Lieferung Leopard-Panzer deutscher Fertigung erst nach amerikanischer Zusage von Abrams-Panzern von militärisch zweifelhaftem Mehrwert durch. 4 Dress, Brad: Ramaswamy isolates himself on Ukraine with proposed Putin pact. In: The Hill, 01.09.2023, online unter: 5 Hutzler, Alexandra: How initial US support for aiding Ukraine has come to a standstill 2 years later. ABC News, 24.02.2024, online unter 6 Grand, Camille u.a.: European public opinion remains supportive of Ukraine. Bruegel, 05.06.2023, online unter 7 von Ondarza, Nicolai und Becker, Max: Geostrategie von rechts außen: Wie sich EU-Gegner und Rechtsaußenparteien außen- und sicherheitspolitisch positionieren. SWP-aktuell, 01.03.2024, online unter: 8 Wientzek, Dr. Olaf: EVP-Parteienbarometer Februar 2024 - Die Lage der Europäischen Volkspartei in der EU. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 06.03.2024, online unter 9 s. Footnote 7 10 Klein, Margarete: Putins „Wiederwahl“: Wie der Kriegsverlauf die innenpolitische Stabilität Russlands bestimmt. In: SWP-Podcast, 06.03.2024, online unter: 11 Potrafke, Prof. Dr. Niklas: Economic Experts Survey: Wirtschaftsexperten erwarten Rückgang der Inflation weltweit (3. Quartal 2023). ifo-Institut, 19. Oktober 2023, online unter: 12 Umersbach, Bruno: Wachstum des weltweiten realen Bruttoinlandsprodukts (BIP) von 1980 bis 2024. Statista, 07.02.2024, online unter: 13 Petersen, Volker: Ampel droht Zerreißprobe: Vier Gründe, warum der Haushalt 2025 so gefährlich ist. N-tv, 07.03.2024, online unter: 14 Specht, Frank u.a.: Regierung kürzt mehrere Rüstungsprojekte. Handelsblatt, 24.10.2022, online unter: 15 Vgl. Wurzel, Steffen u.a.: Worum es im Konflikt um Taiwan geht. Deutschlandfunk, 12.04.2023, online unter 16 Vogel, Dominic: Bundeswehr und Weltraum - Das Weltraumoperationszentrum als Einstieg in multidimensionale Operationen. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 01.10.2020, online unter: 17 Rose, Frank A.: Managing China‘s rise in outer space. Brookings, letzter Zugriff am 18.09.2023, online unter 18 Vgl. Kertysova, Katarina: Implementing NATO’s Climate Security Agenda: Challenges Ahead. In: NATO Review, 10.08.2023, online unter: 19 Vgl. Statista: Defense expenditures of NATO countries as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2023. Abgerufen am 18.09.2023 online unter 20 Neuhann, Florian: Ukraine-Kontaktgruppe in Brüssel: Eine Krisensitzung - und ein Tabubruch? ZDF heute, 14.02.2024, online unter 21 Mendelson, Ben: Diese Nato-Länder halten 2024 das Zwei-Prozent-Ziel ein. Handelsblatt, 15.02.2024, online unter 22 Kayali, Laura: France will reach NATO defense spending target in 2024. Politico, 15.02.2024, online unter 23 24 Vgl. Daily Sabah: Türkiye’s defense spending expected to constitute 2% of GDP by 2025. 21.10.2022, online unter 25 Vgl. Decode39: Defence spending: Rome’s path towards the 2% target. 20.07.2023, online unter 26 Waldwyn, Karl: Norwegian defence chief sounds alarm and raises sights. In: Military Balance Blog, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 23.06.2023, online unter 27 Vgl. Army Technology: Russian threat driving Slovenia’s defence budget increase. 02.08.2022, online unter 28 Vgl. Kamp, Dr. Karl-Heinz: Allianz der Interessen. In: IP, Ausgabe September/Oktober 29 Vgl. Bundeswehr. Stand: 31.07.2023, abgerufen am 19.09.2023, online unter: 30 Bundeswehr: Ambitioniertes Ziel: 203.000 Soldatinnen und Soldaten bis 2027. Online unter

Caracas, Venezuela. 23 May, 2017. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro speaks in an act to support to Assembly Constituent.

