By Salman Parviz

As a new era unveils, who is in charge?

February 7, 2020 - 14:22
Political wrangling as we enter uncharted territory

As the era of American hegemony ends pundits ask what will take its place. From crackdowns in Hong Kong, to start of another era of protests in Lebanon and Iraq, to tensions in Syria and Yemen, to Iran-U.S. standoff, to brutal police crackdowns on Yellow Vest protesters in Paris, to the unpredictability of the scene in South America, including looming crisis in Chile and Venezuela’s scramble for power, flurry of missiles launched by North Korea, Japan, and South Korea’s intelligence-sharing dispute, to 1.9 million stateless in northeastern state of Assam, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to strip Indian-controlled part of Kashmir of its autonomy last August, declaring “A new era has begun.”

The uni-polar world we lived in a quarter of a century after the end of Cold War is over. The most explosive situation is still around and that is the scuffles between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. which many analysts predicted to be a catalyst to World War III. 
The U.S. drone was shot by Iranian missile last year, when Washington was “five minutes” away from war. Recent assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, to the flurry of missiles launched by the Islamic Republic to avenge Gen. Soleimani’s murder, to U.S. President Donald Trump backing down again from a military venture and declaring a new round of sanctions on Iran.

The leadership void has left many countries that felt comfortable and safe under previous arrangement, stumbling to figure out where is it safe to stand. 

Part of the problem is having an American president like Trump who is leading the so-called “civilized world” to their eventual decline. Trump pulled out of Paris climate change, Iran nuclear deal, stumbling NATO alliance, arms control with Russia, NAFTA, UN Human Rights Council, and there is more to come.

The chaos was obvious last August in the recent G7 meeting in Biarritz, France which ended without a joint statement of common intention and agreement for the first time since it began as the Group of Five in 1975. Ahead of this 45th G-7 summit, Trump said he favors readmitting Russia back (expelled after Crimea annexation). Obama was the president when Putin made his game changing grab for Crimea.

It was Obama who decided the U.S. – long exhausted by the long war in Afghanistan and the unnecessary one in Iraq – should not intervene in Syria, an abstention that allowed Iran and Russia to step forward and shape the conflict.

Middle East as usual remains contested ground, where former nominal U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt no longer need to defer to Washington. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE have backed proxy armies in Libya fighting the UN-backed Tripoli government which has received military support from Turkey and Qatar.

In Yemen, UAE withdrew it forces as part of Saudi-led coalition last July leading to clashes on the ground between pro-Saudi forces and a militia previously loyal to UAE. 

Turkey is an important geopolitical member of NATO. When Turkey purchased Russian S-400 missile defense system it caused an uproar.

In an interview French President Emmanuel Macron in which he cited the “brain death” of NATO and wondered whether its commitment to collective defense still held and in his eyes NATO members can no longer trust the U.S.

Referring to Macron’s statement the hysterical German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “I understand your desire for disruptive politics, but I’m tired of picking up the pieces,” according to a New York Times article dated Nov. 23.

Erdogan also hit back at Macron saying, “Have your own brain death checked. These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death.” France reacted to Erdogan’s statement by summoning the Turkish envoy in Paris to complain.

These tensions overshadowed the summit to mark NATO’s 70th birthday in London on Dec. 3.

Nowhere the sharp divisions at the top of U.S. politics was as obvious as during Trumps third annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, in which he hailed the “great American comeback”. At one point the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of his speech behind him.

The United States emerged from World War II as the dominant economic, political and technological power.  The only major combatant to avoid serious damage to its infrastructure, its housing stock or its demographic profile. When the Soviet Union finally disintegrated in 1991, American hegemony was complete.

The biggest winners of today’s tussle in the West are Moscow and Beijing. However, protests in Hong Kong depict a remarkable challenge to Beijing’s ascension in the world stage. As the world watches Beijing’s Uighur Muslim minority in re-education camps, China continues building artificial islands in South China Sea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that a nationwide vote on constitutional changes he proposed wouldn’t be used to extend his current term in office (expiring in 2024), but remained obscure about his future political plans. However, during his term he has remained popular with the Russian people and managed to bring back some of the lost glory of Soviet Union to the present-day Russia.

Analysts say that Russia’s dependence on fossil fuel export could spell disaster in the future.


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