In the new issue of FtW we describe the diplomatic activity to avert a further escalation in the Russian-Ukrainian war by both the great powers - the US and China - and regional powers. Other reasons for tension, on the other hand, can be found in Sudan, where the UN peacekeeping mission has been extended, and in the terrorist sphere, the proclamation of a new ISIS caliph. Also noteworthy is the election of Yoon Suk-yoel as president of South Korea.
All this and much more in the 80th issue of Framing the World!
- HUMAN RIGHTS
- ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
- SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
- NORTH AMERICA
- LATIN AMERICA
- ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
- WESTERN EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION
- CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
- MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
- TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
- INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS
Afghanistan, not enough is being done to tackle the Afghan hunger crisis. Since the beginning of the year, some 13,000 newborns have died from malnutrition or hunger-related illness. More or less 95% of the population in Afghanistan do not have enough to eat and 3.5 million children are in need of nutritional support. The United Nations called the situation "a crisis of food insecurity and malnutrition of unprecedented proportions”. Human Rights Watch reports the words of an MSF doctor, according to which “half of those we admit to intensive care are also malnourished.” Many countries have pledged humanitarian aid, which has so far been insufficient. Afghanistan also urgently needs a functioning banking system to deal with the crisis. Most of the banks in the country today are barely operating. Over the last few weeks, the United States and the World Bank have released billions of dollars in assistance, but restrictions on the Central Bank of Afghanistan are still making large transactions or withdrawals impossible.
Cambodia, opposition politicians convicted in mass trial. A Cambodian court convicted 20 opposition politicians and activists on March 17, after an unfair trial in which there was no credible evidence against the defendants. The trial appears to have been aimed at isolating political opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), currently in power. Members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were sentenced to between five and ten years in prison. Seven people currently abroad were tried and convicted without actually being present and sentenced to ten-year prison sentences based on three counts of unsubstantiated charges of conspiring against the State, with an attempt to dismantle Cambodian economy and use Covid-19 to undermine the government’s credibility. Since the government intensified its crackdown on the political opposition after the ruling-party-controlled Supreme Court dissolved the Party in November 2017, many activists fled the country because they feared arbitrary arrest or other forms of retaliation against them and their families.
Poland, enormous support of the Polish authorities towards Ukrainian refugees. The number of arrivals passed the two million within three weeks, as declared by the Polish border guard. Along with private partners and in close cooperation with the local authorities, UNHCR is establishing an assistance programme in the country worth over 190 million dollars, in order to help refugees in meeting their basic needs until they are able to gain support from the State. The Polish government estimates that around three quarters of those who have arrived in Poland will remain there. Among these, 300,000 are currently being housed in Warsaw, whose population has consequently increased by 17%. It is estimated that 100,000 refugees will stay in Kraków. Last week, a new law was introduced to support Ukrainian refugees, featuring the legalisation of their stay in Poland and giving them access to work, healthcare, education and other benefits.
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Stocks, back in the green. The drop in oil prices, which in a few days went from $140 to $95, the positive American economic data, and the FED's decision to raise rates by 25 basis points have put the American and European stock exchanges in a good mood, with the former even closing the best week since November 2020 with increases between 5 and 6%, even if indices such as the S&P500 and Nasdaq remain 7 and 13% below their respective highs. On the other hand, Chinese stock exchanges collapsed (Hong Kong up to -26% since mid-February) for three reasons: the return of covid restrictions in China, the fears related to the war and the sanctions against Russia, and the negative data coming after the crackdown imposed by Xi on the private sector in the last months of 2021. However, Vice Premier Liu's partial reversal expressing support for the market economy and financial stability was enough to spark generalised rises of more than 15% in the span of a few hours.
Nickel, sky-high prices. In the last weeks, we have almost become accustomed to hearing of record rises for oil, gas, and wheat, but these pale in comparison to what we have seen in the nickel market, a metal fundamental in the production of batteries and of which Russia is the third world producer, which in less than 24 hours has risen 250% to reach 100,000 $/ton, compared to the 10/20,000 $ at which it has been traded for most of the last decade. The speculative rise did not only cause great financial difficulties for short-sellers, but also a systemic risk for the market itself, given that several brokers would have defaulted, with worldwide repercussions. The London Metal Exchange, therefore, decided to suspend trading and cancel all transactions on Tuesday, March 8, bringing the price back to Monday's close ($48.078/ton), which then fell to $36,000 in the following days.