Venezuela: why Maduro is ramping up his attack on free speech

by Nicolas Forsans

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Oscar Alejandro Pérez, a popular Venezuelan YouTuber who uploads travel videos, was arrested on terrorism charges on Sunday, March 31. Pérez was detained, and subsequently held for 32 hours, over a video he uploaded in 2023. In the video, he points to the Credicard Tower, a building in Caracas that hosts the servers that facilitate the country’s financial transactions, and jokingly adds: “If a bomb were to be thrown at that building, the whole national banking system would collapse.” He was accused of urging people to blow up the building, something Pérez denies. His arrest is the latest evidence of President Nicolás Maduro’s growing crackdown on human rights and civil liberties as the country prepares for presidential elections in July. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, was a hugely popular president. While in office, he led a social and political movement called the “Bolivarian Revolution”, which aimed to address social, economic and political inequalities through a series of progressive reforms funded by Venezuela’s vast oil wealth. Then, in 2013, Chávez died and Maduro (who was then vice president) came to power after narrowly winning a special election. Initially, Maduro enjoyed the sympathy and support of many Venezuelans loyal to Chávez and his socialist ideals. But since taking office Maduro has presided over a series of economic crises. Hyperinflation, shortages of basic goods, and a deep recession have all made him increasingly unpopular. And Venezuela’s economy has contracted by about 70% under Maduro’s leadership. Consolidating power The last time Venezuelans went to the polls was in 2018. The contest was so rigged that many neighbouring countries branded the election illegitimate. Two of the most popular opposition candidates were disqualified or barred from running, and Maduro won the contest amid claims of vote rigging and other irregularities. Many Venezuelans have grown disillusioned with Maduro and have taken to the streets to vent their anger. But widespread discontent and protests have only fed more insecurity, criminality, poverty and social unrest. Now lacking support from within the Chavista political movement and the Venezuelan military, Maduro has turned to criminal groups to promote a state where illegal armed groups act at the service of the government. Maduro has consolidated power by using state institutions to silence critics, while at the same time engaging in human rights abuses and profiting from corruption. He has been accused of committing crimes against humanity, including torture, kidnapping and extrajudicial killings. And according to Amnesty International, between 240 and 310 people remain arbitrarily detained on political grounds. Unsurprisingly, around 7.7 million Venezuelans have fled repression and economic hardship at home. Roughly 3 million of those displaced have started a new life in Colombia, 1.5 million of them have migrated to Peru, while others have made their way north to the US. The Venezuelan migrant crisis has become the largest in the world, with the number of displaced people exceeding that seen in Ukraine and Syria. Silencing dissent Venezuelans will head to the polls on July 28. The arrest of Pérez is part of a wider strategy aimed at silencing dissent and strengthening the regime’s hold over its people as Maduro seeks re-election. On February 9, a prominent lawyer and military expert Rocío San Miguel was arrested in Caracas before several members of her family disappeared. San Miguel is known for her work exposing corruption in the Venezuelan army. She appeared at a hearing four days later accused of “treason, conspiracy and terrorism” for her purported role in an alleged plot to assassinate Maduro. Her arrest set off a wave of criticism both inside and outside Venezuela, including from the UN Human Rights Council. Its office in Caracas was subsequently ordered to stop operations on the grounds that it promoted opposition to the country and staff were told to leave the country within 72 hours. It is unclear whether San Miguel remains in jail. In March, Ronald Ojeda, a 32-year-old former lieutenant in Venezuela’s military, was found dead in Chile ten days after he had gone missing. He had protested against the Maduro government on social media wearing a T-shirt with “freedom” written on the collar and prison bars drawn on the map of Venezuela. His body was found in a suitcase beneath a metre of concrete. Chilean prosecutors later announced that his abduction and killing was the work of El Tren de Aragua, one of Venezuela’s most powerful criminal organisations. Don’t bank on free and fair elections The crackdown on civic society poses a dilemma for the Biden administration. In October 2023, Maduro secured a partial lifting of US economic sanctions (which have been in place since 2019) in return for a commitment to holding “free and fair” presidential elections, in addition to political reforms and the release of political prisoners. But that deal is quickly unwinding. In January, the leader of the opposition and a clear favourite in the polls, María Corina Machada was banned from holding office for 15 years. The Biden administration has since reimposed some sanctions and has threatened new ones on Venezuela’s vital oil sector if political reforms are not made. Venezuela has become a deeply corrupt, authoritarian and criminal state that shuts down dissent, forces millions of its own people to flee, and kills or abducts whoever threatens the regime. Its occasional displays of reason are motivated purely by economic gain. In many ways, Maduro’s political repression reflects his growing fear that his regime’s days are numbered, driving him to desperate measures to force a different fate. Once a dictator takes hold, it becomes very difficult to dislodge them.

Defense & Security
Raid at the Mexican Embassy in Quito, Police capture Jorge Glas

Are embassies off-limits? Ecuadorian and Israeli actions suggest otherwise − and that sets a dangerous diplomatic precedent

by Jorge Heine

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français It has long been held that embassies should be treated as “off-limits” to other nations. Yet in a single week, two governments – both long-established democracies – stand accused of violating, in different ways, the laws surrounding foreign diplomatic missions. First, on April 1, 2024, Iran’s embassy in Damascus was bombed, presumably by Israel, killing several high-ranking commanders of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Then, on April 5, Ecuadorian police forced their way into the Mexican Embassy in Quito to arrest a former vice president of Ecuador who was seeking political asylum. Both actions have led to claims of international law violations and accusations that the Vienna Convention, which establishes the immunity of diplomatic missions, was contravened. As someone with a fair amount of knowledge of embassy life – I have served as Chile’s head of mission in China, India and South Africa and coedited The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy – I believe the two incidents are of greater concern than much of the international community appears to be viewing them. Contrary to the famous quip from late businessman and presidential candidate Ross Perot, embassies are not just “relics of the days of sailing ships.” Rather, in an increasingly complex world where geopolitical conflict, mass migrations, pandemics and climate change require careful and stable diplomatic management, any incidents that erode the sanctity of embassy rules could have serious negative consequences. In short, they make for a more dangerous world. Curious indifference to embassy attack Of the two recent incidents, the Iranian embassy bombing is the more serious, as it involved the loss of life and resulted in warnings of retaliatory attacks. Yet, Western countries, leaders of which often voice concern over upholding the so-called “rules-based order,” have been reluctant to condemn the act. It was notable that the three liberal democracies on the U.N. Security Council – the United States, the United Kingdom and France – all refused to condemn the strike on Iran’s embassy when the issue came up before them. Israel, while not officially acknowledging responsibility, argued that the Iranian ambassador’s residence was not really a diplomatic venue but “a military building … disguised as a civilian building.” As such, to Israel it was a perfectly legitimate target. But by this logic, nearly all embassies would be seen as fair game. Almost by definition, the vast majority of embassies – particularly of the larger countries – are populated with significant numbers of military and intelligence personnel. To suggest that for that reason embassies should lose their diplomatic immunity and become legitimate targets for armed attacks would bring the whole edifice of the Vienna Convention crashing down. And with it would come the structure on which worldwide formal diplomatic interactions are based. Bedrock diplomatic principles The case of Ecuador, though less serious because it did not involve loss of life, is a bit more complex and demands some unpacking. At the center of the diplomatic spat between Ecuador and Mexico is former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who served four years behind bars following a 2017 conviction on corruption charges. Glas is now facing trial on different charges, prompting his December 2023 application for asylum at the Mexican Embassy. Mexico accepted the request and conveyed this to the Ecuadorian government. The latter justified its decision to send police into the Mexican embassy on the grounds that it believes Glas cannot be granted political asylum as he is a convicted felon. There is some basis to this claim: Under the Organization of American States’ Convention on the Right to Asylum of 1954, political asylum cannot be given to convicted felons unless the charges behind such conviction are of a political nature. But at the same time, Article 21 of the Vienna Convention states that diplomatic missions enjoy full immunity and extraterritoriality, meaning the host government does not have the right to enter an embassy without the authorization of the head of mission. Ecuador argues that Mexico abused its diplomatic immunity, leaving it no option other than to send police in. Yet, here a crucial distinction needs to be made. Diplomatic immunity and the extraterritoriality of foreign missions are bedrock principles of the Vienna Convention. Political asylum is a separate matter that should be handled on its own. As such, if the Ecuadorian government considered Glas not to qualify for political asylum, it could have attempted to legally block the move or refuse safe passage for the asylum-seeker to exit the embassy and leave the country. Mexico would have strong grounds to counter such measures, however, as according to the Convention on the Right to Asylum of 1954, it is up to the asylum-granting state to decide whether the case is politically motivated. Implications for the future Regardless of the merits of the asylum case, sending in the equivalent of a SWAT team to storm the embassy represents a deliberate violation of diplomatic norms. There is a long history of Latin America politicians seeking asylum who spent many years holed up in embassy buildings because governments would not grant them safe passage – the most notable being Peruvian leader Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, who spent five years at the Colombian Embassy in Lima. Yet, with a few exceptions, not even in the darkest hour of Latin America’s military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s were police permitted to storm into embassy buildings to arrest asylum-seekers. And this highlights what makes Ecuador’s actions especially worrisome. Precisely because of Latin America’s problems with political instability and a tradition of military coup, the laws surrounding political asylum and diplomatic immunity are necessary. Undermining the Vienna Convention in the way Ecuador has risks setting a precedent that other governments might be tempted to follow. Political asylum in Latin America has traditionally worked as a safety valve, allowing deposed leaders to get themselves out of harm’s way. Weakening the diplomatic structures in place supporting asylum will make the handling of democratic breakdowns more difficult. It also risks exacerbating regional disagreements. We are already seeing this with Mexico breaking relations with Ecuador as a result of the embassy raid. Making diplomacy more difficult Of course, embassy violations are not unprecedented. Guatemala’s dictatorship attacked the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City in 1980, killing several asylum-seekers, including a former vice president. And Uruguay’s military government sent security forces into the Venezuelan Embassy in Montevideo in 1976 to arrest a left-wing militant who had sought asylum, leading to the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries. But those events in the relatively distant past were widely and rightly condemned at the time as the product of authoritarian regimes with little regard for international conventions. The comparatively relaxed international attitude to the embassy violations by Israel and Ecuador reflects, I believe, a failure to grasp the significance of eroding diplomatic immunity and norms. As global challenges increase, embassies and their representatives become more important, not less so. If the takeaway from the two latest embassy incidents is that the protection of diplomatic premises can be secondary to whatever is politically expedient on any given day, then it will be of great detriment to the management of international relations. Diplomacy will become much more difficult. And given the enormity of the challenges the world faces today, that is the last thing any country needs.

