World update: June 6 2018


The G7 is meeting in Quebec over the weekend, and already–you might want to sit down for this, because it’s going to shock you–Donald Trump is planning on being a dick to everybody else there:

In a sign that Trump is looking to stoke divisions, White House officials are discussing ways to impose additional economic penalties against Canada — the host nation for the summit — in retaliation for Ottawa’s threat to levy tariffs next month on roughly $13 billion in U.S.-made products. Among Canada’s targets: orange juice, soy sauce, sleeping bags and inflatable boats.

But there are divergent views within the White House over how to treat Canada, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging both sides to de-escalate, two people close to the discussions said.

White House officials are also considering whether to have Trump refuse to sign onto a customary joint agreement at the end of the G-7 summit, one senior administration official said, as a signal that the old ways of doing business are over.

Don’t get me wrong–fuck the G7, an institution that exists to perpetuate the hegemony of the same seven countries. But there has to be something that comes after “fuck the G7,” some idea about how you think the world should work. Trump doesn’t have one. If the President of the United States is going to tell 4/5 of the planet to eat shit and die that’s fine, I guess, but it can’t be the sum total of his foreign policy. For Trump, that’s pretty much all he’s got.



A Taliban attack on a military post in Baghdis province on Tuesday night killed at least six Afghan soldiers.

Afghan leaders are blaming Iran as well as local residents for helping the Taliban mount large-scale offensives like its temporary capture of Farah a few weeks ago:

“The biggest challenge we have is that people here won’t help us,” said Gen. Noorullah Qaderi, the regional army commander. “They hide the Taliban in their homes and then we can’t go after them. They have relations with them from a long time back.” Other security officials said these ties include trading and smuggling of drugs and weapons between Afghanistan and Iran.

Qaderi said he is “100 percent certain” that Iran is supporting the Taliban directly and indirectly, largely as a foil to the Islamic State. The extremist Sunni group, known here as Daesh, has been attacking Afghan Shiite communities for several years. The attacks have included suicide bombings in Kabul and Herat, a major Shiite center near the Iranian border.

“They want to use the Taliban in the border areas against Daesh,” Qaderi said.

They might also want to blame their own corruption. The US and its coalition partners have been withholding pay to tens of thousands of Afghan police officers since March because too much of the money has been getting pocketed by top Afghan police officials. The guys at the top of the ladder engage in all manner of shenanigans–inventing “ghost” personnel who don’t actually exist whose salaries go to their commanders–which means that not only is the coalition paying people who aren’t there, it means that any accounting of the number of Afghan police officers in any given unit is wildly off, sometimes by thousands. And now the officers who really are there can’t get paid for their service, so many are quitting and the ones who remain may not be giving it their best effort (and who could blame them).


If you had Rudy Giuliani in your office’s “Which Trump Sycophant Will Endanger the North Korea Summit Next” pool, be sure to collect your winnings:

Mr Giuliani was speaking at an investment conference in Israel when he made the remark.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Mr Giuliani said: “Well, Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.”

Gosh it’s a shame Rudy didn’t get to be Trump’s secretary of state. He’s a natural. It’s hard to imagine Giuliani’s comment is going to go over well in Pyongyang, though they’ve had no response so far. Maybe Dennis Rodman–who may attend the June 12 summit even as the President of South Korea does not thus far appear to have been invited–can keep things on track.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is going to be in Washington later this week to meet with Trump. He’s undoubtedly looking to stress Japan’s concerns about North Korea ahead of the June 12 summit.



The Sudanese government declared on Wednesday that it has cut all of its military ties with North Korea:

“Sudan’s government would like to affirm that its defence production sector has cancelled all contracts … with North Korea, and ended all relations, direct or through a third party,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said this came as part of its commitment to the international Non-Proliferation Treaty and sanctions against Pyongyang. It did not say when ties had been severed, or provide details of what they had been.

Sudan is out from under US sanctions but it’s still on the terror sponsors list which means it can’t get US aid, and it’s still not drawing significant foreign investment. This announcement might help a bit in those regards.


