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An update on the Iranian nuclear accord between 2018 and the resumed talks in April 2021

The signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached in 2015 to limit Iran's nuclear program, met again on April 6 in Vienna to explore the possibility of reviving the accord. The US withdrawal after Donald Trump becoming president put the agreement on hold and lead Tehran to miss its commitments. Here we offer an update on the issue until the international talks resumed.

Trump's announcement of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018 [White House].

ARTICLE / Ana Salas Cuevas

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a key player in the stability of its regional environment, which means that it is a central country worth international attention. It is a regional power not only because of its strategic location, but also because of its large hydrocarbon reserves, which make Iran the fourth country in oil reserves and the second one in gas reserves.

In 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) brought to the light and warned the international community about the existence of nuclear facilities, and of a covert program in Iran which could serve a military purpose. This prompted the United Nations and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the P5: France, China, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom) to take measures against Iran in 2006. Multilateral and unilateral economic sanctions (the UN and the US) were implemented, which deteriorated Iran's economy, but which did not stop its nuclear proliferation program. There were also sanctions linked to the development of ballistic missiles and to the support of terrorist groups. These sanctions, added to the ones the United States imposed on Tehran in the wake of the 1979 revolution, and together with the instability that cripples the country, caused a deep deterioration of Iran's economy.

In November 2013, the P5 plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran came to terms with an initial agreement on Iran's nuclear program (a Joint Plan of Action) which, after several negotiations, translated into a final pact, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015. The European Union adhered to the JCPOA.

The focus of Iran's motives for succumbing and accepting restrictions on its nuclear program lies in the Iranian regime's concern that the deteriorating living conditions of the Iranian population due to the economic sanctions could result in growing social unrest.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

The goal of these negotiations was to reach a long-term comprehensive solution agreed by both parties to ensure that Iran's nuclear program would be completely peaceful. Iran reiterated that it would not seek or develop any nuclear weapons under any circumstances. The real aim of the nuclear deal, though, was to extend the time needed for Iran to produce enough fissile material for bombs from three months to one year. To this end, a number of restrictions were reached.

This comprehensive solution involved a mutually defined enrichment plan with practical restrictions and transparent measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program. In addition, the resolution incorporated a step-by-step process of reciprocity that included the lifting of all UN Security Council, multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program. In total, these obligations were key to freeze Iran's nuclear program and reduced the factors most sensitive to proliferation. In return, Iran received limited sanctions relief.

More specifically, the key points in the JCPOA were the following: Firstly, for 15 years, Iran would limit its uranium enrichment to 3.67%, eliminate 98% of its enriched uranium stocks in order to reduce them to 300 kg, and restrict its uranium enrichment activities to its facilities at Natanz. Secondly, for 10 years, it would not be able to operate more than 5,060 old and inefficient IR-1 centrifuges to enrich uranium. Finally, inspectors from the IAEA would be responsible for the next 15 years for ensuring that Iran complied with the terms of the agreement and did not develop a covert nuclear programme.

In exchange, the sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations on its nuclear program would be lifted, although this would not apply to other types of sanctions. Thus, as far as the EU is concerned, restrictive measures against individuals and entities responsible for human rights violations, and the embargo on arms and ballistic missiles to Iran would be maintained. In turn, the United States undertook to lift the secondary sanctions, so that the primary sanctions, which have been in place since the Iranian revolution, remained unchanged.

To oversee the implementation of the agreement, a joint committee composed of Iran and the other signatories to the JCPOA would be established to meet every three months in Vienna, Geneva or New York.

United States withdrawal

In 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran deal and moved to resume the sanctions lifted after the agreement was signed. The withdrawal was accompanied by measures that could pit the parties against each other in terms of sanctions, encourage further proliferation measures by Iran and undermine regional stability. The US exit from the agreement put the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on hold.

The United States argued that the agreement allowed Iran to approach the nuclear threshold in a short period of time. With the withdrawal, however, the US risked bringing this point closer in time by not waiting to see what could happen after the 10 and 15 years, assuming that the pact would not last after that time. This may make Iran's proliferation a closer possibility.

Shortly after Trump announced the first anniversary of its withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the assassination of powerful military commander Qasem Soleimani by US drones, Iran announced a new nuclear enrichment program as a signal to nationalists, designed to demonstrate the power of the mullah regime. This leaves the entire international community to question whether diplomatic efforts are seen in Tehran as a sign of weakness, which could be met with aggression.

On the one hand, some opinions consider that, by remaining within the JCPOA, renouncing proliferation options and respecting its commitments, Iran gains credibility as an international actor while the US loses it, since the agreements on proliferation that are negotiated have no guarantee of being ratified by the US Congress, making their implementation dependent on presidential discretion.

On the other hand, the nuclear agreement adopted in 2015 raised relevant issues from the perspective of international law. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action timeline is 10 to 15 years. This would terminate restrictions on Iranian activities and most of the verification and control provisions would expire. Iran would then be able to expand its nuclear facilities and would find it easier to develop nuclear weapons activities again. In addition, the legal nature of the Plan and the binding or non-binding nature of the commitments made under it have been the subject of intense discussion and analysis in the United States. The JCPOA does not constitute an international treaty. So, if the JCPOA was considered to be a non-binding agreement, from the perspective of international law there would be no obstacle for the US administration to withdraw from it and reinstate the sanctions previously adopted by the United States.

The JCPOA after 2018

As mentioned, the agreement has been held in abeyance since 2018 because the IAEA inspectors in Vienna will no longer have access to Iranian facilities.

Nowadays, one of the factors that have raised questions about Iran's nuclear documents is the IAEA's growing attention to Tehran's nuclear contempt. In March 2020, the IAEA "identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran". The agency's Director General Rafael Grossi stated: "The fact that we found traces (of uranium) is very important. That means there is the possibility of nuclear activities and material that are not under international supervision and about which we know not the origin or the intent".

The IAEA also revealed that the Iranian regime was violating all the restrictions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Iranian leader argued that the US first violated the terms of the JCPOA when it unilaterally withdrew the terms of the JCPOA in 2018 to prove its reason for violating the nuclear agreement.

In the face of the economic crisis, the country has been hit again by the recent sanctions imposed by the United States. Tehran ignores the international community and tries to get through the signatory countries of the agreement, especially the United States, claiming that if they return to compliance with their obligations, Iran will also quickly return to compliance with the treaty. This approach has put strong pressure on the new US government from the beginning. Joe Biden's advisors suggested that the agreement could be considered again. But if Washington is faced with Tehran's full violation of the treaty, it will be difficult to defend such a return to the JCPOA.

In order to maintain world security, the international community must not succumb to Iran's warnings. Tehran has long issued empty threats to force the world to accept its demands. For example, in January 2020, when the UK, France and Germany triggered the JCPOA's dispute settlement mechanism, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a direct warning, saying: "If Europeans, instead of keeping to their commitments and making Iran benefit from the lifting of sanctions, misuse the dispute resolution mechanism, they'll need to be prepared for the consequences that they have been informed about earlier".

Conclusions

The purpose of the agreement is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power that would exert pressure on neighbouring countries and further destabilize the region. For example, Tehran's military influence is already keeping the war going in Syria and hampering international peace efforts. A nuclear Iran is a frightening sight in the West.

The rising in tensions between Iran and the United States since the latter unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA has increased the deep mistrust already separating both countries. Under such conditions, a return to the JCPOA as it was before 2018 seems hardly imaginable. A renovated agreement, however, is baldly needed to limit the possibilities of proliferation in an already too instable region. Will that be possible?

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Articles

Following referendums in 2018 and 2019, the Guatemalan government submitted its report to The Hague in 2020 and the Belizean government has one year to reply.

Guatemala presented its position before the International Court of Justice in The Hague last December, with a half-year delay attributed to the Covid-19 emergency status ; Belize will now have a year to respond. Although the ICJ will then take its time to draft a judgement, it can be said that the territorial dispute between the two neighbours has entered its final stretch, bearing in mind that the dispute over this Central American enclave dates back to the 18th century.

Coats of arms of Guatemala (left) and Belize (right) on their respective flags.

article / Álvaro de Lecea

The territorial conflict between Guatemala and Belize has its roots in the struggle between the Spanish Empire in the Americas and British activity in the Caribbean during the colonial era. The Spanish Crown's inaction in the late 18th century in the face of British encroachment on what is now Belize, then Spanish territory, allowed the British to establish a foothold in Central America and begin exploiting mainland lands for precious woods such as dyewood and mahogany. However, Guatemala's reservations over part of the Belizean land - it claims over 11,000 square kilometres, almost half of the neighbouring country; it also claims the corresponding maritime extension and some cays - generated a status of tension and conflict that has continued to the present day.

In 2008, both countries decided to hold referendums on the possibility of taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which would rule on the division of sovereignty. The Belizeans approved taking that step in 2018 and the Guatemalans the following year. The issue was formalised before the ICJ in The Hague on 12 June 2019.

Historical context

The territory of present-day Belize was colonised by Spain in the mid-16th century as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and dependent on the captaincy of Guatemala. However, as there were no mineral resources there and hardly any population, the metropolis paid little attention to the area. This scant Spanish presence favoured pirate attacks, and to prevent them, the Spanish Crown allowed increasing English exploitation in exchange for defence. England carried out a similar penetration on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, but while the Spanish managed to expel the English from there, they consolidated their settlement at area Belize and finally obtained the territory by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, whereby Spain disengaged itself from this corner of Central America. That concession and another three years later covered just 6,685 square kilometres, a space close to the coast that was later enlarged inland and southward by England, since Spain was not active in the area. From then on the enclave became known as "British Honduras".

The cession did not take into account the claims of the Guatemalans, who considered the space between the Sarstún and Sibún rivers to be their own. Both rivers run west-east, the former forming the border with Guatemala in the south of what is now Belize; the other, further north, runs through the centre of Belize, flowing into the capital, splitting the country in two. However, given the urgency for international recognition when it declared independence in 1821, Guatemala signed several agreements with England, the great power of the day, to ensure the viability of the new state. One of these was the Aycinena-Wyke Treaty (1859), whereby Guatemala accepted Belize's borders in exchange for the construction of a road to improve access from its capital to the Caribbean. However, both sides blamed the other for not complying with the treaty (the road was not built, for example) and Guatemala declared it null and void in 1939.

In the constitution enacted in 1946, Guatemala included the claim in the drafting, and has insisted on this position since the neighbouring country, under the name Belize, gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. As early as 1978, the UN passed a resolution guaranteeing the rights to self-determination and territorial protection of the Belizean people, which also called for a peaceful resolution of the neighbouring conflict. Guatemala did not recognise the existence of the new sovereign state until 1991, and even today still places some limits on Belize's progressive integration into the Central American Integration System. Because of its English background, Belize has historically maintained a closer relationship with the English-speaking Caribbean islands.

Map of Central America and, in detail, the territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize [Rei-artur / Janitoalevic Bettyreategui].

Adjacency Line and the role of the OAS

Since 2000, the Organisation of American States (OAS), of which both nations are members, has been mediating between the two countries. In the same year, the OAS facilitated a agreement with the goal aim of building confidence and negotiations between the two neighbours. In order to achieve these objectives, the OAS, through its Peace Fund, actively supported the search for a solution by providing technical and political support. Indeed, as a result of this rapprochement, talks on the dispute were resumed and the creation of the "Adjacency Line" was agreed.

