Archive for September, 2021

Al Shabaab Car Bomb Kills at Least Eight People in Somalia

On Saturday, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, al Shabaab, conducted an attack in Mogadishu, Somalia outside the presidential palace. The group set off a suicide car bomb that targeted a convoy going into the palace, killing at least eight people. One of the people killed was Hibaq Abukar, a women and human rights affairs advisor to Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble. This attack is only the latest in a string of attacks conducted by al Shabaab against the Somali government.

This attack will serve to further destabilize a reigon already characterized by turmoil and instability. It also shows that the Somali government has not been able to eliminate al Shabaab, despite many years of trying. In addition, it shows that efforts by the American government have not been successful in eliminating the threat of al Shabaab, despite conducting multiple drone strikes against them. This indicates that the Somali government and relevant international organizations, like the AU, need to consder different methods to counter al Shabaab in the future.

Anna Bedal

Lithuania, Taiwan, and Chinese Aggression

Lithuania, a NATO ally, has found itself in China’s cross hairs because of its relationship with Taiwan, as well as because of their efforts to prevent China from gaining political ground in Europe. First, Lithuania and Taiwan agreed upon a plan to open an office in Vilnius. This office would have been called the “Taiwanese Representative office in Lithuania”. Both countries then announced plans to open a Lithuanian office in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. Being that China does not acknowledge the island as a separate country, they took great offense at the use of “Taiwanese”, in the name of the new Lithuanian office. Lithuania’s other offense against China was its decision to withdraw from the cooperation agreement between China and 17 Eastern and Central European nations. That cooperation agreement was intended to allow China to invest in infrastructure, but it was really being used to increase China’s diplomatic influence in the region.

In retaliation, the Chinese government has recalled their ambassador to Lithuania, severely reduced trade, and cut off rail service between the two countries. Luckily for Lithuania, the economic impact of these actions has been limited, but diplomatically this should be a wake-up call for the rest of Europe and NATO in general, because these actions are another example of China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy. For example, after requesting an in-depth review of COVID-19’s origins, Australia has seen its trade with China suffer greatly. Similarly, in Europe, several officials have been sanctioned by China for criticizing their human rights violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. China’s aggression threatens to undercut any possible cooperation on worldwide issues like the pandemic and climate change.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, has asked for Europe to show unity in the face of China’s actions. I believe that he is correct to ask for solidarity among the Europeans and I would suggest that any show of solidarity include all 27 NATO members. Given China’s consistent increases in aggression against the West, all responses should involve the full backing of all NATO members. In my opinion, the resent divisions among NATO member countries will only benefit China and give Beijing more confidence. This conflict between Lithuania and China provides the perfect opportunity for Europe and the entire Trans-Atlantic partnership to present a united front.




Afghanistan Refugees & What it Means to Our Human and Health Security

When the Biden administration withdrew troops from Afghanistan, the refugees followed the troops out of the country.. There have been 97,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the past twenty years that have resettled in America. According to Waddell from the U.S News and World Report, “Virginia has taken in the largest share of Afghans in relation to its population, with 136 resettlements per 100,000 residents,” (para 6, 2021). Many of these refugees have little to no vaccinations ranging from the Covid-19 to the measles vaccine. When living in Afghanistan, the refugees had no access to medical care or it was extremely hard to access medical attention let alone vaccines. This poses a threat to human and health security, because the refugees are bringing with them different medical issues and diseases that could affect the American people. 

The article, Bronx News, stated that “Governor, Phil Murphy says that refugees from Afghanistan who arrived in New Jersey are being screened for health care and security issues,” (para 1, 2021). I agree with this point of scanning the refugees for health care and security issues. With the amount of refugees that are coming in, the government should know what they are bringing with them regardless if it is the measles or if they are wanted by a terrorist group. It is important to know these aspects to keep the American people safe from diseases and terrorism. Gregory stated that, “if the refugees have not had these vaccines, they will be given to them,” (para 4, 2021). If the refugees do have medical diseases or concerns, doctors will be able to assist them and administer the care that is needed. The scanning of these refugees is mainly to keep them and everyone else around them safe. With the climate of the world today and everything that is happening on a daily basis, the American people need reassurance that their human and health security is not being threatened or taken away from them. 

