Iran’s Deal with China and its Implications for the United States

Washington is urging its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies to put an end to the standstill with Qatar. The Saudi-led blockade has now lasted for over three years, and on July 26th 2020, US Special Representative Brian Hook stated that the crisis is a threat to security in the region. While Oman and Kuwait have initiated dialogue, it has not led to a promising resolution. The US has continued its attempts to mediate the conflict to no avail, and Hook believes this failure has hindered Washington’s efforts in pressuring Iran. In recent years, the US has supported a geopolitical coalition between Israel and several GCC members against Iran and the proxy-forces it assists in Syria and Yemen. When Saudi Arabia and several other states accused Qatar of excessively close relations with Iran in 2017, they severed ties with the country. The Trump administration appears to be more concerned about Qatar’s reunification with its former allies than before, and the change in perspective comes as China concludes a $400 billion economic and security deal with Iran. It is plausible that the US aims to restore Qatar’s relationship with its neighbours to revitalize the geopolitical pressure against Iran before its deal with China comes to fruition.

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Regulating Fully Autonomous Weapons

Fully autonomous weapons (FAWs), which are robotic systems that can select  and fire upon targets without any human intervention, have the potential to be an enormous revolution in military affairs. Proponents of FAWs believe that they will allow faster, more precise and more efficient military interventions. They additionally maintain that these systems will reduce the human risks connected with military operations since they will replace  soldiers with autonomous machines. However, despite these advantages, FAWs have been  denounced as killer robots and are widely criticized by society and the international community. Critics cite, among other factors, the lack of human supervision, the dangers of the robotic arms race, the limited ability of machines to estimate proportionality of an attack and distinguish legitimate targets from illegitimate ones, and the problems associated with accountability for robot’s actions. Despite these serious arguments against FAWs, a pre-emptive ban on this technology is unlikely because it is opposed by the superpowers mosted invested in the development of the weapons systems. A more feasible solution would be to establish  regulations that would alleviate the most harmful aspects of FAWs.  This policy proposal will introduce regulations that the international community, through the mechanism of the United Nations, should implement  in order to prevent the most harmful effects of FAW development and deployment.

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Letter from the Editors

We are excited to mark the 10-year anniversary of the founding of King’s Think Tank with the 10th issue of The Spectrum, a student policy journal that from its conception has striven to publish the most innovative policy proposals that students at King’s College London have to offer. Featuring the largest number of articles to date, this edition contains policy proposals and analytical pieces that address a broad range of topics, from EU immigration policies, to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, to political upheavals in Hong Kong and Venezuela. 

As the past few months have shown, we live in a world of unprecedented change, reflected in developments including climate change-related disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, and protests against systemic racism across the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world. While the articles in this journal span a wide variety of issues, they all seek to reconcile governments and wider society to the rapidly changing world we are witnessing. Many of them stress the importance of international unity and cooperation in addressing the increasingly transnational issues we face today.

None of our authors purport to advance complete or exhaustive solutions to the effects of algorithmic bias or the challenge of stimulating a developing economy along environmentally sustainable lines. However, as you read this journal, you will find papers that offer informed, logical, and creative measures in response to the issues they address, reflecting hours of research and careful consideration of multiple aspects of sound policy, from legal issues to those of implementation.

In a world in which the nature of human communication, social fabrics, and our physical environment are all changing at exceptional rates, well-founded and productive policy is more important than ever. As we conclude our time as Head Editors, we remain confident that King’s Think Tank will remain a powerful platform for students to voice their visions for progress and develop their skills in composing constructive, evidence-based policy. We hope you thoroughly enjoy the 10th edition of our policy journal, The Spectrum.

Julia Sandberg and Anais Herne

Head Editors

King’s Think Tank

Oil markets in intensive care: an incentive to decarbonate? Perspective from Saudi Arabia

On 12 April 2020, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with Russia and other non-member oil exporting countries, agreed to a record oil production cut of 9.7 million barrels a day (mb/d) in an attempt to ease a global supply glut and boost crude oil prices. This decision was made against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic that has caused a steep reduction in the demand for crude oil and led to a drop in oil prices. These curbs will stay in place for May and June, after which they will reduce to 7.7m b/d for the rest of the year, and then 5.8m b/d from January 2021 to April 2022 if compliance with the quotas is enforced. Many experts remain legitimately concerned with the global demand decline as the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts an overall demand drop of 9m b/d in 2020 (29m b/d reduction for April alone) compared to 2019, erasing almost a decade of growth. However, this short-term surplus of oil shouldn’t overshadow the structural issues of oil markets and the concerns regarding future oil supplies. 

