Welcome to the Patterson Journal of International Affairs

The Patterson Journal is a student-run organization that strives to analyze current international affairs.

  • Weekly Update: September 26, 2022

    ‘Women, Life, Freedom!’: Protests Expand Throughout Iran After Death of Jina Mahsa Amini by Morality Police

    By Bushra Bani-Salman

    Jina Mahsa Amini was a 22 year old Kurdish woman from East Kurdistan/ Western Iran visiting Tehran with her family when she was taken into custody by the morality police for allegedly violating the government’s modesty policies. Iran has had a mandatory hijab and loose-clothing policy for all women in Iran, regardless of religion or nationality, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. 

    Amini died in police custody after three days in comatose. Security officials claim she suffered a heart attack, but her family rejected the claim, saying it did not explain her bodily injuries. Activists claim Amini was beaten in custody. President Ebrahim Raisi responded by calling Amini’s family and promising an investigation to determine the cause of her death.

    Women in Iran took to the streets in outrage, taking off their hijabs, burning hijabs, and even cutting their hair in opposition to the Iranian government’s compulsory policies. Women all over the world have shown solidarity by raising awareness, protesting, and also cutting their hair on camera, using the hashtag #MahsaAmini that has gone viral on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

    Amini’s death has sparked country-wide outrage not just from frustrations with women’s rights and autonomy abuses but also political grievances with economic policy, police brutality, and discrimination. Authorities have restricted access to the internet in an attempt to decrease public dissent on social media. Vague promises of reform were also made by authorities in an attempt to calm demonstrations.

    According to human rights groups, more than 450 Kurdish people in Amini’s province were injured, and more than 500 were arrested for protesting. The number of casualties is still unclear due to the internet restrictions. Security officials have also clashed with mostly peaceful protesters, using rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, and real ammunition against protesters. Some protesters have targeted security forces, with one police officer dying from severe injuries. Authorities warned they would further suppress the demonstrations if they continued. 

    United States and United Nations officials have condemned the Iranian government’s policies and countermeasures against protests. President Raisi accused the West of having a “double standard” on human rights at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

    UN Human Rights Council Issues Early Report on War Crimes in Ukraine

    By Tyler Kibbey

    On Friday, September 23rd, the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, Erik Møse, issued an initial report following the exhumation of a mass burial site documented in the city of Izium, Ukraine. The update presented by the Commission reports on their investigation into alleged war crimes perpetrated against Ukrainian civilians and military personnel by Russian Federation soldiers as well as “two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces”.

    While the Commission’s scope of inquiry is currently limited to violations of personal integrity  occurring in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy in early 2022, this initial report lays the evidentiary groundwork for a potential international criminal tribunal for Ukraine. After visiting 27 towns and settlements as well as interviewing more than 150 victims and witnesses, the Commission concludes that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,  including but not limited to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, indiscriminate attacks, summary and arbitrary executions, torture, unlawful confinement,  and sexual/gender-based violence. The Commission is also continuing to investigate alleged instances of the forced transfer of people to places of unlawful confinement in the Russian Federation.

    Despite the Russian Federation’s refusal to issue a formal declaration of war, the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia established international precedent for treating crimes committed in armed conflict as war crimes in its 1995 Prosecutor v. Tadic decision concerning the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The decision finds that crimes committed during protracted military engagement between governments and organized groups both within and across state borders fall under the mandate of the Geneva Conventions and Protocol II. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine’s report clearly builds on this tradition.

    The Commission report coincides with the completed exhumation of a mass burial site in Izium containing 436 bodies. Of those, 30 allegedly show signs of torture, summary execution, and/or genital mutilation. The region’s Governor, Oleh Syniehubov, further asserted that 99 percent of the exhumed bodies showed signs of violent death, a number which has yet to be supported by a formal forensic accounting of the exhumation. At least three other mass burial sites have been identified as of this time in the surrounding region and can expect to be exhumed in due time.

    Tunisian Opposition Party Members Arrested and Awaiting Trial

    By William Lucht

    In the continued epic of Tunisia’s rise from the Arab Spring to its now shaking democracy, Tunisia’s anti-terrorism police have detained Ali Laarayedh, a former senior official to the opposition party Ennahdha. It has been reported that Laarayedh, a former prime minister, was interrogated for 14 hours and is set to appear before a judge in the coming week on Wednesday.

    The supposed charges? Officials working for the current Tunisian President. Kais Saied have stated suspicions that Laarayedh had sent jihadist to Syria. In support of this claim security sources have reported that, “an estimated 6,000 Tunisians travelled to Syria and Iraq in the last decade to join armed groups, including ISIL (ISIS). Many were killed there while others escaped and returned to Tunisia.”

    In quick response, the political opposition party Ennahdha has made claims that the arrest and charges are baseless, designed to be a political attacks, and they have condemned the interrogation and conditions of the investigation as torture and abuse along with abuses to human rights laws.

    A second political figure, Rached Ghannouchi a member of the dissolved parliament, is also facing accusations revolving around sponsored terrorism. The opposition party vehemently opposes all claims and is making statements that Saied is continuing his campaign of state consolidation and authoritarian rule by manipulating constitutional law and strong manning opposition figures into silence or imprisonment.

    While the Region looks on with continued worry, the once reformed Tunisian state which ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 seems to be falling back into one man rule. There is however legitimate apprehension on the side of the Ennahdha party which has been reported to have been lenient towards armed fighters which the party denies.

    Welcome, Farewell, Sanctions and Negotiation – African leaders at UNGA 2022

    By Osetemega Iribiri

    As African leaders converged in New York for the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), for one, it was his last, and another his first. Kenya’s new president, William Ruto, gave his debut speech at the UNGA. He drew attention to investment opportunities and the effects of climate change that is causing severe drought in the Horn of Africa. Unlike Mr. Ruto, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari gave his farewell speech. He charged African leaders to uphold the sanctity of constitutional term limits, stop extending their tenures and give room for periodic free and fair elections. Oftentimes, African leaders amend the constitution in favor of an extended tenure. An example case is Equatorial Guinea’s President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 80. He is seeking reelection for another seven-year term at November 20, 2022 polls. He has ruled the country for 43 years and is the longest-serving head of state in Africa.

    In addition to extended tenures, the region has also been plagued by several military takeovers of power. Guinea and Mali’s respectively in September and May 2021 had military coups. Consequently, their membership in ECOWAS was suspended. Therefore, West African leaders, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, agreed to freeze Guinea’s military government members’ financial assets and bar them from traveling to other countries in the region. Additionally, the financing of Guinean development projects will be suspended by the ECOWAS Development Bank. Currently, the bank supports at least two energy projects in the country. They have also set a deadline of October 22, 2022, for the junta to establish a “reasonable timetable” to transit into a democratic government. This is particularly in response to the junta stating it would transit into democracy in three years.

    This is not the first sanction. Travel restrictions have been placed on the heads of the junta and their families. Tough trade and financial sanctions were placed on Mali but lifted after the junta published a new electoral law and a timetable that includes a February 2024 presidential election. Nevertheless, Mali remains suspended from ECOWAS and individual sanctions and travel limits placed on about 150 members of the Malian junta.

    The West African leaders also condemned the arrest of the Ivorian soldiers in Mali. On July 20, 2022, 49 Ivorian soldiers were detained on arrival in Bamako, Mali. They have been accused of “criminal association, attack, and conspiracy against the government, undermining the external security of the state, possession, carrying and transportation of weapons of war and complicity in these crimes.” The Ivorian government has denied these charges saying the soldiers were sent to secure a building belonging to an airline company that was carrying out a contract with the German contingent of peacekeepers with the United Nations mission in Mali. This arrest has launched both countries into a diplomatic tussle.  Mali has released 3 female soldiers, but 46 remain in detention. The Malian junta chief, Colonel Assimi Goita, has called for the release of Malian political asylum seekers in Ivory-Coast in exchange for the 46 Ivorian soldiers. Additionally, there have been anti-UN protests in Mali.

    Consequently, on Tuesday, September 27, the Presidents of Ghana, Togo, and Senegal will visit Mali to negotiate the soldiers’ release.

    Amid the tensions in the region, it is admirable that regional leaders under the auspices of ECOWAS are rising to the task of maintaining and restoring peace and stability to the region. A peaceful resolution must be established between Mali and Guinea. Further, democratic governance must be returned to Guinea, Mali, and other African countries under military regimes.

    Hurricanes, Ambassadors, & Authoritarianism

    By Elliott Cochran

    Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Fiona was a category 4 hurricane and unleashed mass devastation. The storm caused massive flooding on the island then made its way to the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos. The storm’s level of destruction hasn’t been seen since 2017. The mass floods caused a million people without power and around 40% of the island does not have water service. As the hurricane continued, it hit the Dominican Republic. The DRC did not fair much better as thousands of people have been displaced. Turks and Caicos rolled through with high winds, torrential down pours, and more flooding.

    El Salvador is experiencing a rise in authoritarianism even though consecutive re-election is illegal. The president, Nayib Bukele, announced that he would run for re-election in 2024. Unfortunately, El Salvador is not alone other Central American countries have experienced shifts not only by the people but also in the courts. The courts ruled in favor of the legality of re-election even though the constitution is built around single term administrations.

    Nearly a dozen US ambassadors have made it to their post in the Caribbean. President Biden recently nominated an Ambassador to Ecuador. The President has not nominated an ambassador to its biggest ally in the region, Colombia. In other news the US embassy in Cuba is now able to process immigrant visas in 2023. The Biden administration announced that the embassy in Havana will begin processing immigrant visas for Cuban immigrants. 20,000 Cubans have been committed for legal migration.

    UN Report: Venezuela Continues to Commit Crimes Against Humanity

    By Ciara Perez

    On Tuesday, September 20th, the UN released an investigation conducted by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela. This is the third investigation carried out since 2019, and it highlights the chain of command of those responsible for committing crimes against humanity as well as an investigation into the Southern mining areas of Venezuela. While the Mission has been repeatedly denied access to enter Venezuela, its findings are based on visits to areas along the country’s borders as well as 245 confidential interviews and the analysis of case files and legal documents.

    The investigation concluded that President Nicolás Maduro and his inner circle are directly responsible for giving orders to commit crimes against humanity to repress dissent. The evidence also points to the involvement of two state military and civilian intelligence services – the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). The crimes committed by the government and other high-ranking officials include the beating, rape, electric shock, mutilation and asphyxiation of those who would speak out against the Venezuelan government, namely journalists, activists, political opposition, protestors, and human rights defenders.  

    Through interviews with former employees of the security and intelligence services, the UN investigation learned that SEBIN would often receive a list of targets from the government who were to be surveilled, falsely accused based on planted evidence, before being wrongly arrested without a warrant or kidnapped. Prior detainees that were held in El Helicoide in Caracas told the UN investigators that they were subjected to torture methods ranging from psychological abuse meant to distort their senses, to sexual violence, to forceful feedings of feces and vomit. The Mission has investigated at least 51 cases involving SEBIN since 2014.

    According to the UN Report, “the Mission has documented 122 cases of victims who were detained by the DGCIM, 77 of whom were subjected to torture, sexual violence and/or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”. These instances were carried out in the DGCIM Boleíta headquarters in Caracas as well as detention centers across the country.

    Lastly, the UN investigated an area of gold mining in Southern Venezuela known as Arco Minero del Orinoco. This area was established as a “National Strategic Development Zone” in 2016 by the Venezuelan government so that they could extend their control over the mining of gold and other strategic resources. Now, the area is heavily militarized as State and armed criminal groups fight for control of the mines. The majority Indigenous local population has been caught in the middle of this violence and has been subjected to extortion, murder, disappearances, beatings and sexual violence.

    It is these human rights violations, among others, that have fueled Venezuela’s immigration crisis, which has forced almost 7 million people to flee the country since 2015.

    The Mission is scheduled to meet with the UN Human Rights Council on September 26th to share the conclusions of the investigation and discuss recommendations.

    The Anti-Corruption Campaign Goes On and So Do the “Gaffes”

    By Camden Hanley

    A group of CCP officials have been charged and sentenced to jail on various counts of corruption. This anti-corruption campaign has been ongoing since Xi Jinping entered office in 2013. Corruption within the CCP was rampant and needed to be quelled, but many observers claim that those charged are often political opponents of Xi. At the 19th Party Congress in 2017, Xi vowed to keep targeting “tigers” and “flies” meaning that elite officials and low-level bureaucrats would be investigated.

    State media sources in the PRC are calling these men a “political clique” that was led by Sun Lijun. Sun was the most prominent of these officials being a former Deputy Public Security Minister. He has been jailed for accepting bribes totaling $91 million, manipulating the stock market, and illegally owning two firearms. He was given the death sentence, but that has been commuted to a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

    The others convicted include Fu Zhenghua, Gong Daoan, Deng Huilin, and Liu Xinyun. Fu was a former justice minister and the other three were former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing, and Shanxi province, respectively. They were all convicted of accepting bribes in the millions of dollars. Fu was additionally charged with hiding evidence of his brothers, Fu Weihua, suspected crimes between 2014 and 2015.

    In other news, “gaffes” seem to be contagious around East Asia. For the fourth time since taking office, US President Joe Biden committed another “gaffe” stating that the US would come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a PRC attack on the island. This has angered the PRC and continues undermine the US policy of “strategic ambiguity.” The Whitehouse, however, continues to insist there has been no change in US policy.

    The other leader to commit a “gaffe” of his own was South Korean President Yoon. He was caught on a hot mic apparently saying “It would be so embarrassing for Biden if those f***ers at the National Assembly didn’t pass this [bill],” to his aides as he was walking off stage. He seems to be referring to Biden’s pledge to contribute $6 billion to the Global Fund, an IGO committed to defeating HIV, TB, and malaria across the developing world. This would require congressional approval, so it’s not guaranteed to pass. Recently, he has committed other diplomatic mis-steps including failing to meet with US Speaker of the House on her trip to South Korea and being disrespectful, according to his domestic political opponents, when he missed the chance to view Queen Elizabeth’s coffin lying in state which he blamed on heavy traffic.

  • Weekly Update: September 19, 2022

    Nigeria-Morocco Gas Deal

    By Osetemega Iribiri

    At about 200 trillion cubic feet, Nigeria possesses the largest proven gas reserves in Africa and the seventh in the world. It is predominately untapped, flared, or re-injected into oil wells. In December 2016, King Mohammed VI of Morocco visited President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. The two leaders agreed on a monumental scheme to take the Nigerian gas northwards.

    Consequently, on September 15, 2022, the two nations, represented by Mallam Mele Kyari, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian National Petroleum Co Ltd (NNPC Ltd), and Dr. Amina Benkhadra, Director General, Morocco’s National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, signed a memorandum of understanding in Rabat, Morocco. This agreement also had the fifteen (15) Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states as signatories represented by Mr. Sediko Douka, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, and Digitalization. Their assent is vital as the pipeline will provide gas to the fifteen (15) ECOWAS countries as it traverses to Morocco. The 7,000 km pipeline will originate from Brass Island (South-South Nigeria) and terminate at the North of Morocco, where it will connect to the existing Maghreb European Pipeline (MEP) that originates from Algeria (via Morocco), all the way to Spain. Thereby also providing Spain and the rest of Europe with gas.

    This development comes in the wake of Russia shutting gas channels to Europe and their increasing need for alternative gas sources. This pipeline may take decades to complete and billions of dollars to fund, but it will be one of the longest built ever. Additionally, nearly $60 million is committed to financing feasibility and engineering studies by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development and Islamic Development Bank. Once completed, the project will supply about three billion standard cubic feet of gas daily.

    The signing of this MoU is also a positive step in South-South cooperation. Also, the West African countries through which it traverses will be able to produce more electricity through natural gas-fired thermal power plants. This project will also facilitate Africa’s economic diversification through increased productivity with functioning industries and South-North diplomatic relations.

    Solomon Islands Cancels Planned Elections

    By Cameron Chambers

    The Solomon Islands has canceled planned elections this past week. This comes as lawmakers in the Pacific Island state handed Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare a win by delaying the elections which will allow the Prime Minister Sogavare to remain in office longer. The measure received 37 votes in favor and nine against, which would move the election to April 2024, extending both executive and legislative terms. Furthermore, there is speculation that the Prime Minister Sogavare has not significantly prepared for elections since early 2021. Prime Minister Sogavare argued that the island “could not afford to hold elections and host the Pacific Games next year”.  Opposition lawmakers are concerned that such a cancellation would allow prime minister Sogavare to “consolidate power.” This move to withhold elections is a worrying sign of authoritarian shrift in the Island’s governance.

    Australia has offered to help fund the election to ease the economic burden on the island state. However, Prime Minister Sogavare refused the offer which he saw as an attempt to interfere in the elections by a foreign nation. This may further strain relations between the Island, Australia, and the United States.

    The Solomon Islands further strained relations by halting naval visits from the United States and the United Kingdom. The USCG Oliver Henry and HMS Spey were denied diplomatic clearance to port at the island. In response, the Prime Minister Sogavare stated that there is now a universal moratorium on all naval visits to the Island. Followed by the announcement, a security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands was drafted in April. Australia views this agreement as a potential security threat that “changes the calculus of operations in the Pacific.”

    These developments are of worry due to the lack of U.S. and Australian commitment to the Pacific Islands in the past two decades. It remains to be seen how the pacific island states will respond and how U.S. engagement will change in the long-neglected region.

    Tensions Leading to Brazil’s Election Day

    By Ciara Perez

    On October 2nd, the people of Brazil will cast their vote in the presidential election, with candidates including right-wing populist, Jair Bolsonaro, and leftist candidate, Luis Lula. Bolsonaro is the current President running for reelection, and his main rival is Lula, who governed the country from 2003-2010. If no candidate wins fifty percent, a second round of the election will take place on October 30th.

    Back in 2018, Bolsonaro won the presidency against Lula after Lula was imprisoned for corruption charges. Now, Lula’s conviction has been annulled and Bolsonaro is facing the repercussions for his poor management of the pandemic, corruption charges against his administration, misogynistic remarks, and the country’s economic challenges. According to an IPEC poll published on September 5th, Lula polled ahead of Bolsonaro by fifteen percent, with 46% of voter support compared to Bolsonaro’s 31% support.

    In the months leading to this election, Bolsonaro has acted to better conditions in Brazil. Paulina Villegas reports that energy prices have stabilized, the double-digit inflation rates have declined, and employment has grown. Additionally, Bolsonaro has begun handing out monthly cash stipends to poorer families in need and granted land titles to rural farm owners. However, many Brazilians see these efforts as a front for the election, and their feelings about the economic environment have not swayed.  

    Bolsonaro’s efforts to sway voters didn’t stop there. He used Brazil’s Independence Day on September 7th to campaign for his reelection. As Constancia Laviola said, “this should be a day of pride, but some of the politicians are trying to kidnap our day, because this is the day of the nation, of the people, and not for a political campaign”. Lula expressed similar sentiments in a public statement.

    Despite these efforts, recent polls show that Bolsonaro’s approval rate has remained constant while his disapproval rate is slowly increasing. Some believe that Bolsonaro is laying the groundwork to remain in power, as he has also frequently criticized the electronic voting system, despite no evidence that the machines are prone to fraud.

    Updates to this story will be made after the October vote.

    Shanghai Cooperation Organization

    By Camden Hanley

    For the first time in 970 days, Xi Jinping has left China for international travel. He has arrived at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The SCO is an intergovernmental organization formed by the PRC in 2001. It mainly focuses on regional security issues, but regional development is another priority that gets discussed. It has nine member states and twelve other states participate as observer states or dialogue partners.

    His first meeting was with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was their first face-to-face meeting since late February when they met at the Beijing Olympics. Xi said he was happy to meet with his “old friend” again. Among the main topics discussed was the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin readout on the meeting states “We appreciate our Chinese friends’ balanced position in connection with the Ukraine crisis.” It also said that Russia would address Chinese questions and concerns about the invasion.