Nickel, a "short squeeze". Nickel's record rise was only minimally caused by geopolitical tensions. As Bloomberg reports, in the past few days we have witnessed a classic "short squeeze", a situation whereby those who bet on a price decline are challenged by rising prices (either naturally or because they are manipulated by other buyers) and find themselves having to pay new capital to guarantee their short (a "margin call") or to buy the asset underlying the short ("short covering") and thus raise prices even higher. In the case of nickel, the seller was Chinese billionaire Xiang Guangda, who was counting on a substantial decline in nickel caused by the increase in production of his own company and instead lost $8 billion, but only on paper thanks to the intervention of the Chinese government that mediated with the creditor banks.
Russia, default less likely. The first key date for Russia, at least financially speaking, passed without doing any damage. The Russian Ministry of Finance has successfully transferred, albeit a day late, the $117 million of interest due on the coupons of two bonds maturing last Wednesday. The creditors have reported that they have received the payments, something not at all taken for granted given the sanctions imposed on several Russian banks and the central bank itself. In the coming days, however, the test will be more severe, with maturities in March for $615 million and a maturing $2 billion bond that will have to be paid in full in April. Given the concerns of several banks about transactions with the Russian government, the U.S. Treasury has had to confirm that there are currently no legality issues, which has pushed the default risk for Russia away, at least for now.
Automotive, bad news. New difficulties for the European automotive sector, one of the most important industries in the old continent. In February, the weakness of the market and the shortage of some components led to a -6.7% drop in sales (-4% for Renault, -12% for Volkswagen, and -18% for Stellantis), thus recording the worst February record. This will be compounded by the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, the former an important supplier of wire harnesses, the latter an important market for luxury models, as well as a producer of nickel and palladium. A further drop in world production of 2.6 million cars is therefore estimated, including 1.7 million in Europe alone and 480,000 in the U.S., with BMW revising its margins downward from 8-10% to 7-9%.
Nigeria, inflation rises to 15%. President Buhari apologizes for petrol shortages. Through an official statement issued on all public channels, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari has apologized to his countrymen following severe oil shortages and problems with access to electricity. Since February, the country, one of the most important producers and exporters of hydrocarbon products, has been paradoxically facing a long period of oil shortage that has caused queues at petrol stations. A deficiency that comes with the news of a further increase in inflation that rises to 15.70%, caused both by the rise in food prices such as bread and cereals and by oil shortages.
Sudan, UN peacekeeping mission extended for another year. The United Nations Security Council on Thursday has decided to extend the active peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for a further year through a resolution adopted with a result of 13-0. The only two states to abstain were China and Russia to reiterate how such a deployment of forces continues to be unbalanced according to them. The UN mission, called UNMISS, has deployed 19,000 units in the region, and the US ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield, reiterated that it is necessary to "protect civilians and ensure the necessary humanitarian support in the region." However, according to their Russian and Chinese counterparts, the resolution takes too much account of the negative aspects and not of the positive developments in terms of human rights in the region.
Chad, peace talks between the military government and rebel groups. Peace talks began on 14 March in Doha, Qatar, with the aim of ending the rebellion in the country, ideally leading to the subsequent holding of elections. These meetings involve Chad's military government and some 44 armed rebel and opposition groups. Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the African Union Commission, emphasised the need for both sides to make concessions and try to engage in constructive dialogue. However, the process towards peace is likely to be long and complicated. The success of the talks would help stabilise a country that has suffered several harsh internal conflicts since its independence from France in 1960. Moreover, an internal reconciliation in Chad could have positive effects on the entire Sahel region.
Senegal, offensive launched against separatist group MFDC. The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance is a separatist group based in the southern region of Senegal. It is against this group that an offensive has been launched by the country's authorities. The Senegalese army claimed that the fighting took place as part of an operation to counter illegal logging on the border with Gambia. This action also follows the capture of seven Senegalese soldiers by the rebels and the death of four others. The seven ECOMIG soldiers were subsequently released. The new offensive aims to destroy armed gangs linked to the separatist group, thus preserving the integrity of the national territory.
Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi
Possible new recall of the anti-Covid19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech have applied to U.S. Regulatory authorities for authorization for a second booster of the Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and over. If the good and drug administration granted the authorization, the booster would go to a group of people who figure as those at the highest risk of serious illness and death due to Covid-19. Numerous studies have shown that the protection of the initial booster dose begins to decline after several months, particularly against the Omicron variant from Coronavirus.
