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Sunday, October 9, 2016

What's going on in the World Today 161009





North Africa: The Other Side of Europe's Migrant Crisis

North Africa: The Other Side of Europe's Migrant Crisis October 7, 2016


To talk of a single migrant crisis in Europe can be misleading. The eastern routes carrying migrants over the Mediterranean Sea have commanded international attention for the sheer number of Syrian refugees who have traversed them to enter Europe and for the European Union's negotiations and subsequent migrant deal with Turkey that the crisis prompted. Despite their higher profile and amount of traffic, however, the eastern routes are not the only migrant paths into Europe across the Mediterranean, nor is Syria the only country from which migrants are fleeing. Thousands of migrants also reach Europe each year from North Africa by way of routes crossing the central and western Mediterranean.


U.S. Weighs Iran-style Sanctions on North Korea, Risking a Rift With China

To stop Pyongyang's march to a nuclear arsenal, the White House is looking to target Chinese companies that bankroll Kim Jong Un’s banned weapons.

U.S. Weighs Iran-style Sanctions on North Korea, Risking a Rift With China
The Obama administration is heatedly debating whether to trigger harsh sanctions against North Korea that would target Chinese companies doing business with the hermit regime, in a crackdown like the one that crippled Iran’s economy, Foreign Policy has learned.

But some White House officials worry that the tough economic penalties, which have already been approved though not deployed, would cause a serious rift with Beijing.

Officials told FP that the approach would be similar to the sweeping secondary sanctions that were slapped on global banks handling transactions with Iran. Those sanctions are widely credited with bringing Iran’s economy to its knees in 2013 and forcing Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.

But a decision to go after Chinese banks and trading companies that deal with Pyongyang could rupture Washington’s relations with Beijing, which bristles at any unilateral sanctions imposed on its companies or drastic action that could cause instability in neighboring North Korea.

The push for possible tougher action in U.S. policy stems from growing alarm over North Korea’s bid to build more capable ballistic missiles and potent nuclear weapons, as illustrated by last month’s fifth nuclear test by Kim Jong Un’s regime — its largest to date. Some experts believe North Korea already has succeeded in building nuclear warheads that could be placed on a missile, and a series of test launches demonstrates that the North has developed medium-range missiles that could strike Japan or Guam. U.S. intelligence officials believe it is only a matter of time before Kim’s regime produces a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States…

North Korea: Increased Activity Spotted At Nuclear Test Site

October 7, 2016

Activity is increasing at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, according to satellite imagery obtained by the U.S.-based 38 North group. The new images show activity involving large a vehicle and personnel at all three tunnel complexes at the test site. The report’s authors suggest that the reason for the activity may be to collect data on the North’s fifth nuclear test, which took place on Sept. 9. But the report also comes amid speculation that the North may conduct another test to mark the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party, as Pyongyang has done in the past. Pyongyang no longer sees its nuclear program as a bargaining chip to trade away, but rather as a vital component of its national security.,

A Window of Opportunity Is Closing in Ukraine


Talks between the United States and Russia over the Ukrainian conflict seem more and more unlikely to make any meaningful headway as Barack Obama's last presidential term comes to a close. Cease-fire violations are a daily occurrence along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine — Kiev reported 30 made by pro-Russia separatists on Oct. 7 alone — and plans to withdraw troops and weaponry in certain locations have had mixed results. After an Oct. 5 meeting between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Russian officials in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said he had "no expectations of a breakthrough.”

Philippines: Duterte Charts His Course

Manila's decision on Oct. 7 to put joint patrols and naval exercises with the United States in the South China Sea on hold is the first concrete action the government has taken to back up President Rodrigo Duterte's criticism of the United States. In announcing the suspension of the patrols, Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana also said that his country, which has a longstanding security arrangement with the United States, intends to buy weapons from other countries such as China and Russia, and that the Philippines could make up for a loss in U.S. military aid. According to Lorenzana, the 107 U.S. troops operating surveillance drones on the restive southern island of Mindanao will be asked to leave once the Philippines acquires such intelligence-gathering capabilities for itself…

Philippines: South China Sea Drills With U.S. Put On Hold, Defense Minister Says

Situation Reports OCTOBER 7, 2016

Plans for joint patrols and naval exercises between the Philippines and the United States have been put on hold, Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana said Oct. 7, AFP reported. Lorenzana also said that the 107 U.S. troops operating surveillance drones against Muslim militants in the restive southern island of Mindanao would be asked to leave once the Philippines acquires such intelligence-gathering capabilities for itself. The defense minister said that the country intends to buy weapons from other countries like China and Russia, and the Philippines could make up for a loss in U.S. military aid. The statements are a notable about face for Lorenzana, who just two days earlier suggest that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats to end the Philippines’ military partnership with the United States were grounded in a lack of understanding about the benefits of the alliance. Unless the U.S. begins to make its military aid conditional on, say, human rights improvements, the benefits of the deal for the Philippines will continue to be substantial and serve the country's strategic imperatives in the South China Sea.

