Britain says EU no more in historic referendum

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In a surprising and historic move, Britain has voted to leave the European Union. It is important to note that this has been the decision of ordinary Brits and not by those Eurocrats whose leadership is unpopular across Europe.  EU bureaucrats be warned: if Britain who’s not as affected by the so-called peripheral countries can do it, all the more by those countries that are at the mercy of severe austerity and left to guess what Brussels is up to next.

For the uninformed, how important was this decision? Remember that the European Union project has its roots in the post-World War II economic integration, with the goal of avoiding conflict in Europe. The EU project has fulfilled this purpose quite decently in the past 60 years. It has allowed the free movement of people within the Eurozone, created a common currency (not joined by Britain), established preferential trade among member states, and most importantly the preservation of peace in the continent.

But as the unelected predatory capitalists leaders in Brussels became increasingly more focused on unnecessary bureaucracy and squeezed the life out of ordinary Eurozone citizens as banks “too big to fail” have received privileges despite their enormous failures, the Brits in this Brexit referendum clearly confirmed they have had enough.

To be fair with the British people, they have been half-footed in the EU from the beginning. Perhaps the most obvious indication is their separate currency from the Euro, as well as its non-observance of the Schengen Agreement, which allows the free movement of EU nationals without the usual hassle of traveling to other countries.

The decision to leave the EU will be not be smooth for sure. The initial euphoria the referendum created will have to come to terms with the consequences of opposing the Remain vote. Already, for instance, the conservative party in Britain has hinted it will invoke Article 50 where Britain will be faced with years of ‘proper exits’ through possibly endless renegotiations.

Elsewhere in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Brexit referendum “a break in Europe’s history” and that it reflects “a fundamental doubt about the current direction of European integration.”

Some British mainstream media have already propagandized a few interesting points in the Brexit referendum. For instance, some news outlets have already downplayed the public’s decision as uninformed with headlines like “Brits frantically searched what the EU means hours after voting out of the EU” and that the “EU will treat Britain like Greece.” Such fear mongering should not be surprising as before the referendum London’s mouthpiece media have already done their part to dissuade the British public from bailing out of the EU.

And of course, Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has already intensified the drama when he resigned the next day. In a visibly emotional speech, Cameron stated that “I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safe and better off inside the EU… (But) the British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.”  Indeed, the man who proclaimed “Assad must go” became the man who would go first.

2016: What’s ahead for the world?

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By and large the previous year was a year of crisis escalation, brought forth by the emergence of new sources of tension not only in diplomacy but also in actual military conflict. On the one hand, fresh sources of armed engagement and humanitarian issues had world leaders worried overnight (ISIS beyond Syria and Iraq, Russian intervention in Syria, migrant crisis in Europe). These events were not predicted before 2015.

2016 will be marked by an increase in local conflicts, like in Ukraine and in the Arabian Peninsula where the rift between Sunni and Shia Muslims will intensify. In fact, as of press time, Saudi Arabia has cut off all diplomatic ties with Iran, the latter infuriated over the execution of a prominent Shia cleric. It is expected to be joined by other Sunni majority countries in the Middle East. This year might just be the time for the spreading of these conflicts to more states.

The presidential elections in the United States will put on hold major foreign policy decisions, as the American public gets distracted by the convoluted race to the White House. As for the exiting American president, Obama will protect what he has accomplished in 2015, including the rapprochement with Iran and Cuba.

As the United States continues to be rejected in many areas of the world, the leadership vacuum that it will create will give opportunities to other major powers, and with it, a new era of anti-West geopolitics will emerge. The post-American century is an irreversible occurrence now as other major powers like Russia, China, and Brazil take on responsibilities beyond their typical spheres of influence. In the military sphere, Russia has re-entered the Middle East in a big way, while China will now formally launch the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), aimed at rivaling the IMF and World Bank.

The global economy is expected to be ‘disappointing and uneven’ in 2016 because of the continuing slowdown in China, sluggishness in world trade, the threat of rising interest rates in the US, the ongoing fall of oil prices, and the vulnerability of emerging economies to absorb economic shocks, according to the IMF.

General elections will take place in Taiwan, a Western-backed state that is unsure about its identity vis-à-vis China. The emerging leader might give Beijing fresh fears regarding the longstanding One-China policy. The UK public will go to the polls to decide whether to stay or leave the European Union, while in the Philippines, presidential elections will decide whether a future leader will continue to provoke China and further impress the United States for its own benefit.