US announces new sanctions after North Korea missile tests. The Treasury Department has introduced sanctions against three Russian-based companies that would have helped North Korea develop its military capabilities to allow it, in two recent launches, to test its most efficient ICBM. The Pentagon said the purpose of the tests for the koreans was to evaluate the range of the ICBM system before conducting a full test in the future, disguising it as a space launch: North Korea intent would be to put a spy satellite into orbit.
US farmers also grapple with rising costs. The war in Ukraine has caused the cost of feed for livestock to rise. The Russians invasion could force some Midwestern ranchers to pay up to double for feed- a squeeze that could drive farms to the brink of bankruptcy. Although the prices of raw material, such as cornmeal, wheat, soybean, an essential part of the nourishment for steers, pigs chickens, turkeys, were already rising sharply before the start of the war, from now on they have skyrocketed, showing, how the conflict is affecting industries globally. Farmers have been hit hard by rising fuel costs as many of them use diesel to power their tractors and other heavy machinery.
USA, President Zelensky's message to Congress. On Wednesday, 16 March, Ukrainian President Zelensky appeared before the US Congress by videoconference. In his message, he renewed his call for political and military aid not only to the US, but to the whole world. During his speech, which was greeted by a huge ovation from members of Congress, Zelensky reiterated how Ukraine needs additional means to fight the Russian invasion and how its people have been living their own 11/09 for more than three weeks now. To this end, Biden responded that he would allocate a package of an additional $800 million worth of weapons and drones to be sent to Ukraine. However, the call for a humanitarian no-fly zone still seems far from being considered.
US, meeting between Sullivan and Yang. On Monday, 14 March, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Policy Chief Yang Jiechi met in Rome. The outcome of the meeting, which lasted over seven hours, has been kept confidential for now. Although it was a series of meetings aimed at fostering bilateral Washington - Beijing relations, the Ukrainian issue was certainly discussed. The Biden administration wants to prevent China from being indirectly and directly involved in the conflict, asking for more commitment from its Chinese counterpart in the search for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. In addition, Washington wants to prevent China from providing any kind of aid to its Russian counterpart, be it economic, political and/or military.
Canada, NCTR will have access to Oblate archives. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will have access to the archives of the Oblate order. Raymond Frogner, head of the NCTR archives, will be able to examine the records of the Roman Catholic order, which has run more than 48 residential schools in Canada, including the one in Kamloops, British Columbia, where the remains of more than 200 children were found last year. The decision is undoubtedly an important step towards achieving the truth on one of the darkest pages of Canadian history and for the Catholic Church.
Emanuele Volpini and Federico Pani
Guatemala stepped aside from the law for the protection of life and family. Last week the Congress of Guatemala passed a new law for the protection of life and family with an overwhelming majority. The decree, which only 8 out of 160 deputies voted against, provides for the absolute prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples, and at the same time an increase in the penalty for those who resort to abortion. On March 15, however, the parliament withdrew the bill, as President Giammattei had threatened to veto it, stating that the law was unconstitutional and in violation of the country's international agreements.
Chile, a multinational and intercultural state. The Constitutional Convention approved on Friday an article of the new Constitution declaring Chile as a "regional, pluri-national and intercultural state". According to the article, Chile recognizes the coexistence of different nations and peoples within the unitary state. For the first time, Chile convenes representatives of indigenous peoples to define aspects of state policy, and the proposal states that "indigenous peoples and nations pre-exist and have inhabited the territory since ancestral times, they are entitled to free determination, as well as other collective rights recognized by the Constitution". María Elisa Quinteros, president of the Constitutional Convention, says "We are giving concrete answers to the requests that are placed here, legitimately approving each of the norms, we already have a draft with specific articles, so we are very happy and hopeful".
Venezuela towards the destruction of forests. Over the past twenty years, Venezuela has lost nearly 1.5% of its virgin rainforest. The forest is littered with empty areas, where only sand and mud remain. This was mainly due to the growing illegal mining of minerals. The Maduro government, instead of trying to stop the predicted catastrophe, is supporting it. The country is in serious economic difficulty, and in the search for new funds the country has allowed the rush to extract minerals. "Mining is out of control," says environmentalist Alejandro Álvarez Iragorry. Today Venezuela is the first country in the Amazon for illegal mining.
