Framing The World, LXXIV Edition
In the new issue of FtW we cover the latest events in Indonesia, Iran, the UK and the US. Remaining in the United States, the change in the Fed's monetary policy is important, which will cause interest rates to rise. In terms of human rights, on the other hand, in Chile an "egalitarian marriage" was approved under pressure from the LGBTQ + community and in the USA new sanctions were implemented against violence against Uyghurs. Moving to Africa, we pay particular attention to two hot fronts, the electoral (and military) ferment in Libya and the Turkey-Africa summit. Finally, we describe the diplomatic activity aimed at reducing tensions on the Ukrainian front by Russia, the USA, NATO and the European Union.
All this and much more in the 74th issue of Framing the World!
Myanmar, the repression of the military junta continues. The military, since the coup of last February 1, have stood out for their oppression and violence against all forms of dissent. Today the situation has seriously worsened from a humanitarian point of view: according to United Nations estimates, at least 284,700 are internally displaced and about 2 million citizens are in need of humanitarian assistance. These numbers will increase in 2022, due to the strategy undertaken by the junta: not only violent repression and arrests of resistance fringes, but also a real block on access to essential services such as food and health. Continuous blockages of infrastructures were found, especially in areas where there are rebel organizations on an ethnic basis, and an invasive control of both the products and the personnel of NGOs operating in the area. Furthermore, with the pandemic situation, the limitation of medicines and ad hoc devices makes the conditions of citizens more vulnerable (primarily women and children) more at risk.
Thailand, failure to recognize the rights of transgender people. According to the latest report published by Human Rights Watch, transgender Thais do not have access to legal avenues for the recognition of their gender identity and do not enjoy true legislative protection from forms of discrimination and aggression. The report shows the consequences of the failure to implement Thailand's narrow gender identity laws: transgender people experience verbal and non-verbal violence in the school, work and health fields, as in each of these fields they must adapt to the gender indicated on the identity card and not to what they feel right. The relevant legislation is very sparse, in fact there is the Persons' Name Act (2007) which allows you to change the name, but not the gender and is also subject to the discretion of the competent local administration. The Gender Equality Act (2015), on the other hand, prohibits all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender expression, but no concrete measures have been implemented in this regard by the commission in charge.
Cameroon, separatist armed groups threaten education. Since 2017 there have been numerous attacks by separatist forces in the Anglophone region of Cameroon, with inestimable physical and psychological damage to students, teachers and their families. In 2017, peaceful demonstrations were organized in the English-speaking regions to protest against the French assimilationist school system, imposed by the central government. However, the situation has degenerated with the organization and later the radicalization of some armed groups, which not only demand independence, but they forcefully promote the boycott of schools in which the French language is taught from 2017 onwards. Children and teachers are frequently kidnapped, mutilated, killed just for going to school buildings, which are often used as a warehouse for weapons or as a torture centre. The central government for its part is not managing the situation either at the police or at the justice level.
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Wall Street, technology falls. The spread of the omicron variant brings the first trading week of December to close in the red for Wall Street, the second consecutive week for the S&P500 and Nasdaq, the fourth for the Dow Jones (the first time since September 2020). However, the reassurances on the efficacy of vaccines and the possible mildness of the symptoms led to three days of sustained rises, with the markets driven by airlines and the tourism sector. Inflation, which reached 9.6% in November, the highest level since 1982, did not cause any particular reaction in the markets, with the S&P500 closing at an all-time high on the very day the data came out. Last week, however, the FED's decisions (see below) first gave rise to a short-lived rally and then to a substantial drop in technology stocks, with names such as Apple, Nvidia, and Adobe dropping 4%, 7%, and 10% respectively.
China, troubling data. If in the West the economy seems to be doing very well with strong GDP growth and falling unemployment, albeit with fears linked to variants and inflation, things are not going so well in China, where there are some signs of a slowdown. In October, consumption grew by 3.9%, down from 4.9% in October and below expectations, a result dampened by pandemic restrictions. Much of the economic slowdown, however, is due to the 'crisis' in the real estate sector triggered by the restrictive measures imposed by the government to deflate the speculative bubble, which not only led to the default of Evergrande and other developers but also caused a 20% drop in residential sales compared to 2020.
