Atul Singh” post_date=”November 04, 2023 02:59″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-exclusive-new-nonstop-drama-in-the-us-congres/” pid=”145427″ post-content=”
Generally speaking, great powers do not fall because they are defeated by their rivals. Great powers fall because they rot from within. We might be seeing the same old story play out now in the United States.

Republicans, who control the majority of the seats in the House of Representatives, have shown themselves unable to elect a Speaker of the House in an orderly fashion. Their ability to swat down nominees is far greater than their ability to pick one. After House Republicans ousted sitting Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the party caucus raised up Tom Emmer to take his place, only to drop him the next day. Now they have settled upon Mike Johnson, a rookie member who until his nomination was a political non-entity. This is no way to run a country.

As per Carle, the Republicans’ lack of ability to govern with seriousness raises deep concerns about the party. Since at least 2016, we have watched the grand old party (GOP), as it is called, largely jettison its commitment to legality and even to democracy. President Donald Trump dismissed the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, in which he was ousted, and numerous party members, including Johnson, scrambled to repeat his claims. What we have is a potent combination of distrust in institutions together with exaltation of both “the people” and a charismatic leader. This pattern does not merely resemble, but is, fascism.

Make no mistake: Republicans aren’t just undergoing some ordinary political shenanigans. Their inability to select a speaker is a symptom of their fascistic tendency to demonize processes and institutions. Johnson was selected for loyalty to the party, not tenure, experience, political credibility or personal integrity.

Trouble ahead for the not-so-united United States

We are now less than a month away from a government shutdown. This occurs when Congress (both the Senate and the House of Representatives), is unable to authorize spending to fund the US government’s activities. If the House cannot get its act together, this will occur. A significant proportion of the federal government’s four million employees will be furloughed and unable to provide services.

Further, a deadlocked Congress will not be able to authorize support to Ukraine or to Israel. If Congress is not effective, America cannot effectively discharge its role as the hegemonic power that guarantees a stable international system. And no one wants to live in a chaotic world. If the international system cannot look to the US, it will look for another guarantor, like China.

Historically, Americans have been united not by common ethnic or religious identity but by loyalty to a certain set of values and institutions, which are enshrined in the US constitution. Now, that common allegiance is crumbling, and with it, Americans’ ability to work together, find a common purpose and compromise on party interests in order to make decisions concerning necessities.

A political community cannot survive without a common narrative that tells people what their goals are and why they should work together. If America is losing its constitutional and democratic narrative, what will replace it? For Republicans, the replacement seems to be populism. We no longer trust decisions arrived at by rational consensus and compromise forged within institutions. Instead, Republican policy is increasingly based on values, which range from noble ideals to bigoted prejudices to outright conspiracy theories.

Republicans are resorting to populism because voters are lashing out. They feel disenfranchised. It is true that institutions have degraded. Congressmen and Senators spend most of their time raising money. They seem to be more willing to listen to lobbyists and campaign donors than to ordinary Americans and their own constituents. So the government has become detached from the people. Also, the branches of government have become detached from each other. Political dysfunction reigns. The result is that no one feels that they can trust the government or that they have any moral reason to support it.

If American institutions are unable to build consensus, the same is true for American culture. Americans can no longer agree on what is their mission in the world or even on who Americans are as the debates on immigration demonstrate. Technology is partly to blame: These days, everyone feels they have the right to play the expert on Twitter, TikTok or Truth Social with an opinion on everything from public health to nuclear policy. Americans have always been individualistic, but the current brand of hyper-individualistic discourse is dissolving whatever consensus Americans have on anything and, thus, the American ability to act effectively in the world.

[Anton Schauble wrote the first draft of this piece.]

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
Generally speaking, great powers do not fall because they are defeated by their rivals. Great powers fall because they rot from within. We might be seeing the same old story play out now in the United States.

Republicans, who control the majority of the seats in the House of Representatives,…” post_summery=”Republicans have ousted Kevin McCarthy from the post of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. After flitting between many candidates, they have opted for an ideological pick who is a rookie. Alarmingly, the Republican Party is now far more concerned with ideological purity than institutional integrity or reliable governance.” post-date=”Nov 04, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: New Nonstop Drama in the US Congres” slug-data=”fo-exclusive-new-nonstop-drama-in-the-us-congres”>

FO° Exclusive: New Nonstop Drama in the US Congres




Atul Singh” post_date=”November 02, 2023 03:22″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-exclusive-big-trouble-in-israel-and-gaza/” pid=”145289″ post-content=”
On October 7, Israelis were celebrating Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. A music festival named “Supernova Sukkot Gathering” was going on. This open-air psychedelic trance festival in the Negev Desert involved an all-night dance party that was ended tragically by explosions and gunfire.

About 1,500 Hamas militants flooded through the fenced and carefully guarded Gaza–Israel border. Once within Israel, these terrorists attacked civilians with extreme ferocity. Militants dragged young people away from the music festival to become hostages. Over a wide area in South Israel, they murdered, raped and mutilated their victims, even going to far as to behead infants.

The brutality of the attacks was not only an expression of rage, but also a political statement. Terrorists captured the violence on film to broadcast to Gazans and to the entire Islamic world a symbolic victory over the hated Jew, hoping to galvanize support against Israel and embarrass Arab governments that have been seeking a friendlier relationship with the Jewish state.

While the ground attack was going on, Hamas rocket attacks held the whole nation in terror. Israel, although much larger than minuscule Gaza, is not very large either as countries go. Given Gaza’s location on Israel’s southwestern flank, all Israeli territory is within the range of Hamas missiles. So, Hamas is able to threaten all of Israel despite its tiny territory. Air raid sirens went off across the country as citizens scrambled for safety in bomb shelters.

Israel could not let the atrocities and rocket attacks stand without an aggressive response. Outraged politicians declared their goal to be the total destruction of Hamas’s ability to rule and to wage war. Israel has mobilized a massive response, yet — in comparison to its expressions of anger — the attack seems restrained. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have mostly carried out an artillery war, and a large-scale ground incursion has not come.

Even still, the counterattack has been bloody. The assault has killed over 5,000 Palestinians at the time of filming. We do not know how many of those were members of Hamas, but with only 30,000 fighters out of a population of 2.3 million civilians, the proportion of civilian casualties is likely to be quite high.

Israel’s declared goal is to destroy Hamas by capturing or killing its leadership and destroying its infrastructure, from buildings to tunnels. Many Hamas facilities, however, are located within Palestinian civilian facilities, like schools or hospitals. Hamas has consciously made it impossible for Israel to strike them without committing war crimes.

So how did we get here?

How did Israel come to have a hostile terrorist force controlling two million people right on its border?

Israel has a complicated relationship with Gaza. It captured this territory in 1967 from Egypt. In 2005, Israel decided to unilaterally dismantle 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip. The government pulled out Israeli settlers and IDF troops from the Gaza Strip. In the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Hamas won in Gaza and continues to rule this territory since. Fatah runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. 

