CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy, including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
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In Kachin state, Myanmar’s Arakan army has picked up recruitment efforts in light of ongoing clashes with Myanmar forces and failed cease-fire talks. The Arakan Army has set up multiple training camps in Kachin state, home to fellow Northern Alliance member, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Currently, the Arakan Army allegedly possesses 7,000 troops. The goal of the Arakan Army is self-autonomy and control over their territory in Northern Myanmar.
As the return of famed opposition leader Sam Rainsy nears, Cambodian officials have escalated the repression of his supporters. This year, at least 27 members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been arrested, facing five to ten years in prison. In the case of civil servants found conspiring against Prime Minister Hun Sen, a life sentence will be given. Social Media and private phone calls have been closely monitored by Cambodian officials, leading to the increase of arrests within the CNRP’s critical ranks.
Maldivian Chief Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi stated on Wednesday that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) lacks the constitutional mandate to investigate Supreme Court justices over the top court’s decisions, despite its intention to launch an independent investigative probe. The JSC planned to examine 17 instances where the Supreme Court allegedly violated the constitution or usurped the powers of state institutions. However, neither the legitimacy nor constitutionality of Supreme Court decisions could be undermined, as it would impede the independence and freedom of the court, according to Chief Justice Didi.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih affirmed on Wednesday that criticism of Islam and the use of religion to create discord will continue to be illegal, warranting punishment from the government.
This Thursday, Thai opposition Future Forward Party protested the transfer of two Army units to the command of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, citing the move as inconsistent with the laws of the constitutional monarchy. A leader of the Future Forward Party, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, stated that the royal decree unjustly used emergency provisions to bypass parliament, despite its confirmation by a majority of lawmakers this Thursday. The disagreement has heightened tensions in Thailand’s struggle between military and democratic rule, in which pro-military and royalist supporters have portrayed their opponents as threats to the monarchy.
This Tuesday, Vietnamese President and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea amid a tense stand-off involving Chinese ships. Tensions escalated this summer when Beijing deployed a research ship to conduct an energy survey in waters controlled by Vietnam. Though President Trong assured the public that Vietnam and China maintain good relations, the rising tensions represent challenges to Vietnamese sovereignty and security. The announcement comes after Dreamworks movie ‘Abominable’ was pulled from theaters this week due to its feature of a map that validates China’s claim to the South China Sea, negating Vietnam’s legal claim to the territory.
In a video documentary by Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, Malaysian fish farmers and activists call on the government to improve marine pollution. Malaysia’s marine pollution has been affecting fish farmers in Northern Malaysia, causing them financial losses. In coming years, marine pollution is only expected to worsen, raising concerns among Malaysian fish farmers for further financial losses.
The creation of artificial islands has also sparked outrage among fish farmers. Proposed artificial islands will cover approximately 18 square kilometers. The most controversial artificial island is expected to be built in the center of rich fishing grounds, where farmers catch the majority of their fish, prawns and crabs. This construction would likely devastate the fish farmers’ income.
This Tuesday, North Korea and South Korea met for the first time since 1990 on the football field for the World Cup qualifiers. The match, however, was not your typical match. There were no fans in the stadium and no media to broadcast the game. One of the few attendees was FIFA President Gianni Infantino. In a statement he made after the game he expressed that he was “disappointed to see there were no fans in the audience.” The historic match, which ended in a tie, demonstrates the slow progress in North and South Korean diplomatic relations. These teams accepted competing against each other, however advances must still be made in order to normalize relations.
Parliamentary proceedings were disrupted this week as 11 opposition members were removed from the chambers after Carrie Lam’s annual policy address. The ejected lawmakers, holding white flowers in solidarity with those injured in the protests, interrupted and criticized her for not addressing the ongoing political crisis in her policy speech. Lam’s sentiments centered around a commitment to nonviolence and adhering to the rule of law, which proved unsatisfactory.
This week, leader of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), Jimmy Sham, was hospitalized after being attacked by a hammer. The violent act against Sham occurred just hours after Carrie Lam suspended her annual policy address after the interruption from opposing lawmakers. From the hospital, Sham reassured the public via social media of his continued commitment to nonviolent resistance. The CHRF is a principal organizer of the ongoing demonstrations across Hong Kong, and one of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy organizations.
