Asia/Africa/Americas update: June 8-9 2017

Friends, I’m going to level with you. Between Qatar and Iran and now the UK elections, it has been a hell of a week for a person who obsessively blogs about world news. So this update is really kind of a catch-all for bits of news from everywhere else, though I know some things probably fell through the cracks this week as my attention was elsewhere.


President Donald Trump is looking to save money folks, and he’s identified where the savings are–that’s right baby, I’m talking about the UN peacekeeping budget wait what the fuck?

The United States wants to cut $1 billion from the total United Nations peacekeeping budget for the year from July 1 to shave over 10 percent off Washington’s share of the bill following calls by President Donald Trump for U.S. funding to be slashed.

The proposal by the largest U.N. contributor is an opening bid in negotiations by the 193-member General Assembly budget committee, which has to agree funding for 13 peacekeeping missions and a logistics support office by the end of June.

Reuters reviewed a document compiling the peacekeeping budget proposals by states and regional groups.

The U.S. proposal of an annual budget of $6.99 billion was the lowest made – nearly $1 billion less than U.N. chief Antonio Guterres’ proposal and almost $570 million less than the recommendation by the world body’s budget advisory experts.

To be fair, I can see why spending an extra ~$300 million, America’s share of that $1 billion, would really be burdensome on Washington. You can buy, like, a sixth of one F-35 for that kind of money–hopefully it’s not the sixth that disintegrates in the rain, or the sixth that disintegrates when it’s not raining.

Say, remember when Trump used to complain about the F-35, which happens to be an actual colossal waste of enormous amounts of money? Yeah, me neither.

Anyway, that was it for US American news, so I guess–what? I missed something?

Oh, right, there was also the James Comey testimony on Thursday. The testimony in which Comey revealed himself as a pathological liar and complete fraud whose word should be taken as the absolute truth but only inasmuch as it completely vindicates Trump. Or something. OK, you’re so smart, you parse this shit:

Trump seems very fixated on the fact that Comey admitted that he did tell the president that he’s not the subject of the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. And, you know, David Berkowitz wasn’t the subject of the “Son of Sam” investigation…until he was. I realize that’s not a fair comparison–Berkowitz had a firmer grasp on reality than Trump does–but I think you get my meaning.

I confess, I didn’t watch Comey’s testimony. I had a family emergency, by which I mean I went to the movies and then to a ramen place for lunch. But it sure sounds like it was bad for the president:

The remarks were a defiant response from Mr. Trump, who had remained uncharacteristically silent on social media during Mr. Comey’s blockbuster day of testimony on Thursday, as the former F.B.I. chief laid out an account that strongly suggested the president’s private exchanges with him had been an attempt to obstruct justice. They escalated an extraordinary public feud between a sitting president and the ousted F.B.I. director who had been investigating his campaign, each now engaging in full-throated accusations that the other is lying.

But Mr. Trump’s comments reflected a highly selective reading of Mr. Comey’s testimony, much of which painted a damaging picture of the president’s conduct. Mr. Comey told Congress that the president had not personally been under investigation while he was the F.B.I. director, and that at one point Mr. Trump suggested he would like to find out whether any of his associates had done anything wrong. But his account also strongly suggested that Mr. Trump had tried to influence his handling of the Russia inquiry.

I mean, nobody should start booking venues for their impeachment parties. The only thing for which this congress would impeach Trump would be if he tried to help another human being in some way. But this doesn’t look good.



ISIS is claiming that it has murdered two Chinese teachers it kidnapped last month in Balochistan province. There are many Chinese nationals in Pakistan because Pakistan is a major part of China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, so if ISIS is going to start targeting them it could become a very serious situation.


India’s plan to develop Iran’s Chabahar port is running into major problems, as Western companies steer clear of the operation for fear of running afoul of any potential American sanctions that might be imposed by the Trump administration. India offered to spend $500 million developing Chabahar after the Iran nuclear deal went into effect, in an effort to open up a trade/shipping route to Afghanistan and Central Asia that didn’t have to run through Pakistan. But if they can’t find suppliers then it’s not clear how the project will be able to proceed.


There may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel in Marawi, where Philippine forces are saying that the ISIS-aligned militants who seized control of the town almost three weeks ago are in retreat and have been logistically “paralyzed.” The remaining fighters are estimated to still have about 100 civilian hostages, so Philippine forces are still proceeding slowly.



The United Nations has issued a report that accuses the United Arab Emirates of violating a UN arms embargo by supplying aircraft and other military assistance to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army. You’ll note that the UAE is currently participating in a blockade of Qatar in part because Qatar backed the Islamist side in Libya’s civil war, because it’s wrong to back violent Islamist extremists but good to back violent authoritarian extremists.


Three UN peacekeepers were killed when they were attacked by militants near their base in northern Mali on Thursday.


Ivorian authorities are receiving UN assistance as they investigate a weapons cache found in Bouake in a house owned by a close ally of parliament speaker Guillaume Soro. The cache may be connected to a series of army mutinies in the area over the past several months, which would implicate Soro, a former rebel leader believed to harbor presidential aspirations, in arming those mutineers.


Wednesday night’s Boko Haram raid on Maiduguri killed 14 people and was the groups biggest attack on the city in a year and a half. It’s a pretty clear sign that the group isn’t as “defeated” as Nigerian authorities have been saying for the past several months.


South Sudanese rebels killed either 40 (their estimate) or 14 (the government’s estimate) people when they attacked a convoy on the highway that connects Juba with the city of Nimule, near the Ugandan border. A number of the dead are believed to have been civilians caught in the fighting, though the rebels say they were targeting government soldiers.


Al-Shabab carried out a devastating attack on a Somali military base in Puntland on Thursday, killing 70 people and wounding dozens more. The militants reportedly attacked the base from three directions simultaneously and used suicide bombers to open gaps in its defensive fortifications. Many of the dead were civilians. Later in the day, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo promised “no mercy” in dealing with al-Shabab. This attack is somewhat unusual in that al-Shabab generally hasn’t been very active in Puntland–there is, however, an al-Shabab splinter group that pledged itself to ISIS that does operate in Puntland, so this attack might have been an effort to muscle in on their territory as much as it was a strike against the government.



President Michel Temer got a bit of a break today, when Brazil’s electoral court voted 4-3 to reject allegations of campaign finance violations against the 2014 campaign of Temer, then running for vice president, and former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Had the court ruled against Temer it could have nullified the entire 2014 election and removed Temer from office, but this was seen as a long shot since the court is weighted toward conservative Temer allies. The court’s ruling notwithstanding, Temer’s approval rating is in the single digits and he’s been hit with a wave of corruption charges that threaten to cost him his office by impeachment anyway.

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