Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Monday, July 12, 2021, 3:08 PM

Gen. Austin Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, officially stepped down on Monday at a ceremony in Kabul, reports the New York Times. Rear Adm. Peter Vasely will head the security mission at the U.S. embassy in Kabul and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. will lead military operations in Afghanistan. As the Taliban makes territorial gains following the exit of U.S. and NATO troops, McKenzie assured those in attendance at the ceremony, including high-level Afghan officials, that the U.S. was not abandoning Afghans. 

Thousands of protestors marched in towns across Cuba in the largest anti-government movement since 1994, according to the New York Times. The protests against food and medicine shortages were spurred by the country’s economic crisis, which has deepened since the coronavirus pandemic has cut off tourism revenue. President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on government supporters to confront protestors in the street and claimed that “the government of the United States is principally responsible for Cuba’s current situation.”

The U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed on Friday to allow aid to Syria to continue coming in from across the Turkish border for another 12 months, writes the Washington Post. Russia and the United States had previously threatened to veto aid resolutions, with the U.S. insisting that the Bab el-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria remain open and that two others be opened and Russia asserting that cross-border shipments were supporting terrorist groups and violating Syrian sovereignty. Friday’s compromise ensures the Bab el-Hawa crossing will remain open for six months. Another six months will be added automatically after U.N. Secretary General António Guterres issues a report on “cross-line” aid. 

Haitian police say they have arrested Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a “key suspect” in the assassination of President Moïse, according to the BBC. Police Chief Leon Charles announced that Sanon flew into the country with “political motives” and that the attackers’ initial plan was to arrest the president, but “the mission then changed.” This arrest comes after police announced the majority of the mercenaries involved in the attack were Colombian and two were joint U.S. nationals. The chief organizer and motive of the assassination are still unknown.

The South African military announced it was deploying troops in two provinces to quell protests, reports Al Jazeera. Six people have died and more than 200 people have been arrested in protests and looting after former President Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail after defying a court order related to an investigation into corruption during his administration. South Africa’s highest court is hearing a challenge to the sentence this week. Some of the unrest by Zuma’s supporters, concentrated in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, has spilled over into Johannesburg. The protests are partly motivated by Zuma’s arrest, but some appear to be associated with unemployment and hardships inflicted by the nation’s coronavirus policies.

A Jordanian court sentenced two former government officials to 15 years in prison for attempting to incite a coup against King Abdullah II, reports the Washington Post. Bassem Awadallah, a former adviser to the king, and Sharif Hasan, a little known member of the royal family, both pleaded not guilty to the charges of sedition and incitement. The court did not address the role of the king’s half-brother, Prince Hamzah, who was originally accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Prosperity Party won 410 of the 436 seats in the country’s parliament, assuring him another term, according to Reuters. Abiy praised the results as the first free and fair election after decades of authoritarianism, but the conflict in the northern region of Tigray and opposition boycott of the polls overshadowed the vote. Voting did not occur in three of the country’s 10 regions. During his first term, Abiy removed the ban on opposition parties and released thousands of political prisoners, but he is now facing international pressure over the war in Tigray.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Germany to meet with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Prime Minister Angela Merkel, according to Deutsche Welle. The leaders are expected to discuss the Minsk agreements, signed in 2015 to resolve the conflict in Crimea. Also on the agenda is talks on Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that transports natural gas directly from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and hurting the nation’s economy. Zelenskyy might also repeat his request for Germany to supply arms to Ukraine after Russia’s increased presence in Crimea, an appeal Germany has so far refused. 

The Chinese military said it “drove away” a U.S. warship that illegally entered Chinese waters near the Paracel Islands, writes Reuters. The move came on the anniversary of a 2016 international court ruling that held that China had no claim to the South China Sea. China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim the archipelago, which requires permission or advance notice to pass through. In a routine freedom of navigation operation, the U.S. Navy destroyer Benfold entered the waters without Chinese approval, and China’s military issued a response urging the U.S. to “immediately stop such provocative actions.”

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