End of epidemic in sight?
A few new cases are still reported every week, mainly from Guinea, but the
World Health Organization (WHO) is optimistic that the epidemic could be quelled by the end of the year, an official told a news conference in Geneva on 4
August. All but 15 of 11,302 deaths occurred in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. At the end of August, a total of 28,041 cases were reported. [August 2015]
Taliban attacks continuing
The Taliban Islamic Militia is continuing with attacks and widening its
presence. In late August it overran the district seat of Musa Kala, Helmand province, and seized the district headquarters, reported
Reuters. Although there is no uniform support for the new Emir, his supporters are encouraged by his negative attitude
toward peace efforts and his statement of 1 August that “We will continue our jihad until the creation of an Islamic system.” [August 2015]
Next a government of national accord?
The House of Representatives in Tobruk, on
2 July, initialed a United Nations-brokered agreement after talks held in Rabat to end the war and form a Government of National Accord. The rival General
National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli is holding further consultations on the proposed pact.
Flawed presidential election may continue instability
The ensuing unrest and a failed military coup d’état are feeding growing concern that the
country will remain unstable and that a government in exile may be formed. On 27 July,
the UN Election Observer Mission (MENUB) found that
the situation in the country was “not conducive for an inclusive, free and credible electoral process.” The
political crisis erupted on 26 April when the president insisted on running for a third term in violation of the two-term limit in effect then. The situation
worsened since some opposition political parties and civil society organizations
were already criticizing how the National Assembly elections (see above) had been handled and which they called a “sham” and declared they
would not recognize the results.
Flawed presidential election may continue instability
The ensuing unrest and a failed military coup d’état are feeding growing concern that the country will remain
unstable and that a government in exile may be formed. On 27 July,
the UN Election Observer Mission (MENUB) found that the situation in the country was “not conducive for an
inclusive, free and credible electoral process.” The political crisis erupted on 26 April when the president insisted on running for a third term in
violation of the two-term limit in effect then. The situation worsened since some
opposition political parties and civil society organizations were already criticizing how the National Assembly elections had been handled and
which they called a “sham” and declared they would not recognize the results.
China turns on Japan to deflect from its disputed
presence in China Seas
Verbal exchanges over claims in the East and South China Seas have become more belligerent
. Japan, and to a lesser extent the Philippines, are singled out by the People’s Republic government and portrayed as expanding the conflict. To place even more
opprobrium on Japan, Beijing is busy giving maximum play in documentaries and exhibits to Japanese misdeeds during World War 2. It maintains that all the
claimed islands and shoals are Chinese territory or inside its economic zones and therefore there is no case for international arbitration or involvement. All
claims can be settled bilaterally and “outsiders,” such as the United States of America, are told not to get involved. To discourage Japanese and US aerial
surveillance, the Chinese navy threatened to set up an air defense zone in the South China Sea.
The US is challenging China’s reclamation of islands in the disputed Spratly chain and
flying surveillance in “international space.” In May, the US Secretary of Defense called for an immediate halt to land reclamation in the South China Sea while
a Chinese admiral denied that reclamation is impeding freedom of navigation. In June, the Japanese military said it is considering taking part in US
Humanitarian help challenged by enormous needs
Post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction pose
“daunting challenges,” an assistant administrator of the UN Development Program (UNDP), noted on 26 May. Contacting survivors in remote areas and delivering
food and medical aid are continuing. The assessment of damage, hampered by aftershocks and landslides, offers grim statistics:
An estimated 2.8
million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with over 860,000 people in immediate need due to loss of shelter, limited road access and poverty.
The total number of casualties now stands at 8,669 with 384 people still missing, reported the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Between 500,000 and 600,000 homes in
mostly rural areas are severely damaged, as well as cultural and historical heritage structures such as temples, upon which Nepal’s economy depends.
