The UK’s Brexit situation is no less complex for the three months passage of time, since the referendum. Clive Lindley and Peter Crisell combine on this Update. Key issues yet to be decided are whether the Referendum was mandatory, or advisory. To us and we explain, the answer is advisory. The House of Commons has not debated this central issue, in fact precious little has been debated on the Brexit issue, whilst the new government have made various announcements about personnel, so the news has concentrated on Brexit-related appointments under the new prime minister, Teresa May. The other urgent decision debated everywhere (except the House of Commons), is who gets to decide when to implement the notice to the EU of Britain’s withdrawal, which triggers a decision to quit and starts the clock for a two year period of negotiations. The new prime minister announced that this was a matter for her. That is being challenged in the High Court, since there is a powerful belief that in a parliamentary democracy, it is only the elected members who can do this. Our report considers this and the Brexiter’s response as promoted by their numerous noisy tabloids, which call for a ‘Hard Brexit,’ quitting immediately - ignoring treaty provisions and giving up any hope of retaining access to the Common Market. This could be interpreted as due to the Brexiter’s unease about their project becoming derailed, unless it is implemented quickly (and recklessly).

So there are now three ‘corners’ to this situation: The government, the Remainers and the Brexiters. We look at the UK’s party political situation, critical to the outcome of a parliamentary vote when the time comes; and ahead to the statutory General Election for May 2020. Given a predicted two years of negotiations, only commencing after ‘Article Fifty’ is invoked, which may not be immediately once the High Court has ruled on who gets to pull the trigger, it might be that the completion of negotiations would coincide with the period of the run-up to the general election.

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We have been writing about Syria and it’s civil war, even before it commenced, since we had covered the whole of the neighbouring Iraq invasion and its outfall. Until the collapse of the truce so admirably negotiated by Secretary of State, John Kerry, there was a hope that a real prospect for negotiations to achieve peace, might be imminent. Sadly that hope was dashed in the face of what appeared to be double-dealing, by elements of both the US and the Russian-Syrian armed forces. But nevertheless it did concentrate minds on negotiations. In this issue we examine what they will need to resolve and who should be the parties, which effectively becomes an analysis of the key factors in the Civil war itself.

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One of the world’s political monsters, the dictator president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has died. He had a long and successful career formerly as the Soviet Union’s man in what was deceptively called a ‘people’s’ republic, where he overnight became president-for-life when the USSR unexpectedly collapsed in 1991. He achieved infamy on the world stage when Craig Murray the British ambassador lost his job, after exposing the horrors (boiling them alive), that Karimov perpetrated on political prisoners. Russia is still very significant and we speculate to what extent they can manage the succession. The complication comes because China, a Central Asian neighbour, is now a big player there as well. Sara Bielecki traces the outlines of recent history in this ancient land, the likely succession and the separate Russian and Chinese interests. Uzbekistan has always been important in Central Asian terms, from the time of Genghis Khan onwards. It was the original (Tsarist) Turkestan controlling territories that the Soviets turned into the central Asian satellite republics.
Clive Lindley - Publisher/Editor


Brexit Update

It’s up to the Lawyers now!
Three months after Britain voted in an advisory referendum to leave the EU, we know a little more about what happens next, but not much. The new Prime Minister Teresa May’s circular pronouncement that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ tells us nothing. We do know that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty must be invoked by a member state wishing to withdraw from the EU, but we don’t know when. Rumours, together with their denials, suggest that Britain will start the process ‘early’ in 2017, but maybe not. After all, the UK was unprepared for the referendum result and had no plan, or negotiators in place to deal with the withdrawal process and its consequences. The EU has publicly ruled out informal negotiations to precede the Article 50 starting pistol, but still, talks about talks must be going on. After all, what are ambassadors for?

There is a new and potent tendency amongst ‘the usual suspects’ riding high on their referendum success, perhaps discouraged by realising the time involved due to the number and complexity of the legal and other hurdles needed to be crossed, before Brexit has taken on a concrete reality. The new trope eagerly seized upon by the tabloids, is to go for a ‘Hard Brexit’- the current UKIP line, together with that of some passed-over Tory MPs who got nothing out of Mrs May’s reshuffle. It now appears to be the slogan of “Leave means Leave,” the successor group from the referendum ‘Leave’ campaign. It was reported that the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has joined this group of his old comrades, which is extraordinary (if true), that from this high office of state, he could align himself with bypassing the diplomatic process, as set out by the Prime Minister.

However, the Hard Brexit concept has brought back into the fray, George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer precipitately dropped from the Chancellorship and the Cabinet, by Mrs May. The importance of his re-emergence, after three months silence, is that it gives the Remainers in the government party a significant leader of proven ability, around whom they can rally. It will be clear from the points that follow in this report, that it may be necessary for ‘Remain’ MPs from different parties, to work together on certain Brexit issues, across party lines.

Hard Brexit would abandon the estimated two year negotiating period which won’t start until Article Fifty is invoked (more on that below); which until completed, sets their entire project at risk, as UK remains a member until treaty provisions are complete. That could certainly mean two or more years of membership. The Hard Brexiters favour taking one giant step without counting the cost, tearing-up the rule book agreed to by the British government that signed up to the European Communities Act in 1972, 44 years ago – and then when ‘safely’ outside, seeing what might be salvageable by negotiation; all highly reminiscent of a gambler’s ‘last throw’. It is unlikely that Mrs May would go along with that. They talk of starting negotiations...  [

The Syrian Civil War

The Divided Opposition and the Impossibility of any Political Agreement that Excludes the Assad Regime
After five years of so-called civil war, nobody has proposed any realistic alternative to the Baath Party dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. Unlike most civil wars, which in general last longer than the ‘uncivil’ ones–that is between states–the stakes, the ultimate goals and the actors are as unclear now as when the war began in 2011. There are simply too many factions each with their own agenda.

The government itself can count on a variety of disparate militias, which have emerged in the anarchy. This means that should a peace last long enough to bring the warring parties together to negotiate a truce–or even a peace accord, likely modeled along the Ta’if accords that ended the Lebanese conflict in 1989-the risks of failure are huge. There are simply too many internal and external interests to address equitably.

In order to imagine, let alone predict, the possible developments that could emerge in the event of an extended truce, it helps to clarify who is fighting and what the various warring factions demand. The number and unclear goals of so many armed groups make such a classification problematic. For the sake of analysis, it must be simplified first in accordance to the main rifts that divide the interested parties. It must also be recognized that the Syrian civil war shows no signs of ending. Despite the many offensives, despite the peace conferences and foreign interventions, ceasefires and alleged aid convoys, things have only gotten worse.   [

Uzbekistan: A New Boss

On September 2nd 2016, Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, after 25 years at the helm of this large, oil and gas rich central Asian state, died of a stroke. Known through the world as one of the strongmen of the post-Soviet sphere, he earned a fearsome reputation as a repressive leader, a preeminent example of Homo Sovieticus, who had risen through the ranks of the Communist party to lead a’de facto’ police state, where power was concentrated within the ranks of the National Security Service, the modern KGB. The regime gained infamy in 2002, when a British ambassador revealed that a political prisoner had been boiled alive - a story which has come to typify its retrograde brutality. Reports that, in 2013, he beat his glamorous and powerful daughter, Gulnara... [continues...]

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