Conflict update: April 18 2017

AMERICA TO THE RESCUE

If you’re worried about the state of human rights around the world, I’ve got great news–this afternoon, America was on it:

The Trump administration is seeking to highlight its commitment to human rights around the world, and so its envoy to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, is presiding over what it calls the first “thematic debate” on human rights in the Security Council on Tuesday afternoon.

“Council members are encouraged to express their views on the nexus between human rights and international peace and security,” reads a memo circulated to the members this month. Rights abuses, the memo says, can often be the first signs of a full-on conflict erupting.

This was, of course, not the first time human rights have been discussed to no effect at the UN Security Council, but it probably is the council’s first “thematic debate,” whatever the fuck that means. Human rights groups were skeptical–for some reason, they seemed to think that a UN Security Council meeting on human rights, presided over by a country that bombs mosques, bombs apartment buildings, bombed civilians even on this very day, and allies with countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, wouldn’t amount to shit. Well, the joke’s on them, because as it turns out…they were, uh, pretty much right on the money.

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain is having a new election in June! What fun! Yes, I know, they just had an election two years ago, and Prime Minister Theresa May has said multiple times that she wouldn’t call snap elections before Britain had exited the European Union, but since when are we dinging politicians for lying? If early polling is to be believed, we’re not doing it this time either. May has a major political opening staring her in the face–serious Brexit negotiations won’t start until later this year, and she and her Conservative Party have huge polling leads over Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party–and she’s going to take advantage of it to increase her parliamentary cushion for the Brexit process. This is a smart, calculated move–so calculated that her opposition might even want to make an issue out of how bloody cynical the whole thing is.

Technically, May does not have the power to call for early elections–prime ministers used to have virtually unlimited authority in that regard, but parliament voted to restrict it in 2010 in order to keep precisely this kind of purely political vote from being called. If just a third of the House of Commons rejects her plans, she’ll have to resort to legislative trickery by having her own party vote against her government in a vote of no confidence. But it’s probably not going to come to that, as both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they’ll vote to approve the early election. It’s not clear why they’re going along with this, but I suppose if either party really knew what it was doing then the Conservatives wouldn’t be on the verge of pummeling them both in a couple of months.

The actual risk for May is that, if British voters are really feeling buyer’s remorse over the Brexit referendum, they could opt to hand May a parliament that’s much less amenable to her plans for a so-called “hard Brexit” (apologies if there are any impressionable children reading this smut).  Continue reading

Conflict update: December 11

Egypt

A major bomb (12 kg of TNT) hit St. Mark’s Cathedral (see the photo above) in Cairo this morning, killing at least 25 people, wounding at least 49, and from the photos I’ve seen absolutely pulverizing the interior of the church. No group has claimed responsibility yet as far as I can tell, but ISIS is perpetually a suspect, along with violent Muslim Brotherhood offshoots like the Hasm Movement. Hundreds of people gathered outside the church later in the day to protest against Islamist groups and the Egyptian government, which they blame for failing to keep Egyptian Copts safe. The Coptic community was already souring on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with the general sentiment being that Sisi has talked a big game about protecting the Copts from the Muslim Brotherhood and extremists, but hasn’t actually done much to back up his words.

Turkey

The Kurdish group TAK has claimed responsibility for last night’s bombing in Istanbul that has killed at least 38 people by the latest count, 30 of them police officers. Every TAK attack carries with it a debate on the nature of the TAK–Ankara’s position, and it’s not alone in holding this view, is that the TAK is more or less a front that the PKK uses for cover when it wants to carry out a particularly violent attack, while others, including TAK and the PKK themselves, say that TAK is a breakaway group with no direct links to PKK.

Iraq

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