domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2015

La Trampa de Tucídides

¿Cómo sería el mundo sin la permanente invocación a la guerra global por parte de la potencia imperial declinante o la austeridad genocida impuesta por los parásitos financieros desparramados por todo el G-20? China tiene una idea, chicos. A continuación reproducimos una interesante nota de Pepe Escobar para publicada el 22 de Noviembre de este año. El autor vuelve sobre un tema caro a los lectores de Astroboy: las nuevas Rutas de la Seda, terrestres y marítimas, que vienen siendo propuestas, diseñadas y financiadas desde el Lejano Oriente a partir de comienzos de este siglo.

Conviene, primero, elucidar el concepto que esconde el título de este post, “La Trampa de Tucídides”. En un artículo publicado en La Nación el 4 de Octubre de este año, Federico Merke lo define de esta manera: “El profesor Graham Allison, reconocido por su estudio de la crisis de los misiles cubanos, ha popularizado la metáfora de la "trampa de Tucídides", nombre de su reciente proyecto presentado desde el Centro Belfer de la Universidad de Harvard. La metáfora describe la tensión recurrente que se genera entre un Estado en la cima del poder y otro Estado en ascenso. Esta tensión fue señalada en el siglo V a.C. por Tucídides, historiador y militar ateniense, en su agudo análisis de la guerra del Peloponeso. En sus palabras, "fue el ascenso de Atenas y el temor que esto inspiró a Esparta lo que hizo inevitable la guerra". Desde entonces, una extensa tradición intelectual, el realismo, ha sostenido que la historia de la política internacional puede ser descripta como una competencia entre potencias declinantes y potencias en ascenso.”

Ahora sí, pasamos a la nota de Pepe Escobar:

Título: Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?

Subítulo: Silk Roads, Night Trains and the Third Industrial Revolution in China

Texto: The US is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.

The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled 13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least 2020.

It also sanctifies an updated economic formula for the country: out with a model based on low-wage manufacturing of export goods and in with the shock of the new, namely, a Chinese version of the third industrial revolution. And while China’s leadership is focused on creating a middle-class future powered by a consumer economy, its president is telling whoever is willing to listen that, despite the fears of the Obama administration and of some of the country’s neighbors, there’s no reason for war ever to be on the agenda for the US and China.

Given the alarm in Washington about what is touted as a Beijing quietly pursuing expansionism in the South China Sea, Xi has been remarkably blunt on the subject of late. Neither Beijing nor Washington, he insists, should be caught in the Thucydides trap, the belief that a rising power and the ruling imperial power of the planet are condemned to go to war with each other sooner or later.

It was only two months ago in Seattle that Xi told a group of digital economy heavyweights, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

A case can be made – and Xi’s ready to make it – that Washington, which, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya to Syria, has gained something of a reputation for “strategic miscalculation” in the twenty-first century, might be doing it again. After all, US military strategy documents and top Pentagon figures have quite publicly started to label China (like Russia) as an official “threat.”

To grasp why Washington is starting to think of China that way, however, you need to take your eyes off the South China Sea for a moment, turn off Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the rest of the posse, and consider the real game-changer – or “threat” – that’s rattling Beltway nerves in Washington when it comes to the new Great Game in Eurasia.

Xi’s Bedside Reading

Swarms of Chinese tourists iPhoning away and buying everything in sight in major Western capitals already prefigure a Eurasian future closely tied to and anchored by a Chinese economy turbo-charging toward that third industrial revolution. If all goes according to plan, it will harness everything from total connectivity and efficient high-tech infrastructure to the expansion of green, clean energy hubs. Solar plants in the Gobi desert, anyone?

Yes, Xi is a reader of economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin, who first conceived of a possible third industrial revolution powered by both the Internet and renewable energy sources.

It turns out that the Chinese leadership has no problem with the idea of harnessing cutting-edge Western soft power for its own purposes. In fact, they seem convinced that no possible tool should be overlooked when it comes to moving the country on to the next stage in the process that China’s Little Helmsman, former leader Deng Xiaoping, decades ago designated as the era in which “to get rich is glorious.”

It helps when you have $4 trillion in foreign currency reserves and massive surpluses of steel and cement. That’s the sort of thing that allows you to go “nation-building” on a pan-Eurasian scale. Hence, Xi’s idea of creating the kind of infrastructure that could, in the end, connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. It’s what the Chinese call “One Belt, One Road”; that is, the junction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty-First Century Maritime Silk Road.

Since Xi announced his One Belt, One Road policy in Kazakhstan in 2013, Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Hong Kong estimates that the state has ploughed more than $250 billion into Silk Road-oriented projects ranging from railways to power plants. Meanwhile, every significant Chinese business player is on board, from telecom equipment giant Huawei to e-commerce monster Alibaba (fresh from itsSingles Day online blockbuster). The Bank of China has already provided a $50 billion credit line for myriad Silk Road-related projects. China’s top cement-maker Anhui Conch is building at least six monster cement plants in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Laos. Work aimed at tying the Asian part of Eurasia together is proceeding at a striking pace. For instance, the China-Laos, China-Thailand, and Jakarta-Bandung railways – contracts worth over $20 billion – are to be completed by Chinese companies before 2020.

With business booming, right now the third industrial revolution in China looks ever more like a mad scramble toward a new form of modernity.

A Eurasian “War on Terror”

The One Belt, One Road plan for Eurasia reaches far beyond the Rudyard Kipling-coined nineteenth century phrase “the Great Game,” which in its day was meant to describe the British-Russian tournament of shadows for the control of Central Asia. At the heart of the twenty-first century’s Great Game lies China’s currency, the yuan, which may, by November 30th, join the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights reserve-currency basket. If so, this will in practice mean the total integration of the yuan, and so of Beijing, into global financial markets, as an extra basket of countries will add it to their foreign exchange holdings and subsequent currency shifts may amount to the equivalent of trillions of US dollars.

