The Watchlist: War in Rio’s Largest Favela, Somalia Enters Gulf Crisis and far-right gains in German

Week of September 25th

Brazilian military entering Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha Favela to combat armed drug traffickers

Brazilian military entering Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha Favela to combat armed drug traffickers


Gulf Crisis Spreads To Somalia

The ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has created a constitutional crisis in Somalia. Following statements by three semi-autonomous Somali states in support of Saudi Arabia, the federal government asserted its authority, in a statement, to make decisions in foreign relations. Specifically, the provisional constitution of Somalia, which has been in place for five years, gives the federal government complete control of national defense and foreign policy decisions. The government has maintained a neutral position and has advocated for a peaceful solution. This neutral positioning comes amidst pressures on Somalia from both sides of the conflict, with Saudi Arabia being the country’s top trade partner and Turkey (a Qatar supporter) providing it the most aid. On the other side, the Arabian Gulf states have invested heavily in the regional states of Somalia. This has prompted three of these states to push back on the federal government’s position, and its recent statement, which they say was not made in consultation with regional governments. This challenge to federal authority may imperil the new provisional constitution. Watch for how the federal government will attempt to maintain its authority and balance pressures from within and without during the Gulf Crisis. SEBASTIAN LEDER MACEK


Atrocities in Myanmar, Politics in New York

Amid a months-long Myanmar military crackdown so severe that the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called the crisis a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing." halfway around the world, Southeast Asian nations spoke up, or didn’t, in front of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to name the Rohingya at all in their statement and instead pointed to the “complexity” of the situation and called for increased humanitarian aid. Later that day, Malaysia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Anifah Aman stressed that Malaysia believes the ASEAN statement is a, "misrepresentation of the reality of the situation." In reality, Myanmar’s neighbors have done little to compose a durable solution for the Rohingya people, hundreds of thousands of whom remain in destitute conditions at the packed camps around Cox’s Bazar in Southern Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also took to the podium and accused Myanmar’s government, which has limited power under the military, of laying landmines to actively prevent Rohingya from returning. WILLIAM FEUER


War Zone in Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha Favela

The Brazilian military has been called to surround and contain Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, or slum, Rocinha. This comes after police and associated special forces have been fighting in the informal urban neighborhood against heavily armed drug traffickers for a full week. The operation has included various arrests and centers around a turf war between two rival groups, the Amigos de Amigos (Friends of Friends), run by the imprisoned Antônio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, or “Nem,” and his former lieutenant gone rogue, Rogério Avelino da Silva, or “Rogério 157”. The favela is home to an official number of 70,000, though it is likely that about 250,000 people live there. Residents have been completely immobilized in their homes, too frightened to venture outside, and many are as afraid of the national forces as they are of the drug cartel members who live around them. The tight urban environment allows those perpetuating the violence to hide and avoid police and now this military action, the inclusion of 950 soldiers into the efforts, has been called to try to stop their all-out rebellion. ANDREW MITCHEL


Far-Right Makes Gains in German Election

Exit polls brought alarming if not surprising results in Germany this Sunday as the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party claimed 13.1 percent of votes. This election marks the first time that a far-right party has won seats in the Bundestag since World War Two and the poorest results for the CDU/CSU alliance since 1949. In her comments on the results, newly re-elected chancellor Angela Merkel committed herself to addressing the “concerns, worries and anxieties” prompting the surge of support for the AfD. The party gained notoriety and support from their staunch anti-immigrant, anti-Islam messaging in the wake of Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. Interestingly, fear-inducing anti-immigrant messages have been especially effective for winning votes in East Germany, home to the smallest percentage of Germany’s refugees. As newly-elected officials take their place in the Bundestag, voters can expect a push for traditional, German values at the highest level of their government, bring new contenders to the forefront of the immigration debate. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Independence Vote Highlights International Tensions

The Kurds of Iraq are preparing for Monday’s decisive referendum on independence, with an international community torn on the issue. Historical animosity between the Turkish government and the Kurds in the region have only heightened in the wake of the referendum, complicating President Erdogan’s role in its battle against the so-called Islamic State. As a coalition of Kurdish and American forces have successfully eliminated the majority of ISIS-controlled territories in Northern Iraq, the Kurdish government hopes to leverage such victories for a strong political presence in the region. The United States and other Western powers have urged Kurdish authorities in the oil producing region to cancel the vote, arguing that it distracts from the fight against Islamic State. On the other side, the Kurds find themselves with an intricate supporter in the referendum - Israel. The Iraqi government has taken active measures, urging international partners to stop importing Kurdish crude oil. Intriguingly, as Iraq slowly removes ISIS strongholds across its lands, a fractured political relationship is once again emerging between the Baghdad government and Kurdish leadership. This week, the Kurdish referendum will very likely suggest another push for Kurdish independence, only to be met with greater political tension within a fractured Iraq and surrounding regions. JALAL H. TALEB

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