World update: September 11 2017

Family obligations take precedence this evening, so today you’re getting a very short mid-day news update. Enjoy!



While ISIS is losing territory all over the place, in general things in the MENA region continue to be horrifying:

The number of children recruited to fight in conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa has more than doubled in a year, UN analysis has found. The huge increase in child soldiers in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other countries follows years of ongoing violence, displacement and a lack of basic services, which has reduced the coping mechanisms of families, according to Unicef.

Almost one in five children across the region – 28 million in all – now need immediate humanitarian assistance. More than 90% of these children live in countries affected by conflict, and in some cases families are sending their children to fight.


Instead of focusing their efforts on Hawijah, the Iraqi military has apparently decided, with Baghdad’s blessing, to attack every last remaining ISIS pocket in Iraq simultaneously. That means Hawijah, western Anbar, and parts of Kirkuk and Salah al-Din provinces are all going to be dealt with at once. This will either be the finishing blow that ends ISIS’s territorial claims in Iraq or a huge mistake–likely the former, as all of these areas are fairly open and vulnerable to air power, which makes them difficult if not impossible for ISIS to defend. The real trick will be preventing large numbers of ISIS fighters from slipping through the Iraqi net and vanishing into the countryside.


The foreign ministers of Russia and Jordan met in Amman on Monday and pledged to speed up the establishment of a safe zone in southern Syria. They offered no details as to how they plan on doing that, though, which I suppose is par for the course. The deal is going to have to have some mechanism for keeping extremist rebel forces and Iranian-backed militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders, which sounds nice in principle but challenging to implement in practice.


ISIS’s Sinai branch attacked an Egyptian convoy near Arish on Monday, killing at least 18 Egyptian police officers at last count.


International Atomic Energy Agency boss Yukiya Amano affirmed on Monday that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal, which would undercut Donald Trump’s efforts to scrap the deal if anybody in Trump’s base cared about the IAEA in any way. Lucky for Trump they don’t. While we’re on the subject, here’s Stephen Walt calling the Trump administration’s argument for busting the deal “one big lie”:

The latest round in their campaign was U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s disingenuous and falsehood-filled speech at the American Enterprise Institute last week. The speech is useful in one sense: it provides a handy summary of just about every creative and mendacious argument that die-hard opponents of the JCPOA have been cooking up since the agreement was signed. Unfortunately, it is neither an accurate guide to the agreement, to its current status, nor more importantly, to U.S. interests.



Gunmen north of Quetta killed four members of Pakistan’s minority Hazara community on Monday in a drive by shooting. Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi warned that any cuts in aid from Washington would only make it harder for Pakistan to combat the terrorist groups it refuses to combat anyway. Really makes you think.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls what’s happening to the Rohingya a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. Myanmar is blaming the strife in Rakhine state on the Rohingya itself, specifically on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which has seen its stature bolstered by aid from Pakistan and the Gulf Arab states. In doing so, the Myanmar government is trying to tap into that sweet “War on Terror” rhetoric that allows governments to commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of defending against ISLAMIC EXTREMISM. This is naturally horse shit–that some Rohingya have turned to violence after multiple ethnic cleansing campaigns against their community is completely unsurprising, and would not be considered evidence of EXTREMISM were the Rohingya not Muslim. Hell, Myanmar can’t even make its charges stick–“evidence” that the Rohingya have been the ones setting fire to their own villages has turned out to be pretty obvious lies.


Philippine authorities say that some insurgents in Marawi have begun sending out messages suggesting they would be willing to surrender. They’re hoping that fighters might begin giving up over the next several days.


I won’t be around to see how this goes, but the UN Security Council will take up a new, but watered down, North Korea sanctions bill today. The new resolution, designed obviously to win Chinese support, removes a blacklist on Kim Jong-un personally, cuts the modified naval blockade idea, and eases its proposed oil and gas embargo to a cap instead of an outright ban. China is concerned that a full embargo could lead to chaos inside North Korea and therefore right on China’s borders, though it’s likely that Pyongyang could have weathered the embargo by making heavier use of its huge coal reserves.



At least ten Somali soldiers were killed Monday when al-Shabab fighters assaulted a military base near the town of Balad Hawo, close to the Kenyan border. There are conflicting reports about what’s happened–the Somali government says its soldiers drove al-Shabab out of the town altogether, but there are witnesses who say the fighting is still going on and that al-Shabab has captured a large portion of the town as well as the base.



Russian authorities have sentenced Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz to eight years in prison for his role in leading protests against Moscow’s annexation of Crimea back in 2014. Chiygoz was arrested in January 2015.


Newly returned Ukrainian (?) citizen (??) Mikheil Saakashvili says he wants to unite the Ukrainian opposition against President Petro Poroshenko. What that means in practice is that he’s throwing whatever support he has in Ukraine (and polls suggest it might not be that much) behind leading opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko, who expects to challenge Poroshenko’s reelection bid in 2019. Saakashvili himself says he has no interest in being president, though since Poroshenko has stripped him of his legal citizenship he wouldn’t be able to run for office anyway. If Tymoshenko is elected in 2019 (she leads Poroshenko in some admittedly very early polls) and is dumb enough to restore Saakashvili’s citizenship, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the former Georgian president’s desire to win the Ukrainian presidency were to suddenly increase.


As many as one million people hit the streets of Barcelona on Monday to demonstrate in favor of Catalan independence. The planned October 1 secession referendum is still being blocked by Spanish courts, and polling continues to suggest that “no” would win if the vote were held today, so the size of this demonstration notwithstanding Catalan independence seems like a bit of a long shot.

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