This is an imaginary line that basically follows the line that "de facto" separated the two countries from north to south and is where most of the tensions are taking place. Over the years, both sides have increased their military presence there, in response to incidents attributed to the other side. Due to these frequent disputes, in 2015 Belize had to request financial aid military presence from the British navy. It is precisely in the Adjacency Zone that an OAS office is located, whose purpose purpose is to promote contacts between the communities and to verify certain transgressions of the agreements already signed.

One of the most promising developments that took place under the umbrella of the OAS was the signature in 2008 of what was called the "specialagreement between Guatemala and Belize to submit Guatemala's territorial, insular and maritime claim to the International Court of Justice". Under this agreement both countries undertook to submit the acceptance of the Court's mediation to simultaneous popular consultations. However, in 2015, through the protocol of the agreement Special between Belize and Guatemala, these popular consultations were not allowed to take place at the same time. Both parties committed to accept the Court's decision as "decisive and binding" and to comply with and implement it "fully and in good faith".

The Hague and the impact of the future resolution

The referendums were held in 2018 in the case of Guatemala and in 2019 in the case of Belize. Although the percentages of both popular consultations were somewhat mixed, the results were positive. In Belize, the Yes vote won 55.37% of the votes and the No vote 44.63%. In Guatemala, on the other hand, the results were much more favourable for the Yes vote, with 95.88% of the votes, compared to 4.12% for the No vote.

These results show how the Belizeans are wary of resorting to the Hague's decision because, although by fixing final the border they will forever close any claim, they risk losing part of their territory. On the other hand, the prospect of gain is greater in the Guatemalan case, since if its proposal is accepted - or at least part of it - it would strategically expand its access to the Caribbean, now somewhat limited, and in the event of losing, it would simply remain as it has been until now, which is not a serious problem for the country.

The definition of a clear and respected border is necessary at this stage. The adjacent line, observed by the OAS peace and security mission statement , has been successful in limiting tensions between the two countries, but the reality is that certain incidents continue to take place in this unprotected area. These incidents, such as the assassination of citizens of both countries or mistreatment attributed to the Guatemalan military, cause the conflict to drag on and tensions to rise. On the other hand, the lack of a clear definition of borders facilitates drug trafficking and smuggling.

This conflict has also affected Belize's economic and trade relations with its regional neighbours, especially Mexico and Honduras. This is not only due to the lack of land boundaries, but also to the lack of maritime boundaries. This area is very rich in natural resources and has the second largest coral reef reservation in the world, after Australia. This has, unsurprisingly, affected bilateral relations between the two countries. Whilst regional organisations are calling for greater regional integration, the tensions between Belize and Guatemala are preventing any improvement in this regard.

The Guatemalan president has stated that, regardless of the Court's result , he intends to strengthen bilateral relations, especially in areas such as trade and tourism, with neighbouring Belize. For their part, the Caricom heads of state expressed their support for Belize in October 2020, their enthusiasm for the ICJ's intervention and their congratulations to the OAS for its mediation work.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

The country left the cartel in order to expand pumping, but the Covid-19 crisis has cut extraction volumes by 10.8%.

Construction of a variant of the oil pipeline that crosses the Andes, from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the Pacific [Petroecuador].

ANALYSIS / Jack Acrich and Alejandro Haro

Ecuador left the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on 1 January 2020 to avoid having to continue to join the production cuts imposed by group , which it agrees to in order to push up the world price of crude oil. Ecuador preferred to sell more barrels, albeit at a lower price, because by exporting more at the end of the day written request it could increase its income and thus get out of its serious financial situation status , which the coronavirus emergency has only accentuated, with a fall in GDP in 2020 currently estimated at 9.5 per cent.

However, domestic economic difficulties and the difficult international situation have not only prevented Ecuador from expanding pumping, but oil production has fallen by 10.8% in the last year. average In 2020, Ecuador extracted 472,000 barrels of oil per day, especially affected by the sharp reduction in activity in April with the beginning of the confinement, which was not compensated for the rest of the year. agreement This is a volume that is below the 500,000 line that has always been exceeded in recent years (in 2019 production was 528,000), according to figures from Petroecuador, the state hydrocarbons company. The reduction in global consumption during the Covid-19 year also correlated with a drop in the consumption of derivatives in Ecuador, especially gasoline and diesel, which fell by 18.5%.

International investment constrained by the pandemic context and reduced consumption marked a status that could hardly lead to an increase in production. In 2020, Ecuador saw a drop in the value of oil exports of 42.1% (twice as much as total exports), which, combined with a deterioration in the price of a barrel of oil, meant a 40.9% reduction in public revenue from the oil sector, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data .

The figures for the first two months of 2021 indicate an accentuation of the fall in crude oil production (-4.73% compared to January and February 2020) and derivatives (-7.47%), as well as their export (-22.8%).

Cutting expense and seeking oil revenues

Exiting OPEC did not pose any particular risk for Ecuador, which had already left the organisation in a previous period. Its limited weight in OPEC and the progressive decline in the cartel's own strength meant that Ecuador's attempt to go it alone was not particularly costly. The absolute priority of Lenín Moreno's government was to rebalance the country's macroeconomic picture - battered by the high public expense of his predecessor, Rafael Correa - and for this it urgently needed to increase state revenue, a significant part of which in Ecuador normally comes from the hydrocarbons sector.

When he became president in 2017, Moreno set out to steer the country towards more market-friendly energy policies. The president was determined to break with the nationalist approach of his predecessor, whose policies discouraged foreign investment in the oil industry while significantly increasing public debt. Among the most costly programmes undertaken by Correa was to maintain high subsidies for energy consumption, with especially low fuel prices.

In order to overcome the financial status that Ecuador found itself in when he took office, Moreno approached the IMF to apply for financial aid financial, and committed to structural reforms, including the gradual dismantling of subsidies. These reforms, however, were not well received and the social unrest that spread throughout the country put further pressure on the oil industry.

In February 2019, Moreno negotiated an IMF loan to help reduce the country's large fiscal deficit and huge external debt, which by the end of 2018 had reached 46.1 per cent of GDP and twelve months later would reach 51.8 per cent. The committed 'bailout' was for $10.2 billion, of which $6.5 billion came from the IMF and the rest from other international agencies.

As part of austerity measures agreed with the IMF, Moreno was forced to end government subsidies that had kept petrol prices low for decades. In early October 2019 he announced a plan of cuts to save $2.27 billion a year, essentially withdrawing the fuel subsidy. The advertisement decree, which would later be annulled, immediately provoked massive protests, both from transporters and low-income sectors, as well as most notably from indigenous communities. The street violence forced the president to leave Quito for a few days and move to Guayaquil.

To address the need for revenue, Moreno sought to rely on the oil industry, which accounts for roughly a third of the country's total exports. He initially expressed the intention to seek a rise from the 545,000 barrels of crude oil produced at the time to almost 700,000 barrels a day.

goal One of the measures taken in this direction was to promote the development and the exploitation of the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha field, with the aim of increasing oil production by 90,000 barrels a day. This decision met with social rejection due to the environmental damage it could cause, as the Yasuní National Park, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, has been declared a protected area. The government then decided to postpone the expansion of production, first to 2021 and then to 2022. The civil service examination was especially led by indigenous communities, in a mobilisation that partly explains the success in the 2021 presidential elections of Yaku Pérez's indigenist Pachakutik movement, which almost made it to the second round.

Another measure was to reverse some of his predecessor's emblematic policies. For example, he eliminated the service contracts introduced under President Correa, thus restoring the model production-sharing contract. This reform was more favourable to international oil companies, as it allowed them to retain a share of oil reserves; it also offered them financial incentives to invest in the country. The new model was first applied in the tenders awarded during the twelfth Intracampos oil round, in the Oriente region, which is rich in oil reserves. Under this contract modality , the Moreno administration awarded seven of the eight exploration blocks on offer with a total investment of more than $1.17 billion.

Fall in production

Due to the urgency of increasing revenues, Ecuador resisted the plan of production cuts that OPEC has been imposing on its members at various times since the abrupt fall in oil prices in 2014. Initially, the organisation accepted that some of its members, with moderate or very low production volumes compared to previous figures, as was the case of Venezuela, would maintain their extraction rates. But since it could no longer be an exception, Ecuador preferred to announce at the end of 2019 that it would leave OPEC and not have to reduce its production to 508,000 barrels per day in 2020, which was the quota set for it.

What is striking is that last year production finally fell from 528,000 barrels per day in 2019 to 472,000 (a drop of 10.8%), and not because of decisions taken at OPEC headquarters in Vienna but because of the various difficulties subject caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Petroecuador's oil exports fell from 331,321 barrels per day in 2019 to 316,000, a drop of 4.6%, which in monetary terms was greater, as the price of a barrel of Ecuadorian mixed oil fell from 55.3 dollars in 2019 to 34.7 in 2020.

One element that makes it difficult for Ecuador to take better advantage of its hydrocarbon potential is that it has insufficient infrastructure for refining crude oil. The country has three refineries, but their capacity does not reach the volume of domestic consumption of oil derivatives, which means that it must import diesel, naphtha and other products. This means that in times of high oil prices, Ecuador benefits from exports, but also has to pay a higher invoice price for imports of derivatives. In 2020, Petroecuador had to import 137,300 barrels per day.

The complicated situation caused by the pandemic has continued to put pressure on Ecuador's public debt, which reached 66.4% at the end of 2020, despite all the attempts made by the Moreno government to reduce it.

The next president, due to take office at the end of May 2021, will also have little room for manoeuvre due to these debt volumes and will have to continue to rely on higher oil revenues to balance public finances. The expansionary policies of expense during Correa's presidency took place in the context of the commodity super-cycle, which benefited South America so much, but this is unlikely to be repeated in the short term deadline.

OPEC's loss of weight

With its departure from OPEC, Ecuador left an international organisation that was created in 1960 with the aim of regulating the world oil market and controlling oil prices to a certain extent. goal . The founding members were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Over time, other countries joined OPEC and today it is made up of thirteen members: Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and the five founding countries. When it was created, the organisation sought to establish, acting as a cartel, a kind of counterweight to a series of Western energy transnationals, mainly from the United States and the United Kingdom. OPEC members account for about 40 per cent of world oil production and contain about 80 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves. To be admitted as a member of the organisation it is necessary to have substantial oil exports and to share those of the member countries.

Ecuador joined OPEC in 1973, but suspended its membership in 1992. Subsequently, in 2007 it resumed active participation until its leave in January 2020. Considering that Ecuador was one of OPEC's smaller members, it did not really have much influence in the organisation and its exit does not represent a substantial loss for the organisation. However, it is a second departure in just one year, as Qatar, which had more weight in the cartel, left on 1 January 2019. In its case, its divorce from OPEC was due to other reasons, such as its tensions with Saudi Arabia and its desire to focus on the gas sector, of which it is one of the world's largest producers.

