World update: October 28-29 2017

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN

A Taliban attack on a checkpoint in Kunduz province killed at least 13 Afghan police officers on Sunday. Meanwhile, in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan, the deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Mohammad Nabi Ahmadi, was reportedly kidnapped by…somebody. The Afghan Taliban denied involvement in the kidnapping, saying that they don’t do that sort of thing outside of Afghanistan. I’m not sure if that also applies to the Haqqani Network. Despite being a high-ranking Afghan political official, Ahmadi apparently didn’t tell anybody in Pakistan that he was coming so that they might arrange security for him.

The Taliban are apparently vertically integrating their drug running operations. Instead of smuggling out their opium as syrup to be processed elsewhere, which is inefficient and leaves a lot of money on the table, they’ve started refining the stuff into morphine and heroin in Afghanistan. That way their drug shipments are both less conspicuous and more profitable. The Taliban, of course, deny that they’re in the drug business, and technically it may be more accurate to say that they’re in the “collecting protection money from the drug business” business. But either way, the money being made from opium–money that probably couldn’t be made under peaceful, orderly conditions–is certainly part of the reason the Afghan War isn’t going anywhere. Remember that as you hear about the United States shoveling more soldiers into Afghanistan while abjectly refusing to even consider a more sensible drug policy.

MYANMAR

Classy:

People marched in Myanmar’s largest city on Sunday to support the military, which has come under heavy criticism over violence that has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

 

More than 2,000 army supporters, including Buddhist nationalists and monks, took part in the march.

Nothing like a good pro-genocide march to really increase international awareness or whatever. Sadly all the ethnic cleansing seems to be having a negative impact on Myanmar’s tourism industry, go figure.

NORTH KOREA

Adult In The Room James Mattis continues the Trump administration’s effort to gaslight Americans into normalizing a potential military strike on North Korea:

“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs,” he said, adding that U.S.-South Korean military and diplomatic collaboration thus has taken on “a new urgency.”

 

“I cannot imagine a condition under which the United States would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” he said.

 

As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North.

 

“With that said,” he added, “make no mistake — any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.”

North Korea has nuclear weapons. North Korea isn’t going to give up its nuclear weapons barring a regime change, which is only going to happen as the result of a war. Everybody knows that a North Korean attack on the United States or its allies will be met with overwhelming force. Most especially, North Korea knows that, which is why it is not going to attack the United States or its allies unless one of them attacks first. Every one of these “massive response” warnings from Washington is intended for a domestic audience, not for Pyongyang. It’s intended to slowly but surely convince Americans that North Korea might indeed attack first so they’re ready in case we decide to get our war on.

Which is not to excuse Pyongyang or what it’s currently doing to massively destabilize East Asia and the world. It doesn’t need repeating, but Japan and South Korea are both mulling over implementing their own nuclear weapons programs, which would be extraordinarily bad but is entirely understandable from their perspectives.

AFRICA

LIBYA

A mass grave containing 36 bodies was found in Abyar, just south of Benghazi, on Friday morning. Many appear to have been bound, blindfolded, and shot in the head. The investigation into their murders is ongoing–22 of the bodies have been identified so far.

SOMALIA

At least 29 people were killed during a 12 hour siege of the Nasahablod Two hotel in Mogadishu that began Saturday evening. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which involved a car bomb followed by an assault by gunmen. The Somali government sacked its police commander and the head of its national intelligence service in response to the attack.

KENYA

Kenya’s electoral tensions are beginning to dangerously inflame the country’s ethnic fault lines, particularly in Nairobi:

Residents of Kawangware and police officers said the clashes had pitted two local communities – Kikuyu and mainly Luo – against each other. Members of each group accused the other of calling reinforcements from elsewhere.

 

One casualty was Boniface Mutiga, who was hit outside his home of wood and corrugated iron by a stray bullet.

 

“It was chaos. We were frightened for our lives,” said Tabitha Tiemo, 31, a neighbour.

