Saturday, October 24, 2015

Phase 2! (Week 1)

Hi all

Here is where you can post your first "update" entry.

Remember that the Council on Foreign Relations page for each of your conflicts has a "Breaking News" link in the middle column. You don't have to get your news from there, but you can if you need to.

 For this first week, the information can go back to September, though it doesn't have to.
You don't yet need to keep track of the news sources.
You should try to look at several sources, not simply summarize one news story.

It ought to be between 100 and 200 words.
You must have the name of the conflict at the top of your post as a title (and no, the title isn't part of the word count!).


  1. Crisis in Venezuela: Recent News dating back to August and September 2015.

    Along with hyperinflation, Venezuela has to deal with the Colombia-Venezuela border conflict. Maduro has blamed most of Venezuela’s problems on Colombians. His political opponents say he is using Colombians as scapegoats to distract from Venezuela's economic crisis. On August 20, Maduro has issued a decree closing two main crossings along Venezuela’s eastern border with Colombia. More recently, more than 20,000 Colombians have been forced to flee the country, most likely under claims of intimidation by Venezuela. Most importantly, this has had an economic impact for the two countries, especially Colombia. The underground economy has come to a halt. This satisfies Venezuelan officials and Maduro who have blamed mafias for the massive shortages of food as well as the increase of violence. Yet, thousands of Colombians were being dependent on the black market. Furthermore, more than half of Venezuela-Colombia trade takes place by land, providing some 300,000 jobs. Lastly, since 2009, Venezuela has sold 4.5 million gallons of gas per month to Colombia. Now, Colombia has seen that the price of fuel has doubled up. As of today, nearly half of Colombians fear that this border dispute will end up in a war.

  2. North Korean Conflict

    This month, there were speculations that North Korea would conduct another nuclear test on October 10th, the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. In fact, in September, Pyongyang announced that its nuclear plants had been restarted. According to the South Korean spy agency, China, concerned, advised Pyongyang to halt the rocket launch. The test didn’t occur finally, thus possibly due to China’s influence or pressure. However, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service announced, on Tuesday, that it is believed that North Korea is officially preparing for a fourth nuclear test, although it won’t likely happen in the near future. As of lately, China’s influence increased Pyongyang’s cooperative behavior. In fact, North Korea participated in the inter-Korean family reunions this week: Korean war-torn families since 1950, reunited during a three day event in North Korea.
    Lately, the US and South Korea also reacted to North Korea’s active nuclear program. Last Friday, the two presidents said they were ready to engage with Pyongyang if the country agreed to give up its nuclear weapons. In response, North Korea rejected resuming international talks to end its nuclear program and demanded instead to negotiate a formal peace treaty with the US. South Korea, however, dismissed North Korea’s demand on Monday. Therefore, as Pinkston, a Korea analyst stated: “North Korea’s strategy is to engage and demonstrate cooperation on certain dimensions on a selective basis but without any linkage or performance on denuclearization.”

  3. Ukraine conflict
    The former Ukrainian president Yanukovych has filed a lawsuit against Ukraine for violating his human rights (especially during the protests of 2014). These alleged violations under the European Convention of Human Rights include denials of his right to a fair trial and the right “not to be discriminated against because of his political status and opinions.” A Ukrainian court in August had begun trying Yanukovych in abstentia for his supposed role in the killing of protesters in Kiev in 2014.
    On October 25, today, Ukrainians will vote in local elections in order to choose mayors and representatives in all parts of Ukraine except areas controlled by pro-Moscow separatists and in Russian-annexed Crimea. This will test popular support for the pro-Western president Poroshenko in these times of great economic crisis and war in the East. His party is projected to take the biggest number of mayoral seats and local legislatures. However, the president's approval rating has slipped to 26 percent - less than half of what it was when he became president in May 2014. The nation’s economy is still bankrupted by the war and the loss of Ukraine’s industrial heartland to the separatists, leaving it heavily dependent on international financial help.

