The World This Week 9/25

Starting October 18th, citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be banned from entering the United States, President Trump said in a proclamation released Sunday night. Citizens of Iraq will face heightened scrutiny and government officials of Venezuela will face restrictions. The new order is more far-reaching than the president’s original travel ban, imposing permanent restrictions on travel.

Europe and Central Asia

This week in Europe and Central Asia, a great deal hinged on the humble casting of votes. The past seven days have born witness to a great deal of political turmoil in Spain as the Catalan region defiantly prepares for an independence referendum on October 1st. While Catalans boast their own language and culture, the central Spanish government has deemed it unconstitutional and has ordered over 5,000 police officers be sent to the region to stop the vote.

Meanwhile, in England Transport for London (TfL) has stripped Uber of its license to operate in the city after commenting that “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility.” This decision came as a shock to London Uber-users and the US-based company but has been backed by London’s mayor as well as its iconic black-cab drivers. A petition has been started by Uber to get the TfL to reconsider, and currently has over 500,000 signatures.

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Black Cab London by London Attractions Guide, Flickr Creative Commons

On Saturday, Turkey’s Parliament voted in favor of extending the mandate allowing them to deploy troops into Iraq and Syria, should their national security be threatened. This has been deemed necessary after their warnings of security threats resulting from the referendum for Kurdish independence went unheeded.

Voting also took place in Germany this weekend as they selected their party for the next chancellor’s term, resulting in Angela Merkel being re-elected for a fourth term. This election, while a victory for her CDU/CSU party, comes as a marked decline from past decades, coming in at just 33% support. Meanwhile, this election marked the continued rise of the AFD party. The AFD party, a nationalist, far-right party, has tripled its support since the last election. This weekend it earned a place in the Bundestag. Their growing support has shocked many in Germany and around the world because of the group’s anti-Islamist stance and xenophobic sentiments, thus marking a clear shift to watch in German politics.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Venezuela was added to the United States’ travel ban. President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation late Sunday stating, “making America safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.” Travel restrictions apply only to Venezuelan government officials and their families. Venezuela now joins a list of countries initially thought to restrict immigration primarily by Islamic refugees.

A second earthquake struck Mexico further damaging the country’s infrastructure and claiming several lives. The magnitude 6.1 quake hit Oaxaca, leaving at least 305 people dead.  United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres publicly expressed his sadness, commended the Mexican government and people for their concerted rescue efforts and said the UN stands ready to assist Mexico if need be.

Hurricane Maria leaves Puerto Rico facing major development and economic crises. The hurricane claimed at least 13 lives and knocked out water, electricity and telephone services. Despite the damage already sustained, officials say there is still a risk of flooding “due to the threat of failure” of a Puerto Rican dam. Maria subsequently hit Turks and Caicos Islands killing at least 30 people total. As the second major hurricane to hit the Caribbean this month, the island nations are struggling to respond and recover as quickly as possible.

The Middle East and North Africa 

This week the JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran Deal, came under fire by US President Donald Trump during his address to the United Nations General Assembly. Trump called the deal “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” The next day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the General Assembly. In his speech he stated: “I declare before you that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party. It will be a great pity if this agreement [the JCPOA] would be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics.”

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Meeting with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani by Herman Van Rompuy, Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that Lieutenant General Valery Asapov was killed by an ISIS attack in Syria. Lt. Gen. Asapov had been assisting Syrian troops with the liberation of Deir ez-Sour.

The Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, praised US President Donald Trump for stepping up efforts to end the diplomatic crisis in the gulf. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani also spoke at the UN General Assembly this past Tuesday, stating that its neighbors are creating an ‘unjust blockade’ and are looking to destabilize Qatar.

South Asia

India committed to investing $17bn to build its first High-Speed train system. The networks run 508 km (316 miles) between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is a joint venture, was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Japan will fund more than 80 percent, nearly $1.4bn, of the project’s cost, providing a 0.1 percent interest loan due to be repaid over the next 50 years. The project is expected to complete by 2023.

The recent standoff in Doklam between India and China is viewed by most Indians from a long-term, strategic perspective that accounts for the challenges and opportunities posed not only by China, but also Russia, the United States and other Asian neighbors. In late August, the PLA Troops withdrew mostly due to the fear of Indian boycott in the BRICs Summit, hosted by China in early September.

Pakistan’s permanent representative at the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, calls India “the mother of terrorism in South Asia”. Since both countries’ independence from the British Empire in 1947, they have engaged in three bloody wars. Two of them are involved over Kashmir. After India called out Pakistan “terroristan” at UN Assembly on Saturday, September 23, Pakistan hit back at its neighbor “the mother of terrorism of South Asia.

India has officially confirmed that Hindu refugees from Myanmar find sanctuary in Bangladesh. Vast majority of those refugees fleeing to Bangladesh are Rohingya Muslims, a convulsion of violence broke up in the Myanmar’s border to Bangladesh due to religious and ethnic differences, as the UN called this crisis an “ethnic cleansing”

East Asia and the Pacific 

China’s Ministry of Commerce said it would limit refined petroleum exports starting Oct. 1 and would ban exports of liquefied natural gas to the North immediately. China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, according to The Associated Press. The restrictions do not apply to crude oil, which makes up the biggest share of energy exports to the North. North Korea depends on China for almost all of its oil and gas but estimates of its consumption are low, leaving it unclear how Beijing’s new limit will affect them.

Environmental group Greenpeace has ranked the Philippines as the third-worst polluter into the world’s oceans, after China and Indonesia. The group expects the problem to worsen as the growing economies and rising incomes lead to higher demand for consumer products.

The Philippines has rejected calls by UN member-states for a probe into perceived extrajudicial killings. The Philippine delegation insisted that deaths from police operations are legal. President Duterte’s own son, Paolo, is facing allegations of drug trafficking. The president said he would personally approve Paolo’s execution if the claims are true.

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 President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte by Prachatai, Flickr Creative Commons.

Australia has announced it will create its own space agency to increase its share of the $330 billion space economy. Among the many arguments in favour of Australia having its own space agency, the use of satellites to collect local data to solve local problems is a vital one. Australia and Iceland are the only countries in the 35-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that do not have a space agency.

Sub Saharan Africa 

President John “The Bulldozer” Magufuli is continuing down the contentious path to regulate the mining industry in Tanzania. On top of the regulations banning the export of gold and copper passed in March of this year and a slew of regulations passed in July, he announced on September 20th that tanzanite mines would be walled in, which he hopes will curb smuggling. Not only have share prices plummeted and exploration projects canceled, but companies are suspending merger plans as a result of higher political risk in Tanzania. Domestically, these tough-nosed political maneuvers remain popular, despite a decrease in new investment ventures. We are continuing to monitor the situation, as businesses wait for clarification on how the new laws will be implemented.

Togo has witnessed protests for the last few weeks against the president, Faure Gnassingbé. However, Mr. Gnassingbé has had little luck in halting the public outcry. In fact, it appears to be spreading to cities outside of the capital. Cutting access to the internet has failed to quash communication and the current (but historic) violent suppression of political opposition has not won President Gnassingbé many friends, either. An attempt at amending the constitution to include term limits only animated the public further, when it was found that the amendment would not apply retroactively. This would leave Mr. Gnassingbé free to run for the presidency again in 2020 and even 2025.
Featured Image: United Nations Flag by Sanjitbakshi, Flickr Creative Commons

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