Jorge Glas

Biden Administration Should Demand Ecuador Immediately Release Political Opponent Illegally Kidnapped From Mexico’s Embassy


한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français The US Should Bring This Demand to the UN Security Council Washington, DC — The Biden administration should immediately demand that Ecuador release former vice president Jorge Glas from custody, and allow him to return to the political asylum that the Mexican government had granted him, said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Glas had sought political asylum in the Mexican embassy, claiming that he is a victim of persecution and lawfare by Attorney General Diana Salazar and the Daniel Noboa government. The Mexican government granted his request for political asylum on Friday; Ecuadorian authorities raided the embassy on Friday night, reportedly injuring several Mexican nationals and knocking the Mexican mission’s second-in-command — a career diplomat — to the ground in a dramatic incident caught on video. “Ecuador’s government has committed a very serious crime, one that threatens the security of embassies and diplomats throughout the world — not least those of the United States, which has threats to its embassies in much of the world,” Weisbrot said. “The international community cannot allow this to happen. The United States, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should propose a resolution there as well, to force the release of the kidnapped prisoner.” The Ecuadorian government’s actions violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and pose a direct threat to the principles of asylum, of national sovereignty, and of diplomatic immunity. This clear violation of international law is the latest in a series of troubling actions by the Noboa government, which include his declaration of an “internal armed conflict,” the deployment of military forces for domestic law enforcement, mass arrests, and rampant human rights violations. The Noboa administration’s raid on the embassy has been met with condemnation from many governments in the region, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras (the current head of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Antigua and Barbuda. Colombian president Gustavo Petro says his government is seeking human rights protections for Glas. Canada criticized the Ecuadorian government’s actions. Both the Organization of American States and CELAC have issued statements rejecting the Noboa government’s actions, and have said they will each hold special meetings to address the matter. Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned the embassy raid, and the UN secretary-general issued a statement “stress[ing] that violations of this principle jeopardize the pursuit of normal international relations.” Weisbrot noted that such crimes as Ecuador committed on Friday are quite rare, and are taken very seriously, because of the threat that they pose to the system of international diplomacy. This is the system that nations rely upon to try and resolve conflicts without violence and war. The International Court of Justice has held that “there was no more fundamental prerequisite for relations between States than the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and embassies …” Several members of the US Congress have also condemned the Noboa government’s actions. The Biden administration’s statement, made yesterday evening, “condemns any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.” The administration has recently deepened military and security relations with the Noboa government in the midst of Noboa’s broad crackdown and rights violations. The Ecuadorian government’s actions are a grave violation of international law and norms, and pose a dangerous precedent. Embassies are considered foreign territory, and Ecuador’s raid is a violation of Mexico’s territorial sovereignty under the law. Host governments historically have avoided violating embassies even when desiring to apprehend individuals seeking refuge or asylum. The British government did not raid Ecuador’s embassy in London in the years that Julian Assange was staying there; it was only after the Ecuadorian government of Lenín Moreno revoked Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship and evicted him from the embassy that British authorities took him into custody. Likewise, the Pinochet dictatorship and other Latin American dictatorships never violated the integrity of foreign embassies, even to apprehend wanted dissidents or political opponents. The coup government of Jeanine Áñez in Bolivia never raided the Mexican embassy where several officials from the illegally ousted Evo Morales government had sought refuge following the 2019 coup d’etat. Salazar has long engaged in a campaign of lawfare and political persecution against former president Rafael Correa and other figures from the former Correa government. The charges against Correa have been shown to have so little credibility, and the evidence is so lacking, that Interpol for years has refused to act on Ecuador’s red notice against him. Belgium has granted him political asylum, and he can travel freely to almost anywhere in the world without fear of extradition. And last year, a Brazilian supreme court judge annulled evidence against Glas after authorities admitted it may have been tampered with. “The United States is providing crucial diplomatic, military, and material support to Ecuador; and Canada is currently seeking a ‘free trade’ agreement with Ecuador,” said Weisbrot. “All of this should be suspended until Ecuador releases its former vice president, who it has kidnapped from Mexico’s embassy.”

