World roundup: August 13-14 2022
Stories from Kenya, Ukraine, Peru, and more
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THESE DAYS IN HISTORY
August 12, 1099: The Battle of Ascalon
August 12, 1121: The Battle of Didgori
August 12, 1687: The Battle of Mohács
August 13 (or thereabouts), 838: The Sack of Amorium
August 13, 1521: Spanish and allied forces under Hernán Cortés conquer Tenochtitlan and capture the Aztec Emperor Cuauhtémoc. It’s estimated that somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 people were killed during the two and a half month siege. Cuauhtémoc remained in place as a puppet ruler, but the Aztec Empire was over and Cortés eventually executed him in 1525.
August 14, 1480: The Martyrs of Otranto
August 14, 1947: At midnight, the Indian Independence Act of 1947 goes into effect, ending the British Raj and creating the independent states of India and Pakistan. This territory included the future state of Bangladesh, though at this time it was part of Pakistan. This date is commemorated as Pakistani Independence Day while August 15 is commemorated as Independence Day in India. Initially both countries commemorated August 15, but the Pakistanis later shifted to August 14, ostensibly because British Viceroy Louis Mountbatten held Pakistan’s independence ceremony on that date so that he could attend a similar ceremony in India the following day.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
Syrian media is reporting that the Israeli military conducted attacks on multiple unspecified military sites in Tartus province and near Damascus late Sunday, killing at least three soldiers and wounding another three. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the target in Tartus was an air defense facility known to house militia fighters linked to Iran. It’s unclear whether any of the casualties announced by Syrian media came from among pro-government paramilitary ranks.
In what will no doubt trigger some sort of response from political bigwig Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council declared on Sunday that it does not have the authority to dissolve parliament. Sadr demanded on Wednesday that the judicial system force a new Iraqi election, something he’s so far been unable to achieve through protest. He attached to that demand a threat that if the court didn’t act “the revolutionaries will take another stance.” I don’t know what that means but I’m assuming it doesn’t mean anything good.
Israeli authorities say they’ve arrested one man in connection with an attack on a passenger bus in eastern Jerusalem’s Old City early Sunday morning. A gunmen opened fire on the bus while it was at a stop near the Old City’s Zion Gate, wounding at least eight people. The suspect turned himself in to authorities as they were searching for him. I don’t have any details on the alleged attacker but Israeli officials are referring to this as a “terror attack” which likely means he’s Palestinian. Hamas has issued a statement praising the shooter without claiming any involvement.
The former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gadi Eizenkot, announced on Sunday that he’s throwing his hat into the political arena as part of a new coalition led by his predecessor, current Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The group represents a merger of Gantz’s Blue and White Party with Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, with Eizenkot as a bonus attraction for right-wing voters who aren’t inclined to support former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition. They’re calling themselves the “National Unity Party,” even though they’re all well-ensconced on the Israeli right so there’s not really much “national unity” to be found in their alliance.
Blue and White and New Hope had announced weeks ago that they would run on a joint ticket, ensuring (probably) that neither would fall below the 3.25 percent threshold to be seated in the next Knesset. Eizenkot’s addition may improve the alliance’s electoral appeal but probably not enough to boost the ruling coalition’s chances of winning in November or to boost Gantz’s chances of supplanting incumbent PM Yair Lapid as the coalition’s de facto leader.
The fine folks at Saudi Aramco reported a cool $48 billion in profit for the quarter that ended on June 30. I know, I’m super excited for them too. Global oil prices have been high for pretty much that entire period, and while they’ve slid back down a bit as the market adjusts to the Ukraine war, the current combination of high demand and limited supply is likely to remain steady for the foreseeable future and so are Aramco’s high profits.
Afghan/Taliban security forces responded violently to a small protest organized by a group of women in Kabul on Saturday. Only around 40 women turned out for the demonstration to demand better social and economic conditions, but those security forces nonetheless reportedly beat a number of them with their rifle butts and fired in the air to disperse the gathering. I have not seen any indication of casualties but then I would imagine the protesters were reluctant to risk showing up at a hospital for medical care.
At least two Pakistani soldiers were killed and another eight people wounded when the soldiers were attacked, apparently by Baluch separatists, in Baluchistan province on Sunday. It’s unclear why authorities believe the attackers were Baluch separatists and from what I can tell there’s been no claim of responsibility.