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Saving lives with language

Foreign aid is often associated with goods such as food parcels, medicine, and infrastructure. However, one of the most crucial services provided to areas suffering from natural disasters and pandemics is translation. Translation also plays a crucial role in conflicts, allowing differing narratives to spread and compete. Additionally, translation is often weaponised as a propaganda tool. Although English is often regarded as the global language, 6 billion of the Earth’s 7 billion people  ‘don’t communicate in English at all’.  As a result, appeals for aid from war zones or areas affected by natural disasters are frequently translated into English in order to resonate with anglophone audiences. Furthermore, with organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières providing relief workers from all over the globe, language barriers multiply, and translation becomes ever more necessary. 

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Covid-19, my journey

Written 15 April 2020.

The recent coronavirus outbreak has undoubtedly taken the world by storm. It has affected the life of every individual, either directly or through disruptions it has caused to societal normalcy. Flights from London back to my home country, Bhutan, transfer through Delhi or Bangkok, and amidst fears that the cities were soon going to go into  lockdown, I had to travel home around mid March. I did not think for once that I would contract the novel coronavirus. This mentality can mostly be attributed to the way the British government was reacting to the situation while I was in London. For many Londoners, life continued as normal, despite the alarming rate at which Covid-19 cases were growing. At Heathrow Airport, staff were not wearing even simple surgical masks. I was not screened for symptoms before boarding, nor was it mandatory for me to wear a mask or protective gear on the flight. In short, protocol measures were severely lacking in the face of this global pandemic. 

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Overcoming Foreign Dependency: Palestine’s Aid Problem

At a joint White House press conference on 28 January, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump revealed the long-awaited political framework of his Peace to Prosperity plan: a series of proposals aimed at resolving the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and fulfilling the Palestinian demand for an independent state. The 180-page document rejects the Palestinian right to return and supports the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The move has since provoked criticism from the UN, which reaffirmed its commitment to a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, and from Palestine National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who in response to the plan announced the severing of all ties with Israel and the U.S. Beyond the feasibility of the ambitious proposals, which  include the longest road tunnel in the world, the complete lack of Palestinian involvement in the project illustrates the varied forms of foreign domination that the Occupied Palestinian Territory has historically been subjected to. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, Palestinian dependence on foreign assistance has seen it become the second largest recipient of international aid per capita in the world, yet 29% of the 4.8 million residents continue to live under the poverty line, with 2.4 million living in need of food assistance. The Palestinian experience raises questions about the effectiveness of long-term development aid that often fails to confront institutional limitations that inhibit self-sufficiency, while perpetuating the political and economic power dynamics that facilitate foreign dependency. 

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Will the EU finally tend its own garden?

Why the talk of a new ‘European awakening’ in the defence sphere is just rhetorical window-dressing.

‘We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.’ Ever since Emmanuel Macron uttered these words in November 2018, the idea of a European Army is back in vogue. A year and a half later, it might appear like the stars are aligning to create the perfect conditions for a ‘golden Era’ of European defence cooperation.

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Event Review: ‘Skills Share’ Networking Event

The Education policy centre’s goals encompass not only evaluating and recommending education policy, but also helping to enrich the experience of students who study at our university.  For this reason, we hosted ‘Skills Share’, an opportunity for current students to get helpful advice on how to excel in various stages of the job application process. The event’s premise hinged on the identification that that UK higher education is not doing enough to equip students with skills that are essential to entering the workplace following their degrees. As a result, students frequently feel lost when starting job applications and balancing them  with their studies. This is especially difficult for students from under-represented backgrounds in Higher Education, including disabled and first-generation students. 

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The worrying rise of authoritarian police responses to protests in Europe

The right to protest is a fundamental right in European democracies. Yet in recent times, states have infringed upon this right, whether through legal restrictions such as the declaration of a state of emergency, or through more tangible responses such as  policing forces on the ground. This is a worrying trend, which throws into question European governments’ commitment to protecting this right. 

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