Last Week in Foreign Affairs (April 1 - April 7)

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard march in a military parade in 2016 ( Image )

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard march in a military parade in 2016 (Image)

 

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Labeled Terrorist Organization

The Trump administration today labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, significantly escalating tensions between American and Iranian militaries. The IRG is an elite and politically powerful branch of the Iranian military, and the designation marks the first time the United States has ever labeled a foreign power’s military as terrorists. The move raised fears among defense officials that there would be reprisals in Iran against American military and intelligence targets. Adding to the complexity are the myriad of business ties the IRG holds with neighboring Iraq, which has witnessed backlash to the move. The designation is part of a broader geopolitical shift where the United States and Israel have increasingly become more assertive in their respective roles, while European powers and much of the West have maintained limited support for the Iranians under the now-defunct Iran nuclear deal.

Stakes High in Israeli Election

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career is on the line in a battle for control over the Israeli Knesset, the 120-seat parliamentary body that heads policymaking in the country. Adding to the April 9 election drama, Netanyahu himself is under investigation on multiple counts of corruption due to his close relationship with major Israeli media outlets. Moreover, American influence in the election has made the very idea of Israeli sovereignty a key issue in the contest. Bolstered by the United States’ recognition of the Golan Heights, a territory taken in the defensive Six Day War between Israel and its neighboring states, Netanyahu has committed to fully annex the West Bank. Control over the West Bank is one of the central pillars of contention that makes a solution to the Israel-Palestine peace process so difficult to achieve. If Netanyahu were to implement such a strategy, it would upset a delicate balance between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Israel currently has over 620,000 settlers in the West Bank, which is technically illegal under international law. They have up to date, however, allowed the Palestinians to maintain some sovereignty over the territory. If this situation changed, and Israel were to assert full control over the area, it may very well eliminate any chance for a peaceful relationship between the two nations.

Algeria’s 20-Year President Steps Down

The 82-year-old Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has officially resigned just months after promising to run for a fifth term in this year’s elections. The resignation caps a 20-year authoritarian reign over the embattled nation that suffered a deadly civil war that killed 150,000 Algerians in the 1990s. His initial election was widely seen as fraudulent, with the military propping up his candidacy, and their support led him to victories in 2004, 2009, and 2014 — all marked by accusations of tampering. In 2013, however, Bouteflika reportedly endured a massive stroke that almost completely eliminated his ability to speak or walk. Since then, it has been understood that many elites in the military, business, and political worlds known as “le pouvior” had stepped into the administrative roles normally assumed by the President. Bouteflika resigned due to pressure from massive protests that have rocked the country in recent days and dwindling support from high-profile military leaders.

India Election Expecting As Many As 900 Million Voters

The largest democracy in the world will begin voting in a general election on Thursday in what could be one of India’s biggest tests in recent memory. The current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are seeking another term after their landslide victory in 2014. His main opposition comes from the Congress Party, led by Rahul Gandhi. The 2014 race saw the first absolute majority of any party in the Indian Congress (known as the Lok Sabha) due to the Congress Party’s issues with scandal and corruption. The election has also been portrayed as a referendum on Modi’s leadership itself. The Prime Minister has often flirted with controversy and has been unabashedly nationalistic and pro-Hindu, while simultaneously promising to lead India into a more advanced and tech-based future. Gandhi, on the other hand, has mostly stuck to his economy-centered, anti-corruption platform, without the saber-rattling exhibited by Modi’s recent governments.