In the courtyard of Zemari Ahmadi’s home in Kabul, Afghanistan, relatives and neighbours gather to look at damage caused by a failed United States drone strike on Aug 30, 2021. | Photo Credit: New York Times

Weekly Recap: Sep 13 to Sep 19

Sep 20: French submarine building deal with Australia abruptly ended after the latter decided to join a defence pact with the United Kingdom and the United States, the US government admits that a drone strike conducted in Kabul killed 10 innocent people, and Iran formally begins the process to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasia-adjacent alliance.

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North America:

  • California Governor Gavin Newsom emphatically defeated an attempt to oust him from the governorship on Tuesday, Sept 14. He won the recall election that Republicans have called to remove him from office with a 30 point margin. Republican radio host Larry Elder would most certainly replace him as governor which could have severe consequences for the deep blue state. 
  • Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry is facing increasing scrutiny from authorities investigating the slaying of late President Jovenel Moïse. Henry sacked chief prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude after he sought an indictment on Tuesday (Sept 14) to charge Henry with the assassination of Moïse. Henry also dismissed Justice Minister Rockfeller Vincent a day after Claude was fired from his post. Secretary-general of Haiti’s Council of Ministers, Renald Lubérice, has also resigned in response to the allegations.
  • The United States (US) confirmed that a drone strike conducted in Kabul days before the withdrawal from Afghanistan killed 10 innocent people. A military investigation by US Central Command found that an aid worker and nine members of his family, including seven children, died in the 29 August strike. General Kenneth McKenzie of the US Central Command described the strike as a tragic mistake and the Taliban was not involved in the intelligence regarding the strike. In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin apologised and he added that the US will “learn from this horrible mistake.”
  • A Mexican court sentenced a former leader of one of the country’s biggest drug trafficking cartels to 28 years in jail on Tuesday (Sept 13). Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who was also known as The Viceroy, was found guilty of drug trafficking and organised crime. He became the leader of the Juárez cartel after the death of his older brother Amado in a cosmetic surgery that went wrong. His brother took control of the Juárez cartel after killing its previous leader. Vicente and his bodyguard were detained by the police at a police checkpoint in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila in October 2014.
  • Cuba began mass COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged two to 10 on Thursday (Sept 16) becoming one of the first nations to do so. Cuban health authorities approved the vaccinations after it was found that its homegrown vaccine was safe for young children. Director of the Vedado Polyclinic University, Auralis Otano said Cuba would not put infants at a minimal risk if the vaccines were not found to be safe and highly effective for children.

South America:

  • A justice from Brazil’s Supreme Court requested additional time on Wednesday (Sept 15) to review a controversial ruling that could loosen restrictions on Indigenous land which may leave the decision to congress. The country’s top court is evaluating a ruling that has invalidated a claim by some Indigenous people from the state of Santa Catarina to what they say is their ancestral territory. This has caused thousands of Indigenous people to travel and protest at the capital of Brasilia, worried about the precedent this would set if the ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • Crisis looms over Argentine President Alberto Fernandez as members of his cabinet and staunch allies of Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner have threatened to resign following a primary midterm defeat that was held on Sunday (Sept 12). Ministers from the interior, justice, housing and sciences ministries have all offered to step down, the head of the pension agency and the head of the agency that handles pensioner health plans too offered to resign.
  • A report published by a United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission on Thursday (Sept 16) found that Venezuela’s justice system has played “a significant role” in the state’s repression of government critics. The report concluded that Venezuela’s judiciary lacked independence and had allowed serious human rights violations to go unchecked. It also added that public officials have been able to commit crimes with impunity. The team conducted 177 interviews and analysed 183 detentions of people who were either opponents of the government or perceived to be opponents by the government.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may not be able to attend a UN General Assembly meeting this week as the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid announced on Wednesday (Sept 15) that all attendees must be vaccinated to speak at the assembly. This could hamper Bolsonaro’s efforts to rehabilitate his image abroad. He also told his supporters that he remains unvaccinated. The firebrand Bolsonaro was infected with COVID-19  last year. 
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernandes reshuffled his cabinet on late Friday (Sept 17) in a bid to put an end to a cabinet crisis engulfing the government a few days before. New ministers were named to the key roles of Cabinet chief, foreign minister and agricultural minister. The cabinet reshuffle was done to end the tug-of-war between more moderate and militant factions within the government.

Asia Pacific:

  • Iran is formally invited to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasia-adjacent alliance (Sept 17). Its members consist of China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Rather than a security alliance like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), it functions as a forum for engagement. By joining, Iran looks to benefit from an Eastern pivot, and they also see it as a way to alleviate its international isolation.
  • An 18-month political crisis comes to an end as Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of Pakatan Harapan (PH) sign a memorandum of understanding that promotes bipartisan cooperation. Analysts have observed that this will bring the country much-needed stability. PH officials wrote: “Parliament will not be dissolved before Jul 31, 2022.”
  • The Central Jakarta District Court found several high-ranking government officials, including Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, guilty of negligence in pollution management in Jakarta (Sept 16). The civil lawsuit filed was in 2019 by 32 citizens (May 19 2019). Jakarta consistently ranks highly in evaluations of bad air quality.
  • North Korea tests two ballistic missiles that landed just outside of Japanese maritime borders, two days after they confirm that they have conducted tests for new missiles that can carry nuclear warheads (Sept 13). South Korea then demonstrated submarine-launched ballistic missiles in an undisclosed location (Sept 15).
  • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte verbally denies the entry of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate allegations of extralegal drug-dealer executions in his campaign in the war on drugs (Sept 16). Human rights groups report that the numbers of the dead range from 20,000 to 27,000 people.
  • Military-owned telecommunication towers have been destroyed in Myanmar, leaving 700,000 people with no means of communication, as the People’s Defence Force (PDF) claimed responsibility (Sept 17). The PDF acts as the military force against the incumbent junta that had seized power by staging a coup earlier in the year (Feb 1).