The Libyan government has started its first steps of economic reform; this week, the commercial price of kerosene was raised to .85 Libyan dinars ($0.6 USD) per liter, though the domestic prices will remain the same, at .15 dinars per liter. The Libyan government intends on lowering domestic prices following an increase in commercial sales. The Libyan ministry additionally stated that “the aim of this decision is primarily to combat the smuggling of this substance”. It is unclear whether this tactic will be effective, though the measure is surprising due to the Libyan government’s unwillingness to start reforms in the midst of widespread conflict.
Talks between the transitional government and rebel groups started this week in Sudan. The aims of the talks are to foster peace and communication between the two parties. President Abdalla Hamdok has voiced his hope for ending conflict with rebel groups in addition to helping Sudan transition to civilian rule. The peace talks between the groups is the next step in creating a strong foundation for a formal transition to a civilian-run government and signifies forward progress in the way of change.
Iran has announced that the country will be limiting nuclear inspectors’ access to the nation’s nuclear plants. The action comes as a continuation of reducing responsibility in accordance with the nuclear deal. The deal, which was signed by major world powers, started to fall apart following U.S. President Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement. The European powers remain vocally committed to the deal and it appears that this measure by Iran serves to put pressure on the European signatories, who had previously promised increased trading between the EU and Iran.
Pakistan’s foreign minister reported that Iran and Saudi Arabia showed willingness to have talks, following weeks of rising tensions between the two countries. Neither Iran nor Saudi have announced a plan for talks, and the prospect of dialogue at this juncture seems somewhat unlikely on the Saudi side. However, the threat of war between the nations, following an alleged Iranian attack on a Saudi oil facility, appears to be decreasing.
This Thursday, the Iraqi government has announced their plan to restore 3G services. The services were initially cut off in the first week of October when deadly protests broke out in the capital, killing at least 110 people and wounding 6,000 others. The government aimed to control the sharing of grotesque images, in an effort to stop potential sympathizers. After the protests calmed and the news of the amount of deaths and injuries spread, protesters demanded the government “to produce a report on who in the Iraqi Security Force was responsible for firing at civilians.” Protesters also called for a nationwide protest on October 25th, coinciding with the deadline they put in place on the government to produce the report on responsibility. After the government received notice of the protest, in an effort to calm tensions the government then announced their plan to restore 3G services.
Following a deal brokered by Moscow, Damascus has allied with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to secure the Syrian-Turkish border. Though the deal resulted in significant territorial losses for the SDF, which had previously established an autonomous territory in Northeastern Syria, the security of Kurdish people is its top priority. President Assad’s forces have viewed this development as strategic both in terms of regaining territory previously lost during the civil war, and also securing access to resources located in the area.
Zimbabwean doctors have continued to strike for the sixth consecutive week, ignoring court orders to return to work. Public workers joined the doctor’s this week in a show of support. Doctors started to strike in response to drastically decreased monthly wages; demonstrators were made more enthusiastic following the kidnapping and eventual release of the doctors’ union leader, Dr Magombeyi, by government authorities. The doctor’s strike reflects the worsening economic situation of Zimbabwe; the economic environment has appeared to worsen under President Mnangagwa, whose administration followed the Mugabe regime.
In reaction to strict US sanctions, Cuba is making due with only 62% of the petrol it needs to fully operate. The Cuban government has prioritized petrol use for “hospitals, schools and food distribution.” All other petrol using substances have been placed on the back burner. Transportation, for example, is facing harsh realities as hundreds of people cram into public busses, while many are left behind on bus curbs. The resilience of the Cuban government and its citizens has been demonstrated during this shortage, however, has left many to question for how long can this continue?
This week, Guatemala’s president-elect Alejandro Giammattei was denied entry into Venezuela. Here, he planned to hold a meeting with Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition party in Venezuela. However, once he landed at Simon Bolivar International Airport he was denied entry and immediately placed on a departing flight. This act has been seen as a message from President Maduro demonstrating his intolerance of Guaido supporters. In reaction to his denied entry, Giammattei shared “we are with you,” referring to Guatemala’s strong support for Guaido.
