Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Clarity and vision: Geopolitical Compass' future

GPC's new logo (Oct. 2013)
By Bradley Cole

When I first created this blog in 2013, it was primarily to exercise and read deeper into international affairs that I wouldn't have otherwise done throughout the summer. In addition, it gave a platform for others to discuss, endorse and connect with ideas and philosophies.

One of the defining moments for the creation of the blog was the Edward Snowden case which acclaimed a lot of media and social comment. When such an event dominates the news wire for weeks on end, information and misinformation become abundant.

As news companies try to establish their niché in the media ecosystem, many will  try to appeal to what the reader wants to hear. This has a danger - the human mind is fascinated by outrageous and anti-conventional literature - and as a consequence, rhetoric and hyperbole come to dominate certain news outlets.

It was shortly after this blog's first post that a key geopolitical event occurred. On July 3rd 2013, the former President of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi, was expelled from his position as President of Egypt. Geopolitical Compass seeked to analyse, condense and predict the following events.

In the article, "What now after Morsi?", it was predicted that the expulsion of the Muslim Brotherhood from mainstream politics would turn extremist elements of Islamist salafism to armed conflict. The relative destabilization of the Sinai region proved this. As a consequence, this set the direction of Geopolitical Compass - going from a piece of opinion to a place to condense world affairs.

Along the summer, I had been in the process of recruiting talented, skilled writers with an infectious interest into International Relations. David Stanton has produced consistent, high-quality articles that adhere to the very nature of how international politics be addressed. These are to be clear, concise, informative and above all - objective - giving true clarity and vision on complex issues.

Another dimension to achieve this is through Geopolitical Snapshot. The very nature of this feature is to condense in bite-size chunks the more important states and nations at a specific point in time and for them to be a point of focus.

The spread of the blog and the feedback received by various readers and followers spurred on the development of the blog and fueled the foundation for greater and more ambitious ideas.

Once more, the proliferation of the blog and reaching readers across all continents, from New Zealand to Iceland, from Japan to Brazil, was a particular highlight and encapsulated the grand idea of Geopolitical Compass.

The evolution of these ideas to cover world affairs mean that a blog, as it stands, is insufficient to satisfy the ambitious ideas that are in motion. As a result, Geopolitical Compass will be moving from a blog to a website, with its own registered domain.

This is one of many steps that Geopolitical Compass will take and is a transitionary period. With change, comes motivation and the reorganization of Geopolitical Compass will see better and higher quality articles on our new website.

With that, we also hope to gather more writers who share the same vision as us, to comprehensively filter the noise of the world into a single, tangible note that can be understood and related to.

The details of the new website will be posted on this blog shortly, once beta-testing for the new website has finished.

Monday, 21 October 2013

United Kingdom: The question of Scottish independence

Since winning assembly elections in 2011, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond pledged the promise of a Scottish referendum
Photo: Alamy 

It is unlikely that full independence will be achieved but political history and recent trends gravitate toward a Union based on autonomy away from Westminster.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Geopolitical Snapshot - 20.10.13

Geopolitical Snapshot seeks to condense world affairs by focussing its lens on regions and countries of relative strategic value. The world continuously changes on a daily basis so in order to properly manage and assess the geopolitical landscape, analysis must be condensed on the prominent pillars of international politics at any given time. In this installment, Geopolitical Snapshot will focus on the United States, Italy, Angola/Congo, Syria, Somalia, Iran, China and Russia.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Saudi Arabia: Consolidating regional uncertainty

Saudi Arabia finds itself in strategic complexities amid US-Iran rapprochement
Photo: AP 

On Oct 18, the Saudi government rejected a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council. The government was cited as saying that the Security Council was incapable of ending wars and resolving conflicts. However, this diplomatic maneuver illustrates the difficult position Saudi Arabia finds itself in the region.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Korean Peninsula - North Korea aims to expand Special Economic Zones

The North Korean regime will aim to attract foreign investors to help in its depleting economy
NASA/Satellite Images 

North Korea's ambition of establishing new special economic zones in order to facilitate foreign investment highlights subtle desperation of Pyongyang.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Geography, culture and power: The prism of geopolitics