Europe:

  • Russia went to the polls on early Friday (Sept 17) to elect representatives to the State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly. President Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, is widely expected to win a majority in the lower house. A mobile application created by allies of imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny was removed from Apple and Google stores before polls begin. The application promoted candidates that were most likely to defeat those backed by the Kremlin. 
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to leave office after 16 years at the helm of Germany’s federal government. She will not run for election when Germany goes to the polls on Sept 26 to elect members to the Bundestag which is similar to the lower houses in other legislatures. Merkel will be succeeded by Armin Laschet, minister-president of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
  • A French submarine building deal with Australia was abruptly ended after the latter agreed to join a trilateral defence pact with the United Kingdom and the United States on Thursday (Sept 16). French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told France Info that it was a “stab in the back” by Australia. He added that this was not something that allies would do to one another and Le Drian agreed with journalists when they asked if Paris had been “duped” by Washington over what he called the “contract of the century” for France’s naval yards.
  • Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Sigrid Kaag has resigned from her position, due to her role in the Afghan evacuation crisis last month. Dutch MPs passed a motion to censure her and said the Dutch government was too slow to respond and left behind many Afghans who should have been able to flee. Ms Kaag said she accepted the verdict from the MPs however she would still stand by her actions. Ms Kaag would be the first Western government official to resign because of the chaos that ensued after the Taliban takeover. 
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday (Sept 17) that Hungary must remain in the European Union in order to access the single market. He added that the main reason Hungary is staying in the EU was not money coming from Brussels as Hungary was in fact losing money after calculating the amount western companies repatriated from the country annually. Orban maintained that Hungary needs to stand up for the EU and will be the last few to remain in the bloc should the EU ever dissolve. 

Middle East:

  • Eight lorries with four million litres of diesel were welcomed with celebratory gunfire and petal- and flower-throwing. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the move, saying that they were an Iranian breach of Lebanese sovereignty (Sept 17).
  • Saudi Arabia has finalised the purchase of military maintenance services at US$500 million (S$674 million) from the United States on Thursday (Sept 16). Several US lawmakers have criticised the support of the Saudis in their involvement in the Yemeni civil war.
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday (Sept 13). This was their first meeting since 2015. Putin condemned foreign forces in Syria without a United Nations mandate, referring to the US and Turkey.
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE) Economy Minister Abdulla Bin Touq says that Israel and the UAE look to grow their economic ties to more than $1 trillion USD ($1.35 trillion SGD) on Monday (Sept 13). They have signed over 60 memorandums of understanding since their 2020 normalisation of relations. Sectors that stand to benefit include defence, energy, and food.
  • Algerian former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has died following a long illness at the age of 84 on Saturday (Sept 18). He had led Algeria for almost 20 years, before stepping down in 2019 after protests against his run for a fifth term. His last public appearance was in 2017, before his stroke.
  • Libyan and Chad forces clashed in the southern region of Libya, the Sahel region, on Thursday (Sept 16). The Chad forces had initially been allied with Libya and took refuge in Libya as they were rebelling against the Chadian government. The rebels claimed that Libya had allied with France to kill their leader, Mahamat Mahdi Ali, but provided no evidence. It is unclear what the cause for fighting is.

Africa:

  • A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has detailed how Eritrean and Tigrayan forces committed “clear war crimes” in Tigray, north Ethiopia (Sept 16). Eritrea had previously denied allegations of war crimes. Tigray denies any wrongdoing from their official military and asserts that they were possibly committed by local militias.
  • The United Nations Security Council urged Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt to proceed with previously-held negotiations regarding a dam on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile on Thursday (Sept 16). This dam is projected to provide power to 60% of Ethiopia, but Egypt and Sudan fear that their access to a critical water source will be disrupted by its construction.
  • Somali-Djibouti relations worsen as Djiboutian authorities detain Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s security advisor within their country on Friday (Sept 17). Djibouti is reported to have been unhappy with the Mohamed Administration for isolating Djibouti after embracing Eritrea and Ethiopia.
  • Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, has been killed by French forces, Macron said on Thursday (Sept 16). In the Sahel region, the military group has committed some of the worst violence since instability in the region began in 2011.
  • Following the coup earlier this month (Sept 5), Guinea’s military junta began to form a government on Tuesday (Sept 14). Consultations with business, religious, and political leaders mark the start of the formation.
  • After a year of economic reforms, Sudan’s inflation decreased for the first time in August, they reported on Tuesday (Sept 14). It has slowed to 387.56 per cent. The transitional government credits it to the devaluation of their currency that kills the black market and prevents volatility, as well as the lowering of prices for food items to ease the pressure off consumers.
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