The coming monsoon season in Nepal is adding further urgency to relief operations
because heavy rains from June will curtail access to remote rural areas. [July 2015]
Noticed and Noted
UN Security Council endorses Iran
Six days after successful conclusion of the P5+1 talks with Iran on its
nuclear energy program, the UN Security Council on 20 July endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Resolution 2231, a 104-page document details international and UN member state obligations and tasks to carry out the plan. Specifically, the
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is requested to reach a “Broader Conclusion” on whether all nuclear material in Iran
remains in peaceful activities. Once the Council receives the affirmative report, its nuclear non-proliferation controls and sanctions will end. Ten years
after formal adoption of the JCPOA, Security Council resolutions concerning the Iranian nuclear issue will be terminated. Talks with Iran aimed at stopping
any nuclear arms activities and limiting non-military nuclear energy began in Geneva in October 2009. They were conducted by the five permanent members of
the UN Security Council― China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States of America―plus Germany and the High Representative of the European
Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (P5+1). [August 2015]
National security threat or power ploy?
Turkey’s belated military involvement in the Syrian civil war is worrying
a growing number of governments, politicians, and people in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Even among members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
which supports the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) there is disagreement about Turkey’s renewed attack against the Kurdish
Workers’ Party (PKK). Critics of the Turkish government and especially of its President Reccep Tayyip Erdoĝan
see the move as a political maneuver aimed at adoption of a presidential system. By recreating an external
enemy―and the PKK foolishly is playing into its opponent’s hands by resuming some fighting―portraying the new and growing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) as
siding with the enemies and attempting to criminalize its leadership, and making it hard for a new government to form, the president hopes to call for new
elections in November and by sidelining HDP obtain an overwhelming majority of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Once achieved, it will
unhesitatingly oblige Erdoĝan and give him the coveted presidential executive powers.
- European Union (EU)
- Leadership trio in place
The special meeting of the European Council—heads of member state or governments—on 30 August was overshadowed by the issues of the Islamic State (IS), Ukraine, Palestine, Libya, and Ebola but it also completed forming the EU’s
executive arm for the new term. It elected the President of the European Council for the period from 1 December 2014 to 31 May 2017 and appointed the Union’s “foreign minister,” the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to serve
until 31 October 2019.
After consultations among member governments, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker (born 9 February 1954) of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) became the
first President of the new European Commission (EC) to be elected by the European Parliament. Although he was deemed too pro-European and federal-minded by some, especially in the British government, he was chosen by 422 against 250 votes on 15 July. There were 47 abstentions and 10 invalid votes. He succeeds
José Manuel Durão Barroso (born 23 March 1956) of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) who served as 11th President since 22 November 2004 after holding the office of Prime Minister of Portugal (2002-2004).
The Prime Minister of Poland Donald Franciszek Tusk (born 22 April 1957) of the Civic Platform (PO) was elected by the European Council as its next President on 30 August. He will
succeed Herman Achille Van Rompuy (born 31 October 1947) of the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party who assumed the office on 1 December 2009 after serving as prime Minister of Belgium (2008-2009).
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy since February 2014, Ms. Federica Mogherini (born 16 June 1973) of the Democratic Party (PD) was appointed High Representative of the Union for
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with agreement of the incoming Commission President on 30 August. Her selection, actively promoted by the Italian Prime Minister, had run into some objections from the Baltic States and Poland who feared she may not pursue a strong and determined approach when rejecting
Russian support for Ukrainian rebels. She is probably more engaged in Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs but since she was politically active in communist youth and later socialist causes and has followed the less assertive Italian government role when dealing with Russia, these concerns arose. (It is ironic,
given that the former prime minister did not stop cozying up to the Russian president and praising him. To the embarrassment of other Western leaders, he never tired of speaking of his Kremlin friend and seeking him out.) The current High Representative—and 1st
Vice President of the European Commission (EC)—Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the former Ms. Catherine Ashton (born 20 March 1956) of the Labour Party assumed the position on 1 December 2009 after serving as European Commissioner for Trade and Labour Leader in the House of Lords (2007-2008).
Not part of the executive branch of the Union but a leader in European affairs is the President of the European Parliament (EP). Martin Schulz (born 20 December 1955) of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany and EP Member since 1994 was reelected President by 409 of 612 votes on 1 July 2014 after holding the office since 17 January 2012.