FED, changing the course. In response to the high levels of inflation, which reached 9.6% (annualized) in November, and supported by the robustness of American economic growth, the Federal Reserve announced last Wednesday a net turnaround in its monetary policies. From January, the Fed will reduce its bond purchases by $30 billion a month, twice the rate decided in November, ending the purchase program in March instead of June, and then start raising interest rates, with the concrete possibility that this will happen three times during 2022. Unlike the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve does not believe that the spread of the Omicron variant poses a real risk to the domestic economy.
UK, rising rates. In Great Britain, too, inflation is at very high levels. In November, prices rose by 5.1%, up sharply from the 4.2% in October and above forecasts, and core inflation, which rose by 4%, is at its highest level since 1992. In addition, the Bank of England has warned that the rate could reach 6% by April, three times its target. The BoE has therefore decided to increase interest rates, albeit only by +0.15%, to begin to bring inflation under control (the first of the major central banks to do so), and in the coming months will intervene with further hikes. The ECB, on the other hand, despite finding itself in the same conditions (inflation at +4.9%), will only reduce the purchase of government bonds, halving them, and does not plan to raise rates for the whole of 2022, given that for Lagarde inflation will fall over the next year.
Amazon, billion-dollar fine. The Italian Antitrust Authority has sanctioned a number of companies linked to Amazon for a total sum of €1.12 billion, in addition to imposing corrective measures. Amazon has allegedly exploited its market position to favor its logistics service to the detriment of its competitors. Particularly problematic are the exclusive benefits associated with Amazon Prime, the very label visible next to products on sale, and preventing third-party sellers from associating the Prime label with offers not handled by Amazon logistics. Amazon has called the fines outlined by Italian authorities “unjustified and disproportionate” and said it would appeal.
African Cup of Nations, controversy and denials. For days now, there have been various reports regarding the possible cancellation of the African continental soccer tournament, scheduled for next January. Due, in fact, to the worrying numbers of the Covid pandemic in Africa, and the low local vaccination rate, it has been suggested that the cup could be postponed. However, a statement from CAF, the African continental federation, and the organizing committee responded to these rumors. It was stressed that ad hoc, effective and reliable measures have been adopted to face the challenge posed by this pandemic. Fans will only be allowed access to stadiums if they are fully vaccinated and present a negative Pcr test of less than 72 hours or a negative Rdt antigen of less than 24 hours. In addition, for reasons of neutrality and to ensure greater security, an internationally recognized independent laboratory will test the players of the various national teams. The message is therefore clear: the African Cup of Nations must be played.
Mozambique, Total returns to Cabo Delgado. French multinational TotalEnergies has reopened an office on its Mozambican subsidiary in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. This move comes nine months after Total decided to suspend its operations due to insecurity in the region following a jihadist attack last March in the nearby city of Palma, in which dozens of people were killed. With this office Total wants to facilitate communication between the various parties involved in the liquefied natural gas exploration project in the Ruin Basin region. The local governor has warmly welcomed the multinational's return.
Madagascar, a new international airport opened. A new large international airport has been opened in Madagascar. The peculiarity of this international airport is that it has been financed entirely by French companies. In fact, Méridiam, Bouygues Bâtiments International, Colas and ADP ('Aéroports de Paris') have together invested 220 million euros in the facilities. The airport was built according to the latest international environmental standards and will be able to accommodate up to 1.5 million passengers per year. The airport concession will last twenty-eight years. “We hope that this new terminal will not only serve the economic and tourist development of the country, but will also become a place of life and a showcase for the flora and culture of Madagascar," said Julien Coffinier, CEO of Ravinala Airports.
Cameroon, more than 100,000 displaced in two weeks due to intercommunal clashes. The United Nations Refugee Agency has stated that at least 100,000 people have fled their homes in the last two weeks due to the intercommunal clashes through the northern region of Cameroon. According to the Agency, 85,000 Cameroonians have fled to nearby Chad while 15,000 people are still displaced within the country; However, given the problems in accessing humanitarian aid, it is vastly possible that the figures could be much higher than those indicated. The clashes, which began on 5 December in Ouloumsa, would be related to the water crisis and the climate emergency that the region and the country are facing, thus causing fierce competition for resources, especially water.
