Friday, September 27, 2013

Let's Give the Middle East a Break (Week in Review)

What with all the discussion in recent weeks of Syria, Iran, and the situation in the Middle East in general, I think I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say we are growing a bit tired of the repetitive writing (as I'm sure our readers are growing tired of reading repetitive pieces!) It's highly relevant though, not to just to the immediate region but to the entire global political arena, and therefore is high priority on our list of things to discuss each week - and will continue to be. However, this Friday I thought it would be nice to do a broader week-in-review, highlighting some other important events and situations taking place around the globe. For those who want to read about Syria and Iran, I would recommend this article and this interview. Otherwise, here are some other notable things from the last week:

Sudan: Over the past week, Sudan has seen some of the worst unrest in years - perhaps in a decade. This is interesting when put in the context of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir being the recipient of virtually universal vitriol over his publicly expressed desire to apply for a U.S. visa and attend the UN General Assembly this week. Sudan has officially lifted major subsidies on fuel, substantially raising the prices for consumers in the country, which resulted in inevitable protests. Things turned ugly when the police cracked down on these protestors, injuring and killing several. The Sudanese public retaliated with a much more violent protest of over 3,000 people, who have been clashing with police in Khartoum for several days now. Death tolls are estimated at around 50 so far - all civilians with gunshots to the head or chest.

Qatar: The publication the Guardian has revealed egregious and horrific mistreatment of Nepalese workers helping Qatar prepare for the 2020 World Cup, their report shows. These workers, of which there are thousands, have been dying at almost one-per-day since the World Cup work began. Numerous human rights groups across the globe have spoken out, calling the situation "modern slavery" and urging for international humanitarian intervention or, at the very least, Qatar to assuage concerns and begin to improve the workers' living and working conditions.

Italy: The Italian government is (shocker) on the verge of political bedlam in the coming weeks, as numerous center-right MPs vowing allegiance to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have threatened to resign from government should he lose his seat in the Senate. Mr. Berlusconi was recently convicted of tax fraud, and faces a vote from a Senate Committee October 4th which will decide whether or not he loses his Senatorial seat. President Napolitano will then face a choice - should his acolytes in Parliament follow him out of government, Napolitano will either have to dissolve Parliament altogether, or dissolve and rebuild a new coalition government (neither an optimal choice).

Pakistan: Pakistan has been in the news a lot this week. On Tuesday, Pakistan experienced a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that left behind a death toll upwards of 250. Later this past week, Pakistan announced plans to continue developing a gas pipeline that will stretch into Iran - a brazen violation of U.S. economic sanctions currently imposed on Iran. It looks like the U.S.-Pakistan relationship will continue to be strained.

Finally, Pakistan has experienced a surge in terrorist-related violence this past week, the most recent occurring yesterday in Peshawar as a bus explosion killed 18 and wounded at least 44. Given that Pakistan will continue needing U.S. aid and encouragement in combatting terrorist cells that wreak havoc weekly in the country, it is probably in Pakistan's best interest to try and reach a compromise regarding their proposed pipeline.

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