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World roundup: November 8 2022
Stories from Ethiopia, Sweden, Peru, and elsewhere
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THESE DAYS IN HISTORY
November 7, 1917: The Third Battle of Gaza ends with the Ottoman Yıldırım Army Group abandoning Gaza and Britain’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force occupying the town. The first (in March) and second (in April) battles of Gaza had both ended in indecisive Ottoman victories, by which I mean the Ottomans held their positions but were unable to force the EEF back. Britain’s capture of Beersheba a week earlier was decisive and an extended British bombardment on November 6 proved to be the final straw for the Ottoman defenders. Capturing Gaza put the EEF well on its way to capturing Jerusalem, which it would do around Christmas.
November 8, 960: The Battle of Andrassos
November 8, 2002: The United Nations Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 1441, calling on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to disarm under the terms of previous UN resolutions or face “serious consequences.” Funny story: Hussein had already disarmed, but we got to see what the serious consequences were anyway! It all really worked out just swell.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
I have to say the early reports from the United Nations’ COP27 summit are surprising me in terms of developed countries’ apparently newfound willingness to pledge money to help developing states cope with the effects of climate change. This was a very contentious issue during last year’s COP26 summit in the UK and has been contentious for some time now, but European states in particular have come to this summit with checkbooks in hand. What they’re offering isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared with the scope of the problem—a report commissioned for the summit suggests that the developing world needs around $2 trillion per year to cope with climate disasters and reduce its collective carbon emissions—but simply breaking the taboo on climate disaster relief (or reparations, depending on your view of the issue) seems like a fairly big deal. The United States has, of course, conspicuously refused to participate in this movement and has instead been talking up a very vague “carbon offsets” initiative that could actually make it harder to reduce global emissions. That’s just how we roll, I suppose.
Attendees at COP27 also seem more willing than in past years to name the problem: fossil fuels. There’s a movement to impose a windfall tax on oil company profits to help pay for disaster relief, which is unlikely to get any traction but to even see it proposed is somewhat eye opening. Even UN Secretary-General António Guterres lambasted large energy companies on Tuesday for making bogus “net zero” pledges even as they continue to invest in massive fossil fuel projects. I’m no expert in these conferences but I can’t recall seeing such open acknowledgement that “net zero” pledges are mostly BS. I don’t know what to make of this, it’s just caught my eye.
Some enterprising party carried out an airstrike targeting a convoy bringing fuel from Iraq into Syria late Tuesday, killing at least ten people. Unconfirmed reports say that at least some of the dead were Iranian, which presumably means this strike was carried out either by the US or Israel. US officials have already denied involvement.
According to Al-Monitor’s Ahmad Abu Amer, members of the “Lions’ Den” militant group in the West Bank city of Nablus have over the past few weeks been surrendering to the Palestinian Authority:
An official in the Palestinian security services in Nablus told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that contacts between the Palestinian security and the Lion’s Den fighters have been underway for months in order to convince them to surrender to the PA and avoid being pursued by Israel.
According to the source, Israel had informed the PA that it would liquidate these fighters in the wake of the escalating attacks against the Israeli army and settlers in and around Nablus in recent days, which led to the killing of an Israeli soldier and the wounding of several others.
He said that 13 Lion's Den fighters have so far turned themselves in to the PA, and they are now held at the Jnaid prison in Nablus under the protection of the Palestinian security services.
Lions’ Den has been fairly active of late so maybe the PA is hoping that by taking it apart it can reduce violence in what’s been the deadliest year on record for Palestinians in the West Bank. Somehow I doubt it’s going to matter.
Qatar is due to start hosting the FIFA World Cup later this month, so let’s check in and see how they’re preparing to welcome the hundreds of thousands fans who are expected to be arriv-
A Qatar World Cup ambassador has told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality was "damage in the mind", as the Gulf state prepares to host the global tournament in less than two weeks.
In an interview filmed in Doha and to be screened later on Tuesday, former Qatari international Khalid Salman addressed the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative Muslim country.
You know what? Let’s not check in on that, actually. Best of luck to those who are attending.
While it appeared on Monday as though US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in Washington had accomplished nothing, I’m pleased to be able to tell you today that it turns out the meeting accomplished almost nothing. Which is better than nothing! Apparently Bayramov and Mirzoyan agreed to “expedite” negotiations on normalizing the Armenian-Azerbaijani relationship. Almost nothing, but not quite nothing.