These moves are an example of OPEC's loss of influence. This has led it to establish alliances with producers that are not part of the organisation, such as Russia and some other countries forming OPEC+. With the decline of oil production in Venezuela and the decreasing ability of other members to control their production and exports, Saudi Arabia has been increasingly consolidating its position as the cartel's leader, accounting for around a third of the total production, with approximately 9.4 million barrels per day. In a way, Saudi Arabia and Russia remain, in a head to head battle, as the main countries seeking to cut production in an attempt to increase prices. Additionally, thanks to fracking, the United States has become the largest oil producer, representing a major influence on the international crude oil market, affecting the power that OPEC may have.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Analysis Latin America

Detainee in a Xinjiang re-education camp located in Lop County listening to "de-radicalization" talks [Baidu baijiahao].

ESSAY / Rut Noboa

Over the last few years, reports of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims, such as extrajudicial detentions, torture, and forced labor, have been increasingly reported in the Xinjiang province's so-called "re-education" camps. However, the implications of the Chinese undertakings on the province's ethnic minority are not only humanitarian, having direct links to China's ongoing economic projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and natural resource extraction in the region. Asides from China's economic diary, ongoing projects in Xinjiang appear to prototype future Chinese initiatives in terms of expanding the surveillance state, particularly within the scope of technology. When it comes to other international actors, the Xinjiang dispute has evidenced a growing diplomatic split between countries against it, mostly western liberal democracies, and countries willing to at least defend it, mostly countries with important ties to China and dubious human rights records. The issue also has important repercussions for multinational companies, with supply chains of well-known international companies such as Nike and Apple benefitting from forced Uyghur labour. The situation in Xinjiang is critically worrisome when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly considering recent outbreaks in Kashgar, how highly congested these "reeducation" camps, and potential censorship from the government. Finally, Uyghur communities continue to be an important factor within this conversation, not only as victims of China's policies but also as dissidents shaping international opinion around the matter.

The Belt and Road Initiative

Firstly, understanding Xinjiang's role in China's ongoing projects requires a strong geographical perspective. The northwestern province borders Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, giving it important contact with other regional players.

This also places it at the very heart of the BRI. With it setting up the twenty-first century "Silk Road" and connecting all of Eurasia, both politically and economically, with China, it is no surprise that it has managed to establish itself as China's biggest infrastructural project and quite possibly the most important undertaking in Chinese policy today. Through more and more ambitious efforts, China has established novel and expansive connections throughout its newfound spheres of influence. From negotiations with Pakistan and the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) securing one of the most important routes in the initiative to Sri Lanka defaulting on its loan and giving China control over the Hambantota Port, the Chinese government has managed to establish consistent access to major trade routes.

However, one important issue remains: controlling its access to Central Asia. One of the BRI's initiative's key logistical hubs is Xinjiang, where the Uyghurs pose an important challenge to the Chinese government. The Uyghur community's attachment to its traditional lands and culture is an important risk to the effective implementation of the BRI in Xinjiang. This perception is exacerbated by existing insurrectionist groups such as the East Turkestan independence movement and previous events in Chinese history, including the existence of an independent Uyghur state in the early 20th century[1]. Chinese infrastructure projects that cross through the Xinjiang province, such as the Central Asian High-speed Rail are a priority that cannot be threatened by instability in the region, inspiring the recent "reeducation" and "de-extremification" policies.

Natural resource exploitation

Another factor for China's growing control over the region is the fact that Xinjiang is its most important energy-producing region, even reaching the point where key pipeline projects connect the northwestern province with China's key coastal cities and approximately 60% of the province's gross regional production comes from oil and natural gas extraction and related industries[2]. With China's energy consumption being on a constant rise[3] as a result of its growing economy, control over Xinjiang is key to Chinese.

Additionally, even though oil and natural gas are the region's main industries, the Chinese government has also heavily promoted the industrial-scale production of cotton, serving as an important connection with multinational textile-based corporations seeking cheap labour for their products.

This issue not only serves as an important reason for China to control the Uyghurs but also promotes instability in the region. The increased immigration from a largely Han Chinese workforce, perceived unequal distribution of revenue to Han-dominated firms, and increased environmental costs of resource exploitation have exacerbated the pre-existing ethnic conflict.

A growing diplomatic split

The situation in Xinjiang also has important implications for international perceptions of Chinese propaganda. China's actions have received noticeable backlash from several states, with 22 states issuing a joint statement to the Human Rights Council on the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang on July 8, 2019. These states called upon China "to uphold its national laws and international obligations and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms".

Meanwhile, on July 12, 2019, 50 (originally 37) other states issued a competing letter to the same institution, commending "China's remarkable achievements in the field of human rights", stating that people in Xinjiang "enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfillment and security".

This diplomatic split represents an important and growing division in world politics. When we look at the signatories of the initial letter, it is clear to see that all are developed democracies and most (except for Japan) are Western. Meanwhile, those countries that chose to align themselves with China represent a much more heterogeneous group with states from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa[4]. Many of these have questionable human rights records and/or receive important funding and investment from the Chinese government, reflecting both the creation of an alternative bloc distanced from Western political influence as well as an erosion of preexisting human rights standards.

China's Muslim-majority allies: A Pakistani case study

The diplomatic consequences of the Xinjiang controversy are not only limited to this growing split, also affecting the political rhetoric of individual countries. In the last years, Pakistan has grown to become one of China's most important allies, particularly within the context of CPEC being quite possibly one of the most important components of the BRI.

As a Muslim-majority country, Pakistan has traditionally placed pan-Islamic causes, such as the situations in Palestine and Kashmir, at the centre of its foreign policy. However, Pakistan's position on Xinjiang appears not just subdued but even complicit, never openly criticising the situation and even being part of the mentioned letter in support of the Chinese government (alongside other Muslim-majority states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE). With Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the General Assembly in September 2019 on Islamophobia in post-9/11 Western countries as well as in Kashmir but conveniently omitting Uyghurs in Xinjiang[5], Pakistani international rhetoric weakens itself constantly. Due to relying on China for political and economic support, it appears that Pakistan will have to censor itself on these issues, something that also rings true for many other Muslim-majority countries.

Central Asia: complacent and supportive

Another interesting case study within this diplomatic split is the position of different countries in the Central Asian region. These states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan - have the closest cultural ties to the Uyghur population. However, their foreign policy hasn't been particularly supportive of this ethnic group with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan avoiding the spotlight and not participating in the UNHRC dispute and Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan being signatories of the second letter, explicitly supporting China. These two postures can be analyzed through the examples of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Kazakhstan has taken a mostly ambiguous position to the situation. Having the largest Uyghur population outside China and considering Kazakhs also face important persecution from Chinese policies that discriminate against minority ethnic groups in favour of Han Chinese citizens, Kazakhstan is quite possibly one of the states most affected by the situation in Xinjiang. However, in the last decades, Kazakhstan has become increasingly economically and, thus, politically dependent on China. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan implemented what some would refer to as a "multi-vector" approach, seeking to balance its economic engagements with different actors such as Russia, the United States, European countries, and China. However, with American and European interests in Kazakhstan decreasing over time and China developing more and more ambitious foreign policy within the framework of strategies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Central Asian state has become intimately tied to China, leading to its deafening silence on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

A different argument could be made for Uzbekistan. Even though there is no official statistical data on the Uyghur population living in Uzbekistan and former president Islam Karimov openly stated that no Uyghurs were living there, this is highly questionable due to the existing government censorship in the country. Also, the role of Uyghurs in Uzbekistan is difficult to determine due to a strong process of cultural and political assimilation, particularly in the post-Soviet Uzbekistan. By signing the letter to the UNHCR in favour of China's practices, the country has chosen a more robust support of its policies.

All in all, the countries in Central Asia appear to have chosen to tolerate and even support Chinese policies, sacrificing cultural values for political and economic stability.

Forced labour, the role of companies, and growing backlash

In what appears to be a second stage in China's "de-extremification" policies, government officials have claimed that the "trainees "in its facilities have "graduated", being transferred to factories outside of the province. China claims these labor transfers (which it refers to as vocational training) to be part of its "Xinjiang Aid" central policy[6]. Nevertheless, human rights groups and researchers have become growingly concerned over their labor standards, particularly considering statements from Uyghur workers who have left China describing the close surveillance from personnel and constant fear of being sent back to detention camps.

Within this context, numerous companies (both Chinese and foreign) with supply chain connections with factories linked to forced Uyghur labour have become entangled in growing international controversies, ranging from sportswear producers like Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Fila to fashion brands like H&M, Zara, and Tommy Hilfiger to even tech players such as Apple, Sony, Samsung, and Xiaomi[7]. Choosing whether to terminate relationships with these factories is a complex choice for these companies, having to either lose important components of their intricate supply chains or face growing backlash on an increasingly controversial issue.

The allegations have been taken seriously by these groups with organizations such as the Human Rights Watch calling upon concerned governments to take action within the international stage, specifically through the United Nations Human Rights Council and by imposing targeted sanctions at responsible senior officials. Another important voice is the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, a coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions such as the Human Rights Watch, the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, the World Uyghur Congress, and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, pressuring the brands and retailers involved to exclude Xinjiang from all components of the supply chain, especially when it comes to textiles, yarn or cotton as well as calling upon governments to adopt legislation that requires human rights due diligence in supply chains. Additionally, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the same organisation that carried out the initial report on forced Uyghur labor and surveillance beyond Xinjiang and within the context of these labor transfers, recently created the Xinjiang Data Project. This initiative documents ongoing Chinese policies on the Uyghur community with open-source data such as satellite imaging and official statistics and could be decidedly useful for human rights defenders and researchers focused on the topic.

One important issue when it comes to the labour conditions faced by Uyghurs in China comes from the failures of the auditing and certification industry. To respond to the concerns faced by having Xinjiang-based suppliers, many companies have turned to auditors. However, with at least five international auditors publicly stating that they would not carry out labor-audit or inspection services in the province due to the difficulty of working with the high levels of government censorship and monitoring, multinational companies have found it difficult to address these issues[8]. Additionally, we must consider that auditing firms could be inspecting factories that in other contexts are their clients, adding to the industry's criticism. These complaints have led human rights groups to argue that overarching reform will be crucial for the social auditing industry to effectively address issues such as excessive working hours, unsafe labor conditions, physical abuse, and more[9].

Xinjiang: a prototype for the surveillance state

From QR codes to the collection of biometric data, Xinjiang has rapidly become the lab rat for China's surveillance state, especially when it comes to technology's role in the issue.

One interesting area being massively affected by this is travel. As of September 2016, passport applicants in Xinjiang are required to submit a DNA sample, a voice recording, a 3D image of themselves, and their fingerprints, much harsher requirements than citizens in other regions. Later in 2016, Public Security Bureaus across Xinjiang issued a massive recall of passports for an "annual review" followed by police "safekeeping"[10].

Another example of how a technologically aided surveillance state is developing in Xinjiang is the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), a big data program for policing that selects individuals for possible detention based on specific criteria. According to the Human Rights Watch, which analyzed two leaked lists of detainees and first reported on the policing program in early 2018, the majority of people identified by the program are being persecuted because of lawful activities, such as reciting the Quran and travelling to "sensitive" countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Additionally, some criteria for detention appear to be intentionally vague, including "being generally untrustworthy" and "having complex social ties"[11].

Xinjiang's case is particularly relevant when it comes to other Chinese initiatives, such as the Social Credit System, with initial measures in Xinjiang potentially aiding to finetune the details of an evolving surveillance state in the rest of China.

Uyghur internment camps and COVID-19

The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Uyghurs in Xinjiang are pressing issues, particularly due to the virus's rapid spread in highly congested areas such as these "reeducation" camps.