  4. Iranian Nuclear Conflict:

    In the past month the United States were planning on maybe lifting the economic sanctions on Tehran but they find that Iran are not committed enough to their deal. They accuse Iran of being hostile as on October 13th Iran accused an American journalist of being a spy, and the United States find that Iran should cooperate more with the IAEA. This deal theoretically should bring an economic growth to the region and it should help the United Nations in stopping countries like Afghanistan developing nuclear weapons, so it is in both parties’ best interest to cooperate on this deal.

  5. Mexico’s drug war:
    Incoming Bloodwave

    Mexico City has always been described as a ‘safe haven’ compared to drug-ravaged cities such as Tijuana, Tampico or Juarez. However, as of October 19th, a dead man’s body has been found hanging shoeless from a bridge over a busy street, at five a.m. His death (shot in the head by two bullets) is the tipping point of events; a very ominous warning that Mexico City is on the brink of violence. In fact, cartel power is still omnipresent, despite having the federal police, marines and army headquartered there, as well as the presidency, Senate and Chamber of Deputies, barriers of protection not provided in the provinces. This protection may not be as effective as it seems, given as that same Monday, five armed men held up a restaurant in the Roma neighborhood and robbed 25 customers at their tables. Sadly,these events should serve as a warning to the city that more violence is to come.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. In the wake of recent conflict, on October 24, 2015, thousands of left-wing Israeli protestors gathered in Tel Aviv and demonstrated for peace and a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by raising the possibility of a "two-state solution". The demonstrators chanted "Jews and Arabs don't want to hate each other" and "Israel, Palestine, two states for two peoples". The rally was led by the left-wing association "Peace Now", and waved banners with slogans such as "No security without a diplomatic solution” and “Stop the madness.” They also called out the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for having done what they deemed as being an insufficient job on resolving the conflict, and demanded he resign. Despite having been jeered at by right-wing demonstrators, the confrontation did not escalate into anything physical. Estimates of attendance of this protest were placed in between 3000 and 6000 people.

    1. I hadn't seen that last bit in the original post, sorry! I wrote about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  8. East China Sea Conflict:

    The United States of America has very recently deployed a U.S. destroyer to Japan. The USS Benfold is an "advanced ballistic missile defense warship” with "90 vertical-launch missile tubes and one of the world’s most advanced rocket-tracking capabilities" and it is joining seven other destroyers at Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. This is part of President Barack Obama's administration rebalance towards the whole Asia-Pacific area. This decision was made to strengthen relationships between the United States and Japan and to increase security in the region. While one of the ship's missions is protect the United States and its allies against missiles launched by North Korea, one could suppose that they could also be handy if something were to happen between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands. In that case the United States would, of course, defend Japan.

  9. Increased violence and instability in Afghanistan

    In September, the northern city of Kunduz was seized by the Taliban forces. It is located in an area with high drug trafficking and gives an easy access to Kabul, Tajikistan and northern Afghan provinces. On October 3rd, Médecins Sans Frontière’s hospital in this very city was ‘accidentally’ bombed by a US gunship and killed at least 22 people. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has decided on October 15th to keep American troops in Afghanistan in order to fight against the growing Taliban threat. There are currently 9.800 troops in the country, and their stay will be prolonged until 5.500 troops left in 2017. Obama justifies his new take on actions by declaring that he “will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

  10. On The Edge Of World War Three:

    Many different decisive events have occurred since the beginning of September in Syria and in other countries involved in the conflict. First of all in the beginning of September it has been confirmed that the Syrian Rebels are allied with different branches of Al-Qaeda. This alliance has been brought up again yesterday when one of the leaders of the al Nusra front has been killed during fire exchanges in Aleppo. This evidently questions the legitimacy of the revolution since the side which several months ago was supported by many exterior countries to the conflict is now allied with and Islamic extremist group. The 30th September, another decisive event hit the media and was talked about all over the world: the intervention of the Russian Air Force to help Assad’s regime against the rise of IS in Syria. This is another controversial event because since then it has been confirmed by the US that they have been bombing positions that were not occupied by IS. Finally, the 21th of October, Assad went to the Kremlin to discuss the intervention of Russia with Putin. They discussed about the inevitable progression of IS and that they needed help to eradicate them.

