World roundup: June 9 2022
Stories from Iran, Myanmar, Ukraine, and more
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Due to a commitment this evening, tonight’s roundup is out earlier than usual. We’ll make up anything we miss tomorrow.
THESE DAYS IN HISTORY
June 8, 218: At the Battle of Antioch, a rebel army supporting 14 year old imperial claimant Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus defeats an army under Roman Emperor Marcus Opellius Macrinus. After his defeat, Macrinus attempted to flee west but was captured at Chalcedon and later executed. The new emperor, who took the regal name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, was later dubbed “Elagabalus” because he had previously been a priest of the Syrian sun god Elagabalus and he established that deity as the chief god of the Roman pantheon, displacing Jupiter. Elagabalus is known today mostly for accounts of the decadence of his court and of his sexual and romantic relationships, which have led some historians to argue that he was transgender. The Praetorian Guard assassinated Elagabalus in 222, when he was just 18, and elevated his cousin Severus Alexander to replace him.
June 8, 1941: World War II’s Operation Exporter begins.
June 9, 721: An Aquitanian army under Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeats an invading Arab army under the Umayyad governor of Andalus, al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, at the Battle of Toulouse. Odo’s relief army was able to sucker the Arabs away from their siege of the city through a feigned retreat before turning and virtually annihilating the invaders (Khawlani was among the dead). Though much less famous than the 732 Battle of Tours, which gets great press as the battle that Saved Christendom From The Heathens or whatever, Toulouse was arguably as or even more important, because if Khawlani had been able to capture Toulouse he could have established it as a base for future campaigns against the Franks and Tours, or whatever battle wound up replacing it, might have gone much differently.
June 9, 1815: The Congress of Vienna, intended to sort out a new balance of power in Europe following the end of the French Revolution and the downfall of Napoleon—the full Congress overlapped with Napoleon’s failed “100 Days” restoration and ended just before the Battle of Waterloo—concludes with a “Final Act” establishing the terms of the new continental framework.
Among other things, Vienna established the “Congress System” under which the five European “Great Powers”—Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom—would manage European affairs, and established the reactionary “Conservative Order” to tamp down revolutionary sentiment. The whole system fell apart under the pressures of nationalism and finally during the Revolutions of 1848, though parts of the system were restored under the Concert of Europe system spearheaded by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck during the latter part of the 19th century.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
A combination of China’s continued COVID lockdowns and the war in Ukraine caused the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to downgrade its forecast for the global economy on Wednesday. The OECD now envisions 3 percent growth this year, down from the 4.5 percent it forecast in December.
Ecuador, Japan, Mozambique, Malta, and Switzerland will be joining the United Nations Security Council on January 1, after the UN General Assembly elected them to new two year terms on Thursday. All ran unopposed. They will be replacing, respectively, Mexico, India, Kenya, Ireland, and Norway.
Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Canterbury have reportedly discovered traces of microplastics (29 particles per liter) in fresh Antarctic snow. This strongly suggests that microplastics are everywhere now, so congratulations to humanity on achieving another environmental milestone.
A senior rebel commander in northern Yemen’s al-Jawf province was apparently killed along with four other officers in recent days, as Houthi officials in Sanaa laid all five to rest on Thursday. There’s no indication as to when or where they died but the rebels have suggested it was in combat, which would seem to indicate some sort of violation of Yemen’s current ceasefire. Despite allegations of isolated clashes, that ceasefire has remained in place and the parties opted to renew it last week for two more months.
Israeli occupation forces killed a Palestinian man during an arrest raid in a town just outside the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday. At least seven other Palestinians were wounded in the same incident.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration seems to have upgraded the status of the US diplomatic mission in Palestine. It’s now calling that mission the “US Office of Palestinian Affairs,” which certainly sounds more important than its previous name, the “Palestinian Affairs Unit.” More significantly, the mission will now report directly to the State Department “on substantive matters,” whatever that means. The US previously had a separate consulate in eastern Jerusalem dealing with Palestinian affairs, but when it relocated the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Trump administration downgraded the consulate and moved it inside (and made it subordinate to) the embassy. The Biden administration has expressed interest in reopening a separate consulate, but the Israeli government is refusing to allow that consulate to be located in Jerusalem and locating it anywhere else could create more tension than it resolves.