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
Japan, a M7.4 earthquake hit the northeast. A powerful earthquake measuring up to upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale from 0 to 7 struck off the coast of Fukushima. It left at least two dead and over 150 injured. The earthquake has been felt in nearer areas like Tome and Zao in the prefecture of Miyagi ea Soma and in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the earthquake occurred at around 11:36 p.m. off Fukushima, with a depth of 57 kilometers. The agency believes that the latest earthquake’s epicenter was at almost the same location as the last big earthquake, which took place on Feb. 13, 2021. A man in his 60s was found on the ground outside his home in Soma and later confirmed dead at the hospital, while another man in his 70s in Tome apparently died of shock. According to East Japan Railway Co., the Yamabiko 223 train on the Tohoku Shinkansen line, traveling from Tokyo to Sendai, derailed between Fukushima and Shiroishi-Zao stations. A tsunami alert is currently underway in the Miyagi and Fukushima areas.
South Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol is the new president. The conservative political figure vows national unity after winning the most closely fought election in recent South Korean history. Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative former top prosecutor, has defeated his chief liberal rival Lee Jae-myung. With more than 98 percent of the ballots counted, Yoon had 48.6 percent of the votes against his rival Lee Jae-myung’s 47.8 percent. At a separate ceremony with supporters, Yoon said he will put top priority on “national unity,” adding that all people should be treated equally regardless of their regional, political and socioeconomic differences. Yoon added that he would honor the constitution and the parliament and work with opposition parties when he takes office as the country’s next leader, calling the election result a “victory of the great people”. Yoon is to take office in May and serve a single five-year term
Vietnam, the EU-Mekong cooperation conference. This is the first time that Vietnam has hosted the EU-Mekong Cooperation Conference. The hybrid conference, taking place at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, gathered over 50 onsite and more than 100 online delegates of diplomats, government officials, academics and journalists from Europe and Mekong countries. The main theme was “the opportunities and challenges to the collaboration of the EU and Mekong countries”. The conference was divided into four main sessions: Assessment of EU-Mekong cooperation, examination of major trends in the Mekong subregion and how they are affecting sustainable development, opportunities and challenges for Mekong’s sustainable development, and opinions from Europe in strengthening cooperation between the EU, its member States, the Mekong countries and the entire sub-region.
China, Russia asks for military aid. Several official U.S. government and intelligence sources have confirmed that Russia would unofficially ask the Chinese government for war material as a form of assistance for Russian troops engaged in Ukraine, and that China would be inclined to provide it. In this regard, the U.S. has officially disclosed that if such assistance were to actually be provided, there would be consequences for the People’s Republic. During a press release on March 14 (which was also attended by a representative of the Chinese government), Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor of the United States, stated that any form of aid to Russia (financial or war) “will be prevented”. In response to that comment, Chinese Foreign Ministry representative Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. government of “spreading disinformation against China regarding the situation in Ukraine”.
North Korea, the latest missile test failed. On March 16, South Korean governmental and military sources confirmed the launch of an “unidentified object” on North Korean territory, attributable to yet another missile launch test by the North: the second of the month of March. However, while the first test conducted at the beginning of March (just ahead of the presidential elections in South Korea) was successful, this time it would seem that the missile, launched from a site not far from the Pyongyang airport, “exploded a few moments after the launch”. A contact person for Seoul’s Chief of Staff said that “the launch of the projectile appears to have been malfunctioning as it failed to reach a certain altitude in its initial boost phase”.
India, $1 billion aid sent to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has secured a $1 billion line of credit from India to buy urgent food and medicine, while the IMF has confirmed it will consider discussing a possible bailout. The South Asian island nation is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with crippling shortages of basic goods and fears of defaulting on its foreign debt or asking bondholders for more loans. India and Sri Lanka formally entered into a credit-granting agreement last Thursday during Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi. “India stands with Sri Lanka”, Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar reported on a Twitter post.
Francesco Ancona and Agnese Marchesini
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
Draghi pushes for a European response on energy and defence. An important summit was held in Rome between Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and, via video link, the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. During this meeting, the main topics discussed were how to tackle the energy crisis that is affecting the continent. In particular, they discussed price caps, common storage and new energy market rules. The meeting also discussed defence. “The energy challenge goes beyond the emergency of war, we must act now” said Draghi, who added, “we will have very significant investments in defence in the years to come, and these expenditures, like others needed to respond to supranational strategic challenges, cannot be tackled at a national level: we need a European response”.