It sounds like former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan may need more time to recover from the wounds he suffered in last week’s apparent assassination attempt. After Khan told reporters on Sunday that he would resume his “march on Islamabad” on Tuesday, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party announced on Monday that the march will resume on Thursday. If the issue is Khan’s recovery from his wounds then presumably the march could be delayed still further. His supporters aren’t waiting—they’ve been demonstrating and blockading highways in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities since Friday.
For what it’s worth, Pakistani police say they’ve arrested the would-be assassin and have concluded that he acted on his own volition, in contrast with Khan’s claim that the Pakistani military and government were behind the attack. Khan has also said there were two shooters, not one, so clearly there are still some discrepancies to be worked out.
The European Union unveiled new Myanmar-related sanctions on Tuesday, imposing asset freezes and travel bans on 19 individuals and freezing assets belonging to the State Administration Council, the ruling junta’s executive body. In a coordinated move, the United States blacklisted Kyaw Min Oo and the firm he owns, Sky Aviator Company, for allegedly facilitating some of the junta’s arms purchases.
Usually, those who have taken part in coups are reluctant to give up power. But in this case, Burhan and his associates may have concluded that the costs of remaining in charge of the country outweigh the benefits. With the economy in even worse shape than it was last year, and with the abovementioned problems increasing, the military may have decided that staying at the helm of the government is a losing proposition. Moreover, the international community, led by the United States and the European Union, has been united in withholding financial assistance to Khartoum until civilian government is restored, thereby greatly limiting Burhan’s options. And Russia, the Sudanese military’s chief patron, is not in a position to offer a helping hand given its all-consuming war with Ukraine.
Interestingly, when preliminary talks began in July following Burhan’s announcement about his interest in ceding power to civilians, they were mediated by Saudi and US diplomats in Khartoum and held at the residence of the Saudi ambassador. A statement from the FFC said, “We are keen to have two of the most influential countries in the region and the world remain supportive of the Sudanese people and the pro-democracy forces.”
Saudi Arabia’s involvement in these and subsequent talks may signal that their support for the 2021 coup is waning and that achieving stability in Sudan has become their preferred policy, rather than providing all-out support for the military regime. The Saudis may have concluded that Sudan would not be able to achieve stability under the military regime, given the suspension of international funds and ongoing protests and violence. Moreover, some of the kingdom’s planned agriculture and infrastructure projects in Sudan may hinge on partial funding from international financial institutions, funds that are not likely to be released without the restoration of civilian rule.
Of course they haven’t stepped back from politics yet, as the thousands of protesters in Khartoum on Tuesday—and the tear gas Sudanese security forces deployed to chase them away—demonstrate.
The AP, citing “witnesses,” reports that dozens of people have been killed over the past week in fighting between Ethiopian security forces and the rebel Oromo Liberation Army in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Several of them are claiming to have survived what sounds like a drone strike on the town of Bila on November 2 that killed at least 11 people and may have left hundreds wounded. Presumably that would have been the Ethiopian government’s doing. Federal authorities have accused the OLA of carrying out attacks against civilians as well.
Meanwhile, the Amhara regional government issued a statement via Facebook on Monday evening saying that it is “ready to fulfill its responsibility” with respect to implementing the peace deal between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The statement didn’t say anything specific about the region known for the moment as western Tigray, which has historically also been claimed by the Amhara and which is currently occupied by Amhara security forces. Coincidentally, the peace deal doesn’t say anything specific about that territory either. It seems likely that the Amhara intend to annex it into their region, which could be difficult for the TPLF to accept.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
The Congolese military has reportedly begun airstrikes targeting parts of North Kivu province that are currently under the control of the M23 militia. That militant group has been advancing south in recent weeks toward the provincial capital, Goma, so it’s not terribly surprising that DRC forces have brought air power into the equation. Indeed, they sort of previewed coming attractions on Monday by accidentally (or maybe “accidentally”) flying a Sukhoi-25 fighter into Rwandan airspace.
