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The Hemispheres News Digest

Late January in International Relations

Zika Virus

The Zika virus, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, is part of a recently expanding outbreak. The virus currently has no known vaccine. 3 to 4 million have been affected in the past nine months. Symptoms include conjunctivitis, fever, and a skin rash lasting from 2 to 7 days. Read more about the Zika Virus here.

While the symptoms may not sound severe (in fact, most affected individuals don’t even know they are ill), people suspect that there is a connection between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome, an immune system disorder, as well as microcephaly, a serious developmental condition that has grown increasingly ubiquitous in Brazil. Thus, the spread of the virus has triggered global travel warnings for pregnant women released by the CDC and other health organizations. The New York Times updated “Short Answers to Hard Questions About Zika Virus” on January 28.

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So far, there are 31 reported U.S. cases of the Zika virus in 11 states and Washington, D.C. according to the CDC, all attributed to international travel. While the development of a vaccine is being pushed for internationally, efforts will most likely take years despite international mobilization for research and development (Source). Foreign Policy reported that there is a risk of Zika becoming endemic to Brazil, or a permanent feature of the nature’s ecology. The possibility of the disease making a permanent home for itself in the Western Hemisphere is one of great concern.

Syria talks

Syria peace talks representing the first political effort to peace in two years began as of January 29, although the role of the opposition in the talks remains unclear. The talks begin after long delays caused by uncertainty of who would form the opposition committee in the face of staunch boycotting against the talks. Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy, has urged the final opposition bloc to attend the talks regardless of whether the Assad regime lifts sieges. Kurds are invited as observers, rather than having their own seat at the negotiating table (CNN).

download.jpegThese “proximity talks” to be mediated by Mistura are complicated by recent events. First, Syrian government forces have advanced with the help of Russian airstrikes, reducing the government’s incentive to negotiate. As the civil war has been ongoing for over five years, killing over 250,000 and causing over half the Syrian population to flee, the opposition remains uncertain whether the negotiations will be fruitful according to the Atlantic.

Myanmar ends military-only rule

In the general elections of November 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory after nearly 50 years of military rule. BBC further explains the election here.

 

National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi applauds as she attends a farewell ceremony at the Parliament in Naypyitaw

National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi applauds as she attends a farewell ceremony at the Parliament in Naypyitaw, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

On Monday, these elected MPs will take their seats in Parliament after an emotional celebration in the capital of Naypyidaw. However, there remain barriers to this celebration. The constitution, drafted by the military, presents Suu Kyi from becoming president. The military retains control over 25% of parliamentary seats and three security ministries, meaning that the legacy of the junta in Myanmar is far from over.
Next week, three presidential candidates will be put forward (one from the upper house, one from the lower house, and one from the military bloc). The houses will then vote together, with the new president assuming power in March (Source: Reuters).

The Hemispheres News Digest

Early to Mid November in International Relations

Opposition leaders executed in Bangladesh

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Senior Bangladeshi opposition leaders Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury were executed Saturday for war crimes committed during the bloody War of Liberation in 1971 after a final clemency appeal was rejected.

Both members were convicted for genocidal atrocities. Mujahid was a senior member of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, while Chowdhury led BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), the main opposition force. (Source: The Guardian.)

Despite these accusations, however, there has been concern regarding backlash, as supporters of each politician have threatened justice and questioned the legal validity of the proceedings. A reporter returning from Chowdhury’s funeral was shot at repeatedly while inside his car. This event thus exacerbates concerns regarding instability in Bangladesh. Read more here.

China gets involved in the fight against ISIS

This week, ISIS executed Chinese national Fan Jinghui, prompting president Xi Jinping to “resolutely crack down” on such terrorist activity. This sentiment was exacerbated by the loss of 3 Chinese failway executives in the Malian siege.

China, with formidable security presence including over 2 million soldiers, has called to expand its presence internationally to combat terrorist threats. (Source).

Despite this, however, this represents a major setback and limitation for China in that it has not taken a more effective, direct response against terrorism such as officially joining the international coalition against the Islamic State before this point. As such, Beijing is contemplating a framework to send more troops abroad. Although China cracks down on terrorism within its borders, as it recently did in Xinjiang, it tends to let the United States, Britain, France, and Russia take the lead in terms of fighting international threats. China does not necessarily have to militarily intervene in the Middle East, but sitting on the international sidelines is becoming less and less of an option. Read more here.

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Myanmar Landslide

90 people are reported dead in a landslide in Myanmar that occurred in the early morning of Sunday November 22. Located in the Kachin state, the landslide occurred at a jade mine when waste material collapsed, burying the victims. Among the victims are those who live close to waste dumps in hopes of finding pieces of jade to sell for themselves.

