Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Sitrep - 16 Dec, 2015

On the eve of a proposed December 15 ceasefire, 42 mercenaries from Academi (the successor to US-based private military company Blackwater) and 23 Saudi troops were killed in Yemen by a ballistic missile attack. Houthi forces still control the core geography of the embattled country, and significant heavy weaponry, but the upcoming ceasefire and the coinciding fresh round of negotiations in Geneva arrive because the 9-month-long war is stagnating.

The momentum for both the Houthi and loyalist forces slowed over the past month as neither was able to dislodge the other from territory. The Houthis, representing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, do not wish to control Yemen. Rather, their decision to fight was drawn from a desire for greater political inclusion. How the negotiations will end is unknown, but the two sides are likely to return to fighting should they fail.

In Paris this week a replacement climate deal, described as “landmark”, was finally reached by the United Nations. It solidifies agreed-to language on dealing with carbon emissions and the effects of climate change among the 200 participating nations. However, the deal is voluntary and no punitive measures were included adding doubt that the deal will be effective.

The main contention in the talks was between developed and developing countries. Both see benefits in reducing carbon emissions, but some don’t wish to pay for the fix while others want to build the same standard of living as richer countries. The Paris agreement adds to the firm trend of economies moving naturally to a completely hydrogen-based fuel source, with the next popular fuel perhaps to be nuclear energy.

Also in France, the regional elections which so shocked the French and Europeans last week conducted the second round. The extreme-right National Front party scored well in the earlier round but was soundly defeated in the second, leaving it with the control of no French regions. The backlash against the National Front likely required cooperation from the establishment parties, reflecting the extremist party’s strength.

The elections are a temperature gauge for France, not necessarily for Europe. It shows that France remains suspicious of right-leaning groups. Yet the results also reveal how much the National Front’s opposition has shifted its policies further to the right in order to take advantage of an obvious popular sentiment. All eyes are now on the 2017 presidential elections as every party adopts new rightist policies.

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