Watchlist: A Missile from Pyongan

Week of February 13th

Julian Assange with former Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patiño.


Election in Somalia

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, more commonly known as Farmajo, was elected the new president of Somalia on February 8th. His election is seen by many as a ray of hope in a country that has long been deeply embroiled in violent conflict and unrest. The Somali government is known for its corruption and its often subservient position to neighboring nations such as Ethiopia and Kenya. Farmajo, who had previously been the Prime Minister of Somalia, has dual Somali and US citizenship. The challenges facing the new Somali president include corruption, food insecurity and fighting Al-Shabab. Elected by Somali parliamentarians , Farmajo’s success is seen to follow the will of the people, and many hope he will bring peace and order to the struggling nation. While the initial outlook for the election was bleak considering accusations of candidates buying votes and a threat from Al-Shabab to disrupt the procedure, Farmajo’s election is seen as a victory for order and accountability. All eyes are on the new Somali President to see if he will live up to expectations and what changes he will make in the coming weeks. EMMA STOUT


Ecuadorian Presidential Hopeful: We Can’t Shelter Julian Assange Any Longer

Guillermo Lasso, the Ecuadorian rightwing party Creo-Suma presidential candidate, has come out and publicly said that if elected president, he will give Julian Assange a 30 day ultimatum to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange has lived in one of the four offices in this London embassy for the past 4 ½ years. Assange is living in this embassy to avoid charges against him both in Sweden, for sexual assault, and in the United States due to his role in Wikileaks, which released thousands of secret documents in 2010. Lasso is currently seven points behind the leader in the upcoming February 19th election in Ecuador, but he is gaining and a runoff is expected. Lasso cited the unnecessary cost of Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorian embassy, and the current top foreign minister has also said Assange has overstayed his welcome. While he may agree to leave soon, especially following the shortening of Chelsea Manning, much in the Assange case will rest on the upcoming Ecuadorian election. ANDREW MITCHEL


North Korean Missile Test Declared a ‘Success’

North Korea has conducted numerous nuclear and missile tests in the past year that continue to frighten the Japanese people. Most recently, North Korea fired a ballistic missile as an initial test. The missile flew toward the Sea of Japan for about five hundred kilometers with an altitude of 550 kilometers. UN resolutions have been designed to prevent the North’s nuclear activities, but the country continues to persist and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has condemned these tests. South Korean security officials have held an emergency meeting about this launch. Sunday’s missile launch took place from the Banghyon air base in North Pyongan province in the western peninsula. This Musudan intermediate-range missile has the capability of flying up to a maximum height of 4,000 kilometers and the potential to travel as far as the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Earlier in January, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un threatened that his military was nearing the testing of missiles capable of reaching the US mainland. Look out in the following week for updates on the future of North Korea’s ballistic missile testing as well the long-term implications for the rest of the world. SANURI GUNAWARDENA


Swiss Voters Approve Controversial Citizenship Referendum

On Sunday, Swiss voters approved a controversial referendum to expedite Switzerland’s citizenship process, in an apparent rebuke to the nationalistic sentiment on the rise across the rest of Europe. The referendum, which was approved by approximately 60% of voters, makes it easier for so-called third-generation immigrants (people whose grandparents immigrated to Switzerland) to obtain Swiss citizenship by exempting them from lengthy and expensive tests and interviews. Although third-generation immigrants compose less than one percent of the Swiss population, the referendum had become a rallying point for rightwing politicians opposed to the conjectured “loss of Swiss values” resulting from immigration. In particular, the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) opposed the referendum, and put out a series of billboard advertisements, which were widely considered Islamophobic, despite the fact that a majority of third-generation immigrants are of Italian descent. Over the coming days, watch for reactions from the Swiss and other European governments to the result of this controversial referendum. MARK DOVICH

The Middle East

Turkish Involvement in Syria Deepens with Al-Bab Offensive

Turkish military forces and their Syrian rebel allies advanced into the ISIS stronghold of Al-Bab on Sunday, deepening the involvement of Turkish troops in Syria’s bloody civil war. The Syrian city of Al-Bab, located about 40 km east of Aleppo, has been under ISIS control since November 2013, and is one the terror group’s few key remaining points of control in Syria. The Turkish-led offensive, which includes allied Syrian rebel groups, launched the effort to retake Al-Bab in November 2016. The Turks are eager to beat the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces in capturing the city from ISIS, and moved decisively to deepen their involvement in the Syrian conflict as the SDF seemed poised to challenge ISIS in Al-Bab. The battle was complicated by recent Syrian military gains to the city’s south east, prompting concerns about a potential clash between Syrian and Turkish troops as they push towards the ISIS capital of Raqqa. Although the battle for Al-Bab remains far from over, it serves as a reminder of the continuing struggle between Damascus and Ankara for influence in Northern Syria. ALI N. HABHAB

Netanyahu prepares for meeting with President Trump

On Monday of last week, the Knesset passed legislation that aims to expand Israeli settlements on private Palestinian land. In response, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy to the Middle East, expressed great concern over the bill. In agreement with the UN’s special envoy, President Trump has equally expressed concern for the settlement legislation. This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to meet with President Trump, in what is set to be their first meeting since the President’s inauguration. The meeting’s agenda includes not only Israeli-Palestinian relations, but also policy toward an increasingly aggressive Iran. Trump campaigned on a strong alliance with the Israelis, including talks of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Since taking the Oval Office, Trump has tempered his pro-Israel rhetoric. The Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party warned Netanyahu from even saying the words “two-state solution” to Trump. This week, in his first visit with the Trump Administration, Netanyahu faces serious challenges. The Prime Minister will seek to balance Israel’s agenda in the region, while seeking to strengthen Israel-US relations – ties that weakened toward the end of the Obama Administration. JALAL H TALEB

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