Tunisia’s (now ex-)interior minister, Lotfi Brahem, got himself sacked on Wednesday by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. Brahem is paying for the fact that a migrant smuggling boat carrying some 180 people capsized off the Tunisian coast on Sunday. At least 68 people are confirmed dead and that number may rise. As interior minister it is–well, was–Brahem’s job to try to get a handle on illegal human trafficking. Clearly Chahed felt he wasn’t doing a very good job.


Since the end of the second Sudanese civil war in 2005, the United Nations has been maintaining a peacekeeping force in the disputed and oil-rich town of Abyei. Sudan and the future South Sudan failed to agree on which country should get Abyei, and they’ve continued to dispute the town even though the available evidence strongly suggests that its inhabitants would prefer to join South Sudan. At this point the UN presence is the only thing keeping the South Sudanese civil war from spilling into the area and preventing Sudan from attempting to assert control over the town. So this is probably not good news:

But their mission may be winding down. In May, the U.N. Security Council agreed to extend the peacekeeping mission’s mandate in the disputed area while scaling back troops. Unless both South Sudan’s and Sudan’s governments show “measurable progress” on border demarcation, the U.N. says the peacekeeping mandate won’t be renewed after the six-month extension, which expires in October. The mandate also states that without progress, the number of authorized troops in Abyei will decrease to 3,959 in October from 4,500.

Further reductions or an end to the peacekeeping mission could have dire consequences not only for Abyei but for South Sudan’s crippling five-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. “If you trigger further instabilities in Abyei box, it can have a domino effect for what’s happening in South Sudan … making it more chaotic,” said Stefano Ellero of the European Union development team. If the U.N. troops pull out, it would have a “deadly” effect on the present situation, turning Abyei into a “no man’s land where anybody can come in and do whatever he wants,” Ellero said.


Five Kenyan police officers were killed in northern Kenya on Wednesday when their truck ran over a bomb. Al-Shabab is believed to have been responsible.



Embattled Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš was officially reappointed to the PM job by President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday. This may have been a little premature–Babiš and his ANO party did conclude an agreement with the Social Democrats last month to form a minority coalition government that would be supported by the Communist Party. But the deal is contingent on members of the Social Democratic Party approving the arrangement in a party referendum whose results will be announced later this month. Zeman seems to be sending a message to the Social Democrats that Babiš is his guy like it or not, and that if they scuttle this coalition he’ll have to go form one with right-wing parties instead.


Italy’s new populist government passed the second of two required confidence votes on Wednesday, this one in the lower hose of parliament, and so it’s officially open for business.



Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held at least one phone call last month to talk about US tariffs against Canadian imports–specifically, Trump’s claim that US national security depends on tariffs on imported Canadian steel–and, ah, it didn’t go well:

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference, sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.

According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a “national security” issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” referring to the War of 1812.

That’s a “no,” Don, actually. You might want to use that line on Theresa May instead.

For some reason this is a salient event for Donald Trump’s trade policy


The Pentagon has stopped trying to convince people that its insultingly low civilian casualty counts are actually accurate and is now instead pretending that figuring out how many civilians it’s killed in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere is a total mystery, one that cannot possibly ever be known:

The Pentagon said Tuesday that the U.S. military will never know the exact number of civilians it has killed in the fight against the Islamic State, an admission that comes as the human rights group Amnesty International accuses the United States and its allies of having recklessly killed thousands of civilians in the battle to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa.

U.S. Army Col. Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said that despite the U.S. military’s best efforts to assess civilian casualties, no one will ever know exactly how many civilians U.S. strikes have killed since the fight began in 2014.

“As far as how do we know how many civilians were killed, I am just being honest, no one will ever know,” Veale said in a briefing at the Pentagon by video link from Baghdad. “Anyone who claims they will know is lying, and there’s no possible way.”

This is of course also insulting, but at least it’s a new insult. The old one was very played.

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