The Gaza Strip is 41 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide. To its west is the Mediterranean Sea, to its north and east lies Israel and to its south is Egypt. Gaza’s 2.3 million depend on Israel for food, water, fuel, medical supplies and other items of daily existence.

Hamas emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood during the First Intifada, a violent uprising of Palestinians that began in December 1987 and lasted nearly six years. The Brotherhood itself has existed for a century. This Islamist political organization was founded in Egypt with the goals of opposing British, and later American, suzerainty in the Middle East.

Hams sees Israel as an imperialist occupation and a threat to the Arab world. Perhaps ironically, it borrowed from Western ideology itself, imbibing Russian antisemitism through reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a hoax document which purports that Jews are plotting to take over the world and destroy civilization. Modern political Islam was also inspired and influenced by Nazis. In 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, fled to Germany and met with Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders. He wanted to persuade them to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish program to the Arab world. Hamas is a part of this tradition and aims not to dismantle the Israeli state but to eradicate the Jewish people. There can be no compromise or peace that would satisfy this ideology.

Israel tacitly and, at times, actively allowed Hamas to rise to power within Palestine. It hoped that Hamas would provide a useful counterbalance to Fatah, the party which led the Palestine Liberation Organization. This divide-and-conquer strategy backfired in the worst way. Now, the creature has gotten way out of its creator’s control. Hamas came to power in Gaza after the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, in which it won a majority. Since then, it has governed Gaza, transforming it into an intransigent, antisemitic terrorist state.

For years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu followed a containment strategy towards Hamas. He hoped that, in spite of Hamas’s stated antisemitism, they could at least be contained within Gaza, safely away from Israeli citizens. His calculation was that, if Israel isolated Hamas for long enough, it would eventually learn to come to terms with the status quo.

Now, Bibi has to play a delicate balancing game. The prime minister needs to avoid angering the Arab world as he seeks to normalize ties with his country’s neighbors. At the same time, Bibi needs to placate the far-right wing of his coalition, which wants to expand Jewish settlements within the West Bank in contravention of international law. Since settlements would not expand if Palestine became a sovereign state, Bibi isolated Gaza and split it from the West Bank. Thanks to Bibi, a two-state solution is near impossible. Instead, he has kept Hamas at bay by tightly controlling movement through the border checkpoints between Gaza and Israel. 

The plan worked, until it didn’t. To many seasoned analysts including both the authors, a blowup was inevitable. No one, however, predicted the scale and horror of the eventual outcome.

So what happens now?

Gaza is one of the most densely populated portions of the world, and it is urbanized from top to bottom. This means that any invasion would not only be extremely difficult from a military perspective but would also inevitably result in appalling levels of civilian casualties. In any case, it is difficult to imagine Israel — which has not even nine and a half million citizens itself — could sustain an occupation for any great stretch of time. And it would need to do so in order to root out all elements of Hamas, let alone construct something which could replace it.

But it cannot simply continue the air war, either. Already, public services and essential resources are stretched beyond their capacity by the Israeli blockade. If Israel continues to strike Hamas targets from the sky, it will continue to degrade the civilian infrastructure of Gaza, precipitating a humanitarian crisis. This would cause heavy damage to support for Israel in the West. It would also create antipathy in Arab countries, upending the promising peace processes that have been making progress since 1973. The outrage on the Arab street might even precipitate a second Arab uprisings and a broader regional war.

In the light of the above, Israel must tread carefully. Furthermore, the country has to worry about its economy. The government has mobilized at least 300,000 men, representing 13% or more of the male labor force. A reduced workforce will inevitably lead to lower economic output. The 1973 Yom Kippur War was followed by recession in Israel and this war could inflict much economic pain as well.

Israel’s actions are putting Arab leaders in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states in a bind. They have sympathies for Gazans but no love lost for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. As stated earlier, these leaders are afraid that Islamist movements could stoke revolution within their own borders.

Remember, Egypt was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood until its 2013 coup d’état brought down the then president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood. This Islamic organization remains a large presence in Egypt. Hence, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime has been especially keen to shut Hamas out. This is why Egypt, the only other country that shares a border with Gaza, has cooperated with Israel’s blockade.

The greatest potential for disruption comes not from the Sunni Arab states, but from Shia Iran and its co-religionist allies in the region. Although Hamas is a Sunni organization, Shia Iran has been its best friend. Iran is an Islamist theocracy and thus views Israel as its archenemy. It has allies close to Israeli territory, like Syria, controlled by the Alawite dictator Bashar al-Assad, and the militant Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah. Like Hamas, Hezbollah is based close to Israel’s borders and could launch rocket attacks across the country.

Qatar and Turkey, too, have supported Hamas by providing them funding and support. Most international aid does not go to the Palestinian people but is diverted toward building tunnels and buying weapons for Hamas. So, between the Israeli blockade and Hamas’s taking the lion’s share of resources, Gazans are left with precious little. Gazans are young, hopeless, destitute and angry. They are the perfect fodder for radicalization.

The Israel-Hamas conflict is not only important for Gaza, Israel, the Middle East but also the rest of the world. An extended conflict will drive more borrowing, increased interest rates and higher inflation. The conflict will increase exchange rate volatility, exposing export services businesses to potential currency exchange losses. It could very well tip an already beleaguered global economy into a slowdown.

NOTE: We have been publishing content on the Israel-Palestine issue for years. To make sense of it all, you can read Atul Singh’s 2012 piece on the history of this conflict and Professor Avi Shlaim’s interview on the cause of this conflict. To understand the state Israeli politics were in just before this attack, you can read this May 2023 piece by Gary Grappo, a former US ambassador in the Middle East. For more video content, you can also watch this FO° Exclusive discussion by Singh and Carle about Bibi’s deeply divisive judicial reforms as well as Singh’s conversation about the fallout of the present war with former Israeli peace negotiator Joseph Olmert.

[Anton Schauble wrote the first draft of this piece.]

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
On October 7, Israelis were celebrating Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. A music festival named “Supernova Sukkot Gathering” was going on. This open-air psychedelic trance…” post_summery=”On October 7, Hamas launched a ferocious attack on Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and taking at least 240 hostages. Israel is outraged and has vowed to destroy Hamas through a major military campaign. Yet this campaign is already causing mass civilian casualties. This is enraging the Arab and wider Muslim world while weakening support for Israel in the West. It is also unclear if Israeli air strikes and even a ground invasion can destroy Hamas.” post-date=”Nov 02, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: Big Trouble in Israel and Gaza” slug-data=”fo-exclusive-big-trouble-in-israel-and-gaza”>

FO° Exclusive: Big Trouble in Israel and Gaza




Josef Olmert” post_date=”October 18, 2023 01:36″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-live-war-against-hamas-will-create-new-israeli-republic/” pid=”144146″ post-content=”
The October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas in southern Israel has changed the country. This was the largest terrorist attack on Israeli soil. Hamas fighters killed over 1,400 people and took nearly 200 prisoners.