  11. North Korea Conflict
    This week, almost 250 South Koreans were allowed to see their North Korean family members for a total time of 12 hours spread out on 3 days. This had been agreed upon by the two Koreas to relieve tension between the two countries, it is the second time this has happened.
    On the 19th of October, South Korea declared that it will push China – which has influence on North Korea – to be implicated in the efforts to denuclearize the North. This is in consequence of a talk between Obama and the South Korean president Park last week, where it was decided that both countries would continue to pressure North Korea denuclearization.
    On the 20th, South Korea warned that North Korea is preparing an upcoming nuclear test.
    On the 24th, a North Korean patrol boat crossed the Yellow Sea border with South Korea, to track illegal Chinese fishers, and the South Korean Navy fired at the patrol boat to warn it from staying in Southern waters. According to the South Korean Navy, “there was no violent clash” and according to North Korea, it was a “military provocation” on the South’s part.
    Sources: Yonhap News, the Telegraph, France 24.
    Vincent M;

  12. Libya political instability:

    On the 16th October 2015 The United Nations Special Mission in Libya produced a "final text" in an attempt to make the General National Congress and the Tobruk government sign a peace treaty. This would not unify Libya but it would create a ceasfire between the two governments who make up most of what was Libya. However It will be difficult to strike a deal because the treaty is heavily favored towards the Tobruk government. Also none of the two governments are willing to lower their weapons, both wanting to continue in their military expansions around the country. Despite optimism from western countries and the UN, Libya's conflict will not end until a full agreement has been reached between all the separate factions all with different beliefs and types of governments.

  13. Violence in eastern Ukraine

    Diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Russia continue to deteriorate. Not only the Kremlin is accused of having unlawfully annexed Crimea, but also for instigating separatist mouvements in eastern Ukraine, which it denies. This resulted in trading sanctions, like Russia’s ban on western food imports or bans of the US and Europe on investments of her energy industry. In September, Poroshenko even forbade Russian airlines to land in the country (but flying over is still permitted) because of Crimea’s annexation and the general mistrust for Russia, to Moscow’s disapproval, who shortly later followed suit. However, 70% out of the 800,000 people who flew between the two countries were actually Ukrainians visiting Russian relatives. This is why the measure may be particularly counterproductive for Kiev’s main airlines, as now, travellers have to use less comfortable and complicated ways to circulate between countries such as overnight trains or passing by diplomatically more neutral states such as the Baltic countries. Rounds of negotiations, but, like many others in this conflict, the problem is still far fro being solved.

    Adrien Lopez

  14. On October 15, Pakistan's Prime minister, Nawaz Sharif visited the US. He met with Obama and multiple policies were clarified, such as the nuclear situation in Pakistan. Despite the american government's wishes, Pakistan will continue building small nuclear arms, because of the "threat of a sudden attack from India". During this meeting, it was also agreed that the US will sell 8 F-16 fighter jets. Pakistan also stated that it would enforce actions against terrorist groups and ensure that "all Taliban groups, including the Haqqani Network, 'are unable to operate from the soil of Pakistan.' " Both leaders agreed to work together to stabilise the rest of South East Asia.
    At the UN, Sharif accused India for Pakistan's instability, and stated that de-terrorising Pakistan was a better solution to the Kashmir issue than de-militarizing Kashmir.
    In Pakistan, there was a TTP attack near the northwestern city of Peshwar, killing at least 17 people. Pakistani authorities execute a man who was arrested for murder 16 years ago. Since the lift on execution in 2008, over 230 people have been executed.

  15. Political Unrest in China

    On Sunday 27 of September, multiple articles were released about the Chinese government maintaining “heavy pressure” to defeat militants in XinJiang, and asserting that Islamist militants and separatists are a serious threat to China. However, the government has never presented evidence of the existence of a cohesive militant group. Yu ZhengSheng, who is in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities, went to XinJiang in order to promote peace, and to encourage it through religion, which has become increasingly important after the death of Juma Tayir, the Id Kah Mosque’s imam (the biggest mosque of China) last year.
    (Channel News Asia)
    Another article came out the same day about the Chinese government banning 22 Uyghur muslim names in XinJiang, giving the example of a Uyghur woman who was forced to change her daughter’s name because it was an illegal name.
    On Monday 19 of October, Rebiya Kadeer made a speech in Tokyo as head of the World Uyghur Congress. Amongst other things, she said “The red carpet Britain is rolling out this week to welcome Xi is stained with the blood of Uyghurs, Tibetans and dissidents,” referring to the Chinese president, Xi JinPing. The next day, these remarks were called “absurd and extreme” by Hua ChunYing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. On a daily news briefing, she said “All types of people in XinJiang live and work in peace. There is only a small group of people that seek to destroy China's ethnic harmony and social stability. I think their actions and words should be condemned.” This speech had a great effect after the 60th anniversary of the XinJiang Autonomous Region, which was on October 1st.
    (Channel News Asia)

