TMSYRIA/RAQQA – It looks increasingly likely that an assault on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa will begin within weeks. U.S backed Syrian opposition forces, including the Kurds, will lead the operation. Coalition aircraft have recently been dropping leaflets on the city urging civilians to flee. IS will attempt to prevent this in order to use them as human shields.

IRAQ/JORDAN – In a sign of how much territory Islamic State has lost the Trebil border crossing between Iraq and Jordan is to reopen by the end of the month. The crossing has been closed for almost a year due to IS activity in Iraq’s Anbar province but recent Government successes have pushed the group further away.

EU/VISAS – EU countries have agreed a formula to suspend visa free travel for non EU countries in times of emergency. Citizens from several countries can currently travel in the EU without needing a visa, the new formula allows an ‘emergency brake’ on this. The agreement may persuade some EU states to accept visa travel for Turks.

TAJIKISTAN/RELIGION – People have begun voting on a law banning religion-based political parties. The law appears to be aimed at the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party. The new law also seeks to scrap the limits on the number of terms a president can serve.

COMING UP – Things only got worse last week in Venezuela and that is likely to be true of this week. The Pope is trying to mediate but will probably be rebuffed, last week he sent a letter to the Venezuelan President, the contents of which are not known.  (See Diary). The Greek bailout will continue to divide Germany from the IMF and several EU states. Germany will insist that any debt relief for Greece should come after next year’s German general election.  By the end of today we should know the results of the Austrian presidential runoff election. Norbert Hofer of the far right Freedom Party was ahead late last night but the postal votes had not yet been counted. If he does win it will boost the extreme rights chances of winning parliamentray elections.

DIARY

May 23 – European Commission to publish opinion on the rule of law in Poland following Warsaw’s controversial constitutional and media reforms.

May 24 – Eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels. Top of the agenda – Greece.

May 24 – Vatican’s de facto Foreign Minister in Venezuela.

May 25 – Youth wing of Zimbabwe’s ruling party holds a ‘million-man march’ to show support for President Mugabe. Good luck with that.

May 25/28 – President Obama in Japan for G7. Will also visit Hiroshima.

May 28 – President Putin in Greece.

May 28 – 10th parliament of Iran (Majlis) opens.

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6 Comments on "Things We Lost In The Mire – 28"

  1. Paul Corrick | 23rd May 2016 at 10:46 am | Reply

    The Austrian Presidential election result is one I am looking out for. Could this right wing surge be replicated across Europe? I know Marie Le Pen is expected to do well in France next year but are there are other European countries where we can expect far right parties to do well such as Hungary maybe? What reasons would you give for this happening and do you think it represents a long term shift or just a reaction to current problems?

    • It follows a pattern of the resurgence of the right and far right already seen in Germany, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere. Euroscepticism and concern about immigration is not a passing phase regardless of what the result of the Austrian election is.

      • This is what happens when mainstream politicians stop even remotely listening to the people who elect them. If for instance you take the UK which has traditionally been very moderate in its politics and take the issue of Turkey joining the EU and their citizens having right of residence here (which the majority of the population are against) who do you vote for?. David Cameron is on record for supporting it as was Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. I believe Nick Clegg described it as “a strategic necessity”. It has been official UK government policy for nearly two decades now so that means if you vote Labour, Conservative or LibDem you are voting for Turkey in the EU. It is natural therefore that people will seek alternatives to vote for and indeed UKIP gathered 13% of the vote on a largely anti immigration platform. Translate that to the European political arena where PR is the norm and extremist politics has traditionally had more traction and it is very likely that we will see breakthroughs by far right party’s in the next decade unless the bloated self absorbed political elites on the continent remember that they are actually supposed to be representing the electorate not indulging their own wishes. On Austria I have spent enough time in that country and neighbouring Bavaria to know that the open invitation to migrants was always going to end in tears no matter how much propaganda was put out there to persuade us that they were being welcomed with open arms.

  2. Peter Kennedy | 23rd May 2016 at 6:39 pm | Reply

    Well, some good news at last. In case you have not seen the story the far right have lost the presidential election in Austria by a very narrow margin, but a loss all the same.

    As for the rise of the far right in Germany all I can do is request that readers of TW&TW rest easy. In the last three weeks I have been in Munich and Berlin and I have seen countless stickers and posters against Nazis and Pegida along with some graffiti in a similar vein which I won’t repeat here. There are also a smaller number of stickers and posters repeating the message “refugees welcome” which have not been defaced or removed. This is a good sign

    • Posters are one thing Peter, people casting votes in state elections are another thing altogether. AFD I believe polled over 20% in Saxony this year but of greater note gained 15% in Baden Wuttenburg which has hardly been ripe territory for the far right. Some may say AFD aren’t that bad, but they have policies which directly discriminate against people based on their religion. I don’t actually think that history is about to repeat itself but the AFD have more popular support now that the Nazi’s had during the 1920’s, not the sort of stuff to make you rest easy.

  3. Paul Corrick | 24th May 2016 at 9:51 am | Reply

    That was a mighty close call in Austria and shows a worrying trend. I think Rob makes a great point about voters not having choices so people drift to the extremes. I heard ITV correspondent James Mates talking about it last night and how people feel let down by the mainstream political parties across Europe. Thanks for the good news Peter about Germany and I hope you are right. It all looks a bit uncomfortable from afar.

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