Professor Josef Olmert spared time on a very busy day to speak with Editor-in-Chief Atul Singh about what is going on and what may happen going forward. Olmert is the son of former Knesset member Mordechai Olmert and a brother of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In 1999, he served as policy advisor to the then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens. Olmert fought on the Golan Heights in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and gives a centrist Israeli view of this crisis.

Olmert compares Hamas to the Nazis. He argues that Hamas has genocidal plans and aims to destroy Israel. The Israeli political and military leadership has no option but to weaken, if not destroy, Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s policy of containment has failed. The country needs a new direction.

Olmert makes a bold prediction. He explains how the Yom Kippur War led to the fall of the Labour Party and the rise of the Likud Party. He says the second Israeli republic emerged after the Yom Kippur War. The Hamas attack is going to hurt Likud. The center will make a comeback. A third Israeli republic will emerge after these attacks, which have shaken Israel to the core.

In a candid conversation, Olmert admits that Israel got it wrong in sidelining the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Fatah. Now, there may be a new role for PA in administering Gaza. Olmert admits there were bad apples in Bibi’s right-wing coalition. He points out though that the talk of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is nonsense. 

Olmert points out the population of Gaza was 350,000 in 1967. Today, Gaza’s population is over two million. Olmert says that Arab countries have conducted ethnic cleansing of Jews instead. There are hardly any Jews left after 1948 because of Arab persecution.

Olmert says that the PA will become relevant again. It might take control of Gaza again. The PA will need an injection of money, Gaza would have to be demilitarized and supervisory/audit mechanisms of how the money is used will be essential. Both Egypt and Jordan would have key roles to play and will need to be compensated for their efforts.

In a nutshell, Olmert presents an Israeli point of view powerfully and compellingly. To make sense of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, to make sense of what is going on in Gaza and to make sense of the Middle East, watch this video.You can also read Atul Singh’s 2012 piece on the history of this conflict, Professor Avi Shlaim’s 2021 interview on the cause of this conflict and watch this FO° Exclusive discussion by Singh and Carle about Bibi’s deeply divisive judicial reforms.

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
The October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas in southern Israel has changed the country. This was the largest terrorist attack on Israeli soil. Hamas fighters killed over 1,400 people and took nearly 200 prisoners.

Professor Josef Olmert spared time on a very busy day to speak with Editor-in-Chief…” post_summery=”Professor Josef Olmert presents an Israeli point of view powerfully and compellingly. He is candid about Israeli mistakes, especially by the prime minister, but the professor sees Hamas as a Nazi-style regime with whom there can be no compromise. According to Olmert, the second Israeli republic emerged after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the third republic is likely to emerge after this war.” post-date=”Oct 18, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Live: War Against Hamas Will Create New Israeli Republic” slug-data=”fo-live-war-against-hamas-will-create-new-israeli-republic”>

FO° Live: War Against Hamas Will Create New Israeli Republic




Gary Grappo” post_date=”October 17, 2023 01:56″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-live-make-sense-of-the-new-israel-gaza-war/” pid=”144025″ post-content=”
Ambassador Gary Grappo served as Envoy and Head of Mission of the Office of the Quartet Representative, the Honorable Mr. Tony Blair, in Jerusalem. He held a number of senior positions in the US State Department and is a leading expert on the Middle East. Glenn Carle is a retired CIA officer who served as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer, leading the 17 agencies of the intelligence community in assessing transnational threats to the US. He is a top geopolitical analyst with rich experience. Atul Singh is the founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Fair Observer with a deep interest in the Middle East.

Together, this panel explains and analyzes the most recent conflict between Hamas and Israel.

What did Hamas do and how has Israel responded?

On October 7, Hamas launched a deadly terrorist attack. Hamas fighters killed over 1,300 people in towns, kibbutzim (communal settlements in Israel, typically a farm), military bases and a music festival across the barrier that separates the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Israelis were celebrating Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates and marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. A music festival named “Supernova Sukkot Gathering” was going on. This  open-air psychedelic trance festival in the Negev Desert involved an all-night dance party that was ended tragically by explosions and gunfire.

Hamas terrorists showed no mercy. They killed women, children and old people. Civilians were shot in cold blood. Even women with young children were taken away as hostages. Hamas fighters have taken about 150 hostages with them back to Gaza.

Israel’s reaction to the biggest terror attack in its history has been swift and severe. A national government has been formed. Israel told a million Gazans to evacuate to the southern part of the strip. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are planning to attack Gaza by air, sea and land. IDF jets have been bombing Gaza nonstop after the terrorist attack.

The context of Israel-Gaza conflict

Israel has a complicated relationship with Gaza. It captured this territory in 1967 from Egypt. In 2005, Israel decided to unilaterally dismantle 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip. The government pulled out Israeli settlers and IDF troops from the Gaza Strip. In the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Hamas won in Gaza and continues to rule this territory since. Fatah runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. 

The Gaza Strip is 41 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide. To its west is the Mediterranean Sea, to its north and east lies Israel and to its south is Egypt. Gaza’s 2.3 million depend on Israel for food, water, fuel, medical supplies and other items of daily existence.

Israel has clashed with Hamas many times in the past. Yet this terrorist organization continues to retain its vice-like grip on Gaza. Qatar, Turkey and Iran are the key donors to Gaza. Hamas diverts the money that comes in for arms and explosives. An elaborate network of tunnels supports an elaborate smuggling operation. About 50% of Gaza’s population is below 18, poor, largely illiterate and radicalized.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has been a divisive figure in Israeli society. Until recently, he was running a coalition government with far-right fundamentalists. His judicial reforms divided the country with even IDF reservists threatening to go on strike. Growing Jewish settlements in the West Bank have led to discontent and much of the IDF was tied up there when Hamas fighters attacked.

In this FO° Live discussion, Grappo, Carle and Singh examine the history of the conflict, the causes of this strife and what lies ahead.

To make sense of it all, you can read Atul Singh’s 2012 piece on the history of this conflict, Professor Avi Shlaim’s interview on the cause of this conflict and watch this FO° Exclusive discussion by Singh and Carle about Bibi’s deeply divisive judicial reforms.

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
Ambassador Gary Grappo served as Envoy and Head of Mission of the Office of the Quartet Representative, the Honorable Mr. Tony Blair, in Jerusalem. He held a number of senior positions in the US State Department and is a leading expert on the Middle East. Glenn Carle is a retired CIA officer who…” post_summery=”An eminent US diplomat, a distinguished retired CIA officer and an Indian public intellectual examine the context of the latest Israel-Gaza war.” post-date=”Oct 17, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Live: Make Sense of the New Israel-Gaza War” slug-data=”fo-live-make-sense-of-the-new-israel-gaza-war”>

FO° Live: Make Sense of the New Israel-Gaza War




Atul Singh” post_date=”October 04, 2023 04:57″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-exclusive-how-are-ukrainian-and-russian-war-economies-doing-now/” pid=”143428″ post-content=”
Last year, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and its European partners imposed economic sanctions. Their goal was to cut off Russia from the global economy. Western powers froze Russian assets held in international banks, cut Russian banks out of the international payments system SWIFT and levied embargoes on Russian goods, including the highly lucrative crude oil and natural gas exports that sustain the Russian economy. The US and its allies hoped to cripple the Russian economy and weaken Russia’s war effort.

