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  • Author: Matthew Wilson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: From the moment he first declared his candidacy for the presidency of the United States on a strongly nationalist platform promising to “make America great again,” Donald Trump has been dogged by accusations that he is too cozy with explicitly racist, fringe-right figures and movements. Periodically, critics have seized on phrases or images in Trump’s communications that they argue send subtle messages of encouragement or solidarity to Nazis and white supremacists. This began during the 2016 campaign, when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke expressed enthusiasm for Trump’s presidential bid. When asked for his attitude regarding the support, Trump at first equivocated and professed insufficient knowledge of Duke and his movement, before explicitly disavowing Duke and the Klan some days later. The issue arose again during Trump’s first year in office, when he asserted that there were “very fine people, on both sides” of clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia between anti-Confederate statue protestors and far-right elements. Trump’s defenders insist that the “very fine people” he was referring to were members of local heritage groups and not the violent extremists who descended on the city from outside (and, indeed, in the same press conference Trump clarified that he was “not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally”). The issue, however, has not gone away; over the last several years, critics have periodically spotted images in Trump administration communications that they allege hearken back to historical European fascism, and recently he has been accused of using phrases with regard to law enforcement and protests that echo American segregationists. Just recently, the Trump campaign drew criticism for retweeting a video of a parade of his supporters in Florida, during which one participant shouted “White Power!” While the campaign later removed the video and claimed that they had not noticed the offending phrase, the incident reignited critics’ claims that Trump is at best indifferent toward—and at worst actively solicitous of—white nationalist support for his presidency.
  • Topic: Politics, Domestic politics, Far Right, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Naser al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: With more than 136 countries (end-July 2019) reported to have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI hereafter) since it was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, estimates for China's potential BRI investments vary significantly, from around US $1 trillion to as much as US $8 trillion. China’s spectacular economic rise over the last three decades has been accompanied by a sharp increase in its energy demand. As a result, China is the world’s largest energy consumer. As its economy continues to grow, even at lower rates than before, its dependence on oil and gas imports will increase over the next two decades.
  • Topic: Oil, Economy, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Gautam Chikermane
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: India’s middle class will count a few rupees, bank depositors will get a little security, privatisation enthusiasts will chew on a new player in the market. But other than high-sounding grandiose statements, India’s Budget 2020 has delivered no expectations. This was preordained, of course. So, if anyone is feeling disappointed, clearly s/he is not reading the economic signals in the economy or the approach of Narendra Modi’s government to it clearly. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had little room for manoeuvre. Her Budget shows how little. In a line: Budget 2020 is yet another wasted opportunity.
  • Topic: Markets, Politics, Budget, Finance, Narendra Modi
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Gentiola Madhi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: On Wednesday the 5th of February the European Commission proposed a revised methodology for the accession process for candidate and potential candidate countries. This methodology will be applied to Albania and North Macedonia, although for Montenegro and Serbia there has also been foreseen an opt-in in case they want to join. The document strives to inject new dynamism into the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, while attempting to introduce more clarity and predictability, stricter monitoring as well as improved incentives for the soon-to-be negotiating countries to deliver on EU reforms. The negotiating chapters have been divided into six clusters, where the fundamentals cluster will be the first to open and the last to be closed.
  • Topic: European Union, Democracy, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Europe, Balkans, Albania, North Macedonia
  • Author: Jessica Obeid
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon defaulted on its debt for the first time in the country’s history. Many factors have contributed to this economic and fiscal crisis, but at the heart of them is the electricity sector, accountable for more than $39.5 billion, equivalent to 43 percent of the public debt, and embodying the core structural issues of Lebanon; a non-functioning confessional system built on the foundation of vested interests.
  • Topic: Debt, Infrastructure, Financial Crisis, Economy, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Irene Tuzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Since October 17, 2019, unprecedented popular protests have erupted in Lebanon motivated by demands for socio-economic rights and the reform of a highly corrupted and sectarian political system. The deterioration of economic and social conditions in Lebanon has also affected the 1.5 million Syrian refugees as well as the Palestinians and other communities of displaced people living in the country. Syrians, in particular, expressed an exceptional empathy with the Lebanese revolution and although with a diversity of responses, many have taken part in the uprising.
  • Topic: Syrian War, Hezbollah, Revolution, Political Movements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Marina Calculli
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon’s sovereign default comes at a heavy price for Hezbollah. This is not simply because of Hezbollah’s powerful role within the government that failed to repay a $1.2 bn bond on 10 March 2020. This is mainly because Hezbollah’s rivals are likely to use the current financial crisis to impose an external authority over Lebanon and increase pressure on the ‘Party of God’ to disband its armed wing.
  • Topic: Security, Financial Crisis, Economy, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Tom Rhodes
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: While there is never a good time for a country to face an epidemic, it could not come at a worse time for a country in transition like Sudan. Prior to the first cases of the coronavirus confirmed on 13 March, the country already faced a humanitarian and economic crisis. In February, the inflation rate was at 71% and prices were double those cited in 2019, according to the US-funded food monitoring body, the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS). The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peace-building Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, told the UN Security Council recently that Sudan’s humanitarian needs were severe, with 9.3 million people needing aid by the end of 2019.
  • Topic: Economy, Humanitarian Crisis, Transition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Chantal Meloni
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: For the past 15 years the figure of Omar al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, has epitomized the struggle of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to fulfill its mandate, i.e. to end impunity for the worst crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. In 2005, the former ICC Prosecutor – Luis Moreno Ocampo - had promptly opened an investigation into the atrocities committed in Darfur after receiving a referral by the United Nations Security Council (Resolution n. 1593 of 2005), which permitted the Court to affirm its jurisdiction over Sudan, not a state party to the ICC. In the context of this investigation, two warrants of arrest were issued against al-Bashir, in 2009 and 2010, for the most serious crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and even charges of genocide. It is estimated that over 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million forced to flee their homes in Darfur as a result of military campaigns led by the Sudanese army and pro-government militias against ethnic minorities since 2003.
  • Topic: Genocide, International Law, International Criminal Court (ICC), Omar al-Bashir
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Yasir Zaidan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Only a few short months following the one year anniversary of the Sudanese revolution, Khartoum is facing a global pandemic and a deteriorating economic situation. Over the last decade, Sudanese people have been suffering from inflation and gas shortages as a result of losing 75 percent of its oil revenue that was assumed by South Sudan after the separation of the two states. The failing economy that contributed to the fall of the Bashir's regime is now getting worse, and the transitional government has yet to implement any fundamental reforms to rescue a weak transitional period in Sudan. The government's failure to achieve these reforms stems from deep ideological divisions inside the revolution's political coalition.
  • Topic: Oil, Economy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan