The last week outside of Westminster has seen the eyes of the world shift towards the horrifying events occurring within Syria. Following the failure of a U.N resolution due to lack of Chinese and Russian support, Syrian president Assad’s forces have continued their shelling on the rebel stronghold of Homs.
After making claims the U.N had been ‘neutered’ by the double vetoes U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for ‘friends of democratic Syria’ to unite against the embattled Syrian dictator. Russian and China have opposed the resolution as they believe it amounts to ‘regime change’, not an expression the leadership of either nation is probably particularly fond of.
Furthermore, unlike in Libya where rebel forces had substantial international military support, rebels in Syria are finding themselves under increasing pressure from government forces.
With the death toll on Thursday alone estimated to reach at least around 100 and American dismissals of Russian suggestions for government-opposition peace talks, it seems like a potential reinstatement of the Arab League mission that was abandoned last month may be one of the few pathways forward.
Whether this mission of empathetic democrats or a meeting between the embattled Syrian dictator and a furious and war-torn rebel leadership can produce something unexpected is unlikely, however with the civilian death toll in particular rising it may be the only choice available.
One place where regime change is on the agenda is in the island nation of the Maldives. Following his resignation this week an arrest warrant has been issued for former president Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed is famous for his green credentials, demonstrated on one occasion by having a cabinet meeting in scuba gear underwater.
Despite claiming he was forced into resigning by Maldives security forces his successor Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik claims he has told the warrant not to be carried out until it ‘becomes necessary’ for Nasheed’s personal safety.
As supporters of Nasheed clash with security forces and counter-protestors Amnesty International have argued little is being done to protect people loyal to their former president.
Despite the warrant for his arrest Nasheed has continued to argue his case, claiming he was forced to resign at gunpoint with the full knowledge of his successor following his arrest of a high powered judge. Hassan and the military both deny this account as the new president argues he is trying to bring stability to the country.
With such an important tourist destination in political turmoil they will certainly have the western world watching developments very closely.
From regime change to frightened democrats and Greece has agreed new austerity measures required to gain a new £110 billion bailout.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced the plans after days of talks with his coalition partners despite the actions being deeply unpopular amongst the general public (sound familiar?).
The last cuts in the nation caused serious protest and unrest and it is likely the new spending policies will trigger much of the same. The IMF are currently seeking assurances that any change in government in April’s election will not affect the plans coming into place.
Aside from economic issues social issues are back on the agenda in both Uganda and the U.S.A.
The African nation has defended its right to debate a bill that could see homosexuals given life imprisonment, drawing criticism from Western leaders including President Obama. Earlier versions of the bill had called for the death penalty to be applied to those who engaged in homosexual acts where one of the participants was underage, HIV positive or disabled.
Despite claims it merely represents the more conservative Ugandan attitude to homosexuality, the UK and US have argued that aid to the nation is dependent on their acceptance of these minority rights; however, what progressive American political commentator Rachel Maddow once described as the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill may well be debated.
With the state of Ugandan prisons even life imprisonment merely for being homosexual has been described by one leading Ugandan gay rights activist as ‘as good as the death penalty’. Despite undoubtedly having some support from within Uganda anyone who believes in justice for minorities will be hoping the bill is merely an act of political bravado, rather than something that could become serious policy.
Social issues in the U.S have come to the forefront following contraception arguments between the Obama administration and elements of the catholic church that have seen former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum win a clean sweep of the Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado Republican primaries.
Following his easy well-funded win in the Florida primary former Massachusetts Governor and political chameleon Mitt Romney was expected to defeat Santorum, however strong support amongst the ‘blue-collar’ Republicans and energised evangelicals may be the cause of his unexpected success.
The success creates more questions about frontrunner Romney’s ‘inevitability’ as GOP candidate after taking a political mauling from both Newt Gingrich and the former Senator. Whether Santorum’s radical social policies or former support for earmarks can be used by big-spending Romney to his advantage remains to be seen.
As President Obama sees his approval rating growing stronger for the first time since the killing of Bin Laden it may be the protracted primary battle is hurting the Republicans more and more. Santorum’s win also moves him to the front of the ‘Anti-Romney’ platform as the candidate to defeat the flip-flopping New Englander.
Past elections suggest despite improving employment figures Obama should be in a dire re-election scenario, however a strong likability rating and a poor set of opposing candidates with clear weaknesses mean the only 2012 apocalypse we could see is the Republican Presidential campaign.
Finally further south the delightful Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has complained about increasing British militarisation of the Falklands/Malvinas argument following the arrival of the destroyer HMS Dauntless and more dangerously, Prince William.
Kirchner, who is under increasing (or perhaps decreasing) scrutiny for her clampdown on national media is set to make a formal complaint to the United Nations. The move is being described by Downing Street as ‘routine’ but amid rising tensions in the region, Argentina does not see it that way.
• Is François Hollande the next president of France? – Jack Storry, February 9th 2012
• GOP enters the Santorum quagmire as a brokered convention looms – Daniel Elton, February 8th 2012
• Amidst the burning flesh of Homs, Syrians plead: “We are getting slaughtered, save us” – Shamik Das, February 7th 2012
• As order breaks down in Syria, its Christians suffer the consequences – Ed Jacobs, February 7th 2012
• Romney bizarrely pleased that Donald Trump has endorsed him – Alex Hern, February 3rd 2012