Mitigating feedback loops in formulating a policy response to the Syrian conflict

By Jared Angle

The Middle East, specifically in the Syria-Iraq-Iran corridor, is a volatile region that presents considerable challenges to securing a balance between a lack of Islamist militants and a lack of autocratic regimes. The United States must focus its efforts on eliminating militant groups, and then must carefully manage its relations with regional powers such as Iran to encourage democratization and stability (through soft power rather than by force) while discouraging the development of new militant groups.

The contemporary security situation in the Middle East can be traced to a series of disruptions to the regional power dynamic, which created a power vacuum and allowed certain states to expand their regional influence in a way that was previously unfeasible. This dynamic was first disrupted during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although Saddam Hussein’s swift deposition was a victory for democratization and human rights, his autocratic Iraqi regime was an important regional power with the ability to keep non-state actors in check. Hussein’s removal signaled the implosion of a key stabilizing actor and introduced new variables into the regional dynamic.

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“Silent majority” behind unexpected Conservative victory in UK vote

Despite a virtual tie with Labour in pre-election polling, the sweeping Conservative victory on May 7 was far from unprecedented. New analysis by the Economist magazine recalls the role of a “silent majority,” which propelled the Conservatives to 10 Downing Street in 1970 and 1992 despite polls suggesting defeat at the hands of Labour. With a majority of 331 seats in the House of Commons, the Tories no longer need a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, whose leader Nick Clegg has stepped down. Labour leader Ed Miliband also stepped down after the election, while the Scottish National Party swept up all but three of Scotland’s 59 constituencies and stands to quintuple its parliamentary funding.

France to purchase 1,000 American trucks for military patrols

The French Defense Ministry plans to purchase one thousand Ford Ranger trucks to replace its 32-year-old fleet of Peugot jeeps. The Argentine and South African-built truck, chosen over competing models from Citroen and Dacia, can hold up to five soldiers and boasts a 1,000kg cargo capacity.

EU Carbon Market Reforms Bumped to 2019

Member states in the Council of the EU reached a tentative agreement on April 29 to institute carbon market reforms on January 1, 2019. The agreement came after the Czech Republic defected from the Polish-led blocking minority that would have delayed the reforms until 2021. Due to its heavy reliance on the fossil fuel for electricity, industrial use, and domestic heating, Poland has strongly opposed reforming the current Emissions Trading System, which allows coal to be burnt very cheaply due to a surplus of carbon permits. The new reforms would establish a Market Stability Reserve, withholding surplus permits.

Bending the rules: five tactics to duck Commission lobbying regulations

Despite strict guidelines and the revitalized EU Transparency Register, a who’s-who list of lobbyists accredited with the European Commission, several loopholes continue to allow business and interest groups close access to Commission officials. By hiring attorneys instead of registered lobbyists and wooing junior officials rather than their bosses, interest groups can keep their meetings discreet while successfully influencing key legislation. If all else fails, increasing the lobbying budget doesn’t hurt either: between 2013 and 2014, Goldman Sachs reported a 14-fold increase in lobbying expenses in Brussels after the new transparency rules took effect.

Checking out of “Hotel Mama?” Today’s Slovaks aren’t in a rush

Facing expensive rent, limited apartment availability and dismal job prospects, many Slovaks continue to live with their parents well into adulthood. With annual salaries as low as €6000, many young Slovaks can’t afford to pay €500 per month to rent an apartment in central Bratislava. Just as they are living at home for longer, Slovaks are also delaying marriage and parenthood, often waiting until their late twenties to early thirties, a trend seen in other post-communist member states in the eastern reaches of the European Union.

Pinching rubles: A bleak prognosis for the Russian economy

Russia is in the midst of a lost year, with stark economic stagnation and the lowest growth rate since a crippling recession in 2009, according to a new analysis released by the World Bank. With low oil prices persisting since mid-2014, Russia’s oil revenues have plummeted and capital flight has become a growing problem as exporters find a lack of demand for their products abroad. If Russia is slapped with further sanctions over its role in the Ukraine conflict, the world’s largest country could find itself struggling for years to come.

Swiss, Mexican bonds enter new territory

In two bold firsts, Switzerland is issuing ten-year bonds with a negative 0.05 yield, while Mexico has introduced a new 100-year bond denominated in euros with a 4.2 percent yield. With a yield far higher than any comparable eurozone-issued bonds, Mexico’s bond, initially launched at EUR1.5 billion, could see purchasers collectively earn EUR63 million on their investments in 2115.

Shell acquires British Gas to become leading liquefied natural gas producer

Royal Dutch Shell has concluded acquisition talks with liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer British Gas (BG), the UK’s third-largest energy company, increasing its annual gas output above the combined output of its nearest competitors, Chevron and ExxonMobil. The GBP47 billion purchase will give Shell access to lucrative projects in Australia and Tanzania, while the biggest windfall will come from BG’s Brazil operations, whose output is expected to quadruple in the next five years. After the deal, estimates indicate that Shell will sell up to 50 million tons of LNG annually by 2020, slightly less than the annual domestic consumption of Ukraine and Poland combined.

An LNG tanker docks at a terminal.  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

An LNG tanker docks at a terminal. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Road-rail tunnel between Denmark and Germany to be world’s longest

Construction of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, an eleven-mile underwater highway and rail tunnel linking Germany and Denmark, is expected to begin in the summer of 2015. The tunnel would allow travelers to bypass current, less direct road and ferry routes, decreasing the time required to travel from mainland Europe to Copenhagen and Stockholm.