Lebanese PM Hariri back after high-level diplomatic intrigues
During a visit to Saudi Arabia on November 4, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation in a televised address.
Hariri’s foreign policy has generally been aligned with Riyadh’s interests, but the changes in his stance towards Iran-backed Hezbollah caused some discomfort amongst the Saudis. The assumption is they tried to replace Hariri with someone with a more aggressive approach towards Hezbollah.
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) November 14, 2017
A somewhat expected plot-twist was that upon his return to Lebanon on 21 November, Hariri withdrew his resignation. The Saudis grudgingly accepted and now ask for Lebanon only to adhere to neutral foreign policy and push towards Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria, Iraq and Yemen. They can still exhort economic pressure on the Lebanese government to fulfil these demands.
For now, it seems that Hariri’s head has been spared. But as Saudi’s frustration with Iran and Hezbollah grows, the struggle between Iran and Saudi backed forces in Lebanon may intensify.
Power struggle in Luhansk
Gun-toting men in unmarked uniforms occupied the streets of Luhansk, the capital of a Ukrainian separatist republic. This happened shortly after the separatist leader Igor Plotnitsky fired the minister of interior, Igor Kornet, on November 20. In a statement, Plotnitsky described the situation as a “futile attempt of certain people to stay in power.” Kornet, on the other hand, described the situation as an attempt to thwart the activity of Ukrainian sabotage and espionage group.
— English Lugansk (@loogunda) November 28, 2017
The situation resembled an attempted coup, and for a couple of days, both sides were in a standoff, each supported by different branches of security services, and probably gathering allies or waiting for a green light from Moscow. Ukraine was also watching closely; a meeting of National Security and Defence Councils was held late on November 21. President Poroshenko has stated that: “the Ukrainian armed forces are ready for all developments to ensure the safety of civilians.”
By November 24, it was announced that Igor Plotnitsky had resigned from his post, citing health reasons. The position was assumed by Leonid Pasechnik, the self-proclaimed security minister of the separatist region, who became an acting leader until the next “elections”.
North Korean missile capable of reaching the U.S.?
On November 28 North Korea launched their first intercontinental ballistic missile reportedly capable of reaching the whole of continental United States. It was the first missile test since September 15, but its 11th missile provocation so far. The experts say that the distance was achieved by decreasing the weight and that the missile would be unable to carry a nuclear warhead.
After North Korea missile launch, it's more important than ever to fund our gov't & military! Dems shouldn't hold troop funding hostage for amnesty & illegal immigration. I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can't now threaten a shutdown to get their demands.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
North Korea described their stance as “a responsible nuclear power and a peace-loving state” and reiterated their pledge to “defend peace and stability”. The international response was immediate. Donal Trump declared that he “will take care of it”. Japan and the U.S. quickly requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting due to take place on Wednesday. Somewhat ironically, it came just a day after the deputy Russian Foreign minister Igor Morgulov suggested that the pause in missile launches meant that Pyongyang is ready to defuse the tension, calling for scaling down of U.S. and allied military exercises.
Life sentence for Ratko Mladić, the “Butcher of Serbia,” at ICTY
On November 22 another chapter in international criminal justice has been concluded with the life sentence carried out against Ratko Mladic, the former commander of Republika Srpska Army. It is generally accepted as a historical decision, marking the end of International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), after 25 years in operation.
Mladic, also known as the “Butcher of Serbia“, has been found guilty on 10 out of 11 counts, including charges of genocide and war crimes. Amongst other crimes, the tribunal found that he was “directly involved” in the last genocide perpetrated on the European soil, the 1992 Srebrenica massacre.
Mladic is the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about – @UNHumanRights chief after @ICTYnews conviction https://t.co/LZ2JqN1bTt pic.twitter.com/su1W3KsPhc
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) November 23, 2017
The presiding judge Alphons Orie said in the statement that Mladic’s crimes were ” among the most heinous known to humankind.” The opinion is generally accepted by the international community, but amongst the Serb population in Bosnia, the war is still often glorified and the crimes are undermined as many refuse to come to terms with the facts. This sentiment, coupled with extreme nationalism surviving under the lid, remains one of the possible obstacles for Serbia to join the European Union.
Image source: Flickr | John Pavelka
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.
Text has not undergone language revision.