Defense & Security
The flag of Haiti on the world map.

Haiti: between violance and political instability

by Rosa Eugenia Sandoval Bustos

Haiti is experiencing a widespread crisis of its institutions, political turmoil, high levels of poverty, disorder and increasing violence in the streets. Last nearly 5,000 people were assassinated and another 2,500 were kidnapped, according to the United Nations, more than double the number in 2022. [1] In this context, on March 11th, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is out of the country, announced his resignation once the necessary mechanisms for the transition of the government are in place. This publication describes the events that led to Henry’s resignation, the international community’s reaction, the outbreak of violence, as well as some points for reflection on what lies ahead for the Caribbean country. The resignation of Ariel Henry The current Prime Minister of Haiti, came to power following the assassination of the country’s former president, Jovenel Moise, in 2021. He had previously stated that he would resign in February, but later indicated that he would do so only once national security was restored. On February 29, following pressure from members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Henry pledged to hold general elections before August 31st next year. In the meantime, the regional mechanism would send an assessment team to help plan the elections. [2] Although CARICOM does not have a unified foreign policy, they “generally promote democratic governance” in their public discourse, said Rasheed Griffith, executive director of the ‘Instituto de Estudios del Progreso del Caribe’. [3] Henry’s reluctance to resign soon caused the violent protest to escalate, especially in Port-au-Prince, where most of the city is controlled by gangs. Among the gangs, one leader, Jimmy Chérizier, has stood out, calling for Henry’s government to be overthrown and warning of a “civil war that will lead to genocide” if the prime minister does not resign. [4] In addition, last January, the mandates of the last ten elected senators in Haiti officially expired, leaving the country without any officials elected by the people. Moreover, Henry’s government is linked to that of the also controversial Moise, who in any case, would have ended his term in February 2022. Henry has remained in office without constitutional legitimacy. [5] Last week, after traveling abroad, Henry tried to return to Haiti, but had to change his itinerary because gangs blocked access to the Port-au-Prince airport. The Prime Minister sought to land in the Dominican Republic and cross the border but was prevented from doing so by the neighboring nation’s authorities, so he was deviated to Puerto Rico. The United States then urged the Caribbean leader to “accelerate the transition to an empowered and inclusive governance structure.” [6] Originally, Henry had gone to Kenya to sign an agreement to pave the way for a multinational force to operate in Haiti. Amidst the growing violence and insecurity on the streets, the European Union evacuated its personnel on March 14th. The spokesman for the diplomatic division of the European Commission, Peter Stano, said that the bloc is “extremely concerned” about the situation, given the attacks on hospitals and prisons, food shortages and blocked infrastructures. [7] The US Armed Forces also withdrew non-essential personnel from its embassy, as reported by the Southern Command in a statement. [8] The UN has stated that it will remain in Haiti. On March 11th, senior officials from different countries met in Kingston, Jamaica, for a meeting convened by CARICOM to analyze the crisis. The US State Department reiterated Washington’s support for the creation of an “independent” body to assume presidential powers in Haiti, as well as the deployment of a security mission to help contain the violence. It also announced that it will provide 300 million pesos to alleviate the situation in the Caribbean country. [9] The initiative, which contemplates these resources, is under review by the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee [10]. From Puerto Rico, Henry participated in the CARICOM meeting virtually. At the end of the meeting, during a press conference, the temporary president of the Caribbean Community and leader of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, announced that Henry had agreed to resign from his position. He said the prime minister would step down after “the establishment of a transitional presidential council and the appointment of an interim authority”. Later, in a video, Henry stated that he would continue to “handle current affairs until the appointment of a prime minister and a government”. The council will include the participation of the main political parties, the private sector and the Montana Agreement, a coalition that proposed the formation of an interim government and a roadmap following Moise’s assassination [11]. Among the members of the mechanism is the political force Pitit Desalin, led by former senator and presidential aspirant Moise Jean-Charles. The EDE party of former Prime Minister Charles Joseph, the Fanmi Lavalas formation, and the December 21st coalition led by Henry, will also have a vote [12]. In addition, there will be two non-voting observers, one from civil society and another from the religious community. None of the members of the collegiate body may have been accused or convicted in any jurisdiction, be sanctioned by the UN, or seek a position in the upcoming elections in the country [13]. In theory, this council should be defined tomorrow, Thursday, March 14th, in the meantime, negotiations are underway to define who will form this structure [14]. The United States indicated that Henry could stay in Puerto Rico or go anywhere in its territory in case it is unsafe to return to Haiti [15]. Actions to set up a multinational support mission Since 2022, Prime Minister Henry called on the international community to integrate a support mission to strengthen the Haitian National Police (HNP) [16]. Kenya responded to this call in July 2023, when it announced its intention to “lead” the initiative and send “1,000 police officers to the Caribbean nation” [17]. In October 2023, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2699, authorizing the deployment of a multinational ad hoc security support mission to Haiti, under the leadership of Kenya [18]. The start of this operation has been delayed due to challenges in African country’s courts, which a few days ago the leaders of Haiti and Kenya tried to resolve by signing a bilateral security agreement. The international community has responded very timidly to the initiative. The Bahamas pledged 150 people. Jamaica and Antigua & Barbuda expressed their willingness to help. Benin offered to send 2,000 soldiers [19]. Spain also showed interest in contributing to the cause. However, on March 10th, the UN stated that despite the promises, a trust fund to pay for this force only amounts to 10 million dollars [20]. The new mission will not be a blue helmet operation. Its objectives will be to protect the state institutions, as well as critical infrastructure and transportation hubs. They will also seek to pacify gangs. It has been reported that an advanced contingent of several hundred officers will be deployed to survey the terrain [21]. To avoid repeating the problems the UN mission has had in the country, such as the spread of cholera and cases of exploitation and sexual abuse, there will be very rigorous scrutiny to oversee the multinational mission. This time the Security Council resolution demands appropriate wastewater management measures to prevent the introduction and spread of disease, as well as robust, secure, and accessible mechanisms for lodging complaints and conducting investigations into any allegations of misconduct, including sexual assault [22]. However, for the time being, Kenya has