World update: October 9 2017



At least eight people were killed in two separate attacks in Pakistan on Monday. In one, four Shiʿa Pakistanis and one bystander were killed in a shooting in Quetta, in Baluchistan province. There has been no claim of responsibility so far. In the other, three soldiers were killed in North Waziristan when their vehicle was attacked by Pakistani Taliban fighters.

Nawaz Sharif’s son in-law, Muhammad Safdar, was arrested on Monday after returning to the country from the UK. He’s charged with failure to appear at a court hearing into allegations surrounding the Sharif family’s finances.


Foreign Policy tries to explain the multiple North Korea policies being simultaneously pursued by the Trump administration:

The United States can’t rule out military options for North Korea. There’s no military solution to North Korea. Diplomacy is our best bet with North Korea. Don’t waste time with diplomacy.


The world is reeling from the contradictory messages President Donald Trump and his administration are churning out on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threat. That includes tweeting on Oct. 1 that Rex Tillerson, his own secretary of state, was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate an end to the North Korea, and tweeting on Oct. 7 that after 25 years of failed talks, “only one thing will work.”


In the midst of the policy whiplash from the top, the Pentagon and State Department are quietly chugging away at the ground level, where the foreign policy of Trump’s twitter feed is competing with foreign policy of the rest of the U.S. government.

Obviously there’s the “good cop, bad cop” routine that Trump and Tillerson could be playing, but generally the “bad cop” doesn’t overtly undermine the “good cop” as Trump routinely has been doing with Tillerson. Likewise, if Trump is just playing a role to coerce North Korea to back down then it’s strange that so many people in his military and in his party are so openly insisting that there is no good military option here. It seems like they’re more than a little worried about what Trump might actually do.



With the election to replace her happening tomorrow, here’s another examination of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s record as Liberian president:

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will leave office in January as one of the most celebrated African leaders of recent memory — outside of Liberia, that is. The first woman elected to lead a government in Africa, she has presided over a period of peace and economic revival, secured nearly $5 billion in debt relief, and looks set to do something that hasn’t been done in Liberia in seven decades: peacefully transfer power to another elected leader.


But while Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and darling of the development world, can expect a warm welcome at Davos or the Concordia Summit, she is surprisingly unpopular at home. So disliked is she that on the eve of Liberia’s Oct. 10 general election, her own vice president, Joseph Boakai — who is vying with 19 other candidates to succeed her — has tried to distance himself from Sirleaf on the campaign trail. “If you park a race car in the garage for 12 years, it gets rusty,” Boakai said at a recent presidential debate. Left unsaid was the fact that he’s been parked right there beside the president for all 12 of those years.


Hundreds of supporters of presidential candidate Raila Odinga marched on the headquarters of Kenya’s elections board in Nairobi on Monday to demand changes in the board’s makeup before the scheduled October 26 presidential election 2.0.


Two United Nations peacekeepers were killed on Monday in the eastern DRC when they were attacked by Allied Democratic Forces fighters.


It turns out that Robert Mugabe’s cabinet reshuffle was only partially about sidelining Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. On Monday, Mugabe announced that he was moving Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa to head up a new ministry responsible for cyber security and social media. He’s being replaced at Finance by current Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo, and while Mugabe is looking to tamp down on online political activism this move is probably just as much about getting Chinamasa out of the finance ministry as it is about anything else. Zimbabwe’s economy is in deep trouble of late because, while the country adopted the US dollar as its currency in 2009, it doesn’t have enough dollars to go around. Meanwhile Mnangagwa, locked in a struggle with Grace Mugabe over which of them will eventually get to succeed Robert, didn’t lose his vice presidency but did lose his backup gig as Zimbabwe’s justice minister.


Last Thursday 16 people were killed when somebody attacked the northern port of Mocimboa da Praia. Police eventually secured control of the town but the fighting was apparently pretty fierce. Media reports suggest the attackers were Islamist extremists of some description, but the Mozambican government hasn’t confirmed that.



NATO has announced plans to station a new force in Romania to monitor Russian activity in the Black Sea area. The Romanians themselves will contribute the largest component to the unit, which will include sea and air assets. It’s modeled on similar forces in the Baltics and Poland, which are relatively small and are meant to discourage any hypothetical Russian aggression.


Angela Merkel was able to reach an agreement with the Bavarian branch of her party, the Christian Social Union, to keep them in her Christian Democratic coalition–but that deal could make it harder for her to form a governing coalition. The CSU demanded a cap on asylum seekers, so Merkel agreed to a limit of 200,000 per year, but that limit was immediately questioned by one of the leaders of the Green party, Simone Peter. Merkel needs the Greens along with the libertarian Free Democrats to come in with her in the next government.


The Catalan government is getting a great deal of pressure from the business community to back down from its plans to declare independence from Spain:

Three more Catalonia-based companies joined a business exodus from the region that has gathered steam since the Oct. 1 referendum.

Property group Inmobiliaria Colonial (COL.MC) and infrastructure firm Abertis (ABE.MC) both decided to relocate their head offices to Madrid and telecoms firm Cellnex (CLNX.MC) said it would do the same for as long as political uncertainty in Catalonia continued.

Publishing house Grupo Planeta said it would move its registered office from Barcelona to Madrid if the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence.

The companies are unsurprisingly worried about staying in the European Union should Catalonia actually become independent, but Madrid isn’t going to let that happen without first trying to impose direct rule over the region. That’s the next hurdle.

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