Russia’s zone of permafrost has come under threat due to climate change, potentially costing the country $2.3 billion a year. The area of permafrost has started to thaw, following an increase in temperature in the region. The thawing has caused the ground to soften, threatening the infrastructure of the entire area; the permafrost region is home to a significant portion of Russia’s oil facilities and the destruction of said facilities would be very harmful to the Russian economy.
Russia has accused United States diplomats of attempting to gain access to restricted areas in the country. Russian officials allegedly caught 3 U.S. diplomats in a secure military testing site. This accusation comes as a continuation of consistently heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow.
The United States has brokered a deal with Turkey that allows for a five day ceasefire in northern Syria. The pause in attacks will hopefully allow Kurdish fighters, a group formerly allied with the United States until President Trump’s sudden withdrawal from the region, to retreat. President Trump has dealt with criticism from both the Republicans and the Democrats on the matter of withdrawal, as was indicated by a House resolution condemning his decision.
Myanmar Investments International, a London-based firm, has pulled its foreign investments from Myanmar amid instability and conflict in the Rakhine region. One of several investors to withdraw from Myanmar since 2017, MII’s move represents the lack of confidence in the country’s future. In addition to the fallout from the Rakhine conflict, former investors have cited Myanmar’s fragile domestic banking system as grounds for withdrawal. Foreign investment is expected to drop significantly in the coming months and years as Myanmar becomes further enveloped in civil unrest.
This Week, 30 Rohingya Muslims were arrested in Myanmar while trying to travel from Rakhine State to the city of Yangon without official travel documents. According to Human Rights Watch, police arrested the group of Rohingya and sentenced 21 of them to two years in prison, while eight children were sent to a child detention center. The youngest, a five-year-old, is being held in prison with his mother. This incident is an addition to a long list of discriminatory arrests that target Rohingya in Myanmar, inhibiting their freedom of movement.
This Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to deploy the military if opposition leaders from the dissolved CNRP return next month, as he would consider it an attempted coup. Specifically, opposition Sam Rainsy is expected to return to the country following his self-exile. Rainsy has repeatedly called for a revolution due to Hun Sen’s abuse of power and unwillingness to hold free and fair elections. This Monday, the Prime Minister ordered police forced to “Attack wherever [supporters] are seen, there is no need to wait for an arrest warrant or not”. In 2019 alone, over 30 activists have been accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and were subsequently arrested.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih criticized a report made by the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN). The NGO published a report on human rights in the Maldives, which was accused of “mocking” Islam. Because of the large criticism the report received, MDN removed the report, apologized and vowed “to revise the report with the help of religious scholars” to ensure religious sensitivity. Responding to the MDN’s report, MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla brought forth a motion in parliament, which called for “‘eradication’ of secularist or ‘irreligious’ people, ‘rainbow-colored people’, and advocates of gender equality.” The proposed motion provoked outrage among Maldivian human rights activists who largely criticize the motion.
Following the acquittal of 5 Muslim men on murder charges, Yala Province Cheif judge Kanakorn Pianchana delivered an impassioned speech against corruption in the Thai judicial system, and then shot himself in the courtroom. Alleging that he had been pressured to find the men guilty despite lack of credible evidence, Pianchana stated that the Thai court system was neither transparent nor just. Following the suicide attempt, the judicial commission announced this week that an independent inquiry into the case will be launched in the next two weeks.
Vietnamese activist Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong was arrested in late September for criticizing the Communist government on social media. This week, Human Rights Watch reported that Vuong is being held under conditions “conducive to mistreatment or torture”. Police arrested Vuong on charges of “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under article 117 of the country’s penal code. Vuong’s arrest represents challenges to freedom of expression in Vietnam as well as the Vietnamese government’s extreme efforts to censor online material. According to Human Rights Watch, Vuong’s arrest is part of a crackdown against critics and pro-democracy campaigners. During the first nine months of 2019, the Vietnamese authorities convicted at least 11 people for criticizing the government.