    However, its not all about the Sino-Russian relationship at the SCO meeting. Kazakhstan suspended its membership in the CSTO, a Russian led security organization that includes several former Soviet republics. The PRC has backed this move with a statement from the foreign ministry stating it “firmly supports Kazakhstan in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” This shows the PRC plans on growing more assertive in Central Asia. This may complicate relations with Russia because Russia has generally viewed this area as within their sphere of influence. While they have similar interests, Russia and the PRCs interests in the area are different which could lead to future disagreements.

    An Islamic Democracy at Risk

    By William Lucht

    Current Tunisian President, Kais Saied, has removed the parliament, released dozens of judges, and under the new constitutional referendum, “both the parliament and judiciary are subordinate to the executive and the president.” Further, President Saied stated, “Their powers and competencies to act as a check on the executive were either weakened or removed altogether.” Largely successful democratic construction designed to allow for separation of power and enhance the government’s ability to defend from one-man rule has slowly been dissolved by Saied over time.

    In response to many of Saied’s actions, The National Salvation Front, his opposition–comprised of Ennahdha, the Heart of Tunisia party, the Dignity Coalition, the Movement party, and Al-Amal party–diligently mobilizes strikes and protests and are now signaling they will boycott the upcoming December elections to replace the parliament dissolved by Saied. Opposition has stated that the dissolvement was unconstitutional and that any re-imagination and reinstitution of a parliament under Saied’s direction would be a sham and further consolidate his alleged authoritarian agenda. The new changes realign the country from a “hybrid parliamentary system to a hyper-presidential one, removing a number of checks and balances.”

    While Saied retains some support among Tunisians who see him as dramatic change needed to combat the political elite, which they blame for a host of social and economic woes, continued poor economic realities embolden political adversaries’ rhetoric. To further exacerbate issues, Saied in his most recent law has greatly limited the power of parties. Under the new law, voters will choose candidates from parties directly, as individuals, rather than voting in support of a single party. While this may seem reminiscent of western democracies, the new law will reduce the authority of parties to content with the increasing presidential authority already being consolidated. A reduction of the lower chamber from 217 members to 161 members will take effect and it is still unclear how these members will be formally elected.   

    Beirut Woman Holds Hostages in Bank to Pay for Sister’s Cancer Treatment

    By Bushra Bani-Salman

    Another “hero” emerges in Beirut, Lebanon after holding hostages at gunpoint in a bank for access to her own funds. Sali Hafez and accomplices stormed Blom Bank in a successful attempt to secure funds that have been blocked from withdrawal for nearly two years. This is the second heist a patron commits for funds this summer. Earlier in the summer, Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein stormed his bank demanding his funds be released to help pay for his father’s operation. He threatened to burn the bank down with everyone in it if he did not receive his funds. In the end, he surrendered to authorities after the funds were released. The bank later dropped their lawsuit against him and he was released. Hussein was declared a hero throughout Lebanon and abroad via social media.

    In an interview with a local Lebanese channel, Sali Hafez says, “The Bank has robbed us publicly…I got to a point where I considered selling my kidney to help pay for my sister’s treatment…Our money is in the bank. Money we earned with our sweat and tears…I took $13,000 from my own money. I did not take anything that was not mine…I took the gun from my nephew. It is fake… I told everyone in the bank not to fear because I will not harm them…”

    Major protests broke out in 2019 in Lebanon with citizens pressing for resignations from their country’s politicians, demanding an end to political incompetence and corruption. Banks closed their doors for weeks, then reopened with tight limits on withdrawals in fear of depositors withdrawing all their funds amid political unrest and a financial crisis. Banks now allow for a maximum of $400 USD withdrawn a month plus some Lebanese pounds. 

    While some Lebanese chose to live without electricity for the majority of the day (up to 20 hours), almost everyone in Lebanon relies on generators for electricity due to the country’s failed electricity grid. They dependency on generators costs the Lebanese people a hefty sum, as well as their health due to the toxic fumes spewed. In addition to the electricity shortage, there is a diesel and petrol shortage in Lebanon. People wait hours in line to fill their vehicles with gas that has shot up in price. The currency crisis is another factor. The Lebanese lira has lost 90% of its value in less than three yearsCurrently, one Lebanese pound (LBP) is worth $0.00067 USD. Growing grievances and frustrations from the Lebanese people have led to desperate measures. Officials fear that more patrons will take up arms in a desperate attempt to access their money, and some publicly blame the country’s political elites.

  • Weekly Update: September 12, 2022

    New Taiwan Arms Sale

    By Camden Hanley

    The US has approved a $1.1 billion arms package for Taiwan. The package includes 60 harpoon anti-ship missiles, 100 sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and logistics support for Taiwan’s Surveillance Radar program. The logistical support comprises the largest portion of the package at $665.4 million, with $355 million for the harpoon missiles and $85.6 million for the sidewinder missiles. This sale comes after the PRC conducted military exercises around Taiwan in response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.

    The PRC has said it “firmly opposes” the sale and that it “severely jeopardizes US-China relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The Chinese embassy spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, tweeted that the PRC will “resolutely take legitimate and necessary counter-measures.” As the PRC has long claimed the island to be a part of its sovereign territory, it claims the US is meddling in its internal affairs. In response, the US State Department has stated that sales are in line with longstanding US policy of providing defensive weapons to the island which are essential to Taiwan’s security.

    This sale also highlights the fact that Taiwan is still waiting on previously approved arms packages dating back to 2017. If Taiwan’s security is to be maintained, arms packages can not be delivered on such a delayed schedule. To remedy this problem, the Taiwan Policy Act has been created. It is still in the legislative process, but it is expected to provide $4.5 billion in military aid to Taiwan and declare Taiwan a major non-NATO ally. This would help expedite arms sales while not quite being a mutual defense pact.

    Is Solar Energy the Future of North Africa? 

    By William Lucht

    As climate change continues to affect our planet in multipolar ways, many governments have taken steps to achieve net neutral carbon emission or have started transitioning into renewable energy. While oil rich Middle Eastern states have enjoyed powerful influence in the energy sector, some up and comers like Egypt may be moving into a comfortable position in renewable energy, that is, if they manage to make meaningful strides in their solar industry. 

    The Egyptian sun beats down on the sand virtually cloud free year-round, making region ideal for solar energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that Egypt may be one of the world’s most fertile regions for solar energy. Some private industry investment firms seem to concur. The Benban Solar Park is one example where investment has come to match the intrigue of being on the precipice of a new prosperous venture. Benban is one of the world’s largest solar parks stretching approximately 650 km (400 miles) south of Cairo.