Turkey: Blast Targets Istanbul Police Station

An explosion in Istanbul appears to be the work of a faction of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). A large blast shook a police building in the Yenibosna district of Istanbul around 4:00 p.m. on Oct. 6, injuring at least five people. The bomb was big enough to cause significant structural damage to nearby buildings and vehicles. According to an NTV report that cited unnamed security officials, authorities are searching for a suspect who fled from the scene on a motorcycle. The number of casualties will probably rise as more information is released…

A New Danger Rises in the Red Sea
An attack on a ship in the Red Sea raises fresh concerns about Yemen's civil war. On Oct. 1, an Emirati vessel operating near Yemen's Red Sea port of Mokha was attacked. According to claims made by Houthi rebels, they employed an anti-ship missile in the assault, a capability the group had never before demonstrated. If true — and a video posted online seems to support the claims — Houthi fighters would be able to pose a significant danger to Saudi-led coalition warships in the Red Sea, as well as to civilian ships that pass through the area. Moreover, the appearance of a type of anti-ship missile previously unseen in Yemen would mean that considerable gaps exist in the arms embargo directed against the Houthi fighters. Added to recent stagnation of the Yemeni battlefield, the incident casts a different light on the strength of the Houthi rebellion in the face of Saudi-led air and ground campaigns....

In India, a Military Strategy Guided by Precision


South Asia is not known for its stability, but India and Pakistan's military strategies could lead to greater insecurity in the region. Nuclear weapons, particularly tactical nuclear weapons that are launched on the battlefield, have been introduced into India and Pakistan's military calculations, causing both sides to re-evaluate their policies. Originally, India's unofficial military doctrine, Cold Start, relied on rapid, flexible conventional military operations to strike Pakistan while avoiding a protracted war that could increase the likelihood of nuclear retaliation. But Pakistan countered by developing a tactical nuclear response that made the prospect of large-scale fighting too risky for New Delhi and Islamabad. Nevertheless, India has sought alternate forms of deterrence against Pakistan's asymmetric tactics. Using more limited military strikes, or "surgical deterrence," India will decrease the chances of a wider conflict erupting. Still, escalation will remain an underlying risk....


Germany: Chemnitz Police Raid Second Apartment For Man Planning Bomb Attack

German police in the eastern city of Chemnitz entered another apartment Oct. 9 as they search for a man allegedly planning a bomb attack, BBC reported. A man said to be linked to the suspect, Jaber al-Bakr, was detained. The 22-year-old Syria-born refugee remains on the run. Three other alleged associates were arrested on Oct. 8; the same day a raid on an apartment uncovered several hundred grams of "highly volatile" explosives, later destroyed in a controlled explosion. Saxony police have not provided any information about how long al-Bakr had been in Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open the borders to refugees and migrants last year has redefined politics and security concerns in Germany. In July, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an ax attack on a train near Wurzburg and a suicide bombing in Ansbach.

The U.K. Sketches the Outlines of Its Brexit Strategy

The British government has started to outline the positions it will take in negotiations over its departure from the European Union. Recent statements by Prime Minister Theresa May and several members of her Cabinet have sought to clarify London's views on a number of issues surrounding the Brexit. Any haggling over the country's future outside the bloc must wait until the United Kingdom formally triggers the Brexit process, and May's ministers remain divided on multiple counts. But more than three months after the British referendum passed, London feels that it is time to send a message to voters, local and foreign companies, and EU governments…

U.K.: Government Approves Hydraulic Fracturing Project

Hydraulic fracturing has long been a controversial subject in the United Kingdom, but could be the key to countering falling natural gas output elsewhere in Europe. On Oct. 6, the British government approved plans to begin horizontal hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road, a site in Lancashire belonging to British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources. The government has not made a decision on similar proposals for Cuadrilla's Roseacre Wood project...