Following nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea earlier this week in Stockholm, North Korean officials have cast doubt on peace relations, stating that the “negotiations have not fulfilled out expectations”. This Thursday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson further noted that the Communist state might reverse steps to build trust with the United States, following an inflammatory appeal from the UN Security Council. On Tuesday, the Council called for North Korea to “take concrete steps” to cease its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles development in a meaningful, measurable and irreversible way. The spokesperson noted that the Council appeal, largely representative of U.S. interests, undermines the peace-building process between the two countries and unjustly questions North Korea’s right to self-defense.
This weekend, protests in Hong Kong saw a sharp increase in violence, which led Hong Kong leader, Karrie Lam, to announce that “the protests were no longer ‘a peaceful movement for democracy.’” The announcement comes after thousands of protesters violated Hong Kong’s latest ban on wearing face masks. Lam argued that if the violence continues, she will have no choice but to ask China to step in. China desperately wants to stop the Hong Kong protests, because of the political threat they pose to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This Sunday, a boat leaving from Libya capsized carrying approximately 50 people attempting to reach Italy and seek asylum. 22 of the 50 migrants were rescued by Italian authorities, while 13 women died and 8 children went missing during the incident. These numbers contribute to the growing number of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Italy from North Africa by sea and highlights the dangers of doing so. Last month alone, approximately 2,500 migrants and refugees coming from North Africa arrived in Italy: a figure that does not account for the individuals who have died when attempting the perilous journey. Since 2013, 20,000 migrants and refugees have died in their attempt to reach Europe.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan released a short video documentary on daily life for residents in Nyala, Sudan. In the documentary a Nyala student accounts a protests two weeks ago led by school children. This protest sparked after the school released its students early because of a shortage in bread. During the protest, soldiers fired tear gas and live ammunition at the students. One of the bullets struck the interviewees’ foot and at least six other people were injured during the two-day protest.
The protest may have been sparked because of bread shortages, however this was not the only matter being protested. Many residents in Nyala have yet to see changes after the transitional power-sharing deal implemented more than six weeks ago. For example, state governors appointed by the previous president, Omar al-Bashir, have yet to be dismissed and replaced. Some argue the notion that these state governors have not been dismissed symbolizes how the old regime has yet to be overturned.
Iranian women for the first time were allowed to attend the World Cup qualifier match against Cambodia on Thursday, October 10th. The lift on Iran’s ban on women attending football matches came after a 29-year-old woman, Sahar Khodayari, set herself on fire outside a Tehran court in protest of the ban. Khodayari died from her injuries, which sparked domestic and international pressure on Iran to lift the ban. Although Thursday’s game only allocated 5% of the stadium to female fans, activists regarded the partial lift as the “first official step forward.” Concerns regarding the women attendees safety during the match were raised, but failed to discourage female fans from attending. For female football fans, the excitement of attending Thursday’s match overweighed fears of potential safety. In fact, the first 850 tickets released to women were sold out in minutes.
This Thursday, Iraq’s Prime Minister has announced three days of mourning in tribute to demonstrators killed in recent anti-government and anti-corruption protests. 110 deaths and thousands of injuries have been confirmed in Baghdad as well as other cities across the country. Curfews and internet blackouts are still in effect across Iraq as the government attempts to quell the protests. Multiple reports have emerged that news stations and journalists have been targeted by Iraqi security forces, which activists view as a broad effort to suppress the media. So far, Iraq’s army has admitted to the use of “excessive force” against protesters in al-Sadr district, according to a statement posted to the Iraqi state security Facebook page on Monday.
This Wednesday, electricity prices increased for the second time within three months; tariffs on electricity have raised by 320%. Rises in the price of electricity coincides with last week’s steep price increases in fuel and basic goods. The government, in an effort to reinvigorate the Zimdollar, banned “the use of foreign currencies in local transactions”. However, this effort largely failed. Initial hopes that Mnangagwa would rebound Zimbabwe’s economy after Robert Mugabe have dwindled. In response to critics, Mnangagwa called on Zimbabweans to allow time and patience for Zimbabwe’s economy to rebound.