Currently, Kashgar, one of Xinjiang's prefectures is facing China's most recent coronavirus outbreak[12]. Information from the Chinese government points towards a limited outbreak that is being efficiently controlled by state authorities. However, the authenticity of this data is highly controversial within the context of China's early handling of the pandemic and reliance on government censorship.

Additionally, the pandemic has more consequences for Uyghurs than the virus itself. As the pandemic gives governments further leeway to limit rights such as the right to assembly, right to protest, and freedom of movement, the Chinese government gains increased lines of action in Xinjiang.

Uyghur communities abroad

The situation for Uyghurs living abroad is far from simple. Police harassment of Uyghur immigrants is quite common, particularly through the manipulation and coercion of their family members still living in China. These threatening messages requesting staff information or pressuring dissidents abroad to remain silent. The officials rarely identify themselves and in some cases these calls or messages don't necessarily even come from government authorities, instead coming from coerced family members and friends[13]. One interesting case was reported in August 2018 by US news publication The Daily Beast in which an unidentified Uyghur American woman was asked by her mother to send over pictures of her US license plate number, her phone number, her bank account number, and her ID card under the excuse that China was creating a new ID system for all Chinese citizens, even those living abroad[14]. A similar situation was reported by Foreign Policy when it came to Uyghurs in France who have been asked to send over home, school, and work addresses, French or Chinese IDs, and marriage certificates if they were married in France[15].

Regardless of Chinese efforts to censor Uyghur dissidents abroad, their nonconformity has only grown with the strengthening of Uyghur repression in mainland China. Important international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have been constantly addressing the crisis while autonomous Uyghur human rights groups, such as the Uyghur Human Rights Project, the Uyghur American Association, and the Uyghur World Congress, have developed from communities overseas. Asides from heavily protesting policies such as the internment camps and increasing surveillance in Xinjiang, these groups have had an important role when it comes to documenting the experiences of Uyghur immigrants. However, reports from both human rights group and average agencies when it comes to the crisis have been met with staunch rejection from China. One such case is the BBC being banned in China after recently reporting on Xinjiang internment camps, leading it to be accused of not being "factual and fair" by the China National Radio and Television Administration. The UK's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab referred to the actions taken by the state authorities as "an unacceptable curtailing of average freedom" and stated that they would only continue to damage China's international reputation[16].  

One should also think prospectively when it comes to Uyghur communities abroad. As seen in the diplomatic split between countries against China's policies in Xinjiang and those who support them (or, at the very least, are willing to tolerate them for their political interest), a growing number of countries can excuse China's treatment of Uyghur communities. This could eventually lead to countries permitting or perhaps even facilitating China's attempts at coercing Uyghur immigrants, an important prospect when it comes to countries within the BRI and especially those with an important Uyghur population, such as the previously mentioned example of Kazakhstan.

REFERENCES

[1] Qian, Jingyuan. 2019. "Ethnic Conflicts and the Rise of Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Modern China." Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3450176.

[2] Cao, Xun, Haiyan Duan, Chuyu Liu, James A. Piazza, and Yingjie Wei. 2018. "Digging the "Ethnic Violence in China" Database: The Effects of Inter-Ethnic Inequality and Natural Resources Exploitation in Xinjiang." The China Review (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) 18 (No. 2 SPECIAL THEMED SECTION: Frontiers and Ethnic Groups in China): 121-154. Accessed November 15, 2020. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26435650

[3] International Energy Agency. 2020. Data & Statistics - IEA. Accessed November 14, 2020. https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics?country=CHINA&fuel=Energy%20consumption&indicator=TotElecCons.

[4] Yellinek, Roie, and Elizabeth Chen. 2019. "The "22 vs. 50" Diplomatic Split Between the West and China." China Brief (The Jamestown Foundation) 19 (No. 22): 20-25. Accessed November 14, 2020. https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Read-the-12-31-2019-CB-Issue-in-PDF.pdf?x91188.

[5] United Nations General Assembly. 2019. "General Assembly official records, 74th session : 9th plenary meeting." New York. Accessed October 18, 2020.

[6] Xu, Vicky Xiuzhong, Danielle Cave, James Leibold, Kelsey Munro, and Nathan Ruser. 2020. "Uyghurs for sale: 'Re-education', forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang." Policy Brief, International Cyber Policy Centre, Australian Strategic Policy Paper. Accessed November 14, 2020. https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale

[7] Ibid.

[8] Xiao, Eva. 2020. Auditors to Stop Inspecting Factories in China's Xinjiang Despite Forced-Labor Concerns. 21 September. Accessed December 2020, 16. https://www.wsj.com/articles/auditors-say-they-no-longer-will-inspect-labor-conditions-at-xinjiang-factories-11600697706.

[9] Kashyap, Aruna. 2020. Social Audit Reforms and the Labor Rights Ruse. 7 October. Accessed December 16, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/07/social-audit-reforms-and-labor-rights-ruse.

[10] Human Rights Watch. 2016. China: Passports Arbitrarily Recalled in Xinjiang. 21 November. Accessed November 15, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/22/china-passports-arbitrarily-recalled-xinjiang

[11] Human Rights Watch. 2020. China: Big Data Program Targets Xinjiang's Muslims. 9 December. Accessed December 17, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/12/09/china-big-data-program-targets-xinjiangs-muslims.

[12] National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China. 2020. How China's Xinjiang is tackling new COVID-19 outbreak. 29 October. Accessed November 14, 2020. http://en.nhc.gov.cn/2020-10/29/c_81994.htm.

[13] Uyghur Human Rights Project. 2019. "Repression Across Borders: The CCP's Illegal Harassment and Coercion of Uyghur Americans."

[14] Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany. 2018. Chinese Cops Now Spying on American Soil. 14 August. Accessed December 7, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/chinese-police-are-spying-on-uighurson-american-soil.

[15] Allen-Ebrahimian. 2018. Chinese Police Are Demanding staff Information From Uighurs in France. 2 March. Accessed December 7, 2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/02/chinese-police-are-secretly-demanding-staff-information-from-french-citizens-uighurs-xinjiang/.

[16] Reuters Staff. 2021. BBC World News barred in mainland China, radio dropped by HK public broadcaster. 11 February. Accessed February 16, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-britain-bbc/bbc-world-news-barred-from-airing-in-china-idUSKBN2AB214.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

review / Emili J. Blasco

The discipline of "political risk" can be conceived in a restrictive way, as usual, referring to the prospective analysis of disruptions that, by states and governments, can affect political and social stability and the regulatory framework and, therefore, the interests of investors, companies and economic sectors. This conception, which globalisation also leads to call "geopolitical risk", is only a part - in fact, the minor part - of Nigel Gould-Davies' approach, who by putting the adjective "global" in the degree scroll of his book is referring to a conceptually more general political risk, merged with fields such as corporate reputation, public affairs and business diplomacy.

The author claims that the relationship with the environment is essential for a business and calls for a company's management to always have someone manager of engagement (which we could translate as involvement, commitment, participation or partnership): an engager who has the same level of authority as the engineer who knows how to manufacture the product and the salesperson who knows how to monetise it; someone specialised in "persuading" external actors - governments and civil society groups - of the company's goodness, creating "alignments" that are beneficial for business. Engagement at both the national and international level, if the activity or interests go beyond one's own borders, giving rise to "corporate diplomacy", as the current "increase in political risks means that a company needs a foreign policy".

Gould-Davies sees these more political issues not as an "impertinent intrusion" into markets, but as something endogenous to them. So the business, in addition to attending to production and marketing issues, must also pay equal attention to a third dimension: engagement with political and social actors to avoid or overcome risks that it faces in that external sphere. This is "a third activity and a third role to carry it out: a new political piece in the mechanism of value creation".

The author emphasises management on the present and the very short term future deadline, and downplays the importance of short and medium term prospective analysis deadline which has been the preserve of political risk analysts. He complains that the latter have paid "too much attention to prediction, with its frequent disappointments, and too little to engagement"; " engagement, on the other hand, requires relatively little prediction beyond the short deadline". "There is a lot of unbalanced political risk activity, producing a lot of analysis and prediction, but much less guidance on what to do".

Moreover, unlike the usual political risk analysis, which is more focused on the actions of states or governments, the concept the author uses extends very specifically to the pressures that can arise from civil society. "The new political risks emerge from non-state social forces: consumers, investors, public opinion, civil society, local communities and the media. They do not seek to challenge ownership or rights to use productive assets. They do not seek to destroy, take or block. Their focus is narrower: they usually seek to regulate the terms on which production and trade take place (...) Their motive is usually an ethical commitment to justice and equity. Their goal is to mitigate the wider adverse impacts of corporate activity on others; they are selfless rather than self-serving".

Gould-Davies notes that while previously the norm was government threats in development or emerging countries with less stable societies and unconsolidated rule of law, today pressures on business are increasing in developed nations. "The likelihood of major conflict and de-globalisation is increasing, but more importantly, its impact is shifting towards the developed world," he writes. Moreover, the fact that there is less and less social peace in Western countries is an increasingly disturbing element: "Sustained civil violence in a highly developed country is no longer a black swan, but a grey swan: improbable but conceivable; possible to define, but impossible to predict".

By focusing on management in the present and characterising the activity as engagement, which is in itself very communication-centred, Gould-Davis stretches the classical concept of political risk, which has been more oriented towards analysis and foresight, too far. In doing so, he treads on activities that are becoming widely known development for their own sake, such as corporate communication and reputation or influencing regulatory issues through lobbying or public affairs management functions.

Categories Global Affairs: Economics , Trade and Technology Book reviews Global

The hydrocarbon field is the centrepiece of President Alberto Fernández's 2020-2023 Gas Plan, which subsidises part of the investment.

Activity of YPF, Argentina's state-owned hydrocarbon company [YPF].

ANALYSIS / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

Argentina is facing a deep economic crisis that is having a severe impact on the standard of living of its citizens. The country, which had managed to emerge with enormous sacrifices from the corralito of 2001, sees its leaders committing the same macroeconomic recklessness that led the national Economics to collapse. After a hugely disappointing mandate by Mauricio Macri and his economic "gradualism", the new administration of Alberto Fernández has inherited a very delicate status , now aggravated by the global and national crisis generated by Covid-19. Public debt is now almost 100% of GDP, the Argentine peso is worth less than 90 units to the US dollar, while the public deficit persists. The Economics is still in recession, accumulating four years of decline. The IMF, which lent nearly $44 billion to Argentina in 2018 in the largest loan in the institution's history, has begun to lose patience with the lack of structural reforms and hints of debt restructuring by the government. In this critical status , Argentines are looking to the development unconventional oil industry as a possible way out of the economic crisis. In particular, the Vaca Muerta super field has been the focus of attention of international investors, government and citizens for the last decade, being a very promising project not Exempt of environmental and technical challenges.