    While there is the possibility of Egypt being on the forefront of a lucrative and beneficial market, Egypt faces obstacles they must remedy before they can move in any meaningful direction. The state has attempted to issue generous incentives for rooftop solar panel use with little success. The feed-in tariff is one example which would pay back to those who held energy surpluses. Regardless of attempted incentives, energy consumption still, for pragmatic and financial reasons, are non-renewables in the form of hydrocarbons. Egypt set high aspirations for transitioning into renewables in 2016 stating they wished for 20% of energy to come from solar and wind. The goal is far from being achieved as only 12% of renewable energy comes from hydro and a meager 3% comes from solar.

    Egypt has struggled to balance its desire to move to a lucrative renewable venture with its widening population in need on energy today. According to the IEA, Egypt’s energy consumption has increased threefold in the last twenty years with a paralleled threefold increase in natural gas while there is currently very little increase in solar-power capabilities.

    It is unclear whether Egypt will have the right social and political conditions to achieve its aspirations in this sector. Affordability for solar panels which hold enough charge at a large enough capacity to sustain the needs of families remains vastly overpriced for commercial use. Regardless of incentives, the hurdle of cost coupled with the immediate need for energy today, which Egypt can capitalize on with higher oil prices, creates a serious challenge to moving into this new era of sustainable energy. It would benefit the country and the region to make the transition a priority. High hopes, though, must be met with a realistic path of trajectory and a complex mix of luck and robust thriving infrastructural, social, and political conditions.    

    An Iran Nuclear Deal in the Near Future Seems Unlikely

    By Bushra Bani-Salman

    The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, was a monumental agreement between Iran, Germany, and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom). The JCPOA increased regulations and constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and in return, lifted sanctions and the weapons embargo on Iran.

    In 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA deal, arguing that it did not serve its purpose. President Trump pressed Iran with sanctions in hopes for a different agreement. This gave Iran the ability to return to its nuclear activities and enhance its program over 3 years. After President Joe Biden took office in 2021, he said the US would go back to the JCPOA deal, if Iran went back to adhering to the agreement. 

    Iran’s accelerated collection of uranium and its work on enriching the chemical element has raised concern in the Middle East, as well as the international community as a whole. Iran says its work on nuclear energy is for domestic energy consumption, but Director General of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Gross says, “it [Iran] has no justification to enrich uranium to 60 percent for civilian purposes.”

    Fast forward to the present, it remains unclear whether parties are able to come to an agreement. Notable changes in world affairs could be a determining factor in how this is playing out. Some members of the UN Security Council have new leaders and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has proved a critical component in current international affairs. 

    What remains certain is Iran’s inconsistency. A nuclear deal with Iran has been in negotiation for 18 months now, and when a finalization of the draft comes close, the Iranians add demands that set it back. One demand is assurance that the US will not pull out of the deal, like President Trump did in 2018. Another is that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. Some believe that these demands are to prolong negotiations, giving Iran more time to enhance their nuclear program. 

    New Chilean Constitution Rejected by the People

    By Ciara Perez

    On September 4, 2022, 13 million Chilean’s participated in a mandatory vote of the newly drafted constitution, which would drastically change the institutional structure of society and the rights of the people. The results were unexpected. Almost 62% of people voted against the proposed draft, compared to the 80% of people who had supported the idea of a constitutional referendum when it was proposed in October 2020. At the time, many people associated the idea of a new constitution with a feeling of hope for the future, but as the vote drew closer, the feeling of hope was replaced by uncertainty for many.

    The process to change the Chilean constitution began in 2019 after student-led protests over the costs of public transportation “expanded into broader demands for greater equality and more social protections” (Politi, 2022). Chile’s current constitution was implemented in 1980 when the country was under the rule of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and it lacks the foundation to provide greater rights to the people. The proposed constitution had 388 articles and was 178 pages long, and included “issues like gender equality, environmental protections and Indigenous rights throughout the document” (Politi, 2022). It would have made Chile “the guarantor of more than 100 rights, more than any other national constitution in the world”. One of the main reasons cited for the rejection of the proposed draft is that “it would have declared Chile a “plurinational” state, recognizing the rights of Chile’s indigenous populations” (Buschschlüter, 2022). The fact that the vote was mandatory means that many who had doubts about the draft chose to reject it in hopes that a new version would be more agreeable.

    However, this is not the end of constitutional reform within Chile. President Gabriel Boris, a leftist who took office in March 2022, was a champion of the proposed draft. On Tuesday, after hearing the voice of the people, he began making “changes to his cabinet to bring in more moderate and politically experienced politicians”. The proposal had been “drafted by a constituent assembly largely made up of leftist activists” and people felt that it “would have undermined the balance of power, weakened the independence of the judiciary and scaled back equality for all citizens under the law” (Forero, 2022). In his new cabinet comprised of more centrists, the hope is that there will be better communication between the executive and legislative branches to reach a proposal that will unite the people of Chile.

    One thing is for sure, a change to the constitution is desired by both the people and the government, so both will work until a drafted proposal can be agreed upon.

    Will the International Community Hold China Accountable for Human Rights Abuses?

    By Cameron Chambers

    The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has come under scrutiny this week as a U.N. report was released detailing the human rights abuses that Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region are facing. The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner released the report on August 31, 2022. This follows a long investigation that details how the Uyghurs have faced increasing discrimination in the autonomous region. Within the past decade, the PRC has created internment camps that are used to house Uyghurs. These camps are used as “reeducation” tools to stifle any dissident within the region. The report details several abuses such as torture, beatings, waterboarding, forced sterilization, religious repression and rape. Furthermore, an example of the abuse that the Uyghur people face  is that the rate of sterilization within Xinjiang was higher than in the rest of the nation, with 243 per 100,000 inhabitants being sterilized. This example is just one of many ways in which the PRC is being accused of abuse.

    These human rights abuses are undertaken by the PRC’s counterterrorism effort, against what the government emphasized as a movement of extremism and violent terrorism. The PRC uses legal means to discriminate against the Uyghurs,  as documented in section 16 of the U.N. report

    China has developed what it describes as an “anti-terrorism law system” composed of specific national security and counter-terrorism legislation, general criminal law, and criminal procedure law, as well as formal regulations pertaining to religion and “deextremification”.

    Of note are the broad and unclear definitions that the PRC uses when describing terroristic acts, these include terms such as “propositions, social panic, and other objectives” as noted in section 18 of the U.N. report. These broad and unclear definitions allow for increased legal discrimination that the Uyghurs face.

    The PRC, as stated by the U.N. report, has used legal and extralegal methods to stifle the human rights and freedoms of the Uyghur people. Methods such as imprisonment, reeducation, and ethnic repression are common. In response to the accusations of the report, the Chinese government has stated that “authorities in the Xinjiang region operate on the principle that everyone is equal before the law … and the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.” Furthermore, the government has stated that the camps are not internment camps but rather learning facilities that are in accordance with the law. The International response has been mixed, with no clear consensus on holding the government responsible for the alleged crimes.