According to US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, the Russian and US governments have agreed to discuss “in the near future” the resumption of nuclear inspections under the terms of the New START accord. Those inspections were first placed on hold due to COVID, and then in August Moscow announced that it was suspending participation in the inspection program due to Western sanctions. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the two governments had broached the idea of restoring the inspections via US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s communications with Russian officials.
The United Nations General Assembly will vote Monday on a resolution calling for Russia to pay war reparations to Ukraine. As with all UNGA votes this one will be non-binding, but could be embarrassing for Moscow if a large enough portion of the Assembly votes in favor of reparations.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative expires on November 19, and there’s no indication yet as to whether or not the Russian government is going to agree to renew it. Russian officials are still expressing dissatisfaction with the state of their own food and fertilizer exports, which are supposed to be facilitated as part of the Initiative but which have been impacted by Western banking sanctions. The Ukranian government is reportedly looking to extend the Initiative for a full year and to expand its scope to cover additional ports and products as well as faster ship inspections, but a simple and short-term renewal may be more feasible until the Russians feel like their demands are being satisfied.
The Swedish parliament is set to consider a constitutional amendment that would permit curtailments to “freedom of association” for “groups involved in terrorism” next week. If the amendment is approved that would open the door to some potentially draconian new laws targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its associates, which could in turn help advance Sweden’s bid for NATO membership past its current Turkish roadblock. Under Swedish law constitutional amendments must be approved by two parliamentary sessions, on either side of a general election, and this one was already approved by parliament prior to September’s election. Coincidentally, new Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is visiting Turkey to convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that his government is working to meet Ankara’s demands for Sweden’s NATO accession.
Peruvian Prime Minister Aníbal Torres has requested a confidence vote in the Peruvian Congress in a move that could wind up forcing a new legislative election. The opposition-controlled Congress has resisted President Pedro Castillo’s administration and has tried unsuccessfully to impeach him twice. If it agrees to hold a confidence vote and Torres loses (which is likely), then he and his cabinet would be obliged to resign. But they could try to force a second confidence vote and if that vote goes against the cabinet it would give Castillo the authority to dissolve the legislature and call a new election. Given how low Castillo’s approval ratings have been in polling I’m not sure a new Congressional election would go the way he wants it, but at this point he may not have anything to lose. It’s unclear as yet whether Congress will actually take up the requested confidence vote.
Port-au-Prince’s main Varreux fuel terminal reopened for business on Tuesday for the first time since a group of criminal gangs imposed a blockade on the facility back in September. Haitian police say they broke that blockade in an operation last week, and over the weekend gang kingpin Jimmy Cherizier declared the blockade over, at least for now. The blockade had caused fuel shortages across Haiti, which had severe knock-on effects with respect to economic activity and public services.
Finally, World Politics Review’s Lauren Frances Turek looks at the role evangelicals play in US foreign policy:
In late 2021, lawmakers in Ghana introduced a bill that would impose draconian punishments on members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. The language used in the legislation was striking, covering gender identity, sexuality, family structure and moral values, in addition to any specific acts by the communities targeted. And it broadly reflected the ideology of the World Congress of Families, or WCF, a politically conservative, U.S.-based, evangelical Christian umbrella organization that in 2019 held a conference in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. There, leaders of the WCF, along with Ghanaian evangelicals and other anti-LGBTQ groups, called on participants “to lobby national politicians” to create “new laws to clamp down on LGBTQ+ activities in the country.” The anti-LGBTQ bill emerged just two years later, in large part due to that advocacy, though it has still not been passed.
Though Ghanaian evangelicals were the driving force behind the proposed legislation, the influence of the U.S. Christian right is evident—and Ghana is just one of many countries where conservative Christian activists, in particular evangelical groups, have sought to remake the world in line with their religious beliefs and political ideology. Indeed, evangelical groups have played an increasingly powerful role in world affairs since the 1970s, shaping U.S. foreign relations as well as laws and culture in countries around the world.
At present, U.S. evangelical groups are active on a broad range of global issues, though the main foci of their foreign policy engagement are concentrated in four areas: promoting their conservative moral values on issues related to sexuality, gender and the family—including anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion activism; advocating for strong U.S.-Israeli relations in line with their prophetic beliefs; seeking to advance religious liberty worldwide; and providing humanitarian assistance. The latter two aspects of their foreign policy agenda are closely related to their global evangelistic efforts.
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