Archive for September, 2021

US Reaches out to China about Iran Oil Purchases

This week, the United States diplomatically reached out to China to encourage China to reduce the amount of crude oil they are purchasing from Iran. The rationale behind this decision is to further pressure on the Iranian economy to curb the growth of their nuclear program and encourage them to come back to the table with the JCPOA. While this purchasing has continued, following the withdrawal from the JCPOA former President Trump reinstated harsh sanctions on Iran which crippled their economy. The approach of the Biden administration is a much more diplomatic approach and is looking to come back to the agreement that was negotiated while he was Vice President.

I find this really interesting and I am really interested in seeing what further steps the administration will take to curb the growth of their program. With the diplomatic approach the administration has taken so far, it feels like they would not take military action to stall their growth and would try all diplomatic routes before taking further action. I also don’t know how effective it will be to come back to a 6 year agreement. While the agreement was supposed to be in effect until 2025, I think it may be difficult for them to come back to the table after 3 years of no enforcement from the United States.



In Latest Test, North Korea Launches Suspected Ballistic Missile into Sea

Early Tuesday morning North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile from an inland location towards its eastern sea. This is a couple of days after Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, had talks with South Korea to negotiate continuing communication between the two countries. While top diplomats from the U.S, Japan, and South Korea in the past couple of days have met to discuss ways to stop North Korea from creating nuclear weapons. During the last day of the UN General Assembly, North Korea’s Ambassador Kim Song defended the country’s weapon development by stating that, “our state is growing a reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in an attempted military invasion.” In response to this, Japan has stepped up its security and surveillance on North Korea.

The article gives some good insight on what some of the top actors related to this case, like Japan and South Korea, are doing in reaction to this. However, I wish the article would discuss more about China’s response to the issue if the state had any. China is North Korea’s biggest great power ally, which means they may have some influence over them. If China is backing away more from North Korea, it may play a factor in why North Korea has been working harder, as of late, to create these “war deterrents.”



More Testing from North Korea

North Korea says South Korea's call to declare end of Korean War is premature

News emerged from North Korea today that they tested another missile through launching it into the water.  This past month has seen a dramatic increase in testing from North Korea causing a destabilization of the region.  As North Korea continues to pursue aggressive testing and nuclear development, South Korea and the US have to be at a higher alert.  As the article states, the US has communicated to North Korea that it would like to pursue a diplomatic route with North Korea and reach a denuclearization deal.  However, the prospects of such a deal appear to be minimal.  North Korea spoke out against the role the US has had with South Korea.  According to the North Koreans, the US has been aggressive towards them through their military exercises.  

It is interesting to compare the statements from both the US and North Korea because the discrepancies demonstrate the extent of the fractured relationship between the two countries.  Biden’s administration claims to be diplomatic while North Korea claims the opposite.  It is also important to pay close attention to North Korea in the coming weeks to see if they implement any more testing and contribute more to the destabilization of the region.  Additionally, North Korea may see sanctions imposed against them soon because of the testing.  They are not allowed to test nuclear or ballistic weapons.  If North Korea continues to test weapons, the international community may be less willing to negotiate and less forgiving in the future.


China’s bizzare bid to join the CPTPP

CPTPP Members Meeting in March of 2018, in Chile.

China has made an unexpected bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership — the renamed and renegotiated remains of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, before the United States under the Trump Administration chose to leave the agreement in 2016 before ratification. Intended to foster the economies of export-heavy, pacific-lying countries, counterbalancing the growth of the Chinese economy and the promotion of US-pacific involvement, the CPTPP serves the function of breaking down trade barriers though a myriad of means, chiefly the removal of virtually all tariffs, barring ‘protected goods,’ such as Japan’s rice exports, and Canada’s dairy exports.

Economic populists on both sides of the American political spectrum chastised the deal, citing a lack of wage security and job protections, partially leading to the withdrawal from the deal as one of the former president’s first actions.