Couple the One Belt, One Road project with the recently founded, China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Beijing’s Silk Road Infrastructure Fund ($40 billion committed to it so far). Mix in an internationalized yuan and you have the groundwork for Chinese companies to turbo-charge their way into a pan-Eurasian (and even African) building spree of roads, high-speed rail lines, fiber-optic networks, ports, pipelines, and power grids.

According to the Washington-dominated Asian Development Bank (ADB), there is, at present, a monstrous gap of $800 billion in the funding of Asian infrastructure development to 2020 and it’s yearning to be filled. Beijing is now stepping right into what promises to be a paradigm-breaking binge of economic development.

And don’t forget about the bonuses that could conceivably follow such developments. After all, in China’s stunningly ambitious plans at least, its Eurasian project will end up covering no less than 65 countries on three continents, potentially affecting 4.4 billion people. If it succeeds even in part, it could take the gloss off al-Qaeda- and ISIS-style Wahhabi-influenced jihadism not only in China’s Xinjiang Province, but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Imagine it as a new kind of Eurasian war on terror whose “weapons” would be trade and development. After all, Beijing’s planners expect the country’s annual trade volume with belt-and-road partners to surpass $2.5 trillion by 2025.

At the same time, another kind of binding geography – what I’ve long called Pipelineistan, the vast network of energy pipelines crisscrossing the region, bringing its oil and natural gas supplies to China – is coming into being. It’s already spreading across Pakistan and Myanmar, and China is planning to double down on this attempt to reinforce its escape-from-the-Straits-of-Malacca strategy. (That bottleneck is still a transit point for 75% of Chinese oil imports.) Beijing prefers a world in which most of those energy imports are not water-borne and so at the mercy of the US Navy. More than 50% of China’s natural gas already comes overland from two Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) and that percentage will only increase once pipelines to bring Siberian natural gas to China come online before the end of the decade.

Of course, the concept behind all this, which might be sloganized as “to go west (and south) is glorious” could induce a tectonic shift in Eurasian relations at every level, but that depends on how it comes to be viewed by the nations involved and by Washington.

Leaving economics aside for a moment, the success of the whole enterprise will require superhuman PR skills from Beijing, something not always in evidence. And there are many other problems to face (or duck): these include Beijing’s Han superiority complex, not always exactly a hit among either minority ethnic groups or neighboring states, as well as an economic push that is often seen by China’s ethnic minorities as benefiting only the Han Chinese. Mix in a rising tide of nationalist feeling, the expansion of the Chinese military (including its navy), conflict in its southern seas, and a growing security obsession in Beijing. Add to that a foreign policy minefield, which will work against maintaining a carefully calibrated respect for the sovereignty of neighbors. Throw in the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia and its urge both to form anti-Chinese alliances of “containment” and to beef up its own naval and air power in waters close to China. And finally don’t forget red tapeand bureaucracy, a Central Asian staple. All of this adds up to a formidable package of obstacles to Xi’s Chinese dream and a new Eurasia.

All Aboard the Night Train

The Silk Road revival started out as a modest idea floated in China’s Ministry of Commerce. The initial goal was nothing more than getting extra “contracts for Chinese construction companies overseas.” How far the country has traveled since then. Starting from zero in 2003, China has ended up building no less than 16,000 kilometers of high-speed rail tracks in these years – more than the rest of the planet combined.

And that’s just the beginning. Beijing is now negotiating with 30 countries to build another 5,000 kilometers of high-speed rail at a total investment of $157 billion. Cost is, of course, king; a made-in-China high-speed network (top speed: 350 kilometers an hour) costs around $17 million to $21 million per kilometer. Comparable European costs: $25 million to $39 million per kilometer. So no wonder the Chinese are bidding for an $18 billion project linking London with northern England, and another linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas, while outbidding German companies to lay tracks in Russia.

On another front, even though it’s not directly part of China’s new Silk Road planning, don’t forget about the Iran-India-Afghanistan Agreement on Transit and International Transportation Cooperation. This India-Iran project to develop roads, railways, and ports is particularly focused on the Iranian port of Chabahar, which is to be linked by new roads and railways to the Afghan capital Kabul and then to parts of Central Asia.

Why Chabahar? Because this is India’s preferred transit corridor to Central Asia and Russia, as the Khyber Pass in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands, the country’s traditional linking point for this, remains too volatile. Built by Iran, the transit corridor from Chabahar to Milak on the Iran-Afghanistan border is now ready. By rail, Chabahar will then be connected to the Uzbek border at Termez, which translates into Indian products reaching Central Asia and Russia.

Think of this as the Southern Silk Road, linking South Asia with Central Asia, and in the end, if all goes according to plan, West Asia with China. It is part of a wildly ambitious plan for a North-South Transport Corridor, an India-Iran-Russia joint project launched in 2002 and focused on the development of inter-Asian trade.

Of course, you won’t be surprised to know that, even here, China is deeply involved. Chinese companies have already built a high-speed rail line from the Iranian capital Tehran to Mashhad, near the Afghan border. China also financed a metro rail line from Imam Khomeini Airport to downtown Tehran. And it wants to use Chabahar as part of the so-called Iron Silk Road that is someday slated to cross Iran and extend all the way to Turkey. To top it off, China is already investing in the upgrading of Turkish ports.

Who Lost Eurasia?

For Chinese leaders, the One Belt, One Road plan – an “economic partnership map with multiple rings interconnected with one another” – is seen as an escape route from the Washington Consensus and the dollar-centered global financial system that goes with it. And while “guns” are being drawn, the “battlefield” of the future, as the Chinese see it, is essentially a global economic one.

On one side are the mega-economic pacts being touted by Washington – the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – that would split Eurasia in two. On the other, there is the urge for a new pan-Eurasian integration program that would be focused on China, and feature Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and India as major players. Last May, Russia and China closed a deal to coordinate the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with new Silk Road projects. As part of their developing strategic partnership, Russia is already China’s number one oil supplier.

With Ukraine’s fate still in the balance, there is, at present, little room for the sort of serious business dialogue between the European Union (EU) and the EEU that might someday fuse Europe and Russia into the Chinese vision of full-scale, continent-wide Eurasian integration. And yet German business types, in particular, remain focused on and fascinated by the limitless possibilities of the New Silk Road concept and the way it might profitably link the continent.