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More people are missing and the Myanmar Red Cross along with local authorities are working to find them. Read more here.

Paris Update

This is the second day Brussels is under a city-wide lockdown. Belgian forces are on the hunt for several terror suspects including Salah Abdeslam, who was involved in the Paris attacks. He is described as armed and dangerous and according to friends, he was recently in Brussels trying to get to Syria. Interior Minister Jan Jambon says that the “terror threat in Belgium will not be over once Salah Abdeslam is out of harm’s way” (Source). It is unclear to whether Interior Minister Jambon believes there will be another attack, but this time targeted towards civilians in Brussels.

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So far Belgian authorities have charged three people with involvement in the Paris attacks. A total of nine people have been named as perpetrators in this violent

2016 US Presidential Election Update

Following the Paris attacks, Democratic presidential hopefuls lined up in Iowa to debate. The primary focus of the debate was about how the US should best deal with the Islamic State (IS). Former Secretary of State and frontrunner of the Democratic presidential race, Hilary Clinton, was reported to appear stiff and defensive when her opponents challenged her. Although Clinton, compared to her opponents, is more knowledgeable and experienced with foreign policy issues, neither she nor Bernie Sanders nor Martin O’Malley provided a plan for managing the threat of the militant group (Source).

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The Iowa debate ended with banter about the economy, minimum wage, Syrian refugees, and of course criticizing the Republican party. Read more here.

The Hemispheres News Digest

This Week in International Relations: October 11th-17th 

What’s Happening with the TTP?

Now that the United States is close to securing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP for short, a trade agreement encompassing American and Asian states aimed at reducing trade barriers and tariffs), attention is shifting to America’s other coast, where another trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is being worked out with the European Union. Planned for next year, the TTIP mirrors some of the policies of the TPP, as well as its secrecy, but is focused on removing regulations. Some argue that the TTIP is beneficial, citing the deal’s its incentives for business and trade abroad during a period of decline in world trade (Pro-TTIP). Opponents, however, see the TTIP as harming European jobs and standards, as well as granting corporations power equal to those of countries (Anti-TTIP). For these reasons, citizens opposed to the TTIP are now protesting across Europe. From Spain to Bulgaria, Poland to Belgium, Europeans have been voicing their opinions, yet in Berlin, Germany at least 100,000 have come out to protest against the TTIP (Protest).

(Source: The Guardian)

North Korean Nationalism Continues 

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On October 10th, North Korea celebrated its 70th Anniversary as a state. Along with all the fanfare and pageantry, Kim Jung Un announced his country’s preparation for war should the “American Imperialists” strike (Speech). North Korea’s modern military technology, including its drones and missiles, were on display, but this celebration is incomparable to that of China’s last month to commemorate their victory in World War II (Parade) yet only China sent a dignitary to the festivities . While dignitaries across the world visited China on this occasion, only a senior member of the Chinese poliburo came to North Korea this saturday. But this gesture, along with others, demonstrate China’s continued backing of the rogue nation.

(Source: BBC)

Putin’s Diplomacy 

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Vladimir Putin continued to increase his role in the Syrian conflict this past week in a meeting with one of America’s key allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. Putin and the Saudi Arabian Defense Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Salmin, met this Sunday and discussed how to best combat the Islamic State. Although no concrete plans emerged from the meeting, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on more mutual cooperation between the two nations – not merely in military advances, but also potentially along economic lines. While Saudi Arabia and Russia disagree on the nature of the post ISIL Syria, Russia’s expansion into a previously American sphere of influence will only harm american interests.

(source: rt)

Eradicating Ebola 

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For the first time since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began, an entire week has passed since any new recorded cases have occurred. This marks a milestone since the outbreak began in March 2014. While there are still citizens being held in quarantine or receiving treatment, WHO officials are hopeful that this is a turning point in the eradication of Ebola from west africa.
(source: http://www.eboladeeply.org/articles/2015/10/8355/ebola-executive-summary-october-8-2015/)

The Difficulty of Spreading Democracy through Foreign Imposed Regime Changes: Implications for Political Order and Marginalized Populations

Democratic Foreign Imposed Regime Changes (FIRCs), are the FIRCs that uproot an existing authoritarian regime and replace it with a democracy. Though many democratic FIRCs have occurred, few have succeeded. There are three reasons why democratic FIRCs often fail. First, target countries of FIRCs generally have little to no prior experience with democracy. Second, after the FIRC, the population equates the new government with foreign oppressiveness. Third, FIRCs disproportionately target poor, unstable countries that do not yet have good foundations for democracy. In addition, high levels of economic development in the country prior to the FIRC are favorable conditions for why some FIRCs succeed. Future research on FIRCs should focus on addressing how foreign aid can increase FIRC success rates in poor countries. Moreover, how endogenous democratization happens in countries should be studied, especially in countries transitioning to middle income status, like China. Finally, a theory of FIRCs should depend on a theory of democracy, so studying what democracy properly is and how it is sustained is a new frontier for studying FIRCs.