The Trump administration’s tough sanctions on Cuba are deterring Western firms from operating and investing in the country. After sanctioning almost “200 Cuban military-run companies and hotels as well as any company or vessel involved with shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba,” Western firms worry their investment may lead to reactionary US sanctions. They reason that investing in Cuba is not worth its costs. President of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, John Kavulich, equated US financial sanctions to weapons of mass destruction, while Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, called the sanctions “genocidal” . Cuba is now facing trouble in financing their sugar harvest, venture projects are finding it almost “impossible to obtain private credit,” and Cuban embassies abroad are hindered in their ability to open accounts.
Venezuela is projected to lose ownership of Citgo this month, unless the U.S. Treasury Department intervenes. The Venezuelan government is expected to default on a $913 million bond issue payment due on October 27th, meaning that bondholders could seize the 50.1% of Citgo shares that President Nicolas Maduro formerly placed as collateral for the bond issue. However, such recourse in the case of payment default is only possible with a special license from the U.S. Treasury Department, which was granted to Interim President Juan Guaido earlier this year. With the revocation of the special license, Guaido could maintain ownership of Citgo.
Crude oil suspected to be from a Venezuelan spill has contaminated hundreds of miles of Brazilian beaches, a crisis that is likely to further strain relations between the two countries. Though the original spill occurred over a month ago, Brazil’s Environment Minister Ricardo Salles asserted on Wednesday that the oil is “very likely from Venezuela”, which will almost certainly escalate tensions in the coming days.
After more than a year in exile, university student leader Lesther Aleman returned to Nicaragua on Monday from the United States despite running a “very high risk” by returning. Aleman rose to prominence as a student activist when he interrupted a speech by Daniel Ortega at the beginning of the first national dialogue in May of 2018, and demanded that he order the cessation of repression. At the time, more than 50 people had been killed in anti-corruption protests, many of them being students. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports today that 328 people were ultimately killed, hundreds arrested and at least 70,000 fled into exile.
This week, one of Nicaragua’s oldest newspapers, “Nuevo Diario,” shut down this week due to extreme economic strain and the challenging environment for journalists in the Central American country. This announcement follows a decision made this week by the Nicaraguan government to not return “Noticias TV”, a private station seized last December, to its owners. The Nicaraguan government alleged that the station incited anti-government violence, orchestrated by the station’s director Miguel Mora and news director Lucía Pineda. Both Mora and Pineda were arrested for 6 months and investigated for involvement in a “failed coup attempt.
This Wednesday, Russia labeled Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) a “foreign agent”, implying that the foundation is accepting international funds and spies for foreign governments. Navalny responded to the labeling by stating that the group is funded “exclusively by Russian citizens.” He urged the government to “publicly prove” that his organization is accepting international funds before placing a label on them. FBK spokeswomen Kira Yarmysh shared that the government’s decision for labeling FBK was meant to “put pressure on [them] and attempt to stop [their] activity.” FBK has become Putin’s primary critic and a threat to the Kremlin. Just as Navalny was barred from the 2018 presidential elections, labeling FBK a foreign agent is just “another attempt to suffocate” FBK and block criticism of the Kremlin.
On Monday, President Trump called for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria’s border with Turkey, despite appeals from Republicans Congress members, the State Department, and the international community. The withdrawal allowed for Turkish forces to invade Northeastern Syria this week in an attempt to eliminate Kurdish strongholds along the Turkish-Syrian border, and establish a safe-zone for the return of Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey. The move is projected to be disastrous for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces, who are both allies to the U.S. and instrumental in containing IS fighters in Northeastern Syria. Though President Trump threatened to devastate the Turkish economy in case of an escalated attack against the Kurds, he implied in a tweet that mediation was his preferred solution.
A Trump Administration spokesperson announced this week that the White House will not cooperate with the impending impeachment investigation into President Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian officials.
Other News: Turkish Offensive in Syria
At least 11 people have been killed in Northeastern Syria as the Turkish offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led resistance force, enters its third day. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes as attacks have escalated, prompting widespread criticism from the international community. The fighting between the SDF and Turkish forces is concentrated around the two border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. The SDF has responded to the attacks by shelling nearby Turkish border towns, resulting in at least five casualties.