If you’re looking for a future first sign of détente on this score, keep an eye on any EU moves to engage economically with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Its membership at present: China, Russia, and four “stans” (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan). India and Pakistan are to become members in 2016, and Iran once U.N. sanctions are completely lifted. A monster second step (no time soon) would be for this dialogue to become the springboard for the building of a trans-European “one-belt” zone. That could only happen after there was a genuine settlement in Ukraine and EU sanctions on Russia had been lifted. Think of it as the long and winding road towards what Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to sellthe Germans in 2010: a Eurasian free-trade zone extending from Vladivostok to Lisbon.

Any such moves will, of course, only happen over Washington’s dead body. At the moment, inside the Beltway, sentiment ranges from gloating over the economic “death” of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), most of which are facing daunting economic dislocations even as their political, diplomatic, and strategic integration proceeds apace, to fear or even downright anticipation of World War III and the Russian “threat.”

No one in Washington wants to “lose” Eurasia to China and its new Silk Roads. On what former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski calls “the grand chessboard,” Beltway elites and the punditocracy that follows them will never resign themselves to seeing the US relegated to the role of “offshore balancer,” while China dominates an integrating Eurasia. Hence, those two trade pacts and that “pivot,” the heightened US naval presence in Asian waters, the new urge to “contain” China, and the demonization of both Putin’s Russia and the Chinese military threat.

Thucydides, Eat Your Heart Out

Which brings us full circle to Xi’s crush on Jeremy Rifkin. Make no mistake about it: whatever Washington may want, China is indeed the rising power in Eurasia and a larger-than-life economic magnet. From London to Berlin, there are signs in the EU that, despite so many decades of trans-Atlantic allegiance, there is also something too attractive to ignore about what China has to offer. There is already a push towards the configuration of a European-wide digital economy closely linked with China. The aim would be a Rifkin-esque digitally integrated economic space spanning Eurasia, which in turn would be an essential building block for that post-carbon third industrial revolution.

The G-20 this year was in Antalya, Turkey, and it was a fractious affair dominated by Islamic State jihadism in the streets of Paris. The G-20 in 2016 will be in Hangzhou, China, which also happens to be the hometown of Jack Ma and the headquarters for Alibaba. You can’t get more third industrial revolution than that.

One year is an eternity in geopolitics. But what if, in 2016, Hangzhou did indeed offer a vision of the future, of silk roads galore and night trains from Central Asia to Duisburg, Germany, a future arguably dominated by Xi’s vision. He is, at least, keen on enshrining the G-20 as a multipolar global mechanism for coordinating a common development framework. Within it, Washington and Beijing might sometimes actually work together in a world in which chess, not Battleship, would be the game of the century.

Thucydides, eat your heart out.

Los Balcanes, otra vez

El Imperio del Caos renueva sus planes para los Balcanes, otra vez. ¿Por qué? Porque por los Balcanes están proyectados dos de los megaproyectos multipolares que amenazan su hegemonía global: el proyecto gasífero ruso-europeo Balkan Stream y el proyecto de infraestructura comunicacional terrestre, de origen chino, Balkan Silk Road. Pasa algo parecido a lo de Siria, país que está siendo prolijamente demolido. Andrew Korybko cuenta esta historia para el portal Oriental Review:

Título: Washington’s “Destabilization Agenda”: A Hybrid War to Break the Balkans?

Texto: In the spirit of the New Cold War and following on its success in snuffing out South Stream, the US has prioritized its efforts in obstructing Russia’s Balkan Stream pipeline, and for the most part, they’ve regretfully succeeded for the time being. The first challenge came from the May 2015 Color Revolution attempt in Macedonia, which thankfully was repulsed by the country’s patriotic citizenry.

Next up on the destabilization agenda was the political turmoil that threatened to take hold of Greece in the run-up and aftermath of the austerity referendum, the idea being that if Tsipras were deposed, then Balkan Stream would be replaced with the US-friendly Eastring project. Once more, the Balkans proved resilient and the American plot was defeated, but it was the third and most directly antagonist maneuver that snipped the project in the bud and placed it on indefinite standby.

‘Lucky’ Number Three:

The climactic action happened on 24 November when Turkey shot down a Russian anti-terrorist bomber operating over the Syrian skies, and the nascent project became a victim of the predictable chain reaction of political deterioration between both sides. Given how obvious it was that energy cooperation would be one of the casualties of simmering Russian-Turkish tensions, it stands to reason that the US purposely egged Turkey on in order to provoke this domino reaction and scuttle Balkan Stream. Be that as it may (and it surely looks convincing enough to be the case), it doesn’t mean that the project is truly canceled, as it’s more strategically accurate to describe it as temporarily shelved. Russia understandably doesn’t want to enhance the position of a state that’s proven itself to be so blatantly aggressive against it, but this feeling extends only towards the present government and in the current context. It’s certainly conceivable that a fundamental shift in Turkey’s position (however unlikely that may appear in the short-term) could lead to a détente of sorts that resurrects the Balkan Stream, but a more probable scenario would be if the disaffected masses and/or distraught military representatives overthrew the government.

Turkish Reversal?

Both of these possibilities aren’t that improbable when one takes note of the growing resentment to Erdogan’s rule and the precarious position he’s placed the armed forces in. It’s well-known how dissatisfied a significantly growing mass of Turks have become (especially amidst an ever-growing Kurdish Insurgency), but what’s less discussed is the strategically disadvantageous situation facing the military right now. As the author wrote about in October, the Turkish forces are spread thin between their anti-Kurdish operations in the broad southeast, securing the heartland from ISIL and extreme left-wing terrorist attacks, occasional interventions in Northern Iraq, and remaining on alert along the Syrian border. This state of affairs is already almost too much for any military to handle, and one of the last things that its responsible leaders need right now is to balance against an imaginary and completely unnecessary Russian ‘threat’ cooked up by Erdogan. This pressure might prove to be too much for them, and in the interests of national security and properly fulfilling their constitutional role in safeguarding the territorial integrity of the state, they might band together in overthrowing him in spite of the systemic changes he’s enacted in the past decade to defend against such an event.