Iranian authorities have escalated their retaliation for Wednesday’s International Atomic Energy Agency censure by ordering the removal of no fewer than 27 IAEA monitoring cameras currently positioned at sensitive Iranian nuclear sites. The removal of these cameras would virtually eliminate the IAEA’s remaining surveillance of those sites, which would put the kibosh on the last lingering traces of the 2015 nuclear deal. It will also presumably make it more difficult to negotiate a revival of that deal, though to be fair the prospects of that happening were already pretty dismal.
Jacobin’s Aasim Sajjad Akhtar has an interesting look at the role the post-colonial Pakistani state has played in imposing neoliberalism on its people:
The neoliberal phase in the history of global capitalism is too often understood in terms of a simplistic binary division between state and market. In reality, the neoliberal counterrevolution spearheaded by figures like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher was not characterized by states vacating the economic field.
Neoliberal ideologues such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises never wanted the regulatory state to be eliminated. Instead, they sought to reconfigure it as a tool of uninhibited class war from above, waged on behalf of the rich and powerful through various means, including the hollowing out of public services and the dispossession of the working masses.
Neoliberal globalization in Pakistan exemplifies a form of militarized, postcolonial capitalism to be found across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, under which the state stands front and center in multiple processes of capital accumulation. To make sense of the dialectic of state and capital that has animated Pakistani neoliberalism, we must begin by looking at its roots in the period of British colonial rule before 1947.
A new report accuses the Myanmar junta of continuing the Rohingya genocide through administrative tactics:
Myanmar’s military junta is using administrative measures such as identity documents to facilitate a “genocide by attrition” against the beleaguered Rohingya communities of Rakhine State, a human rights group said yesterday.
In a new report, the advocacy group Fortify Rights says that the Myanmar state’s treatment of the Rohingya mirrors that of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide of 1994. While armed armed attacks on Rohingya communities have largely come to an end, “a genocide by attrition has long been underway and it continues today,” according to a press statement accompanying the report’s release.
The report, which was based on interviews with 23 Rohingya in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and among the diaspora, defines “genocide by attrition” as “the gradual destruction of a protected group by reducing their strength through sustained, indirect methods of destruction.”
The estimated 125,000 Rohingya still in Myanmar are confined to facilities that amount to concentration camps, while Myanmar authorities are forcing them to accept national identity documents that prevent them from legally being considered full citizens.
The town of Boni, in central Mali’s Mopti region, has according to the UN’s Malian peacekeeping mission been under siege since May 25. The mission says that “extremist armed groups” (it doesn’t go into any more detail than that) have surrounded the town and are blockading a major nearby highway. Agence France Presse interviewed a Malian from Boni who identified the besiegers as members of the Katiba Sèrma group, which is part of the al-Qaeda affiliated Jamaʿat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin network.
At least two people (one soldier and one civilian) were killed early Thursday when unknown gunmen attacked a gold mine in Burkina Faso’s Nord region. At least three other soldiers were wounded in the incident but the attackers were reportedly driven off. There’s been no claim of responsibility as yet but northern Burkina Faso has been dealing with jihadist violence for several years now.
Bandits reportedly attacked three villages in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state on Sunday, killing at least 32 people in total. Authorities are also suggesting the attackers inflicted significant material damage.
