Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Syria, Debt Negotiations, Hezbollah, Russia, Piers Morgan

1) Syria
The defection by the head of Syria's Military Police to the rebels represents another step towards Assad's collapse. As I predicted a few weeks ago (I speak at - 10.32, 15.23, 22.25), defections will increase as momentum continues to root more firmly with the rebels.  While because of the sectarian make up of Assad's power base, certain elite units are unlikely to withdraw their support for the dictator, Assad's days are nonetheless numbered. He simply has insufficient financial, military and popular power to sustain against the rebel onslaught. The United States must exert increased pressure on Russia to end their support for his regime. We want to ensure that he departs Syria as quickly and bloodlessly as possible.

2) Debt Negotiations
President Obama's return to Washington is as much a political stunt as it is a gesture towards resolving the debt impasse. He should never have gone to Hawaii amidst such a serious financial crisis. Unless Obama is willing to offer Boehner serious entitlement reforms and unless Boehner offers Obama increased tax revenues, there will be no deal. Hopefully we can get some kind of short term deal to avoid the sequester cuts. With regards to defense, I have argued that these cuts would be catastrophic. A short term deal is far from ideal. However, perhaps the new Congress can act more seriously than its predecessor?

3) Hezbollah Christmas Message
Hezbollah's greeting to Christians illustrates the importance that the group places on the maintenance of a cross-sectarian support base. The organization seeks to maintain an image of a Shia liberator allied to the ambitions of ''the oppressed" across the Middle East - not just for Shia, but for all. The problem for Hezbollah is that by supporting Assad's continuing murder in Syria they have undercut this narrative. Ultimately, I still believe that Hezbollah will abandon Assad before the end. The truth is that Hezbollah is an extremist terrorist group dedicated to the assertion of an authoritarian and fundamentalist Shia theology. They might have a better PR strategy than Al Qa'ida, but their pretense of affinity for democracy is not real.

4) Russia
Putin's Russia offers the US no meaningful relationship. We must be much tougher on Putin. I will have an opinion piece on this issue in the coming days.

5) Piers Morgan
The deportation petition against Piers Morgan is stupid. He is lawfully present in the United States and he has the right to freedom of speech. True freedom of speech doesn't exist in the UK. We must ensure it continues to exist here.

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