After Caliphate’s Fall, A Spending Challenge

Since Iraqi troops seized back Mosul last month, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has been reduced to the area around Raqqa in Syria. Predominantly Kurdish forces are attempting to take the city, protected by Western airpower. Authorities estimate the number of Islamist fighters has dwindled from the thousands to the hundreds.

As soon as the caliphate falls, governments will face another challenge: the reconstruction. Read more “After Caliphate’s Fall, A Spending Challenge”

Hard to See How Trump’s Unpredictability Is Making America Stronger

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Donald Trump’s seven months as president have been one surprise after another. From his unexpected diplomacy with China and his certification of the Iran nuclear deal — both of which he lambasted as a presidential candidate — to daily stories of White House intrigue and the dismissal of top government officials, Trump has created an atmosphere of unpredictability in Washington DC.

This is deliberate.

“We must as a nation be more unpredictable,” he argued last year.

But is it improving America’s position in the world? Read more “Hard to See How Trump’s Unpredictability Is Making America Stronger”

Mixed Success for Trump at the G20 on Syria and Trade

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6 (Bundesregierung)

The G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany has been a mixed success for American president Donald Trump.

On Syria:

  • On the one hand, Trump negotiated a ceasefire for southwestern Syria with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. American-backed rebels have been fighting the Russian-backed regime of Bashar Assad there.
  • On the other hand, he didn’t elicit Russia’s support for the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is Trump’s priority.

On trade:

  • On the one hand, G20 leaders conditioned open markets on “reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade” in their summit declaration and recognized the role of “legitimate trade defense instruments” — a political victory for Trump.
  • On the other hand, a threat from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to retaliate with EU trade sanctions appears to have persuaded Trump not to raise tariffs on steel. Read more “Mixed Success for Trump at the G20 on Syria and Trade”

Little Wonder the World Doesn’t Trust Trump

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

Donald Trump promised to make America great again, but that’s not what it looks like to the rest of the world.

The Pew Research Center found that only 22 percent of people around the world trust the American president.

The figures are worse in Western Europe, traditionally home to America’s closest allies. Fewer than one in five Europeans have confidence in American leadership anymore.

This matters. A lack of faith in Trump could have costly ramifications for the United States in economic and national-security terms. Read more “Little Wonder the World Doesn’t Trust Trump”

Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia

Nicosia Cyprus
The sun sets on Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus (Shutterstock/Iv Nikolny)

Located between Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has historically been of strategic significance to powers on either side of the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of natural gas off its shores has raised the island’s geopolitical profile — and might help it overcome communal tensions.

Cypriot waters are estimated to contain between 140 and 220 billion cubic meters of gas with an approximate value of €38 billion.

Exploration should spur economic growth and could make it easier for internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkey to hash out a compromise for the future of the island. Read more “Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia”

Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State

Police in Mainz, Germany, November 21, 2015
Police in Mainz, Germany, November 21, 2015 (Franz Ferdinand Photography)

The Western-backed effort to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq is making headway. The self-proclaimed caliphate has lost two-thirds of its territory. The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second city, is well underway.

But there is a dark side to the coalition’s success in Iraq. We’ve seen it in the streets of Paris, Nice and London: The more the Islamic State is cornered, the more of its sympathizers commit terrorist attacks in the West. Read more “Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State”

Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State

As David Downing reported here on Sunday, Mosul could make a quick economic recovery once it is entirely liberated from the self-declared Islamic State by Iraqi government forces.

Not only is the city, once Iraq’s second largest, a hub for northern Iraqi industry and trade; it’s also situated close to major oil and natural gas reserves. The potential for further economic expansion could be close at hand.

The battle will not be over quickly, though. It has been estimated it will take another three to five months to rout the Islamic State from eastern Mosul.

Once the militants are defeated, internal and sectarian divisions could resurface. A Shia-Sunni divide seems inevitable. Mosul being a Sunni majority town doesn’t help the cause for peaceful settlement. Friction between religious groups can hurt reconstruction efforts, especially with the involvement of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s sanctioned Shia fighters. We are looking at a “game of thrones” mentality where a balance of factions in this enclave becomes quite a task. Read more “Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State”