Elsewhere, Nigerian authorities now believe that Islamic State West Africa Province fighters were responsible for the massacre that took place on Sunday at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria’s Ondo State. The official death toll from that attack has risen to 40, and may rise further as initial unconfirmed reports put the number of people killed at 50 or more. Ondo state is well outside ISWAP’s usual stomping grounds in northeastern Nigeria, so if this allegation is true that raises some very troubling questions about the jihadist group’s reach and capabilities.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
At least seven people were killed in an overnight raid on a displaced persons camp in the eastern DRC’s North Kivu province. Authorities seem to think the attackers were part of a Mai-Mai faction called the Nyatura, which is a predominantly Hutu Congolese force affiliated with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.
The Congolese military is accusing its Rwandan counterpart of deploying “500 special forces in disguise” in the eastern DRC, a charge the Rwandan military denies. According to Congolese officials this Rwandan force is operating in North Kivu province in support of the predominantly Tutsi M23 militia. M23 has reemerged this year after going dormant following its previous 2012-2013 uprising. Congolese authorities allege that Rwanda has been providing aid to the group, which Rwandan officials deny while accusing the DRC of supporting the FDLR.
A court in the Donetsk People’s Republic has sentenced two UK nationals and one Moroccan national to death after all three were captured while fighting for Ukraine. The men were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR,” which I suppose does amount to a crime if you accept that the DPR is a legitimate political entity—which, to be fair, most of the world does not.
With Russian authorities opening investigations into some 1100 captured Ukrainian soldiers, these—along with recent war crimes prosecutions of captured Russian soldiers in Ukraine—may be just the first of hundreds of trials that are going to test principles about the legal immunity of captured combatants. International law holds prisoners of war immune from prosecution for their actions within the confines of the conflict. They can still be prosecuted for alleged war crimes or other criminal behavior, though that’s a standard that can be subjectively defined.
In news from Ukraine:
At last check, Ukrainian authorities said that their forces were continuing to hold on to part of the outskirts of Severodonetsk. Virtually the entire city is in ruins at this point, but there’s been no indication that the Ukrainians are preparing to withdraw even with Russian forces in control of most of the territory. Despite taking heavy casualties, the Ukrainians seem willing to engage in what’s become a war of attrition in the Donbas, perhaps believing they can outlast the Russians or at least believing that they can hold out until more potent Western artillery can be deployed to the region. The Ukrainians are also claiming advances in Kherson province, where they recently launched a new counteroffensive. It’s unclear how much ground they’ve been able to recover, if any.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow has now officially achieved one of its war aims, the creation of a usable land bridge connecting Crimea to the Donbas along Ukraine’s Azov Sea coastline. The Russian capture of Mariupol secured the territory for that land bridge, but Shoigu indicated this week that the Russians have now made the land bridge operational by opening a rail linkage from Crimea to the Russian border. This further reduces the chances that Moscow will be willing to cede this territory back to Ukraine under any hypothetical peace deal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Russian President Vladimir Putin and several senior Russian officials. Better late than never, I guess. I doubt any higher ups in the Russian government were planning any near term Ukrainian getaways, but if they did have plans to check out the Darth Vader statue in Odessa (Google it—it used to be a statue of Lenin) I guess they’ll have to make other plans.
Finally, at Responsible Statecraft, Eli Clifton and Ben Freeman bring us another heartwarming tale from the ethically pristine world of DC think tanks:
The current president of one of the biggest and most influential think tanks in Washington DC, the Brookings Institution, allegedly conducted illegal lobbying on behalf of Qatar, obstructed the investigation, provided a “false version of events” to federal agents, and utilized his Brookings email account to undertake his secret lobbying work at the height of an economic embargo against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to federal investigators.
Retired four-star Marine general and former commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan John R. Allen’s role in the alleged illegal lobbying work was detailed in a search warrant, filed in April in Federal District Court in Central California, that was briefly made public late Tuesday.
The filing, which has since been removed from public view but was first reported on by the Associated Press on Tuesday night, claims that Allen participated in an undisclosed and illegal lobbying campaign for Qatar alongside former United States ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan Richard G. Olson and businessperson Imaad Zuberi.
Brookings has placed Allen on administrative leave.