The energy sector in Argentina: a history of fluctuations

The oil sector in Argentina has more than 100 years of history since oil was discovered in the Patagonian desert in 1907. The geographical difficulties of area - lack of water, distance from Buenos Aires and salty winds of more than 100 km/h - meant that project advanced very slowly until the outbreak of the First World War. The European conflict interrupted coal imports from England, which until then had accounted for 95% of Argentina's energy consumption. business The emergence of oil in the inter-war period as a strategic raw subject commodity revalued the sector, which began to receive huge foreign and domestic investment in the 1920s. By 1921, YPF, the first state-owned oil company in Latin America, was created, with energy self-sufficiency as its main goal goal. The country's political upheaval during the so-called Década Infame (1930-43) and the effects of the Great Depression damaged the incipient oil sector. The years of Perón's government saw a timid take-off of the oil industry with the opening of the sector to foreign companies and the construction of the first oil pipelines. In 1958, Arturo Frondizi became President of Argentina and sanctioned the Hydrocarbons Law of 1958, achieving an impressive development of the sector in only 4 years with an immense policy of public and private investment that multiplied oil production threefold, extended the network of gas pipelines and generalised access to natural gas for industry and households. The oil regime in Argentina kept the ownership of resource in the hands of the state, but allowed the participation of private and foreign companies in the production process.

Since the successful 1960s in subject oil, the sector entered a period of relative stagnation in parallel with Argentina's chaotic politics and Economics at the time. The 1970s was a complex journey in the desert for YPF, mired in huge debt and unable to increase production and secure the longed-for self-sufficiency.

The so-called Washington Consensus and the arrival of Carlos Menem to the presidency in 1990 saw the privatisation of YPF and the fragmentation of the state monopoly over the sector. By 1998, YPF was fully privatised under the ownership of Repsol, which controlled 97.5% of its capital. It was in the period 1996-2003 that peak oil production was reached, exporting natural gas to Chile, Brazil and Uruguay, and exceeding 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day in net exports.

However, a turnaround soon began in the face of state intervention in the market. Domestic consumption with fixed sales prices for oil producers was less attractive than the export market, encouraging private companies to overproduce in order to export oil and increase revenues exponentially. With the rise in oil prices of the so-called "commodity super-cycle" during the first decade of this century, the price differential between exports and domestic sales widened, creating a real incentive to focus on production. Exploration was thus left in the background, as domestic consumption grew rapidly due to tax incentives and a near horizon was foreseen without the possibility of exports and, therefore, lower income from the increase in reserves.

The exit from the 2001 crisis took place in a context of fiscal and trade surpluses, which allowed the country to regain the confidence of international creditors and reduce the volume of public debt. It was precisely the energy sector that was the main driver of this recovery, accounting for more than half of the trade surplus in the period 2004-2006 and one of Argentina's main sources of fiscal revenue. However, as mentioned above, this production was not sustainable due to the existence of a fiscal framework that distorted oil companies' incentives in favour of immediate consumption without investing in exploration. By 2004, a new tariff was applied to crude oil exports that floated on the basis of the international price of crude, reaching 45% if the price was above 45 dollars. The excessively rentier approach of Néstor Kirchner's presidency ended up dilapidating the sector's investment incentives, although it is true that they allowed for a spectacular increase in derived fiscal revenues, boosting Argentina's generous social and debt repayment plans. sample As a good illustration of this decline in exploration, in the 1980s more than 100 exploratory wells were drilled annually, in 1990 the figure exceeded 90, and by 2010 the figure was 26 wells per year. This figure is particularly dramatic if one takes into account the dynamics that the oil and gas sector tends to follow, with large investments in exploration and infrastructure in times of high prices, as was the case between 2001-2014. 

In 2011, after a decade of debate on the oil sector in Argentina, President Cristina Fernández decided to expropriate 51 per cent of the shares of YPF held by Repsol, citing reasons of energy sovereignty and the decline of the sector. This decision followed the line taken by Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales in 2006 to increase the state's weight in the hydrocarbons sector at a time of electoral success for the Latin American left. The expropriation took place in the same year that Argentina became a net energy importer and coincided with the finding of the large shale reserves in Neuquén precisely by YPF, now known as Vaca Muerta. YPF at the time was the direct producer of approximately one third of Argentina's total volume. The expropriation took place at the same time as the imposition of the "cepo cambiario", a system of capital controls that made private foreign investment in the sector even less attractive. Not only was the country unable to recover its energy self-sufficiency, but it also entered a period of intense imports that hampered access to dollars and produced a large part of the macroeconomic imbalance of the current economic crisis.

The arrival of Mauricio Macri in 2015 heralded a new phase for the sector with policies more favourable to private initiative. One of the first measures was to establish a fixed price at the "wellhead" of the Vaca Muerta oil fields with the idea of encouraging the start-up of projects. As the economic crisis worsened, the unpopular measure of increasing electricity and fuel prices by more than 30 per cent was chosen, generating enormous discontent in the context of a constant devaluation of the Argentine peso and the rising cost of living. The energy portfolio was marked by enormous instability, with three different ministers who generated enormous legal insecurity by constantly changing the hydrocarbons regulatory framework . Renewable solar and wind energy, boosted by a new energy plan and greater liberalisation of investment, managed to double their energy contribution during Mauricio Macri's time in the Casa Rosada.

Alberto Fernández's first years have been marked by unconditional support for the hydrocarbons sector, with Vaca Muerta being the central axis of his energy policy, announcing the 2020-2023 Gas Plan that will subsidise part of the investment in the sector. On the other hand, despite the context of the health emergency, 39 renewable energy projects were installed in 2020, with an installed capacity of around 1.5 GW, an increase of almost 60% over the previous year. In any case, the continuity of this growth will depend on access to foreign currency in the country, which is essential to be able to buy panels and windmills from abroad. The boom in renewable energy in Argentina led the Danish company Vestas to install the first windmill assembly plant in the country in 2018, which already has several plants producing solar panels to supply domestic demand.

Characteristics of Vaca Muerta

Vaca Muerta is not a field from a technical point of view, it is a sedimentary training of enormous magnitude with dispersed deposits of natural gas and oil that can only be exploited with unconventional techniques: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. These characteristics make Vaca Muerta a complex activity, which requires attracting as much talent as possible, especially from international players with experience in the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons. Likewise, conditions in the province of Neuquén are complex given the scarcity of rainfall and the importance of the fruit and vegetable industry, in direct competition with the water resources required for the exploitation of unconventional oil.

Since finding, the potential of Vaca Muerta has been compared to that of the Eagle Ford basin in the United States, which produces more than one million barrels per day. Evidently, the Neuquén region has neither Texas' oil business ecosystem nor its fiscal facilities, making what might be geologically similar in reality two totally different stories. In December 2020, Vaca Muerte produced 124,000 barrels of oil per day, a figure that is expected to gradually increase over the course of this year to 150,000 barrels per day, about 30% of the 470,000 barrels per day Argentina produced in 2020. Natural gas follows a slower process, pending the development of infrastructure that will allow the transport of large volumes of gas to consumption and export centres. In this regard, Fernández announced in November 2020 the Plan for the Promotion of Argentine Gas Production 2020-2023, with which the Casa Rosada seeks to save dollars by substituting imports. The plan facilitates the acquisition of dollars for investors and improves the maximum selling price of natural gas by almost 50%, to 3.70 dollars per mbtu, in the hope of receiving the necessary investment, estimated at 6.5 billion dollars, to achieve gas self-sufficiency. Argentina already has the capacity to export natural gas to Chile, Uruguay and Brazil through pipelines. Unfortunately, the floating vessel exporting natural gas from Vaca Muerte left Argentina at the end of 2020 after YPF unilaterally broke the ten-year contract with the vessel's owner, Exmar, citing economic difficulties, limiting the capacity to sell natural gas outside the continent.  

One of the great advantages of Vaca Muerta is the presence of international companies with experience in the aforementioned US unconventional oil basins. The post-2014 learning curve of the US fracking sector is being applied in Vaca Muerta, which has seen drilling costs fall by 50% since 2014 while gaining in productivity. The influx of US capital may accelerate if Joe Biden's administration fiscally and environmentally restricts oil activities in the country, from agreement with its environmentalist diary . Currently the main operator in Vaca Muerta after YPF is Chevron, followed by Tecpetrol, Wintershell, Shell, Total and Pluspetrol, in an ecosystem with 18 oil companies working in different blocks.

Vaca Muerta as a national strategy

It is clear that achieving energy self-sufficiency will help Argentina's macroeconomic problems, the main headache for its citizens in recent years. No Exempt of environmental risk, Vaca Muerta could be a lifeline for a country whose international credibility is at an all-time low. Alberto Fernández's pro-hydrocarbon narrative follows the line of his Mexican counterpart Andrés guide López Obrador, with whom he intends to lead a new moderate left-wing axis in Latin America. The spectre of the nationalisation of YPF by the now vice-president Cristina Fernández, as well as the recent breach of contract with Exmar, continue to generate uncertainty among international investors. status Moreover, the poor financial performance of YPF, the main player in Vaca Muerta, with a debt of more than 8 billion dollars, is a major drag on the country's oil prospects. Similarly, Vaca Muerta is far from realising its potential, with significant but insufficient production to guarantee revenues that would bring about a radical change in Argentina's economic and social status . In order to guarantee its success, a context of favourable oil prices and the fluid arrival of foreign investors are needed. Two variables that cannot be taken for granted given Argentina's political context and the increasingly strong decarbonisation policy of traditional oil companies.

The big question now is how to reconcile the large-scale fossil fuel development with Argentina's latest commitments on climate change subject : to reduce CO2 emissions by 19% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Similarly, the promising trajectory of renewable energy development during Mauricio Macri's presidency may lose momentum if the oil and gas sector attracts public and private investment, crowding out solar and wind.

Vaca Muerta is likely to advance slowly but surely as international oil prices stabilise upwards. The possibility of generating foreign currency and boosting a Economics on the verge of collapse should not be underestimated, but expecting Vaca Muerta to solve Argentina's problems on its own can only end in a new episode of frustration in the southern country.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Analysis Latin America

Qatar's economic strengthening and expanding relations with Russia, China and Turkey have made the blockade imposed by its Gulf neighbours less effective.

It is a reality: Qatar has won its battle against the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia after more than three years of diplomatic rupture in which both countries, along with other Arab neighbours, isolated the Qatari peninsula commercially and territorially. Economic and geopolitical reasons explain why the imposed blockade has finally faded without Qatar giving in to its autonomous diplomatic line.

Qatar's Emir Tamim Al Thani at lecture Munich Security 2018 [Kuhlmann/MSC].

article / Sebastián Bruzzone

In June 2017, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives accused the Al Thani family of supporting Islamic terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood and initiated a total blockade on trade to and from Qatar until Doha met thirteen conditions. On 5 January 2021, however, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with an unexpected embrace in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, sealing the end of yet another dark chapter in the modern history of the Persian Gulf. But how many of the thirteen demands has Qatar met to reconcile with its neighbours? None.

As if nothing had happened. Tamim Al Thani arrived in Saudi Arabia to participate in the 41st Summit of the committee Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) where member states pledged to make efforts to promote solidarity, stability and multilateralism in the face of the challenges in the region, which is confronted by Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programme, as well as its plans for sabotage and destruction. In addition, the GCC as a whole welcomed the mediating role of Kuwait, then US President Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Gulf Arab leaders' meeting has been a thaw in the political desert after a storm of mutual accusations and instability in what was called the "Qatar diplomatic crisis"; this rapprochement, as an immediate effect, clears the way for the normal preparation of the football World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar next year. The return of regional and diplomatic understanding is always positive in emergency situations such as an economic crisis, a global pandemic or a common Shia enemy arming missiles on the other side of the sea. In any case, the Al Thani's Qatar may be crowned as the winner of the economic pulse against the Emirati Al Nahyan and the Saudi Al Saud unable to suffocate the tiny peninsula.

