Europe and Central Asia
Fifteen women were recently tried and sentenced to death by hanging in an Iraqi court for being part of ISIS. Most of the women, between the ages of twenty and fifty, admitted to marrying ISIS fighters or even fighting alongside them. This is the second time in the month that such a group of women has been sentenced to death or life in prison for their ties to ISIS. It stands as the most recent example of a trend of people from countries across the region moving to join the Islamic State’s cause. Additionally, the Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns over the fairness involved in these Iraqi trials, suggesting that in their zeal for their anti-terror law against ISIS members they may be condemning innocent people.
There was a march in Moscow this weekend in memory of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was murdered under suspicious circumstances in 2015 near the Kremlin. Nemstov was a prime critic of Vladimir Putin in addition to being a popular reformer who had served as the Deputy Prime Minister. Three years later, thousands of Russians have turned out in his honor and in anticipation of the upcoming election which Putin is expected to win. Their signs read: “Vengeance is certain! Will not forget, will not forgive!” They contend that the 2017 investigation and arrest of his killers was a coverup and that the masterminds of his death have not yet been held accountable.
In light of the ongoing Brexit divorce of UK from the EU, Ireland has launched a “charm campaign” focused on trying to lure UK-based broadcasting companies to relocate their headquarters in Ireland. It is a decisive move on their part because broadcasting companies need only “country of origin” within the EU in order to broadcast to the whole bloc. Moving from London to nearby Dublin would be a relatively easy transition for many. While a similar campaign was launched toward banking operations previously, Ireland is facing strong competition from Belgian, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands as the next big location for broadcasting.
East Asia and Pacific
China will remove the constitutional restriction on the maximum number of terms the president and vice-president can serve, which paves the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power beyond 2023. While the CPC is seeking to end the presidential term limit, one sentence will be added to the constitution to highlight the importance of its leadership. Xinhua, the largest state-run news agency in China, reported: “The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In the past two decades, the Supreme Politburo Standing Committee has seated a successor no later than the end of the incumbent president’s first term. However, the question of Xi’s successor was left open at the 19th party Congress. There is no doubt that Xi will continue serving after finishing his two terms, but life tenure still remains in question at this stage. Key takeaway: Xi will be judged not by how long he stays but by how well China while he is at the top
The subject regarding infrastructure projects investments was raised by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he met with President Trump on Friday. Though Prime Minister Turnbull and many other American Allies in the region worried that China is using the program to expand its influence and limit other countries’ cooperation with the West, some major US companies like GE (GE) and Caterpillar (CAT) have already backed Belt and Road plans, a major economic development plan proposed by China. President Trump had doubts over American role in the future of Asia as he yanked the US from Trans-Pacific Partnership. Though U.S. domestic infrastructure is in need of fresh capital to boost, experts say there are good reasons for America to pump money into Asia and the Pacific.
2018 Winter Olympic Medals Table, after a successful closing ceremony took place Pyeongchang, Beijing is ready to take over the show in 2022. On Sunday, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended the closing ceremony along with North Korean officials, led by Kim Yong Chol, in a reprise of Vice President Mike Pence’s uneasy appearance at the opener.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Colombia expedites top drug suspect to the US. Prado Alava is accused of smuggling more than 250 tons of cocaine over the past decade, as well as ordering countless murders. During his reign, the Ecuadorian national drug lord operated transnationally across the Americas. Touted in Colombia as Ecuador’s Pablo Escobar, Alava (known colloquially as “Gerald”) was initially arrested in 2017 while traveling to visit his family. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gave key intelligence leading to Alava’s arrest, possibly helping sway Colombia towards his extradition.
President Nicolás Maduro has expressed his desire for “democratic renewal” in Venezuela. This comes after the opposition coalition’s announcement of its plan to boycott the planned presidential election in April. Maduro has proposed a “mega-election” to be held “with or without” the Democratic Unity opposition coalition. Maduro is quoted saying:
“A great parliamentary mega-election in the country, I am proposing it officially to the National Constituent Assembly for its consideration and let’s go for some powerful, powerful elections for a democratic renewal in the country.”
