World update: December 1 2017



At least four Pakistani Taliban fighters stormed a dormitory at the University of Peshawar on Friday, killing at least nine people. Most students had gone home for the holiday (today was Muhammad’s birthday, which is observed by most Muslims), so it’s possible this attack could have been much deadlier.


South Korea’s defense ministry said on Friday that the Hwasong-15 missile North Korea tested on Wednesday is capable of striking anywhere in the continental US, but technical hurdles remain before it can be assumed that North Korea can actually carry out such a strike:

Yeo Suk-joo, South Korea’s deputy minister of defense policy, told the South Korean parliament that North Korea still needed to prove some technologies, like re-entry, terminal stage guidance and warhead activation.

It’s possible the North Koreans have already developed these technologies and just haven’t tested them in a public way yet. Meanwhile, 38 North says that satellite photos show Pyongyang is building a second barge for testing submarine-launched ballistic missiles.



The US is going to start arming its drones in Niger, which is great because it will mean stationing more American soldiers there and what could possibly go wrong with that? The shift to armed drones in Niger has been in the cards for some time now, going back to Barack Obama’s second term, so it wouldn’t be fair to entirely stick this on Donald Trump. It would be fair, however, to ask whether recent difficulties in Niger have given anybody at the Pentagon even the slightest pause about escalating America’s presence there. I’m thinking not.


Four Nigerian policemen were killed late Thursday defending a village in northeastern Nigeria’s Adamawa state from an attack by local herdsmen who have been feuding with local farmers.

The last thing northeastern Nigeria needs is another conflict. The one against Boko Haram–the group that, if you recall, was “technically defeated” a little less than two years ago–is now going so badly that the Nigerian government has hatched a scheme that can’t possibly be seen as anything other than a desperation move:

Nigeria’s government has a plan for the northeast, torn apart by eight years of conflict with Boko Haram: displaced people will be housed in fortified garrison towns, ringed by farms, with the rest of the countryside effectively left to fend for itself.

“Left to fend for itself” here is standing in for what this plan really means which is “we’re handing over northeastern Nigeria to Boko Haram outside of a few protected enclaves.” That kind of thing sometimes wore invaders down in the Middle Ages, but it’s unlikely to wear an indigenous insurgent force like Boko Haram down in 2018.


According to Cameroonian President Paul Biya, English-speaking militants killed four Cameroonian soldiers and two police officers this week. The separatist movement in the English-speaking part of the country is in a cycle now, where each new round of violence is met by a government response brutal enough to inject new life into the secessionist movement. It’s unclear whether or how that cycle can be broken.


Emmerson Mnangagwa has named his new cabinet and, well, it’s not good. He’s appointed a number of senior military officers to cabinet posts, which means you can definitely cancel your plans to celebrate the dawning of a new democratic age for Zimbabwe. If ZANU-PF’s position has been weakened, it’s only because the Zimbabwean military’s is now ascendant.



Already under fire from some members of his own party who do not want to return to the government, Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, says he’s “not ruling any option out” in terms of working with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats to form a new government. That also means he’s not ruling any option in, so in other words he’s not sold on forming another grand coalition. Obviously he’s negotiating, but at this point the choices appear to be grand coalition or snap election–Merkel has pretty much ruled out leading a minority government with Social Democratic support.


Prince Laurent of Belgium

That lump of unbaked white bread dough up there is Prince Laurent of Belgium, today’s best argument in favor of the French Revolution:

A wayward brother of the king of Belgium has claimed the government is violating his human rights after the prime minister moved to cut his annual €308,000 (£280,000) government endowment.


The prime minister, Charles Michel, called a meeting with Prince Laurent, younger sibling to King Philippe, in response to his unauthorised appearance in full naval uniform at a Chinese state celebration of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army.


Laurent sent a sick note to excuse himself from the meeting about the incident, the latest in a series of unapproved events with foreign dignitaries.


But in a seven-page letter handed to the Belgian prime minister by the prince’s lawyer, Laurent, 53, went on the attack, claiming the government’s attempts to limit his meetings with the representatives of foreign states amounted to a breach of article 8 of the European convention on human rights as it would force him into “social isolation”.

The letter goes on to say that the manner in which the unfortunate prince has been kept from holding a job all his life has been “humiliating” and possibly even damaging to his health. The poor guy. Last year, Laurent had to repay the Belgian state some 16,000 euros that he spent on, among other things, a ski vacation, and when he lost his drivers license for speeding in 2011 his charming wife suggested that people who own fast cars should be allowed to drive faster.


Don’t look now but there’s yet another secession crisis brewing in Western Europe. Corsican separatists are poised to win Sunday’s regional election. They may not make an immediate push for independence but that is certainly the direction in which they’d like to move. So far there’s been no signal from the French government how it might respond to a separatist victory.



Honduran opposition leaders, chiefly presidential contender Salvador Nasralla, are already demanding recounts from Sunday’s election and the final results still haven’t been announced. The recounts are likely to delay that announcement further. Meanwhile, protests are getting larger and the chance that things could turn really violent continues to grow.


All your Rex Tillerson speculation is laughable, according to Tillerson’s boss:

By far, (I call the final shots) is the best part of this tweet.

While we’re on the subject of Rex Tillerson’s (and therefore Mike Pompeo’s) future, the Intercept’s Murtaza Hussein explains why Tom Cotton would be an amazingly horrifying choice to replace Pompeo at CIA, including an incident of which I wasn’t aware:

Cotton’s record of extreme public statements on both foreign and domestic policy is no secret. But one particular episode from his past points to a potentially dangerous convergence of views with President Donald Trump. In 2013, as part of a bill sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program, Cotton attempted to introduce an amendment specifically designed to punish the families of sanctions violators, “to include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” specifically identifying “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.”

Just a normal amendment offered by a very normal guy.

Finally, the day’s big news was obviously that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has, as expected, taken a plea deal from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Flynn pled guilty on Friday to one count of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and announced his cooperation with the investigation. Flynn likely spared himself a whole litany of charges over his Russian contacts, his work for the Turkish and Russian governments, his failure to register as a foreign agent, and more, and he likely spared his son Fredo Michael Flynn Junior some legal trouble as well.

What Flynn has to say about other members of the Trump campaign, and/or Trump himself, is as yet unknown. Though presumably Mueller has some idea. Ryan Cooper at The Week argues that Trump’s long-standing deference toward Flynn suggests the possibility that Flynn has some information that Trump would prefer investigators don’t get, but also notes that it probably doesn’t matter:

In any republic that was not diseased down into its bone marrow, this would be an open-and-shut impeachment case. After swearing up and down that he had no contacts with Russia whatsoever, it now appears that President Trump was lying through his teeth, and repeatedly abused his powers of office to stop the truth from coming out. Any normal country would already be drafting a resolution to get rid of him and get to the bottom of the story — especially whether the Trump campaign actively conspired with Russia to swing the election.


But that would require halting Republicans’ pell-mell rush to pass their tax “reform” bill to shovel oil tanker-sized piles of cash into the gullets of idle rich inheritors — many of them children, like Eric Trump and Meghan McCain, of the Republican officials involved — paid for by strip-mining grad students and the working class, and savage cuts to Medicare and other social programs.

Already there’s talk that he’s about to roll up on Jared Kushner, and just when Kushner was about to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians too. Bummer.

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2 thoughts on “World update: December 1 2017

  1. A week later, it’s starting to look like the NYT got trolled on the Tillerson firing. It’s too soon to say for sure, but it’s looking more and more like a planted story. By whom and for what purpose is unclear, though one school of thought holds that Trump did it in order to scare Tillerson.

    If Tillerson were to leave, one peculiarity: Tom Cotton would probably sail to confirmation (Senate Republicans will never ever not confirm a fellow Republican Senator), but Mike Pompeo might not have such an easy time of it.

    Doug M.

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