    A Bolstering National Security & the Indigenous Community’s Big Win

    By Elliott Cochran

    Mexico’s Congress voted to give control of the National Guard to the Army. Mexico’s National Guard is a civilian led organization. The decision has caused concern throughout the country due to the militarization of public security. The National Guard was created in 2019, and the security force was designed to help bolster national security. Mexico has struggled to create a law enforcement force that can combat the drug cartel while also being a civilian law enforcement. Opposition to the bill says the armed forces will have too much authority and could lead to abuse of power. President Lopez Obrador believes the bill will be beneficial because the National Guard is already trained within the Mexican military. However, the Mexican military has a laundry list of abuses. Edith Ferreto, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, criticized the decision saying Mexico has attempted this before with terrible results.

    In Ecuador, the Indigenous people have won big and will have a stronger say over oil, mining, and other projects that affect their land. Ecuador’s president was planning on a double oil production and mining expansion. The ruling allows the Indigenous community to refuse any project, only in exceptional cases the government can move forward with a rejected project.

    On Elections and the Peaceful Transfer of Power, Part Two & Reactions to the Death of Queen Elizabeth II

    By Osetemega Iribiri

    As a follow-up to last week’s report on Kenya’s presidential election: Kenya’s Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Martha Koome, outrightly dismissed Raila Odinga’s claims of election rigging and irregularities. The decision was a stinging defeat for Odinga, who has persistently contested for the presidential seat five times in a roll and challenged the results thrice at the law court. The Court unanimously upheld the results declaring William Ruto Kenya’s President-Elect. He won 50.49% of the vote against his rival, Raila Odinga’s 48.85%.

    On Monday evening, after the Supreme Court verdict, President Uhuru Kenyatta, the outgoing president, said he would “oversee a smooth transition to the next administration.” “Unfortunately, President Kenyatta has not seen it fit to congratulate his vice-president and president-elect,” said William Ruto in an exclusive Wednesday interview with Christiane Amanpour. William Ruto, 55, will be sworn in on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, as Kenya’s fifth president since independence from Britain in 1963. He has a single term of five years and can seek reelection for another.

    Additionally, there have been divided reactions to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

    It was during a tour to Kenya that later-to-be-crowned Queen Elizabeth II, 25, was informed of her father, King George VI’s, passing. He had sent her there in the wake of the Mau Mau campaign. Seven (7) decades later, her reign has ended, and the world mourns her death.

    Her death has sparked mixed feelings about the Queen and the British Empire she represented. African Union Commission President, Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted, “Our deepest condolences to the Royal Family, the people of the United Kingdom, and the countries of the Commonwealth on the death of Her Majesty Queen. Likewise, other African leaders have sent their condolences to the royal family. Africans, home and abroad, have also taken to social media to share fond thoughts and memories of the queen.”

    Conversely, not all Africans share enthusiastic sentiments. Her death has reopened the deep wounds of slavery, imperialism, and colonialism experienced by many Africans during the British occupation of Africa. In their view, the queen is the symbol of Africa’s exploitation. Furthermore, they believe she had the opportunity to right the wrongs by acknowledging, apologizing, and ensuring reparations were paid for the atrocities of the British Empire, but she never did. They referred to horrendous cruelties and economic deprivation such as the brutal 1950s crushing of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion, Nigeria’s Biafra war, and a huge diamond, also called the Star of Africa, which the British royal family acquired from colonial South Africa in 1905, which the queen never returned despite calls to do so.

  • Weekly Update: September 5, 2022

    Colombia and the United States Renegotiate Extraditions

    By Ciara Perez

    Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla organization member, made history on June 19, 2022 as the first leftist candidate to win the presidential election in Colombia. He won the presidency by a slim margin, with forty-seven percent of the population opposed to him. His campaign addressed his desire to finalize peace efforts with the FARC, establish diplomatic ties with Venezuela, reexamine extradition policies, expand social programs, and address social and racial inequality in Colombia (Rodriguez, 2022).

    On August 24th, President Petro took the first steps to make good on his campaign promise regarding the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States. In a press conference, he detailed the conditions of extradition that he had proposed to the U.S. administration. “Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States. Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited,” Petro said (Acosta and Griffin, 2022).

    The practice of extradition to the U.S. has become increasingly controversial as many believe it to cause interference in the investigations of war crimes and illegal armed groups. The victims of these crimes are often denied justice when their perpetrators are extradited. Most recently, the leader of the Clan del Golfo cartel, Dairo Antonio Usuga, was extradited to the U.S., which then presidential candidate Petro publicly denounced. At a rally, he said that “Otoniel wanted to say which generals in the police, in the military, which senators, which representatives, which governors, which ministers, which presidents had been allied with him” (Vargas, 2022).

    With increasing feelings of frustration, this proposal comes after a series of failed attempts by previous administrations to deal with drugs within Colombia. Petro pointed out that “despite billions of dollars in security spending and decades of U.S. pressure to reduce drug production, Colombia remains a top global supplier of cocaine” (Vargas, 2022). In fact, a White House study reported in 2021, Colombia produced around 972 tons of cocaine, most of which was exported to the U.S., while 234,000 hectares were planted with coco, the plant used to make cocaine.

    The President has stated that his priority will be fighting climate change and reframing drug policy around the environment. In his proposal to the U.S., he also mentioned crop substitution as a method of combatting the drug trade. Carlos Vargas reports that Petro “opposes restarting aerial spraying of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, with the herbicide glyphosate and wants to substitute coca crops with legal marijuana”. This would allow farmers to market legal products while voluntarily eradicating their coca fields.

    While the proposed end to extradition isn’t official, Carolina Urrego, a political science professor at Los Andes University, says that if approved, it “could limit U.S. funding for the anti-drug fight and affect the general sense of security in Colombia” (Vargas, 2022). As of August 28th, the conversation between Colombia and the U.S. is ongoing regarding this proposed policy change, but Petro reports that his office is already flooded with peace and negotiation requests.

    The Importance of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development

    By William Lucht

    In Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, stands Tunisian President. Kais Saied and Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi side by side at the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8), the first to be held since the start of the dynamistic COVID-19 pandemic. The conference, which has aligned developmental interests from Japan and African nations, resulted in a pledge by Tokyo to contribute $30 billion in developmental aid over the course of three years. This comes at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has strangled global supplies of hydrocarbons and international grain shipments. Tokyo has stated a desire to increase ties with the African continent amidst these threats through future financial investments.  