Africa, 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit is ongoing in Istanbul. The third summit of the Turkey-Africa partnership is being held from 17 December in Istanbul along with numerous sidelines meetings between Turkish President Rece Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and their counterparts from several African countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Burundi, Ivory Coast, and Zimbabwe. At the summit, however, there are members of government and ministers from 39 countries, including 13 presidents. The meeting was also attended by Félix Tshisekedi, president of the African Union, and Nana Akufo-Addo, representing ECOWAS. The summit's theme is the "Enhanced Partnership for Development and Prosperity" followed by the words of the Turkish Foreign Minister, who said that this meeting must mark a turning point for Turkish-African relations.
Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi
US: Biden raises the national debt ceiling. President Joe Biden has just signed an amendment allowing the US national debt ceiling to be raised by $2.5 trillion. This "ceiling" represents the amount the government can borrow to finance its domestic and foreign policies. However, since it is regulated by law, it requires the green light from Congress for approval. With this manoeuvre, the president avoids the risk of default of the entire national economic system. However, this is not the first time: over the last 50 years, successive administrations have constantly resorted to adjustments to the ceiling to avoid paralysis of the national economy.
USA, Blinken's return from South East Asia. Secretary of State Blinken was on a diplomatic tour of South East Asia when he had to return to the United States. The cause was a positive test result for one of his staff members, which was detected when the US delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur. Despite the setback, the secretary did not miss the opportunity to congratulate the Malaysian government on its efficient vaccination campaign. In addition, the delegations also discussed the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the export of vaccines through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access programme, in which Malaysia is a major player.
Canada, new reforestation plan. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told CBC News that the government has approved a reforestation plan to plant 2 billion trees by 2030. According to official projections provided by Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), the company entrusted with the work, 200 million trees will be planted annually by 2025, with a peak of 300 million from 2027. The project is part of the Liberal programme, which in 2019 announced a series of measures to combat climate change and improve biodiversity in the country. Through reforestation, an estimated two times the area of Prince Edward Island will be affected.
Chile, egalitarian marriage: approved. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has approved the bill legalising egalitarian marriage: a historic turning point that brings the country to the completion of an important step in the field of rights. If since 2015 the debate on rights found its timid space of vigour, culminating in 2017 with the presentation of the project by Michelle Bachelet's government and the approval of civil unions, it was (in truth) only in 2019 that important scenarios of revolution opened up: the powerful waves of protests and the strong push from the LGBTQ+ community, in particular the Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), forced Piñera himself not only to reverse course but also to speed up the pace on rights. The bill was approved by a large majority of left-wingers and some Christian Democrats.
Colombia, attack at the Camilo Daza airport in Cucuta. In the north-east of Colombia, near the border with Venezuela, the 'terrorist act' (as defined by President Duque and Defence Minister Molano) took place, resulting in the death of the alleged terrorist (during the first explosion) and that of two agents of the bomb squad trying to detonate the second device. The passenger terminal was not affected. According to Molano, the attack was coordinated by Colombian guerrillas active in Venezuela, specifying that the rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and dissident fighters of the unarmed rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), 'often plan, finance and develop their attacks from Venezuelan soil and, unfortunately, try to perpetrate them in Colombian territory'. Cucuta has recently witnessed an increase in fighting between rebel groups and drug gangs vying for control of coca crops and trafficking routes.
Ecuador, the traditional rhythms and songs of the Arrullo for a conversation on gender violence. Olaise Cortéz is the founder of the Tía Gachita collective, set up in 1986 in the San Lorenzo region, almost on the border with Colombia. It includes women from the local community but also Afro-Colombian refugees: 'determined warrior women' (as Olaise defines them) committed to reviving an ancient tradition, long used by their communities as a way of educating new generations. Despite the fact that Latin America is characterised as one of the regions with the highest rates of gender-based violence globally, and witnesses widespread violence, there are seldom active dialogues of contrast or prevention. For this reason, the collective's message is crucial: for the group's members, arrullos are a fundamental tool for initiating dialogue, which is necessary in lowland and coastal communities.
