Week in Review
1 March 2019
RISING TENSIONS IN KASHMIR. This week the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan has reached a dangerous level of tension. There have between a series of aerial engagements in the skies above the disputed principality between the two bitter rivals in recent days resulting in a downed Indian fighter pilot being captured by Pakistani forces. This began when the Indian Air Force destroyed an alleged terrorist camp deep in Pakistani territory, which Pakistan saw as unwarranted and a provocation. Many countries, including Canada, are not allowing commercial flights to pass over India and Pakistan airspace due to the dangerous circumstances. This is the first air to air engagement between the two powers since their last major war in 1971. This situation is made ever more dangerous by the fact that both powers have nuclear weapon capabilities. Both sides are mobilizing for war despite calls for restraint by China, Britain, the United States and the European Union.
CORBYN OFFERS PM MAY BREXIT SUPPORT. Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour Party leader, delivered a letter to Theresa May last night which spelled out the terms for Labour's support. Labour's Brexit vision is softer than the average Tory line, demanding a customs union with the UK, as well as high levels of integration and coordination on the single market and various EU institutions. May's troubles finding a deal stem primarily from her party, which is split between a harder and softer Brexit. A deal with Labour could well push her support over the edge, but alienate the Brexiteers within her party. This is assuming Labour MPs would all support Corbyn's proposal, when in-fact his party is overwhelmingly anti-Brexit.
FRANCE RECALLS AMBASSADOR TO ROME AMID ONGOING TENSIONS. After months of rising political tensions between France and Italy primarily concerning immigration and the gilet jaunes protests, the French government made the decision this week to recall its ambassador from Rome. This decision seems to have been made directly following a meeting on Tuesday between Italy’s deputy PM Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the populist, anti-establishment five-star movement (M5S), and leaders of the France’s gilet jaunes protest movement along with several candidates the movement has put forward for the upcoming European elections. In a Facebook post following the meeting, Di Maio proclaimed that “The wind of change has crossed the alps”. In response, the French foreign ministry has called this meeting a clear provocation and has stated that Di Maio must “take care not to undermine, through repeated interferences, our bilateral relation, in the interest of both France and Italy.”
IRAN TO PARDON THOUSANDS. As a part of celebrations relating to the 40th anniversary of the revolution to overthrow its Shah, who was backed by the United States, Iran plans to pardon or reduce the sentences of up to 50 000 citizens. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has complete control over any pardons, made the announcement this week via his twitter account that these prisoners would benefit from "the Islamic Clemency." It is unclear whether any of the pardons will include any citizens jailed for what human rights groups call political reasons. As well, there was no mention of any specific intention to free the many dual nationals currently held in Iran.
NETANYAHU INDICTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery and breech of trust. The charges come form three separate corruption investigations. In the first case, Netanyahu allegedly accepted lavish gifts from oversees businessmen. After receiving these alleged gifts, Netanyahu tried to introduce a tax break that would benefit those who gave him the gifts. In another case, he is accused of buying favourable coverage from the owner of Israel’s largest newspaper by promising to limit the circulation of the paper’s main competitor. In the final case, Netanyahu is accused of giving approximately $280 Billion USD to Israeli telecom giant Bezeq. Bezeq’s primary shareholder is a man by the name of Shaul Elovitch. In return for the money, Netanyahu would receive favourable news coverage from a news agency owned by Elovitch. The news of Netanyahu’s indictment comes a bombshell ahead of the Israeli election in April. Netanyahu, who will be running for a fifth term as Prime Minister, has called the accusations a “witch hunt” meant to influence the upcoming elections. His legal team has argued that the decision on the charges should be released after the election in order to prevent an “undemocratic” result.
NORTH KOREA-U.S HANOI SUMMIT COLLAPSES. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un’s Hanoi summit this week ended abruptly on Thursday after the two sides failed to reach a joint agreement. The primary sticking points which prevented an agreement between the two counties pertained to economic sanctions and denuclearization. Trump told reporters in a press conference that the main impediment to a deal was Kim’s requirement that the U.S lift economic sanctions on North Korea in their entirety in exchange for the closure of a single nuclear facility, which would leave Pyongyang with a large nuclear arsenal. Trump was confident following the talks that his relationship with Kim remained strong and positive despite their lack of an agreement, telling reporters of his parting with the North Korean despot, “no, this was very friendly. We shook hands… There’s a warmth that we have, and I hope that stays. I think it will. But we’re positioned to do something very special.” This was the second summit between the two countries, the first having been held in Singapore last summer, however no plans have been confirmed that any further talks will take place.