    Financial pledges by the Japanese government in Africa may have dual purpose and not simply be magnanimous. As the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) increases its influence in the region, it poses a continued onerous security risk for a western international audience. Prior to the assassination of the former Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, Abe warned Africa of accruing excessive debt from China as their gaming of current international circumstance concerning tech transfer has led African countries into murky waters, specifically Algeria and Egypt with Huawei localization. Tokyo’s $30 billion pledge to the African continent may prove to be an adroit economic policy move. It could also lead to nothing more than diplomatic carrots in a much larger continental bucket if Tokyo does not situate itself in a long-game strategy to combat Chinese economic expansion into Africa.   

    Complicating the conference’s overarching continental goals are regional North African grievances between Morocco and Tunisia. Tunisia, which has sustained consistent and growing criticism from the international community and domestic civil society groups surrounding its newest constitution, has re-called its Moroccan ambassador. Morocco has responded in similar fashion by re-calling its ambassador as well. This action, triggered by President. Saied’s invitation to the Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali to the (TICAD8), a group seeking independence from within Western Sahara, has created contemporary problems. The invitation creates a novel front of tension in the ongoing issue which already involves Spain, Germany, Algeria, which is Polisario’s main backer, and now Tunisia. Morocco sees Western Sahara as sovereign territory and stated the invitation of Brahim was, “hostile and prejudicial to the fraternal relations that the two countries have always maintained.”

    In 2020, the U.S. officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara for closer relations between Morocco and Israel. Spain recently dropped a stance of neutrality over Western Sahara, which is a former Spanish colony, laying precedence for further Moroccan legitimacy over territorial claims. President. Saied’s decision, which has led to agitation with a regional ally, may be in response to domestic energy and commodity shortages. Long waiting queues for petrol and limited supplies of goods, in conjunction with civil unrest over retracted democratic gains from the Arab Spring, could be pushing President. Saied into welcoming the Algerian backed Polisario, the same Algeria which Tunisia intimately relies on for energy.

    Elections and the Peaceful Transfer of Power in Africa

    By Osetemega Iribiri

    The peaceful transfer of power is not a reality in all African countries. For instance, some elections result in military coups in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan, and protests in Eswatini. Nevertheless, the situation is not all gloomy as countries like Zambia and Malawi have had peaceful elections. Similarly, other African countries are also making similar strides to ensure the gains in periodic elections are not reversed. However, in subsequent months, many Africans will be heading to the polls to elect their new leaders.

    The most recent is Kenya. Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa. Therefore, the result of its election is very significant for national and regional stability. Kenyans went to the polls on August 9, 2022, with two (2) presidential candidates in mind: Raila Odinga and William Ruto, the vice-president. This election is particularly intriguing. The vice-president was in the opposition, while Raila Odinga, previously the opposition candidate to the current Uturu Kenyatta-led government, became the favorite of the seating president after years of vilification. Nevertheless, on August 15, 2022, Mr. William Ruto was declared the winner of the presidential election by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Although this election was described as peaceful, it was a sharp contrast to previous elections. Raila Odinga has described the election as marked with irregularities and challenged its authenticity at the Supreme Court.

    Amidst these controversies, Kenyan youth are not particularly excited about the presidential elections, which is evident through their low participation. “Only 39.84 percent (8.8 million) of the total registered voters were youth, a decline of 5.17 percent from the 2017 figures,” said Ernest Bai Koroma, former Sierra Leone president, and leader of the African Union and COMESA observer team. This apathy stems from their dissatisfaction with the state of national affairs, including the high cost of governance, corruption, severe drought, rising debt, and inflation, with food prices soaring by fifteen percent in the last year. The close affiliations both presidential candidates have with the current government responsible for their harsh economic realities also contribute to the apathy. No matter how the Supreme Court decides, some wins can still be counted in the parliament. The general election saw the rise of new, young faces into the political landscape. Linet Chepkorir, 24, is the youngest female elected parliamentarian, and Martin Wanyonyi Pepela, 37, is the first elected parliamentarian with albinism.

    This voter apathy is not common to Kenyans alone. Nigerians will head to the polls in February 2023. Like Kenya, the outcome of Nigeria’s election is significant as Nigeria is the most populous black nation and largest economy in Africa. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the institution constitutionally responsible for the conduct of elections in Nigeria, reported that it added 10.49 million new voters to its 84 million registered voters, with 84 percent of them aged 34 and below. Unfortunately, this increased voter registration is met by large numbers of young Nigeria leaving the country daily in droves due to a phenomenon called Japa. “Japa” is a term that describes the disillusionment of enterprising young Nigerians in the prosperity of their country due to persistent national insecurity and harsh economic realities leading them to seek favorable opportunities in other climes. According to Africa Polling Institute, seven (7) in ten (10) Nigerians are willing to leave Nigeria if given the opportunity. This further shows their dissonance in the governance system and hope for improvement. As young professionals continue to leave the country, a gap forms at various levels of society and the electoral system.

    As Kenya awaits the verdict from the Supreme Court and the Nigerian election results, governments in Africa must begin to prioritize the use of technological solutions for the efficient, transparent, and swift collection of election results. It is also important to note that the use of technology is not a replacement for a system of integrity. Citizens must be confident in the democratic process and in the judicial and executive systems, who are obligated to defend their votes.

    It is also vital that governments and civil societies do not slack in the continuous empowerment and education of voters. The leadership of national and regional bodies such as the African Union (AU), East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is usually selected among presidents and leaders of represented countries. Therefore, if as a continent, development is desired, citizens should not be shortsighted in the selection of their representatives. Young people have a huge role to play in the development of Africa. With a sense of optimism, as this consistently happens, the flow of civilization in Kenya, Nigeria, and the whole of Africa will not flow backward.

    The CCP Congress & China’s Human Rights Abuses

    By Camden Hanley

    Two major events occurred in Chinese news this past week that require attention. The date of the 20th Party Congress has been announced and the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights office released its report on the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang.

    The 20th Party Congress will be held on October 16th in Beijing. A CCP Party Congress is held every five years and the top leadership roles in the party are determined for the next five years. At the 20th Party Congress, it is widely expected that Xi Jinping will be given an unprecedented third term in office as leader of the PRC. In the 1980’s, Deng Xiaoping instituted a two-term limit to prevent one man rule or the creation of a cult of personality forming around future leaders. This third term will further cement the powers Xi has been accruing over his tenure in office. New members will also be elected to the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee as several members have passed the unwritten CCP retirement age of 68–something Xi (69) has conveniently bypassed. The congress will occur as the PRC faces a myriad of issues domestically and internationally including heat waves, a property market crisis, the UN report, Taiwan, and more.

    The UN report had much to say about the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang. It confirms much of the reporting that has been done about the PRC’s treatment of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. It refers to “human rights violations” and says the PRC’s actions “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.” Notably, the report does not use the word genocide as some activists and the US government have in the past. It makes several recommendations including the PRC release individuals who have been “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty” and clarify the whereabouts of people missing in Xinjiang whose families have been seeking information about them. A spokesperson for the PRC said, “This so-called assessment is orchestrated and produced by the U.S. and some Western forces and is completely illegal, null, and void,” calling it “a patchwork of disinformation.” Other foreign leaders have called on the PRC to act on the report’s recommendations.