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
China, new U.S. sanctions against treatment of Uyghurs. On December 16, the U.S. Senate passed a new law imposing a total ban on imports of goods and services from the Xinjiang region unless evidence is provided that they were not produced or supplied through forced labor. This law would be the most recent of the sanctions imposed by the United States against China related to its alleged systematic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in its far western region against the Uighurs. U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to enact the law in the coming days, despite the hesitation of several senators and opposition from large corporations. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reported that it will take all necessary measures to safeguard its institutions and businesses in the region.
Vietnam, the first joint exercise with the People’s Liberation Army kicks off. On Monday, December 20, the first joint training between some elements of the People’s Liberation Army and others of the Vietnamese People’s Army began. The medical-military exercise will involve 84 doctors from the People’s Liberation Army who will join their counterparts from the Vietnamese People’s Army over the next seven days. The exercise, dubbed Peace Rescue 2021, will be held in Mong Cai, a Vietnamese city bordering China’s southwestern Guangxi region. This event would constitute the first foreign military exercise by the Chinese Army Medical Corps. The joint exercise would be part of a broader effort by Beijing to intensify its engagement with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Japan, deadly fire in a clinic in Osaka: 27 dead. On December 17, at least 27 people died in a fire on the 4th floor of a mental health clinic in the city of Osaka. According to a local doctor, who provided assistance during the emergency, most of the victims died from carbon monoxide inhalation. The fire is being treated by authorities as possible arson. In fact, according to police sources, a man in his 60s was seen carrying a paper bag leaking an unidentified liquid. Also according to a witness, it appears that the fire started shortly after the man left the bag near the 4th floor front desk. The fire was extinguished after half an hour and most of the people on other floors of the building were evacuated.
Taiwan, seeking greater cooperation with Lithuania. Following the withdrawal of the Lithuanian ambassador from Beijing last December 15, caused by a deterioration of diplomatic relations with China for allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius, the Taipei government has affirmed its willingness to deepen economic cooperation with the Baltic country. In fact, Taipei’s Foreign Minister praised the Lithuanian government’s firm stance against increasing pressure from China. The minister also said that Taipei will invite the island’s enterprises and public to fully support closer and mutually beneficial cooperation with Lithuania in such areas as economy, trade, science, technology, culture, education and other domains so that our two sides can deepen our partnership, prosperity and public welfare.
Indonesia, Semeru volcano erupts: about 50 victims. Last December 4, the inhabitants of Lumajang district, in the eastern part of Java island, received a rude awakening when on Saturday morning the Semeru volcano (a mountain about 3600 m high) suddenly erupted, unleashing a rain of debris, gas, and a tongue of lava that descended for more than 800 m from the ridge of the mountain hitting several houses, trapping many families inside. In the days immediately following the eruption, rescuers found at least 48 victims, and rescued hundreds of trapped wounded, most suffering from severe burns. At least 300 displaced families were forced to take refuge in other local villages, also affected by the debris rains. The inhabitants of neighboring villages have been informed by the authorities to remain at a distance of at least 5 kilometers from the affected area, being still very high the risk of a second eruption. According to the Indonesian geological agency, the eruption would have been caused by a landslide inside the crater of Mount Semeru that would have occurred due to heavy monsoon rains. Last December 18, in fact, the government raised the alert level, because of a possible landslide that could cause a new eruption similar to that of early December.
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
European Union, European Council of December 16. The end-of-year European summit held on Thursday 16 December in Brussels lasted over 14 hours. Various themes were dealt with: from the ways in which to deal with the Russian threats in Ukraine to the next choices in the energy field and the adoption of restrictions on free movement due to the pandemic. The only theme that found an almost total unity is the issue of Ukraine: the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is indeed a priority for the Union, therefore any aggressive action will have a high political and economic cost. Divisions instead on other issues: about energy, the Twenty-Seven have not agreed on how to respond to the sharp rise in prices; two camps have been formed regarding restrictions on free movement within the EU, on the one hand there are those who, like Italy, Portugal, Greece and Ireland, decided to require a test also for vaccinated people to enter into the national territory, on the other hand there is the coalition led by Germany and France, who do not want to further complicate movement within the Union, thus preserving, according to them, the proper functioning of the common area.
