World roundup: November 15 2022
Stories from Israel-Palestine, Ethiopia, Poland, and elsewhere
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THESE DAYS IN HISTORY
November 14, 1965: The Battle of Ia Drang, the first major engagement between the United States and the North Vietnamese Army, begins. It ended on November 18 with both sides claiming victory, though the NVA’s ability to fight the much better armed US army to a draw was a boost to their morale and probably the battle’s most important effect.
November 14, 2001: Fighters with the Northern Alliance enter and occupy the city of Kabul, marking the end of the US war in Afghanista—just kidding. I had you going there for a second, didn’t I?
November 15, 1884: The Berlin Conference begins, with the goal of regulating European colonization of Africa. Its declaration obliged European powers to establish political control over their spheres of influence in Africa in order to claim possession of them. Sometimes identified as the beginning of the “Scramble for Africa,” though in actuality African colonization was already well underway and only sped up in the wake of the conference.
November 15, 1889: A republican military coup ousts Brazilian Emperor Pedro II, ending the Brazilian monarchy.
November 15, 1983: The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” declares its independence, some eight years after the “Turkish Federated State of Cyprus” broke away from the Cypriot government after a pro-Greek military coup and the invasion of northern Cyprus by Turkish forces. Turkey is the only country that has diplomatically recognized the separatist state.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
The United Nations estimates that the global population crossed the 8 billion threshold on Tuesday. So…congratulations? We…did it? A figure of that magnitude understandably raises concerns about the ability of the planet Earth to support that many human beings, but as ever the issue really isn’t the total number of people so much as the excessive over-consumption of the wealthiest among them.
A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker killed at least three people and wounded several others in an incident that took place in the Ariel Industrial Park near the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday. Israeli security forces subsequently shot and killed the attacker after he’d attempted to flee in a stolen car.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Ukraine’s ambassador on Tuesday over the Ukrainian government’s vote in the United Nations General Assembly last week in favor of opening an International Court of Justice investigation into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Apparently the Ukrainian government is sensitive about military occupations for some reason. Weird. Anyway the Israelis let the ambassador know that they regard the vote as an unfriendly act, which is really unfortunate in light of everything Israel has been doing to help Ukraine.
Elsewhere, the US Justice Department is reportedly investigating the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli security forces in Jenin back in May. The reason we know this is that outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz angrily proclaimed on Monday that the Israeli government will not cooperate with the probe, and outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid reemphasized that rejection on Tuesday. An internal Israeli investigation of the shooting found that Abu Akleh killer was probably an Israeli soldier but concluded that it must have been an accident so no harm, no foul. This reaction to the US investigation seems odd to me—I mean, assuming that Israeli officials are confident about the whole accident thing—but I’m sure they’ve got their reasons.
Anyway, I look forward to the US sending Israel another $3.3 billion or so in military aid next year.
Writing for The Nation, Quincy’s William Hartung and Annelle Sheline restate the case for ending US support for the Saudi war in Yemen:
Of particular importance: pressure to end Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the brutal war in Yemen, which has continued for over seven years at the cost of nearly 400,000 lives. Following the recent expiration of the UN-brokered truce, Saudi Arabia could decide to restart air strikes, which it conducts with US assistance.
Unfortunately, despite Democrats’ heated calls to punish Saudi Arabia—whether by withdrawing US troops from the kingdom, pausing weapons sales, or passing the “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2021” —it is unlikely that congressional ire will result in legislation being passed via the traditional route. By contrast, a War Powers Resolution focused on ending unauthorized US military support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen would both have privileged status and require prompt congressional action. It is the best way forward if the goal is to call Saudi Arabia to account. A War Powers Resolution is waiting to be brought to the floor, with the support of well over 100 members of Congress from both houses and parties. However, these cosponsorships will disappear once the 118th Congress convenes: The time for congressional action is now.
Iranian security forces killed at least two people amid the country’s ongoing protests on Tuesday, according to the Norway-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw. Both shootings took place in Iranian Kurdistan, one in the city of Sanandaj and the other in the city of Kamyaran. The Iran Human Rights organization, also based in Norway, had as of Saturday raised its count of the number of people killed since these protests began back in September to at least 326. That figure includes those killed in demonstrations sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini and those killed in related protests in Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Elsewhere, the Biden administration on Tuesday sanctioned Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center and Qods Aviation Industries, which manufacture drones that the Iranian government has (allegedly) sold to Russia for use in Ukraine, along with several other companies linked with those (alleged) drone sales. The State Department also blacklisted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace division and Russia’s Wagner Group private paramilitary firm.
A group of countries, led by Japan and the United States, have reportedly put together a $20 billion project called the “Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership,” whose aim is to wean Indonesia off of coal. Currently Indonesia is planning to reach peak energy sector carbon emissions in 2037, but this project seeks to move that up to 2030. Indonesian officials have already committed to “net zero” energy sector carbon emissions by 2050, a goal that would be much easier to reach with a 2030 peak than a 2037 peak.
According to Reuters, US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the South China Sea during a trip through Asia that’s set to begin later this week. Harris’s visit is undoubtedly meant as a show of American Resolve™ in the face of China’s expansive claims to that waterway. At this point she’s scheduled to visit Palawan, a Philippine island chain that lies close to the Spratly islands chain. China and the Philippines (along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam) contest ownership of the Spratlys, so Harris definitely intends to send a message, but her presence in the uncontested Palawan chain shouldn’t cause any international incidents.
The government of Ivory Coast has reportedly informed the United Nations that it will begin phasing out its participation in the UN’s peacekeeping operation in Mali. This decision is understandable, given that Malian authorities arrested 46 Ivorian soldiers affiliated with the peacekeeping operation back in July, labeled them “mercenaries,” and have still not released them. On a related note, the UK government has also apparently decided to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from Mali, making it the latest in a string of European countries to leave Mali amid souring relations with the country’s ruling junta. Last one out, please turn off the lights.
Gunmen assassinated a local chieftain in the Oguta region of southeastern Nigeria’s Imo state on Monday along with two of his aides. Nigerian authorities are blaming the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra group for carrying out the attack, but the IPOB is denying involvement. This is a regular pattern in southeastern Nigeria, in which the government accuses the IPOB after any violent incident and the IPOB invariably claims it wasn’t involved.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on Tuesday that a convoy of aid trucks had reached the Tigray regional capital, Mekelle, for the first time since August. Resuming humanitarian aid throughout the Tigray region was a key component of the peace deal the Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front reached earlier this month, so this is a positive development. But far more assistance is needed and much of it needs to get to parts of Tigray that are much less accessible than Mekelle.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed discussed the future of the area currently known as western Tigray, or Wolkait, with Ethiopian lawmakers on Tuesday. That region has been contested by the Tigray and Amhara peoples and was annexed into Tigray from Amhara back in 1991, when the TPLF was the dominant force in Ethiopian national politics. It’s currently occupied by Amhara regional security forces and Abiy suggested its final status could be determined in a referendum. Presumably a referendum process would need to include the return of Tigrayans displaced by the just-ended war, but it remains to be seen how that will be handled and whether it might also include the return of Amhara who were displaced after the TPLF annexation.
In news related to Russia:
According to the governor of Russia’s Belgorod oblast, Vyacheslav Gladkov, Ukrainian shelling killed two people in the border town of Shebekino on Tuesday.
The Biden administration on Monday blacklisted 48 people and a number of companies connected with them. All are accused of helping the Russian government evade sanctions and export controls meant to squeeze the Russian economy and to prevent the Russian military from acquiring necessary materiel.
The UN General Assembly on Monday approved a resolution calling for Russia to make reparations payments to Ukraine. The vote was 94-14, with 73 abstentions. Like every other UNGA vote this one is basically symbolic, though it could be used by countries that have frozen Russian assets as justification for seizing those assets and sending the proceeds to Ukraine. The outcome was not quite as lopsided as past UNGA votes to condemn the invasion, but that’s probably to be expected as the issue of war reparations is in general more controversial for countries that either are, or might someday be, engaged in their own aggressive wars. Saudi Arabia abstained, in case you were wondering.
Leaders of G20 member states, meanwhile, seem a bit less one-sided in their feelings about the Russian invasion. Meeting in Bali, The Gang has drawn up a draft summit declaration that only says that “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine.” I don’t think it explains what, exactly, “most” means.
The UN human rights office says it has credible evidence that both Russian and Ukrainian forces have been torturing prisoners of war. Neither country’s officials had any comment on the UN statement.
Russian missile strikes killed at least one person and damaged more civilian infrastructure across Ukraine on Tuesday, in what seems to have been the heaviest single day Russian bombardment since the war began in terms of the volume of weapons fired. Several major cities reported power outages, and the effects even spread into neighboring Moldova.
UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths seems optimistic that Moscow will agree to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which at this point is set to expire on November 19. Russian officials have hedged about renewing the agreement, arguing that the UN hasn’t done enough to protect Russian food and fertilizer exports. But Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the Russians were “expected” to agree to renewal, based on discussions with “four people familiar with the situation, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.” It’s unclear whether Moscow will request/demand any changes to the deal in return for its acquiescence.
I assume most of you are following the news that came out of Poland on Tuesday, so let me say up front that it’s fine. It’s probably going to be fine. If you’re reading this then most likely we’re not living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape which means World War III probably hasn’t started yet. Take a deep breath.
What we know is this: two people were killed on Tuesday when what Polish President Andrzej Duda described as “most probably” a Russian-made projectile landed in the Polish village of Przewodów. That’s it at this point. Polish authorities are investigating the incident but as yet they don’t know who fired the projectile or even what it was. The Ukrainian government and anonymous US intelligence personnel have alleged that it was a Russian missile fired by the Russian military, while Russian officials have denied that they fired missiles at Poland or even in the vicinity of the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Officially the US and other NATO states are saying that they cannot confirm whether or not this was a Russian missile and as I noted above all the Poles will say at this point is that the projectile was “Russian-made.” The distinction is important because there are several scenarios here that don’t involve a deliberate Russian attack on a NATO member state, which could obviously trigger a vast escalation in the Ukraine conflict. A Russian missile could have malfunctioned. The impact could have been caused by debris from a Russian missile that was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. It could even have been a malfunctioning Ukrainian air defense missile, which given the composition of the Ukrainian military would likely have been “Russian-made.”
This is obviously not an ideal situation but I think you have to assume that the Russian military didn’t intentionally risk starting World War III in order to fire one missile at a small Polish border village. And so far the response from NATO has been relatively measured. The Polish government has apparently invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which calls for consultations within the alliance and is substantially less escalatory than invoking the Article 5 provision for collective self-defense. The biggest danger in this situation was some immediate move to retaliate for a perceived Russian attack and that moment has now passed. NATO will probably retaliate for this incident somehow, but (hopefully) not militarily.
Finally, TomDispatch’s Rajan Menon looks at the state of the world in the wake of the Ukraine invasion and doesn’t like what it suggests about the fight against climate change:
Washington’s vaunted “rules-based international order” has undergone a stress test following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and here’s the news so far: it hasn’t held up well. In fact, the disparate reactions to Vladimir Putin’s war have only highlighted stark global divisions, which reflect the unequal distribution of wealth and power. Such divisions have made it even harder for a multitude of sovereign states to find the minimal common ground needed to tackle the biggest global problems, especially climate change.
In fact, it’s now reasonable to ask whether an international community connected by a consensus of norms and rules, and capable of acting in concert against the direst threats to humankind, exists. Sadly, if the responses to the war in Ukraine are the standard by which we’re judging, things don’t look good.
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