During a three-and-a-half-hour speech which opened the Congress, Xi lauded the economic, social, and political gains made during his first five-year term. He also laid out his vision for further progress.
Hardline reforms and a political crackdown from Beijing have brought China to the cusp of what Xi deems “new era.”
The ÖVP came in at first place with more than 30 percent of the vote, followed by the far-right, anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPÖ) and incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern’s center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ).
As Austria’s next chancellor, thirty-one-year-old Kurz will be the world’s youngest elected leader. Ahead of the election, he rebranded ÖVP the “New People’s Party” with an energetic slogan—“Zeit für Neues” (Time for Something New).
Kurz asserts his positions as pro-European Union (EU)—free movement, with secure borders. As a consequence, he is mainstreaming his politics—an embrace of a populist, closed-door stance on refugees—as European. Far from revolutionary, Kurz’s success is a victory for en vogue conservatism framed as pragmatism and dressed in cosmopolitan garb.
This task is made more urgent by the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Iran-backed militias are swooping in on eastern Syria in an attempt to capitalize on ISIS’ defeat, said Frederic C. Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
“If they succeed, the basis for ISIS 2.0 will be set,” said Hof, adding: “After all, it was the Iranian (and Russian)-supported brutality of the Assad regime that created the governance vacuum filled by ISIS in the first place.”
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on October 16 that they had seized control of Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS’ “caliphate.” A US-backed civilian council, which has been based in Ayn Issa, north of Raqqa, will now seek to stabilize Raqqa.
The military action, which pits two US allies against each other, followed a September 25 referendum in which the Kurds voted for an independent state. The Iraqi government had declared the vote unconstitutional. Kirkuk, which is not part of Iraqi Kurdistan but was under Kurdish control at the time, took part in the referendum. (Kurdish forces had controlled Kirkuk since 2014 when Iraqi forces fled as Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants advanced on the city.)
Explaining the security offensive, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said in a statement on October 16 that he acted “in accordance with the constitution to serve the citizens and protect the unity of the country, which was in danger of partition due to the insistence on holding the referendum.”
Harith Hasan Al Qarawee, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, discussed the significance of the developments in an e-mail interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from that interview.
“The weekend’s attacks highlight the limits of the military assistance [that the Somali government] has received,” said J. Peter Pham, vice president and director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “As the enemy has shifted, so too must the emphasis now move to building up police and intelligence capacities.”
However, this is not a call for an increased US role in Somali state-building. “We need to recognize that what we can realistically do is minimize the threat that al-Shabaab and other militants can pose to regional security,” said Pham, adding: “What we cannot do is make Somalia ‘work’—only Somalis can do that.”
Al Shabaab was once a radical youth militia on the fringes of Somali politics, but it was transformed into a national resistance movement when policymakers in Washington decided to bankroll and provide political cover for Ethiopia’s brutal invasion and occupation of Somalia. Ethiopia’s occupation enraged the Somali people, who turned to the only armed group that was capable of resisting the Ethiopian army and the unpopular, foreign-created government that it was attempted to install in Mogadishu.
Since 2007, al Shabaab and the Somali government have been locked in a symbiotic relationship. Washington’s fear of al Shabaab ensures that the Somali government will continue to receive financial and political support, as well as tens of thousands of African peacekeepers. These peacekeepers fight al Shabaab—but they also protect the government, which does not have the capacity to protect itself.
While Trump did not take the United States out of the deal, he asserted the right to do so and warned that he would if the US Congress does not make amendments to the agreement.
At the top of the list of amendments Trump would like is for Congress to address the issue of the “sunset clauses” in the deal. These clauses lift certain restrictions placed on Iran ten to fifteen years after the agreement took effect in January of 2016. However, even at that time, Iran would be prohibited from developing a nuclear weapon and be subjected to intrusive inspections.
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) and Germany struck the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015.
The close economic relationship between the three countries has led to unprecedented levels of trade and co-production of goods. “What that really means is ‘jobs,’” says Katherine Pereira, associate director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. For as many as fourteen US states, 25 percent of their trade is with Canada, and for another fourteen who trade with Mexico that number is 13 percent. Essentially, millions of Americans stand to lose their job if NAFTA is ended.
On October 11, the United States, Canada, and Mexico entered the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations in Washington, DC. NAFTA became a controversial topic during the 2016 US presidential election, as then-candidate US President Donald J. Trump made the deal the target of repeated rhetorical attacks, calling it “the worst trade deal maybe ever,” and vowing to renegotiate it.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a more severe threat to American national security than the election hacking experience of 2016,” said Lute. There is a “fundamental democratic connection between the individual voter and the democratic outcome” of an election, he said, adding: “If you can undermine that, you don’t need to attack America with planes and ships. You can attack democracy from the inside.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin “added to the political gridlock in Washington today, all at very low cost to him,” said Lute. “In military terms, this is the classic definition of a threat.”