The factors

The relevant question brings us back to the initial degree scroll before these lines: how has Qatar managed to withstand the pressure without buckling at all in the face of the thirteen conditions demanded in 2017? Several factors contribute to explaining this.

First, the capital injection by the QIA (Qatar Investment Authority). At the beginning of the blockade, the banking system suffered a capital flight of more than 30 billion dollars and foreign investment fell sharply. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund responded by pumping in $38.5 billion to provide liquidity to banks and revive Economics. The sudden trade blockade by the UAE and Saudi Arabia led to a financial panic that prompted foreign investors, and even Qatari residents, to transfer their assets out of the country and liquidate their positions in fear of a market collapse.

Second, rapprochement with Turkey. In 2018, Qatar came to Turkey's rescue by pledging to invest $15 billion in Turkish assets across subject and, in 2020, to execute a currency swap agreement to raise the value of the Turkish lira. In reciprocity, Turkey increased commodity exports to Qatar by 29 per cent and increased its military presence in the Qatari peninsula against a possible invasion or attack by its neighbours, building a second Turkish military base near Doha. In addition, as an internal reinforcement measure, the Qatari government has invested more than $30 billion in military equipment, artillery, submarines and aircraft from American companies.

Third, rapprochement with Iran. Qatar shares with the Persian country the South Pars North Dome gas field, considered the largest in the world, and positioned itself as a mediator between the Trump administration and the Ayatollah government. Since 2017, Iran has supplied 100,000 tonnes of food daily to Doha in the face of a potential food crisis caused by the blockade of the only land border with Saudi Arabia through which 40 per cent of the food enters.

Fourth, rapprochement with Russia and China. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund acquired a 19% stake in Rosneft, opening the door to partnership between the Russian oil company and Qatar Petroleum and to more joint ventures between the two nations. In the same vein, Qatar Airways increased its stake in China Southern Airlines to 5%.

Fifth, its reinforcement as the world's leading exporter of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas). It is important to know that Qatar's main economic engine is gas, not oil. That is why, in 2020, the Qatari government launched its expansion plan by approving a $50 billion investment to expand its liquefaction and LNG carrier capacity, and a $29 billion investment to build more offshore offshore platforms at North Dome. The Qatari government has forecast that its LNG production will grow by 40% by 2027, from 77 million tonnes to 110 million tonnes per year.

We should bear in mind that LNG transport is much safer, cleaner, greener and cheaper than oil transport. Moreover, Royal Dutch Shell predicted in its report "Annual LNG Outlook Report 2019" that global LNG demand would double by 2040. If this forecast is confirmed, Qatar would be on the threshold of impressive economic growth in the coming decades. It is therefore in its best interest to keep its public coffers solvent and maintain a stable political climate in the Middle East region at status . As if that were not enough, last November 2020, Tamim Al Thani announced that future state budgets will be configured on the basis of a fictitious price of $40 per barrel, a much smaller value than the WTI Oil Barrel or Brent Oil Barrel, which is around $60-70. In other words, the Qatari government will index its public expense to the volatility of hydrocarbon prices. In other words, Qatar is seeking to anticipate a possible collapse in the price of crude oil by promoting an efficient public expense policy.

And sixth, the maintenance of the Qatar Investment Authority's investment portfolio , valued at $300 billion. The assets of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund constitute a life insurance policy for the country, which can order its liquidation in situations of extreme need.

Qatar has a very important role to play in the future of the Persian Gulf. The Al Thani dynasty has demonstrated its capacity for political and economic management and, above all, its great foresight for the future vis-à-vis the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation committee . The small peninsular "pearl" has struck a blow against Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who did not even show up in Al-Ula. This geopolitical move, plus the Biden administration's decision to maintain a hardline policy towards Iran, seems to guarantee the international isolation of the Ayatollah regime from the Persian country.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

IDF soldiers during a study tour as part of Sunday culture, at the Ramon Crater Visitor Center [IDF].

ESSAY / Jairo Císcar

The geopolitical reality that exists in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean is incredibly complex, and within it the Arab-Israeli conflict stands out. If we pay attention to History, we can see that it is by no means a new conflict (outside its form): it can be traced back to more than 3,100 years ago. It is a land that has been permanently disputed; despite being the vast majority of it desert and very hostile to humans, it has been coveted and settled by multiple peoples and civilizations. The disputed territory, which stretches across what today is Israel, Palestine, and parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria practically coincides with historic Canaan, the Promised Land of the Jewish people. Since those days, the control and prevalence of human groups over the territory was linked to military superiority, as the conflict was always latent. The presence of military, violence and conflict has been a constant aspect of societies established in the area; and, with geography and history, is fundamental to understand the current conflict and the functioning of the Israeli society.

As we have said, a priori it does not have great reasons for a fierce fight for the territory, but the reality is different: the disputed area is one of the key places in the geostrategy of the western and eastern world. This thin strip, between the Tigris and Euphrates (the Fertile Crescent, considered the cradle of the first civilizations) and the mouth of the Nile, although it does not enjoy great water or natural resources, is an area of high strategic value: it acts as a bridge between Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean (with Europe by sea). It is also a sacred place for the three great monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the "Peoples of the Book", who group under their creeds more than half of the world's inhabitants. Thus, for millennia, the land of Israel has been abuzz with cultural and religious exchanges ... and of course, struggles for its control.

According to the Bible, the main para-historical account of these events, the first Israelites began to arrive in the Canaanite lands around 2000 BC, after God promised Abraham that land ".... To your descendants ..."[1] The massive arrival of Israelites would occur around 1400 BC, where they started a series of campaigns and expelled or assimilated the various Canaanite peoples such as the Philistines (of which the Palestinians claim to be descendants), until the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah finally united around the year 1000 BC under a monarchy that would come to dominate the region until their separation in 924 BC.

It is at this time that we can begin to speak of a people of Israel, who will inhabit this land uninterruptedly, under the rule of other great empires such as the Assyrian, the Babylonian, and the Macedonian, to finally end their existence under the Roman Empire. It is in 63 BC when Pompey conquered Jerusalem and occupied Judea, ending the freedom of the people of Israel. It will be in 70 AD, though, with the emperor Titus, when after a new Hebrew uprising the Second Temple of Jerusalem was razed, and the Diaspora of the Hebrew people began; that is, their emigration to other places across the East and West, living in small communities in which, suffering constant persecutions, they continued with their minds set on a future return to their "Promised Land". The population vacuum left by the Diaspora was then filled again by peoples present in the area, as well as by Arabs.

The current state of Israel

This review of the historical antiquity of the conflict is necessary because this is one with some very special characteristics: practically no other conflict is justified before such extremes by both parties with "sentimental" or dubious "legal" reasons.

The current state of Israel, founded in 1948 with the partition of the British Protectorate of Palestine, argues its existence in the need for a Jewish state that not only represents and welcomes such a community but also meets its own religious requirements, since in Judaism the Hebrew is spoken as the "chosen people of God", and Israel as its "Promised Land". So, being the state of Israel the direct heir of the ancient Hebrew people, it would become the legitimate occupier of the lands quoted in Genesis 15: 18-21. This is known as the concept of Greater Israel (see map)[2].

On the Palestinian side, they exhibit as their main argument thirteen centuries of Muslim rule (638-1920) over the region of Palestine, from the Orthodox caliphate to the Ottoman Empire. They claim that the Jewish presence in the region is primarily based on the massive immigration of Jews during the late 19th and 20th centuries, following the popularization of Zionism, as well as on the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians before, during and after the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, a fact known as the Nakba[3], and of many other Palestinians and Muslims in general since the beginning of the conflict. Some also base their historical claim on their origin as descendants of the Philistines.

However, although these arguments are weak, beyond historical conjecture, the reality is, nonetheless, that these aspirations have been the ones that have provoked the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This properly begins in the early 20th century, with the rise of Zionism in response to the growing anti-Semitism in Europe, and the Arab refusal to see Jews settled in the area of Palestine. During the years of the British Mandate for Palestine (1920-1948) there were the first episodes of great violence between Jews and Palestinians. Small terrorist actions by the Arabs against Kibbutzim, which were contested by Zionist organizations, became the daily norm. This turned into a spiral of violence and assassinations, with brutal episodes such as the Buraq and Hebron revolts, which ended with some 200 Jews killed by Arabs, and some 120 Arabs killed by the British army.[4]

Another dark episode of this time was the complicit relations between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Almin Al-Husseini, and the Nazi regime, united by a common diary regarding Jews. He had meetings with Adolf Hitler and gave them mutual support, as the extracts of their conversations collect[5]. But it will not be until the adoption of the "United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine" through Resolution 181 (II) of the General Assembly when the war broke out on a large scale. [6] The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arab League announced that, if it became effective, they would not hesitate to invade the territory.

And so, it was. On May 14, 1948, hours after the proclamation of the state of Israel by Ben-Gurion, Israel was invaded by a joint force of Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian troops. In this way, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War began, beginning a period of war that has not stopped until today, almost 72 years later. Despite the multiple peace agreements reached (with Egypt and Jordan), the dozens of United Nations resolutions, and the Oslo Accords, which established the roadmap for achieving a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, conflicts continue, and they have seriously affected the development of the societies and peoples of the region.

The Israel Defense Forces

Despite the difficulties suffered since the day of its independence, Israel has managed to establish itself as the only effective democracy in the region, with a strong rule of law and a welfare state. It has a Human Development Index of 0.906, considered very high; is an example in education and development, being the third country in the world with more university graduates over the total population (20%) and is a world leader in R&D in technology. Meanwhile, the countries around it face serious difficulties, and in the case of Palestine, great misery. One of the keys to Israel's success and survival is, without a doubt, its Army. Without it, it would not have been able to lay the foundations of the country that it is today, as it would have been devastated by neighbouring countries from the first day of its independence.

It is not daring to say that Israeli society is one of the most militarized in the world. It is even difficult to distinguish between Israel as a country or Israel as an army. There is no doubt that the structure of the country is based on the Army and on the concept of "one people". The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) act as the backbone of society and we find an overwhelming part of the country's top officials who have served as active soldiers. The paradigmatic example are the current leaders of the two main Knesset parties: Benny Ganz (former Chief of Staff of the IDF) and Benjamin Netanyahu (a veteran of the special forces in the 1970s, and combat wounded).

This influence exerted by the Tzahal[7] in the country is fundamentally due to three reasons. The first is the reality of war. Although, as we have previously commented, Israel is a prosperous country and practically equal to the rest of the western world, it lives in a reality of permanent conflict, both inside and outside its borders. When it is not carrying out large anti-terrorist operations such as Operation "Protective Edge," carried out in Gaza in 2014, it is in an internal fight against attacks by lone wolves (especially bloody recent episodes of knife attacks on Israeli civilians and military) and against rocket and missile launches from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli population has become accustomed to the sound of missile alarms, and to seeing the "Iron Dome" anti-missile system in operation. It is common for all houses to have small air raid shelters, as well as in public buildings and schools. In them, students learn how to behave in the face of an attack and basic security measures. The vision of the Army on the street is something completely common, whether it be armoured vehicles rolling through the streets, fighters flying over the sky, or platoons of soldiers getting on the public bus with their full equipment. At this point, we must not forget the suffering in which the Palestinian population constantly lives, as well as its harsh living conditions, motivated not only by the Israeli blockade, but also by living under the government of political parties such as Al-Fatah or Hamas. The reality of war is especially present in the territories under dispute with other countries: the Golan Heights in Syria and the so-called Palestinian Territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip). Military operations and clashes with insurgents are practically daily in these areas.