The Path Forward

There’s a very real chance that Balkan Stream will be unfrozen and the project allowed to move forward one day, as it’s too strategically important for Russia, and even Turkey, to be kept on the backburner indefinitely. It’s entirely possible that an internal political change will take place in Turkey, be it in the mindset of the current leadership or more likely with the installment of a new revolutionary/coup government, meaning that it’s much too premature for Russia or the US to give up on their respective policies towards Balkan Stream. Therefore, both Great Powers are proceeding forward with a sort of geopolitical insurance strategy, and in each case, it’s centered on China’s Balkan Silk Road.

From the American perspective, the US needs to continue unabated with the destabilization of the Balkans, since even if the Russian project is successfully stopped, then it still needs to do the same thing to China’s. So long as the Balkan Silk Road continues to be built, then Russia will retain a multipolar magnet through its premier strategic partner on which it can concentrate the influence that it’s cultivated thus far. In the event that Balkan Stream is unfrozen, then Russia can immediately jump back into the mix as if it never left and rejoin strategic forces with its Chinese ally like it originally planned, and this nightmare scenario is why the US is resorting to Hybrid War in its desperate bid to destroy the Balkan Silk Road.

As has already been similarly mentioned, the Russian approach is to focus more on the economic, military, and political diversifications that were supposed to accompany the energy-based physical infrastructure it was planning to build. Instead of the gas pipeline forming the spine of a New Balkans, it looks as though the Balkan Silk Road high-speed rail will take this role instead, but either way, there’s a multipolar megaproject that acts as a magnet for Russian influence. In the present configuration, Russia has relatively less influence in directly deciding the course of the infrastructure’s construction, but at the same time, it becomes indispensable to China.

Beijing has close to no preexisting ties with the Balkans outside of purely economic relations (and even those are relatively new), so Russia’s privileged involvement in supporting the project and investing along the Balkan Silk Road route (which was supposed to run parallel with the Balkan Stream and bring in the said investment anyhow) helps to reinforce regional and local support for it by presenting a friendly and familiar face that decision makers are already accustomed to working with. It’s not to suggest that China can’t build the project on its own or that there isn’t legitimate support in the Balkans for such an initiative, but that Russia’s front-row participation in it reassures the local elite that a civilizationally similar and ultra-influential partner is there alongside them and is also placing visibly high stakes in the process out of a show of confidence in its hopeful success.

Beijing Is The Balkans’ Last Hope

It’s thus far been established that the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership intended to revolutionize the European continent with an infusion of multipolar influence along the Balkan Corridor, which was supposed to support Balkan Stream and the Balkan Silk Road. Regretfully, however, the US has temporarily succeeded in putting the brakes on Balkan Stream, thus meaning that the Balkan Silk Road is the only presently viable multipolar megaproject envisioned to run through the region. On that account, it’s China, not Russia, which is carrying the torch of multipolarity through the Balkans, although Beijing is of course partially depending on Russia’s established influence there to help secure their shared geostrategic objective and assist in making it a reality. At any rate, the Balkan Silk Road is arguably more important than the Balkan Stream for the time being, and as such, it’s worthy to pay extra attention to its strategic details in order to better grasp why it represents the Balkans’ last multipolar hope.

Institutional Foundation

The concept for the Balkan Silk Road was a couple of years in the making, and it owes its genesis to China’s One Belt One Road (“New Silk Road”) policy of constructing worldwide connective infrastructure. This endeavor was thought up in order to solve the dual problems of creating opportunities for Chinese outbound investment and complementarily assisting geostrategic regions in their liberating quest to achieve multipolarity. Relating to the area under study, the Balkan Silk Road is the regional manifestation of this ideal, and it’s actually part of China’s broader engagement with the Central and Eastern European countries.

The format for their multilateral interaction was formalized in 2012 under the first-ever China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC) Summit in Warsaw, and the event two years later in Belgrade produced the idea for a Budapest-Belgrade-Skopje-Athens high-speed rail project (the author’s colloquial description of which is the Balkan Silk Road) aimed at deepening both sides’ economic interconnection. The 2015 Summit in Suzhou produced a medium-term agenda for 2015-2020, which among other things, proposes the creation of a joint financing firm to supply credit and investment funds for this and other projects. It also officially described the Balkan Silk Road as being the “China-Eurasia Land-Sea Express Line” and suggested that it be integrated into the New Eurasian Land Bridge Economic Corridor sometime in the future, implying that Beijing would like to see the countries cooperative more pragmatically with Russia (first and foremost in this case, Poland). Importantly, Xinhua reported that the participants agreed to complete the Budapest-Belgrade stage of the project by 2017.

Strategic Context

What all of this means is that China has accelerated its diplomatic, economic, and institutional relations with Central and Eastern Europe in the space of only a couple of years, astoundingly becoming a premier player in a region located almost half the world away from it and partially a formal component of the unipolar bloc. This can be explained solely by China’s attractive economic appeal to the CEEC that transcends all sorts of political boundaries, as well as to the complementary ambition that the East Asian supergiant has in deepening its presence worldwide.

Together, these two factors combine into a formidable component of China’s grand strategy, which strives to use inescapable economic lures in leading its partners (especially those representing the unipolar world) along the path of tangible geopolitical change over a generational period. To refer back to the Balkan Silk Road, this represents Beijing’s primary vehicle in achieving its long-term strategy, and the geo-economic rationale for how this is anticipated to function will be explained in the below section. Before proceeding however, it’s relevant to recall what was referenced earlier about the US’ hegemonic imperatives, since this explains why the US is so fearful of China’s economic engagement with Europe that it plans to go as far as concocting destructive Hybrid Wars to stop it.

