Well it seems like the G7 is off to a really productive start. And by that I mean nobody stormed out or declared war on anybody else. That’s about all anybody can hope these days. Donald Trump and the other six leaders–each of whom is either pissed at or freaking out over Trump’s protectionism–reportedly swapped dueling trade numbers and basically left it at that. The US and European Union reportedly agreed to open “technical talks” over their trade disagreements, so I guess that’s…something?
The UN Security Council added five new members on Friday: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa. Their two year terms will begin on January 1. They’ll be replacing outgoing members Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
In what was presumably their last offensive before their Ramadan ceasefire kicks in, Afghan forces killed ten Taliban fighters in an engagement in Nangarhar province on Thursday. Elsewhere, gunmen killed two people in Herat province on Friday while a bomb in Laghman province killed at least one person. Nangarhar can expect to see continued fighting despite the ceasefire–the United States plans to use the week to step up its campaign against ISIS, which is predominantly based in that province.
ISIS, which recruited effectively among Iranian Kurds for its operations in Syria and Iraq, is now sending those recruits to Afghanistan instead. This poses a problem for Iran, which has been trying to lock down Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan against terrorist threats but has an acknowledged weakness along its eastern border. Apart from a desire to bleed the United States, it’s the risk of ISIS developing a sustained presence in western Afghanistan that explains Iran’s support for the Taliban.
Facebook has started banning hardline Myanmar Buddhist monks from its platform over their sustained hate speech against the Rohingya. Better very late than never, I guess. The monks are claiming that this violates their freedom of speech, which of course it does not, but frankly it’s heartwarming to see that our reactionary bigots are the same as everybody else’s reactionary bigots.
The Washington Post broke the story on Friday of a major data breach at a US naval contractor, courtesy of Chinese hackers:
Chinese government hackers have compromised the computers of a Navy contractor, stealing massive amounts of highly sensitive data related to undersea warfare — including secret plans to develop a supersonic anti-ship missile for use on U.S. submarines by 2020, according to American officials.
The breaches occurred in January and February, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The hackers targeted a contractor who works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a military organization headquartered in Newport, R.I., that conducts research and development for submarines and underwater weaponry.
The officials did not identify the contractor.
Naturally. After all, they’re probably going to keep doing work for the federal government despite failing to protect their information, so we wouldn’t want to harm their reputation.
The Libyan National Army arrested an opposition commander in Derna on Friday, signaling that its advance into the city is moving forward. The LNA reportedly controls half of Derna at this point. The UN continues to warn about the danger to civilians, as LNA air and artillery strikes continue to rain down on the other half of the city, and as reports filter in of LNA ground soldiers mistreating civilians.
Earlier this week the US said it killed four ISIS fighters in an airstrike on the town of Bani Walid, south of Tripoli.
Colgate University Professor Jacob Mundy identifies a couple of reasons why Libya’s upcoming election might not bring the country any closer to peacefully ending its civil war:
The peace process seemed to be going nowhere. Then, in the last week of May French President Emmanuel Macron hosted an international conference on Libya. It was the first time Libya’s political and military leaders were brought together. The outcome was a statement which promised to hold elections for a new parliament and president by the end of 2018.
However, serious questions remain as to whether another interim government will solve the country’s political crisis.
Libya’s transitional leaders, some of whom will be presidential candidates, are entangled in – and benefit from – the country’s war economy. So do various armed factions that may view the vote as a threat to their interests and disrupt the process before it begins.
There are also a number of peace processes being simultaneously rolled out, which confuses the way forward. And there are new security risks and still no constitution, which undermines the legitimacy of institutions that many still view as interim and temporary.
One US soldier was killed on Friday and four more wounded in a battle with al-Shabab fighters when the insurgents attacked a Somali-US base near the town of Jamaame in southern Somalia. Al-Shabab has had a busy couple of days–on Thursday a group of al-Shabab fighters captured a town near the city of Baidoa and attacked Somali soldiers in Mogadishu.