This permanent tension and the reality of war not only affect the population indirectly, but also directly with compulsory military service. Israel is the developed country that spends the most defense budget according to its GDP and its population. [8] Today, Israel invests 4.3% of its GDP in defense (not counting investment in industry and military R&D). [9] In the early 1980s, it came to invest around 22%. Its army has 670,000 soldiers, of whom 170,000 are professionals, and 35.9% of its population (just over 3 million) are ready for combat. It is estimated that the country can carry out a general mobilization around 48-72 hours. Its military strength is based not only on its technological vanguard in terms of weapons systems such as the F-35 (and atomic arsenal), material, armored vehicles (like the Merkava MBT), but also on its compulsory military service system that keeps the majority of the population trained to defend its country. Israel has a unique military service in the western world, being compulsory for all those over 18 years of age, be they men or women. In the case of men, it lasts 32 months, while women remain under military discipline for 21 months, although those that are framed in combat units usually serve the same time as men. Military service has exceptions, such as Arabs who do not want to serve and ultra-Orthodox Jews. However, more and more Israeli Arabs serve in the armed forces, including in mixed units with Druze, Jews and Christians; the same goes for the ultra-orthodox, who are beginning to serve in units adapted to their religious needs. Citizens who complete military service remain in the reserve until they are 40 years old, although it is estimated that only a quarter of them do so actively[10].

Social cohesion

Israeli military service and, by extension, the Israeli Defense Forces are, therefore, the greatest factor of social cohesion in the country, above even religion. This is the second reason why the army influences Israel. The experience of a country protection service carried out by all generations creates great social cohesion. In the Israeli mindset, serving in the military, protecting your family and ensuring the survival of the state is one of the greatest aspirations in life. From the school, within the academic curriculum itself, the idea of patriotism and service to the nation is integrated. And right now, despite huge contrasts between the Jewish majority and minorities, it is also a tool for social integration for Arabs, Druze and Christians. Despite racism and general mistrust towards Arabs, if you serve in the Armed Forces, the reality changes completely: you are respected, you integrate more easily into social life, and your opportunities for work and study after the enlistment period have increased considerably. Mixed units, such as Unit 585 where Bedouins and Christian Arabs serve,[11] allow these minorities to continue to throw down barriers in Israeli society, although on many occasions they find rejection from their own communities.

Israelis residing abroad are also called to service, after which many permanently settle in the country. This enhances the sense of community even for Jews still in the Diaspora.

In short, the IDF creates a sense of duty and belonging to the homeland, whatever the origin, as well as a strong link with the armed forces (which is hardly seen in other western countries) and acceptance of the sacrifices that must be made in order to ensure the survival of the country.

The third and last reason, the most important one, and the one that summarizes the role that the Army has in society and in the country, is the reality that, as said above, the survival of the country depends on the Army. This is how the military occupation of territories beyond the borders established in 1948, the bombings in civilian areas, the elimination of individual objectives are justified by the population and the Government. After 3,000 years, and since 1948 perhaps more than ever, the Israeli people depend on weapons to create a protection zone around them, and after the persecution throughout the centuries culminating in the Holocaust and its return to the "Promised Land," neither the state nor the majority of the population are willing to yield in their security against countries or organizations that directly threaten the existence of Israel as a country. This is why despite the multiple truces and the will (political and real) to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, the country cannot afford to step back in terms of preparing its armed forces and lobbying.

Obviously, during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Army is having a key role in the success of the country in fighting the virus. The current rate of vaccination (near 70 doses per 100 people) is boosted by the use of reserve medics from the Army, as well as the logistic experience and planning (among obviously many other factors). Also, they have provided thousands of contact tracers, and the construction of hundreds of vaccination posts, and dozens of quarantine facilities. Even could be arguable that the military training could play a role in coping with the harsh restrictions that were imposed in the country.

The State-Army-People trinity exemplifies the reality that Israel lives, where the Army has a fundamental (and difficult) role in society. It is difficult to foresee a change in reality in the near future, but without a doubt, the army will continue to have the leadership role that it has assumed, in different forms, for 3,000 years.

 

[1] Genesis 15:18 New International Version (NIV). 18: "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi [a] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates'".

[2] Great Israel matches to previously mentioned Bible passage Gen. 15: 18-21.

[3] Independent, JS (2019, May 16). This is why Palestinians wave keys during the 'Day of Catastrophe'. Retrieved March 23, 2020, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/nakba-day-catastrophe-palestinians-israel-benjamin-netanyahu-gaza-west-bank-hamas-a8346156.html

[4] Ross Stewart (2004). Causes and Consequences of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. London: Evan Brothers, Ltd., 2004.

[5] Record of the Conversation Between the Führer and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on November 28, 1941, in Berlin, Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945, Series D, Vol. XIII, London , 1964, p. 881ff, in Walter Lacquer and Barry Rubin, The Israel-Arab Reader, (NY: Facts on File, 1984), pp. 79-84. Retrieved from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-mufti-and-the-f-uuml-hrer#2."Germany stood for uncompromising war against the Jews. That naturally included active opposition to the Jewish national home in Palestine. .... Germany would furnish positive and practical aid to the Arabs involved in the same struggle .... Germany's objective [is] ... solely the destruction of the Jewish element residing in the Arab sphere .... In that hour the Mufti would be the most authoritative spokesman for the Arab world. The Mufti thanked Hitler profusely. "

[6] United Nations General Assembly A / RES / 181 (II) of 29 November 1947.

[7] Tzahal is a Hebrew acronym used to refer to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

[8] Newsroom (8th June 2009). Arming Up: The world's biggest military spenders by population. 03-20-2020, by The Economist Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/news/2009/06/08/arming-up

[9] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (nd). SIPRI Military Expenditure Database. Retrieved March 21, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/databases/milex

[10] Gross, JA (2016, May 30). Just a quarter of all eligible reservists serve in the IDF. Retrieved March 22, 2020, from https://www.timesofisrael.com/just-a-quarter-of-all-eligible-reservists-serve-in-the-idf/

[11] AHRONHEIM, A. (2020, January 12). Arab Christians and Bedouins in the IDF: Meet the members of Unit 585. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/The-sky-is-the-limit-in-the- IDFs-unique-Unit-585-613948

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East Security and defence Testing

Several countries in the Americas are celebrating in 2021 their two hundredth anniversary of a break with Spain that did not always mean independence.ca celebrate in 2021 their two centuries of a break with Spain that did not always mean independence. final

This year, several American nations are commemorating two centuries of their separation from Spain, recalling a process that took place in all the Spanish possessions in continental America within a few years of each other. In some cases, it was a process of successive independence, as was the case with Guatemala, which later belonged to the Mexican Empire and then to a Central American republic, and Panama, which was part of Colombia until the 20th century. But even later, both countries experienced direct interference by the United States, in episodes that were very decisive for the region as a whole.

Ceremony of submission of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian authorities, 31 December 1999

article / Angie Grijalva

During 2021 several American countries celebrate their independence from Spain, the largest and most festively celebrated being Mexico. In other nations, the date of 1821 is qualified by later historical developments: Panama also commemorates every year the day in 1903 when it broke with Bogotá, while in the case of Guatemala that independence did not immediately imply a republic of its own, since together with its neighbouring nations in 1822 it was nominally dependent on Mexico and between 1823 and 1839 it formed part of the United Provinces of Central America and the Federal Republic of Central America. Moreover, US regional hegemony called into question the full sovereignty of these countries in subsequent decades: Guatemala suffered the first coup d'état openly promoted by Washington in the Western Hemisphere in 1954, and Panama did not have full control over its entire territory until the Americans handed over the canal in 1999.

Panama and its canal

The project of the Panama Canal was important for the United States because it made it possible to easily link its two coasts by sea and consolidated the global rise sought by Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, guided by the maxim that only the nation that controlled both oceans would be a truly international power. Given the refusal of Colombia, to which the province of Panama then belonged, to accept the conditions set by the United States to build the canal, resuming the work on the paralysed French project , Washington was faced with two options: invade the isthmus or promote Panama's independence from Colombia[1]. The Republic of Panama declared its independence on 3 November 1903 and with it Roosevelt negotiated a very favourable agreement which gave the United States perpetual sovereignty over the canal and a wide strip of land on either side of it. Washington thus gained control of Panama and extended its regional dominance.

After a decade of difficult work and a high issue death toll among the workforce, who came from all over the Caribbean and also from Asia, not least due to dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever, in 1913 the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were finally connected and the canal was opened to ship traffic.

Over time, US sovereignty over a portion of the country and the instructions military installations there fuelled a rejection movement in Panama that became particularly virulent in the 1960s. The Carter Administration agreed to negotiate the cession of the canal in a 1977 agreement that incorporated the Panamanians into the management of inter-oceanic traffic and set the submission of all installations for 1999. When this finally happened, the country experienced the occasion as a new independence celebration, saying goodbye to US troops that only ten years earlier had been very active, invading Panama City and other areas to arrest President Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking.

Critical moment in Guatemala

The Panama Canal gave the United States an undoubted projection of power over its hemisphere. However, during the Cold War, Washington also found it necessary to use operations, in some cases direct, to overthrow governments it considered close to communism. This happened with the overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

The arrival of Árbenz to the presidency in 1951 was a threat to the United Fruit Company (UFCO) because of the agrarian reform he was promoting[2]. Although the advance of communist parties in Latin America was beginning to grow, the real threat in certain countries was the expropriation of land from US monopolies. It is estimated that by 1950, the UFCO owned at least 225,000 hectares of land in Guatemala, of which the agrarian reform was to expropriate 162,000 hectares in 1952. With political support from Washington, UFCO claimed that the compensation it was being offered did not correspond to the true value of the land and branded the Árbenz government as communist, even though this was not true.

In 1953, the newly inaugurated Eisenhower Administration established a plan to destabilise the government and stage a coup against Árbenz. On the one hand, Secretary of State John F. Dulles sought the support of the Organisation of American States, prompting condemnation of Guatemala for receiving a shipment of arms from the Soviet Union, which had been acquired because of the US refusal to sell arms to the Central American country. On the other hand, the CIA launched the mission statement PBSUCCESS to guarantee the quartermastering of a faction of the Guatemalan army ready to rebel against Árbenz. The movement was led by Colonel Castillo Armas, who was in exile in Honduras and from there launched the invasion on 18 June 1954. When the capital was bombed, the bulk of the army refused to respond, leaving Árbenz alone, who resigned within days.

Once in power, Castillo Armas returned the expropriated land to UFCO and brought new US investors into the country. Dulles called this victory "the greatest triumph against communism in the last five years". The overthrow of Árbenz was seen by the US as a model for further operations in Latin America. development The award Nobel Literature Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa has pointed out that this action against Árbenz could be seen as "the moment when Latin America was screwed", as for many it was evidence that a normal democracy was not possible, and this pushed certain sectors to defend revolution as the only way to make their societies prosper.

