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Weekly News Digest for November 10th, 2023

Updated: Nov 18, 2023


Compiled by Sara Anis Ali, Grey Cohen, Alex Hsu, Meagan McColloch, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Zoe Shepard

Edited by Sara Anis Ali, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Zoe Shepard, Niamh Dempsey


Asia and the Pacific

Top U.S. and Indian Officials Meet In New Delhi

On Friday, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with their Indian counterparts in New Delhi as part of the fifth “2+2” Dialogue. Officials discussed a wide range of security issues, including the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific, and India’s diplomatic dispute with Canada over the assassination of a Canadian Sikh separatist. This week's discussion comes on the heels of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the U.S. in June and U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to India for the G20 summit in September, continuing the deepening of security and diplomatic ties between the two countries.


The current conflict in Israel took center stage in discussions. Since the conflict started earlier last month, India urged for de-escalation and the renewal of direct peace negotiations. Historically, India has supported the two-state solution and the alleviation of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It reiterated this stance following the Hamas attack while also expressing solidarity with Israel. India’s position reflects the U.S.'s position, a recent trend in Indian foreign policy as the nation grows closer to the U.S. and the West.


Officials also discussed strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, specifically focused on containing China’s looming presence in the region. The two countries hope to maintain a balance of power in Asia through the strengthening of bilateral and multilateral ties between themselves and other countries in the region. In recent years, the U.S. has created several cooperative security partnerships among allies in the Indo-Pacific, the major one being the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (commonly known as the Quad). The Quad includes Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. The partnership was largely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power. Friday’s 2+2 dialogue serves as a precursor to the upcoming Quad’s Leader Summit, which will be held in India next year.


Central America and the Caribbean

One Hundred and Twenty-Three Migrants Found Trapped in Trailer in Mexico

Mexico’s immigration authority announced they rescued 123 migrants trapped in a trailer in the state of San Luis Potosi on Thursday. Many of these migrants were from Central American countries including El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Among the travelers were 34 children. Authorities believe the trailer was intended to reach the United States border. The number of migrants from Latin America has been steadily increasing since a sharp drop following new policies implemented in May under United States President Joe Biden. Immigration to the U.S. border is not a new issue for the U.S., however, conditions continue to worsen as administrations fail to fix the structural issues causing the mass migrant flows.


Days ago, a migrant caravan headed from Mexico’s southern border to the Mexico-U.S. border grew from 5,000 to 7,000 persons. This increase occurred over just days. Back in February, 39 migrants died when a bus headed for the U.S. border fell off the road. President Biden is expected to meet with his Central and Southern American counterparts in the coming weeks to discuss ways to stem the dangerous migrant travel to the U.S.


Busing migrants is one method adopted by Costa Rica and other Central American countries to structure the migrant flow. Countries like Costa Rica have struggled with massive encampments of migrants at their borders. Bus stations have been set up near border towns to offer passage from one border to another. This shuttle program has reduced the settlements and alleviated the border town communities. The bus program has presented migrants with a safer way to travel. It is not free, however. Migrants must pay fees for the tickets and often have to wait days in line to receive them. U.S. officials worry this will only encourage the flood of migrants to their border. Experts and aid workers disagree, explaining that the migrant flow will continue, and the shuttle can provide a safer means of travel, hopefully saving lives. Moving forward, governments must work together to manage inevitable migration and ensure safety is a top priority.


Europe

Antisemitism Surges in Europe As Fighting Continues in Gaza

Across Europe, countries have witnessed a significant rise in antisemitic acts as the Israeli military continues to wage war against Hamas in Gaza. On Sunday, the European Commission condemned the “extraordinary levels” of antisemitic rhetoric and incidents that have taken place across Europe. In Germany, nearly two weeks after the October 7th attack in Israel, two men threw Molotov cocktails at the Skoblo Synagogue in Berlin. In France, more than one thousand antisemitic acts have been recorded since October 7th, including antisemitic graffiti spray-painted on the sides of buildings in Jewish neighborhoods. In the United Kingdom, staff and students of a Jewish school in London were greeted one morning with the sight of red paint thrown at the front gates. In Austria’s capital, an arsonist set fire to the lobby of a ceremonial hall, and swastika symbols were spray-painted on the external walls of the hall in the Jewish section of Vienna’s central cemetery. In a statement from the European Union, the spike in antisemitic incidents across Europe resembles “some of the darkest times in history.”


