Fighting Fire With Fire: Jordan’s Risky Strategy Against the Islamic State -Carnegie Foundation

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“Support for terrorist groups inside Jordan is already worrying. According to a late-September survey, only 62 percent of the population believed the Islamic State is a terrorist group, while only 31 percent viewed members of the Nusra Front, which is al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, as terrorists. Jordanian analysts fear that the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State and the Nusra Front will increase the support for these groups, given the widespread popular resentment of U.S. policies in the region. This is especially true because the United States is fighting the Islamic State, a Sunni group, while avoiding attacks on the root of Syria’s troubles, its president, Bashar al-Assad.”

http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=57486

The Assad Regime’s Political “Achilles’ Heel” Al Hayat/Carnegie Foundation

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Given the fluidity of the Syrian civil war, its easy to lose track of the “big picture”. To that end, this article provides an interesting analysis of the regime’s strategic position. However, it does seem to gloss over one very important thing when gauging the regime’s ability to contain dissent among the loyalist community: their lack of options. No matter how dissatisfied they become with the situation, there really isn’t much of an alternative to Assad for many of them, especially the Alawi.

Read more at: http://carnegie-mec.org/2014/12/11/assad-regime-s-political-achilles-heel/hwdw

U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility -New York Times

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“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal, he added, will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

This will not be popular among the Cuban ex-pat community:
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”

It will be interesting to see the Florida vote during the next presidential election. With Jeb Bush thinking about running, I wonder how long it will be before he weighs in.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/world/americas/us-cuba-relations.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Why the West should help Putin save the ruble -Globe and Mail

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More on the falling Russian rubble from McGill’s Juliet Johnson.

“Western leaders can be forgiven for experiencing schadenfreude as their Russian nemesis, President Vladimir Putin, faces the prospect of his country’s imminent economic collapse. Yet true financial meltdowns have far-reaching, unpredictable, and often nasty consequences. Rather than celebrating or encouraging the current market panic in Russia, the West should try to stop it.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/why-the-west-should-help-putin-save-the-ruble/article22114113/

p.s. scha·den·freu·de. noun, often capitalized \ˈshä-dən-ˌfrȯi-də\. : a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.

Is China’s economy really the largest in the world? -BBC

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http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30483762

“The Chinese economy is now worth $17.6tn, slightly higher than the $17.4tn the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates for the US.”

but…

“if you look at per capita spending power – the value of all goods and services produced within a nation in a given year divided by the average population for the same year – then, even adjusted for PPP, China ($11,868) is still lagging a long way behind not only the United States ($53,001) but also the likes of Turkmenistan ($12,863) and Suriname ($16,080).”

and…

“…how easy is it to accurately measure the size of the Chinese economy or even just parts of it?”
“Not very, ….distortions that happen at the village and provincial levels become amplified as they go out the statistical gathering chain.”

Moreover….

“The most important number in the world, for the past 30 years and next five years, is China’s growth rate. For 30 years its economy grew at a mind-boggling rate – roughly 10% a year but that stopped when the global economy hit problems in 2008 and it fell very sharply.”