In the News
The Foreign Affairs Symposium is dedicated to informing its community about the state of international affairs. On a weekly basis, we present to you news updates from around the world, covering Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East.
November 4 - 9, 2018
October 8 - 13 , 2018
Now that the Midterm Elections are Over… What’s Happening Across the Atlantic?
While the United States’ focus has been fixated on the frantic midterm elections the last couple weeks, the European world has observed important developments in political and foreign affairs. Most notably, the announcement from current German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, informed the public that she will be handing over leadership of the Christian Democratic Union this December and therefore not participate in the following federal election in 2021. Symbolizing the most pertinent figure of stabilization for post-war Germany, her coming absence raises many questions as to what Germany’s political future will look like. Will the CDU swing left or right in lieu of its moderate leader? Or perhaps the right-wing AfD will take advantage of the power vacuum being left behind. The future of German politics is sure to be volatile following the departure of a figure many went as far to call the new leader of the free world.
Another notable matter is the approaching meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump. After Trump requested more support from Europe in the form of military spending, European leaders such as Macron and Merkel were pressed to publicly question the United States is a power Europe can truly rely on. While the security ties between the European continent and the States has historically been a base for security, Euro-American relations have come into question. Marcon went as far to list the United States as a potential threat to Europe. His recent request for the formation of a “true European army” is a clear representation of this deterioration of relations with the United States and reveals a critique on the trans-Atlantic ties currently being practiced. The notion of European departure from its historical American reliance will be more defined following President Trump’s visit this month.
At least 81 people, 79 of which were students, were kidnapped on the night of November 4th at the Nkwen Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, northeastern Cameroon. This is the largest hostage crisis that has occurred since the beginning of socio political unrest in the Anglophone region of the nation. According to military sources, the perpetrators are unknown, but are believed to be secessionist militia that have been consistently targeting the region. Security has been reinforced in the region, as this is the largest but not the first, attack of educational establishments in Bamenda. The president, Paul Biya, has for two years promised to address ongoing unrest in the region, seemingly with little results.
At the UN Human Rights council meeting on Tuesday, China dismissed international criticism of its Muslim detainment camps in the northern Xinjiang province, calling the assertions “biased” and “politically driven.” China has detained up to one million ethnic Uighurs and Muslim minorities in what China calls “re-education camps” for vocational training. However, people leaving the camp have said otherwise. A recent study by Jamestown Foundation showed that spending on “security-related facility construction” doubled between 2016 and 2017 and satellite data corroborate the findings, pointing to a different story than the one China has told.
North and South Korea
On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting senior North Korean official Kim Yong-chol in New York to further talks of North Korea’s denuclearisation. North Korea has not tested missile or nuclear weapons for nearly a year, saying that it has closed most of its facilities. Meanwhile, South Korean and the US resume its military drills ahead of the talk. The drills were suspended after President Donald Trump visited North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in June and promised to end the joint drills to encourage cooperation. Larger drills are still suspended, but South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense announced that smaller drills would recommence.
After a military crackdown in August 2017, nearly 750,000 of Rohingya – a Muslim minority – have escaped Myanmar into Bangaldesh. There has been severe prosecution of the Rohingya population and countless accounts of widespread killing and horrific violence. On October 30, Bangladesh and Myanmar reached an agreement to begin settling Rohingya refugees to Myanmar in mid-November, however a UN expert on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, urges Bangladesh to put a break on the plans as the Myanmar government still has not guaranteed protection of the Rohingya. This was after a study on Facebook’s role in the genocide was released on Monday. UN investigators accused Facebook of failing to stop the spread of hate in Myanmar online. They said that violent posts perpetuated the discrimination in real life. Facebook issued a statement accepting the report and pledging to do more to “prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence.”
Jordan Flash Floods:
Heavy rains and flooding have killed at least twelve people in Jordan and forced the evacuation of over 3,500 tourists from the ancient city of Petra and other populated cities. Tourists were taken to safe areas before flash floods inundated parts of the mountainous city, but rescuers continued to search for missing people. The downpour and flooding in the region began November 9th as water surged from nearby mountains into the community. Many experts say that the floods are a result of bad infrastructure and climate, pointing to recent unexpected floods and ineffective safety mechanisms and resource distribution in the desert areas.
Update on the Khashoggi case:
Turkey has shared recordings related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi with Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish sources have said previously that authorities have an audio recording allegedly documenting the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the existence of such a recording has never been officially confirmed. Saudi Arabia has changed its narrative about the details of the crime several times, initially insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate and then later admitting that the journalist died in a fistfight in the building. Most recently, Saudi Arabian officials conceded that the death was premeditated murder but insist that it was part of an unplanned rogue operation. Meanwhile, Erdogan has accused the Saudi government of ordering the murder while other officials have blamed the crown prince despite denials from Riyadh.
Battle for Hodeidah, Yemen:
Yemeni forces, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have seized control of a hospital in the western city of Hodeidah in Yemen. The city was taken over by Houthi fighters earlier this week in violation of international law. Hodeidah, a large city on Yemen's Red Sea coast, is the latest battleground in the fight for control over the country waged between the Houthis and a Saudi-UAE military alliance. Aid agencies and international organization have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah risks escalating war-ravaged Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis since over 70% of the country’s food, aid, fuel and commercial goods used to enter into Yemen through the city's port.
