World update: January 5 2018

ASIA

GEORGIA

Georgian President-turned-Ukrainian governor-turned stateless pariah Mikheil Saakashvili was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison by a Georgian court on Friday, for abuse of his pardon power during his tenure as president. You’ve heard the saying “you can’t go home again”? In Saakashvili’s case it’s literally true.

PAKISTAN

The Trump administration clarified some of the details pertaining to its suspension of military aid to Pakistan, which looks like it will involve at least $900 million in assistance. The suspension will affect both streams of US military aid to Islamabad–Coalition Support Funds, which reimburse the target nation for counterterrorism activities, and Foreign Military Financing, which helps the target nation buy some sweet American military hardware.

This aid is pretty small potatoes, especially since Pakistan can recoup much of it by appealing to China and/or by doing even less to counter groups like the Afghan Taliban and the various Kashmiri terrorist organizations who are not only based in Pakistan but, in some cases, are now active, open participants in Pakistani politics. But the Pakistanis are pissed, or at least they believe it’s in their interest to act like they’re pissed:

“Working toward enduring peace requires mutual respect and trust along with patience and persistence,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goal posts are counterproductive in addressing common threats.”

 

In an interview Thursday with the Geo News channel, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that the United States was now neither a friend nor ally but “a friend who always betrays.”

Pakistan’s MO when it comes to counterterrorism has long been to deal harshly with groups that commit attacks in Pakistan, which mostly means the various Pakistani Taliban factions, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Groups that commit attacks in Afghanistan or India, on the other hand, are cultivated by Pakistan’s intelligence services as assets. Then when they’re criticized for supporting the latter groups they conflate those two things and wax on at length about all the work they’ve done and sacrifices they’ve made to fight the former groups. This is the problem with talking about a “war on terror” like terrorism is all one thing, but by that token you have to give the Pakistanis credit for using American stupidity to their benefit.

If the Pakistanis are further pressed on their support for certain terrorist groups, they talk in deliberately vague terms–as they’re doing now–about “common ground” and “addressing concerns” and “working toward peace” as though the whole thing were some massive puzzle to be solved when in fact the issue is that they keep letting the Taliban set up shop on Pakistani soil. Now the Pakistani government has started complaining that the US is singling them out, when Iran and Russia are also both allegedly providing material support to the Taliban–though, uh, neither of those countries are pocketing US aid money while they do so.

In Pakistan’s defense, the US should be pushing Kabul just as heavily to stop covertly aiding the Pakistani Taliban, but we don’t because that’s about 50 percent too nuanced for most American policymakers to grasp. I’m not sure anybody in the Trump White House is even aware that the Pakistani Taliban is separate from the Afghan version. The only thing that’s going to solve this problem is some kind of regional dialogue, but that would have to involve Iran so it’s already a non-starter for Washington. And even at that, ending Islamabad’s support for the Afghan Taliban would require Pakistan’s civilian government to exercise a degree of control over its military and intelligence services that it simply doesn’t have at the present time.

NEPAL

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress party lost Nepal’s legislative election in early December, but Deuba remains in office nearly a month later with no sign of departing, and people are starting to get angry about it:

With the establishment of a new government still not in sight, protesters have been rallying for days in the capital, Kathmandu, to call for Deuba’s immediate exit.

 

According to Nepal’s constitution, a prime minister can enter office after the formation of the Full House, which includes the House of Representatives and the Upper House. Deuba, a four-time prime minister, has maintained he will remain in his post until the election of the Upper House, where members are chosen by provincial assemblies.

 

But with that vote, which will pave the way for the formation of a new government, still several weeks away due to a number of administrative issues, critics accuse Deuba’s party of deliberately stalling for time to break up the leftist coalition in a bid to maintain its grip on power.

MYANMAR

Three people were wounded on Friday when fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army ambushed a military vehicle in Rakhine state.

AFRICA

SOUTH SUDAN

Remember that ceasefire the warring factions in South Sudan signed last month? Yeah, about that:

Clashes have broken out near South Sudan’s capital Juba between government troops and rebels, officials said on Friday, the latest violation of a ceasefire signed last month.

 

The deal reached in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa between the government of President Salva Kiir and a myriad of opposition groups had aimed to end a four-year-old war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed.

 

But several violations have since taken place, for which all sides have been blamed.

A number of people were reportedly killed late Thursday night when a group of rebels assaulted a military base west of Juba.