European Union, Breton in favour of nuclear power. In a period like the present, during which the issues related to energy supply and ecological transition are at the center of many debates, the words of the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, resonate strongly. His statements highlight a way forward, which is contested and not accepted by all, but according to his point of view is inevitable: “We need nuclear power and anyone who says otherwise is lying”. This is what Breton said in an interview with Bloomberg TV, stressing that today “we need to double the production of electricity, and there is no way to do it without nuclear power”. His is a clear position, which reopens a debate on nuclear energy that has never been fully resolved.
United Kingdom, the country falls back into the nightmare. Situation out of control in the country across the Manica Channel. For the third consecutive day in fact in the United Kingdom there is an absolute record of Covid infections. Friday, December 17 were 93,045 newly infected, with 111 deaths. The scariest thing is the new variant Omicron, which reached 3,201 new infections per day, doubling the numbers of the previous day and reaching a total of 14,909 infected. The head of the UK’s health safety agency, Jenny Harries, pointed out that Omicron is probably the biggest threat since the pandemic began. Harries pointed out that the real potential risk associated with this variant is its clinical severity. Amanda Pritchard, director of the NHS, also speaking to MPs stated that hospitalizations this year could exceed those of last winter. The pandemic wave linked to Omicron could therefore be more serious than the one that hit Europe in the same period last year.
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Albania and Kosovo are ready to provide military support to the US for missions in Ukraine. The two countries have explicitly sided with the US should they require military support to counter Russian expansionist aims in Ukraine. The anti-Russian front gathers new supporters. Tensions in the Balkans are increasing and an explicit offer of help has not been long in coming: the President of Kosovo is ready to take the field together with the United States as there is a strong bond of friendship. “The United States, as our main and irreplaceable strategic ally, knows best the operational capabilities and capacities of Kosovo's security forces, and if they assess that our capabilities can be engaged, as we have always promised, we will be ready to stand by them in any operation in the service of regional peace, security and stability” - affirmed Colonel Sefer Isufi - head of strategic communication at Kosovo's Ministry of Defense. Albania also lets it be known that “the Albanian Armed Forces will support any decision taken by the United States and NATO” in the figure of Armed Forces Colonel Ardian Lulaj.
Moldova, gas is lacking: Romania to the rescue. Given the recent tensions with the Russian company Gazprom, which occurred in October, and considering that Moldova is entirely dependent on Russian gas, Andrei Spinu - Deputy Prime Minister of Moldova - has entered into an agreement with his Romanian colleague to store gas reserves for Moldova as well, in order to avert possible energy crises. At the present moment, the current Moldovan legislation does not allow the country to store gas outside its borders. Therefore, an amendment is soon going to be enforced. The request for aid could only be addressed to Romania as it has a high storage capacity. In addition to this, the new Iași - Chișinău gas pipeline, which allows transporting up to two billion cubic meters per year, is also at the centre of discussions. The head of the Romanian company Transgaz - Petru Văduva - stated that their warehouses have not reached full capacity and, therefore, that he can reserve part of them to accommodate stocks for Moldova. Spinu believes that the new law will provide stocks for at least two months in winter.
Czech Republic, a center-right government is born. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala faces insidious challenges such as inflation and dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Fiala, a 57-year-old former professor, presides over a government made up of five parties: for the first time, representatives of the liberal Pirate Party are elected to govern together with the Civic Democrats, the conservative wing of which he is a representative. A more pro-Western coalition is brought in and is called upon to manage profoundly difficult challenges for families, linked to a soaring cost of living. Fiala inherits a potential race with large funding to invest in the construction of new nuclear power plants, worth billions of euros. Such a broad coalition gives Fiala 108 seats out of 200 in the Lower House of Parliament. However, the Party of Andrej Babis - the outgoing Prime Minister - is the one that, as a single party, has the largest number of votes, joined by the Far Right. The challenges that await Fiala are thus enormous: to reduce inflation and bring it below values of thirteen years ago and to overcome the energy crisis.
Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia, Afghan refugees in transit. After a few months of temporary standoff in the Balkans, Afghan refugees slowly leave Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia for Western Europe for longer stays. After months of waiting, security checks, Western countries begin to move the thousands of Afghans in batches. Albania has taken charge of the highest number of Afghans: 2,400, of whom 150 have just left the country thanks to the air connections provided by the U.S. and other EU countries. The others are still in Durres and Shengjin under Albanian protection, which is valid for one year. The Minister does not expect any more refugees in Albania; gradually, those present will be sorted in other States and the situation will return to normal. North Macedonia hosts 407. 76 have been destined for France, Ireland and Greece. In Kosovo there are no official estimates and human rights observers protest the lack of reliable data. There are probably 971 refugees in the country, divided between two camps. It seems that 265 were received in Canada, while a first group of 54 and a second of 79 in December left the country for the United States.
Russia, asked for exclusive talks with the United States. Russia denies preparing for an invasion but demands that Ukraine and other states near their borders, such as Georgia, do not join NATO. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki ruled out that there will be a European security table with Russia without European partners and allies present. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated that Russia has drafted and submitted for consideration two draft treaties intended for NATO and the United States. According to Ryabkov, Russia was forced to propose such measures because of the total lack of trust shown to it by NATO and the West. The proposed claims are unacceptable to the other side, as Russia demands the right of veto towards countries that might join NATO in the future. Moreover, it is requesting that the countries that joined NATO since 1997 to have no NATO weapons or troops permanently stationed there. This is an unacceptable request, especially since the Baltic Republics and Poland would have to be removed. The European Council summit reiterated that any aggression would bring “enormous consequences and serious costs”. Therefore, diplomacy will have to focus on four routes between Paris, Berlin, Kiev and Moscow, called “Format Normandy”. Russia prefers exclusive talks with the US. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia is increasing, not reducing, its troops on the border with “combat-ready troops, tanks, artillery, armored units, drones [and] electronic warfare systems”.
Russia and Ukraine, tensions: Russian conditions to NATO released. In an official communiqué released by the Russian Foreign Ministry, President Putin called for urgent and exclusive talks with the United States and laid down his unquestionable conditions for halting the growing Russian military presence in the Ukrainian Donec region, which is of great concern to the United States, the European Union and NATO. During the meeting of December 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry has approved the dissemination of a treaty, articulated in eight points, to be delivered to the U.S. within which it places its claims to proceed to the disarmament of troops positioned near the border with Ukraine. The First Article states, “The Party [...] shall not implement security measures taken by either Party individually or within the framework of an international organization, military alliance or coalition that would undermine the fundamental security interests of the other Party.” The Third: “The Parties will not use the territories of other states for the purpose of preparing or executing an armed attack against the other Party or other actions that undermine the other Party's core security interests”. The Fourth concerns instead the relationship with the U.S., which will have to commit themselves to preventing eastward expansions and the accession of former USSR states and will not be allowed to establish military bases in those territories if they are not NATO members.
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Libya, the eternal return of instability. In the face of an increasingly uncertain situation, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has decided to send Stephanie Williams, who had already contributed to the Geneva ceasefire in October 2020, to Libya. Meanwhile, the country seems to be sliding inexorably towards a new cycle of chaos and tensions. There were armed clashes in Sebha, in the southern Fezzan region, between militias belonging to Haftar's LNA and other groups linked to the former Tripolitan government. Haftar's forces subsequently entered the city. Tensions also erupted in Tripolitania, with militias besieging the offices of the government, the Presidential Council and the Ministry of Defence, only to withdraw later. Finally, the decisions of the Misurata Court of Appeal regarding certain candidacies further undermined the path to elections.
Iraq, end of US-led "combat mission". Qassim al-Araji, Iraq's national security adviser, said last Thursday that the final round of technical talks was held to formally end the US-led coalition's mission. The purpose of the mission had been the eradication of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region; after the heavy fighting that took place between 2014 and 2017 (in Iraq) and 2019 (in Syria), now ISIS is defeated at the territorial level, but jihadist cells are still present especially on the border with Syria and in the Iraqi Kurdistan. From 2020, however, US troops, down to 2,500 men, carry out assistance and training for Iraqi troops, from both an operational and intelligence point of view. The end of the mission can also be read in the pressure of Shiite political forces and pro-Iranian militias who have clamoured in Parliament (and through armed attacks) for the reduction of the US military presence in the country.