Geo-Economic Underpinnings

The geo-economic justification for the Balkan Silk Road is evident, and it can be easily explained by examining the larger Central and Eastern European area that it’s envisioned to connect. The Southeastern European peninsula directly segues into each of these two regions, and the Hungarian hub of Budapest is geographically located in the center of this broad space. As it presently stands, there’s no reliable north-south corridor linking Hungary and the markets around it (namely Germany and Poland) to the Greek Mediterranean ports, thus meaning that Chinese maritime trade with these leading economies must physically circumnavigate the breadth of the entire European peninsula. The Balkan Silk Road changes all of that and cuts out days of unnecessary shipping time by bringing Central and Eastern European goods to the Greek port of Piraeus and within convenient reach of Suez-crossing Chinese vessels. This saves on time and money, thus making the route more profitable and efficient for all parties involved.

In the future, the Central and Eastern European economies could ship their goods through Russia en route to China via the Eurasian Land Bridge, but while that might be beneficial from the perspective of producer-to-consumer relations, it’s hardly advantageous for resellers who plan on re-exporting the said goods elsewhere in the world. To take advantage of the dynamic economic developments currently underway in East Africa and South Asia (be it in selling to those markets or in physically building up a presence there), it’s best for either party’s entrepreneurial actors to connect with one another at a maritime node that enables them to efficiently and quickly load or offload their predetermined transshipped goods. Geo-economically speaking, there’s no better place for this than Piraeus, as it’s the closest European mainland port to the Suez Canal which needs to be traversed in order to access the aforementioned destinations, with or without any transshipping involved (i.e. if EU entrepreneurs decide to directly export their goods there and not use a Chinese middleman).

In order to connect to Piraeus, the high-speed rail corridor known as the Balkan Silk Road is an infrastructural prerequisite, and its successful completion would lead to a significant sum of European trade being profitably redirected towards China and other booming non-Western locations like India and Ethiopia. The US fears losing its position as the EU’s top trading partner, knowing that the slippery strategic slope that could soon follow might lead to the rapid unraveling of its hegemonic control.

Viewed from the reverse perspective, the Balkan Silk Road is the EU’s last hope for ever having a multipolar future independent of total American control, which is why it’s so geopolitically necessary for Russia and China to see the project completed. The inevitable New Cold War clash that this represents and the extraordinarily high stakes that are involved mean that the Balkans will remain one of the main flashpoints in this dangerous proxy struggle, despite the hierarchical switch of its multipolar protagonists.

sábado, 28 de noviembre de 2015

Mientras tanto, en el continente africano...

Un observador desprevenido podría concluir, de la lectura de los diarios en los últimos días, que dejando de lado Medio Oriente y algunas partes de Europa, el resto del planeta está tranquilo como agua de pozo. No, chicos: hay otro continente que hierve de violencia sanguinaria. Hablamos de Africa. Las 19 noticias que siguen son del portal iraní PressTV y corresponden a los últimos 15 días. Dos semanas. ¿Se imaginan si algo así estuviera ocurriendo en América del Sur?

1. Armed men attack UN peacekeeping base in northern Mali, kill three

A group of armed men have attacked a base for the United Nations’ (UN) peacekeepers in northeastern Mali, leaving at least three people dead and 14 others wounded.

An official from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), whose name was not released in reports, said the assault took place in the town of Kidal on Saturday.

“Our camp … was attacked early this morning by terrorists using rockets,” the official said, adding that two Guinean UN peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were among those who lost their lives in Saturday’s incident.

Another unidentified UN source also said that 14 people sustained injuries in the attack, including three seriously.

The incident came a few days after a siege at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital city of Bamako, which claimed the lives of 20 people plus two gunmen. Several foreigners were also among the casualties.

On November 20, gunmen held around 170 guests and staff hostage for about nine hours before Malian and international forces stormed the luxury hotel to free the captives.

Both the Macina Liberation Front, a Malian militant group, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Mourabitoun group, led by Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility for the hotel attack and hostage-taking.

Mali has been witnessing violence linked to militant activity in its northern region since 2012. The area remains vulnerable to attacks despite a military operation led by France in 2013, which came after the UN Security Council passed a resolution on the deployment of MINUSMA to the region.


2. 16k children requited by rebels, army in South Sudan: UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says up to 16,000 children have been forcibly recruited by both rebel forces and the army in South Sudan since a brutal civil war broke out in the landlocked African country in 2013.

“There are now 16,000 children associated with armed groups and the military,” UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday, adding that some minors have been forced into direct armed combat, while others are serving as messengers or porters in very dangerous circumstances.

Boulierac also warned that children were kidnapped, killed and subjected to sexual violence in the violence-wracked African state.

Despite the signing of a recent peace deal between South Sudan’s rebels and army forces, “there has been little sign of improvement,” the UNICEF spokesman said.

On August 26, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir signed the peace accord, which had already been signed by Riek Machar, the current rebel leader and former vice president.

The ceasefire came into effect on August 29 following months of on-off talks, hosted by Ethiopia sides, but the truce has far failed to stop the deadly fighting in South Sudan. Among other things, the peace deal urges both conflicting sides to stop fighting and release all child soldiers and prisoners of war.

South Sudan plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted around the capital city of Juba between troops loyal to Kiir and defectors led by Machar.

Violence has reportedly forced 2.3 million people from their homes and left 4.6 million others in need of emergency food aid. Approximately 1,500 children have also been killed while 900,000 others have been internally displaced in South Sudan, according to UNICEF.


3. 21 killed in bomb attack on Shia Muslims in Nigeria

More than 20 people have been killed in a bomb attack targeting Shia Muslims during an annual religious procession in the northern Nigerian state of Kano.

On Friday, a bomber detonated his explosives among a crowd of Shia Muslims participating in a march organized by followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Dakasoye village south of Kano, the capital of the province with the same name.

Organizers of the procession said several people were also injured in the attack which happened days before Shias in Nigeria are going to commemorate Arbaeen, the 40th day since the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the third Shia Imam, and his followers in the Battle of Karbala, which is to fall on December 2 this year.

“We lost 21 people and several others have been injured,” said Muhammad Turi from the Islamic Movement.

Turi, who was leading the procession when the attack happened, said the incident was no surprise as similar attacks happen all over Nigeria almost on a daily basis.

