South Africa’s long-standing president Zuma resigns
On Wednesday, South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma announced his resignation. In his nine-year presidency, Zuma survived a string corruption scandals and harsh court judgments. His resignation came earlier than expected and was preceded by a crackdown on the luxury residences of the Gupta family, billionaire allies of the former president. In May, it was uncovered that the Gupta family had key influence over minister nominations and basically “ran South Africa.” Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party threatened a vote of no-confidence for Zuma prior to his resignation, which he would almost certainly lose. The parliament, dominated by ANC, elected Zuma’s deputy Cyril Ramaphosa as the new president of South Africa on Thursday.
We congratulate @CyrilRamaphosa for being elected the 5th Democratic President of the Republic of South Africa. We are confident that you will continue to steer South Africa to greater heights. We also thank former President Jacob Zuma for his service to country and continent.
— Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta) February 15, 2018
Egypt Launches a New Counter-Terror Campaign
Ever since the military overthrew the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi Egypt has been struggling against increasingly violent insurgent and terror groups in its outlying territories – the Sinai peninsula, the Western Desert region and the Nile delta. Last Friday, Egypt’s armed forces began a campaign to root out these militant groups, including among others al-Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State. The offensive will probably, for the first time, include specially trained counterinsurgency units operating alongside the regular military.
The #Egypt|ian military’s use of #clusterbombs must cease immediately, Amnesty international said today, following the military’s release of an official video showing cluster bombs as part of their recent operations in North #Sinai. https://t.co/LHD5iNyDdl pic.twitter.com/3JbT7GxAKD
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) February 14, 2018
The beginning of the new campaign coincides with the upcoming presidential elections, which are set for March. A successful offensive would reflect positively on the current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has a military background and promised to root out the militants. The expected problem is that the Egyptian military will be fighting in multiple theatres and against diverse opponents. Secondly, the offensive shows that Egypt still expects to solve its troubles militarily, as opposed to softer counterinsurgency approaches, which might not be a viable route in the long term. Meanwhile, human rights organisations condemned Egypt’s use of cluster bombs in Northern Sinai.
Israel’s Jets Strike Targets in Syria
A series of escalating events took place last week between Israel, Syria, and Iran, and ended with a largest Israeli air strike in the Syrian Civil War. Early on Saturday, Israel detected and shot down an Iranian drone over its territory. In response, Israel launched an air strike into Syria against the detected drone’s command vehicle. However, an Israeli F-16 jet was shot down during the mission by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. Israel responded with a second wave of airstrikes against Syrian and Iranian targets, killing at least six members of the Syrian military in what is now described as the most significant attack against Syria since the 1982 Lebanon war.
Syria shoots down intruding Israeli F-16 jet; Israel makes bogus claims. Here is why! pic.twitter.com/VFPE0EGqai
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 10, 2018
Iranian involvement in the Syrian Civil War and its support of Lebanese Hezbollah remain the biggest concern for Israel and the aggressive retaliation is a typical part of Israeli policy. Worth noting is the fact that even the Syrian attempt of self-defence by shooting down the Israeli F-16 was considered a reason for yet another retaliation. Syria and Iran deny that the drone entered Israel. Hezbollah says in a grim statement that with the latest developments, “the old equations have categorically ended.” Syrian success in shooting down an Israeli jet is largely attributed to military assistance from Russia, which has been long a topic of discussion.
Point of no return for Rohingya
A number of horrifying allegations surfaced during the Rohingya crisis. Top UN officials have called it a “genocide” and it is generally recognised as ethnic cleansing, while the government of Myanmar continuously denies any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, Reuters published a report uncovering the massacre in the village of Inn Din in September last year, where 10 Rohingya men were hacked to death or shot and killed by their Buddhist neighbours and Myanmar soldiers. As a result of the report, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police and remain in custody, facing up to 14 years in prison.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 8, 2018
The international waters were stirred by both the report and the detention. It pushed the Myanmar officials to promise an “action according to the law” against seven soldiers, three policemen, and six villagers in army investigation. The same army that allegedly committed the crimes. Britain’s Foreign minister Boris Johnson has recently tried to ease the situation of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. He met with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to discuss how to facilitate return and repatriation of the Rohingya.
Held talks with Aung San Suu Kyi. Discussed importance of Burmese authorities in carrying out full & independent investigation into the violence in #Rakhine & urgent need to create the right conditions for #Rohingya refugees to return to their homes in Rakhine. pic.twitter.com/aUxwW0EWaZ
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 11, 2018
The situation resembles a Gordian knot. China and India have made public statements of support for Myanmar’s government in the current crisis, making economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure impractical for the West. Furthermore, the EU and the US who would also like to see the democracy in Myanmar survive.
The situation with refugees is abysmal. There is currently no chance of returning home for the 668 000 Rohingya. The conditions in Bangladesh are also getting worse, with limited humanitarian access and tens of thousands of refugees living in areas prone to flooding or landslides. An option for them could be a resettlement, but Bangladesh, nor any other state in the region are willing to take them. It now appears that the only likely outcome is a near-permanent presence of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya along the Bangladesh Border.
Image: Rohingya Crisis | Source: Flickr / CAFOD
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha.
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