In this Age of Uncertainty every week seems to include news which helps show the complexities of the underlying shifts, which are taking place – and this week was no exception.
Let’s start in Mosul. When Iraqi forces captured the destroyed Great Mosque of al-Nuri it allowed Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi to claim that this ‘marked the end of the ISIS fake caliphate’.
You can make that argument, or you could wait until Raqqa in Syria falls, but either way its clear the ‘Caliphate’ is finished.
The al-Nuri Mosque is a fitting place to declare this because it is where, three years ago the ISIS leader al Baghdadi declared its creation.
Since then though, it has lost 32,000 square miles of territory, with 4 million people liberated from its brutal control.
However, the ‘idea’ of ISIS has not been defeated. It will morph into something else as its fighters disperse across Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia. The battle for Mosul took two years; the battle of ideas looks likely to go on for at least a generation.
Another long-term shift, with an unclear outcome, is the relationship between the Gulf States and Egypt, and Qatar. Some analysts thought – when this row first came into public view 3 weeks ago – that a compromise would be fairly quickly sorted out. This week though showed a hardening of positions on all sides.
The Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia issued a list of 13 demands. Qatar refused. So far – so predictable. But what showed us the depths of the crisis was that Turkey doubled down its support to one side. It sent extra troops to Qatar and was happy to have them filmed arriving. There are now thought to be 5,000 Turkish troops there, many of them on ‘exercise’. Iran, which is Qatar’s other backer in this full on diplomatic crisis, even offered a military pact with Qatar. If that is ever agreed it will increase the dangers of a Saudi Iran clash.
With the stakes so high – its hard to ‘game out’ where this goes next. The same cannot be said for the situation in Venezuela. Everything happening there suggests the country is in a death spiral and the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ will not survive.
The images of a helicopter hovering over the Parliament in Caracas and dropping grenades were dramatic – they were also theatre. In some ways it doesn’t matter if the event was staged by the government, as claimed by some of the opposition. The point is that things have come to this.
It shows just how unstable the country is, that this instability will continue, increasingly sides are being taken. Venezuela is running out of food, cash, and time.
President Maduro is desperate. His latest ploy is to warn the Americans that if his country implodes hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans will head to the United States as refugees. That will have caught President Trump’s attention
Which brings us to next weekends G20 Summit in Germany. Here we will also see clues as to the shifting sands of the age.
For example; Germany v Turkey. Will the Turks double down on their provocative behavior. Last month President Erdogan’s security agents beat up several Americans in Washington D.C. Germany has said they are not welcome – will they come?
Germany does not want pro Erdogan rallies to take place – will Ankara push them to go ahead?
A clash between Chancellor Merkel and President Trump appears unavoidable. Germany will make climate change, free trade and the management of forced mass global migration the key themes of the summit. She’s looking to isolate the Americans and prove Europe is master of its own affairs.