It is now clear that the Western effort has failed. Europe might have stopped buying as much oil and gas from Russia as before, but China and India stepped in to fill the void. According to state newswire RIA Novosti, trade with China increased 32% year on year in the first eight months of 2023 to $155 billion, while trade with India tripled in the first half of the year to $33 billion. Both these large and energy-hungry economies were only too happy to buy deeply discounted Russian oil and gas.

Russia is a formidable fortress economy

Russia may be no Soviet Union, but — like the US — it is a fortress economy. Russia has plenty of grain, more than enough oil and gas, a lot of metals and a sufficient number of engineers. The Russian economy is capable of making goods necessary to sustain a war effort, and it is not overly reliant on international trade. Fossil fuel exports seemed to be Russia’s Achilles’ heel, but that has not proved to be the case. So, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sanction-proofing efforts have been crowned with success.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast Russia’s gross domestic product will grow by 1.5% this year and 1.3% in 2024. Putin has been more bullish, predicting 2.8% growth this year, more than double the maximum rate his own cabinet predicted in April. Oleg Deripaska, the founder of leading aluminum producer Rusal, says that the Wunderwaffe (wonder-weapon) of weaponizing the financial system against Russia has not worked. Despite sanctions, seizing reserves and throwing Russia out of the international SWIFT banking system, its economy is still growing.

Of course, this growth does not mean that the Russian economy is doing swimmingly. Russia remains a sluggish and largely state-owned economy plagued by low productivity, low utilization and low wages. Russia is no Asian tiger with top-level semiconductor manufacturing. Instead, the Siberian tiger has long since grown fat and happy by living off of the fossil fuel trade.

Even though Russia may have survived the war well, it is still fundamentally a petrostate and a commodity exporter. According to Carle, Russia’s oil game is only profitable in the long run with oil over $100 a barrel, and prices are currently in the 90s. Besides, embargoes on oil and gas have put substantial inflationary pressure on the economy. The ruble has lost a third of its value this year, largely erasing the gains it made after the initial crash at the beginning of the invasion. 

India and China haven’t totally made up for Russia’s shortfall either, and even sales to those states have slumped this year compared to last year’s levels. Over the next five years, Russia’s fundamental economic weaknesses will make themselves evident. Still, this will not happen quickly enough to help Ukraine. So, Russia will be able to keep up this level of involvement in the war for as long as necessary. 

As Carl von Clausewitz said, war is a contest of wills, and it is not at all evident that the Western coalition’s will to continue fighting is stronger than Russia’s. The possibility of a Russian victory, if the West’s cohesion cracks, is realistic.

Ukraine is under great stress

Unlike Russia, the Ukrainian economy is making no recovery from its disastrous economic crash last year. This year, it is expected to grow by only 0.5%. Last year, the Ukrainian gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 30%. This means that Ukraine’s GDP will be only 70.35% of the 2021 GDP on December 31 this year. This is grim news for its people. 

Furthermore, an additional 7.1 million Ukrainians are estimated to live in poverty. There has been a 15-year setback in poverty reduction goals. Ukraine needs $11 billion for repairs and essential services for this year. Six million Ukrainians are refugees, and a further eight million are internally displaced. If it had not had Western support, Ukraine would have already collapsed.

Ukraine desperately needs the support of its Western friends, and relations are fraying at what could not be a worse time. Ukraine has disputes with neighbors like Poland and Hungary, and public support is waning in powers like the US and Germany. Tensions over funding Ukraine are a big part of America’s government shutdown crisis, only temporarily averted on October 1. In Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has been gaining in the polls, outstripping older mainstream parties. If the AfD gains more seats in the elections, the party will inevitably weaken German support for Ukraine.

The final outcome of the Russia–Ukraine War is not a foregone conclusion. Ukrainian victory, Russian victory or some sort of compromise for peace are all still possible. But, if current trends continue and nothing changes, it looks like Putin could very well win the waiting game.

[Anton Schauble wrote the first draft of this piece.]

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
Last year, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and its European partners imposed economic sanctions. Their goal was to cut off Russia from the global economy. Western powers froze Russian assets held in international banks, cut Russian banks out of the international payments…” post_summery=”Russia has weathered the economic damage of Western sanctions fairly well. In contrast, Ukraine’s economy has cratered and is not recovering. If Western support for Ukraine weakens, Russia is likely to win this protracted war of attrition.” post-date=”Oct 04, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: How Are Ukrainian and Russian War Economies Doing Now?” slug-data=”fo-exclusive-how-are-ukrainian-and-russian-war-economies-doing-now”>

FO° Exclusive: How Are Ukrainian and Russian War Economies Doing Now?




Atul Singh” post_date=”October 02, 2023 02:55″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-exclusive-indo-canadian-tensions-signal-new-indian-assertiveness-on-global-stage/” pid=”143344″ post-content=”
On September 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced before television cameras in parliament that India had been credibly linked to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This Canadian citizen had immigrated from the Indian state of Punjab in the 1990s after being arrested in 1995 during a crackdown on Sikh terrorism.

Nijjar arrived in Canada in 1997 on a fraudulent passport and his citizen applications were rejected numerous times. He persisted, though, and gained citizenship in 2007. In 2020, India designated Nijjar as a terrorist, and two years later, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) accused him of plotting to kill a Hindu priest in Punjab.

On June 18, Nijjar was gunned down by two masked assailants outside a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, in British Columbia. Trudeau blames this killing on India. The unusually public and grave nature of the accusation immediately set off a firestorm of reprisals between the two countries. India and Canada expelled each other’s diplomats, and India has suspended processing of visas for Canadian citizens.

Glenn Carle, a retired CIA officer and Fair Observer’s resident intelligence expert, finds it implausible that the killing could have been a false flag operation or gang activity.

He takes the view that Canada is extremely circumspect in its public statements. As a middle power, Canada’s national interest lies in upholding a lawful and predictable international order. Unlike its superpower neighbor to the south or other great powers, Canada is not served by flouting this order. Nor is it given to making unfounded or false statements for some kind of Machiavellian advantage. Carle believes that it is inconceivable that Trudeau would have gone public with the accusation unless he was absolutely sure. It may well be that the evidence may not be enough to secure a conviction in a court of law, but from an intelligence perspective, this evidence is as certain as one could reasonably expect.

So, Canada is acting as a liberal, Western middle power naturally would act. Carle points out that what is really interesting is how India is acting. This is not the sort of behavior that we have seen from India in the past. In the past, India has only ever carried out killings or assassinations in its immediate neighborhood. This is the first time that India has ever reached out to strike a target so far afield and in a Western nation. This is the action of a superpower.

