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Weekly News Digest for October 24, 2020

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Karan Pol, Trinity Gates, and Stephanie Cannon

 

Breaking News:


Iran Allowed to Conduct Arms Deals after United Nations Embargo Ends

On Sunday, a 13-year-old conventional arms embargo by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Iran ended as part of the JCPOA. Iran can now legally buy and sell missiles, helicopters, and tanks. The Iranian foreign ministry noted that the weapons will be used solely for defensive means.


The United States stands firm in its opposition to Iran, with Secretary Pompeo threatening consequences against those conducting arms deals with the state, despite the United States pulling out of the JCPOA in 2018. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh fired back at Pompeo, arguing that “Pompeo’s remarks are the most important sign that not even he believes unilateral US sanctions have been successful, and no [UN sanctions] have been reinstated.” The Iranian defense minister, Amir Hatami, reassured those doubtful of the lifted embargo by asserting weapons will only be sold for defensive purposes and to those who “won’t misuse them.”


Election Interference from Iran and Russia

The United States government accused Russia and Iran of interfering in the 2020 elections. Tehran is accused of targeting swing states by sending 25,000 emails claiming to be from the Proud Boys, threatening voters to vote for Trump. Russian hackers targeted state and local governments, obtaining voter registration information. These discoveries come from a larger effort to undermine democracy in the United States, pursued by China, Russia, and Iran. Official reports suggest that the Trump administration has been aware of the interference for weeks.


The Return of Socialism in Bolivia

The socialist candidate, Luis Arce, was declared the winner of the Bolivian presidential election held last weekend. Arce, a former economy minister, was handpicked by the previously ousted leader Evo Morales who remains in exile in Argentina following a U.S.-backed coup in 2019. His opponent Carlos Mesa conceded the race on Monday by stating, “It is up to us, those of us who believe in democracy, to recognize that there has been a winner in this election”, effectively rebuking claims of a fraudulent or unfair election. Arce will replace the current right-wing interim president Jeanine Áñez. The win comes after claims from former President Áñez that Argentina was interfering in the elections.


North America


545 Migrant Children Separated Since 2017, Parents Cannot be Located

Legal reports show that the Trump administration has been unable to locate the parents of 545 migrant children separated at the border. Many of these separations come from the “zero tolerance” policy enacted in 2018. Spokespeople for the administration claim that many parents do not wish to reunite with their children in their country of origin, but ACLU deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights project, Lee Gelernt, maintains that none of these parents have yet been identified, rendering contact impossible.


Beijing Warns Against Canadian Sanctions and Comments on Xinjiang

The Chinese foreign ministry is fighting accusations from the Canadian parliamentary committee claiming that Chinese policy toward the Uighur population in Xinjiang province amounts to genocide. The committee called on the province of Ottawa to condemn the “mass detentions, forced labor, and pervasive state surveillance” of Chinese officials.


Asia and the Pacific


United States Approves Arms Sales to Taiwan

The United States is planning to sell up to three major weapons systems, including sensors, missiles, and artillery, to Taiwan for $1.8 billion. The United States Department of State’s formal notification gives Congress up to 30 days to object to any of the sales. Opposition is not expected, however, due to the bipartisan support for the United States’ defense of Taiwan. Chinese officials claim that the deal would undermine their sovereignty.


Thailand Ends Emergency Decree Aimed to Disband Protests

On Thursday, Thailand’s government cancelled Bangkok’s state of emergency that banned public gatherings greater than four people and allowed media censorship. The cancellation was an attempt to appease protestors who are seeking democratic reform. One day before the reversal, protestors said they would give Prime Minister Prayut three days to resign before there would be an increase in demonstrations. Prayut maintains that he will not resign, leading to further civil unrest.


Tropical Storm Saudel Pounds Philippines

Widespread flooding from Tropical Storm Saudel has forced thousands of residents in the Philippines to evacuate. In addition to flooding, the torrential rainfall has caused landslides that blocked roads and damaged homes. The storm is now heading for Vietnam, where over 100 people have already died in the past few weeks due to bad weather conditions.


Africa


Libyan Factions Agree to Permanent Cease-Fire

Two Libyan factions, the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA), have agreed to a permanent cease-fire over a decades-long war that states such as Turkey, Russia, the United States, and Egypt have regularly been involved in. On Friday, the two sides signed an agreement at the United Nations in Geneva, calling for the immediate withdrawal of military forces and foreign mercenaries within three months. Previous peace initiatives in Libya have failed, but the United Nations is hopeful that the presence of strong international backing will be beneficial.


SARS

Protests have erupted this week in Nigeria and call for the government to close the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) amid accusations of unlawful arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings. The protests originally began after a video was posted showing SARS officers killing a young man; shortly after going viral, the man who filmed the video was also arrested. Quickly, the demonstrations evolved to include demands of the immediate release of arrested protestors, justice for victims of police brutality, a solution for extreme inequality and poverty, and alleviation in large youth unemployment rates.


