PSR: August 31, 2018

 

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IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia

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New FrontiersNew Frontiers Memoirs: The inaugural DC Symposium on the New Frontiers of Peacebuilding gathered 26 carefully selected global peacebuilders for a three-week program examining innovative perspectives on peacebuilding. The New Frontiers Memoirs provide descriptions and analysis of this cutting-edge program.

They were written by the student body––international peacebuilders whose diverse backgrounds, experiences, and origins enabled them to provide a thorough reflection on this experience. We hope readers of the Memoirs find in this document innovative viewpoints that motivate them to think creatively about new approaches to peacebuilding.

Stabilization Exec Report

Stabilization Symposium Executive Report: On June 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense jointly released the Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR).  On June 26-27, 2018, Creative Learning, the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and other strategic partners gathered over 300 thought leaders, policy makers, legislators, development practitioners, peacebuilders, and the private sector to engage with the State, USAID, and DoD architects of the SAR and each other to dialogue about applying this new framework in practice, incorporating a multi-stakeholder approach, and addressing challenges to implementing coordinated stabilization programming.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

NIGERIA: Police arrest 57 on charges of homosexual activity

Nigeria

On Sunday, police raided a hotel in the capital of Lagos and subsequently arrested 57 people on suspicion of being “involved in homosexual activities.” At the scene of the arrest, suspects were allegedly initiating newly recruited members into what police officials called a “homosexual club.” Suspects denied these allegations, claiming they were at the hotel for wedding and birthday festivities. Comment: Gay marriage and displays of same-sex affection are banned throughout Nigeria, and the latter is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Arrests of this nature do not occur frequently, as most gay Nigerian individuals hide their sexual orientation. (Vanguard, Premium Times, Daily Post)

ZIMBABWE: President appoints team to investigate post-election violence

Zimbabwe

On Wednesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa established a seven-member commission to investigate the killing of six people during protests that took place two days after last month’s presidential election. According to Mnangagwa, the appointed commission will examine “The reasons behind the military intervention and whether the force used by the military was appropriate.” The commission, led by former South African President Kgalema Motlante, is slated to finish its inquiry in three months. Comment: While the July 30 election day was peaceful, Western election observers criticized the disproportionate use of force during the subsequent protests. A favorable ruling by the commission would likely assist Mnangagwa in proving the credibility of the recent presidential poll. (New Zimbabwe, Reuters, AP)

REGIONAL: May and Merkel tour Africa hoping to bolster relations

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May began her diplomatic visit to Africa with a stop in Johannesburg to sign a joint statement on trade with the Southern African Customs Union. May rounded out her three-day trip with visits to both Nigeria and Kenya. German Chancellor Angela Merkel embarked on her own three-nation African tour by visiting Senegal on Wednesday prior to other planned stops in Ghana and Nigeria. Long-term plans to strengthen economic development were atop the agenda for both European leaders. Comment: Aside from economic development, both heads of state had separate agendas to pursue that were of particular interest to their respective countries. Merkel was primarily concerned about migration, as over 11,000 people from Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria applied for asylum in Germany over the past year. May, on the other hand, focused her efforts on counterterrorism and deepening trade relations ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU in 2019. (Africa Times, DW, The Guardian, AP, BBC)

 

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

COLOMBIA: Duque to pull country out of intergovernmental regional bloc

Colombia

On Monday, newly elected president Ivan Duque announced Colombia will pull out of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) over the next six months. Duque cited UNASUR’s relationship with Venezuela as the primary driver behind the decision, saying the bloc is an “accomplice of Venezuelan dictatorship” through “its silence and often with its complacency” of the regime. Comment: In 2008, Latin American leaders, including the late Hugo Chavez, founded UNASUR to counter U.S. influence in the region by promoting regional “economic and political integration.” The announcement follows the decision of Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay to temporary suspend their membership of the bloc in April. Remaining members include Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname. (Al Jazeera, Washington Post, Reuters)

PERU: Hundreds seek asylum despite new entry requirements

Peru

Last weekend, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants continued to enter Peru despite stricter entry requirements for the country that went into effect Saturday. According to Abel Chiroque, director of the public defender’s office in the town of Tumbes, hundreds of migrants have entered Peru requesting asylum, which bypasses new entry laws requiring Venezuelans to have a passport rather than an identity card to enter the country. Chiroque claimed exceptions had been made previously for the elderly, women, and children. Comment: Peruvian Prime Minister César Villanueva said the new entry requirements were not Peru “closing the door” to migrants, but rather a defense against people forging identity cards to enter Peru. This week, the UN migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the flow of Venezuelan migrants “was building toward a crisis moment” and is comparable to the 2015 Mediterranean migrant crisis. (Reuters, BBC, United Press International)

REGIONAL: U.S. and Mexico reach preliminary agreement in trade deal, Canada rejoins talks

On Monday, President Trump announced that the U.S. and Mexico had reached a preliminary agreement in ongoing trade negotiations taking place in Washington, DC, spurring Canada to rejoin talks on Tuesday. President Trump warned that the deal could replace the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and threatened to put auto tariffs on Canada if the country failed to negotiate fairly. Updated provisions to the agreement include changes to the “digital economy, automobiles, agriculture and labor unions.” Comment: Though Canada rejoined talks on Tuesday, it remains unclear whether the deal will be bilateral or trilateral, as both the U.S. and Mexico have expressed willingness to move forward without the country. A deal is expected to be reached in the following days. (BBC, New York Times, Reuters)    

 

Researched/Written by Abigail Gress

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Data breach exposes hotel users’ information to the dark web

On Tuesday, the Huazhu hotel chain reported a data breach affecting over 130 million hotel guests, which occurred when information ranging from bank account numbers, phone numbers and email addresses was stolen and put up for sale on the “dark web,” an area of the Internet not traceable by web search engines. The stolen data contains 240 million records available for purchase on the dark web for 8 bitcoin or about USD 56,000. The hacking may have happened as early as August, when Huazhu programmers uploaded information to GitHub, a service that allows engineers to collaborate on developing software coding. Comment: In April, Chinese artist Deng Yufeng held a short-lived art exhibit where he showcased the personal data of 346,000 Wuhan residents that he bought from the black market, including home addresses. He said the exhibit was to showcase privacy’s limits in the big data era. (Bleeping Computer, China Global Television Network, South China Morning Post, Xinhua News Agency)

MALAYSIA: Mahathir says foreigners will not be able to get visas for the Forest City

Malaysia

In a press conference Monday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that foreigners would not be able to obtain visas to live in the Forest City located in Johor once development for the USD 100 billion Chinese-backed project is finished. However, these comments do not match those Mahathir made several weeks ago when speaking with the founder and chairman of Country Garden Holdings Co., Yeung Kwok Keung, whose company is developing the city. In a statement released by Country Garden Holdings, Mahathir said that he welcomed the foreign investments and employment opportunities the project is offering. Comment: At the same press conference, Mahathir explained that his objections were based on a worry that the households in the Forest City would only be available for foreigners to buy, rather than Malaysians. Mahathir’s opposition to this project has boosted support for his election campaign; he previously has stalled and even stopped other Chinese-backed projects, claiming that too many Chinese people are buying Malaysian land. He also cited the issue of environmental damage stemming from the projects. (Malay Mail, Reuters 1,2, The Star, Strait Times)

MYANMAR: Government rejects UN report accusing military leaders of “genocidal intent”

Myanmar

On Wednesday, spokesperson Zaw Htay, on behalf of Myanmar, rejected the UN Fact Finding Mission’s report that called for top generals, including Commander-in-Chief Aung Hlaing, to be investigated and prosecuted for “genocidal intent” in the Rakhine state against the Rohingya people. Htay said the report was full of false accusations and that Myanmar never allowed the UN Fact Finding Mission to investigate inside the country, and therefore Myanmar “would not accept any resolutions made by the Human Rights council.” He said that Myanmar does not tolerate human rights abuses and that the government would set up a Commission of Enquiry to respond to the UN’s allegations. Comment: This is the first UN report in which the organization is calling on Myanmar officials to face genocide charges for crimes such as mass killings and gang rapes against the Rohingya. Chairman of the UN Fact-Finding Mission Marzuki Darusman said that the reports were compiled from 875 interviews along with satellite imagery, verified photos, and videos that exposed the actions of Myanmar’s government and military to be “amongst the most shocking human rights violations” he had ever seen. (Al Jazeera, Frontier Myanmar, The Irawaddy Reuters, South China Morning Post)

Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla

This week in Europe & Central Asia

GERMANY: Stabbing leads to far-right protests and clashes with counter-protesters

Germany

Far-right protests and counterdemonstrators clashed Monday in a second night of violence in the German city of Chemnitz, with several people injured as both sides threw objects, including fireworks and bottles. The night before, far-right demonstrators gathered to “defend” their country from immigrants after the stabbing of a German man the same day; an Iraqi and a Syrian remain under arrest on suspicion of the killing. Protesters giving Nazi salutes and shouting “Foreigners out” were met by counter-protesters on both nights who held signs saying “Refugees welcome.” Comment: Police, who reported that on Monday as many as 6,000 people attended the protests in support of far-right groups and another 1,500 protested on the side of left-wing groups, struggled to keep the two sides apart. Ten people are being investigated for giving the Hitler salute, which is illegal in Germany, and reports of nationalist protesters intimidating people they assumed to be foreigners are also being investigated. Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the violence, and along with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, offered federal assistance to ensure the rule of law in Chemnitz. (DW, The Local, NY Times, BBC)

RUSSIA: Country mobilizes for biggest military exercise since Cold War

Russia

On Tuesday, Russia’s defense ministry announced that the country is mobilizing for its biggest military exercise since the height of the Cold War, with a Kremlin spokesperson calling the war games justified given “aggressive and unfriendly” attitudes toward the country. The exercises, which will involve almost 300,000 Russian troops, 1,000 aircraft and 900 tanks, will include units from China and Mongolia for the first time. The military drills, known as Vostok-2018, will commence September 11 and will last five days, taking place near Russia’s eastern border. Comment: The drills come at a time of rising tension between Russia and NATO; Acting Deputy Spokesman of NATO Dylan White said Wednesday that Vostok 2018 “demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict.” White also said that the games reveal an “assertive Russia,” and that NATO is determining whether to send observers. Russia’s military has compared the drills to Zapad-81, exercises the Soviet Union held in 1981 which involved a pretend attack on NATO; Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that this demonstration would be “even larger.” (AP, BBC, NY Times, NPR)

VATICAN CITY: Archbishop says Pope Francis long knew of sexual abuse by top U.S. archbishop

In a letter published Sunday, a former top diplomat claimed that Pope Francis himself knew about clerical sex abuse scandals and had joined top Vatican officials in covering them up. The bombshell letter, written by former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. Carlo Maria Viganò, alleged that the Pope knew about sexual abuse committed by Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick and did nothing, instead letting McCarrick remain within the church and choose powerful new U.S. bishops. The letter, in which Viganò – long a staunch opponent of Pope Francis – called for the pope’s resignation, exposed deep ideological clashes within the church with conservatives using the charges as ammunition to fight against Francis’ inclusive vision of the Catholic Church. Comment: The publication of the letter comes at the end of the pope’s trip to Ireland, during which he issued apologies for sex abuse scandals there and around the world, especially in the U.S., where McCarrick recently resigned and where a report recently discovered that Catholic priests abused over 1,000 victims in Pennsylvania. Viganò’s letter has shaken the Vatican to its core and become a declaration of war against Pope Francis by his opponents. (NY Times 1, 2, AP, BBC)

Researched/Written by Abby Fram

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAN: Navy commander claims Iran has full control of Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz

Iran

On Monday, Navy Commander and head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Alireza Tangsiri said that Iran has full control of the Persian Gulf and thus the United States does not belong there, a sentiment that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo challenged in a tweet. Tangsiri went on to describe Iran’s control in the Strait of Hormuz, from the arrival of ships to the protocols enforced on all military and civilian vessels, though all military vessels entering the Strait must adhere to international law. Tangsiri promised that Iran extends its “hand in brotherhood” to all its Muslim neighbors, and that it wishes to make the Gulf a secure place for all the nations in it. Comment: This is the latest development in relations between the U.S. and Iran in terms of U.S. sanctions against Iran in the Gulf. Last month, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he supported the idea that if Iran is not allowed to export oil from the Gulf, then no country should be able to export it. (Reuters, Press TV, Sputnik, United Press International)

 

Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvillla 

IRAQ: At least eight killed in suicide bombing

Iraq

On Wednesday, a suicide car bomber killed at least eight and wounded 12 more at a security checkpoint in the western district of Qaim. The attacker rammed his explosive-filled car into the checkpoint, which was being guarded by a combination of Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militias. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Comment: Qaim was one of the final regions held by the Islamic State before security forces recaptured the territory in November. Iraq declared victory over the group in December, yet killings and kidnappings in the region have continued. (Al Jazeera, Reuters, Middle East Eye)

 

 

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

SYRIA: Meeting with Iranian defense minister results in military cooperation deal

On Sunday, President Bashar al-Assad and senior military officials met with Iranian defense minister Amir Hatami, who was on a two-day visit to Damascus.  The two countries signed a deal for military cooperation, under which Iran will have “presence, participation, and assistance” in Syria’s post-war reconstruction. Furthermore, they agreed that “no third party will be influential in this issue.”  According to state media, Assad suggested that Iran and Syria will also have “long-term cooperation plans.” Comment: Iranian forces have supported the Assad regime throughout Syria’s seven-year civil war. Last week, the U.S. National Security Adviser warned that the conflict would not be resolved until Iranian troops withdraw from Syria. (Al Jazeera, Reuters, Telegraph)

Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Leader of Islamic State’s Afghan outfit killed by U.S airstrikes

Afghanistan

On Sunday, the primary intelligence agency of Afghanistan announced that U.S. counter-terrorism strikes on a village near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Nangarhar province killed ten militants, including Abu Saad Ehrabi, the leader of the Islamic State’s Afghan outfit.  The agency said the strikes also destroyed a large number of weapons and ammunitions. The spokesperson for U.S. forces in Afghanistan stated, “U.S. forces conducted a counterterrorism strike … which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization.” Comment: U.S. strikes have killed a series of four leaders of the Islamic State in Afghanistan since 2016.  Having pushed back the terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. is determined to prevent it from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan.  (NPR, Al Jazeera, The Independent)

INDIA: Rumors about court hearing of Article 35A trigger shutdown

India

On Monday, authorities imposed a shutdown in Srinagar, the capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, following rumors that the Supreme Court would hear a fresh plea against Article 35A of the Constitution on the same day.  Rumors began when a local news agency reported that a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader had filed a new plea against Article 35A that empowers the state to define permanent residents.  During the shutdown, clashes with police forces injured 22 people in southern Kashmir. Comment: The Supreme Court will hear the initial petition, filed by an NGO called We the Citizens in 2014, which challenges the constitutionality of Article 35A.  Separatist leaders have amounted the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status to a “divorce” from India. (The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, Al Jazeera)

PAKISTAN: Foreign minister rejects “factually incorrect” content of U.S. call readout

At a press conference in Islamabad on Friday, Pakistan’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi refuted the U.S. version of a call transcript between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Imran Khan, in which Pompeo congratulated the newly elected leader and emphasized the importance of countering “terrorists operating in Pakistan.”  According to Qureshi, there was no mention of terrorists in Thursday’s phone call, which would have implied that terrorists operate in Pakistan – a claim Pakistan has repeatedly denied. U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said her organization stood by the readout. Comment: Qureshi announced on Tuesday that Pakistan will “move on” from this disagreement and seek to mend the increasingly tense relations between the two countries during Pompeo’s upcoming state visit.  (Reuters, Al Jazeera, VOA)

 

Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

PSR Archives

 

2018-09-14T14:58:23+00:00