Carle takes the view that India has rapidly emerged as a force on the international stage. The country is beginning to flex its muscles as a true superpower. Indeed, even among established powers there is an informal rule that one may carry out assassinations in third party countries, but not on the territory of another power. Russia was the first to break this norm by assassinating dissenters on British soil. That India has done something comparable shows how audacious the young power has indeed become.

But why Canada?

India has had a troubled history with its Sikh minority. In the eyes of some Sikh leaders, after independence, Muslims got their own state (Pakistan) and Hindus their own (India), and Sikhs should have had their own state too. These leaders want this hypothetical state called Khalistan to be in Indian Punjab and do not claim any part of Pakistani Punjab — despite the facts that Lahore was the capital of the Sikh Empire and the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was born in Nankana Sahib and died in Kartarpur Sahib, both in Pakistan.

In the 1980s, demands for Khalistan increased and tensions reached a head. With Pakistan’s strong backing, Sikh separatists used terror tactics to further their aims. In June 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called in the troops to forcibly remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other Sikh militants from the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh site, in Amritsar, Punjab.

Editor-in-Chief Atul Singh points out how Indira (as he calls her to distinguish her from Mahatma Gandhi, who was not a relative of hers) tacitly supported Bhindranwale to win the Sikh vote. Sadly for Indira and India, her sly tactics backfired when the cultish Sikh leader turned into a Frantenstein’s monster. He holed up in the Golden Temple with weapons, challenging the integrity of the Indian state. Indira ordered Operation Blue Star, in which troops led by a Sikh general stormed the temple and killed Bhindranwale.

This military operation upset many Sikhs. In October, two of Indira’s bodyguards assasinated her. They were Sikhs. This set off a wave of retaliatory violence in which Indira’s Congress Party killed thousands of Sikhs. At that time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party championing India’s Hindu identity, opposed the riots. The BJP was later in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal, the leading Sikh party in the country. Both fought elections together in Punjab and were only voted out in 2022.

Singh points out that not all Sikhs then or now were separatists. In fact, most Sikhs enthusiastically joined India and became its best soldiers, diplomats, entrepreneurs and scholars. Over the decades, Sikhs have become a model minority. A Sikh, economist Manmohan Singh, went on to become prime minister for 10 years. The vast majority of Sikhs do not fancy the idea of an independent, landlocked Khalistan between India and Pakistan.

Singh pointedly states that what we have today are Khalistani cults, not a Khalistan movement. That died a long time ago. Now, charismatic preachers in places like Canada prey on immigrant insecurity to recruit young men for the Khalistani cause. In many ways, these Sikhs are just like Muslim jihadis fighting a holy war. Khalistani cult leaders compete for money and power with each other. Gang wars ensue and they are now causing problems for their host countries such as Canada, Australia and the UK.

Khalistani Terrorists Now Threaten Both India and the West

Sikhs have gone on to become successful around the world. Not only are they doing well in the US, the UK and Canada but they are also excelling in Kenya, Nepal and Singapore. In Italy, Sikhs play a big role in the parmesan and mozzarella businesses. Ajay Banga now heads the World Bank. Most Sikhs seek professional success and have little to do with the idea or demand for Khalistan.

There are pockets where things are different. In particular, Canada has the greatest number of extremist Sikhs. For these fanatics, the dream of Khalistan lives on. Carle points out that Sikhs form a higher proportion of the population in Canada than in India. Hence, they are politically significant. Minority. Four members of Trudeau’s cabinet come from a Sikh background. Singh points out that Trudeau heads a coalition government supported by the New Democratic Party. Its leader Jagmeet Singh is a Sikh. Many of these Canadian Sikh leaders tend to support the formation of Khalistan and have organized a referendum to this effect.

In India’s view, Canada has turned a blind eye to the activities of separatists and terrorists within its Sikh community. Sikh extremists have attacked Hindu temples with little response coming from Ottawa. Canada has refused to extradite suspected Sikh terrorists to India in the past. Indeed, Canada ignored a red notice on Nijjar from Interpol. Trudeau also notably supported a referendum held by Nijjar on the formation of Khalistan, deeply upsetting India. In short, Canada has allowed a real threat to the safety of Indians and the integrity of the Indian state to thrive on its soil. This is a legitimate grievance, and India feels that it is at the end of its rope. 

There is a long history of Indian grievances against Canada. In 1985, an Air India flight out of Canada blew up near Ireland, killing 329 people. That same day, baggage from another Air India flight out of Canada also exploded in Tokyo’s Narita airport. Investigators traced these acts to Khalistanis in Canada — without doubt terrorists in this instance. Indians have not forgotten that Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current prime minister, refused to extradite the terrorist accused of the 1985 bombing. In the eyes of millions of Indians, both father and son have the “white savior complex” and want to civilize barbaric Indians like many 19th century imperialists.

Much of what New Delhi views as a threat to national integrity is, from Ottowa’s point of view, free speech. Canada believes that it has given due process to the individuals that it has refused to extradite to India. For many Canadians, this killing was not only a murder, but also a threat to their country’s sovereignty and to the principles of mutual respect and non-interference that the international order is based on. 

Given the gulf in Indian and Canadian perceptions, relations between the two nations are in a tailspin. The key takeaway here is that a more brazen and assertive India will now enforce its interests globally. It will not just become a subservient member of the Western team. At the G20 Summit in Delhi, India presented itself as the leader of the Global South. Even though the G20 is a show horse that does little policymaking, posture and perception in international relations are also reality. 

The G20 Summit demonstrates how India perceives itself and how it wants to be perceived by others. India’s policy is no longer the simple non-alignment championed by Jawaharlal Nehru, its first prime minister. Instead, India has become an independent pole of the international system. Mostly it cooperates with the West, but sometimes the country goes its own way. India is involving itself in places far outside its near neighborhood, such as Armenia. As per Carle, it is clear that India has become one of the world’s three great powers. It ranks next only to the US and China in global significance.

Canada still has international clout as a wealthy Western nation. However, India has its levers too. Indian students fill Canadian schools, Indo–Canadian trade is significant and Ottawa wants a free trade deal with New Delhi.

Hopefully, though, as India exerts its influence, it will do so with more finesse than it did this time. A killing that becomes an international incident is hardly a successful operation. In any case, even the Mossad has had problems with assassination operations. The political costs almost always outweigh the tactical benefits. Yet the killing and the G20 Summit demonstrate that a new great power is on the rise and it is willing to defend its interests even on Western soil.

[Anton Schauble wrote the first draft of this piece.]

