The world seems to have embarked on a monumental arms race, with defence expenditure over the globe rising exponentially. As Russia’s influence is growing in the Middle East, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s death in Yemen should pave the way to a peace process, which can only happen if Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran begin to withdraw from the region. Meanwhile, a democratic crisis in Honduras is indicative of how desperately leaders are clinging to power.
Peace in the wake of Saleh’s death
“We should not rejoice over his death. I and the other leaders of our peaceful revolution never wished him this end, but he reaped what he sowed,” writes Tawakkol Karman in the Washington Post. Ali Abdullah Saleh, along with the Houthis, was responsible for committing many crimes against both the state and Yemeni people.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have intervened in the civil war in Yemen to undercut Iranian influence in the region, but have brought a whole slew of problems with this interference. The Saudis and Emiratis are refusiing to allow President Hadi, elected in 2012, to exercise power in Yemen. A blockade of has caused widespread famine and disease, and all airports and ports are controlled by other countries or their militia.
“Why are the Saudis and the Emiratis behaving this way? Because they are afraid of the Yemeni people’s desire for democracy, which we demonstrated to such powerful effect during our peaceful revolution six years ago. They are imposing a form of collective punishment on Yemen for its success in overthrowing the dictator Saleh, and they want to protect their own monarchic regimes by bringing Yemen back to its pre-2011 authoritarian state. I am convinced that this effort will fail, since no one can break the will of peoples longing for freedom, dignity and democracy,” writes Karman.
“Hopefully, Saleh’s death offers an opportunity to escape the vicious cycle of bloodshed,” she writes, offering a plan to ease the situation in Yemen. However:
“If this plan is to succeed, Saleh’s political party must choose a new leadership that believes in democracy and is not tied to his family or the disastrous policies that he used when in power. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should also lift the blockade completely, stop their air strikes and provide the Yemeni government and army with logistical support. Most importantly, the Houthi militia must become a political entity that renounces violence. In fact, a successful peace plan in Yemen counts on that.”
The Arms Race has just sped up
The new global arms race is scarier than the last, writes Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View. The world is growing increasingly insecure, and the output statistics of the world’s top 100 arms manufacturers prove just that.
“During the Cold War, the arms race was between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Soviet bloc. The focused nature of the competition made it easier to deescalate and shrink weapons stockpiles when the Soviet Union fell apart. Now, it’s everyone for themselves,” Bershidsky writes, before detailing how the arms industry is fairing in various parts of the world.
Now, the non-Western world is spending more to arm themselves. South Korea, Ukraine, Russia, and China have all increases their military expenditure, with China even boosting its arms exports.
“Middle Eastern and North African countries are arming themselves for local conflicts. Ukraine, resigned to the limited nature of U.S. help, is forced to stand on its own. Eastern European countries, alarmed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s seemingly fluctuating commitment to NATO, are rushing to build up their defenses as much as they can.
Russia, energized by its recent military success in Syria, is building up its defense industry to support the country’s assertive geopolitical stance and boost exports of weaponry now tested in real, large-scale conflict.
China’s building a military base in Djibouti and likely planning others for “missions beyond [its] periphery,” according to a Pentagon report. Like Russia, China is overhauling its military for modern warfare.”
“The world needs a new way to encourage peace, security and mutual trust. Instead, it’s getting more weapons,” he writes.
The Russian role in the Middle East
A recent Pew survey in the Middle East revealed that local people see Russia and Turkey playing a much larger role in the region than ever before. Talha Kose writes in the Daily Sabah that this is a result of several American miscalculations.
“U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an extremely irresponsible move with the potential to constrain the already limited options for the prospects of peace in the Middle East. This move may further strengthen Russia’s role as the emerging hegemon in the region,” he writes.
“Trump’s decision will empower actors to support a military solution to the problems and strengthen extremist camps on both sides of the conflict. Actors in favor of negotiating a fair settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be the biggest losers in this game. From now on, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and other Palestinian factions will be more willing to cooperate with regional actors that provide weapons and other resources for resistance.”
Kose notes that this is the first time that an American administration lacks a proper policy towards the region.
“For many local actors, Russia’s increasing presence seems to be more appealing as a source of some balance. The Trump administration’s erratic moves like the recent declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will only accelerate the decline of U.S. influence and pave the way for Moscow.”
Honduras’ dubious democracy
Honduras is teetering on the edge of chaos, writes Lauren Carasik in Al Jazeera. The president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, appeared to be losing an election with the opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, leading by an “irreversible” margin. The tally was then mysteriously stopped for a day, and when it resumed, Hernandez was leading.
“Nearly two-thirds of Hondurans live in endemic poverty and pervasive violence, conditions that have fueled the migrant crisis that US President Donald Trump so frequently rails against. Beleaguered but unbowed, they have courageously taken to the streets in spirited demands for a transparent and fair election process . Hernandez responded to the uprising with a violent crackdown, a curfew and a suspension of constitutional rights that has left at least fourteen people dead and hundreds detained, with some of the repression stemming from US-trained security forces,” writes Carasik.
“Some opposition activists fear that Nasralla will be pressured into accepting a forced compromise that subverts the will of the people, or that Hernandez will try to run out the clock, which requires an official result by December 26, and tighten his grip on power once the international attention has faded and the embattled protestors have grown weary and dispirited.”
Carasik harkens back to the American Presidential Election. “President Trump’s angst at losing the popular vote last year drove him to create a government commission to ferret out voter fraud despite the complete lack of evidence that any occurred. The least he can do for Honduras is to withhold economic and political support until the electoral process produces a fair and transparent outcome, no matter how long that takes. The legitimacy of the Honduran democracy is hanging in the balance,” she writes.