Weekly Roundup (31 October – 4 November)

This week, we present a selection of news events that we believe are developing stories to watch:

Clinton Campaign Struck by More Scandal (31 October)

Washington D.C.  The Clinton campaign was struck by another email scandal when it was discovered that sexting-prone Anthony Weiner, husband of close Clinton staffer Huma Abedin, was in possession of a laptop that may have been connected to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the very server that got the Democratic presidential candidate into trouble with the FBI during the past 12 months, raising doubt over Clinton’s trustworthiness in the eyes of many Americans.

This discovery led FBI Director James Comey to reopen the Clinton email controversy at a time critical to her campaign, with leading senior Democrats accusing Comey of playing politics (since he was a former card-carrying member of the Republican Party).

Coming so close to the November 8 poll, whether this incident has had any significant impact on American voting patterns is unknowable.

However, the very thought that Trump may be getting the edge on his political opponent has seen movement in the markets, as a Trump presidency is considered by many foreign commercial and political interests as undesirable.

Al-Baghdadi State to Mosul Fighters (3 November)

Raqqa, Syria.  Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a rare public statement urged the approximately 5,000 IS fighters holed up in the Iraqi city of Mosul to ‘fight to the death’.

Iraqi government forces, as well as Kurdish paramilitaries, have entered the city and have commenced urban operations to clear out IS. Considering the size of the Iraqi/Kurdish forces entering Mosul, it is likely that IS forces will attempt to stage urban guerrilla warfare, making use of the city’s many obstacles to blunt the Iraqi government offensive.

However, 5,000 lightly armed fighters with no air cover, limited resupply and few options for retreat since Mosul is ringed by Shiite paramilitaries, the idea of an IS victory is remote.

As mentioned by Bruni & Olney in the last episode of STRATEGIKON, Al-Baghdadi’s ambition was always unlikely to be a military victory. Instead, he is playing for a ‘resistance to the death’, creating a terrorist legend among jihadis that will resonate for generations.

British High Court Ruling on Brexit (4 November)

London.  Theresa May received another rebuke to her plans on easing the UK out of the European Union, when the British High Court ruled that her government did not have the power to invoke Article 50 (the clause necessary for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU) of the Lisbon Treaty without parliamentary approval.

This poses a significant challenge to May, especially since the majority of British MPs were against Brexit. May has two options that she can play for.

The first is to try to delay any moves on Brexit till January 2017, which would give her more time to consider her position and see how much goodwill she’ll receive from the new US president.

The second option is to call a snap election in the hope that her government will be returned to power with an increased majority, which would give her the public mandate to proceed with Brexit.

For countries like Australia, lining up to sign bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with the UK in the hope to capitalize on Britain’s likely ‘independence’ from the EU, raises uncertainty regarding the timeline for such negotiations – especially if May’s government falls (unlikely, considering the turmoil of the British Labour Party), or a pro-EU leadership contender replaces May as Conservative leader.

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