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
On September 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced before television cameras in parliament that India had been credibly linked to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This Canadian citizen had immigrated from the Indian state of Punjab in the 1990s after being arrested in 1995…” post_summery=”On September 18, Canada’s PM went public with accusations that India killed Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen advocating that the state of Punjab in India becomes the independent state of Khalistan. Did India do it? If so, what does this mean? A retired CIA officer and a former Indian officer — our very own editor-in-chief — debate and discuss the issue.” post-date=”Oct 02, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: Indo–Canadian Tensions Signal New Indian Assertiveness on Global Stage” slug-data=”fo-exclusive-indo-canadian-tensions-signal-new-indian-assertiveness-on-global-stage”>

FO° Exclusive: Indo–Canadian Tensions Signal New Indian Assertiveness on Global Stage




Atul Singh” post_date=”August 13, 2023 04:53″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/chinese-foreign-minister-is-suddenly-and-mysteriously-axed/” pid=”139458″ post-content=”
On Tuesday, July 25, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee convened an emergency meeting and removed Qin Gang as China’s foreign minister. Wang Yi is the new face of Chinese diplomacy.

First, Qin disappeared from public view for the past month. He failed to attend a summit in Indonesia. Beijing pushed back his July 4 meeting with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. The very brief official explanation blamed unspecified health problems. Qin was one of the most high-level officials in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). So, it was strange for him to have been absent for this long. Now, Qin has been summarily dismissed.

The strange case of a summary sacking

When high-profile figures in China go out of public view for extended durations, criminal investigation can follow. However, they sometimes reappear with no explanation. Chinese President Xi Jinping himself vanished for a fortnight shortly before becoming the country’s leader in 2012. This prompted speculation about his health and possible power struggles within the CCP.

Qin rose and fell like Icarus. He was ambassador to the US where he gained fame in China and infamy elsewhere as a tough-talking “wolf-warrior” diplomat. Before his ambassadorial position, Qin had been a foreign ministry spokesman and had helped organize Xi’s trips overseas, giving him the opportunity to work closely with China’s de facto emperor.

Xi engineered Qin’s elevation and his fall has damaged China’s supreme leader. Clearly, the CCP’s top man has been making bad decisions and his judgment is suspect. Recently, Xi’s public problems have been increasing. Both his catastrophic zero-Covid policy and its silent, cowardly abandonment have hurt Xi’s reputation. He is also getting blamed for China’s real estate woes and a sputtering economy. Xi and the CCP stand damaged by Qin’s dismissal.

Wang, a career diplomat who speaks Japanese, is returning to a post he held between 2013 and 2022. The 69-year-old was standing in for Qin in recent weeks. Wang is an old hand. He was promoted to the Politburo of the CCP last year and is concurrently the head of the party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission. His return might be a move to stabilize Chinese diplomacy. Wang has been the foreign minister before and is regarded as a very capable official. Therefore, his appointment bodes well for continuing the stabilization of US-China relations.

Reading the tea leaves: a change in policy?

No one really knows why Qin fell from favor. For a long time, he was Xi’s blue-eyed boy. Speculation abounds of an extramarital affair and sex scandals. Yet it could well be that palace intrigues in Zhongnanhai caused Qin’s downfall.

Qin might have become the sacrificial lamb for increasing frustration with Xi’s policies. Wolf warrior diplomacy is not as popular as it used to be. It has led to an almost universally hostile reaction, from both democratic and authoritarian states across the Indo-Pacific. They have now started organizing militarily, politically and economically against China. This has caused the CCP high and mighty in Zhongnanhai some alarm. 

Qin’s fall might be a sign of the pressure that China is feeling. The economy is experiencing lower growth rates, higher unemployment figures and more dissatisfaction. This does not mean that the CCP regime is about to collapse, but Xi and his party have certainly lost some of their shine. So, they have to do something.

China might be nominally communist but is culturally Confucian. The state is sacrosanct and, by extension, so is the Xi-led CCP. If something is not working, it must be the fault of an individual minister, official or party member. So, a fallible scapegoat must be found. Qin might have taken the hit to preserve the infallibility of Xi and the CCP.More importantly for our purposes, what does Qin’s dismissal and Wang’s return mean for the Chinese foreign policy. A priori, it seems that Beijing is likely to be more conciliatory at least in its tone. Wang has more relationships with his foreign counterparts than Qin. This should help Wang to smooth some ruffled feathers. Xi wants continuity and predictability, not description and volatility, right now.

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
On Tuesday, July 25, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee convened an emergency meeting and removed Qin Gang as China’s foreign minister. Wang Yi is the new face of Chinese diplomacy.

First, Qin disappeared from public view for the past month. He failed to attend a summit in…” post_summery=”Xi Jinping has sacked Qin Gang, his combative foreign minister. Is that because of a sex scandal or palace intrigue? Or might it be because China is under significant pressure because Qin’s wolf warrior diplomacy has backfired?” post-date=”Aug 13, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: Chinese Foreign Minister Is Suddenly and Mysteriously Axed” slug-data=”chinese-foreign-minister-is-suddenly-and-mysteriously-axed”>

FO° Exclusive: Chinese Foreign Minister Is Suddenly and Mysteriously Axed




Atul Singh” post_date=”August 11, 2023 00:20″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-exclusive-make-sense-of-israels-new-tumultuous-judicial-reform/” pid=”139343″ post-content=”
On Monday, July 24, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, adopted a highly controversial law to limit the Supreme Court’s powers. The Knesset has 120 members, and this legislation was passed by 64 votes to 0 because the entire opposition boycotted the final vote.

The legal reforms concern the power of the elected government versus the power of the courts to scrutinize and even overrule government decisions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s government argues that reform is overdue. So do some others who argue that the judiciary is leftist, elitist and unaccountable. They believe that the judiciary interferes too much with legislation, is biased in support of liberal issues and is undemocratic in the way judges are selected.

A large number of Israelis oppose these reforms because they fear that the country’s narrowly elected governments in general and Bibi in particular will become far too powerful. A simple majority in the Knesset would change laws easily, leading to a lack of certainty and continuity in Israel’s legal and constitutional system. This would damage public life, rule of law and long term Israeli interests.

What are these legal reforms?

At the heart of the reforms and the controversy is the so-called “reasonableness” bill. This removes the Supreme Court’s power to cancel government decisions it deems unreasonable. Besides the “reasonableness” law, the government wants to:

— Weaken the power of the Supreme Court to review or throw out laws, enabling a simple majority of one in the Knesset to overrule such decisions.

— Have a decisive say over who becomes a judge, including in the Supreme Court, by increasing its representation on the committee which appoints them.

— Scrap the requirement for ministers to obey the advice of their legal advisers, guided by the attorney general, which they currently have to do by law.

The bill to overturn the reasonableness standard is part of a package of legislation unveiled by Justice Minister Yariv Levin in January. The reasonableness standard gained prominence later that same month, when Israel’s High Court of Justice disqualified the Shas party chairman Arye Dery from serving as health and interior minister on these grounds, due to his conviction on charges of tax evasion, corruption as a public official, bribery and fraud.

Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition

Currently, Israel is ruled by a coalition government consisting of six parties: Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam. United Torah Judaism and Shas are Haredi religious parties. Haredis are characterized by their strict adherence to rabbinical halakha (Jewish law) and oppose modern, Western values. They form 13.3% of Israel’s population.