Islamic State (ISIS) is expected to be put on hold territorially in Syria and Iraq, thanks to Russia’s military intervention. However, it might gain influence beyond the region as other terrorist groups (like Boko Haram in Nigeria, and other groups from Somalia to terror groups in South East Asia) pledge their allegiance to Daesh.

The United States and NATO will further infuriate Moscow as it decides on sending nuclear weapons to Poland, a former Warsaw Pact member. As a result of Washington’s antagonizing policies in Europe, Russia will further invest in its armed forces, which might trigger a new, expensive, and unnecessary arms race in continental Europe.

Europe’s most powerful leader, Angela Merkel, is expected to leave office after three successive terms. What this might mean for Europe is a change in policy towards Russia (sanctions), the migrant crisis, the German commitment to the entire Eurozone project and Berlin’s attitude towards economically and socially troubled states like Spain, Greece, and Italy.

Europe an Ally, but an Enemy as well?

This week will see the European Summit discuss a quite unusual issue: that of America’s snooping on its allies. Barely a week has passed since the revelations that America’s NSA tapped on government phone calls from Spain and France, and now we have Germany’s top leader Angela Merkel to add to this sorry list of compromised allies.

The fresh NSA leaks showed that the NSA has been tapping on the Chancellor’s phone calls as far back as 2002.

This recent revelation by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden infuriated both Paris and Berlin, where Merkel was quoted saying “Spying between friends—that’s just not done.” “I said that to US President Barack Obama when he came to Berlin and again on the phone [Wednesday],” Merkel said.

As hard-hitting as these relationship snippets between the Western allies are, the mood and tone Britain is quite disconnected from its European friends.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was more worried about how these things are revealed in the first place, expressing concerns that the Snowden leak “is frankly signaling to people who mean to do us harm how to evade and avoid detection”, citing the recent Kenya mall massacre. He added that “it (revelation) is going to make our world more dangerous”.

Just a few days ago, a conservative British politician called for the prosecution of the paper Guardian for publishing NSA documents and “aiding terrorism and endangering national security.” The fear-mongering official diverted the issue of America spying on its allies and instead argued that “once an adversary knows if and how we can read their communications, they will change their behavior.”

Rewind just a couple of weeks ago and you end up opening your morning papers with the less-publicized furry of Brazil’s president Dilma Roueseff over similar NSA accusations. And if you go back a decade ago, you end up with a leaked NSA memo calling for increased “surveillance of and interception of phone calls and emails from United Nations delegations crucial to the (then) upcoming Security Council (Iraq invasion) vote.”

“Everyone spies on friends”

Surprisingly for a conflict-hungry leader, Obama pacified Merkel’s anger, saying he did not know about the spying. The same air brushing language was employed by the president earlier this year: “We should stipulate that every intelligence service —not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service — here’s one thing that they’re going to be doing: They’re going to be trying to understand the world better, and what’s going on in world capitals around the world…If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service.”

However, these days, not even his allies are impressed. French president Francois Hollande demanded the US to immediately stop any more eavesdropping, saying “we cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies.”

Snowden’s status in Russia

It was August 1 when the NSA whistleblower was granted his application to seek temporary political asylum in Russia. He has since left the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow and his whereabouts are not disclosed, although it is believed Edward Snowden might now intend to apply for full refugee status.

According to Veronika Krasheninnkova, Director General of Institute of Foreign Political Studies and Initiatives in Moscow, Russia has no choice but to grant Snowden asylum.

The Director said “this is the decision made by an independent sovereign state. Additionally, well, Russia has been left without much choice. Mr. Snowden’s passport was cancelled when he was on Russia’s territory. And furthermore when President Obama said on June 27 that he would not send fighter jets to intercept the plane transporting Mr. Snowden, and only a few days later indeed a plane was intercepted with the President of Bolivia Eva Morales on the suspicion that Mr. Snowden was on board. So in this situation it was very difficult to conduct negotiations with Washington. I think that was the only right thing to do and Russia did it.”

She also added that “what is appalling in this situation in the United States is that a young man who helped the government to fight against glaring violations of American constitutional law and International Laws instead of being helped by the government is being prosecuted. Well, that is, and President Obama who as a trained constitutional lawyer  definitely knows the Constitution, well, it is too bad that they have to face hundreds plus years of prison rather than indeed being helping those cases being investigated and the true perpetrators of these violations being punished.”