He added, however, that the deadly blast will not deter Nigeria’s Shia community from continuing to perform its religious duties, stressing, “This will not deter us from our religious observance. Even if all of us were bombed the last person will carry on with this duty.”
One of the organizers also said the assailant “was dressed in black like everyone else. His accomplice was initially arrested and confessed they were sent by Boko Haram.”

Boko Karam has not claimed responsibility for the attack, but Nigerian officials usually blame the Takfiri terror group for such assaults.

At least 17,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million made homeless since the Boko Haram militancy began in 2009, when the terror group started an armed rebellion against the government.

The terrorists have recently pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh militant group, which is primarily operating inside Syria and Iraq.


4. 18 killed by Boko Haram Takfiri militants in Niger

Takfiri Boko Haram militants have attacked a village in southeast Niger, killing 18 people and burning nearly 100 homes, local authorities say.

The assault occurred in the village of Wogom located in Diffa late Wednesday. The Takfiri militants are believed to have come to Niger after crossing the Komadougou Yobe river which separates the country from Nigeria.

Niger's southeast Diffa region near Nigeria has witnessed numerous attacks since February, including one in June when 38 people lost their lives and the latest in October, during which the Boko Haram terrorists shot 13 people dead in a village.

Niger has joined a regional military alliance alongside Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria to battle Nigeria-based Boko Haram elements, whose violence has spilled over into several African nations.

The Boko Haram militancy began in 2009, when the terrorist group started an armed rebellion against the government. At least 17,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million made homeless since then.

The terrorists have recently pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh militant group, which is primarily operating inside Syria and Iraq.


5. Bomb blast hits military bus in Tunisia, 12 dead

At least 12 people have lost their lives and 16 others have been injured in a bomb blast targeting a bus carrying presidential guards in Tunisia, the Interior Ministry says.

A ministry spokesman, whose name was not revealed, announced the casualties figure after an explosion struck the vehicle on the Mohamed V avenue in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Moez Sinaoui described the incident as an "attack."

The attack was likely caused by a bomber detonating explosives inside the vehicle, a presidential source said.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Ambulances rushed to the scene of Tuesday’s incident while Tunisian security forces sealed off the area.

The explosion came 10 days after authorities increased the security level in the Tunisian capital and deployed security forces in high numbers.

Tunisia has been plagued violence since the 2011 uprising, which ousted former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power for over two decades.

Earlier this year, two attacks, which were claimed by the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, occurred in Tunisia, with one of them at the National Bardo Museum in March, killing 21 tourists and a policeman, and the second one at a resort hotel in the city of Sousse in June, killing 38 tourists.

The Daesh militants, who have seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, have been carrying out horrific acts of violence, such as public decapitations and crucifixions, against all communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians in areas they have overrun.


6. Algeria camp fire kills 18 African migrants

At least 18 people have been killed and 43 others injured in a fire incident at a camp for African migrants in Algeria.

Emergency services said on Tuesday that the blaze began before dawn at the camp housing about 600 migrants in Ouargla, 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Algeria’s capital, Algiers.

According to the head of the Algerian Red Crescent, Saida Benhabiles, “a short circuit triggered the explosion of a heater and the fire.”

Authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.

Algeria has been a top North African destination for sub-Saharans seeking a better life.

Benhabiles said that since 2014, Algeria has managed to send back more than 4,000 migrants from Niger, adding that 400 more migrants were due to be returned to Niger from Ouargla.

According to Benhabiles, the migrants “are constantly on the move. One day, there could be 2,000 (migrants) and the next they are 200.”


7. Gunmen kill 4 Egyptian security personnel south of Cairo

Four Egyptian security personnel have been killed in a shooting attack on a police checkpoint south of the capital, Cairo.

Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire using machine guns at the checkpoint in the ancient burial ground of Saqqara, a security source said on Saturday.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry said in a statement that the assailants were still at large and security forces were scanning the area of the attack in search of the gunmen.

The news of the shooting attack comes as Egyptian security forces and officials have been frequently targeted by militants based in the Sinai Peninsula.

The volatile region is regarded as a safe haven for the militants from the so-called Sinai Province Takfiri group.

In mid-November, Egyptian security forces killed 24 Sinai militants in an attack on their hideout in the central part of the region.

The Sinai Province militant group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks in the region over the past months. The group has pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh terrorists currently operating against the governments in Syria and Iraq.


8. Car bomb attack kills six guards near Libya capital: Sources

At least six security guards have been killed and 14 others wounded after a car bomb went off at a checkpoint on a coastal road east of the Libyan capital city of Tripoli, a security source says.

Safwan Bayou, commander of a unit in charge of security on the coastal road linking eastern and western Libya, said on Tuesday that the bomb targeted the Mislattah checkpoint close to the city of Khoms.

"The car bomb explosion left six dead and 14 wounded, all civilians," he added.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Over the past four years, Libya has been grappling with political uncertainty and violence committed by militants such as members of Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Since August 2014, when militias seized Tripoli, Libya has had two parliaments and two governments with one, the General National Congress (GNC), run by the rebels in the capital and the other, which is internationally-recognized, based in the northeastern city of Tobruk.

The United Nations has proposed the formation of a national unity government in an effort to end the conflict in the North African state. Under the proposal, a nine-member presidential council, including a prime minister, five deputy prime ministers and three senior ministers, will govern Libya.


9. Blasts near hotel in Egypt’s el-Arish claim six lives

At least six people, including one election judge, have been killed in bomb explosions targeting an area outside an Egyptian hotel in North Sinai, state media reports say.

The blasts occurred outside the Swiss Inn hotel in the North Sinai city of el-Arish on Tuesday, killing the election judge monitoring the parliamentary elections in Egypt and a policeman, among others. At least 12 others were also wounded in the bombings.

State television and security forces said the first blast went off after police forces opened fire at a man who attempted to drive his car into the hotel.

The second bombing struck the area minutes later.

The area has been closed off by police forces.

The violence comes a day after polling stations closed in the second round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections. The first round was held on October 18 and 19.