communicated that the deployment of its agents is on hold until a new government is formed in the Caribbean nation, as officials said on March 12th. Spike in violence and importance of gangs Port-au-Prince has been the epicenter of gang violence, especially the National Police stations, its cadet academy, the prisons, from which more than 3,500 prisoners have fled, the Sylvio Cator national stadium and the international airport [23]. On March 3rd, the Government declared a state of emergency and a curfew in most of the country, [24] which will be extended until March 22nd. The gang members’ main demand was the resignation of the prime minister, although they also seek to prevent the deployment of international forces. According to international analyst Robert Muggah, the gangs hope to be part of a governing council to lead the country [25]. According to a report done by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, there are up to 200 gangs operating in Haiti, and almost half of them have a presence in Port-au-Prince. They range from small groups of youths sharing guns to gangs of more than a thousand people with permanent salaries and automatic weapons that belong to hierarchical organizations. There are two more visible groups: the G-Pèp and the G-9 Family, which control the poorest neighborhoods of the capital. They have been linked to political parties: the G-9 is close to the ruling Haitian Tèt Kale, while the G-Pèp tends to support opposition forces. In this crisis, the G-9 and its allies have taken over the ports and roads surrounding the country’s main airport [26]. Delinquency controls 80% of the capital [27]. Gang members are often aligned with elite businessmen and politicians who finance them [28]. The leaders of some gangs announced an informal alliance called “Vivre Ensemble” (Living Together). As noted above, the most notable leader is Jimmy Chérizier, who is known as “Barbeque”. He was an elite policeman and has shown himself to be bloodthirsty in his operations [29]. Reports say his gang was receiving support from the government of Jovenel Moise [30]. While CARICOM leaders met to discuss the situation in Haiti, Chérizier told reporters that if the international community continued on the same path, it would only “generate more chaos”. “We Haitians have to decide who is going to be the leader of the country and what model of government we want” [31]. Clashes in Port-au-Prince have caused hundreds of inhabitants of the northern part of the capital to flee their homes. The UN reported that more than 800 people died in January. The violence is also driving tens of thousands of Haitians out of the country. The Dominican Republic is the main destination of that diaspora. For this reason, President Luis Abinader issued a cry for help to “save” Haiti [32]. For now, the Dominican government maintains the cancellation of flights to and from Haiti and on March 6th, Carlos Luciano Díaz Morfa, Minister of Defense, announced that they have incorporated strict security measures in the border zone, including more equipment and more personnel [33]. In the United States, the Defense Department and military officials told the Congress that they must be prepared for a possible mass migration from Haiti [34]. Dozens of people have died in the violent attacks and over 15,000 Haitians have been left homeless after fleeing their communities during these clashes. Food, water, fuel, and medical care are scarce. The humanitarian situation is dire. As a result, many people feel that the best thing to do is to leave the country [35]. According to the United Nations, approximately one million people are on the brink of famine, with 350,000 displaced [36]. What’s next after the Prime Minister’s resignation Some experts wonder what role the gangs will play. Robert Fatton, an expert on Haitian politics at the University of Virginia, says they will necessarily have to participate in the national discussion. Officials will have to deal with the groups and try to convince them to disarm [37]. According to an analysis by Crisis Group, the gangs will have two options in the face of deployment of the multinational forces: if they perceive weakness, they will not submit, but if they see that the intervention is strong, they will consider under what conditions they could disarm [38]. In these circumstances, gangs have emerged as power brokers in Haiti for the first time, posing a challenge for any transitional government [39]. However, for many civic and religious groups involved in the talks, this is a red line. Chérizier’s next steps are unknown. Days ago, he said that if Henry resigned, “all areas around Port-au-Prince that are blocked or inaccessible will be reopened” and “attacks on police stations will stop” [40]. He also vowed to begin “the real fight against the system of oligarchs and corrupt people” and proposed his own “peace plan”. He demands total amnesty for gang members and that the country be governed by a “council of wise men” in which he would have a place [41]. On March 11th, Chérizier announced that the “Viv Ansanm” gang alliance will not recognize any government resulting from the agreement with CARICOM and that “it is up to the Haitian people to designate their rulers”. On the other hand, an advisor to Guy Philippe, the former rebel leader who recently returned to Haiti and called for “revolution” against Henry, warned that any new government must include him [42]. There is uncertainty about the timing of the transition. For now, security conditions in Port-au-Prince are precarious, while doubts persist about the timetable for deploying an international mission to reinforce the local police and restore order [43]. These days, Henry’s resignation seems to have eased the situation in the capital, as no attacks on government offices or police stations have been reported. The main CPS cargo port opened, and some fuel was allowed to leave the Varreux facilities near the port. However, protests continue in opposition to the CARICOM plan [44]. The economist and political scientist Joseph Harold writes about three aspects of the crisis. First, Haitians are in a humanitarian emergency and aid is not enough. The distribution of supplies should be done by national institutions, not international agencies. This practice weakens the institutional framework. Resources to alleviate the emergency amount to 720 million dollars and only 16% have been collected [45]. In terms of security, it will be difficult for the multinational solution to be successful. Experts are skeptical that a relatively small force led by Kenya, whose officers speak English, not Creole or Frech, will help control the situation [46]. Wooldy Edson Louidor, a Colombian-Haitian professor at the Javeriana University of Colombia, affirms that the support of the international community is important, “but to achieve a Haitian solution. And this involves returning to constitutional order” [47]. Haitians have traditionally opposed any foreign intervention in their internal affairs and pride themselves on being the first black republic to emerge after a slave revolt during European colonialism [48]. The third point is the elections that must be organized [49]. This is not a recipe for conflict resolution, but it is a necessary step. It gives the international community and local actors a goal to work towards [50]. In this sense, analyst Philippe de Bard points out the importance of designing an electoral system that contemplates the constitution of a reliable electoral roll, the integration of a permanent electoral council and the creation of an independent dispute mechanism. He believes that it will be necessary to evaluate the necessary constitutional reforms. A new electoral law requires the approval of the Haitian Parliament, which does not exist today [51]. The immediate term, the challenge is to control the gangs and create a capable police force. After that, the effort should focus on developing a political strategy