  16. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

    On October 17th, Yemeni security officials in Aden announced that mediated talks between the Yemeni government and al-Qaeda to persuade the militants to give up their weapons or move out of the southern port city of Aden have failed.
    These negotiations, which started 3 months prior, also aimed to convince the group to withdraw from other areas they control.
    As previously explained, Al Qaeda and the Houthi rebels are against one another despite having the similar objective of overturning the current government to install their own. In fact, Al Qaeda is so opposed to the rebels, it was announced that they had been fighting alongside pro-government forces without revealing their affiliation.
    AQAP were told to lay down their weapons and integrate society, and if they complied there would be no further consequences. The mediators also attempted to convince them to take their weapons and leave Aden. However the militants refused again, saying they have the right to partake in running the city after they participated in the fighting.
    As a result of these failed talks, a ban was issued against carrying weapons in the streets.

  17. On October 15th, President Barack Obama announced that he will leave the 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan through most of 2016. However, the President plans to reduce its number to about 5,500 troops by the beginning of 2017. Obama will thus not fulfill his promise to end the military involvements started by Bush and bring home the American forces from the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, he still believes the war in Afghanistan is not “endless” but believes that the long-term American presence is vital to the security of the US and to a country occupied by the taliban, al-Qaeda’s allies and militants from the Islamic State. The 2017 US force will of course still focus on training afghan forces and going after al-Qaeda. The decision on how and when to end the war on terrorism will thus be passed down to Obama’s successor.

  18. South China Sea's Game of Chicken

    In the following few days, American naval reinforcements will be entering the South China Sea. They have been sent by Washington to show Asian allies that their goal of "freedom of navigation" is legitimate and doable. The goal of these military vessels is to penetrate China's 12 mile boundary around their artificial islands. Many Asian allies are happy that President Obama is asserting his presence in the sea but some are worried. They're worried that this could end badly, in other words they're scared that this "game of chicken" between the two super powers will start a war. China, in reaction, to this news has mobilised a part of its naval forces. Many believe China won't engage US forces but will try other tactics as blocking the passage, shadowing, and surrounding. However who knows what could happen when two enemy ships are this close together.

  19. Unrest in Egypt : Elections for the new parliament in Egypt gone deadly

    The first round of elections for the new parliament in Egypt has been held on October 18-19th in Cairo but this event lead to tragic events. Insurgent groups have stricken against their new government in protest. For example, the Islamic State of Egypt located in Arish (Sinai Peninsula) killed hundreds of soldiers and police over the last year. The Nour Party, an ultra-conservative Salafist, also located in Arish killed three police officers and the secretary of the Nour named Mostafa Abdelrahman in one day (the 24th of October). This is considered an outbreak do to the elections and by the violence they show their disagreement with their current country. Therefore the Sinai Peninsula is considered a terrorist motherland.

  20. The situation in Yemen has not been getting any better. The bombings continue relentlessly, and it unclear which side is actually taking advantage, or if the situation is just aggravating as a whole. Recently Yemeni people have practically only been experiencing bombings in different places and situations; one on the 22nd of September, ruining a mosque and killing 25 people, a bombed hotel, and even a controversial wedding bombing, killing 15 people. On the army side of the conflict, the Saudi-coalition, in this case U.A.E., has received severe damage; a Houthi missile hit killed 45 U.A.E. soldiers in the province of Marib. On the other hand, the coalition’s soldiers managed to free a part of the American and British hostages the Houthis kept, and a few days later the group released the rest of the hostages.