Bibi formed his latest government on December 29, 2022, following the collapse of the coalition government led by Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid. Israel’s politics with its proportional representation system is known for fractious coalitions. This government is regarded as the most right-leaning government in Israel’s history.

The Israeli Supreme Court disqualified Dery because it found his appointment to be “unreasonable in the extreme.” The Shas leader had been convicted three times of criminal offenses and failed in his previous public positions to “serve the public loyally and lawfully.” The decision and legal doctrine behind it sparked immediate backlash on the right and put Bibi, the longstanding leader of Likud, in the uncomfortable position of having to deny a ministerial position to a loyal and powerful coalition ally.

Dr. Amir Fuchs, a Senior Researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, takes the view that the standard of reasonableness refers to a balance between political and public interests in decision-making. An “unreasonable” decision is therefore one which “disproportionately focuses on political interests without sufficient consideration for public trust and its protection.”

Who is protesting and why?

Protesters have called for all the planned reforms to be scrapped and for Bibi to resign. Not only Bibi’s political rivals but also former top officials in Israel’s military, intelligence and security services, former chief justices, and prominent legal figures and business leaders, amongst others, oppose the reforms.

Israel’s Histadrut trade union confederation has threatened a general strike, and thousands of military personnel have vowed to not report for duty if the law is allowed to stand. First, over 1,000 Israeli Air Force reserve officers, including pilots, navigators and special forces threatened not to report for voluntary reserve duty. Then, another 10,000 Israeli Defense Force (IDF) reservists threatened the same.

Bibi’s critics oppose the reforms because:

— Reforms will severely undermine the country’s democracy by weakening the judicial system, the only tool for keeping the government in check.

— New laws might protect Bibi who is currently on trial for alleged corruption (he denies the charges) and help his government pass laws with narrow majorities for short-term political gain.

— The proposed system will change far too frequently, creating legal uncertainty and a lack of continuity.

— So-called reforms will weaken public life, rule of law and long-term Israeli interests.

Is this the end of Israeli democracy?

In some ways, we have been watching the slow suicide of the Israeli state for years. The exceedingly religious ultra-orthodox Jews have more children than their secular counterparts. They now comprise a larger percentage of Israel’s population and have greater power in its fractious democracy. The religious extremism of these ultra-orthodox has been rising too. They now have the numbers and the determination not only to play kingmaker but also to bend the state to their will. Bibi has gotten into bed with them in his single-minded pursuit of power.

In the first-past-the-post system of the US, the UK and India, the ultra-orthodox would not have such disproportionate power. Israel’s proportional representation system sets the electoral threshold at 3.25%. The number of seats a party receives in the Knesset is proportional to the number of votes it receives. So if a party gets 5% of the votes, it gets six seats out of 120. Ironically, this increases the power of the smaller parties and their leaders who choose their lackeys to be members of the Knesset. So, upsetting Dery is not an option for Bibi if he wants to cling on to his crown.

This increased power of the Knesset to change laws by small majorities runs counter to the cultural DNA of Israel. In 1948, most Israelis were Ashkenazis who immigrated from continental Europe. Therefore, Israeli democracy has less in common with the British Westminster parliamentary cousin and is more akin to continental Europe. Israel has implemented Montesquieu’s separation of powers with the judiciary keeping its unstable coalition governments in check.

Of course, there is an argument for more democratic oversight of the judiciary. It is strongly left-leaning and may no longer represent the values of Israeli society. However, the Bibi-led Likud and its allies are pushing such a major reform through in a hasty, heavy-handed way. Bibi has made a Faustian pact with the far-right and is doing away with checks and balances. He is bringing a more unitary system which is majoritarian and risks turning authoritarian. The fact that this reform favors politicians with criminal convictions or risk of such convictions is deeply disturbing. That is why thousands are turning to the streets.

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
On Monday, July 24, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, adopted a highly controversial law to limit the Supreme Court’s powers. The Knesset has 120 members, and this legislation was passed by 64 votes to 0 because the entire opposition boycotted the final vote.

The legal reforms concern the…” post_summery=”A coalition government comprising ultra-orthodox parties has brought in reforms to weaken Israel’s judiciary, arguing it needs democratic oversight. However, thousands fear the government has made a cynical move to cling to power and protect the corrupt, damaging public life, rule of law and Israeli democracy.” post-date=”Aug 11, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: Make Sense of Israel’s New Tumultuous Judicial Reform” slug-data=”fo-exclusive-make-sense-of-israels-new-tumultuous-judicial-reform”>

FO° Exclusive: Make Sense of Israel’s New Tumultuous Judicial Reform




Francisco Rodriguez-Jimenez” post_date=”August 10, 2023 04:20″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-talks-make-sense-of-the-2023-spanish-elections/” pid=”139263″ post-content=”
On July 23, Spain went to the polls. This snap election failed to produce a clear result. No party won a simple majority in the 350-strong Congress of Deputies. 

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party won 122 seats, two more than in the 2019 elections. The center-right Popular Party (PP) won 136 seats, up from 89 in 2019. The far-right Vox party would support the PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo. Yet it took only 33 seats, in contrast to 52 in 2019. This would leave Feijóo seven seats short of an absolute majority of 176 in the parliament.

Spain had two elections in 2019 because the first one failed to produce a government. It has had regional elections since, most importantly in Catalonia, Castilla y León and Andalucía. Now, it might have another election in 2023.

What is going on in Spain?

In Spanish politics, four main parties dominate. The Socialists, the PP, Vox and far-left Sumar are the main national parties. Regional parties in Basque Country and Catalonia form a fifth force. Their relationship with national parties and with Spain itself remains problematic. Both Basque Country and Catalonia have had issues with Madrid over independence. Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan Junts party, remains in exile.

In some ways, the regional parties suffered, particularly in Catalonia. The regions no longer seem to want independence. The far-right and the far-left declined too. Together, the two national parties were the big winners. Yet they are too ideologically opposed to come together in a Germany-style national coalition.

Many are calling for such a grand coalition. It would have the support of the majority of the Spanish people. However, party leaders fear that they will lose the support of their members if they negotiate with the other party.

Vox represents the legacy of General Francisco Franco, Spain’s brutal dictator who held power from 1936 to 1975. Its leaders split from the PP about ten years ago in disgust at the party’s softness towards separatists. If Vox supports the PP, there is a risk that no other party may join the coalition. The fall in popular support for Vox demonstrates that the far-right wave of Italy has not crossed the Mediterranean. The success of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia has not been replicated in Spain.

Spain is experiencing the same polarization that we see in democracies like the US, the UK and Israel. By European standards, the Spanish economy was not doing too badly. Apparently, Sánchez’s coalition failed to win not because of the economy but because of culture and identity.

Why do incumbents lose, and why is it so hard to form a government?