The European Commission will soon give its opinion on Ukraine’s accession. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a tweet at the end of a conversation with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in which he stressed that the two had had an in-depth conversation, in which the central topic was EU enlargement to Ukraine. “The Commission’s opinion on our application for EU membership will be prepared in a few months” she specified. Zelensky confirmed that “the Ukrainian government and the Commission have received the necessary indications” and that “we are moving together towards the strategic goal”.
France, Macron wants to strengthen the army. President Emmanuel Macron, presenting his electoral programme ahead of the upcoming presidential elections on 10 and 24 April, stressed the need to strengthen the national army. This is because, according to Macron, the army must be ready to respond to “a high-intensity war” that could return to Europe. Macron insisted on the need to strengthen the autonomy of France and Europe in the face of future challenges, starting with the defence sector. Macron, who is the favourite in the polls for the Elysée vote, mentioned the possibility of having a defence budget equivalent to 50 billion euros in 2025, so as to be able to invest in cutting-edge technologies in the sector. Macron also intends to double the number of reservists in the military and increase the number of officers and gendarmes.
Council of Europe, Russia is no longer a member. In recent days, Russia’s exclusion from the Council of Europe has been ruled following the invasion of Ukraine, but Moscow has officially exited the Council “independently”, announcing its withdrawal before the Committee of Ministers’ declaration. Russia has also announced its intention to denounce the European Convention on Human Rights, effectively ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights over its territory. This would remove important protections for millions of people, despite the fact that Moscow has at times in the past failed to respect the Court’s decisions already.
Brussels, new proposals to support companies affected by the effects of the war in Ukraine. The European Commission has started to present some proposals with the aim of limiting the negative impact of the conflict on the economy of EU countries. These proposals concern support to compensate for increases in electricity and gas prices and greater flexibility in the use of state aid packages to allow EU countries to support their economies. It has been announced that Russian companies and those already sanctioned by Brussels will be excluded from this state aid. Member States will now have to evaluate the proposals so that they can entry into force.
Coronavirus, many European countries begin to lift restrictions. Although Italy and other European countries have seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, probably due to the rapid circulation of the omicron subvariant BA.2, many EU States are gradually abandoning restrictions. Italy has just announced the end of the state of emergency on 31 March, and the government has presented the new decree for the gradual lifting of all measures aimed at combating the spread of the virus. For many countries, the goal now is to exit the emergency phase, but this will depend on how the situation develops in the coming weeks, particularly with regard to deaths and hospitalization rates.
Bianca Franzini and Andrea Ghilardi
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Bulgaria, signals of political fragmentation within the new government due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite the support to Putin’s politics has been always present in Bulgaria, these last weeks are strongly challenging the very young government of Kiril Petkov. On one hand Bulgaria joined EU in sanctioning Russia but did not adopt the energy ban against it; in this halfway direction, which is characterizing the Bulgarian relations with Moscow, Bulgaria has supported the creation of a NATO battle group within its soil while its defence minister was very sceptic about it. On the other hand, despite Sofia’s parliament actions is showing its disapproval of Russian invasion, the actual government is balancing itself between a pro-Western liberal movement and, the “Russian-friendly” - Bulgarian Socialist Party BSP - which, in holding the post of deputy prime minister has a level of support within the country that cannot be ignored.
Czech Republic, the State-controlled energy group ČEZ begins the process to build a new nuclear reactor. During the past week ČEZ group began to start the long research of a company to build a new reactor in the at the Dukovany nuclear site. As stated by the Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Síkela, the project will be the biggest investment done by Czech Republic with a cost of 160 Billions CZK (6.427.945.000 €), a number that will vary depending on the bid’s winner for the construction of the reactor. This decision comes in a very delicate period for the debate over nuclear power and energy independence due to the conquest by Russian army of different nuclear sites in Ukraine and the energy prices huge increase and its subsequent effects on the global economy.
Moldova, the shadow of Russian invasion of Ukraine lead to boost the cooperation with EU. On the 17th of March, the European council approved the decision to help Moldova in managing the migratory flow of refugees coming from Ukraine, through the implementation of FRONTEX system in the country. As a consequence of the invasion, more than 300.000 refugees have already arrived in Moldova causing a potential humanitarian emergency since the country is struggling in helping them. FRONTEX is EU’s main tool for the control of European borders and migration management, the plan would consist in sending teams of expert to assist Moldova authorities with registration of migrants in order to guarantee the safety of the operation. Nevertheless, the final approval must be given by the European Parliament which is expected to deliberate about this, very soon.