    Lucas Tournier

  21. October 9, 2015
    Ever since 2011, Somalia has been fighting a terrorist organization known as Al-Shabaab. It has spent a large part of its budget to fund this war, but recently, the Army has hit a new low. It now finds itself unable to pay their soldiers. Over the last few months, Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab have allied and taken control over new territories, and have attacked a military base south of Mogadishu to everyone’s surprise. Even if no one expects Al-Shabaab to try and regain lost regions, the fact that the Army isn’t being paid might cause problems; the soldiers don’t want to fight anymore. As a result, Somalia depends on donations from the United States and certain European Nations. "Commanding unpaid troops is a problem as your orders fall on deaf ears, you cannot ask them to go with you to the front line. They say, 'What are we dying for?'," Farah (a Somalian military commander) told Reuters. The United Nations believe that the lack of funding for the military is the result of a corruption scam, in which Somali military leaders embezzle money. Any resurfacing of the group could frighten Kenya, hundreds of Kenyans have died for helping Somalia fight the jihadist cell.
    Source: Reuters

  22. Growing Instabilities in Thailand:
    Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was supposed to win the national elections of February 2016. Nonetheless, as the consequences of a decision she took earlier appeared, the chances for her to become the next prime minister seem to have become insufficient. In July 2011, when Yingluck Shinawatra was elected, she raised the price of rice to ฿15 000 (about 400 €) for the happiness of the farmers and moreover the country. She thought that the Thai rice would continue being sold internationally, such as in South Africa or United States, and would allow Thailand to enrich itself. However, the Indian or Vietnamese rice, 50% cheaper, became successful instead. Yingluck’s plan to enrich Thailand failed and resulted in a decrease of the Thai economy, revolving mostly around the rice industry. In October 2015, Shinawatra was given 30 more days to explain herself.
    Athina Gunnarsson 1C

  23. Internal Conflict in South Sudan:

    During the 70th United Nations General Assembly that took place in September 2015, James Wani Igga, Vice-President of the Republic of South Sudan, took the podium. He announced his gratitude towards the United Nations and their forces deployed in South Sudan, for their support towards the treaty signed on August 26th between South Sudan and opposing groups, officially putting an end to the conflict. However Igga pointed out that the ceasefire is only holding in certain parts of the country, due to absence of a verification system. His speech had therefore as a main purpose to ask the UN to extend their support, both financially and technically, to guarantee the country’s peace.

    (Sorry for being a day late!)

  24. Intensification of violence in Nigeria

    In mid-September 2015 the military in Nigeria was on an on-going anti-terror operation on the Banki axis of Borno State, near the border of Cameroon, which was used by the Boko Haram as a stronghold when attacking across the border. On this operation, the military destroyed and cleared two camps that were controlled by the Boko Haram, rescuing 241 women and children. Although it is not clear whether the women and children were kidnapped by the militants, investigations are being carried out. The raid led to the arrest of 43 militants, including one of the top leaders of Boko Haram, Bulama Modu, emir of Bulakuri village. The military discovered buried weapons, meaning the militants have given up their posts. In addition to this, the military has obtained information from a suspect named Aji Gambo in Wudla village who gave the names of terrorists who attacked Kirawa and Kolofa in Northern Cameroon and the village they came from, Dara Jama, where they were constructing a bomb factory. This particular rescue and the recent destruction of several hideouts in the Northeast of Nigeria show the progress of the military and the government against the Boko Haram.
    (Sorry, I wasn't able to submit until today)

  25. The South China Sea

    In the last couple of weeks the United States has made plans to conduct naval patrols near China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. These patrols, which may go past the 12 nautical miles limit that these islands “own” are indented to challenge China’s effort’s to build more artificial islands, which are disturbing the trade going on in this part of the sea. The Islands built by the Chinese are causing problems because they give the Chinese right to 12 nautical miles of water surrounding these islands as well as all the resources contained in that area. This is problematic because the US could experience an economic and commercial setback if China was to own all those resources, also China would be able to restrict passage close to these islands which would hinder the free navigation for trade in the Sea.