The European Union Responds to American Sanctions
Following the United States’ withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and imposition of new sanctions, the European Union has established a course of action aimed at repairing the currently fragmented global economic system. Last month, the European Union announced their plans to reinstate a global payment system to facilitate trade with Iran in the face of the United States’ policies. A council of European Union representatives has constructed several initiatives to support the present nuclear deal in addition to assisting Iran with economic benefits. Possibly the most important messages from the European Union’s actions are the assertion of their position in the future of American-Iranian relations as well as their ability to construct a strong-willed policy path. The world will be closely watching Iran’s intentions to reform the nuclear deal and the European Union’s implementation of their new policies in the coming months.
Mohammed Dewji, often hailed as Africa’s youngest billionaire, was kidnapped earlier this week in Tanzania. The Tanzanian businessman was attending his habitual public gym when he was abruptly taken away by a group of masked men. Gunshots were fired before the vehicle drove away with the billionaire. There is still very little information on the motivations behind the kidnapping or the possible whereabouts of Mr. Dewji. Witnesses to the scene said it occurred rapidly, but all confirm that at least two white men were amidst the masked group of kidnappers.The information confirmed by the Tanzanian government and Mr. Dewji’s family has confirmed his disappearance.
There are major implications for the Tanzanian government in the wake of this sudden event. According to Forbes, Dewji is the 17th richest man on the continent, and his various industrial enterprises are heavily intertwined with the country’s provisions of petroleum, insurance and real estate. In a region that has unfortunately seen increasing violence, this upset may urge the government into adopting more comprehensive policies towards securing the country.
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that the effects of the US-China Trade War will hit in 2019, slowing economic growth for both countries. The IMF advocated that both countries resolve their disagreements to prevent future disadvantages on the macroeconomic level.
In domestic news, Interpol chief Meng Hongwei “disappeared” last month and is reportedly being detained by the Chinese government on charges of corruption. On Monday, his wife Grace Meng reported his absence publicly and accused the government of detaining him without reasonable evidence. She believes his life is in danger after his last text was a knife emoji. Meng Hongwei is the latest of several high-profile disappearances after China’s most famous actress Fan Bingbing hasn’t been sighted for 4 months now, most likely outed for tax evasions.
Additionally, the government has been detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims for weeks to months at a time in the Xinjiang region bordering Kazakhstan. The government claims that the camps are educative “vocational training centers”, but according to former inmates, they were held there with the goal of eradicating “extremist” ideas.
South and North Korean relations appear to have progressed as South Korean President Moon Jae-in made an unprecedented speech during his three-day visit to Pyongyang, while attending the North Korean Arirang Games. Moon is now the first South Korean leader to have given a speech in the public when he spoke during the games on Wednesday. He stated his belief that the two countries would reunite and end the war.
On Friday, the Philippines was elected 192 to 165 for a third term on the United Nations Human Rights Council, prompting widespread criticism. The council’s goal is to protect human rights, especially by monitoring countries with human rights violation. Critics point out that the Philippines has a record of human rights abuse stemming from President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war and extrajudicial killings. The membership of several other countries with a poor track record – including Eritrea, Cameroon, and Bahrain – have also been questioned.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document pertaining to his divorce so he could re-marry. However, he has not been seen since. Turkish sources have told media outlets they believe the Saudi critic was killed inside the consulate, describing it as premeditated murder. Saudi officials have countered this claim, insisting that Khashoggi left the building before he vanished. Turkish officials have began releasing some evidence, and Turkish intelligence often cooperates closely with Western intelligence agencies so Turkey could presumably share its evidence without exposing sources. Sharing further evidence with Western governments would increase the pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain more about Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance. So far, US and Turkish officials say that there are audio and video recordings proving Khashoggi was tortured and murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish intelligence is also examining Mr. Khashoggi’s Apple Watch for evidence.
The outcry and response to the disappearance has been growing every day. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has again denied any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, while Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven called for a transparent probe into the mystery. The UN Security Council released a statement demanding a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Khashoggi, and many countries including the United Kingdom, France, Egypt and Germany have called on Saudi Arabia and Turkey to mount a credible investigation. In the meantime, media companies and technology companies like Google, Ford, JP Morgan, The New York Times, and CNN are pulling out of an upcoming Saudi investment conference because of growing outrage over Khashoggi's disappearance.
Jair Bolsonaro won with a 46% of the vote during the first round of the Brazil’s General Elections on October 7th against his main contender, Fernando Haddad of the Worker’s Party. The success of the far right candidate comes after a series of government crackdowns on corruption, which has left former President Lula de Silva in custody over a court sentence for money laundering back in April, as well as the waning support for the Social Democracy Party, the respective party for current President Michel Temer. Amidst the backlash from disgruntled Brazilians, Jair Bolsonaro’s platform holds a number of serious implications for the country’s political climate, most notably with his immense support base from the military under a rhetoric that is openly approving of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime. Moreover, he “openly denigrates women, ethnic minorities, and LGBT people,” a stance that aligns with his veneration for President Donald Trump. With run-off elections expected to take place on October 28, 2018. Bolsonaro’s current poll lead has caused many to become concerned about the possibility of an increasingly authoritarian future, a major step away from its democracy.