Archive for November, 2020

Israel Accused of Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientist Could Cause Problems for Normalization

Iran recently blamed Israel for the death of an Iranian nuclear scientist who helped create their nuclear weapons program. Iran claims that Israel used a remote-controlled weapon, although news outlets in the region varied in their description of the events, some claiming that a weapon that matched Israeli government weapons were found at the scene, and some claiming that there were gunmen that were shooting. Either way, Arab countries have spoken out in support Iran, condemning Israel for the assassination. Bahrain and the UAE, who recently normalized relations with Israel, were among those that backed Iran. This could create problems for Israel, who along with the help of the Trump administration, has been working to build relationships with Arab countries. If this process is disrupted, other Arab countries may refrain from normalizing relations and send more support to Palestinians, fueling more conflict.

Blake D.

110 and Counting, Dead

On Saturday, November 28th, at least 110 have been killed and several injured or missing, in an attack in the village of Koshobe, a village near the main city of Maiduguri, located in north-east Nigeria. Boko Haram is suspected to have conducted the massacre on innocent agricultural laborers working in the rice fields. Many of these laborers were migrants from north-west Nigeria who were looking for work in the north-east. Boko Haram militants tied up the farmers and slit their throats. It is also suspected that several women were kidnapped during the attack. This attack has been deemed as the most ruthless and violent attack conducted by Boko Haram this year according to UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon. The president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, stated that the attack was “insane” and expressed his condolences and pain from the “senseless killings”. It is extremely devastating to read of this barbaric massacre of innocent citizens plotted by Boko Haram. I believe the Nigerian President and government has failed Nigeria’s citizens. Over the past few weeks, I have been blogging about how the Nigerian military and government has had success in demolishing Boko Haram militants, sites, and resources and decelerating Boko Haram’s activity. It is evident now that while the Nigerian government and military has had success over the past few weeks in dealing with Boko Haram, it has failed to defeat the terrorist organization entirely. The Nigerian government has failed to protect Nigerian citizens, after 10 years of Boko Haram raids and violence. I believe the Nigerian government needs to make a stronger commitment to fighting and defeating Boko Haram. I also believe the Nigerian government needs to make a stronger commitment to fix the underlying issues in the country so Nigerian citizens are not at as high of a risk of being exploited or slaughtered by Boko Haram.

Anna Longacher

IMF Denies Ukraine Funding

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to aid Ukraine with 5 billion USD and began with a disbursement of 2.1 billion USD. The plan was to give a second disbursement in September to complete the agreement, but this did not take place because the IMF claims that Ukraine has not carried out the promised actions. The Ukrainian government apparently has to revise its current economic policy as well as its political standing. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Ukraine will receive any funding from the IMF, World Bank, or the EU as long as Zelensky is president.

President Zelensky’s attempts at ending corruption amongst the government have been weak. There are certain conditions that the IMF wanted Ukraine to meet for more funding. Some of these conditions include: independence of the Ukrainian National Bank, judicial reform, and efforts to end corruption. From what I can tell, it seems like Zelensky talks a lot about these conditions being met, but in reality he does not seem to truly be achieving these objectives. The IMF simply does not trust Zelensky right now.

These fund installments are crucial for Ukraine right now. The potential economic growth and stability Ukraine could experience would be majorly beneficial. Furthermore, the reforms the IMF is asking from Ukraine would make them more appealing to work with internationally. All of these factors would help them in their plight against Russia in Crimea right now. I find it interesting that President Zelensky has become one of the major obstacles between Ukraine and progression.

No IMF funding for Ukraine until Zelenskyy earns trust


Biden’s Possible Foreign Policy Plan for Pakistan and India

In the past few years, President Trump has been critical of Pakistan’s increasing ties to China. His administration has expressed concerns over the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The US assistant Secretary for the region stated the danger of “debt traps” in these programs for Pakistan. Trump’s main focus has been on the issue of China.

Biden’s policy may change the U.S. policy to Pakistan and the region. Local analysts view Biden as more aware of the Kashmir issue. He has expressed his disagreement of the Indian Citizenship Act that ended the semi-autonomous system in India Administered Kashmir. If he continues to pursue reform from the Indians on the issue, he will likely decrease relations with Prime Minister Modi and India overall.

His trend of democratic support may not continue in Pakistan. Currently, the opposition parties have formed together to orchestrate mass protests against the current Pakistani government, allegedly backed by the military. Biden will likely stay out of the conflict and maintain a more marginal role in the issue. However, if the Pakistani military reveals itself as the real power and begins overtly asserting its control, it will almost definitely receive backlash from a Biden administration.

Overall, analysts expect U.S. interests in Pakistan and the region to decrease as Biden looks inward to fix domestic issues. This will likely lead to increased autonomy for both India and Pakistan in the coming years.

Chester Pruitt

After Trump; Biden & Taiwan

As stated in the blog two weeks ago, President-elect Joe Biden will be left with many responsibilities when he takes office in January. One of his many presidential duties will be how to handle the ongoing unofficial US and Taiwan relationship. Though he hasn’t spoken much about his stance on the matters, he’s stated that if China continues to be aggressive towards Taiwan the US will not sit idly.  Biden has resisted the idea that he would give in to pressure from Beijing. As evidence of Biden’s commitment to Taiwan, his advisers have cited his support as a senator for the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which obligates Washington to provide weapons to Taiwan. More recently, he has signaled his support for Taiwan in other ways, having his choice for secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken.  “He will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan,” an official with Mr. Biden’s transition team said in a statement. “He has long said that American support for Taiwan must remain strong, principled and bipartisan.”