In response to the rise in antisemitism, numerous European leaders have vowed to protect and support their Jewish citizens. German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck issued a statement on social media, which urged citizens to fight antisemitism, specifically calling for support from far-left political movements and Muslims. In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the rise in antisemitism “sickening” and vowed to keep the Jewish community safe. In France, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne reassured the Jewish community, stating that the French government was doing “everything to protect them.” Authorities in Austria have raised the country’s terrorism alert level to “high” and increased protections for Jewish institutions. Similarly, the EU stated that it “stands by its Jewish communities” and heavily condemned the antisemitic acts.


Middle East and North Africa

Israel Issues a Four-Hour Daily Humanitarian Pause

Following President Biden’s attempts to negotiate a “multi-day stoppage” in the Israeli-Hamas conflict, Israel has agreed to institute four-hour daily pauses to current attacks. The “pause” allows for Palestinians in Gaza to receive necessary aid during the period and also flee the area as it undergoes bombardment and attacks. A pause would occur in a specific neighborhood or area, and last for four hours. The United States had hoped that Israel would instate a longer pause so there would be a “better environment for hostage negotiations''. Israel, however, stated that anything longer would not occur until the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas.


Given the United Nation’s frustrations with previous aid coordination, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is hoping that the “pauses” will be accompanied by coordination to ensure vital supplies such as food, water, and fuel are delivered to residents in the city. The decision comes at a crucial time as constant bombardments even damaged two Red Cross trucks carrying “lifesaving medical supplies”. Pauses in the conflict would allow humanitarian organizations to safely deliver aid supplies to Gaza without the fear of bombardment or firing.

While the United States didn't receive the three-day pause it hoped for, President Biden finds the deal a step in the right direction. Recently, the CIA and Israel’s military met with the Qatari prime minister to negotiate a hostage release in exchange for a ceasefire, but the current progress is unclear.


North America

Supreme Court Hears Arguments to Uphold Law Disarming Domestic Abusers

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court delved into a pivotal case, United States v. Rahimi, a case with the potential to reshape the landscape of federal and state gun control laws. At the heart of the matter is the challenge to a federal law that disarms individuals subject to domestic violence court orders. The case emerged in 2019 when Zackey Rahimi, a Texas drug dealer, committed a violent assault against his girlfriend, prompting her to seek a restraining order that suspended Rahimi's gun license and prohibited his possession of firearms.

During the proceedings, the justices grappled with the constitutional dimensions of disarming individuals under domestic violence orders. A notable shift in the court's stance was evident, as it seemed inclined to endorse the idea that the government has the authority to disarm individuals in the context of domestic violence proceedings. This potential endorsement contrasts with a previous landmark decision, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, where the court, in a 6-3 vote, struck down a New York law imposing strict limits on carrying guns outside the home. This decision also established a new legal standard where the court must consider what gun restrictions existed two centuries ago when ruling on any restrictions.

The court's conservative justices appeared willing to acknowledge that a judicial finding of dangerousness within domestic violence proceedings could be a sufficient basis for federal intervention, even in the absence of a historical precedent precisely mirroring the law in question. On the other hand, liberal justices questioned the necessity of relying on historical tests, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the dangers posed by the combination of domestic strife and firearms.

At the core of the debate are differing views regarding the balance between individual gun rights and the imperative to protect potential victims of domestic violence. The court's inclination to consider the deadly consequences that link domestic disputes and firearms underscores a broader consensus among the justices. As the legal landscape evolves, the implications of this case extend far beyond the immediate circumstances of Rahimi's actions, potentially shaping the future of gun control laws across the nation.