The inter-connectivity between geography, culture and power starts with geography. Even before organized society, humanity would bundle collectively to survive the testaments of nature. Tribes would form primarily on the basis that coherent interaction with one another on the foundation of mutual struggle for water, food and shelter would bind them unconditionally.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Nairobi Aftermath - The state of al Shabaab

a Shabaab militants train in Somalia in conflict against Kenyan forces
Feisal Omar/Reuters 

The attack in on the Westgate shopping mall represents a change in direction and strategy for the al Shabaab group.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Assessing the impact of the UK-US special relationship

A motion to engage in military intervention in Syria was opposed by the UK's main opposition party on Aug 30
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire 
Whilst Washington's plan to establish a Coalition for a possible military intervention in Syria was interrupted by the United Kingdom's refusal to get involved in the conflict, it is unlikely that this will affect the bilateral relations for the long-term future.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Syria - Intelligence report released (PDF)

Below is the intelligence report compiled by security officials of the United States of America. We feel it is beneficial given the current developments in Syria and will be of interest to our readers. The report is in PDF form and will require Adobe Acrobat to open.

The bigger picture of the Syrian Civil War

Chemical weapons usage is a "red-line" for means of intervention in Syria
Reuters/Bassam Khabieh

On Aug 29, the British Parliament voted against intervention in Syria. For a long-standing, close and special ally to the US, it comes as a surprise that it would seem that the UK will not partake in action against the Assad regime given its previous involvement in the Arab Spring. Nevertheless, there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the Cameron government is dealing with a shell-shocked, war weary public that wishes to see budget and expenditure geared towards domestic adventures. Secondly, it must respect the democratic process that the Prime Minister has gambled its foreign policy on. Given the general public distrust and sentiment, particularly to matters relating to intelligence, the opposition, Labour, in the House of Commons felt that not enough evidence to warrant intervention at this point had been collected. Even so, British absence in the intervention won't stop the US, so what are the options for the US in fulfilling its red-line condition?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Egyptian Crisis - Options for the U.S.

A boy sits on a traffic sgnal holding the Egytian national flag during protests against ousted President Morsi

The recent military crackdown against supporters or recently ousted president Mohammed Morsi has dominated the news cycle over the last several days.  The Egyptian military is currently showing zero tolerance for anyone who opposes its recent ousting of Morsi and has responded with deadly force against protesters.  This has naturally raised eyebrows in the state department, but in a similar fashion to the attitude displayed over the last two years, the US has been extremely reluctant to engage in the crisis fully.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The U.S.-Russian narrative

Obama and Putin meet at G20 Summit in Mexico

On Aug 7, the White House gave a formal notice that President Obama would not be meeting, bilaterally, President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and will instead make a two day visit to Sweden. Popular opinion suggests that the Edward Snowden is the source of Obama's diversion to Moscow but there are far more complexities in the relations between Moscow and Washington that make the geopolitical landscape chilly.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Argentina: Renewal of the Falklands Islands claim

Cristina Fernández speaks during national address
Eduardo Di Bala/AP 

Yesterday President Christina Kirchner of Argentina was invited to the United Nations Security Council, where Argentina currently has a two-year term as a non-permanent member and currently presiding as council President.  Somewhat unsurprisingly, President Kirchner used her time to discuss one of her country’s most prominent disputes at this point in time, the issue of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. This has been in light of yet another refusal by the UK to discuss the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Sitrep: Syria: Saudi Arabia offers Russia incentives to scale back Assad support

Saudi Arabia has offered economic incentives including a major arms deal along with Saudi Arabia's insistence to not compete with Russian gas sales. This is conditional so long as Moscow scales back on its support for the Syrian regime, reuters reported on Aug 7.

The proposed deal has been constructed by Saudi Intelligence direction Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. Russia has supported the proxy war that sees the al-Assad regime as strategic importance in the Middle East. Likewise, the Saudi Arabian government sees a Syrian aligned with Iran as detrimental to its regional hegemony. The deal will tempt the Russian administration, as its strategy has been to further its influence through natural gas contracts, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Israel & Palestine - Back at the negotiating table and key issues explained

Hamas security forces standing guard in Gaza, December 2010
Image: Ali Ali/EPA
After two years of virtually no dialogue between the Israeli state and the Palestine National Authority, members of the Israeli and Palestinian delegations are finally meeting in Washington DC to discuss Palestinian statehood, largely due to the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Gibraltar - Ever growing friction between the UK and Spain

Countries with domestic grievances will often try to focus their attention on foreign entities.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Geopolitical Snapshot - 05.08.13

Geopolitical Snapshot seeks to condense world affairs by focussing its lens on regions and countries of relative strategic value. The world continuously changes on a daily basis so in order to properly manage and assess the geopolitical landscape, analysis must be condensed on the prominent pillars of international politics at any given time.  In this installment, Geopolitical Snapshot will focus Iran, Spain, Italy, India, Yemen and Taiwan.

