This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
December 4 to 9, 2017
President Donald Trump made the headlines this week, when he announced that the United States would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, triggering criticisms from the Middle East in particular (though it is not clear if Arab leaders will go beyond rhetoric, or even band together), a region which continues to be rocked by turmoil. The reported death of the former president of Yemen is expected to escalate the fighting in a country roiled by years of civil conflict, while the rescission of resignation by the prime minister of Lebanon – who had announced an abrupt resignation in November before making trips to Saudi Arabia and France – has left Hezbollah’s position undamaged and possibly stronger. Both the Lebanese and Yemeni developments, moreover, are proxies of the broader rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile in Asia, cyclones or floods have affected the countries of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
- President of DR Congo Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down in 2016 and has refused to hold long-overdue elections, instead scheduling them for mid-2019. The death of a longstanding opposition figure and continued violence have only complicated affairs.
- African migrants – estimated to be between 400,000 and 700,000 – in Libya have been held and sold as slaves, and now some African and European leaders are working “to attempt a massive and imminent evacuation of migrants who are trapped in the camps“.
- Last month, Australians voted yes to same-sex marriage. Parliament – both the House of Representatives and the Senate – has now “voted overwhelmingly to legalise same-sex marriage“, where there has been 22 unsuccessful attempts since 2004 to do so.
- A powerful cyclone killed at least 16 people in India and Sri Lanka. About 100 more are also missing.
- A tropical cyclone in Java, Indonesia killed at least 41 people.
- In Pakistan, Taliban gunmen attacked an agricultural university campus, leaving at least nine people dead.
- As punishment for systematic state-backed doping programmes, Russia – in an unprecedented move by the International Olympic Committee – is banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Russian athletes who receive special dispensation to compete “will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals”.
- In South Korea, a collision between a fishing boat and a tanker killed 13 people.
- Floods in Thailand left at least 15 people dead.
- Austria became the 16th European country to recognise a universal right to marriage. Germany did so in October this year.
- Voters in Catalonia, in a referendum, voted to secede from Spain, but the Spanish government then moved to impose direct rule before announcing fresh elections. Yet senior pro-independence leaders have been ordered by a Spanish judge to remain in jail.
- Migration remained the top priority during a summit between the African Union and the European Union. In addition, China’s competition for influence – through aid, investment, and security – in the African continent is also of concern.
- The three key issues of the Brexit talks between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) remain centred on financial settlement (or a divorce bill), the status of EU and UK citizens within both regions, and the border of Ireland. It is the issue of Ireland – and the proposal for it “to remain within the EU’s single market and customs union” – which seems to have stalled progress.
- Last year, the European Commission pressed Ireland to recover taxes from Apple. The country now says it will collect the back taxes from the company, though both “are continuing to appeal the decision and the money will sit in an escrow fund while they do so“.
- King Michael I of Romania – who during the Second World War “played a pivotal role in Romania’s switch to the Allied cause following a coup in 1944“, but was forced to abdicate after the war – died at the age of 96.
The Middle East
- In Afghanistan, “a suicide bomber drove a motorcycle into a crowd at a political rally“, killing at least six people.
- The earthquake in November which hit Iraq and Iran has killed more than 500 people, but “the recovery effort has been slowed by politics, distrust, and the legacy of war“. The Kurdish population has been disproportionately affected too.
- In November, the prime minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri announced an abrupt resignation, then made trips to Saudi Arabia and France. Now, he has officially rescinded his resignation, though leaving “Hezbollah’s position in Lebanon undamaged and possibly stronger“.
- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced the formation of a new military and economic committee, separate from the regional inter-governmental union, the Gulf Cooperation Council.
- It was reported that the former president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh – “a wily and cunning strongman who had repeatedly switched sides in a bid to regain power” – was killed by the country’s Houthi rebels. Fighting is expected to be even more intense.
- Former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- Senate Republicans passed their version of the tax bill. Talks between the House and the Senate then began, as “the two chambers must craft a single bill to send to [President Donald] Trump to sign into law“.
- President Donald Trump said he would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
- Earlier this year, the mysterious death of an activist of the indigenous land rights movement in Argentina, Santiago Maldonado, raised questions about government complicity. Now, an indigenous 22-year-old has been killed while resisting a raid by government forces. Both deaths are bringing to the spotlight the plight of indigenous populations and the ownership of their land.
- With the electoral commission accused of fraud, protestors in Honduras took to the streets, blocking roads and bridges. There is widespread distrust of the commission, as the vote-counting for the presidential election continues.