World roundup: July 1-2 2023
Stories from Israel-Palestine, Russia, Brazil, and elsewhere
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Programming Note: As paid subscribers already know, today’s roundup will be our last for a couple of weeks as the newsletter takes its annual summer break. We will resume regular programming on July 18. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you then!
TODAY IN HISTORY
July 1, 1097: The Crusaders defeat a Seljuk army at Dorylaeum. The outnumbered Seljuks caught the vanguard of the Crusader army by surprise but were eventually worn down as the day went on and the rest of the Crusaders kept rolling in to relieve their comrades. The victory cleared the Crusaders’ path to Antioch.
July 1, 1968: The “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” is signed by 62 countries. Nowadays that list has grown to 191 signatories. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has prevented the spread of nuclear weapons ever since, except for all the times—India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa—it hasn’t done that.
July 2, 1582: Two vassals of the deceased Japanese daimyō Oda Nobunaga, Akechi Mitsuhide and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, meet at the Battle of Yamazaki, with Hideyoshi’s army emerging victorious. Hideyoshi thus ended Mitsuhide’s rebellion and exacted some vengeance for Mitsuhide’s defeat of Nobunaga, after which the daimyō committed suicide. The shogunate now passed from the Oda clan to the Toyotomi clan, where it resided until Tokugawa Ieyasu took it from them in 1600.
July 2, 1853: Citing the Ottomans’ supposed failure to protect Christian religious sites as a pretext, Russian Tsar Nicolas I sends an army across the Pruth River to occupy Moldavia and Wallachia, both nominally still Ottoman territories. Nicolas assumed that the European powers would not begrudge him a little annexation, as a treat. He was wrong, and the Crimean War ensued.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation called on Sunday for a global prohibition on Quran desecration, in the wake of Wednesday’s incident in Stockholm. The OIC is arguing that international legal protections against “religious hatred”support such a ban. It’s hard to see Western governments implementing something like this, but with right-wing xenophobia and Islamophobia politically ascendant the issue isn’t going away.
The Israeli military launched a missile strike on targets near the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday. In a rare acknowledgement, Israeli officials said they were targeting Syrian air defense systems after a Syrian anti-aircraft missile exploded near Israeli airspace and fragments landed on Israeli soil. I’m unclear why the Syrians launched that missile in the first place and it’s possible the Israelis are fudging the timeline a bit here. They may have undertaken a strike to which the Syrians responded and during the response that Syrian missile wound up raining debris on Israel.
The Israeli military attacked what it called a “joint operations center” for militants in the West Bank city of Jenin early Monday morning, killing at least two people. They’re claiming the facility was used by the “Jenin Brigades,” one of a number of local militant units that have sprung up across the territory in recent years.
According to The Washington Post, settler violence in the West Bank has opened a new rift within the far-right Israeli ruling coalition:
The split over how to respond to the violence is just the latest example of tensions pulling at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fractious governing coalition as it struggles to remake the country’s judiciary and ease strains with the United States, Europe and regional powers. It pits the country’s security establishment against far-right cabinet members, who say the rampages are an understandable reaction to Palestinian violence and reject characterizing them as “Jewish terrorism.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a settler leader who heads the Religious Zionist Party, this week slammed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for approving the summary detention of four settlers suspected of participating in attacks on the village of Luban a-Sharqia.
Israel regularly employs administrative detention to hold Palestinians without trial — more than 1,000 were detained in March, according to the Israeli prison service. But in a tweet, Smotrich called use of that mechanism against settlers “both democratically and morally repugnant.”
Gallant’s office declined to comment for this article. But a senior Israeli official said Gallant and other security officials had concluded that the risk posed by some settlers required the same approach they employ against suspected Palestinian terrorists.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has apparently decided not to send a new ambassador to Sweden in response to that aforementioned Quran desecration, at least not for the time being. Amir-Abdollahian’s announcement suggested that an ambassador has already been picked and he’s just decided to delay making the appointment official. It’s unclear how long that delay might last.
Unspecified militants attacked a security checkpoint in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Sunday, killing four security personnel. One of the attackers was also killed in the clash. The militants in question were likely Pakistani Taliban members, though there’s been no claim of responsibility as yet. On Friday, meanwhile, Pakistani security forces conducted raids on two militant bases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing at least six alleged militants. The Pakistani Taliban predominates in that region but there are also Islamic State elements operating there.
Myanmar authorities are accusing the Kachin Independence Army rebel group of attacking a Chinese military convoy in Kachin state on Tuesday. The KIA is denying the allegation. Chinese officials were reportedly heading to a border security meeting with their Myanmar counterparts when the incident is supposed to have taken place. There were no casualties in the alleged incident.
The US military is now saying that the Chinese Balloon of Death didn’t actually collect any intelligence as it floated across the continental United States earlier this year. If the week-long panic attack that gripped the US over the balloon hadn’t already reached “farce” territory, this should push it over the line.
It’s getting difficult to find new ways to say “fighting between the Sudanese military and the Rapid Support Forces continued unabated today,” but since this is going to be our last roundup for a while it’s probably worth saying it at least one more time. Heavy fighting was reported around the capital area, with the RSF even claiming to have downed a military aircraft in Bahri. The Sudanese Doctors Union on Saturday accused the RSF of attacking the Shuhada Hospital in Bahri, killing one medical worker. The RSF denied involvement.