The general election is the first to be held in Egypt since 2011, after the revolution that ousted the country’s long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Although no group or individual has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, the Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) terrorists, affiliated to the Takfiri Daesh group, has claimed similar attacks in the region in the past, including a deadly bombing of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai Peninsula on October 31.

Over the past years, the militants have been carrying out anti-government activities, taking advantage of the turmoil caused in the country after democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power by the military in July 2013.


10. At least 22 killed in clashes, drone attack in Somalia

Clashes between several rival armed sides and a drone strike in Somalia have killed at least 22 people in the African country.

At least 14 people died and 13 were wounded in clashes between soldiers from two autonomous federal states in central Somalia on Sunday, DPA reported.

Armed groups from the central states of Puntland and Galmudug fought over control of the city of Galkayo, which is located on the border between the two states.

For the past several years, the strategic city has been run by two competing governments.

Somalia has lacked a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Meanwhile, in the southern Somalia, at least eight members of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group were killed and another five injured by a drone attack on a camp belonging to them.

According to authorities, three rockets were fired from the drone and hit the camp which was located near the city of Beledul Amin in the Lower Shabelle state around midnight on Saturday.

Authorities also confirmed that a high-ranking al-Shabaab leader was among the dead.

The origin of the drone was not immediately known, but the US has been using unmanned airplanes in Somalia and other countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen - to target what it calls militants. According to witnesses, however, the attacks have mostly led to civilian deaths.

According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the US drone strikes have killed many civilians over the past few years in a blatant violation of international law.


11. Bomb attack kills 8 in northeastern Nigeria

A bomb attack has claimed the lives of at least eight people and injured several others in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State.

A female bomber detonated her bomb among a group of displaced women and children arriving in Maiduguri, the capital of the volatile state on Sunday.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the bomber "sneaked in amongst them disguised as an IDP (interally displaced person) before setting off her explosives".

“Since the internally displaced persons were coming voluntarily into the town, it was decided that they had to be screened to avoid the insurgents mingling with them,” said the chairman of the agency, Ahmed Satomi in a statement.

No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but the Takfiri Boko Haram terrorists have claimed similar assaults in the past.

Last week, a similar explosion killed at least 32 people and injured about 80 people in the Nigerian city of Yola.

Boko Haram, which controls parts of northeastern Nigeria, started its militancy against the government in 2009 and recently pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri group, active in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

Some 20,000 people have been killed in the six-year-old violence that has spread to neighboring countries.

Soldiers from Chad, Cameroon, and Niger joined Nigerian forces in the battle against the terrorists after the violence spread across neighboring countries and became a regional issue.


12. At least 10 people killed in bomb attacks in Cameroon

At least ten people, including a traditional chief, have been killed after four female bombers blew themselves up in northern Cameroon.

"The initial figures speak of 10 dead, including the suicide bombers, and around a dozen wounded," a senior Cameroonian army commander said on Saturday.

One of the female attackers set off her explosives outside the house of a local chief in the village of Nigue near the town of Fotokol, located on the border with Nigeria, on Saturday.

The attack killed the local chief and four members of his family, regional governor Midjiyawa Bakari said.

Boko Haram militants often carry out terrorist attacks in Fotokol.

The Takfiri militants claim their main objective is to overthrow the Abuja government.

Boko Haram’s crimes include bombings, terrorist operations and militant attacks, not only in the group's birthplace, Nigeria, but also in Cameroon and neighboring Chad, as well as other African nations.

The militancy by the terrorist group which started in 2009 has so far claimed the lives of at least 17,000 people and made more than 1.5 million displaced.

Human rights group Amnesty International said last month that at least 1,600 people have been killed in attacks carried out by Boko Haram militants since the start of June.

The group added that at least 3,500 civilians have also been killed by Boko Haram so far this year.


13. 32 people killed, 80 wounded in huge blast in Nigeria’s Yola

More than 30 people have lost their lives and 80 more sustained injuries in an explosion that ripped through a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola.

The bomb was detonated beside a main road in a crowded market in the Jambutu area of Adamawa’s provincial capital at about 20:20 local time (1920 GMT) on Tuesday, but it was not immediately clear whether it was caused by an improvised explosive device or an explosive-laden vest worn by a terrorist.

“So far, we've recorded about 32 dead and about 80 injured,” said Sa'ad Bello, the Yola coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency, AFP reported.

The Red Cross and state police, however, gave a lower toll of 31 dead and 72 wounded.

According to Red Cross official Aliyu Maikano and local residents, the targeted area was a lorry park which also houses a livestock market, an open-air eatery and a mosque.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast, but it bears the hallmark of Boko Haram Takfiri militants.

The deadly explosion occurred just days after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visited Yola and said that the defeat of Boko Haram was close.

“With what I have seen today, I believe that the Boko Haram are very close to defeat and I urge you to quickly clear the remnants of these criminals from wherever they may still be hiding,” Buhari said on Friday.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly shootings and bombings in Nigeria since the beginning of their militancy in 2009, which has so far claimed the lives of at least 15,000 people and made more than 1.5 million displaced.

The terrorists have recently pledged allegiance to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, which is primarily operating inside Syria and Iraq.


14. Hostage crisis at Mali hotel over, 21 killed

Several hours of hostage crisis at a hotel in the Malian capital, Bamako, has come to an end, leaving 21 people dead, including two of the gunmen who stormed the place.

"They currently have no more hostages in their hands and forces are in the process of tracking them down," security minister Salif Traore told a news conference following a stand-off of several hours at Bamako's Radisson Blu hotel.

Some 170 people, including nationals from France and Turkey, were initially held hostage by a gunmen.

The hotel chain company initially said in a statement that 140 guests and 30 employees had been taken hostage in the former French colony.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said 21 people, including two gunmen, were killed and seven others wounded in the attack before special forces managed to enter the hotel and end the stand-off.

However, UN peacekeepers at the site had earlier said they saw 27 dead bodies there.

A Belgian local government official is reportedly among those killed.

Geoffrey Dieudonne, an official with the parliament of Belgium's French-speaking community, had been in Mali for a convention, a parliament spokesman told Belga news agency.