I think that Biden will continue to have unofficial diplomatic relations with Taiwan and not allow China to continue to put economic and military pressure on the island. Some politicians in Taiwan, including members of the opposition party, the Kuomintang, believe Biden’s more restrained approach could help ease tensions and prevent a military conflict between the United States and China.

Alexis Rudisel 

Syrian media: Israel attacks southern Damascus

Syrian state media has reported that Israel has conducted airstrikes south of Damascus. The attack is the second one in the area conducted by Israel within the past week. Some reports state that the attack was conducted to counter an increased Iranian presence throughout Syria, especially in the Golan Heights, which Israel views as a security threat. Some Western intelligence sources believe that the increase in Israeli involvement in Syria is part of a shadow war approved by Washington to check Iran’s influence in Syria.

I believe that it is likely that Israel and the Trump Administration are trying to make it more difficult for the U.S. to conduct peaceful negotiations with Iran in the future, such as renegotiating a nuclear deal. I think that the incoming Biden Administration should condemn these actions taken by Israel and that a new actor would further complicate the situation in Syria and make peace less likely.

Connor Quin

Islamic Referrals to Counter-Extremism Continue to Rise

Last week The Independent, a United Kingdom news outlet, released an article titled Islamist referrals to counter-extremism scheme rise for the first time since 2016. Documents were released containing statistics showing an increase in referrals for concerns related to Islamic radicalization following four terror attacks in the UK this past year. The head of UK counter terror policing warned that “more young people are being drawn towards terrorist activities.” The article also mentioned that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an environment in which young people have been left isolated and vulnerable to online extremist material more than ever before. Out of the total 6,287 referrals submitted to prevent radicalization 22 percent were due to Islamist radicalization and 22 percent related to right-wing radicalization. These statistics demonstrate that the threat of radicalization at the root of terrorism is on the continual rise, which is inevitable. Still, the countering efforts such as the referral system are proven to be effective and a productive first counter to the root of terrorism.

In the state of the pandemic, it is proven that radicalization has been on a steady increase. The countering methods the UK has in place, such as the referral system has been effective thus far. However, with the pandemic and social distancing restrictions, radicalization will only continue to be on the rise. The referrals will need to be taken more seriously or following the pandemic. The country can be faced with an abundance of terror activity that has utilized the pandemic environment to recruit and radicalize but plan.

Ashlee Warren

NATO 2020 Foreign Ministerial

NATO will be hosting its 2020 Foreign Ministerial virtually this week on December 1st and 2nd. Member-nations’ foreign ministers and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will gather in a virtual meeting to discuss the evolving threat environment to Transatlantic security. Secretary Pompeo will be in attendance to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the alliance and discuss with other foreign ministers about current and future challenges to NATO. These challenges can be found in the Forward-Looking Reflection Process for NATO 2030. Key challenges that will be discussed is that of cyber security and global pandemics.

I find that this meeting taking place virtually is kind of ironic since important topics for discussion will be cyber-related as well as global pandemics, considering the meeting is virtual due to the current pandemic. Aside from the irony, I wonder how these foreign ministers will behave with Secretary Pompeo in attendance. Since Biden will be taking office in January and has already announced his pick for Secretary of State, I wonder if the foreign ministers will give much weight to Pompeo’s presence at the meeting. Despite this, this ministerial is important for NATO members to assess current and future challenges and how NATO and its members plan to face these challenges.

Emily DePersio

President-Elect gives public health experts the authority to make vaccine decision

Joe Biden has decided to let public health experts make the decision on which groups will be able to receive the Coronavirus vaccine first. After the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccine, there will only be a limited amount to distribute. Those who will be first in line for the vaccine will be health care workers, older people with underlying conditions, and communities of color who are disproportionately impacted. It will be hard to prioritize the vaccine within these groups. How can one decide whether an 85 year old in a nursing home or a 65 year old African American gets the vaccine? This decision is a political one, which is most likely why President-elect Joe Biden has given the responsibility of making the decision elsewhere. On December 1st, there will be a vote on the very first group who can get the vaccine. Depending on what they decide, it will be interesting to see if other countries health program’s will make the same decision as to who will get the vaccine first. Or maybe, they will have different standards as to what they think qualifies patients to get it.

Alexia Inge

Human Rights Abuses Happening in North Korea

North Korea has been known for continuing to commit human rights abuses. The North Korean government led by leader Kim Jong-un continues to use overly strict measures to keep the North Korean people in close watch. Kim Jong-un prevents the majority of his population from exiting the country. He also uses tight restrictions to keep outside news outlets from the North Korean people. They know little of the outside world. They only know information that is made allowed by leader Kim Jong-un. The North Korean people are banned from many things and are unable to express freedom of speech. Human rights abuses take place everyday and no one stops this from happening. The Trump administration and soon to be the Biden administration should take action to stop these human rights abuses from taking place. They should proceed in a careful manner considering the fact that Kim Jong-un has nuclear weapons and might threaten the U.S. with them. Although this is a security threat, human rights abuses are keeping the North Korean people in a state of starvation and oppression. This is unacceptable and outside actors need to step in.

-Erica Ganthner

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