This Tuesday, the UN’s refugee agency released a report regarding Myanmar’s refugee crisis. Figures provided demonstrated an increase in the ratio of deaths or missing persons of refugees or asylum seekers who embarked on a sea journey: an increase from one in every 81 refugees or asylum seekers in 2013 – 2015 to one in every 69 refugees or asylum seekers. The report also indicated that previously most of these refugees or asylum seekers’ deaths were a result of people smugglers and caused by “beating, gunshot wounds or deprivation of food and water.” However, recently the report showed that most deaths of Myanmar’s refugees and asylum seekers were attributed to sea journeys. Of these maritime movements, approximately 59% of individuals embarking on sea journeys were women or children.
This increase in women or children sea voyagers corresponds with the increase in women or children Myanmar refugees or asylum seekers seeking safety in Bangladesh. The report found that four out of five Myanmar refugees or asylum seekers seeking safety in Bangladesh were women or children, a great increase from 2013 – 2015 when most individuals seeking refuge in Bangladesh were men.
A Cambodian judge ruled on Thursday that the espionage case against journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sotearin needed reinvestigation due to a lack of evidence to convict. Chhin and Sotearin were accused two years ago in 2017 for “supplying information to a foreign state” during a government crackdown on political and media opponents. This accusation sprouted from the journalists working for Radio Free Asia, a US funded broadcasting organization. The decision for reinvestigation angered human rights activists who reasoned if there is a lack of evidence to convict the charges should be dropped. Chhin, who already has spent nine months in detention before a bail was set, shared he “expected everything would be clear today, black and white, and [my family and I] could plan for our future.”
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih attended last week’s UN General Assembly meeting, a symbolic gesture of the revival of democracy in the Maldives. The first appearance of a Maldivian Head-of-State in over 7 years, President Solih’s visit to the UN illustrated a commitment to multilateral engagement. During his address to the UN, President Solih highlighted the Maldives’ engagement with climate activism, the ongoing struggle to combat terrorism, and his desire for greater regional integration. Following his address, the President met with Indian Prime Minister Modi to discuss further cooperation between the two states.
North Korea successfully launched an alleged submarine-based missile this week. Despite claims from the nation that weapon was launched from a submerged submarine, expert analysts believe the missile was launched from an underwater platform. Reactions from the international community have been largely negative; South Korea voiced concern about the launch and Japan declared North Korea’s actions to be in conflict with UN Security Council rulings. The test launch came hours after North Korea announced that it was willing to resume talks with the United States; this event will no doubt have a negative impact on Washington’s relations with Seoul.
This week, an Indonesian journalist was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet fired from police while covering a protest. The bullet ruptured the journalist’s pupil leaving her blind in one eye. Controversy sparked regarding the police force’s use of force, because at the time of the incident the journalist was not in the near vicinity of the protesters and had clearly visible press markings on. This incident has increased worries about the heightened use of force by police officers in Hong Kong. The shooting came shortly after police shot a teenage student in the chest while at a protest. Police deemed this shooting self defense and charged the teenager with assaulting a police officer.
According to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), a fourth U.S. airstrike in less than has killed 7 Islamic State members in Libya. The strikes were carried out in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord to inhibit IS capacity in the region. As Libya’s national security deteriorates, militants affiliated with IS have expanded their influence in ungoverned regions of Libya, with some reports estimating between 500 and 750 active IS fighters in Libya. However, experts think the number is higher than what has been reported as foreign fighters continue to flee there from Syria.
Despite agreeing to talks last week, Khalifa Haftar launched two attacks on the Ramla frontline this week. The attacks, which occurred near Tripoli Airport and Yarmouk Camp, represent Haftar’s attempt to advance further into Libya’s capital. Both attacks were thwarted by the Libyan Army.
In light of recent improvements the country’s security, the Sudanese government seeks removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. This Tuesday, interim President Abdalla Hamdok stated that Sudan, while facing economic challenges, would benefit from the removal as it would allow the government to stabilize the country during this transitional period. Additionally, Hamdok used part of his speech to the UN General Assembly last week to appeal for Sudan’s removal and illustrate the harm of U.S. sanctions against the new democracy.