  26. FROM BEN
    Afghanistan is victim of an ongoing conflictive period. Another contribution to the country's instable present transpired weeks ago. The 28th of September, the Taliban seized control of Kunduz, a provincial capital in the north. First of all, this is problematic because it complicates peace talks between the government and the menacing groups. Also, this marks the first major town the Taliban seized in the last 14 years. Finally, the geographic location of Kunduz, to the north of Afghanistan, proves to be a more important attack because the Taliban's zones of influence are situated in the south.
    The Taliban, armed with heavy machinery, attacked the city by three sides. They seized most of Kunduz and the Afghan forces backed down to the airport. In order to assert their presence, the Taliban raised their white banner in the city's main square. In addition, they freed approximately 600 inmates.
    The Afghan troops along with US and NATO forces have, since the incident occurred, regained territory. On the 13th of October, the Taliban left and Mujahid claims: “We are leaving for the sake of those civilians. However, we can come back and seize the city whenever we want,”. The sake of the civilians as the Taliban explain, relates to the violent fighting within the city and more importantly to the US led air strike on a hospital that unintentionally killed dozens.

    Boko Haram
    These past weeks, a lot has happened in Nigeria because of the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram. A few days ago, in Maiduguri, female suicide bombers Nevertheless no one has proof that this attack was because of Boko Haram. The government blamed this incident on the Boko Haram because of their suspicion towards them. This attack injured several people, and killed one. A few weeks before this incident another attacked occurred. Three girls, believed to be between the ages of 11 and 15, were used in a suicide attack on a mosque, killing several people. The Boko Haram have been using female suicide bombers since June 2014. In the city of Kano, two girls, not more than ten years old detonated their bombs and killed over thirty people.

  28. Cyberattacks

    The threat of cyberattacks on american critical energy infrastructures was bad, but it has gotten worse. There are more cyberattacks against the energy sector than against any other industry. Not only that, but the problem is developing much faster than any countermeasures or policies can be put into place. Additionally, these incidents have had a variety of different impacts such as stealing power, causing a failure in control systems devices requiring power plants to shut down, and disabling safety monitoring systems. A study has revealed that a major cyberattack on the US power grid had the potential of costing a trillion dollars in damage. Wednesday, the senior vice-president of FirstEnergy Service Co. said that utilities have successfully blocked some of the cyberattacks, although greater efforts will be needed. Other associations have recently started to take action against this problem, such as the Idaho National Laboratory. The possibilities for solutions, however, all come to the same conclusion: more trained cyber defenders will be needed, as the number of trained cyber defenders is largely insuficient for the job at hand.
    Quentin Siart

  29. After the accord between China and the United States, a lot of Chinese hackers have been tracked down and arrested for stealing American trading companies’ secrets. But cyberattacks on the U.S’s infrastructure have become more sophisticated and threatening these days. America’s economy is in danger: according to federal authorities, 22,1 million people have been compromised from hacks of OPM databases. Lately, a group called Deep Panda has been identified responsible for a numerous attacks on national security and a large number of industries, including in agriculture, finance, chemicals and technology. America’s government is taking those kind of threats very seriously. The American Department of Defense is building strong bridges to the private sector, developing its capabilities to anticipate threats. Directed by Obama, the CTIIC (cyber threat intelligence integration center) has been created to protect privacy and civil liberties. Even though those precautions are insufficient, they could prevent general cyber attacks and prepare the country for more dangerous, complex cases.

    Syria’s Current Events #1

    This week, president Bashar-al-Assad and Putin had an official talk. Since Putin "nicely" agreed to tell press reporters some part of their chat, we now have information on this front: al-Assad would agree to engage a talking approach with rebel forces (enemy) to fight the Islamic State (another enemy). And as we say "shared enemies make friends", the rebels bombarded oil refineries that belong to ISIS this week. This is the most important air strike for a year at least, with rebel jets hitting 26 targets. The strategy of this being that ISIS will not be able to make money from the oil refineries. The locations of these refineries are in Syria and Iraq. For now, Russian troops in Syria will "stay until the end" because they have been doing good: getting the correct atmosphere for enemies, government forces and rebels, to unite and fight ISIS-how good will it get thanks to Putin?