South America

Argentina’s Presidential Race Intensifies Ahead of Runoff Election

On November 19th, Argentina will face a runoff election for its presidential race. The general election, which was held on October 22nd, saw inconclusive results as both contenders failed to reach the 45% vote threshold required by the Argentine Constitution. Despite being eligible for a second term, the incumbent president, Alberto Fernández, will not seek re-election. Two men are now in contention to take his place. Sergio Massa, the former minister of the economy and head of Unión por la Patria (UP), a center-left coalition will face off against Javier Milei, an outspoken proponent of libertarian economic reforms and leader of La Libertad Avanza (LLA), an alliance of right-wing political parties.


Amid an ongoing economic crisis, each candidate has proposed a unique solution to combating Argentina’s soaring inflation and rising poverty. Milei has promised to dollarize the Argentine economy as well as eliminate the central bank which he has blamed for much of the country's financial struggles. In contrast, Massa and his center-left party represent Peronism, a uniquely Argentine third-position ideology that rejects both capitalism and communism which emerged during the latter half of the twentieth century. As minister of the economy, Massa oversaw the opening of the Néstor Kirchner gas pipeline, the government’s largest energy infrastructure project. As president, Massa hopes to revitalize Argentina’s sluggish economy through infrastructure investment and collaboration with the state-owned companies his opponent has pledged to privatize.


As of this week, polls are showing an increasingly tight race between the two candidates. On November 6, a local poll showed Massa leading the race with 42.4% of the likely vote compared to Milei’s 39.7%. Though Massa earned a higher percentage of the total vote during the general election, Milei has gained ground after winning the endorsement of Patricia Bullrich who finished third in the general election. Regardless of the outcome, the result of this year’s election will greatly influence the direction of a country in danger of complete economic collapse. The popularity of an anti-establishment candidate like Milei is indicative of the desperation felt by voters across Argentina and their frustration with the current political order.


Sub-Saharan Africa

Warning Signs of Conflict Between Ethiopia and Eritrea

It has been one year since the conclusion of a brutal civil war that pitted Ethiopian federal troops against the forces of the Tigray region, in which an estimated 600,000 people lost their lives. Now, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seems to be gearing up for another possible conflict - this time against neighbor and former ally during the civil war, Eritrea. The crux of the rising tensions centers around access to Red Sea ports in Eritrea. When Eritrea earned its independence from Ethiopia in 1991, after a 30-year-long civil war, Ethiopia lost access to its only ports, landlocking the country with a population expected to reach 150 million in 2030. Ahmed has indicated his intention to secure access to a port, citing historical borders and leveraging the position of Ethiopia as the world’s most populated landlocked country. While Ahmed has denied that it would invade Eritrea to gain access to the sea, he allegedly told Ethiopian elites that force was an option.


While Ahmed’s unpredictability has raised concerns among some about the possibility of an Ethiopian invasion of Eritrea, others see Ahmed’s rhetoric as par for the course for Ethiopian leaders trying to drum up national support. Support Ahmed held during the Ethiopian civil war has faltered and current fighting between Ethiopian security forces and Amhara regional paramilitaries has alienated Amhara elites, a crucial support base for Ahmed. A conflict may spur a resurgence of the support Ahmed previously held, especially among Ethiopians who still view Eritrea's independence as illegitimate. Experts say that preceding administrations have frequently used access to Red Sea ports to turn focus away from domestic issues.


Ethiopia’s willingness to go to war over port access has been called into question along with its capacity to do so. The aftermath of Ethiopia’s civil war has left the Ethiopian army in a dire state. In addition, the Ethiopian government is currently fighting rebel groups (reportedly supported by Eritrea) in the regions of Oromia and Amhara, further taxing the spread-thin military. While Ahmed’s sounding of the war drums is likely just a show to garner support, Ethiopia has real interests in accessing Red Sea ports in Eritrea. Ethiopia’s mobilization of troops near the Eritrean border, Eritrea’s support for rebels in Ethiopia, and Eritrea and Ethiopia’s contentious history may be enough to ignite a full-scale war, the consequences of which would be devastating for a region rife with conflict and instability.


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