[1] McCullough, D. (2001). The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. Simon & Schuster.

[2] G. Rabe, S. (2017). Intervention in Guatemala, 1953-1954. In S. G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism. The University of North Carolina Press.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

A last-minute minimum agreement avoids the chaos of a no-deal Brexit agreement, but further negotiations will have to take place over the next few years.

Fragment of Brexit mural [Pixabay].

ANALYSIS / Pablo Gurbindo

After the United Kingdom officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020 at midnight, with the agreement Withdrawal entrance in force, it seemed that the issue that has practically monopolised the discussion in Brussels in recent years had been settled. But nothing could be further from the truth. The "political Brexit" had been resolved, but the "economic Brexit" still had to be resolved.

To avoid chaos, agreement provided for a transition period of 11 months, until 31 December 2020. During this period the UK, despite being outside the EU, was to continue to be subject to European legislation and the Court of Justice of the EU as before, but without having a voice and a vote in the EU. The goal of this transition was to give both sides time to reach a agreement to define the future relationship. All parties knew that 11 months would not be enough time. Only a new trade agreement takes years to negotiate, the agreement with Canada took 7 years, for example. For this, the transition period included a possible extension before 30 June, but Johnson did not want to ask for it, and promised his citizens to have a trade agreement by 1 January 2021.

With the fear of a possible no-deal Brexit agreement, and the serious consequences it would have for the economies and citizens on both sides, agreement was finally reached on 24 December, just one week before the end of the transition period.

This agreement entered into force on 1 January 2021 provisional, as there was not enough time for it to enter into force within a week C. The question now is: what does this agreement consist of, what have been the sticking points, and what have been the first tangible consequences during these first months?

The agreement for Trade and Cooperation (TCC)

What needs to be made clear from the outset is that this is a minimum agreement . It is a hard Brexit. Brexit has been avoided without agreement which would have been catastrophic, but it is still a hard Brexit.

The PCA between the UK and the EU comprises a free trade agreement , a close association on subject on citizen security and a general framework on governance.

The most important points of agreement are the following:

Trade in goods

The PCA is very ambitious in this respect, as it establishes free trade between the two parties without any subject tariffs or quotas on any product. If there had been no agreement in this sense, their trade relationship would have been governed by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, with their corresponding quotas and tariffs. However, there is a catch to this free trade. This absence of any subject tariff or quota is only for "British originating" products, and this is where the complexity lies.

The rules of origin are detailed in the PCA, and although as a general rule the agreement is generous in qualifying a product as "British", there are certain sectors where this certification will be more demanding. For example, for an electric vehicle produced in the UK and exported to the EU to avoid tariffs, at least 45% of its added value must be British or European and its battery must be entirely British or European. From now on, proving the origin of each shipment in certain sectors is going to become a bureaucratic hell that did not exist before 31 December. And the re-export of unprocessed foreign goods from British soil to Europe will now be subject to a double tariff: one from entrance to the UK and another from entrance to the EU.

However, even if there is no subject tariff or quota on products, the usual trade flow will not be maintained. For example, in the area of trade in agri-food products, the absence of agreement in the UK's sanitary and phytosanitary regime means that from now on, trade in these products will require sanitary certificates that were not previously required. This increase in "red tape" may have important consequences for products that are more easily substitutable, as importers of these products will prefer to avoid this extra bureaucracy by switching from British to European suppliers.

Financial services

On subject services agreement is rather poor, but the lack of agreement for financial services, a very important sector for the UK, which alone generates 21% of UK services exports, is notable.

While the UK was part of the Union, its financial institutions could operate freely throughout the EU thanks to the "financial passport", as all Member States have agreed similar market regulation and supervision rules. But this no longer applies to the UK.

The UK government unilaterally decided to maintain easy access to its markets for EU entities, but the EU has not reciprocated.

In the absence of agreements at subject financial, the European rules and regulations referring to third country entities, as a general rule, simply makes it easier for these entities to establish themselves in the Union in order to be able to operate in its markets.

One of the EU's objectives with this lack of reciprocity may have been the desire to wrest part of its capital from the City of London, Europe's leading financial place .

Citizens

Most of this section was resolved with the agreement Withdrawal, which guaranteed for life the maintenance of acquired rights (residency program, work...) for European citizens who were already on British soil, or British citizens who were on European soil.

In the PCA it has been agreed to abolish the need for apply for visa bilaterally for tourist stays not exceeding 3 months. For these cases it will now be necessary to carry a passport, a national identity card will not suffice. For longer stays, however, visas will be required from residency program or work.

As for the recognition of professional and university degrees and qualifications, despite the UK's interest in maintaining them automatically as they have been until now, the EU has not allowed this. This could mean, for example, that qualified professionals such as lawyers or nurses would find it more difficult to have their degree scroll recognised and be able to work.

data protection and security cooperation

The agreement will allow police and legal cooperation to continue, but not with the same intensity as before. The UK will no longer be part of the instructions of data on these matters. Exchanges of information will only be made at written request either by requesting information or by sending information on its own initiative.

British relations with Europol (European Police Office) or Eurojust (European Agency for Judicial Cooperation) will be maintained, but as an external partnership .

Participation in Union programmes

The UK will continue to be part of a number of Community programmes such as: Horizon, the main European scientific cooperation programme; Euratom, through a cooperationagreement external to the PCA; ITER, an international programme for the study of fusion energy; Copernicus, a programme led by the European Space Agency for the development autonomous and continuous Earth observation capability; and SST (Space Surveillance and Tracking) a European programme for tracking space objects for collision avoidance.

But on the other hand the UK will not continue in other programmes, notably the important Erasmus student exchange programme. Johnson has already announced the creation of a national student exchange programme named after the British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma code during World War II.

Negotiation sticking points

There have been certain points that, due to their complexity or symbolism, have been the main points of friction between the Union and the United Kingdom. They have even jeopardised the success of the negotiations. The three main sticking points for the negotiations have been: fisheries, the level-playing field and governance.

Fishing

The disproportionate importance of fisheries in the negotiations is surprising, given that it represents only 0.1% of British GDP, and is not an essential sector for the EU either. Its importance lies in its symbolic value, and the importance given to it by Brexit supporters as an example of regaining lost sovereignty. It should also be borne in mind that it is one of the points on which the UK had the upper hand in the negotiations. British waters are home to some of Europe's main fishing grounds, which have accounted for 15% of total European fishing. Of these fisheries, 57% were taken by the EU-27, with the remaining 43% taken by British fishermen. This percentage greatly infuriated the British fishing sector, which was one of the main sectors that supported Brexit.

The UK's intention was to negotiate annual access quotas to its waters, following Norway's example with the EU. But in the end a 25% cut in catches has been agreed on a progressive basis, but maintaining access to British waters. This agreement will be in force for the next five and a half years, after which new negotiations will be necessary and then on an annual basis. In return, the EU has retained the possibility of trade retaliation in the event that European fishermen are denied access to British waters.

"Level-playing field

The topic of the unfair skill was one of the issues of greatest concern in Brussels. Given that from now on the British do not have to follow European legislation, there was concern that, just a few miles from the Union, a country of the size and weight of the United Kingdom would considerably reduce its labour, environmental, tax and public aid standards. This could result in many European companies deciding to relocate to the UK because of these lower standards.

The agreement establishes a monitoring and retaliation mechanism in cases of discrepancies if one of the parties feels aggrieved. If there is a dispute, depending on the case, it will be submitted to a panel of experts, or it will be submitted to arbitration. For the EU, a system where tariff compensation would have been automatic and if not interpreted by the CJEU would have been preferable. But for the UK one of its main negotiating objectives was not to be under the jurisdiction of the CJEU in any way.

Governance

The design governance of agreement is complex. It is chaired by the committee of association Joint which will ensure that the PCA is correctly implemented and interpreted, and where all issues that may arise will be discussed. This committee will be assisted by more than thirty specialised committees and technical groups.

If a dispute arises, it will be referred to this committee of association Joint. If a solution is not reached by mutual agreement agreement , then an external arbitration will be used, the decision of which is binding. In case of non-compliance, the aggrieved party is entitled to retaliate.

This instrument allows the EU to cover its back against the risk of the UK breaching part of the agreement. This risk gained momentum during the negotiations, when Johnson presented the Internal Market Act to the UK Parliament, which aimed to prevent any internal UK customs subject . This Act would go against the "Irish safeguard" agreed by Johnson himself and the EU. This bill would go against the "Irish safeguard" agreed by Johnson himself and the EU in the agreement Withdrawal, and would go against international law as a clear contravention of the "pacta sunt servanda" principle. In the end this law was not passed, but it created great tension between the EU and the UK, in the UK's civil service examination to Johnson and even within its own ranks by calling the country's international credibility into question.

Consequences

During the first few months of the PCA's entry into force, entrance , several important consequences have already become apparent.

The UK's controversial withdrawal from the Erasmus programme has already been felt. According to UK universities, applications for programs of study from EU citizens have fallen by 40%. The pandemic has played a role in this significant reduction, but it should also be noted that fees university applications in the UK after the exit of the programme have increased by a factor of four.

In terms of financial services, the City of London has already lost degree scroll as Europe's leading financial centre to Amsterdam in the first few months of the year. Daily equity trading in Amsterdam in January amounted to 9.2 billion euros, higher than the 8.6 billion euros managed by the City. London's average last year was 17.5 billion euros, well ahead of Europe's second largest place , Frankfurt, with average of 5.9 billion euros. Last year, Amsterdam's trading figure average was €2.6 billion, making it the sixth largest European financial place . The EU's lack of reciprocity in financial services has been able to fulfil its goal for the time being.

One of the most curious anecdotes demonstrating the changes that Brexit has brought about during these first months was the viral video of Dutch customs authorities confiscating ham sandwiches from transporters arriving by ferry from the UK to the Netherlands. With the PCA in force, entrance , animal products are not allowed to be exported without the corresponding health certificates.

Despite the absence of tariffs and quotas, the increased bureaucracy was expected to affect the trade exchange and it has. According to data from the UK Road Transport association , UK exports to the EU via the ports fell by 68% in January compared to the same month last year.

It seemed that the British fishing sectors could be among the main beneficiaries of agreement, but after these first few months British fishermen are not satisfied. New bureaucratic requirements are slowing down deliveries and some fishermen are complaining that their catches are going to waste because they cannot be delivered on time to certain European markets. According to Scottish fishermen's representatives, delays due to red tape are causing the industry to lose £1 million a day. It should be borne in mind that UK fish exports to the EU accounted for 67% of the total in 2019. In response to complaints from the sector, the British government has already announced a £23 million financial aid .

Conclusion

The agreement reached is undoubtedly a better result than no agreement, but it is an incomplete agreement , and further negotiations will be necessary. The future of the PCA will depend on the change of position of the UK, which during the negotiation has prioritised regulatory autonomy and regaining its "lost sovereignty". The agreement is also fragile as it allows either side to terminate the negotiated relationship if 12 months' notice is given.

The European Union and the United Kingdom are doomed to understand each other. The EU will have to learn to live with a neighbour with a lot of power and influence, and the UK will have to learn to live in the sphere of influence of the 27.

But, when the time comes, the UK will always have the option of the article 49 of the EU Treaty, which regulates the accession of new countries to the Union.

Categories Global Affairs: European Union World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis