1051 EST 09/28/2015
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The UN General Assembly opens today in New York City. About 160 world leaders will meet to discuss issues related to peace and international security, including the civil war in Syria, the rise of IS and other extremist groups in the Middle East, and the recent surge of refugees seeking asylum in Europe. President Obama will speak later this afternoon on poverty and sexism, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he will “reaffirm” China’s commitment to women’s rights. Speeches from Putin (Russia), Hollande (France), and Rouhani (Iran) will follow this afternoon.
Obama will also meet with Putin later this afternoon to discuss a wide range of issues, including Syria, Ukraine, and NATO expansion. The two have not met since Russia’s de facto annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Moral leverage – “German president warns of limits to number of refugees” by Reuters. As his country prepares to welcome an estimated 800,000 refugees this year, German President Joachim Gauck has said there is a limit to the number of refugees his country can take. The statement puts pressure on other EU members, particularly Hungary and other eastern countries, to share the burden and accept mandated quotas.
Tough love – “Migrants in Germany fleeing poverty find only a ticket home” by Katrin Bennhold, New York Times. While Germany has built an infrastructure capable of handling hundreds of thousands of refugees, it has also been quietly working to build a system for transporting thousands of migrants not eligible for asylum back to their countries of origin. As Angela Merkel said last month, “Those who do not come because of political persecution or war but for economic reasons will not be able to stay.”
Viva la Catalan! – “Victorious Catalan separatists claim mandate to break with Spain” by Julien Toyer, Reuters. Pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in Catalan’s parliamentary elections last night. The win puts further pressure on the Spanish government to halt the region’s secession as pro-independence parties prepare to declare independence in 18 months.
Flight fight – “Russia to consider restrictions against Ukrainian airlines” by Reuters. Russia’s transportation ministry will examine possible actions in retaliation for Kiev’s recent ban on Russian airlines operating in Ukraine. With the UN General Assembly this week focused on Syria and the Middle East, Kiev has tried to focus international attention on its problems with separatist fighters in the east.
#Bold – “Putin calls US support for [Syrian] rebels illegal” by Carol Morello, The Washington Post. Putin called US support for Syrian rebels “illegal” under international law, and mocked the Pentagon’s efforts to train and equip a secular force to fight both ISIS and the Syrian government. Putin demurred when it came to the legality of his country’s recent intervention in Syria and its continued support for the government of Bashar al Assad.
Keep ’em on their toes – “Russia surprises US with accord on battling ISIS” by Michael R. Gordon, New York Times. American officials seemed at a loss for words Monday after Iraq announced plans to set up a join-intelligence sharing task force with Russia, Syria, and Iran to fight Islamic State militants. Despite almost a year of airstrikes by a US-led coalition, Islamic State militants continued to hold vast swathes of territory across much of eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Mark it off the to-do list – “France carries out airstrike in Syria against Islamic State” by Elaine Ganley, The Washington Post. France carried out its first airstrike in Syria on Sunday, targeting and destroying an Islamic State training camp near the Syrian-Iraq border. It comes after a heated debate in France over the effects of an expanded air campaign.
Let’s talk business – “France says Iran can help facilitate Syrian political solution” by Reuters. France’s President Francois Hollande told his Iranian counterpart on Sunday that Iran must be a facilitator for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Some may see the statement as an attempt to gain favor with the Iranian government as French companies seek to do business in Iran as economic sanctions on that country are lifted following this summer’s landmark nuclear accord.
Holy war – “Palestinians clash with Israeli riot police at holy site” by Associate Press. Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protestors yesterday after several young men barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque. While rocks and firebombs were thrown at police officers from inside the mosque, general order was restored by this morning.
Police brutality – “UN rights chief alarmed about arrests, killings in Burundi” by Associated Press. The UN chief for human rights is concerned about recent police actions in Burundi. Since April, his office has registered 90 cases of torture, 134 killings (including reports of bodies with single-shot wounds at close range), and hundreds of cases of arbitrary arrest and detention (704 arrests this month alone). The report comes as police and intelligence officials renew their crack down on illegal firearms in Burundi.
Mob brutality – “Kenyan gays attacked by mobs, police do little” by Associated Press. A report by Human Rights Watch, a human rights organization, details 6 incidents since 2008 when mobs in Kenya’s coastal region have attacked individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Police have failed to arrest mob leaders and other individuals involved in the attack.
Kidnappings, explosions, and attacks
- 16 Turkish workers kidnapped in Baghdad last month appeared in an online video released this morning. The video promised to release the prisoners following a UN-backed deal to rescue villagers under siege by rebels from Ankara.
- The president of Maldives was not hurt in an explosion on his boat on Sunday, though his wife and two aides suffered minor wounds in the blast. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.
- 9 people were killed and an estimated 50 wounded after Taliban fighters attacked a cricket match in southern Afghanistan. It is thought the attackers had tried to target local officials who came to watch the game.
- Taliban fighters breached the defenses of the capital of Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan. Police and army units have so far failed to repel the attack.
THE POLITIC Security Brief
by Taylor D. Holshouser