World View: Russia, West Plan Next Steps After Crimea Referendum

This morning's key headlines from

  • Islamic Jihad gaining popularity over Hamas in Gaza
  • Western politicians express outrage as Crimea votes to join Russia
  • Russia and the West plan their next steps after Crimea referendum

Islamic Jihad gaining popularity over Hamas in Gaza

Although Hamas is the governing authority in Gaza, last week's rocket barrage from Gaza into Israel came from Islamic Jihad, not from Hamas. Hamas has been losing popularity, and Hamas's loss has been Islamic Jihad's gain. 

Hamas has faced a variety of problems in recent months: 

  • Hamas used to have its headquarters in Damascus, Syria, but when the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad began exterminating Sunni women and children, Hamas split from Syria and was forced to move its headquarters to Doha, Qatar.
  • Hamas's biggest financial backer used to be Iran, which provided $20 million per month, in addition to weapons. When Hamas split with Iran's ally Syria, Iran split with Hamas and now funds Islamic Jihad.
  • Hamas was formed over 30 years ago as an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, so when Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt in June of 2012, Hamas rejoiced. But after the military ousted Morsi and declared MB to be a terrorist organization, Hamas's relationship with Egypt became extremely contentious. Egypt has declared Hamas to be a terrorist organization, and the army has incessantly worked to destroy the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
  • Other countries and organizations that used to support Hamas can no longer do so as well. Turkey used to provide political and economic support, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is mired in political corruption allegations.
  • The Gulf States used to provide support, but they're split into two factions, the Saudi Arabian faction fighting against MB, and the Qatar faction supporting MB.
  • Lebanon's terrorist group Hezbollah used to ally with Hamas in the "resistance" against Israel, but Hezbollah is bogged down fighting in Syria as an ally of Bashar al-Assad's regime. Even worse, the Syrian civil war has spilled over into a Shia/Sunni conflict within Lebanon.

The result is that the Gaza economy is in freefall along with Hamas's popularity. The wages of most government employees haven’t been paid for months, there are shortages of fuel, electricity, building materials, and some basic foodstuffs. Gazans are turning to Islamic Jihad, which has been arming for a future war with Israel. Israel Hayom and Fox News

Western politicians express outrage as Crimea votes to join Russia

Jubilant citizens in Lenin Square in Crimea's capital Simferopol celebrated Sunday's referendum on secession from Ukraine, where Crimeans voted more than 95% in favor of seceding to join the Russian Federation.

According to Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague:

Nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise. 
The referendum has taken place at 10 days' notice, without a proper campaign or public debate, with the political leaders of the country being unable to visit Crimea, and in the presence of many thousands of troops from a foreign country. It is a mockery of proper democratic practice. 
The UK does not recognise the referendum or its outcome, in common with the majority of the international community.

France's president François Hollande said Saturday that if there is no "de-escalation" in Ukraine, there will be "sanctions" Monday from the EU against Russia: 

It is a "pseudo referendum" in the Crimea because it does not conform to the Ukrainian domestic law and international law. This is why France and the European Union will not recognize the validity of this pseudo referendum.

According to Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper: 

The so-called referendum held today was conducted with Crimea under illegal military occupation. Its results are a reflection of nothing more than Russian military control. 
This "referendum" is illegitimate, it has no legal effect, and we do not recognize its outcome. Canada is working with other countries on the possibility of further sanctions.

President Barack Obama telephoned Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Sunday saying the U.S. and allies are "prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions." According to the White House: 

We reject the "referendum" that took place today in the Crimean region of Ukraine. This referendum is contrary to Ukraine's constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation... 
President Obama reiterated that a diplomatic resolution cannot be achieved while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory and that the large-scale Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s borders only exacerbate the tension.

AFP and La Tribune (France) and BBC and NBC News and Canadian Press

Russia and the West plan their next steps after Crimea referendum

European Union leaders, supported by President Obama, plan to meet on Monday in Brussels to decide on sanctions against Russia. If Russia takes no further action in Ukraine, it's possible that the whole sanction plan will be abandoned and things will go back to business as usual, with Crimea's secession a fait accompli. However, it seems very likely that Russia will take further action. 

The first and most logical action would seem to be the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. However, some analysts say that may not be the most likely first step. 

Most people seem to agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet/Russian empire and wants all of Ukraine, not just Crimea. According to this logic, Putin would hold off annexing Crimea until he could launch a full invasion first of eastern Ukraine, then all of Ukraine, pushing west all the way across Ukraine to the border of Moldova and its secessionist province Transnistria. NBC News

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Gaza, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hezbollah, Iran, Britain, William Hague, France, François Hollande, Canada, Stephen Harper, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Transnistria, Moldova 

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