The Global Report: June 7, 2012

By Michael J. Lockhart

We give you our update on the Syrian Crisis, the SCO Summit, & the EU at a crossroad.

Welcome to the Global Report: our weekly column of the most important issues happening across the planet. From politics to war, monarchies to dictatorships, and everything in-between, we’ve got it covered. It’s world news, style.

In a rare sign of political agreement, U.S. congressional leaders have written a bipartisan statement to the Obama administration regarding the recent leaks on highly secretive drone and anti-cyberterrorism information that has been made publicly available recently. Released through the House and Senate intelligence committees yesterday, the document proclaims that “Each disclosure puts American lives at risk, makes it more difficult to recruit assets, strains the trust of our partners and threatens imminent and irreparable damage to our national security.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel stated earlier today that she is open and ready to work on a proposed political and financial union between EU states willing to participate. While in recent weeks it has been assumed that nothing short of a financial or banking union can tackle the ongoing individual bailouts, Merkel’s signal regarding the need for EU countries to cede political power to a central authority is a major first step towards Germany’s federalist vision. While we can imagine that some leaders may be hesitant on this front, such as recently elected French president Francois Hollande, weaker and more indebted nations may not have much of a choice these days.

Since we reported last week on the Houla massacre in Syria and the collective Western response which saw Syrian diplomats ousted from the country, the situation has reached an impasse: key player Russia, backed by China, has been toeing the line between cooperation and hindrance. While Russia would like to see former UN secretary general Kofi Annan’s peace plan enacted, the country is afraid that any further international action may lead to an intervention in Syria, which it is strongly against. That said, this week Russia admitted that a regime change, which would see Syrian president Assad leave power, could now be considered a possible solution. However, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton is balking at a recent suggestion by Russia to bring all major players to the table once again; she does not believe it will be effective if a certain Russian-invited country participates (here’s looking at you, Iran) as it still supports the Assad regime’s anti-democratic ideals. We are also hearing reports from the United Nations that international monitors on the ground in Syria were blocked by government forces and fired upon as they attempted to reach the Houla region after last week’s massacre. If this isn’t a warning sign for the government’s future cooperation, then we don’t know what is.

A commercial jet liner crashed after a reported engine failure near the Nigerian capital of Lagos on Sunday, resulting in the deaths of all 153 passengers. The airline, Dana Air, has come under fire since the incident, which has sparked a public outcry over spotty maintenance on the aircraft.

Despite its faltering economy, the U.S. is offering rewards of up to $33 million to bring to justice seven leading members of Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group. Though the cost is high, the country has been one of the centers of terrorist and pirate activity in Africa, so bring on Dog the Bounty Hunter!

Following the example of North and South Korea, South Sudan proposed on Tuesday to create a demilitarized zone covering disputed areas on either side of the Sudan-South Sudan border. However, this idea has been quickly shot down by the government of Sudan, leading to yet another standoff between the two rival nations.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit and associated meetings have been underway the past two days in Beijing, China as the world’s arguably second most powerful regional body gathers to discuss development and growth across the Eurasian continent. The group, which acts as a forum for leading members Russia and China to oversee and invest in nearby oil-rich but cash-poor former Soviet states, invited key Middle Eastern players to attend as either observers or associate members, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Among the discussions that have taken place, notable resolutions include an economic mandate for the union in coming years, exemplified by China’s offer to SCO of $10 billion to be used to push growth in member countries and spur development. In addition to this, military personnel numbering in the thousands will conduct a joint training operation in Tajikistan throughout this month primarily focusing on counterterrorism. This action is one of the most interesting facets of the SCO, as analysts have argued for years whether or not the group would evolve to the security level of an “Anti-NATO.” While a counterterrorism drill is nothing special, the integration of troops from several countries (including China and Russia) is bound to sideline as a test for interoperability of these forces.

In Creature Feature news this week, hordes of giant biting spiders have been attacking villagers and spreading panic in northeast India. Seeing as two victims have died from the venom, you might want to hold off on travel plans for the moment.

In Double Creature Feature this week, staff at Australia’s Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens have gone to war with a reported 5000 flying foxes, a large species of bat, after the colony began nesting and destroying the area. Apparently the tactic being used is playing recorded banging sounds – may we suggest relocating some Montreal protestors to do the job?


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