The latest chapter of the so called Arab Spring took another step today as the pro-democracy Baba Amr rebel group in Syria withdrew from battle torn city of Homs after an intense 26-day siege by state forces commanded by President Bashar al-Assad. In a conflict which saw the death of UK war reporting veteran Marie Colvin (of the Sunday Times) who had been sneaked into the area by rebels to cover the bloodshed, the Red Cross has been given permission to enter the area to treat the estimated 4,000 remaining citizens.
It’s frustrating that this campaign has lasted so long without international intervention in some capacity; though the Arab League, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Western partners have strived to bring this to the UN Security Council, veto-wielding members such as Russia and China are adamant to not interfere. This action not only frustrates partners such as the US and the EU, but allows for further violence that ought to be curbed by now.
Piracy (no we're not talking about file-sharing) on the high-seas, particularly around the horn of Africa (East Coast) has been a continuing problem for quite some time now as ships, cargo, and tourists from wealthier nations are held for ransom while traversing the sea route. Earlier this week the Danish Navy enacted a rescue mission from one of the pirate mother ships off the coast of Somalia, freeing 16 hostages after intercepting and firing on it after repeated warnings. Counter-piracy efforts in the region have been increasingly effective over the past few months with the number of reported attacks dropping. This however may also be due to the fact many ships are contracting armed guards to protect them as they pass through the area.
In North Africa, news this week centers upon the pro-democracy protestors from America who were allowed to leave Egypt after being subject to a travel ban. We’re not surprised with the swift change as the US threatened to withhold their $1.3B in annual aid. Money is always a strong motivator, and it didn’t hurt that the son of a US Secretary was involved.
China took a small step towards changing its one child policy this week as it announced it would re-brand certain associated propaganda. As published by the People’s China Daily, examples such as “we would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child” will be replaced by “caring for the girl means caring for the future of the nation.” The latter, which speaks to females being abandoned in order to produce a male heir to support the family is definitely a welcome change to a cruel enforcement that has apparently reduced 400M births since enacted decades ago. This may be due to the fact China has become much more globalized (look for our Apple vs. China article soon) and the fact its societal hierarchy has been rapidly changing with modernization.
It’s been a good week for the world’s nuclear powers with first Iran getting back to the table and now the State Department has announced it has made inroads with the new North Korean leader, untested Kim Jon-un. Jon-un will reportedly suspend long-range missile and nuclear tests, as well as its uranium enrichment program in exchange for much needed food aid. While this may seem like a winning situation, no mention has been made of its plutonium program which could be just as dangerous. Though we’re inclined to take these ‘baby steps’ as welcome change of pace, things could have been a lot worse if the world’s youngest head-of-state chose to show off his weapons instead.
Unlike the rest of our Global Report, the Oceanic region (Australia, NZ, Indonesia and the countless island nations of the South Pacific), were relatively quiet this week in terms of conflict unless you’re the leader of Australia right now. Prime Minister Julia Gillard fought off a leadership confidence vote on Monday within her ruling Labor Party. Brought on by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the vote was in her favor 71-to-31. Long live the Aussies.
Check out Global Report next week for our coverage of the Russian presidential elections.