Mason Ji is a junior at Yale University studying Global Affairs. Read his full paper here.

U.S Policy on Negotiations: Undermining International Law

On September 20, 2001, United States President George W. Bush declared war on global terrorism in reaction to the largest attack on U.S. soil since the country’s independence. The declaration launched the country into a new type of warfare, fought not against a sovereign state and not bound by the confines of international borders. As a result, this new type of conflict has demanded a reexamination of many U.S. policies, specifically the country’s principal to refrain from negotiating with terrorist organizations.

Since the commencement of the War on Terror the accuracy of the country’s policy on non-negotiation has come under increasing scrutiny. Despite its statements, the U.S. has negotiated with states that have sponsored terrorism, individual perpetrators, and internationally recognized terrorist groups. Bruce Hoffman, Director of Georgetown University’s Center of Security Studies, insists, “The refrain ‘we do not negotiate with terrorists’ is repeated as a mantra more than a fact. Since the War on Terror began, the lack of clear action to support this rhetoric has been undeniable” (Gomez). By continuing to support the stance in official policy, however, the U.S. is forced to conduct the transactions in secretive and nonpublic avenues. Rather than upholding an image of strength against terrorist ideology, this only serves to lessen American credibility in an international setting.

Almost fourteen years after President Bush’s declaration, the United States must acknowledge that the creation of a world where one should negotiate with belligerent nation states but not with other forms of opposition is an unfeasible one. Mediation and negotiation have been necessary since the beginning of modern warfare and are even more crucial as the stakes of armed conflict and violent global destruction rise. The very basis of the international ideology that the U.S. champions today demands the recognition and acknowledgement of the opposition and their causes, diplomatic efforts of cultural and ideological understanding, and negotiation to resolve conflict as peacefully as possible. The United States must merge its allegiance to negotiations and diplomacy with the acknowledgement that a new era of warfare is conducted against terrorist groups: a policy demanding non-negotiation and inaction ultimately fails to recognize the nature of 21st century conflict.

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The EU’s Failed Solution to an Immigration Problem

Europe has been dealing with an immigration crisis for more than five years now. With migrants leaving their native countries for a variety of reasons including war, famine and human rights abuses, many have turned to human traffickers to help them get across the Mediterranean to Europe. The final destination for the intrepid many, after this perilous journey, is Italy.

Every day in Italy, hundreds of migrants make the journey from Libya to the small island of Lampedusa, in search for a better life. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 3,200 migrants lost their lives trying to reach Europe by sea last year alone. Until September 2014, Italy had a program called Mare Nostrum to help these migrants make it to Italy safely. Migrants make the voyage from the shores of Libya by paying off human trafickers, who promise the migrants a place in a dinghy which is often unsafe and overcrowded. Mare Nostrum, run by the Italian Navy, was created after the terrible 2013 shipwreck that killed 300 migrants. The Italian Navy would send ships to meet dinghies off the coast of Libya and to safely transport the migrants to Italy, minimizing the deaths and hardships that the migrants would have had to otherwise undergo. It cost about nine million Euros per month and was completely financed by the Italian government, despite pleas to the European Union by the Italian Prime Minister. Due to the high influx of immigrants and lack of funds this program soon came to an end. According to the EU, Mare Nostrum was a program that encouraged migrants to make the journey since they knew that the Italian Navy would help them.

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‘Grexit’

‘Grexit’ may not be a word that many have heard before, but it has become increasingly more discussed in the past couple of days. A Grexit, or a Greek exit from the Eurozone, is what may happen now that Greece has elected a new prime minister who wants to cut back on austerity measures and to renegotiate Greece’s debts.

On Sunday January 25th, Alexis Tsipras, the head of Greece’s left wing Syriza party, was elected Prime minister. Tsipras gained widespread popularity throughout Greece because of his promises that he would drastically reduce the austerity measures that have led to recession and high levels of unemployment throughout Greece. The measures, which resulted in the GDP shrinking 19% since 2010 and in unemployment rising to 25%, have not significantly contributed to the reduction of the national debt, which has risen—Greece’s debt as a share of GDP is now 176%.

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