The opposition has argued that the forthcoming elections would be fraught with “fraudulent and illegitimate” actions, skewing results in favor of the powers that be. Furthermore, the Democratic Unity coalition has said that holding elections in April was premature. The oppositional party was recently banned from participating in the election process.
The Middle East and North Africa
The UN Security Council has adopted a Syria ceasefire resolution which will allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations. However, exceptions were made for military operations against Islamic State, Al Qaeda-affiliated groups and other groups designated as terrorist organizations. Only hours after the resolution passed by the Security Council, the Syrian government attack rebel forces from the air and ground. “There is no cease-fire at all,” said Firas Abdullah, an opposition activist. The weekend brought some relief to central neighborhoods of Damascus, where at least 16 people died in rebel shelling over the past week. Schools opened and residents were able to leave their homes for the first time in days. Despite what little peace the resolution was able to achieve, early Monday morning Turkish police and paramilitary special forces moved into Syrian Kurdish held territories. Turkey maintains that since fighting “terrorists” such as Islamic State militants and al-Qaida is exempt from the resolution, Ankara is free to pursue its offensive against the Kurdish “terrorists.”
Earlier in the week, armed rebels used dozens of mortar and rocket shells and sniper fire to target residential neighborhoods in Damascus. The attacks injured a number of civilians and caused material damage. Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, says, “It is important that all sides comply with the terms of the resolution and allow humanitarian aid and medical evacuations. But it is only a small step in the right direction.”
An Iraqi court has sentenced 16 Turkish women to death by hanging for joining Islamic State. Iraq is conducting the trials of hundreds of foreign women who have been detained, with hundreds of their children, as Isis strongholds have fallen across the country. The central criminal court issued the sentences. “[The sentences came] After it was proven they belong to the Daesh terrorist group and after they confessed to marrying Daesh elements or providing members of the group with logistical aid or helping them carry out terrorist attacks,” said Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar.
Thousands of foreigners have fought on behalf of ISIS in Iraq and Syria since at least 2014. Many foreign women came or were brought from overseas to join the militants. More than 1,300 women and children surrendered to Kurdish peshmerga in August after government forces expelled the jihadist group from northern Iraq. Their numbers have grown to about 1,700 as more foreign nationals surrendered or were captured during operations to root out the terrorist organization.The Human Rights Watch has declared that the sentencing is unfair and cruel. They contend that prosecutors have not presented sufficient evidence in these trials to implicate these and other women of willfully joining ISIS and that individuals who simply associated with ISIS and those guilty of the most serious crimes are receiving the same treatment within the eyes of the law in Iraq.
Pakistan could find itself back on a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) watchlist as early as June if the government does not undertake reform to crack down on financial support for terrorist networks. The FATF had decided to place Pakistan on the list immediately, over the objections of the delegations from China and Turkey but decided to grant a three-month reprieve following a last-minute gambit by Pakistan to buy more time. Placement on the list could devastate the economy, result in a credit-downgrade and cut off Pakistan’s few remaining banking links to the outside world. The United States was reportedly lobbying the FATF to act due to Pakistan’s inability to prevent several charities from funneling money to the militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), believed to be responsible for the 2008 Mumbai bombing.
Militant attacks in Afghanistan took the lives of more than twenty people on Saturday as a NATO delegation visits Kabul in a show support for President Ghani’s government. Many believe that the Taliban’s Haqqani network has stepped up attacks in response to the new military strategy announced by President Trump last year.
These attacks come just one day after Afghanistan broke ground on its $22.5 billion ‘peace pipeline’, a major infrastructure project that will deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to Punjab in India. It is unclear if Afghanistan can adequately protect the pipeline once complete; if it can, the national government looks to gain an extra $400 million each year in transit fees.