21 December 2016   Leave a comment

Russia, Turkey, and Iran are negotiating the fate of Syria and have pointedly excluded the US, the UN, and the European Union from the discussions.  All three have an intense dislike of Daesh (the Islamic State) and two of them (Russia and Iran) strongly support the rule of Syrian President Assad.  Turkey has apparently decided that its fear of Kurdish independence outweighs its reservations about Assad.  The three states have de facto formed an alliance against Sunni Muslims in the region, raising fears in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that Iran’s dream of extending its Shiite influence all the way to the Mediterranean will be realized with control of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon within its grasp.  Israel will certainly fear Iran’s dominance over Hezbollah and Hamas, sworn enemies to the state of Israel.  And Western influence in the region will be limited to a much smaller range of states.

The cooperation seems to have allowed many Syrians to leave the besieged city of Aleppo but it is not clear how safe they will be.  There are reports that Iranian militias are killing Sunnis, raising tensions with Sunni-dominant Turkey.  Moreover, an end to the violence in Syria with Assad still in power will not relieve the migrant pressure in Europe since many Syrians were fleeing the Assad regime as well as the violence of the civil war.  Finally, the costs of rebuilding Syria after all the destruction will be far beyond the means of the Syrian state and it remains to be seen how much financial assistance Russia, Iran, and Turkey can grant to Syria.

So the three states may have achieved a tactical victory in excluding the Western powers from the negotiations, they have also completely “owned” Syria.  Syria has little to offer those three states in return for assistance, so blind allegiance will likely be the price for help.

Foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) of Turkey and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran

Image result for russia iran turkey

The Trump transition team has announced that Peter Navarro will lead the new White House National Trade Council.  Navarro is an economist from the University of California-Irvine and has written extensively against Chinese trade practices.   Not much is known about Navarro, but the Chronicle of Higher Education has a good backgrounder on him.  Navarro’s book on China was turned into a documentary and the poster for the film communicates a great deal about his attitude toward China.  Not particularly subtle.

Moreover, much of Navarro’s thinking about trade is idiosyncratic.  Matthew Yglesias has written an essay on Navarro’s approach which suggests that the underlying basis for his thoughts on trade policy are flawed.

For the second winter in a row, temperatures in the Arctic are expected to rise above 0°C.  The temperature rises are closely associated with the loss of sea ice cover and are part of a positive feedback loop that suggests even greater sea ice loss next year.  The polar vortex North America is experiencing this winter are due to the fact the the diminished temperature gradient between the usually cold Arctic and the warmer temperate regions are contributing to a weakening jet stream (hyperbolically suggested in the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow”).

 

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Posted December 22, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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