 

In areas on the outskirts of Nairobi, leaflets have been circulated warning members of specific ethnic communities to leave their homes “due to the destruction of our properties by [opposition] supporters”.

I always get wary about distilling these stories down to tales of ethnic resentments because that way lies Orientalist bullshit, but they are an inescapable aspect of life everywhere–here in America too. But it’s often more accurate to say that those ethnic resentments are a contributing factor rather than the main cause of strife, and I think that’s true in this case. Raila Odinga is a Luo, and Uhuru Kenyatta is a Kikuyu, but Odinga’s supporters aren’t just Luo, they’re people who feel like they’ve been excluded from Kenyatta’s Kenya for a whole host of reasons, ethnicity being only one.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

The head of the Word Food Program, David Beasley, says that more than three million people are at imminent risk of starvation due to violence in the DRC’s central Kasai region. He’s calling for more international support to help the WFP pre-position food in Kasai that can be distributed after the area’s rainy season begins, when it will be almost impossible to get large trucks into the region with new shipments.

EUROPE

UKRAINE

Kiev’s new Junior Euromaidan anti-corruption protest movement is apparently being orchestrated by former Georgian president, former Ukrainian governor, and current all-around persona non grata Mikheil Saakashvili. Now Kiev may be on the verge of detaining Saakashvili and deporting him to Georgia, where he’s wanted on abuse of power and corruption charges. But while he doesn’t have much support among Ukraine’s political elite, or among the Ukrainian people generally, Saakashvili is supported by a number of men who have served on the front lines of the Donbas conflict and taking him into custody may not be as easy as all that.

SPAIN

Catalonia is heading for regional elections in December at Madrid’s orders, and while the Spanish government has magnanimously allowed as to how former (?) Catalan President Carles Puigdemont could run again in these new elections, it want to be clear that Puigdemont can only run if he, you know, hasn’t been arrested for some reason.

A huge rally brought out hundreds of thousands of people in Barcelona on Sunday to protest in favor of remaining in Spain. And while a single rally is no basis for drawing conclusions about broad political trends, the first opinion poll in the regional election is out already and it shows that pro-union parties have a slim lead. This aligns with pre-referendum polling that found a plurality of Catalan citizens opposed to independence, and suggests that Madrid’s heavy-handed response to the referendum maybe hasn’t shifted that many opinions (there’s apparently some solid political science research to support the notion that people’s opinions are largely unswayed by events like the Spanish crackdown). But there are a lot of undecideds in this poll, which potentially means a lot of people whose votes can be swayed by what happens between now and December.

ICELAND

Iceland’s right-wing Independence Party came out of Saturday’s snap election retaining its parliamentary plurality, but I’m not sure you can call this a “victory,” at least not just yet. The party lost five seats to drop to 16 in the country’s 63 seat parliament, and more importantly its right-leaning coalition partners lost big time:

Despite topping the poll, the Independence Party saw its support dip to 25 percent. The three-party governing coalition lost a total of 12 seats, leaving it 11 seats shy of a majority in parliament, known as the Althingi. The opposition Left Green Movement finished second with 17 percent, despite predictions it could win the election.

That last bit is why Saturday’s election outcome is pretty strange and why Iceland may have a hard time forming a government for a while–the current governing parties lost but the leading opposition party didn’t win (it picked up one measly seat). Instead, two populist parties, the Center Party and the People’s Party, made the biggest gains, and neither is considered anything more than a “break glass in case of emergency” choice as a coalition partner.

There is a scenario whereby Left Green leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir could become prime minister in a 32 seat coalition with the Progressives, the Social Democrats, and–yes–the Pirate Party (another overall loser). The Independence Party could try to move to the center to appeal to the Social Democrats and other moderates, though with the losses suffered by its former partners it lacks an obvious path to a majority. There’s also the possibility of a grand Independence-Left Green unity coalition, but that would be inherently unstable and would still require at least one more party for a majority.

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Author: DWD

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