Tunisia, Kais Saied dominates the political and institutional impasse. The President of the Republic, during a speech broadcast on State TV, announced the new democratic road map of the country to unblock the situation that has been standing since 25 July. Following the announcement of a new transition phase, the powers of the Assembly of representatives remain suspended until the next legislative elections scheduled for December 17, 2022 ( anniversary of the outbreak of the Tunisian uprising); before them, precisely on 25 July, a constitutional referendum will lead to a revision of the 2014 Constitution theoretically still in force. The drafting of a new constitution will begin in January 2022, for which experts will be contacted and will be sent suggestions via a special online platform. Tunisian public opinion has split even more in two, as evidenced by the continuous demonstrations in the streets of pro and against Saied.
Turkey, just one black Friday? Following another cut in interest rates for the fourth consecutive month, on December 17 the Istanbul Stock Exchange marked a further thud for the Turkish lira, which faced another 7% down against the dollar. The Turkish President argues that a less strong currency can “help the country enjoy a boom in exports, investment and new jobs”, but discontent is beginning to emerge inside and outside the government. In opposition to these monetary policies, Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elva has given way to the "loyalist" Nureddin Nebati. In addition, while some government-linked companies listed on the stock exchange now appear to benefit from these devaluations, industrial and trade associations are complaining for a lack of competitiveness on the markets. These also include construction and textile companies – the traditional electoral base of the AKP party – united in discontent and hardship with the now impoverished lower middle classes. Hence, alarm bells for the political consensus.
Iran, (false) steps forward on nuclear power. After five months of impasse, the talks between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are back on stage in Vienna. However, the rumors that have leaked out in recent days once again echo the more classic dynamics. On the one hand, Iran continues to demand as a precondition the total removal of sanctions that are now strangling the country's economy. On the other hand, the United States remains faithful to the "line of caution" with respect to the regional expansionism of the other party. In general, in addition to the difficulties of a conversation through an intermediary, questions now arise on the actual role of the negotiating countries, since big absentees like Qatar, UAE and Italy itself are paradoxically the most commercially linked with Tehran. Therefore, if the negotiating spirit is tainted with a US trademark "original sin", a new way out could come from a pragmatic review of the negotiating bloc. Which penalty? A perceived strengthening of the Iranian leadership.
Samuele Abrami, Michele Magistretti and Sara Oldani
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Mozambique, jihadists behead evangelical pastor. Alleged ISIS-linked jihadists beheaded an evangelical pastor in the district of Macomia, in the northern province of Capo-Delgado. According to local sources, the victim's wife went to the local police command with a bag containing her husband's head. The assailants allegedly killed the evangelical pastor while he was in a field, and then ordered his wife to inform authorities of her husband's assassination at the hands of militants close to the Islamic State. As known, the province of Cabo-Delgado, rich in oil fields, is the scene of an Islamist insurgency that has caused so far over 3000 deaths and more than 800,000 displaced.
France, arrested two terrorists who planned attacks during the holidays. Two young men of 23 years have been arrested by the French authorities, accused of having prepared a plan that included a series of attacks during the holidays. The arrestees intended to target passers-by in places that are particularly popular during the holidays, such as shopping malls, universities, and crowded streets. According to the investigating authorities, in the messages exchanged between the two terrorists, worrying phrases emerged, such as that of "dying as martyrs" at the hands of the French police forces. One of the two, already monitored by French services for his radicalization, would have admitted the plan, while the other denied his involvement.
Brussels, European leaders warn Moscow: huge consequences if Ukraine invades. At the European Council summit, the heads of state and government of the 27 member countries opted for a hard line against Moscow on the Ukrainian issue, foretelling the Kremlin to resort to an unprecedented response in case of military aggression against Kiev. The European Council statement follows the escalation of tensions in the Donbass in recent weeks. The increase in the number of Russian soldiers in the area - around 114,000 according to Ukrainian sources - as well as the accusations made by US Secretary of State Blinken regarding Moscow's secret plans to destabilise Ukraine from within, have brought the issue back to the centre of Brussels' defence and security interests.