Sitrep: USA - Al-qaeda message intercepted

Over the past several days, the various U.S. embassies including French, British and German embassies have closed amid security concerns in North Africa, Middle East and Greater Middle East. The diplomatic installations were closed in consideration of an intercepted al-Qaeda message. The decision to close the embassies also took into account the growing threats emerging in Yemen, the near-end of Ramadan and concern over various prison breaks across the region. On Aug 3, India's consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan was a victim of an attack, killing 9 civilians.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Situational Report - Kashmir - 27.07.13

A Pakistani army soldier has been killed and one other injured in "unprovoked" firing by Indian troops. The attack took place in the "Line of Control" monitored by the UN in the disputed territory of Kashmir, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) claimed, Dawn reported. The incident took place in the region of Rawlakot Nezapir.

Friday, 26 July 2013

China - Slowing growth and political challenges

Consumerism and urbanization will dominate China in the next decade
Forbes/Kenneth Rapoza 
The Chinese economy has benefited tremendously from decades of a low-wage, export-based system that has allowed it to consistently to grow. Recently, China has explored its economic and foreign strategic interests in exploring markets that are not so crowded in Africa and Central/Southern Americas. Most crucially, however, is China's territorial claims to the South China Sea which forecasted, by 2025, will consist of nearly half of the world's GDP passing through the maritime territories of Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. As a consequence of its development, it is a major power and will continue to be so.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Mexico - The drug war of attrition

A Mexican soldier guards acquired contraband
Image: David Maung/Bloomberg News
Mexico has the geography and culture to attract a many variety of tourists around the globe, particularly college students in the Texas/Arizona region during spring-break. Whilst Mexico is famed for its blistering sun and its vibrant history and culture, it carries a burden of infamy as a consequence of institutionalized transnational organized crime.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The importance of human terrain - Iraq and Afghanistan

Human terrain analysis has been the apex of American counterinsurgency
Image: mydailyclarity.com/2009/07/is-afghanistan-obamas-waterloo
For much of the 19th and 20th century, the economy of force or the greater propensity of force was seen and attempted to accommodate the laws of mathematics. That is, if one side has X amount of force and their adversary Y amount of force, if X is greater than Y, then the side with X amount of force has the advantage. This was otherwise called Lanchester's laws. However, in asymmetrical warfare, this linear relationship between force, utility and advantage is thrown out of the window and the real economy of force is through the population. Or, as we shall otherwise call it - "the human terrain".

Friday, 12 July 2013

Geopolitical Snapshot - 12.07.13

The security and political situation in the Middle East has dominated many commentators
Image: harvardpolitics.com
The international narrative has focussed on two most abundant covered states - Egypt and Syria. The former being the more documented of the two. Nevertheless, the shockwaves across the Middle Eastern region has been the centre spot for Geopolitical Compass this week. In other areas, Portugal's Anibal Cavaco Silva has tried to glue national unity in proposing a cross-party agreement to support austerity measures. In another Portuguese speaking nation, Brazil, nationwide union-strikes have led to clashes between police forces and protesters. Geopolitical Snapshot seeks to summarize the weeks events and comprehensively forecast the implications of the week.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Syria - Homs offensive and greater security

al-Qaeda Iraq (State of Iraq and the Levant) has declared its affiliation with the Jabhat al-Nusra Front
Image: telegraph.co.uk 
With the Syrian regime forces expelling the Rebels from the Qusair region and eradicating key sector strongholds, the Syrian regime will now focus on neutralizing rebel activity and presence in the city of Homs itself. Homs is seen as an area of key strategic value to the government forces as they attempt to separation opposition-held areas and establish links between the capital and coastal strongholds. Meanwhile, the fragmented state and intense fighting has allowed transnational, non-state jihadist actors to slip into the power vacuum with concerns as to the possibility of attaining chemical weapons and their possible usage against the international community.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Egypt - Addressing instability