This week, Iranian officials reported a plot by Arab-Israeli forces to assassinate Major General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Arrested this week, the suspects allegedly planned to attack Soleimani during a religious ceremony in early September. However, reports of the attack came from state-sponsored media in Iran, making verifications of these reports impossible.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani spoke to Al Jazeera reporters on Tuesday, and relayed that Tehran is open to peace talks with Saudi Arabia, following a statement from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he would prefer a peaceful resolution of regional conflict as opposed to military intervention. Each citing the potential for crude oil prices to spike in case of armed conflict, the leaders each aired their desires for peaceful dialogue to CBS and Al Jazeera.
This week has seen an eruption of protests in Iraq, resulting in the killing of at least 44 civilians. Beginning on Tuesday of this week, Iraqi people took to the streets to voice anger over political corruption and declining living conditions. The Iraqi government has shut down internet access, implemented a curfew for residents of major cities, and has deployed security forces in aims of quelling discontent. The use of live rounds, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons by security forces has caused many injuries and a rising number of deaths.
This Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the parliament in a state of the nation address. Mnangagwa called for patience in his efforts of reviving the country’s economy, stating “getting the economy working again from the dead will require time, patience, unity of purpose and perseverance.” He also confirmed his commitment to fulfill recommendations proposed at Zimbabwe’s 2018 election by the election-observer. These recommendations include heightened security and electoral reforms. The state of the nation address was boycotted by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who largely question the legitimacy in Zimbabwe’s 2018 presidential election.
Amid increased U.S. hostility towards Cuba, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev began a two-day visit this Thursday to illustrate Moscow’s support for the Communist administration. Part of a wider plan to strengthen Russia’s ties in Latin America, Medvedev’s visit reaffirmed Moscow’s support for Cuba alongside Nicolas Maduro’s Leftist government in Venezuela. Medvedev’s third trip to Cuba includes a meeting with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and a tour of an energy project on the outskirts of the capital. Following a month of oil shortages in Cuba as a result of heightened U.S. sanctions, the meeting symbolizes Russia’s interest in Cuba’s financial success.
The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to launch a fact-finding mission on the state of human rights in Venezuela. The Venezuelan ambassador declared the action a “hostile resolution”, despite continuous reports that government leadership in the country has employed death squads, utilized torture methods and is responsible for food shortages that have left 3.7 million people malnourished. The report will be completed in one year, with or without pushback from the Venezuelan government.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed an agreement in Minsk, Belarus allowing for local elections to take place in Eastern Ukraine. This agreement was backed by Russia and Ukrainian separatists and acts to pave the way for future peace and stability in the region. However, just hours after the agreement was signed demonstrators gathered outside the Zelenskiy’s office protesting the agreement. Protesters argued Ukraine was capitulating to Russia and disregarding the efforts made in making Ukraine an independent and sovereign state. All that Russia offered Ukraine after the signing of the agreement was a meeting with the Ukrainian president.
The United States
Despite calls for impeachment over his exchange with Ukrainian officials, President Donald Trump has insisted that Ukraine and China investigate his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. When asked whether President Trump had contacted Chinese President Xi Jinping to launch an investigation into the Bidens, he replied that it was “certainly something we could start thinking about”. President Trump has denied any wrongdoing, although he froze $400 million in aid to Ukraine before asking the Ukrainian President to investigate the actions of Joe Biden’s son in the nation; these actions have prompted accusations of using US foreign policy for personal gain.
Other News: Peruvian Congress Dissolution
This Tuesday, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra called for the dissolution of Peruvian congress and new parliamentary elections to be held in January. His decision to do so lies with his anti-corruption campaign and his struggle against right-wing congressmen. The majority of the Peruvian public is in support of Vizcarra’s decision. Demonstrators rallied outside congress to show support for President Vizcarra. Congress labeled Vizcarra’s decision unconstitutional and voted to suspend Vizcarra’s presidency. Congress also declared Vice President Araoz as acting president. However, Araoz declined their offer and later resigned from the vice presidency. Araoz stated that “the main reason for [her] resignation is that Peru’s constitutional order has broken down.” Her resignation only worked to strengthen Vizcarra’s claim to the presidency.