Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture
Several weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country’s armed forces would soon begin leaving Syria because Russia “has achieved its goal”. However, my sources in the American intelligence community have told me what they believe is the real reason why Putin announced that withdrawal: on 17 April, Syria’s Independence Day, Bashar Assad will announce that Syria has agreed to join the Russian Federation as its 23rd republic.
By becoming a Russian republic, Syria will be able to retain its current constitution, continue to elect its own president and parliament and establish its own official language. By joining the Russian Federation, the Syrian people will also be able to continue observing their independence on the same day they have always celebrated it. Like he recently did with Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya, for the sake of continuity Putin also plans to nominate Assad to remain the leader of the Syrian Republic after his current term expires.
My intelligence sources also tell me that, notwithstanding recent tensions between Russia and Turkey over Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, Turkish President Recep Erdogan is actually a great admirer of Putin. They tell me Erdogan has studied Putin’s political strategy and tactics and then duplicated them in Turkey. To maintain his grip on power, Erdogan has switched from being prime minister to president and, like Putin, he also harasses opposition newspapers that expose political corruption or challenge the Turkish government’s narratives.
Putin showed Erdogan that it is easier to succeed politically by trying to divide people instead of uniting them. So when his party lost control of Turkey’s parliament last year, Erdogan abandoned reconciliation efforts and instead ratcheted up tensions with Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Erdogan then called for new elections, and the violence between government troops and Kurds led a fearful Turkish public to give his AKP party control of Parliament again. My sources tell me that Erdogan will continue to emulate Putin by annexing the northern portions of Syria currently controlled by Syrian Kurds, ostensibly to protect the Syria’s Turkmen ethnic minority.
On the refugee front, one European nation has found a way to both stop, and profit from, the migrant crisis. My sources allege that in exchange for €300m, Hungary has struck a deal with al-Qaeda and Daesh to return Syrian and Iraqi refugees to areas of those countries that the terror groups control.
By the way, isn’t today 1 April? Also known as April Fool’s Day?
In all seriousness, now that the March 2016 Democratic and Republican caucuses and primaries are finally behind us, the American presidential race is about to enter a month-long lull. But have there been any electoral surprises over the past few weeks that would indicate the current frontrunners are in danger of losing their parties’ nomination battle? Not really.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton racked up big wins on 15 and 22 March in the states of Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona. But on 22 and 26 March, Bernie Sanders picked up a net total of 67 delegates by winning electoral contests in the five western states of Idaho, Utah, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Unfortunately for Sanders, the states he won also had far fewer delegates at stake than those where Clinton triumphed. The net effect was to widen Clinton’s lead from 1,712 to 1,004 once the super delegates are included.
The story was much the same for the Republicans, with Donald Trump winning the primary voting states of Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Arizona while John Kasich kept his campaign alive by winning his home state of Ohio. Although Ted Cruz won all of the delegates from the state of Utah and finished a close second to Trump in Missouri, he was also expected to win the Utah caucuses because he had the endorsements of both the state governor as well as its most famous Mormon, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Trump’s resounding win in Marco Rubio’s home state of Florida, meanwhile, succeeded in driving Rubio from the race. As for Kasich, were to win all of the remaining 839 delegates, he would still fall more than 200 short of the 1,237 required to win the Republican nomination. The math is equally daunting for Ted Cruz because he would need to win at least 92 per cent, or 772, of the remaining delegates to capture the Republican presidential nomination.
Given the overwhelming odds, why do Cruz and Kasich insist on continuing their quest for the Republican nomination? Because they hope that by doing, so they will prevent Trump from winning the remaining 498 delegates he needs to clinch it on the convention’s first ballot. If Trump is unable to muster 1,237 delegate votes first time round, then a substantial number of delegates will be freed to go for any candidate they choose in later rounds of voting.
Still, while Cruz has begun a campaign to convince delegates pledged to Trump to vote for him on a second ballot, I still believe Trump will end up winning the Republican nomination.
Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.