Compass World: India Strikes Pakistani Militants
The Indian military struck militants in Pakistani territory on February 25, further escalating tensions between the two neighboring countries. The air strikes targeted the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group in the town of Balakot in northern Pakistan. The group claimed responsibility for a February 14 suicide attack that killed forty Indian soldiers. The Indian government alleges that Pakistan played a role in the attack and continues to harbor militant group groups such as JeM which are hostile to India.
LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
Foreign Countries Criticize Maduro for Blocking Aid
After using troops to block foreign food aid organized by the Venezuelan opposition, the Maduro regime is being confronted with warnings that there will be increased pressure on his regime from the United States and countries throughout Latin America. The Lima Group of Latin American states opposed to the Maduro regime is set to meet February 24, and Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to attend. Brazil, whose border saw clashes over food aid, called on more Latin American nations to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaído as President. Guaído urged supporting countries to consider “all options” to oust President Maduro.
Kim Takes the Low Road
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un elected to travel by train to the upcoming summit between him and President Donald Trump in Vietnam this week. The multi-day journey began in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and is taking him through China down to the border of Vietnam, where he will finish the trip by car to the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. The choice to travel by train is a by-and-large a political one, as Kim’s government only owns a nearly forty-year old plane from the Soviet Union that is not currently functional. Although his government was loaned a Boeing 747 from China to travel to the leaders’ first summit in June 2018 in Singapore, this time was different. Observers speculate that Kim did not want to step off a plane with a Chinese flag once again because doing so would signal political dependence on China.
MIDDLE EAST & CENTRAL ASIA
Iran Foreign Minister Quits
To the shock of observers worldwide, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (pictured) announced his resignation in a February 25 post to Instagram. In the post, Zarif said “I sincerely apologise for the inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my service.” As Foreign Minister, Zarif wasinstrumental in negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers, which removed sanctions on the Iranian economy in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Zarif, along with Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani, represents a moderate faction within the theocratic regime which has faced considerable pushback from conservative elites for opening Iran up to the world both politically and economically.
EASTERN EUROPE & RUSSIA
Moldovan Election Facing Controversy
Two of the major parties involved in Moldova’s general poll on Sunday have accused the ruling Democratic party of electoral fraud, although the numbers revealed no clear winner. The former Soviet republic’s parties are accusing each other of using bribes in order to obtain votes, as well as bussing voters from a breakaway region with no voters to other areas so that they would participate in the election. In the end, the Pro-Russia party received 31 percent of the vote, the pro-EU Acum party received 26 percent, and the also pro-EU ruling Democratic party received 24 percent. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe criticized some aspects of how the election was handled, but said most aspects were handled professionally and transparently.
Senegal President Appears Headed for Reelection
The February 24 Senegalese presidential election appears to be decided, with Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne saying that incumbent President Macky Sall (pictured) is “heading for victory.” Dionne also claimed that Sall secured about 57 percent of the vote, surpassing the 50 percent threshold required for a candidate to win. Rival candidates warned against prematurely assuming the outcome and said the election should go to a second round. The election was mired in controversy as the candidates of the two historically most competitive parties, the Socialist Party and the Senegalese Democratic Party, were suspended under corruption charges. Sall, first elected in 2012, has overseen economic growth of more than 6 percent per year in one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
WESTERN EUROPE & CANADA
U.K. Signs Trade Deal with Switzerland
The Five Star Movement, currently the largest political party in the Italian government coalition, received an estimated 11 percent of the vote in Sardinia’s regional election on February 25. This indicates a sharp decline in popularity, as less than a year earlier the party won 42 percent of the island’s votes. The Five Star Movement, a center-right populist party, received the most votes in the 2018 general election, which helped to secure a coalition with the right-wing League party in the face of a hung parliament. The poor performance by the party in Sardinia may inflame tensions with League leaders, with whom they disagree on various issues. This outcome mirrors the party’s lack of success in the region of Abruzzo two weeks earlier.
Writing contributed by Ben Richmond and Benjamin Barth.