The SARS unit was disbanded on October 11 and replaced with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, leading citizens to worry that the government simply renamed the group. Since then, protests have continued and violence has escalated, resulting in the deaths of dozens of citizens. On Tuesday, security forces fired into two groups of peaceful protestors and left 12 people dead. As of Friday, 56 people in total have been killed in two weeks of protests against police violence with no end in sight.


Europe


Poland Criminalizes Abortion

This week, Poland’s top court found abortions to be unconstitutional when pursued because of fetal abnormalities, arguing that it was a form of “eugenic practices”. This issue has been at the forefront of European politics in the past decade as western countries have adopted a more progressive approach to abortion laws and restrictions. This change in legal abortions is considered a win for the Catholic conservative party.


With this change, Poland is now the most difficult country in the European Union for a woman to get an abortion, excluding the territories Malta and Northern Ireland where all abortions are illegal. Poland will still permit abortions to be pursued in cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy threatens the health of the mother. This ruling has received criticism as it was declared in the middle of the pandemic and 97% of abortions in 2019 were in cases related to high risk of fetal impairment or an incurable disease.


Controversial Cartoons Lead to the Beheading of a French School Teacher

The beheading of a middle school history teacher, Samuel Paty, by Abdullakh Anzorov an eighteen-year-old refugee from Chechnya took place after Mr. Paty led a debate on religious freedom and showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. This lesson had prompted an angry outcry from a parent, calling for Mr. Paty’s dismissal from the school and sparking an internal investigation through angry videos that the parent posted online in early October. Five days after the parent posting the second video, Anzorov paid two students to identify Mr. Paty after class before following the teacher on his route home. Anzorov was shot by police later that day after Mr. Paty’s decapitated body was found on a public street, which has since caused much unrest within France and the teaching community. Since the killing and death of Anzorov, six people have been arrested including the two students who helped identify the teacher and a friend of Anzorov who was with him when he bought the murder weapon. The other people that were arrested including other facts of the incident have not been revealed since the attack has been classified as a possible terrorist attack


Secularism, the belief that the national identity comes before everything else, is deeply ingrained in French culture and has been a catalyst for many disputes regarding the influx of migrants coming into the country and has led to the reinvigorated “Je Suis Charlie” movement, which is now “Je Suis Samuel.” The killing has also lead to an extreme and heightened response from the government to crack down on Islamic extremism through increased raids, deportations, and the dissolution of affiliated organizations. Mr. Paty’s death has prompted increased efforts to crack down on religious discrimination which targets nearly 5 million Islamic citizens in France.


Latin America and the Caribbean


Chilean Protests

Violence has broken out during the first anniversary of the start of Chilean protests. The protests began October 18, 2019 after a metro fare increase which exacerbated income inequality problems. According to the United Nations, one percent of residents earn one-third of the nation's total wealth. The overarching complaints of protestors include a low minimum wage, slow wage growth, weak union protections, unaffordable housing and healthcare, and large student debt. This week, protestors burned down two churches and destroyed shops and a police headquarters. Citizens are encouraging people to vote in favor of a new constitution in a referendum next week, aiming to move Chile away from military rule.


COVID-19 Cases Rise in Latin America

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens throughout Latin America, Argentina passed one million confirmed cases. In the coming weeks, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico are expected to also exceed this milestone. Despite having a strong lockdown, Argentina’s cases continue to increase, likely due to the region's heightened poverty levels, weak public health systems, and limited testing and contact tracing measures.


Middle East


Sudan-Israel to Normalize Relations

President Trump announced on Friday that Sudan and Israel will normalize relations, making Sudan the third Arab nation to take this step towards diplomacy. Trump also asserted that he expects Palestine and Saudi Arabia to agree to closer ties in the near future. Amid the declaration, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) argued that the decision was a “stab in the back,” and did not provide any indication of a willingness to cooperate with Israelis as Trump suggested.


Prior to the normalization of ties, the Trump administration fulfilled Sudan’s requirement of removal from the state-sponsored terrorism list, leaving only Syria, Iran, and North Korea. The move allows Sudan to receive international assistance to strengthen their government. In exchange, Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to United States terrorist attack victims.


Iran Allowed to Conduct Arms Deals after United Nations Embargo Ends

On Sunday, a 13-year-old conventional arms embargo by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Iran ended as part of the JCPOA. Iran can now legally buy and sell missiles, helicopters, and tanks. The Iranian foreign ministry noted that the weapons will be used solely for defensive means.


The United States stands firm in its opposition to Iran, with Secretary Pompeo threatening consequences against those conducting arms deals with the state, despite the United States pulling out of the JCPOA in 2018. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh fired back at Pompeo, arguing that “Pompeo’s remarks are the most important sign that not even he believes unilateral US sanctions have been successful, and no [UN sanctions] have been reinstated.” The Iranian defense minister, Amir Hatami, reassured those doubtful of the lifted embargo by asserting weapons will only be sold for defensive purposes and to those who “won’t misuse them.”

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