to establish conditions for free elections [52]. According to proposals by leading figures, this could happen in about two years [53]. In 2009, writer and journalist Sergio Ramirez did a report on Haiti, following two devastating hurricanes and before the 2010 earthquake. He interviewed the head of the UN Stabilization Mission, Hédi Hannabi, who said, “this is not the classic peacekeeping mission, because there are no two parties in conflict, what we have is anarchy, the presence of gangs, and the absence of institutions. If we were to leave today, chaos would ensue. The problem is that more than ten years later, the disorder situation continues [54]. References [1] Frances Robles, “¿Cuáles son las pandillas que han invadido la capital de Haití y qué quieren?”, The New York Times, 9 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [2] CARICOM, “Communiqué – 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM”, 1 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [3] Catherine Osborn, “How Haiti’s Unelected Leader Lost America’s Blessing”, Foreign Policy, 7 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [4] Sarah Morland, “Haiti PM commits to elections by 2025, CARICOM to send team”, Reuters, 29 de febrero de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [5] Monique Clesca, “Haiti’s Rule of Lawlessness”, Foreign Affairs, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [6] Catherine Osborn, op. cit. [7] Deutsche Welle, “UE evacúa a todo su personal de Haití”, 11 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [8] Colin McCullough, “Estados Unidos evacuó al personal no esencial de su embajada en Haití por el aumento de la violencia de pandillas”, CNN, 10 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [9] Jennifer Hansler and Tara John, “US will contribute $300 million to Haiti’s multinational security mission”, CNN, 11 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [10] Matt Berg y Eric Bazail-Eimil, “State just sent Republicans their Haiti plan”, Politico, 12 de marzo de 4024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [11] Monique Clesca, “Haitians Have a Solution to Haiti’s Crisis”, World Politics Review, 8 de septiembre de 2022. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [12] Dánica Coto y Evens Sanon (AP), “El premier de Haití dice que renunciará tras pico de violencia. No está claro quién tomará el relevo”, Los Angeles Times, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [13] DW, “Dimisión de Ariel Henry, una esperanza para Haití”, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [14] Widlore Mérancourt, Samantha Schmidt, Michael Birnbaum y Amanda Coletta, “As leader resigns, Haitian politicians rush to form new government”, The Washington Post, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [15] El País, “El caos y una ola de violencia sin precedentes fuerzan la renuncia del primer ministro de Haití, Ariel Henry”, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [16] DW, “Haití reitera la necesidad de una fuerza multinacional”, 10 de junio de 2023. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [17] Frances Robles, “An International Force May Be Headed to Troubled Haiti, again”, The New York Times, 1 de agosto de 2023. Consultado el 11 de marzo de 2024 en: [18] Emily Mae Czachor, “U.S. military airlifts embassy staff from Port-au-Prince amid Haiti's escalating gang violence”, CBS News, 11 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [19] Samuel Salgado, “Haití firma acuerdo con Kenia para que policías de Nairobi lideren misión de seguridad”, France24, 1 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [20] Jacqueline Charles, “U.S., Caribbean leaders propose plan to lead Haiti out of crisis and toward elections”, The Miami Herald, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [21] Crisis Group, “Haiti’s Gangs: Can a Foreign Mission Break Their Stranglehold?”, 5 de enero de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [22] Ídem [23] Pablo Ferri, “Haití camina hacia el desastre a la espera de ayuda internacional”, El País, 10 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [24] Carlos S. Maldonado, “Haití, en estado de urgencia y toque de queda tras la huida de miles de presos de una cárcel de Puerto Príncipe”, El País, 3 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [25] Frances Robles, “¿Cuáles son las pandillas…”, op. cit. [26] Ídem [27] Nacho Carretero, “Haití, cuando colapsa un Estado”, El País, 2 de julio de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [28] Frances Robles, “¿Cuáles son las pandillas…”, op. cit. [29] Tom Phillips y Luke Taylor, “Is the feared gang boss ‘Barbecue’ now the most powerful man in Haiti?”, The Guardian, 10 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [30] InSight Crime, “Jimmy Chérizier, alias ‘Barbecue’”, 10 de noviembre de 2023. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [31] Coto y Sanon (AP), op. cit. [32] Carlos S. Maldonado, op. cit. [33] Jessica Hasbun, “Después no se quejen de las acciones que vamos a tener que hacer”: la advertencia del presidente Luis Abinader por crisis en Haití”, CNN, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [34] CNN, “Última hora de la violencia en Haití, las pandillas y la dimisión del primer ministro en vivo: noticias y más”, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [35] Frances Robles, David C. Adams y Andre Paultre, “With Haiti in Chaos, a Humanitarian Crisis Is Rapidly Unfolding”, The New York Times, 9 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [36] Philippe de Bard, “In Haiti, as Elsewhere, Elections Alone Are Not the Answer”, Foreign Policy, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [37] Coto y Sanon, op. cit. [38] Crisis Group, op. cit. [39] Sam Woolston, “Prime Minister’s Resignation Tips Haiti Into Uncharted Territory”, Insight Crime, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [40] Matt Rivers, “Haiti's most notorious gang leader plots its future amid rebellion”, ABC News, 11 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [41] Amalendu Misra, “Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Chérizier: the gangster behind the violence in Haiti who may have political aspirations of his own”, The Conversation, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [42] CNN, “Última hora de la violencia en Haití”, op. cit. [43] Infobae, “Crece la incertidumbre en Haití tras el anuncio de renuncia del primer ministro Ariel Henry”, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [44] Al Jazeera, “Uneasy quiet in Haiti capital after prime minister pledges to step down”, 13 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 13 de marzo de 2024 en: [45] Fernando del Rincón, “Hay incoherencia en la respuesta internacional para la situación en Haití, dice analista”, CNN, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 13 de marzo de 2024 en: [46] Tom Phillips, Archie Bland y Oliver Holmes Haiti, “What caused the gang violence and will it end now the PM has quit?”, The Guardian, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [47] Isabella Escobedo, “Haití: radiografía de un Estado fallido”, DW, 5 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [48] BBC News, “La multimillonaria multa que Haití le pagó a Francia por convertirse en el primer país de América Latina en independizarse”, 30 de diciembre de 2018. Consultado el 13 de marzo de 2024 en: [49] Fernando del Rincón, op. cit. [50] James Bosworth, “To Address Its Crisis, Haiti Needs an Elected Government, World Politics Review, 26 de febrero de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [51] Philippe de Bard, op. cit. [52] The Washington Post (editorial), “Haiti needs security now. For the future, it needs democracy”, 8 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en: [53] Philippe de Bard, op. cit. [54] Sergio Ramírez, “Haití, un país en extinción”, El País, 12 de marzo de 2024. Consultado el 12 de marzo de 2024 en:

Defense & Security
Pistol, synthetic drugs and weed on the map of Colombia.

Why Colombia sees legalising drugs as the way forward. Here’s what’s being proposed

by Raúl Zepeda Gil

Another drug war has begun in Latin America. The newly elected president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, has declared a state of emergency and the military is being used to tackle violence and drug trafficking in a country that is part of the transnational cocaine smuggling trade. Ecuador will probably realise what other countries in Latin America have done: military solutions to the illicit drug problem do not work. For decades, the Colombian government has confronted powerful drug cartels and drug-related violence with a policy guided by a series of UN treaties that prohibit drugs and oblige governments to prosecute recreational drug use and production. These treaties are known as the “drug prohibition regime”. Under the mantle of these treaties, the US has pushed Latin American governments to implement tough laws on drug use, and crackdown on drug cartels in an attempt to tackle drug trafficking and drug addiction. Governments, such as Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras, have used their armies against drug cartels since the 1980s. However, the use of the military in the region, with operations supported by the US Drug and Enforcement Agency, has not prevented an increase in violence in the region. In the case of Mexico, researchers have found a relationship between the deployment of the military in anti-drug operations and the rise of homicides since 2007. Moreover, drug addiction has not reduced in the US (one expected outcome of the “war on drugs”). Nowadays, Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region in the world. According to the 2023 report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 34% of the homicides on the planet during 2021 happened in the Americas. Many of these homicides relate to the global war on drugs. Some Latin American administrations have started to push back against policies that make drugs illegal. For example, Bolivia legalised indigenous production of coca crops in 2011. Uruguay and Jamaica legalised some purchases of cannabis in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Mexico and Colombia are discussing cannabis regulation. Some of these governments, including Colombia, Mexico and Bolivia, tried to put forward a plan for a new global approach to drug use in 2016 at a UN general assembly special meeting but proponents of this failed to convince other countries to allow all types of drug decriminalisation. However, the assembly did reach an agreement to allow countries to regulate the medical uses of some previously illegal drugs such as cannabis. Now, these countries led by Colombian president Gustavo Petro will call for a new UN meeting to try to get more support for a new approach to the “war on drugs”. Colombia’s role Since the early 1960s, Colombia has been the epicentre of the global war on drugs. Infamously known as the centre of production of cocaine trafficked by regional criminal organisations, this country is experimenting with a peace process on two fronts: first, with the guerrillas, and second, with the drug cartels. Petro was elected with the promise to reduce the endless problem of violence. In September 2023, Petro asked his Mexican counterpart, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to help convene a new UN meeting to overhaul the international approach to illegal drugs. Petro was also responding to pressure from global research showing the existing policy was not working. For example, public health experts in The Lancet have argued that making drugs illegal has failed to stem drug use. There is a longstanding debate about whether proposing the end of drug prohibition – and the war on drugs as a consequence – will stop violence and reduce harmful addiction. From 2011, a group of former world leaders and intellectuals (such as former presidents of Mexico and Colombia, César Gaviria, Juan Manuel Santos and Ernesto Zedillo) have pushed for the end of drug prohibition. The data seems to back up their claims that prosecuting drug consumption and production is not reducing addiction. According to the Global Burden of Disease Data, from the Institute For Health Metrics and Evaluation, since the late 1990s, the number of drug users with drug dependence has increased from 40 to 50 million users yearly around the world, despite the “war on drugs”. But Petro faces an uphill battle to gather support to challenge the drug prohibition regime. In September 2023 Latin American governments signed the Cali declaration, calling for a UN assembly on the global drug problem to be held in 2025, one year before Petro’s presidency ends. But the US, which is experiencing a fentanyl opioid epidemic, is not likely to be positive about making more drugs legal. US president Joe Biden is less prone to tackle drug policy with police prosecution and his approach includes alternatives such as treating addicts in health clinics instead of incarceration. If in November Donald Trump wins the presidential election, drug policy is likely to be more militarised than ever. The former president explored using US military force in Mexico to tackle fentanyl smuggling through Mexico. López Obrador helped to organise the September 2023 Cali conference, but domestically he is not pursuing drug legalisation policies. He has deployed the Mexican military to reinforce drug confiscation of fentanyl after pressure from the US government. Petro might find an ally in Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei. The new Argentinian president has declared he favours drug legalisation, inspired by his libertarian position. However, Argentina is facing increasing crime rates in some regions and this security challenge might dissuade him from pursing drug legalisation. Beyond the Americas, some European countries might back the initiative, such as Portugal which decriminalised personal possession of all drugs in 2001. There, possession results in confiscation or a fine, but not imprisonment. If political factors align, Petro might edge forward with his plans to tackle the global war on drugs differently. However, international tensions and the recent war in Ecuador have complicated the scenario. Hopefully, scientific evidence may force countries to consider new options.