Ukraine, PMs of Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia visit Kyiv supporting the Ukrainian government. by the evening of March 15th, the three prime ministers met the Ukrainian leader Zelensky in Kyiv. Despite the visit had just the intention to show the European support to the Ukrainian cause, it must be noticed that the perception of the three countries towards the Russian violent invasion is in some way different from that of others European countries. their common past with the Soviet Union, the similarities in terms of language and culture make the situation very worsening for these countries and their people, seeing in their Ukrainian neighbours’ fate a very important moment for their own future.
Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Libya, governments of stability and national unity in a country on the brink of the precipice. After receiving the investiture of the parliament in Tobruk, the newly elected Bashaga seemed intent on taking Tripoli. The Misurata militias loyal to him headed towards the capital, but finding the road blocked they did not engage in a confrontation and the situation crystallised into an armed stalemate. Meanwhile, mediation attempts by UN envoy Stephanie Williams must promote dialogue in a highly unstable scenario. Some minor figures in Dabaiba's government of national unity resigned, a sign of a creaking within the Tripolitan government. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have reiterated their support for the House of Representatives in Tobruk, and this seems to have contributed to the failure of the two Libyan prime ministers to meet in Turkey.
Israel, new distensions and the challenge for the Russian-Ukrainian dialogue. The upheaval brought about by the Russian invasion of Ukraine could accelerate certain dynamics, such as the new path of rapprochement between Israel and Turkey. Israeli President Herzog made a trip to the Anatolian country to meet his counterpart. The two heads of state explored the various possibilities for cooperation, particularly in the energy sector, whose strategic importance has increased since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war. In the meantime, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid confirmed Israel's full alignment with the Western front, assuring that his country will not become a tool to circumvent sanctions against Moscow. Israel remains one of the frontline actors in reaching a possible ceasefire.
Lebanon, Prime Minister Mikati will not run again in the elections. Two months after Sa'ad Hariri's retirement from political life, the decision of the current Prime Minister Mikati upends the electoral campaign and the balance of power in Lebanon. Mikati, a Sunni Muslim as Hariri, stated in a statement that his decision was made for the good of the country and to renew the Lebanese political arena, after more than two years of economic-financial crisis and social tensions. The fact remains that his non-reappointment, like that of other Sunni politicians, risks undermining the fragile electoral process scheduled for May 15: in fact, the Lebanese political system provides very specific sectarian quotas for the distribution of power, of which the Sunnis represent 1/3 of the population. The decision of Hariri first and Mikati now, caused a political vacuum within the Sunni representation, to be seen as a loss (though partial) of influence by the Gulf countries in the Lebanese enclave.
Turkey, noisy diplomacy. Last March 10, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu successfully brought together counterparts from Russia and Ukraine for a meeting at the Antalya Forum. Although the mediation for a ceasefire was unsuccessful, Turkey managed to position itself as a possible peacemaker, even earning praise from NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg and various U.S. summits. In light of Ankara's recent reunions with Israel, some are already talking about an abandonment of an ambiguous balancing act in favor of a realignment with "the Western bloc." However, the choice to call off some rounds of sanctions and to keep the airspace open to the Russians, show that the price to be paid to save the growing economic-military relations with Kiev cannot be a total alienation from Moscow, still determinant for the interests in Syria, Libya, economy and tourism. Hence, the insistence to prepare a table for what would be a sensational Putin-Zelensky direct talks.
Samuele Abrami, Michele Magistretti and Sara Oldani
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Venezuela, US delegation on mission to Caracas. According to the British news agency Reuters, senior Biden administration officials, including Latin American affairs adviser Juan González, went on a mission to the South American country on 5-6 March, where they held a series of meetings with President Nicolas Maduro. According to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the talks focused on energy security issues and the detention conditions of US citizens. The Venezuelan leader himself, in a televised message, confirmed the resumption of dialogue with Washington after years of frost: in 2019, the then Trump administration had decided to break off diplomatic relations with Caracas, going so far as to recognise the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as the legitimate president and denouncing electoral fraud in the re-election of Maduro.