Boy, the accolades were just rolling in for Vladimir Putin on Friday. Donald Trump, in yet another petulant fit about having to attend the G7 summit in Canada, said he thinks they should let Russia back in (the Russians were booted in 2014 over their annexation of Crimea) and make it the G8 again:
“It used to be the G8 because Russia was in it,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question outside of the White House Friday morning. “Now Russia’s not in it. Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I think Putin is probably going, ‘Man, I wish Hillary won.’ Because you see what I do. But with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting?”
He’s…sort of got a point? I mean, if the G7 is supposed to be a gathering of the world’s largest economies, then it shouldn’t look the way it looks. But China should get a seat at the table before Russia. Of course that’s not what the G7 is supposed to be. The G7’s mission is to ensure that the G7 members get to continue running the world. They don’t even do that anymore, but you can’t blame them for holding on to the dream. Anyway, Trump’s call for Russia to rejoin the group is something even Russia doesn’t appear to want, so whatever. We live in the dumbest time in human history, in case that hasn’t sunk in yet.
As if Trump’s kind words weren’t enough, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday bestowed upon Putin China’s first “friendship medal.” Those two guys have been so tight ever since freshman year, it’s really touching to see. Xi referred to Putin as his “best friend” in awarding him the medal, which is definitely a lie but still nice of him to say.
Evidence from Ukraine, where the civil war is sometimes seen as the result of an intractable divide between the country’s Ukrainian-speaking regions and its Russian-speaking regions, suggests that there’s more complexity to linguistic groupings than previously thought. It’s not just about one’s native tongue, or else you’d expect the Ukrainian rebellion to have already spread to other predominantly Russian-speaking parts of the country. Instead, people in those regions seem to increasingly identify as Ukrainian.
Austria’s hard-right government has decided to close down seven of the country’s mosques and expel as many as 60 mostly Turkish imams and their families in what it says is a crackdown against “political Islam.” This move was criticized by Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdoğan’s spokesperson, İbrahim Kalin, on Friday:
1/Austria’s decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country. It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points.
— Ibrahim Kalin (@ikalin1) June 8, 2018
The Austrian government’s ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of co-existence. Efforts to normalize Islamophobia and racism must be rejected under all circumstances.
— Ibrahim Kalin (@ikalin1) June 8, 2018
Kalin shouldn’t be too hard on the Austrians, since their decision will undoubtedly find its way into his boss’s reelection campaign speeches as more red meat for the base.
Brexit seems to be wreaking havoc on Northern Irish loyalties. A new BBC poll shows that only around 47 percent of Northern Irish citizens see themselves as “British,” compared with around 59 percent who see themselves as “Irish,” 58 percent who see themselves as “Northern Irish,” and–here’s the kicker–57 percent who see themselves as “European.” If Northern Ireland were to hold a referendum on staying within the UK or joining Ireland, only around 45 percent say they would vote to stay in UK compared with 42 percent who would vote to join Ireland and 13 percent undecided. Of those polled, 28 percent said that the Brexit vote had made them more likely to support leaving the UK.
The State Department announced on Friday that it has imposed “visa restrictions” on unnamed persons within the Nicaraguan government as a response to the violent crackdown that has left 127 anti-government protesters dead over the past several weeks. Nicaraguan bishops are attempting to reopen talks with President Daniel Ortega, but he appears to be taking his time considering their proposal.
Finally, The Guardian looks at billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the impact his money is having on the Trump administration’s foreign policy:
The imprint of the 84-year-old’s political passions is seen in an array of Donald Trump’s more controversial decisions, including violating the Iran nuclear deal, moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and appointing the ultra-hawkish John Bolton as national security adviser.
“Adelson’s established himself as an influential figure in American politics with the amount of money that he has contributed,” said Logan Bayroff of the liberal pro-Israel group, J Street. “There’s no doubt that he has very strong, very far-right dangerous positions and that – at very least – those positions are really being heard and thought about at the highest levels of government.”
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