04 August 2016
Week in Brief: International
FRANCE: Traditional summer festivities such as open-air concerts, firework displays and sporting events have been cancelled in many parts of the country as a result of recent terrorist atrocities. Security forces have begun operations at sea, with coastal patrols and helicopter monitoring of ferries entering French waters.
GERMANY: A plan for President Erdogan of Turkey to address a rally of his supporters in Cologne via a videolink was banned by the police and the federal constitutional court, to prevent public disorder. Ankara summoned the German charge d’affaires (the ambassador was on holiday) to express its outrage at the ban.
The defence minister announced that soldiers would be deployed on the streets, for the first time since World War II, as a counter-terrorism measure. The constitution has strict regulations about the use of troops in public.
ITALY: A banking crisis is looming, with the EU considering the need of banks such as the Monte dei Paschi di Sienna for capital injections of up to €6 billion. See comment Wolf At The Door.
More than 8000 migrants crossing from Libya have been rescued from the Mediterranean this week. The number of deaths is increasing as people-smugglers resort to using un-seaworthy boats.
POLAND: The EU has given the governing Law and Justice party a three month deadline to respect democratic standards concerning the recent changes to the country’s constitutional tribunal and national broadcaster.
RUSSIA: An outbreak of anthrax in the Arctic has killed a 12 year old boy and infected at least 20 other people. It is thought to have been caused by the thawing of an old reindeer carcass revealed by melted permafrost, and spread by eating reindeer meat. More than 2000 reindeer have been infected and died. The last outbreak was in 1941.
Middle East and Africa
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban militants blasted their way into the Northgate Hotel, a compound used by foreign civilians, with a massive lorry bomb. Afghan special forces fought them off. One police officer was killed and three wounded. Three Taliban militants were killed
IRAN: An Iranian Kurdish militia – the PDKI – has resumed its separatist armed struggle in Iran from its bases over the border in Iraq, after a 20 year ceasefire.
Nazarin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a woman from the UK with British and Iranian citizenship, has appeared in court in Tehran accused of attempting to overthrow the regime. She works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London, and was arrested in April as she was about to fly back to the UK after a holiday in Iran to see her parents.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke out against the recent nuclear deal, saying that economic benefits have failed to materialise. It seems that Western businesses are still wary of dealing with Iran.
KUWAIT: The government, reluctant to continue to subsidise fuel, announced the first rise in petrol prices in twenty years.
LIBYA: US airstrikes were launched against Isis positions still holding out in the city of Sirte. The airstrikes were requested by the Government of National Accord, which has previously been reluctant to formally engage in military collaboration with outside forces.
SAUDI ARABIA: Snow City, the country’s first theme park, has opened in Riyadh. Men and women are not segregated, and women can wear ski-gear. It has sledging, skiing, snow mobiles and ice bumber-cars. Developing tourism and increasing household spending on leisure is part of deputy crown prince Mohamed bin Salman’s plan to diversify the economy.
The Indian government has begun to deliver aid to the thousands of Indian migrant workers, unemployed now that construction projects have stopped with the fall in oil prices, who are living in labour camps where food, water and money are becoming scarce.
SOMALIA: A suicide-bomb attack killed at least 13 people outside Mogadishu airport. The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, who said that one of the bombers was a former Somalian MP.
SOUTH AFRICA: At least twelve people died this week during violence which accompanied municipal elections. This followed widespread violent protests in recent weeks about the selection of candidates for councillors. Unemployment at 27%, no growth, drought destroying farms and rising food prices, are also fuelling discontent.
SYRIA: Assad has agreed to open a humanitarian corridor into the besieged rebel-held area of Aleppo, after requests from the international community. Aid will be allowed in, and civilians will be allowed out (also fighters, if they lay down their arms).
Rebel forces have launched a big offensive in an attempt to break the regime’s siege of the rebel-held area of Aleppo.
The leader of the Nusra Front announced that the group was severing ties with al-Qaeda. The leader of al-Qaeda has given permission for the split. The USA is worried about al-Qaeda’s growing influence and ambitions in Syria; Washington’s recent proposal for joint operations with Russia in Syria is aimed at combating al-Qaeda, as well as at the fight against Isis and the hope that such co-operation will discourage Russia from attacking moderate rebel groups.
Computers and USB sticks found by Kurdish forces fighting Isis in the city of Manbij could yield invaluable information about terrorism. They are being examined by US intelligence officials.
Five Russian troops were killed when their Mi-8 AMTSh armoured helicopter was shot down by rebel forces. It is claimed that Assad regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas on the nearby town of Saraqib hours later.
A British man, Dean Karl Evans, has been killed, fighting as a volunteer alongside Kurdish forces against Isis.
TUNISIA: Parliament voted for the dismissal of prime minister Habib Essid, whose 18 months in office has been blighted by terrorism, demonstrations and economic problems. President Beji Caid Essebsi has a month to choose a new prime minister.
TURKEY: President Erdogan’s anti-Gulen purge is extending to the media: 47 journalists have been arrested, and 45 newspapers and dozens of publishing companies, radio stations and tv channels have been shut down. The president is also attempting to put the previously-independent army under government control; ministers will be appointed to the supreme military council for first time.
Ankara summoned the German charge d’affaires (the ambassador was on holiday) to express its outrage that German police and the German federal constitutional court banned a videolink which would have enabled President Erdogan to address a rally of his supporters in Cologne, Germany.
The foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey would cancel the migrant deal with the EU unless the EU agreed to visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by October.
YEMEN: Militants have blown up a sixteenth-century mosque containing a Sufi scholar’s shrine in the city of Taez.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
INDONESIA: A former general charged with crimes against humanity has been made minister for security, political and legal affairs. General Wiranto’s troops killed 1,400 people in East Timor in 1999.
JAPAN: Yuriko Koike has been elected as the first woman governor of Tokyo.
MALAYSIA: The government passed the National Security Council Act, dramatically increasing the powers of its security forces. Prime minister Najib Razak said that it is a necessary measure to tackle terrorism. Civil rights activists fear that it could be used to stifle criticism and dissent. Mr Razak’s government faces allegations of corruption from the US justice department.
USA: President Obama suggested that Russians were indeed behind the hacking attack on the Democratic party which led to the release of e-mails which prompted the resignation of the party’s chairwoman. Trump replied by inviting Russia to find Hilary’s deleted e-mails. Trump’s anti-Muslim statements were criticised by the Muslim parents of a captain in the US armed forces who was killed in Iraq.
In the Democratic party convention, Hilary Clinton was supported by Mike Bloomberg, President Obama, Michelle Obama, movie stars and civil rights heroes.
See comment To The Starting Blocks.
In Florida, 14 cases of Zika not contracted abroad were recorded, all in the Wynwood area of Miami. The Centers for Disease Control has advised pregnant women to avoid the area.
Sixteen people on board a hot air balloon were killed when it crashed and caught fire near Austin, Texas.
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