-Olivia Lewis


Climate Change, Trade, and Global Food Security

Achieving global food security is fundamentally linked to acting against climate change.  A new report from Stockholm Environment Institute reveals for the first time in detail which countries are exposed to transboundary climate risks (TCRs) through agricultural trade, and which countries are important sources of risk.  The report assesses six major commodities:

Staple commodities (rice, wheat, maize), luxury commodities (coffee), and highly embedded commodities (soy, sugar cane).

Results suggest that all nations, regardless of development, wealth, and international power, are exposed to TCRs.  Many European and North American nations are highly at risk via imports, and conversely can be a major source of risk for nations who depend on their exports for food security.  Examples include countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean who rely on U.S. imports, and nations in Asia and Africa who rely heavily on imports from China.

While adaptation to climate change has long been a priority of developing countries, this report underscores that it is in everyone’s best interest to adapt, and do so together.  Climate change drives a systemic risk that will occur worldwide and all at once.  Countries must work together to achieve the mutually beneficial goal of systemic resilience in global agricultural markets.



Iran and the UN General Assembly

This week started the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Iranian officials have held meetings with many different Arab country counterparts as well with some EU members. The importance of this is large after President Biden pledged to limiting the capabilities of the Iran Nuclear Program and coming back to the table with negotiations and expecting outlined in the JCPOA. This is also a progression in Iran-Saudi Arabia relations as they broke diplomatic ties in 2016, with the officials meeting once again in New York this past week. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian of Iran emphasized the importance of strengthening relationships with neighboring countries at the General Assembly.


This is a very interesting development and should be watched very carefully. The implications of this for both the United States but also the international community are much larger than what it appears on the surface. While Iran has been hostile in recent decades, the announcement of the emphasis on rebuilding those relationships could mean a more diplomatic Iran and one that is more open to negotiations that all countries at the table could benefit from. A more diplomatically driven Iran could be an incredible advancement for the international community.



France and the Islamic State in Sahara

On September 16th, the head of the Islamic State group in the Sahara was killed by French troops. The Sahel, an area of northern Africa, is where the Islamic State has been active, the Sahel stretches across the Sahara desert and includes the countries of  Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso. French troops had occupied the area since 2015 when the head of the Islamic State, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, formed it. President Macron announced that the death of Sahrawi was another significant accomplishment towards the war on terror. Additionally, President Macron announced his intention for the withdrawal of troops from the Sahel region in June. With the departure of French troops, Mali may seek a new partner against the Islamic State in the area. There have been reports that Mali has been in communication with Russia’s Wagner Group. French and German forces in the Sahel region have stated they will withdraw if Mali agrees to a partnership with the Wagner Group.

The death of Sahrawi is meaningful considering Europe’s efforts to thwart terrorism in the Sahel region. France exhibits a show of strength that the world cannot ignore. They are an important strategic ally concerning the war on terrorism. However, terrorism will not cease in the region resulting from Sahrawi’s death; the fight in the region is far from over. While France has shown its military strength in this region, President Macron has already announced that troops will withdraw from the Sahel in the coming months and continue for seven years. This has already caused Mali to begin looking at other partnerships, the Wagner Group in particular. The possible implications of withdrawal from the region could result in an uprise of terrorist activity. Additionally, if the Wagner Group moves to the region, the UN, Germany, Mali’s neighbors, and France have stated that they would reconsider their engagements in the areas, which could cause a strategic disadvantage for Europe as a whole and western advancement in the region. 



Japan, US, and S. Korea Meet to Urge N. Korea to Return to Arms Talks

On Tuesday, September 14th, top diplomats from the United States, Japan, and South Korea meet in order to urge North Korea to return to talks over its missile and nuclear development. This is after North Korea’s state-run central news agency, reported tests of new missiles, and stated that the missiles are a “strategic weapon of great significance.” That comment has led some to believe that North Korea intends to arm these new missiles with nuclear warheads.

