Archive for October, 2016

India’s initiative for social welfare comes under fire

On May 1st of this year, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi presented a social welcare intiative to provite cooking gas connections to poor families. The plan, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) was to provide 5 crore LPG (liquified petroleum gas, flammable mixtures of hydrocarbon gases used as fuel for heating, cooking, and running vehicles) connections to  BPL (below poverty line) households by 2019.  According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, households that do not have LPG connections rely on firewood, coal, and dung cakes as cooking fuel with a World Health Organization study reporting that smoke inhaled by women from unclean fuel is equivalent to burning 400 cigareetes in one hour. The plan is a step in the right direction for improving the living standards of India’s poorest households, however, there are safety concerns which have led to tragic results. The PMUY has overlooked the unawareness of safe practices amoung first time users. Deaths related to exploding gas cylinders and stoves made up almost one-sixth of all deaths from accidental fires between 2010-14, a total of 19,491 deaths. LPG Distributors have threatened to go on strike due to the poor implementation of PMUY. They plan to start all-India protests starting on December 15 where distributors plan to indefinitely go on strike if these issues are not resolved. Social welfare programs such as these are crutial to the development of countries and the overall security threats that stem from extreme poverty. It would be counterproductive for India’s development to suspend programs like PMUY rather than resolve existing issues and build on these initiaitves.


41 Afghan Troops Surrender to the Taliban


On Sunday, 41 Afghan troops surrendered to the Taliban in the centrally located Uruzgan province. Part of the surrender involved handing over weapons and vehicles to the Taliban. The troops had been under siege for almost a month and a half, and the government did not have the resources to resupply them. These are not the first soldiers to surrender to the Taliban recently, and not the first who had to capitulate based on lack of supplies. The government is consistently unable to give support to its besieged fighters.

This trend is extremely worrying, especially given that the NATO Secretary-General said just last week that Afghanistan was ready to start taking charge of the security situation. If its soldiers are feeling abandoned by the government, and if that government can’t aid its soldiers who are loyal, how effective can the state really be against its enemies? Failure of leadership can only be fixed by replacing leaders, and it doesn’t look like Afghanistan has many contenders.



Obama Looking at Options for Addressing the UN

As I mentioned a month ago, as Obama’s presidency comes to an end it is likely he will attempt to more directly address Israeli and Palestinian relations. It looks like now the administration is asking the State Department to come up with some options. The first would be allowing a resolution condemning the Israeli settlements. This is not a drastic change in US policy, the State Department has been condemning settlement activities throughout President Obama’s administration. The second would be formally recognizing Palestine as a state. This is a much larger shift, and is likely to be unpopular abroad. The final would be to lay out parameters for a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. This would directly contradict US policy because it is believed that Israel and Palestine should be the architects of their own peace. The choice for President Obama is between practicality and his legacy. Obama is passionate and personally invested in the idea of a two-state solution and would like to make some progress before he leaves office. However, that presents a difficult challenge for Hillary Clinton should she become the next president. Many Americans are pro-Israel and President Obama’s actions could create a real headache for a Clinton administration.


NATO’s Expansion in Europe

NATO was formed back in 1949 to combat the Soviet Unions Warsaw Pact and started with only twelve countries. It has since expanded its role by incorporating sixteen more countries and changing its grand strategy to protecting western ideals and civilians. The current world issues of Russia and Syria are key to NATO’s goals as well as counter terrorism through cooperation with all 28 countries. NATO is now started to expand its membership again with the addition of Montenegro, the last time new countries were added was back in 2004. This along with current negotiations with Bosnia-Hercegovina shows that NATO is far from becoming irreverent in the modern world. NATO might be growing slowly but having more countries especially within the Balkans enhances defense of the European continent.

Image result for NATO expansion map

  • Georges

Russia Gets Hacked

A Ukrainian hacking group called Cyber Hunta released emails and other confidential material that were taken from one of Putin’s aides, Vladislav Surkov. The emails that were revealed show that Russia had a huge part in the conflict in Ukraine including rigging elections and creating propaganda. Most of this information does not come as a big surprise. Most people suspected that the Russian government had a direct hand in the events that were occurring in Ukraine, as well as Russia’s support of the rebels. However, to have the physical proof that Russia was lying about their involvement and was violating international law is a big development. This evidence could have a significant impact on the peace talks that are continuing into November. The new information will not sit well with the Ukrainian government or international organizations involved in the peace process, which could sour potential progress. Other countries could add even more sanctions onto Russia due to the information revealed in the email hacks. Another interesting aspect of this hack, which is briefly mentioned in the article, is how Russia has finally fallen victim to a cyber-attack. This seems like a very real and developing threat for all states, not just the U.S. It could increase tensions now that Russia is a victim of email hacks that revealed very sensitive information.



A militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3WKMT

Despite efforts across the globe to take down ISIS, they continue to expand. Last Wednesday ISIS militants over took Qandala, a town in Somalia. According to an article in The New York Times, dozens of ISIS militants marched into the town carrying heavy arms and the Islamic State flag. Due to the fear of ISIS, they were met with no resistance. Immediately upon arriving ISIS has already began interrupting the lives of residents in Qandala. Beginning by banning fishermen from going out at sea. The presence of ISIS in Somalia is detrimental. Especially being that the Al-Shabaab terrorist group is opposed to ISIS. The groups are opposing of each other primary due to power struggles. The need to be in power will result in heighten levels of violence for Somalia. Being that the United States currently has Special Forces troops in Somalia, the presence of ISIS is of much concern. ISIS continues to spread across many regions. The efforts to take them down have to be strengthened as soon as possible. If the U.S. and other nations step in and join together to bring down Al-Shabaab and ISIS in Somalia, the country may actually have a chance in rebuilding and strengthening its government.



Strategy changes, ISIL fighters will not have open path to flee Mosul

Only a few days into the Battle for Mosul the U.S.-led Coalition announced that the operation would sweep from East to West to push ISIL out of Mosul and towards Syria. It was released that a corridor would be left for fighters to leave Mosul for Syria. This was recieved in the news negatively, as many saw it as ‘taking it easy’ on ISIL. Retired General David Petraeus even spoke on NPR early last week discussion how allowing fighters to escape was harmful to the overall operation against ISIL, but later admitted that allowing that would allow for fighters to leave without turning Mosul into a much larger version of the Alamo that would likely leave much of the city destroyed and unlivable.

Now the Coalition is announcing that it is increasing fixed wing and rotary focus on the road that travels Westward out of Mosul towards ISIL held Tel Afar. This will likely become a successful strategy for the Coalition. Many civilians are fleeing eastward towards the Kurdish and Iraqi held, while only militants and ISIL supporters will move westward. The Pentagon has admitted that there is no way to stop the use of human shields in convoys and fighters escaping in small numbers. Overall, this will help achieve U.S. and Coalition goals in Iraq. As I said during my presentation in Libya, the worst place for a terrorist to be is on a road in the middle of nowhere. ISIL will have a lot of those over the next few weeks, and I’m sure that they will be picked apart by aircraft overhead.




South China Sea: Australian Government considers joint patrols with Indonesian Navy

Australia and Indonesia have discussed plans to begin conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. This comes after China has repeatedly ignored Indonesian claims in the area. China has become more hostile to Indonesian ships in the area, and several minor incidents have occurred over the past few years. With the addition of the Aussies, Indonesia is hoping to have a more potent backer in its claims in the South China Sea. From the US’s point of view this is an extremely good development, as the Aussies are close US treaty allies in the region, and this could be the beginning of a comprehensive US designed treaty network in the South China Sea to curtail future Chinese expansion.Additionally the US could look to countries like Indonesia and Singapore more and more as The Philippines becomes increasingly questionable in its motives.



Colombian President Aims for New Peace Deal with FARC by Christmas

Colombian President Santos won the Nobel Prize for Peace this year for his efforts to end the country’s 52 year old civil war. His efforts of course failed earlier this month when the Colombian public voted against the deal by narrow margins but he has not given up his goal for peace. Perhaps the Nobel Prize has motivated Santos even further because he claims that he is ready to get right back to the negotiation table with FARC. However, there must be some concern about whether Santos is fighting so hard for a peace deal (even a potentially poor one) to solidify his own legacy as one of South America’s greatest leaders. After years of negotiations, Colombia voted against the deal. That should imply that it needs serious revisions but Santos appears focused on just getting a deal signed and approved. I wonder if rushing such a deal could do quite a bit of harm. If the public rejects the new measures it could lead to large and potentially violent protests across the country. I suppose all we can do it just wait and see what kind of results the re-negotiations yield although I think that this Christmas may be too ambitious of a deadline.

-Zainab Imbabi

Australia is banning the visas of migrants arriving by boat

Image result for australia

Australia has put forth measures to ban the visas of anybody entering the country by boat for life. This law has been a reaction to the illegal human smuggling that has proven to be a problem on the Australian coast. Except for the cases of children, this law extends to refugees. Refugees are be taken to the islands of either Nauru or Manus. The Australian government has received some criticism for their harsh migrant policies. However, the reality that anybody illegally coming to Australia cannot settle there may prove to be an effective deterrent going forward. Human trafficking can be perceived as a security threat, especially when one takes into account that the Australian government has no backgrounds on who is coming in.


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