ZIMBABWE

New Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has decided not to form a national unity government after all. There had been talk of such an arrangement after Robert Mugabe was ousted, with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai serving as prime minister, but apparently all it took was one meeting with Tsvangirai for Mnangagwa to nix that idea. And to be fair, if Mnangagwa follows through on his promise to hold elections in the very near future (as early as March) then there really isn’t any need for a brief unity arrangement.

SOUTH AFRICA

The New Yorker’s William Finnegan looks at new ANC party leader Cyril Ramaphosa, who once upon a time might have been Nelson Mandela’s preferred successor and now finally looks like he’s going to be South Africa’s next president but will have to wade through current President Jacob Zuma’s loyalists if he’s going to get anywhere:

Enter, once again, Cyril Ramaphosa. After he was passed over for the Presidency, the former labor leader was “deployed to business” by Mandela. Part of the grand bargain to end apartheid included a program of “black economic empowerment,” which promoted new black-owned businesses and integrated the all-white boards of corporations, including the mining companies that Ramaphosa already knew from the other side of the negotiating table. Ramaphosa joined a lengthy list of corporate boards, opened an investment firm that flourished, and got rich. His street cred took a hit, but he has not been tainted by financial scandal, and he eventually returned to politics and the A.N.C. When Zuma, who must retire in 2019, recently chose to back his ex-wife Nkhosana Dlamini-Zuma for the A.N.C. presidency—to be, that is, his successor as the country’s President—Ramaphosa stepped forward and ran against her. The Zuma camp labelled him the candidate of “white monopoly capital.” The Economist called their showdown, which culminated in voting at a party congress in mid-December, “the most visible battle in the world between good and bad government.” Ramaphosa won a close election. He immediately vowed to crack down on corruption.

EUROPE

HUNGARY

As two fat-ass racist authoritarian wanna-bes, Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have a lot in common, and when Trump was elected Orbán seemed to think it would herald a great improvement in the US-Hungary relationship. As we approach Donald Trump’s first anniversary as POTUS, so far that relationship has not improved. There are a number of reasons for this–US foreign policy doesn’t change on a dime the instant a new president takes office, the Trump administration has been particularly slow filling top diplomatic positions, Orbán’s chumminess with Vladimir Putin puts Trump in a tough position, etc.. But also, GORKAAAAAA:

“They were quite unlucky with Sebastian Gorka — he’s of Hungarian origin, but left Hungary with comments saying Orban is unable to win an election in 2006 or 2007,” Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi told FP. In 2007, Gorka gave an interview saying Fidesz was not functioning and could not function, and predicted Fidesz would not win in 2010. Orban came back to power in 2010.

 

There was “obvious tension between Gorka and Orban’s people. Gorka made it clear he’s not going to be a Hungarian lobbyist around Trump,” Panyi added.

As two fat-ass racist authoritarian wanna-bes, Sebastian Gorka and Viktor Orbán have a lot in common, but they hate each other’s guts anyway.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Ostensible Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been having a hard time forming a new government on account of how he’s suspected of being corrupt. So the news that the European Union says it’s found “irregularities” in Babiš’s business career–specifically that his Agrofert conglomerate divested itself of a subsidiary that then claimed some small business benefits before being reabsorbed back into Agrofert–probably isn’t going to help.

AMERICAS

VENEZUELA

The US Treasury Department blacklisted four more Nicolás Maduro loyalists on Friday: former food minister Rodolfo Marco, former governor Francisco Rangel, military officer Fabio Zavarse Pabon, and state minister Gerardo Izquierdo Torres.

UNITED STATES

Good news, everybody! At Real Donald Trump is going to continue entertaining and terrifying us all on Twitter indefinitely:

Just days after Donald Trump’s Twitter taunting of Kim Jong-Un over nuclear war reignited calls for the company to ban the president from its platform, the social media company obliquely addressed the controversy in a statement defending its decision not to to censor “world leaders”.

 

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the company wrote in a blogpost published Friday. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

While I can see Twitter’s point in principle, there are a couple of things that are unique to Trump’s case that I think they might want to consider. For one thing, suspending his Twitter account might well silence him, unless you think whichever staffer runs the official POTUS Twitter account would be willing to take up the slack and start tweeting regularly about Trump’s penis size as compared to that of other world leaders. For another thing, Donald Trump’s Twitter account might actually get a lot of people killed for reals one of these days. It’s a slim chance, but it’s much higher than for your average Twitter account.

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One thought on “World update: January 5 2018

  1. Writing about Ramaphosa and not mentioning Marikana (or passing it off with “his street cred took a hit”) is a travesty of journalism

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