Sierra Leone’s All People’s Congress party announced on Friday evening that it intends to boycott “any level of governance, including the legislature and local councils,” in protest of what it claims was President Julius Maada Bio’s fraudulent victory in last weekend’s election. Bio finished well ahead of APC leader Samura Kamara amid what the APC says were numerous “glaring irregularities and violations of established electoral procedures.” The party is demanding the resignation of multiple electoral officials, followed by a new election within six months. That seems unlikely to happen.
An apparent jihadist attack killed at least five people and left another 11 wounded in the town of Damboa, in Nigeria’s Borno state, on Friday. The attackers reportedly fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the town and then attempted to swarm in, but an “anti-jihadist militia” drove them off.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Allied Democratic Forces fighters attacked a village in the eastern DRC’s Ituri province on Friday, killing at least 11 people. The village chief is claiming that 13 people were killed but apparently only 11 bodies have been recovered.
A group called “Global Witness” has released a new report identifying Western firms TotalEnergies and Shell as the third and fourth (respectively) biggest corporate entities in the Russian liquefied natural gas market. Two Russian firms are first and second, which makes sense, but under the circumstances it’s a little awkward for these two Western energy giants to be helping Russia generate its massive energy revenues. Both companies insist they’re only fulfilling long-term contracts signed prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and are not doing any new business in Russian LNG.
In contrast with the slew of thinkpieces that have been suggesting that last weekend’s Wagner mutiny is somehow the beginning of the end for the war in Ukraine or even for Vladimir Putin’s reign in Moscow, World Politics Review’s Paul Poast suggests the incident could actually prolong the conflict. For one thing, there’s no indication the mutiny had any effect on Russian public opinion and it actually seems to have removed one major source of discord (Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin) within the Russian establishment. For another thing, if (as so many Russia Knowers have been positing) the mutiny has weakened Putin or made him feel weakened, that could cause him to push harder in Ukraine so as to prove otherwise.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said via social media on Sunday that Russian forces had made advances in recent days along four fronts in eastern Ukraine, while Ukrainian forces are advancing in the southern part of the country. As far as I can tell she didn’t go into much detail beyond that.
The Romanian government expelled 40 Russian diplomatic staff on Saturday, as relations between the two countries continue to spiral downward amid the war in Ukraine. Romanian authorities issued their expulsion orders last month.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, stepped in on Saturday to rescind two laws recently passed by the legislature in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska region. Those laws rejected the authority of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ceased the publication of Schmidt’s edicts in the official regional government gazette. Both laws deepened the de facto secession being pushed by Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik. As High Representative, Schmidt has effectively unchecked authority to make or revoke law. The position was instituted by the 1995 Dayton Agreement and was supposed to serve as a stopgap executive while Bosnia’s constituent communities built up new national institutions. It’s been 28 years and there’s still no indication that the position is going away anytime soon. Schmidt’s veto is likely to exacerbate this secessionist crisis.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Brazilian authorities are worried that the Russian government is using their country as a way-station for spies:
Norwegian authorities say a university researcher carrying Brazilian documentation is actually a deep-cover agent for Moscow, charging him with espionage. Investigators traced his Brazilian citizenship to a fraudulently obtained birth certificate from Padre Bernardo, in what has become a familiar pattern of identity theft and spycraft originating from this South American country.
Another Russian using a forged Brazilian identity is incarcerated in Brazil and faces spying charges in the U.S. Dutch authorities stopped him last year as he allegedly attempted to infiltrate the International Criminal Court as an intern. A third suspected Russian spy who lived for years under a Brazilian identity in Rio de Janeiro is missing.
The incidents have sparked an investigation in Brazil into whether Moscow is using the country as an incubator for deep-cover agents seeking to infiltrate the West—and have put Brazil in an uncomfortable international spotlight. Brazilian investigators have offered few public details about their probe, but they believe more covert agents could be lurking undetected within the country or around the world, according to people familiar with the matter.
Guatemala’s Supreme Court on Saturday ordered a review of ballots from last weekend’s presidential election. First round winner and former First Lady Sandra Torres requested the review, alleging indications of fraud in favor of runner up and former ambassador Bernardo Arévalo. The review could lead to a recount if enough irregularities are discovered. Arévalo is planning to appeal the ruling to Guatemalan elections officials.
Finally, Jacobin’s Cal Winslow writes about the battle to save western North America’s massive temperate rainforest:
Still everywhere these forests are threatened. In the United States, where they are not corporately owned, the US Forest Service is likely to manage them. Yet, even these “publicly” owned forests are not safe. The Forest Service is just as likely to enable the loggers as restrain them; even the national and state parks and reserves of California survive only at the whim of giant bureaucracies — these, in turn, are reflective of which parties are in power.
Professor William Russell, a forest scientist at San Jose State University, reports that “mature second growth redwood stands begin to develop old growth features, but are, unfortunately, under threat of commercial logging on public lands traditionally designated as preserves. Commercial ‘restoration’ logging is currently taking place in National and State Parks.”
It is not just the remnant of redwoods — 4 percent of their former number — that is facing the axe: the coastal lowlands of Oregon and Washington are a checkerboard of ongoing clear-cutting, tree farms on a thirty-year rotation, ruling out meaningful recovery.
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