El Salvador: From Bloody Civil War to Devastating Criminal Violence


By Diego Solis

In 2015, El Salvador, with an alarming 104 homicides committed per 100,000 residents, was named the world's most violent country. It is a place with a long history of violence — from the Spanish incursion in the 16th century fiercely resisted by Pipil warriors to the military government's massacre of thousands of rural indigenous citizens in 1932. And then there was the civil war that raged between 1979 and 1992, killing an estimated 75,000 people in a country of just a few million. Today, El Salvador's legacy of violence is most evident in its gang culture, most notably perpetrated by Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and the 18th Street Gang, or Calle 18. Both groups emerged from a migratory channel opened between the United States and El Salvador. Beginning in the 1980s, Washington gave thousands of El Salvadorans, largely from poor, rural areas, temporary protective status in the United States. But those migrants were given little support, and were deported en masse after the war ended. They took back with them Los Angeles-style gang culture and replicated it throughout major urban centers in El Salvador and eventually throughout Central America…

Venezuela: Colectivos Split From Caracas

Venezuelan police are targeting the country's colectivos, or pro-government patronage groups, in an operation that could widen the divides within the ruling party. On Oct. 6, authorities arrested a member of a colectivo known as La Piedrita in the Caracas neighborhood of Barrio 23 de Enero. The arrest came after police allegedly killed 11 colectivo members. Though the colectivos claim they killed police officers as well, the government did not report any personnel deaths in the scuffle...fRussia




China: Nanjing Oil Refinery Equipment Catches Fire, Explodes

Situation Reports OCTOBER 9, 2016

Equipment at an oil refinery in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing caught fire and exploded Oct. 9, state media said, Reuters reported. The explosion occurred at the Jinlingshihua Nanjing Refinery, a subsidiary of Sinopec Group, the official Xinhua news agency said, adding that no casualties had yet been reported. Fire fighters had been dispatched to battle the flames, the blaze had been controlled and there was not currently a secondary environmental or security risk, the company said. Deadly accidents are relatively common at industrial plants in China, and anger over lax standards is growing after three decades of swift economic growth marred by incidents from mining disasters to factory fires. China has vowed to improve safety at such facilities, especially after chemical blasts in the port city of Tianjin on Aug. 12, 2015.








Russia: Military Deploys Iskander Missiles To Kaliningrad

October 8, 2016

Russia has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad region, bordering Poland and Lithuania, BBC reported Oct. 8. The Lithuanian foreign minister said that the aim of the move was to "seek concessions from the West," particularly over recent disagreements with the United States and NATO on Syria and Ukraine. Russia's Defense Ministry said the new deployment was part of military exercises and had happened before. The Iskander system has a range of up to 700 kilometers (440 miles). NATO is boosting its eastern flank by deploying four battalions in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia next year, in part to respond to Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which continue to test relations with Western powers. Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia are among nations reporting recent air-space violations by Russia's military.

Russia: Moscow Strikes a Deal To Allow a Rosneft Sale

Russia is finalizing plans to sell a stake in its biggest oil company, Rosneft, in November. According to Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, the Kremlin and Rosneft have reached a compromise and are prepared to move forward with the sale. Moscow is counting on the money it will get for privatizing 19 percent of the firm — roughly $11.4 billion — to help it close the $36 billion budget gap it is expected to see by the end of the year...




Drilling Deeper Into Saudi Aramco's Bid to Go Public


Saudi Arabia is taking steps to put its ambitious agenda for economic reform into practice. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Saudi Aramco) CEO Amin Nasser said the company's partial initial public offering (IPO) would list units across the organization — rather than just the downstream segments, as many had expected. The announcement hints that Riyadh may be making a serious effort to introduce greater transparency and efficiency into the state-owned energy giant's practices, as promised. More important, though, it indicates Riyadh's commitment to forging ahead with a massive overhaul of the Saudi economy, a plan that until now has seen more talk than action...


Competing for Partners in Outer Space


On July 17, 1975, an orbital rendezvous between the Soyuz and Apollo spacecrafts proved that the Soviet Union and the United States could set aside their differences in the name of advancing manned spaceflight. Space is the ultimate high ground in terrestrial warfare, but it is also an opportunity for cooperation on basic scientific research. Conducting research in space is expensive, and few countries can afford to go it alone. Though the intense competition over military and commercial uses of space will continue, space and planetary science will likely remain collaborative fields, even if flavored with nationalism. Nevertheless, as other nations develop their own space programs, their more established counterparts in the United States, Russia and China will increasingly vie with one another to enlist them as research partners…</>blockquote>

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