Ukraine, Zelensky gave a speech at the US Congress. President Volodymyr Zelenskyj, in a video link from Kiev, addressed the US Congress calling for greater support - especially on a military level - for the Ukrainian resistance. Noting that the no-fly zone is not, at least for the moment, a viable option for NATO, the Ukrainian leader called for a greater effort on Washington's part on the economic sanctions front, so that all major American companies suspend their investments in the Russian market - first and foremost the energy market -. A manoeuvre of this scale could make Moscow's access to a large part of the revenues on which the financing of its war machine is based more complicated.
ISIS, a new Caliph proclaimed. Weeks after the US blitz that resulted in the killing of the previous leader, the Islamic State has proclaimed its new 'Caliph'. The announcement was made via an audio message, from the spokesman of the jihadist group Abu Omar al Muhaijr, broadcast by the al Furqan Media network. The battle name of the new ISIS leader is Abu Hasan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, as stated in the announcement. Little is yet known about him and, according to Reuters, he may be Juma Awad al-Badr, brother of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, the news has not been confirmed and also the Pentagon has remained silent on this information.
ISIS, what threat? The new leader of ISIS inherits a fragmented organisation divided into numerous cells, certainly weaker than in the past. Nevertheless, ISIS has raised its head in the last period, increasing the level of its threat. In the Syrian theatre, the Jihadist group recently carried out an attack near Palmyra, which resulted in the death of dozens of Damascus soldiers. This ambush took place about a month after the clamorous offensive against the prison of Ghwerain, in the north-east of Syria, which led to the escape of several jihadist elements. Another scenario that gives rise to considerable concern is the Afghan-Pakistani one, where the ISIS-Khorasan cell is particularly operative and dangerous. On 4 March, an attack against a Shiite mosque in Peshawar (Pakistan) caused the death of at least 56 people. Attention, finally, also to the Sahel, where the perennial political instability and the socio-economic complexities represent a fertile ground for the continual development of the groups tied to ISIS (and not only).
Vincenzo Battaglia and Davide Shahhosseini
ICC, opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine. The Presidency of the International Criminal Court assigned the situation in Ukraine to Preliminary Chamber II, composed of Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, Judge Tomoko Akane and Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala. This decision followed the memorandum of the ICC Prosecutor, Karim A. A. Khan QC, dated March 1, 2022, through which he informed the Presidency of his intention to submit a request for permission to open an investigation into this situation. The Prosecutor notified the courts about his intention to submit a request under Article 15(3) of the Rome Statute for authorization to open an investigation regarding the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine from November 21, 2013 onwards. According to the Rome Statute, once the Prosecutor submits his request, it is up to the judges of Preliminary Chamber II to decide whether or not to authorize the Prosecutor to open an investigation into the situation.
UNICEF, Yemen: hunger at unprecedented levels. Yemen's already dire hunger crisis is teetering on the brink of a full-blown catastrophe, with 17.4 million people now in need of food assistance and a growing proportion of the population facing emergency levels of hunger. The humanitarian situation in the country is set to worsen further between June and December 2022, with the number of people likely to be unable to meet their minimum food needs likely to reach a record 19 million in that period, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF warned, after the release today of a new Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis on Yemen. At the same time, another 1.6 million people in the country are expected to fall into emergency hunger levels, bringing the total to 7.3 million by the end of the year, the agencies added.
NATO, military plane crashes; search for crew begun. A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey with four crew members aboard has crashed during an exercise in Norway, according to the Norwegian military. The Osprey was reported missing at 6:26 p.m. March 18 Central European Time, about 30 minutes after it was scheduled to land. "The Osprey was heading north in Nordland toward Bodø, where it was scheduled to land shortly before 6 p.m.," a Norwegian Army statement reported. The last known position of the aircraft was over Saltfjellet." "We discovered a plane that crashed," said Nordland Police Chief of Staff Bent Eilertsen. "We did not see any signs of life." An initial statement from the U.S. Marine Corps confirmed the crash, but did not reveal whether crew members were missing or injured, nor did it release the name of the unit of which the Osprey was a part.
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Agnese Marchesini: Asia and the Far East
Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union, Sub-Saharan Africa
Bianca Franzini: Western Europe and the European Union
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security
Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America
Elisa Maggiore: Latin America
Federico Brignacca: Human Rights
Federico Pani: North America
Francesco Ancona: Asia and the Far East, International Organizations
Giulio Cofini: Sub-Saharan Africa
Laura Salvemini: International Organizations and Terrorism and International Security
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance
Ludovica Costantini: Latin America
Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa
Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa
Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa
Valeria Lavano: International Organizations
Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security