Since, the TPP was renamed, and the share of the global economy the partnership would have decreased from 30% of global GDP to just 13%.

This comes just days after the announcement of a nuclear deal between the United States, The United Kingdom, and Australia, providing the latter nation with nuclear submarines, intended almost solely for countering Chinese naval growth and aggression. It isn’t difficult to see the reason why China chose to make this information public — boosting its image as a peaceful economic powerhouse at a time in which the United States is facing pushback for its failure in Afghanistan, and spat with France following the aforementioned nuclear deal.

Regardless, it’s not very likely that the PRC will be able to enter the deal, as the 11 nations have to unanimously agree on its entry. Considering its recent spats with Japan, Australia, and Canada, the likelihood of unanimous agreement is likely a long shot. This begs the question now: why bother? Why bother submitting a request that the PRC knows with near-certainty will be denied?

Potentially trying to prevent Taiwan’s entry to the deal, as well as fomenting discord between the CPTPP nations and the United States, forcing them to review their options and ‘pick a side,’ an uncomfortable gambit for many involved. Additionally, smaller economic powers may welcome China’s entry, should the United States continue its silence on rejoining, as post-Covid economic development lags behind expectation. On the other hand, those very same economic powers are export-heavy, as is China, creating fears of greater out-competition.

In the coming weeks, the nations of the CPTPP will make their decisions as to whether or not the PRC will join the agreement designed to counterbalance it, and the world will watch to see if the United States will move to rejoin that very same deal it created.

– Liam

Additional Reading:

Japan faces difficulty in handling respective CPTPP bids of China and Taiwan

Why U.S. membership in CPTPP makes more sense than ever

China will likely fail in its CPTPP bid — but it’s a ‘smart’ move against the U.S., say analysts

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – Institute for Government (UK)

Thinking the unthinkable about China’s CPTPP application


Ultimatum for Israel

In an address to the UN general assembly, Palestine’s president gave the Israelis an ultimatum. The Israelis have one year to withdraw their forces from occupied Palestinian territories, as defined by the 1967 boundaries. If the Israelis fail to do so, the Palestinians will no longer recognize Israel and its borders. President Abbas also said that the Palestinians would be willing to go to the International Court of Justice if needed to have their requirements met.  This speech comes shortly after the US House of Representatives passed a large spending bill to fund the replenishment of the Israeli iron dome defense system. After that bill passed in the house, house democrats introduced a bill supporting the two-state solution and increased oversight on the Israeli use of US funding. Although the Israelis have seemed more open to talks with the Palestinians, and the Biden administration continues to advocate for the two-state system, there would be significant issues to resolve to make the two-state solution work. In addition, the combination of these events brings an interesting mix to the already hostile situation. I am not sure the extent to which the Palestinians will be able to ensure their requests are met, especially if the current US government is willing to continue funding the Israelis. However, I think it will be unlikely that there will be much progress on reaching a desirable solution for both sides.



Islamic State implements Taliban tactics against Afghanistan’s New Ruler

Throughout the ruling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a plethora of attacks have unfolded and all to be claimed by the local affiliate of Islamic State. People at the head of power within the Taliban have claimed that this threat isn’t as big as it seems but commanders on the ground beg to differ. After further investigation of the attacks in Jalalabad, commanders have come to a realization that the tactics used in these attacks are very similar to Taliban tactics and despite the lack of people among this group, they remain dangerous.

It is important that the United States is consistent with observing the Taliban in power. The Taliban have made statements about not letting Afghanistan continue to be a base for attacks on other countries. There is always a threat of ISIS-K and Al-Qaeda gaining motivation from seeing the Taliban take power in Afghanistan for reemergence. Taliban commanders have seen tactics such as car sticky bombs being used in attacks for certain profile people. Taliban officials are worried that these same tactics can be used against their officials.

