Week in Review - November 14, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa
Central Eurasia
Middle East and North Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean

Middle East and North Africa

  • Egyptian President Sisi announced a new law that would allow for the deportation of foreign journalists convicted of crimes in Egypt. This came after widespread condemnation of the Egyptian regime’s treatment of the press and civil society last week at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council meeting.
  • Unrest in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula continued with separate attacks against regime forces and civilians by militants killing five Egyptian security personnel and wounding ten civilians. Meanwhile, Russia delivered Antey-2500 anti-ballistic missile systems to Egypt as part of an arms deal worth $3 billion.
  • The Obama Administration asked Congress for an additional $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish forces to combat the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq. The request included a waiver for the 1997 “Leahy Law,” which prohibits the United States from providing training or equipment to known human rights violators. Although Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the waiver “is not intended to alter our practices with respect to human rights-related laws,” some of the Shi’a militias that would supposedly receive U.S. support are known for their brutal treatment of Sunnis. Kurdish leaders have requested direct military assistance from the United States and claimed the Iraqi central government has been slow distribute military aid intended for the semi-autonomous region.  
  • In Yemen, the United States reportedly carried out drone strikes against members of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), killing seven. According to the Long War Journal, the United States has conducted 21 strikes against AQAP in Yemen this year. Adam Baron of Defense One and Michael Shank at the Daily Beast wrote separate analyses of U.S. strategy in Yemen, which the Obama Administration has lauded as a model for actions against the Islamic State, and its implications for the war in Iraq and Syria.


Latin America

  • At least four U.S. citizens have been killed or injured by Mexican security forces this month. According to witnesses, a special police unit known as “Grupo Hercules” kidnapped and executed three young Americans in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, earlier this month. Nine members of the Hercules outfit are currently under investigation in relation to the incident. This week, a pregnant 14 year-old U.S. citizen was injured after being shot by Mexican police, also in Tamaulipas. The alleged involvement of Mexican security forces in multiple recent extrajudicial killings has sparked widespread outrage and protests throughout the country.
  • Brazil’s police came under heavy criticism following the release of a report that found forces across the country were responsible for the deaths of more than 11,000 civilians from 2008 and 2013. Between January and September 2014, police in São Paulo killed more than 450 people, twice as many as in the previous year. A study from the Brazilian Justice Ministry reported that murders in Brazil are on the rise, with one person killed every ten minutes in the country.
  • The presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador travelled to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to discuss measures to reduce violence and poverty in Central America. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez called on the United States to fund billions of dollars worth of development projects in the region. Last month, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina made similar comments. So far, U.S. lawmakers have approved only about $300 million to help deal with the recent influx of migrants from Central America, many of whom are fleeing rampant violence and economic hardship.


Sub-Saharan Africa

  • A week after Nigeria’s ceasefire with terrorist group Boko Haram fell apart after just six hours, Al-Jazeera criticized the government for believing such a truce would even be viable. Numerous reports have argued that the group has only gained strength and relevancy in northern Nigeria since the rise of the #BringBackOurgirls campaign earlier this year. As the Christian Science Monitor noted, the group has effectively started moving itself into a governing position by providing services and security for regions under its control. Analysts also believe Boko Haram has grown more emboldened in their advances, citing its recent attack on Nigerian schoolchildren. Finally, the Nigerian government expressed “fury” over the U.S. government’s refusal to sell more lethal weapons to its military to contain the terrorist group.  
  • The Ebola crisis in West Africa hit a milestone this week, with the number of cases now exceeding 5,000. On the same day the U.N. reported these numbers, the U.S. military announced it would be scaling back its troop commitment to Liberia, citing satisfactory infrastructure available in the country.  Originally, the U.S. planned for over 4,000 troops to be sent to Liberia. However, Army Major General Gary Volesky, in defending the scale-down, argued “there is a lot of capacity here we didn’t know about before.”


Central Eurasia

  • The long-standing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia intensified on Wednesday when Azerbaijani soldiers shot down an Armenian helicopter. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed its soldiers brought down the aircraft after it opened fire on Azerbaijani military positions near the line of contact between Azerbaijan and the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense denied Azerbaijan’s claims, stating that the helicopter was unarmed. The U.S. Department of State responded to the incident, saying, “this event is yet another reminder of the need to redouble efforts on peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” A lobbying group called the Armenian National Committee of America has urged the Obama Administration to condemn Azerbaijan’s actions and cut off all U.S. military aid to the country.
  • The political crisis in Georgia continued to unfold this week. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili criticized former Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, ex-Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and ex-European Integration Minister Aleksi Petriashvili for failing to “dispel misperceptions” in the West about selective justice in Georgia. Alasania was dismissed after commenting on a corruption scandal at the Ministry of Defense, prompting the foreign minister and the european integration minister to resign in protest. The President of Georgia, Georgi Margvelashvili, said the situation showed that it was more necessary than ever to “reaffirm the irreversibility of Georgia’s pro-Western course.” In the wake of the government shake-up, some analysts have questioned whether Georgia will be able to carry out the reforms necessary for closer integration with the United States and Europe. However, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland stated there is no doubt that the partnership with Georgia will continue to be very strong in pursuit of common goals, including security objectives.