The Sri Lankan government has decided to allow the Chinese naval vessel Yuan Wang 5 to dock at Hambantota port on Tuesday, despite pressure from the Indian and US governments to deny the ship docking permission. So that’s that for that, I guess. Interestingly, the Indian government on Friday denied having ever pressured Sri Lanka over the Yuan Wang 5’s arrival, so perhaps they knew this decision was coming and wanted to get out in front of it.
Another US Congressional delegation has arrived in Taiwan, not even two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s triumphant visit. It’s unlikely this trip, whose highest ranking official is Senate Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy chair Ed Markey, will arouse any significant response from Beijing the way Pelosi’s visit did, though arriving so shortly after Pelosi could raise the trip’s profile a bit from China’s perspective.
Mali’s ruling junta has decided to rescind the order it issued last month halting any new troop rotations related to the United Nations’ Mali peacekeeping mission. At the time the junta had just arrested 49 soldiers who arrived from the Ivory Coast as part of the mission’s operations, claiming that they’d arrived in Mali without permission. The junta has charged those soldiers with crimes against state security, by the way, though Malian and Ivorian officials are reportedly still negotiating their release. The UN mission says it was able to reach an agreement with the junta about a “streamlined rotation procedure,” according to Reuters.
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto has moved ahead of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the official vote tally from last Tuesday’s presidential election, with a bit over 51 percent of the vote to just under 48 percent for Odinga. These appear to be partial results but I’m unsure how far along they are. What I do know is that the slowness of this official count and irregularities in the alternative media vote count have taken what was already a fairly tense election and brought it to what may be the brink of violence. Partisans of both candidates have been tossing around allegations of fraud and backers of whichever one winds up losing this race may not be willing to accept that outcome.
Concerns continue to swirl around the security of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant:
The main front in Russia’s military onslaught on Ukraine appears to have shifted dangerously to the south of the country, risking a catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and setting up a possible make-or-break struggle for an important regional capital seized by Russia at the start of its invasion.
Initially focused on the north around the capital, Kyiv, and then turning into a brutal slugfest in the east involving months of artillery duels that cost thousands of lives on both sides, the war has entered a new and, each side hopes, decisive phase.
With fighting raging around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear station and the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, around 60 miles down the Dnipro River from the nuclear plant, the south is now where both Russia and Ukraine are focusing their firepower — and their hopes of avoiding a stalemate that could drag on for years.
Over the weekend, Russia used territory around the nuclear power station, which it seized from Ukraine in March, as a staging ground for attacks on Ukrainian positions. It unleashed a barrage of howitzer fire on the nearby Ukrainian-held town of Nikopol, local officials said.
Ukrainian politicians have been making some unconfirmed and likely exaggerated claims that the Russian military has withdrawn from Kherson after Ukrainian artillery damaged or destroyed the bridges linking it to the main body of the Russian military on the other side of the Dnipro River. Ukrainian military officials have said they don’t see any evidence of a withdrawal but the Russian position in Kherson probably isn’t terribly secure at the moment. The bigger concern from a regional/international perspective is the power plant, which continues to take artillery fire and where a stray round could damage the facility in potentially catastrophic ways. The possibility of such an incident remains small, but even the small possibility of a disaster involving “Europe’s largest nuclear power plant” is not a trivial thing.
A new poll released by Opinium Research this weekend shows UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss with a 22 point lead over former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in the race to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 61 percent to 39 percent. The poll sampled members of the UK Conservative Party, who are voting this month on their pick to take over as party leader and, therefore, as PM. Over 60 percent of the party would rather Johnson remain than either candidate take his place.
Peruvian soldiers reportedly battled fighters from a Shining Path faction in eastern Peru in recent days, according to a statement from the Peruvian military on Saturday. At least two Peruvian soldiers and an untold number of militants were killed in the fighting, which began Thursday and continued at least through Friday. The wounded reportedly included “Comrade José,” AKA Víctor Quispe Palomino. He’s the leader of a Shining Path offshoot, the Militarized Communist Party of Peru.
At least five people were killed and 15 more wounded in what appears to have been a shooting and bombing in Guayaquil on Sunday. Authorities are still trying to figure out what happened but Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo took to Twitter to blame organized crime and to call the incident “a declaration of war against the State.”
On August 8, the Biden administration launched its Africa Strategy, amid trips to the continent by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. However, the strategy document lacks new ideas and basically restates the Obama administration’s 2012 strategy.
The authors frame Africa in the context of what is by now boilerplate language about a perceived values-based struggle with China and Russia. The authors also — although they give counterterrorism relatively little weight in the top-line objectives — suggest in the body of the text that Africa’s version of the “War on Terror” will continue unabated.
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