US Military officials distances himself Iraq event urging ties with Israel

At a meeting on Friday between US officials and those in the US-backed coalition, during this meeting, US officials distanced themselves from the Iraqi officials after it came to light that several local Iraqi officials had begun to back the normalization of Israel. The US official Col. Marotto sent out a statement saying that the US had no idea about the local Iraqi officials normalizing Israel, but the US would still support Iraq’s government and that the US would still back the coalition.  The White House has set out a plan that they would like to try and strengthen and increase the Abraham Accords. Following Friday’s meeting, the Iraqi citizens began to ask the Iraqi government to end the current war going on with Israel and for Iraq to join the Abraham Accords.



Tens of People Dead in Multiple Attacks on Nigerian Villages

The Islamic insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria flared up again over the weekend and into Monday. In three separate attacks unknown gunmen caused numerous casualties. On Sunday night, gunmen attacked a village in the state of Kaduna, reportedly leaving around 34 dead. Earlier that day, gunmen also attacked a church, also in Kaduna state, killing one and injuring many. Finally, an attack on an army base in the Northwestern state of Sokoto came under attack allegedly from the Islamic State (ISWAP), killing 22 soldiers.

These attacks represent not only a disastrous loss of (mostly innocent) life, but also stands in sharp contrast with hopes of government and counter-intelligence hopes that the mass-surrenders of a few weeks ago had turned a page in the insurgency. To the contrary, the attacks both this week and last week have shown that the weakening of Boko Haram has not slowed the pace of radical Islamic attacks. It has instead emboldened ISWAP and the myriad of armed criminal groups on-the-ground to strike at civilian targets, with the apparent idea that attention has focused to rooting out Boko Haram. None of the attacks have been formally claimed yet, so it is possible some group outside the two big threats (BH and ISWAP) is responsible for the violence in Kaduna state, but once again we will not know unless an actor takes responsibility or the government releases a statement.



Navalny was Nominated for European Parliament’s Annual Human Rights prize

Alexei Navalny was nominated for the European Parliament’s annual human rights prize. Alexei Navalny is famous for criticizing  the Kremlin. European Union Lawmakers seem to be wanting to be a spotlight on Navalny’s pro-democracy network which has been banned in Russia. Navalny is currently imprisoned in Russia. Moscow accused the EU of trying to interfere in its domestic affairs.

I think the EU making this move will worsen relations between the members of the EU and Russia. EU is likely doing to help promote the values of Navalny in Russia. America could likely improve relations with the EU by trying to give Navalny an award as well, however if America tried to take this course of action it would likely damage it relations with Russia.

-Sean S

New death tolls from the Syrian Civil War

In recent Syrian international and domestic news, the United Nations official released an estimated death toll from the Syrian Civil War. In over a decade, over 350,000 individuals have died; the UN High Commissioner specifically notes “ we have compiled a list of 350,209 identified individuals killed in the conflict in Syria between March 2011 to March 2021,”. Such statistics do not even take the number of missing persons into account. Interestingly, there has already been an international dispute over these estimations; this largely is attributable to the United Nations’ ceasing of actively counting deaths from the conflict in January 2014 because of the arduous, seemingly “impossible” nature of the task. 

This recent revelation in the ongoing Syrian Civil War exemplifies the extreme cost of this overall security and conflict matters and its implications on Syria state and the entire international community. The Syrian conflict is emblematic of the political war theory expressed by Williams in which the conflict is clearly purposeful and organized violence from a political unit. Such definition provides vital context to the continual violence and death associated with this international security and conflict matter. Ultimately, the Syrian Civil War ought to be analyzed with Williams’ political war theory in conjunction with a cognisant awareness of the immense cost to human life this overall conflict has brought onto the international and Syrian community.

-Keegan Heaney Fredrick


Paul D. Williams, “War,” in Paul D. Williams ed. Security Studies: An Introduction, 2nd ed.

(London: Routledge, 2013).

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