Upon Reflection (30 October-3 November)

Time to consider weekly global headlines in an ever-changing world

Selected News Headlines

for the
Working Week
30 October-3 November 2017

Five Argentines among 8 dead in New York City terror attack

31 October 2017, NEW YORK, United States – The Washington Post – Terrorism returned to New York City. Not in the form of a sophisticated attack by hardened men of war, but in the form of a lone 29-year-old Uzbek national, driving a rental truck.

The man deliberately drove the truck onto a Manhattan bike path, killing 8 and injuring some 11 people.

Subsequent investigations revealed the man to be Sayfullo Saipov.

Saipov, though shot by police in the stomach, was apprehended alive.

After surgery, Saipov remained in police custody for further interrogation and sentencing. It has been suggested that Saipov was recently self-radicalised via the internet and had no previous indicators of extremist leanings.

In many ways this shows how terrorism is ‘devolving’ in the West.

While nothing should diminish the suffering of those caught up in this attack and the families of those killed, the fact that terrorists find it harder to coordinate among themselves in the Western urban environment, shows that they can no longer pull off mass casualty events through the use of explosives, and/or hijacking passenger platforms easily. Therefore, opportunistic use of vehicles should be deemed a considerable step down from 9/11 and other more devastating attacks in Europe.

If the future of terrorism is the self-radicalised ‘lone wolf’ whose means and capacities are limited, then the Western Counter-Terrorism environment is getting better, except where organised terrorism still touches the lives of those residing in the politically chaotic countries of the Arab Middle East.

South Korea Will Not Accept a Nuclear North, President Moon Says

31 October 2017, SEOUL (ROK)/BEIJING (PRC) – Time Magazine – In a curious announcement, South Korean President Moon said that his country would not accept a nuclear North Korea. The statement is rather puzzling given that North Korea acquired nuclear weapons in 2006, after its first nuclear weapons test.

The horse has well and truly bolted and it seems from this vantage point that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will not relinquish his hard-won nuclear deterrent.

On the other hand, Moon was adamant that he would not seek a South Korean nuclear deterrent, whether locally produced or through basing American nuclear weapons on South Korean soil. So, apart from the almost ceaseless barrage of linguistic provocation/counter-provocation between Pyongyang and Washington, for the foreseeable future the status quo ante, ugly and unsatisfactory as it is, may well maintain itself – which in many ways sensible people on both sides of the Pacific would wish to see.

Iraq threatens to resume military operations against Kurds

1 November 2017, BAGHDAD, Iraq – Reuters – Seeking to press home its strategic advantage against the Kurdish leadership, the Iraqi government threatened the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) with the capture of more of its territory and placing it under the jurisdiction of Baghdad.

This comes at a time of enormous political turmoil in the KRG with the resignation of Masoud Barzani, who staked his entire political career on the Kurdish independence referendum.

Even though his referendum proved highly popular among Iraqi Kurds, his inability to carry out and defend an independence agenda which led to the loss of KRG occupied Kirkuk, liberated by the Iraqi Army on 16 October, proved fatal to Barzani’s leadership of the KRG.

With the KRG leadership having passed down to Barzani’s nephew Nechirvan, it now falls to him to walk the fine line between reconciling with the Iraqi national government and fulfilling the aspirations of Iraqi Kurds, many of whom still back the pro-independence referendum vote of last September.

Ousted Catalan leader says will not return to Spain to testify

1 November 2017, Madrid, Spain – Reuters – Carles Puigdemont, dismissed leader of Catalonia’s failed bid at independence, had a court order issued against him by Spanish authorities to return to Spain to answer charges of agitating insurrection against Madrid.

Puigdemont, in Belgium seeking support for Catalan independence and for his now sacked provincial Catalan government, may well have a Spanish arrest warrant issued against him even while he is outside Spain’s jurisdiction.

Things may well get complicated by the fact that Puigdemont and the few he managed to take with him to Belgium have sought legal assistance and could defend themselves against the Spanish state through the offices of the EU.

This drama has a while to go to fully play out, but for now, Catalan independence has been successfully thwarted.

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