A security source said earlier that some 10 gunmen were believed to have been inside the hotel. A Malian military source said two gunmen were killed in the siege.

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita cut short his trip to Chad where he was attending a regional meeting. Keita’s office said he will beck to Bamako “in the next hours.”

One of the freed hostages said he had heard attackers in the next room speaking English.

"I heard them say in English 'Did you load it?', 'Let's go'," singer Sékouba 'Bambino' Diabate, said in Conakry. "I wasn't able to see them because in these kinds of situations it's hard."


15. 10 killed in fighting between Somali soldiers in Mogadishu

Fighting between Somali soldiers has left at least ten people dead in the capital city, Mogadishu.

At least 15 others, including both soldiers and civilians, were wounded in the clashes on Monday.

Police and eyewitnesses said that a gun battle erupted between the soldiers when some of the troops tried to stop the others from distributing food aid coupons to internally displaced people.

"Women and children are among the fatalities," police representative Abdi Hassan said.

"The commanders responsible for this horrible violence should face justice," a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.

“Security forces are investigating the incident,” the source added.

Widespread militancy by the al-Shabaab Takfiri group across Somalia and droughts and flooding in different parts of the east African state have pushed thousands of people to take refuge in the Mogadishu area.

Somalia has been struggling to reconstitute its 8,000-member army, which collapsed with the government back in 1991, plunging the country into over two decades of chaos after warlords overthrew the country's former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.


16. 24 militants killed in central Sinai: Egypt

Security sources added on Monday that eight more militants were arrested during the raid on the mountainous cave about 70 kilometers from the site of the recent crash of a Russian passenger plane.

The airplane crashed in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on October 31, leaving all the 224 people on board dead.

The Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province) terrorists, affiliated to the Daesh Takfiri group, claimed responsibility for the crash of the Airbus A321 run by Russia’s Kogalymavia airline. Neither Russia nor Egypt has confirmed the claims.

The militant group launched its anti-government operations two years ago by taking advantage of the turmoil caused in the country after the democratically-elected president Mohammad Morsi was ousted from power by the junta in 2011.

Cairo views the volatile Sinai region as a safe haven for terrorists.

The terrorists have targeted a multitude of government officials, policemen and army troops deployed to Sinai to restore security.

Egyptian security forces have been engaged in operations to quell acts of terrorism and militancy in the Sinai Peninsula.


17. 1,100 schools destroyed by Boko Haram militants this year: UN

The United Nations (UN) says some 1,100 schools have been destroyed by Boko Haram militants so far this year in regions surrounding Lake Chad in Africa.

Toby Lanzer, the UN envoy to Sahel region in Africa, said on Monday that the attacked schools were in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Boko Haram, which controls parts of northeastern Nigeria, started its militancy against the African state government in 2009. The militancy has now become a regional issue, having spilled over into Nigeria’s neighboring countries. More than 17,000 people have so far been killed in the insurgency.

The militant group, whose name means "Western education is forbidden", is blamed for attacking schools and universities in the region.

Lanzer also said Boko Haram attacks have forced 2.6 million people, including 2.2 million Nigerians, to flee their homes in the militant group’s stronghold region around Lake Chad that touches the four African countries.

He further noted that the militancy, poverty and a rise in population in areas surrounding Lake Chad could lead refugees displaced by Boko Haram militants towards Europe, which is already struggling with an influx of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekeres fleeing conflicts in crisis-hit regions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Lanzer also praised Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to Boko Haram militants. Buhari instructed Nigeria’s military to crush the group by the end of this year.

In September, Amnesty International said in a statement that at least 1,600 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks in the four affected countries since the start of June. The rights group also said at least 3,500 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram so far this year.

Reports indicate that 1,260 people have been killed in Boko Haram violence in Nigeria alone since late May, with the majority of attacks happening in Borno State’s places of worship, markets and bus stations.


18. Six killed, several injured in Burundi violence: Police

At least six people have been killed and several others wounded in violence in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura.

Burundian police said on Monday that six people had been confirmed dead in attacks overnight.

"There have been several armed criminal attacks in many neighborhoods of Bujumbura which were apparently coordinated," Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said.
According to officials, four people were killed in a shooting and two others lost their lives in a separate attack.

About seven civilians and three police forces were also wounded in the attacks.

Burundi plunged into turmoil back in April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid to compete for a third presidential term. The decision was denounced by the opposition, arguing that the move was contrary to the constitution, which only allows two successive presidential terms.

Many demonstrations against Nkurunziza were held following his announcement to run for a third term. The situation also escalated after the controversial presidential elections in July retained the president in power.

Some 200 people have been killed since the outbreak of violence in April.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein cautioned in September that the country risks sliding back into civil war.

A 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005, between Hutu rebels and a Tutsi-led army killed about 300,000 people in Burundi.


19. Egypt police find 15 dead African refugees near Israel

Police in Egypt have discovered the bodies of 15 African asylum seekers in the restive area of northern Sinai Peninsula near Israel, sources say.

The African refugees were apparently shot dead in an attack, security sources said on Sunday, adding that eight others have been injured.

Ambulances were sent to the site of the assault south of the town of Rafah on the border between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip.

No further details have been so far made available about the perpetrators of the attack or the nationality of the African asylum seekers.

African refugees have long been mistreated in Israel, which has pressed them to go back home or face indefinite imprisonment.

The Israeli regime’s strict policy towards asylum seekers includes building a fence along the Egyptian border, denying illegal migrants work permits and holding them in a detention center in the desert.

A report by The Washington Post said in May that Israel has spent more than USD 350?million to build a fence along the entire border with Egypt to block the entry of Africans, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea.

The Tel Aviv regime defends its tough crackdown on refugees as fair, saying the new policy is designed to help those who have been denied asylum or have not applied for asylum to go back home or to a third country.

About 2,000 Africans mainly from Eritrea and Sudan are held captive at Israeli detention facilities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Egyptian military has, meanwhile, been engaged in operations to quell acts of terrorism and militancy in the Sinai Peninsula. It views the volatile region as a sanctuary for terrorists.