Reading this article made me think about the article that was discussed in class last Tuesday about nuclear proliferation. If North Korea does have nuclear weapons then that means that they feel threatened by another power. Furthermore, it may mean that North Korea doesn’t believe that their great power ally, China, is fully committed to protecting them against threats. As we talked about last Tuesday with the model given in the class reading, if a state faces a low power threat and has a great power ally that isn’t fully committed to them they are more likely to try to get nuclear weapons.




United States Drone Strike in Kabul

Roughly a monthly ago, the United States hit Kabul with a drone strike. After the drone strike was complete it was reported that it had killed ten civilians, seven of them being children. The United States Pentagon issued an apology referring to the strike as a horrible mistake. The United States explained that the drone strike was intended for an Islamic State suicide bomber. Furthermore, the United States explained that it felt the drone strike was necessary because of the direct threat it had on United States citizens during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Marine Core personnel also supported the statement about the feeling of imminent threat at the time but then pleaded to explain looking back on this situation it was a tragic mistake.

With this drone strike unfolding in Kabul, it will now raise questions about using strategies like drone strikes to fight things like terrorism under fire. With the United States withdrawal, it will not have the same ability to gather intelligence in an attempt to combat terrorism. This will force the United States to have concrete evidence and extreme reason to use drone strikes to combat groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS. This failure will leave many officials questioning assessing risks in the future. To elaborate, this will change how quickly the United States can act on threats from terrorist groups. If the United States is unable to stop a serious threat from a terrorist organization due to the lack of intelligence and the severe misuse of the latest drone strike, it can affect American lives severely.

Israeli Prime Minister and Egyptian President Meet

In the first visit in ten years to Egypt by an Israeli Prime Minister, the conflict between Israel and Palestine was a prime talking point. According to one analyst quoted in this France 24 article, these peace talks between Israel and Egypt are essential in both security and economical ways for both countries. This is partially due to the role Egypt serves as an Israeli ally and Egypt’s location in relation to Israel. Furthermore, these talks come simultaneously with renewed hope for the Palestinians after the previous escape of six prisoners from an Israeli high-security prison. Those prisoners have all been recaptured, but that has not seemed to dull the pride the Palestinians have for them. As a result of the meeting between the president and the prime minister, the Egyptians, who are proponents of peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, may attempt to revive those peace talks. Although some have little hope for a positive outcome from negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, many feel that Egyptian involvement is essential for those talks to have a hope of being successful.


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North Korea Becoming a Greater Threat

This week, more news emerged regarding North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons.  It will be expanding one of its facilities granting it the ability to produce an estimated 25% more bomb materials than before.  This facility is the same one that Kim Jong Un offered to shut down for the right deal in his negotiations with former President Trump.  North Korea has also begun testing new missiles, one of them being a cruise missile which can be far more dangerous than a ballistic missile.  These two developments demonstrate that despite the economic crisis, covid, and other difficulties plaguing the North Korean people, Kim Jong Un is still dedicated in his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

This Sept. 14, 2021, satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a uranium enrichment plant at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex. Recent satellite images show North Korea is expanding the uranium enrichment plant, a sign that it's intent on boosting the production of bomb materials, experts say. The assessment comes after North Korea recently raised tensions with its first missile tests in six months amid long-dormant nuclear disarmament negotiations with the United States. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

Cruise missiles pose a unique threat because they can change their trajectory through the air and are often undetected by radar.  I think it is important that the Biden administration attempts to reopen negotiations of some form with North Korea before they add more weapons to their arsenal.  With the recent news, it is clear that North Korea is not simply continuing to produce weapons, but aims to produce more at a faster rate.  As North Korea does this, they pose more of a threat to nations like Japan, South Korea, and the United States.  Additionally, intelligence may not be able to keep up with the developments in North Korea making it more difficult to assess the threat level.  If Biden can open negotiations with Kim Jong Un, perhaps he can at least delay the development in some way.  

North Korea"s leader Kim Jong Un leads the first workshop of the commanders and political officers of the Korean People"s Army

The BBC article states that North Korea wants to be self-reliant when it comes to national defense.  If this goal is reachable, the US must worry about two strong threats in both North Korea and China.  China serves as a big brother for North Korea, but it appears that North Korea aims to grow up soon.  In that case, the US would have a lot to worry about.


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