The Egyptian military has traditionally been the strongest institution in Egypt
 Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The ousting of President Morsi has led to many people questioning - what now? Geopolitical Compass has already covered the short-term effects of Morsi's removal but what are the long term consequences? What was once fuelled with optimism in Tahrir square has slowly descended into violence, instability and a negative backlash to the recent and first democratically elected President. The centralization of state power is paramount for political and social stability, given the nature of Egypt's declining economic situation - it would only make logical sense that the strongest institution in the country spearheads through the nation's crisis to prevent further polarization of Egyptian politics.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Security, Sovereignty and Strategy - Exploring Unmanned Warfare

MQ-1 Predator in action 

Unmanned aerial vehicles (or as mainstream refer to them as "drones") have received particularly controversy among scholars and thinkers into the conduct of the War on Terror. Whilst George W. Bush initially started the use of UAVs to target-specific individuals in the rocky, mountainous Pak-Afghan border, under the Obama administration the use of UAV as a component in the War against Terror has grown substantially. What, then, is the source for this controversy and how does one answer the questions of target-specific individuals, breaches of national sovereignty and the consequences of this strategy?

Friday, 5 July 2013

Korean Peninsula - Simmering tensions

Kaesong industrial complex, North/South Korea
Press handout/Reuters 

The Korean Peninsula is no stranger to heightened tensions. With the recent agreement by North Korea to re-engage talks with South Korea over its shared industrial part, Kaesong factory, boiling tensions between the two adversarial states may begin to relatively cool in the forthcoming weeks.

Analysis - Summer of discontent and polarizing politics

More than 200,000 marched in major Brazilian cities
AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

Protest. The very buzzword has dominated transnational media for the past few months, the question is why and how connected are all these instances? A multitude of different actors are in varying amounts of intensity in opposition to their government.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Egypt - What now after Morsi?

Tamarod movement in Egypt is primarily defined by its opposition to President Morsi
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
On July 3, the Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that the country's president, Mohammad Morsi, had been removed because of failure to bring stability and address popular civil unrest. In turn, the Egyptian constitution had been suspended and the chief of the country's constitutional court will assume presidency until elections are ready to be deployed. In wake of this, the military has been deployed in key tactical sectors in and around Cairo to dilute tensions between Pro-Morsi and Anti-Morsi demonstrators. The unrest has been primarily spearheaded by those opposed to Morsi's presidency also known as the Tamarod movement. The Tamarod movement is an umbrella term to encompass those who are in opposition to Morsi's presidency and doesn't, at this point in time, have a unified political objective.

Edward Snowden - What does this mean for privacy and security in the information age?

Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, 2013 being interviewed by the Guardian press

A popular quotation has been thrown around in light of the recent leaked communications methodology provided by Edward Snowden - "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety". Attributed by one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Benjamin Franklin, what do we define as essential liberty and is safety and security a non-fixed entity, anyway? The two concepts rely on whether liberty is negative or positive, freedom from external restraint and freedom from internal restraint respectfully.  We can define Benjamin Franklin as a classical liberal and with that, a definition of liberty under the countenance of negative freedom. So, then, how does one guarantee an individual is free from barriers that obscure their human security without taking away liberty temporarily in order to achieve societal security and order?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Geopolitical Compass - Intro

Why the blog?

In the information age in which we live in, individual interaction with the greater world has never been easier nor so accessible. Within a few clicks and commands at relatively little cost and effort, an individual is able to paveway ideas that can inform, resonate and connect to other individuals with no indefinite, physical limit. In a sense, individuals have been able to create their own media; top-tier, transnational media organizations which spearhead the ship of globalization are becoming blunted by the proliferation of news sources across the globe in the public domain. In this regard, I felt it would be a shame not be part of such a phenomenon and being caught in vicious cycles of political thought and argumentum, I came to the conclusion that constructing a platform of my views on the anarchic, geopolitical world. Naturally, this is also perfect time to practice my writing as I'm currently reading a degree in International Relations with a post-degree objective of attaining work in client risk management in the context of political and security risk. My blog will be me "thinking out-loud" on the events that shape our society today, ranging from the rise of xenophobia in Eastern Europe, counterinsurgency in the Middle East, intelligence studies, operations to observing the shifts and swings of the balance of power between the nations that dominate international political discourse.