2024, Mexico flag with date block

Lopez Obrador's popular support, a key factor in determining who will be Mexico's first female president

by Orestes Enrique Díaz Rodríguez

Next June 2nd, Mexicans have an historical appointment with the ballot boxes. From them will almost certainly emerge the country’s first female president. The two contenders represent divergent models. The incumbent, embodied by Claudia Sheinbaum, inherits a version that, in the name of the greater wealth redistribution, concentrated all power in the figure of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his party, Morena. The alternative is offered by a coalition of opposition parties. They and their presidential candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, advocate for the need to respect certain institutional checks and balances. But the credibility of those organizations, who governed between 2000 and 2018, and likely of the electoral democracy model they represent, is seriously questioned. Amidst this context, the high and persistent approval of López Obrador may offer revealing, though not definitive, clues. The latest report from Oraculus, a poll aggregator, recorded that 68% of Mexican citizens approve President López Obrador's management, while only 29% disapprove. The portal regularly processes results from more than a dozen of the main polling firms. Specifically, the survey conducted by ‘El Financiero’ (newspaper) in December 2023 showed the smallest difference between the approval (55%) and disapproval (44%) of the president by citizens, which nonetheless was eleven percentage points. A stable and positive six-year approval rating For five years, the approval rating of the Mexican president has managed to avoid steep declines. As the electoral campaign kicks off, all signs indicate that it will continue to be stable and positive. Unfortunately, analysts underestimate the impact that such a situation may have on the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. This stance is associated with three powerful myths. Myth 1: approving is one thing, voting is another. The president’s popularity matters little for the outcome of the presidential election. This myth blatantly ignores an essential reference. Thirty years ago, the political scientist Fabián Echegaray was the pioneer in revealing that the popularity of Latin American leaders is the best predictor of the result that the ruling party candidate will obtain in the election. Approving and voting are two different acts, but there tends to be a strong positive link between them. It would be puzzling for democracy if citizens regularly rejected at the polls governments whose performance they approve of in public opinion polls. The Latin American comparative experience shows that between 1982 and 2023, a total of thirty-five leaders from fourteen countries in the region, whose elections took place in a free and transparent environment, reached the months prior to the start of the electoral campaign with positive approval ratings. In twenty-seven cases (77.14%), there was a generous and sufficient transfer from the popularity of the current executive to the vote count of the official party’s presidential candidate. Forewarned is forearmed. The positive approval of the incumbent tends to consistently anticipate the continuity of the ruling party in power. The exceptions Only in eight cases did this trend not materialize. The first record, dates back to 1990 in the presidential elections of Costa Rica. The last dated in 2020 during the elections in the Dominican Republic. In all those electoral processes, the government’s presidential candidate seemed bolstered by the high approval rating of the incumbent leader. However, they were defeated at the polls. The common feature in practically all cases was that the party in power faced the campaign affected by a strong process of internal division. This fact dispersed the pro-government vote, a scenario that ended up benefiting the opposition. That’s not the current situation of the ruling party in Mexico, Morena. Until recently, the organization faced the possibility of a traumatic rupture when former Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard did not recognize the results of the internal electoral process, challenged them, and even threatened to leave the party along with a legion of sympathizers. But the threat of a rupture dissipated when Ebrard finally backed down. The opposition never properly gauged the true depth of a potential internal split in Morena led by the former Chancellor. Although the episode could end up being the only serious threat to the current purpose of retaining the reins of power. Myth 2: the theory of presidential popularity transfer does not apply in Mexico. There is a belief that while the theory of presidential popularity transfer may apply in other regions, it does not do so in the case of Mexico. The assumptions in favor would be as follows: 1. Heading into the 2000 presidential elections, PRI President Ernesto Zedillo had an approval rating of 65%. However, the current presidential candidate, Francisco Labastida was defeated by the ‘Partido Acción Nacional’ (PAN) candidate, Vicente Fox. 2. Similarly, prior to the 2012 presidential elections, Felipe Calderón had a 60% approval rating, but it didn’t end up benefiting the current candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, who relegated to third place in the race. Explaining the controversial Mexican cases While most Latin American countries have held an average of approximately seven presidential elections since their transition, Mexico has only had three following the political alternation in 2000: the elections of 2006, 2012 and 2018. With so few cases, the emergence of a trend is always in its infancy. This is especially true if one of the three cases, the 2012 elections, indeed constituted an anomaly. The high approval rating of President Calderón did not translate into votes for the current presidential candidate. Indeed, the 2012 elections constitute one of the regional cases we previously highlighted as exceptions. However, there is sufficient evidence accumulated regarding the fact that during the 2012 electoral process, the PAN experienced an underlying internal division that decisively affected its chances of winning. Even with the exception, the trend for presidential approval to reflect in the electoral outcome has been predominant in Mexico (66.66%). After the 2024 elections, it is very likely to experience an increase that brings it very close to the Latin American average rate (82.14%). One of the criteria guiding the selection of cases in research on presidential popularity is that presidential elections have been held after the democratic transition. By definition, authoritarian regimes do not guarantee an autonomous public opinion and tend to have elections that are not free and transparent. In that sense, the popularity of President Ernest Zedillo cannot be considered a reliable indicator. It is a “citizen perception” reported within an authoritarian regime. An environment where fear, censorship, persecution, and retaliation prevail. Sartori (1992) insisted on the obligation to differentiate between “opinion in the public” and “opinion of the public”. Myth 3: the outcome of the presidential election is decided during the campaign The role of elections as a mechanism for the peaceful selection of political leaders has fostered the belief that the campaign always represents a decisive moment in shaping electoral preferences. This explains the journalistic reports about a potential campaign in which a stiff incumbent candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, is cornered by the rhetorical skills and charisma of the opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, and by the impact of the negatives associated with the performance of the incumbent ruler. In reality, the campaigns have a very limited effect on the electoral outcome, they only matter under very specific conditions. Most of the time, they only reinforce the decision that voters made before the start of the campaign itself. Pattern or plasticity? However, despite the abundant empirical evidence, it would be a mistake to take for granted a victory for Morena in the 2024 presidential elections. The relevant thing is just to acknowledge that the outcome seems to favor Morena. Political events resist being confined to a framework. They have the potential for surprise and innovation. Political actors have memory, learn from experience, and often show ingenuity. Under certain conditions, these attributes lead them to reverse the expected historical outcome. Once social science is able to reveal certain patterns of behavior, the next challenge is to infer whether in a new experience the norm or the exception will ultimately prevail. The dilemma between pattern and plasticity. Pattern marks regularity, the behavior that, by dint of repetition, is expected. Meanwhile, plasticity means assuming that there will always be exceptions to any regularity or generalization we may reach, in principle.