    Military Clashes, Narcotics, and Convictions in the Middle East

    By Bushra Bani-Salman

    Iranian naval ship releases U.S. sea drones into the Red Sea

    Thursday, September 1st, an Iranian naval ship seized U.S. sea drones in the Red Sea and released them on Friday, per U.S. Navy request. U.S. officials stated that cameras were missing from the sea drones, but it is unclear if they were taken by the Iranians or fell off when being pulled in or out the water.

    Narcotics confiscated in Saudia Arabia

    Eight people were arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities after confiscating close to 47 million amphetamine pills buried in a flour shipment at a warehouse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

    Militia clashes in Libya leave more than 30 killed and 150 injured

    Rising tensions between rival militias of different political standings left at least 32 killed and more than 150 injured in Tripoli, Libya on Saturday, August 27th. Conditions returned to normal the next day, but civilians are growingly concerned with the possibility of another civil war.

    Clashes in Iraq

    Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia Iraqi political and religious leader, announced his withdraw from politics, which led his supporters to protest in the streets of the Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq. Things turned violent when Sadrists stormed the government palace, clashing with Iraqi security forces. At least 30 have been killed and hundreds are injured. Sadr later called for his supporters to retreat from the Green Zone and would remain on a hunger strike until the violence stops.

    Gazan aid worker convicted of diverting funds to Hamas, sentenced to 12 years in prison in Israel

    Mohammed El-Halabi, Director of World Vision International’s Gaza branch was convicted in June for funding an approximated total of $50 million to Hamas for over 5 years. Halabi spent 6 years imprisoned awaiting the court’s decision and will spend 6 more incarcerated, per the verdict. While a great deal of the evidence remains classified, World Vision International and the Australian government ran their own audits showing no irregularities in funds. Halabi says he will appeal the verdict.

    Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit Raises Tensions

    By Cameron Chambers

    Tensions are on the rise in the Pacific following U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. This visit intended to signal the ties between the United States and the island of Taiwan, which is ahead of the 20th Party Congress in Beijing. As a result, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has responded by imposing military drills around the self-governed island.  The military drills have resulted in an unprecedented situation in which Taiwan is in the middle of an active live-fire drill, which seeks to influence its decision-making. 

    While the visit occurred in mid-August, tensions are ongoing, and in response to the PRC’s military drills, Taiwan has responded by issuing a warning that any aircraft violating its airspace will be shot down. This comes as Taiwan shot down an unidentified drone that was within its airspace near one of its inlets. Per a response, the PRC foreign ministry discredited the concern suggested that the drones were “nothing to fuss about”.  Taiwan issued warnings that the PRC is likely engaging in grey-zone activities, using civilian drones and other covert measures to provoke and intimidate the island from acting more aggressively.   

    Taiwan has further signaled its resolve to defend itself with a $1.1 billion arms package from the United States. This package includes radar warning systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Sidewinder surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles–to name a few.  The PRC responded to the arms sale forcefully, stating that relations between the U.S. and the PRC are “severely jeopardized.”  However, the U.S. contends that the arms sales are in response to aggressive PRC moves within the region, as the sale was essential to Taiwan security.

    The tensions between Taiwan, PRC, and the U.S. are likely to continue in the near future. Some worry that the current situation might lead to dangerous escalations. Furthermore, tensions within the region may contribute to a dangerous miscalculation by any party involved. This comes with the backdrop of great power competition in which the U.S. and PRC seek to undermine the other on the global stage. 

    Amending Chile’s Constitution

    By Elliott Cochran

    On September 4th, the people of Chile will vote on a new constitution. The new constitution will grant rights to the indigenous population and correct inequality.  The constitution will shift the voice of Chile to the edges of the nation and away from mining operations. However, there have been protests across the country as they worry over water rights, giving authority over mining rights to the state, and the possibility of corruption. Chileans still remember the days of Salvador Allende, Chilean president in 1970, calling for state land seizures. The constitution comes at a time when Chile is falling behind in lithium production. The need for lithium has caused the price to rise by 750%. Chile is a part of the lithium triangle, which includes Bolivia and Argentina. Chile dramatically cut its lithium production because of its role in creating nuclear weapons. However, now that car manufacturers are backing electric cars to combat climate change, Chile can fill a global demand.  Many companies have attempted to break through and open operations in Chile. LiCo left Chile before it began producing in 2019. Chinese giant BYD is in trouble as indigenous protests are targeting them.

  • The Russia-Ukraine War: How Russia Violated the United Nations Charter

    When representatives from the United Nations signed the UN Charter on June 26, 1945, those representatives bound their governments to the entirety of the Charter, including provisions regarding sovereignty. Article 2 is organized with the understanding that nations would respect the sovereignty of other nations. Specifically, Article 2 states, “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” Further, Members are required to conduct their foreign affairs without the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. However, Article 51 states that nothing in the Charter prevents a Member from using self-defense against an armed attack.

    Russia attempted to justify its invasion into Ukraine by invoking Article 51. On the day of the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a video in which he explains his reasoning:

    “I decided to conduct a special military operation. It aims to protect people who have been bullied and subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years. For that, we will strive for de-militarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine and will bring to justice those who committed multiple bloody crimes against civilians, including Russian citizens.”

    However, Putin’s reasoning for invoking Article 51 falls short. Even if Ukraine committed “multiple bloody crimes against civilians, including Russian citizens,” Article 51 would not warrant an invasion because Article 51 only supports self-defense against an armed attack. For Russia to invoke Article 51, Russia would be required to demonstrate that Ukraine took up arms against Russia and directly attacked Russia’s sovereignty. Because Ukraine did not attack Russia, Russia’s claim of self-defense is unfounded.

    Moreover, without adequate justification, Russia violated Article 2 when it invaded Ukraine. Shortly before his invasion, Putin signed a declaration that essentially recognized the independence of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. While this recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states was inconsistent with international law governing state sovereignty and secession, it was the armed attack against Ukraine‘s sovereignty that shortly followed that violated the Charter. Even though Russia recognized Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, the international community (particularly Ukraine) did not. Rather, the international community recognized these two regions as part of Ukraine. Therefore, the moment that Russia began its invasion in the Luhansk region was the moment Russia violated Article 2 of the Charter.

    In sum, Russia violated the UN Charter when it invaded Ukraine in February under false pretenses. Russia faced no immediate threat of an armed attack that would warrant the invasion, and Russia did not confer with the UN Security Council about the alleged threat. Russia was well aware its actions not only violated the Charter but the trust of the international community as well.

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