Until 2015, the Socialists and the PP were the two dominant parties. Charges of corruption damaged them with Podemos and Ciudadanos emerging as plausible alternatives. Vox did rather well in 2019, which might have led voters to back other parties to keep this Francoist party out of power. 

Yet the incumbents have lost power. According to Carlos Meléndez, people have voted out 85% of incumbents over the last five to six years. This pattern of negative voting has produced governments that are very fragile and have little popular support, existing only because voters opposed the alternative more.

In the Spanish context, another issue adds to the anti-incumbent phenomenon. As prime minister, Sánchez does not enjoy within his own country the good reputation he has abroad. He won the party leadership by upending the traditional establishment. In 2018. Sánchez convinced other parties to vote together against Mariano Rajoy, who was then the leader of the PP and prime minister. This has been the only successful no-confidence vote in Spanish history, and many Spaniards think of Sánchez as a Machiavellian for initiating it.

Political commentators and analysts criticized the no-confidence move widely. They take the view that fresh elections were the more appropriate means to address Rajoy’s alleged corruption. By working closely with regional parties, Sánchez became politically toxic. Many Castilian-speaking voters, who form the vast majority in Spain, still demonize the Socialist leader.

While people may have voted negatively in Spain, they have not gone for the extremes this time around. However, they have not voted in a manner that allows for a stable government to form. Neither the Socialists nor the PP are likely to get the votes to reach the magic 176 mark.

In some democracies, horse-trading or the return of Puigdemont might be possibilities. However, Spanish politics is too ideological to forgive members of parliament who jump ship, and Spain’s Supreme Court has issued a new arrest order for Puigdemont. Unlike the Italians, the Spaniards do not seem to form coalitions easily. So, the country may find it difficult to form a government.

This political instability comes at an unfortunate time for the country. Spain exercises the EU’s rotating presidency until January 2024. Without a government in power, Spain is likely to squander its chance to set the European agenda and play a leading role in the bloc.

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
On July 23, Spain went to the polls. This snap election failed to produce a clear result. No party won a simple majority in the 350-strong Congress of Deputies. 

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist party won 122 seats, two more than in the 2019 elections. The center-right Popular…” post_summery=”Spanish elections have failed to throw up a clear result and another election may ensue by the end of the year. National centrist parties have emerged stronger at the expense of far-right, far-left and regional parties. Yet none of the two national parties has the numbers to form a government at a time Spain will hold the rotating presidency of the EU.” post-date=”Aug 10, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Talks: Make Sense of the 2023 Spanish Elections” slug-data=”fo-talks-make-sense-of-the-2023-spanish-elections”>

FO° Talks: Make Sense of the 2023 Spanish Elections




Atul Singh” post_date=”August 09, 2023 05:58″ pUrl=”https://www.fairobserver.com/video/fo-exclusive-make-sense-of-the-hellish-rioting-in-france/” pid=”139235″ post-content=”
French banlieues, the poor suburbs of its great cities, went up in flames. Mobs targeted town halls, police stations, schools and any building associated with the French state. They were triggered by the killing of Nahel M, 17, after police say he failed to comply with an order to stop his car in Nanterre near Paris.

These are not the riots to hit France. The first banlieue riots occurred in 1979 in Vaulx-en-Velin, a poor suburb of Lyon, when a teenager slit his veins after an arrest for stealing a car. Two years later, another attempt to deal with a car theft sparked days of rioting in nearby Vénissieux. 

The deaths of two youths in the same area resulted in similar troubles in 1990 and 1993. 

By far the worst unrest occurred in 2005. Two teenagers died in an electrical substation near Paris while hiding from police. Suburbs erupted up and down the country. Cars were burnt, shops looted and police attacked, triggering a three-week state of emergency.

Why is France experiencing yet more riots?

There are two countervailing views on this issue. One view is that the violence is the result of poverty and discrimination. Entrenched social ills ensure that France’s bleak estates remain tinderboxes. Another view holds that the rioting is mainly a law-and-order issue. Gangs and petty criminals are using anger over a tragic death as an excuse to sow mayhem.

Both views hold some water. In 1977, then Prime Minister Raymond Barre launched the first plan to regenerate housing estates, expressing concern that they might turn into “ghettos” but somehow this effort never succeeded. France’s infamous bureaucrats have set up one official body after another but none of them have really succeeded.

France has the National Council for Cities, the Inter-ministerial Commission for Cities of Urban Social Development, the National Agency for Urban Renewal and many others. An alphabet soup of acronyms for various initiatives, from FNRU (Nation Programme for Urban Renovation) to ZUS (Sensitive Urban Zones) is a testimony to the failure of imagination and implementation by elitist and out-of-touch French bureaucrats.

At the same time, law and order has indeed declined in France. Anyone who has gone to Montmartre has faced hassle while the police look the other way. Furthermore, many banlieues are no-go areas for most people, including sometimes the police. Given the fact that the people in these poor neighborhoods are from former French colonies, they have a sense of resentment against their former oppressors. Continued experience of discrimination, exclusion and racism hardens those feelings.

A divided society

When Glenn lived in Grenoble in 1976, he often walked home alone after 11:00 pm. Most French cities, other than Paris, were then quiet at night. The only other people out on the street were lone, forlorn, Muslim North African men who had been brought in as “temporary workers,” without being allowed to bring their families. These workers have stayed on and brought their wives and have had children.

This immigrant population still finds itself foreign in France. Many French do not really consider them as French. Also, many immigrants themselves do not want to abandon their roots, especially if they are Muslim. France may not be experiencing a clash of civilizations but there is indeed a clash of cultures.

French secularism—laïcité—has shut out religion from the state. In the past, this struggle was with Catholicism. The state won that victory conclusively. Now, this struggle is with Islam. This underlines the bikini-burkini tension in la grande nation.

France being France, the state is extraordinarily overweening. The government controls 59% of the GDP. This means the unit of power is the French state and the seat of power is Paris, i.e. elite bureaucrats and politicians. Note that politicians are often former elite bureaucrats, (including almost all French presidents over the last seven decades) who run the country in an excessively centralized manner. So, the French blame the state for almost all their frustrations and look upon capturing the state to achieve any progress. This means the cycle set off in 1789 of mobs taking to the streets continues.

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
” post-content-short=”
French banlieues, the poor suburbs of its great cities, went up in flames. Mobs targeted town halls, police stations, schools and any building associated with the French state. They were triggered by the killing of Nahel M, 17, after police say he failed to comply with an order to stop his car in…” post_summery=”The French state is overweening. Therefore, people blame it for almost all ills. Disaffected youth in rundown neighborhoods are out on the streets in frustration. This cycle of rioting has roots in the past and is likely to continue in the future.” post-date=”Aug 09, 2023″ post-title=”FO° Exclusive: Make Sense of the Hellish Rioting in France” slug-data=”fo-exclusive-make-sense-of-the-hellish-rioting-in-france”>

FO° Exclusive: Make Sense of the Hellish Rioting in France






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