West Bank, attack on a rabbinical college. The attack took place at the Jewish school of Homesh, a few kilometres from the city of Jenin, in the north of the region. According to the Israeli authorities, the attack, in which a 20-year-old student was killed, was carried out by a commando of a few people. Tel Aviv has already mobilised army units to search the surrounding Palestinian villages, where, according to intelligence sources, the attackers may have found shelter.
Vincenzo Battaglia and Davide Shahhosseini
UNHRC, investigation for war crimes in Ethiopia approved. The Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UNHRC) met last December 17 to vote on the opening of an investigation, and the creation of a panel of independent experts, on the possible violation of human rights committed by the forces at play during the conflict in Ethiopia. The resolution was brought to the vote by the EU, and passed (out of 47 total members of the Council) with 21 votes in favor, 15 against, including Russia and China, and 11 abstentions. In particular, among those who abstained were several African nations, an indication of their concern regarding the situation in Ethiopia, which defined the EU-sponsored resolution as characterized by a neo-colonialist mentality. Nada al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported during Friday's session that our office continues to receive credible reports of serious human rights violations and abuses from all sides, and that the humanitarian impact is increasingly dramatic.
IAEA, partial agreement reached with Iran on oversight of the nuclear program. On December 15, the President of the IAEA - Rafael Grossi - and the Iranian government reached a partial agreement on the monitoring and surveillance of Iranian nuclear facilities. In particular, the authorities agreed on the installation of new surveillance cameras at the centrifuge wing of the Tesa Karaj nuclear complex, where last June - following a still unidentified attack on the plant - Iran had removed IAEA surveillance cameras for "security reasons" and refused to show the incident’s footage. In a press release, the IAEA reported that the agreement "will allow us to resume the necessary continuity of knowledge at this plant," and that the new cameras would be installed "in the coming days."
UNICEF, at least 1 million children are at risk in Lebanon. The UN children's agency called on Lebanon to take urgent action to protect children after documenting a spike in child labor rates and food insecurity between April and October. Children in particular have been hit hard by the country's deep economic crisis exacerbated by the global coronavirus pandemic, which has left nearly eight in 10 people poor and threatens the education of some 700,000 children, including 260,000 Lebanese, according to a recent UNICEF report. The report adds that nearly half of all households had insufficient drinking water in October, with a third blaming high cost as a major factor. The UNICEF report also highlighted that fewer than three in 10 families receive social assistance, often leading them to take "desperate measures," including relying on child labor. In fact, the proportion of Lebanese families sending children to work increased sevenfold - to seven percent - between April and October.
European Union, stalemate at the summit of December 16. The internal clashes on the validity of the Green Pass, the tensions with Russia and those on energy have persisted throughout the 14 hours of the European summit held on December 16. The Commission announced a review of the Green Pass to update it in light of the third booster dose to achieve a common, EU-wide approach. Tensions with Russia were a focal point on the agenda, solidarity with Kiev was not slow in coming from European leaders. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is already completed but has not yet been approved by the EU. In fact, as the issues with Russia and Nord Stream 2 are closely connected with the energy negotiations, no agreement has been reached between the European leaders. The stalemate brings with it irreconcilable positions of several member states.
WFP, 15 million people assisted in Afghanistan in 2021. The World Food Programme has enhanced during 2021 humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, with the aim of reaching in the next year more than 23 million people in extreme conditions of hunger. In 2021, WFP assisted 15 million people with more than 200,000 tons of food, including 7 million in November alone, a significant increase from four million in September, transporting more than 50,000 tons of food. In fact, it is estimated that 98% of the Afghan population does not consume enough food, an increase of 17% compared to August.
Francesco Ancona and Valeria Lavano
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union, Sub-Saharan Africa
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security, Latin America
Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America
Elisa Maggiore: Latin America
Federico Brignacca: Human Rights
Francesco Ancona: Asia and the Far East, International Organizations
Giulia Patrizi: Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Giulio Cofini: Sub-Saharan Africa
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance
Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa
Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa
Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa
Valeria Lavano: International Organizations
Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security