Archive for December, 2016

New Defense Secretary – General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

The US stance on foreign affairs became a little clearer this week as Donald Trump announced his new Defense Secretary – ‘Mad Dog Mattis’.  Many might be a little concerned about that sort of nickname for one of the most powerful positions in the world, yet Donald Trump reveled in the nickname and perhaps indicated the coming administration’s international positioning.

BBC World News

It was a surprise announcement but only the timing as many had predicted that the Ex-General would be appointed next week.   Instead Trump decided to make it public during a rally in Cincinnati this week, the crowd were cheering as he made the statement.

So who is James Mattis? Well he;s a retired Marine general who made his reputation during the Iraq invasion of 2003 where he spearheaded the 1st Marine’s Divisions quick advance into Baghdad.   He has a good reputation as a military strategist although his techniques are often thought as more blunt and direct.

He has held some high levels of command, and was previously a commander of US Central Command the section of the military concerned with the Middle East.  His opinion on places like Iran is very hard line, more power and force than diplomacy.   He has previously accused the Iranian government of various crimes including a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington DC.

The appointment though is not guaranteed as there is no automatic approval by the Senate because he has only been retired for three years.  Anything under seven years requires a Congressional Waver under a law implemented in 1947.   This will need to be considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee as the appointment is only a nomination until formally approved.

You can keep up with the latest updates by watching a US News Channel like NBC and ABC.   If you’re out of the country unfortunately these don’t work but you can access using a VPN or somethign like this Netflix Smart DNS solution.

Columbia Extend Peace Accord with rebels

There is hopefully good news for Columbia with the government expected to sign a new peace deal this week with the Farc rebels.

Many where wary that this wouldn’t happen, as a deal was previously rejected in a referendum last month. The Government took the approach of revising the deal instead of completely rejecting and the updated version will be submitted to Congress for their approval instead of a new vote.

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Opposition groups are unhappy because it leaves many rebels they believe escaping punishment for crimes and human rights abuse. However the reality is that it is the only viable route to ending almost 50 years of armed conflict in the country which has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people.

It has taken over four years of negotiations between the government and rebels to reach that initial agreement which was concluded at the beginning of the year. Both sides actually signed the agreement before the world in Cartagena on the 26th September. However the President of Columbia – Juan Manuel Santos has pledged to allow the people of Columbia a say in the peace process too.

In a predecessor to shock votes in the West, the people narrowly rejected the agreement in the referendum among widespread shock. Both sides agreed to a peace fire in order to reconsider their positions and President Santos met one of the leading opponents to the deal in order to listen to the objections.

  • The result was a modified deal designed to combat the main objections to the peace deal –
  • The rebels must declare and release all their assets. This will primarily be used for compensation payments for the victims of the conflict
  • The points raised by religious groups about the agreement have been largely addressed.
  • There is a time limit set of 10 years for the transitional justice system.
  • Farc rebels will supply information about any drug smuggling activities they were involved in.
  • The peace agreement is not to be included in Colombia’s constitution

There is a real hope that the country of Columbia will now see some peace after years of violence and destruction.  Not only has  there been this civil war but as anyone who has watched the excellent Narcos on Netflix, drug violence has thrived in this environment.  The show is not available on all regions of Netflix so try this US DNS Netflix solution if you’re not able to see it.

The deal should now pass as although there is still some opposition the Government have a reasonable majority and some support from other parties.  The reality is that most Columbians are simply fed up of the war and violence that has become almost normal for the country.  Although many still would like to see punishment for some of the rebel’s atrocities it seems unlikely that they will ever agree to a deal which stipulates this.