Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals…
World – Three articles this week are particularly interesting, in themselves but also when read together. Amal Mudallali “Sorry, Obama: The Arab World No Longer Needs America” for The National Interest, focuses on the pride and “new Arab spirit” resulting from the Saudi-led “Operation Decisive Storm”, the ““Salman’s Doctrine,” and the creation of a “joint Arab military force”, all heralding a new era for the region, where the U.S. is following rather than leading and where the Arab countries have finally taken their destiny in their own hands. Gavi Barnhard with “The Patient Preacher: Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s Long Game” for the Hudson Institute focuses on the life and mission of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader. Yuri Barmin “Russia’s Yemen strategy comes into focus” for Russia Direct analyses Russia’s position regarding the operation in Yemen and shows how it tries to remain neutral and thus in a potential position of negotiator.
Barnhard’s article thus somehow underlines the still formidable inner challenges the new Arab union faces, while Barmin’s stresses the difficulty and complexity of the situation, exemplified by Russia’s attempt to remain neutral, as any move may easily further unbalance a very delicate “equilibrium” (if not disequilibrium). If, from an international order point of view, “Operation Decisive Storm”, for its disregard of the U.N. and the absence of U.S. leadership most certainly opens a new era, notably underlining the multipolarity of the world, the difficulty that lies ahead to keep an Arab union, as well as the complexity of the situation in the Middle East must not be papered over.
The case of Yemen may have been easier than other cases to focus on sectarian lines and to rally Sunni states against a rebellion seen as mainly supported by Iran. However, the danger here is to forget the dynamics indigenous to Yemen and to see everything through the lenses of an external regional struggle for power. Both elements, as in most conflicts, are most certainly operative, however forgetting one element may only lead to escalation.
What would be the position and actions of the new Arab Union in more complicated cases such as, for example Libya, where different Arab states are supporting different actors and different types of solutions? Will they be able to overcome their differences for a common action truly accepted by all, or will they be blocked by divergent interests? In that case, will the new union and the joint Arab force survive?
In the case of Iraq and Syria, what will the new Arab joint force do? Can they truly, there, still find a uniting power in sectarian perceptions and struggle against what they perceive as the hegemonic aims of Iran? In that case, in Iraq, this might lead them to fail to support the Iraqi government, but then, they would become the passive de facto ally… of the Islamic State, which they all consider as a severe threat. Will they thus be able to forget the enmity that led to their coming together and yet remain united?
In Syria, they may choose to continue supporting non-Islamic State anti-Assad regime fighters. However, the Islamic State is now at the door of Damas – which surprisingly does not seem to create much interest in medias and social networks. Will this imply renewed support from Iran to Bashar-al Assad, which then could create further adverse regional and international reactions? Or will Damas be allowed to risk falling to the Islamic State? True enough, Damas is not Raqqa and we may wonder if Damas would not be too big a piece to swallow for the Islamic State. The new joint Arab force – and the US-led coalition – could make the bet to let Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State focus on each other in and around Damas, which would allow them to support their own respective protégés (read for the fragmentation of the opposition, Aron Lund “To Go or Not to Go: Syria’s Opposition and the Paris, Cairo, and Moscow Meetings”). The latter would then attempt to expand and consolidate their power in the rest of Syria, but, again, could they unite? Furthermore, the bet might be a very dangerous one, notably because of the symbolic power that would then be freely handed to the Islamic State.
The Libyan challenge would, however, remain as intractable, if not more.
For now, faced with so much uncertainty and unstable equilibrium, for non-regional powers, Russia’s position regarding Yemen may well be the wisest one to adopt… until a next move by one player or another alters the situation in such a way, interests dictate otherwise.
Economy – An interesting development took place in Iceland regarding monetary policy, as the state attempts to take back control of its regalian power to mint money. True enough, Iceland is a small country. Yet, this move, as well as potential evolutions, need to be monitored as it may be emulated, even if not immediately… a typical weak signal.
Analysis, strategy and futures – An interesting set allowing for visually displaying epidemics and their propagation. To read while keeping in mind the form we can give to strategic foresight and warning products to communicate them at best, without forgetting, of course, how these approach could be used for our analysis.
Tech and weapons – Robots attracted more particularly attention this week, besides new U.S. drones.
Environment and Energy – Signals related to global warming do not relent, as exemplified by the warming of Antarctica, or, as Dr Daum points out by “a new study that gives further evidence that positive internal feed back mechanisms of the earth can amplify the rise of greenhouse gasses, leading to even greater increases in concentrations of CO2 and methane.” Meanwhile, in terms of responses, we have first environmental political and diplomatic positions: “the U.S. President has offered the UN a 28% reduction in greenhouse gasses. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned international negotiators to “proceed with caution.” Mexico also takes position. In terms of actions, Dr Daum underlines a French initiative, according to which “every new building in a commercial zone [will have] to be partially covered with either solar panels or plants”. “Even though not “extreme” as discussed in the article, it seems like an important step in a positive direction.”
We may wonder – and that is a British understatement – if responses are at the measure of the increasingly almost certain potential impacts. Obviously human societies are so unconcerned that they most probably have chosen to live with and through climate change, being true to French King Louis XV famous statement, “Après moi, le déluge” (after me, the deluge).
The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues.
The information collected is crowdsourced. It does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems and issues.
If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.
Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.