5 December 2019   Leave a comment

A coalition of 30 labor unions in France have launched a nation-wide strike to protest the government’s plans to reduce pension benefits. National Public Radio suggests that the strike also reflects dissatisfaction with the overall policies of President Macron:

“France’s official retirement age is 62, having risen from 60 in the past decade. But the government hopes to install a new universal points-based pension system, which would change how pensions are calculated and effectively give full pension benefits only to workers who retire at age 64.

“But beyond the push to preserve current pension terms, the protests also reflect ‘an anger and a dislike of Macron in society,’ Beardsley [NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley] says, noting the criticisms the president has faced in the wake of the Yellow Vest cost-of-living protests of last autumn.”

The Guardian estimates that about 800,000 people are participating in the strike which is scheduled to last until Monday. The newspaper quotes a protester’s views of the situation:

“Isabelle Jarrivet, 52, who had worked as an administrator in a town hall north of Paris for 20 years, said: ‘It’s a question of life or death for the French social system, which Macron is dismantling. We’re being taken back to a time before 1945, where we risk losing the social safety net. Private pension funds are waiting in the wings to benefit.’

She added: ‘The gilets jaunes protests got people thinking and talking more about politics and people determined not to let things pass. You can feel a defiant mood in the air.’”

The strike has affected train, bus, and airline travel, and hospital workers, firefighters, and teachers are also participating in the strike.

The US is accusing Iran of sending short-range ballistic missiles into Iraq. The charge, if true, suggests that Iran is taking advantage of the political turmoil in Iraq, despite the fact that much of the discontent comes from those opposed to Iranian influence in Iraqi politics. The missiles could pose a threat to both Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as to US troops stationed in the Middle East. According to the New York Times: ” Intelligence officials would not discuss the precise model of ballistic missile Iran has sneaked into Iraq. But short-range missiles have a range of just over 600 miles, meaning that one fired from the outskirts of Baghdad could strike Jerusalem.” The missiles could pose a threat to global oil supplies as the attack by two cruise missiles–allegedly by Houthi rebels in Yemen–last summer proved. Those attacks reduced oil supplies by 5% globally for a brief period of time. Iran is clearly trying to leverage its position in the region in order to increase pressure on US allies to reduce the US sanctions on Iran. But we should view this report with caution. There are many reasons why the US wants to portray Iran as an aggressive power in the region. And we should remember that it was the US that broke the Iranian nuclear agreement and that US sanctions on Iran are not sanctioned by any international agreement or organization.

Posted December 5, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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