27 August 2018   Leave a comment

The United Nations has charged that high-ranking military officials in Myanmar should be investigated for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.  Since August of 2017, the Myanmar military has been expelling a Muslim minority group–the Royingha–from Myanmar.  The Buddhist majority in Myanmar consider the Royingha to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who threaten the stability of the nation despite the fact that many of the Royingha have been living in the Rakhine province of Myanmar for centuries.   The process of expulsion has created around 700,000 refugees and killed thousands.  The Royingha are not considered citizens of Myanmar and many are now living in refugee camps in miserable conditions.  The Diplomat has satellite images of Royingha villages over time which document the destruction of the Royingha habitats since August of 2017.  Human Rights Watch gives an excellent overview of the UN report.

Map of the Rakhine Province in Myanmar


Iran and Syria have signed an economic and military cooperation agreement which will undoubtedly unsettle both the US and Israel.  The Syrian civil war has been going on since 2011 and has cost the country nearly $400 billion.  The war has killed nearly 500,000 people and displaced over 5 million Syrians.  Iran and Russia have been the main backers of the government of Bashar al-Assad.  Now that the civil war has been tapering off (although it is far too premature to suggest that Assad is in full control of the country), the reconstruction of Syria is now a top priority.  But Israel fears Iranian influence in Syria and has asked Russia to limit Iranian influence.  Obviously, Russia has little control over Iranian behavior and it also has little incentive to curtail Iranian help to its Syrian ally.  Israel is also moving closer to Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim majority country which is adamantly opposed to the interests of Iran, a Shia Muslim majority country.   Both Israel and Saudi Arabia fear the growth of Iranian influence, which now stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.

Iran’s Growing Influence in the Middle East


US President Trump announced that the US and Mexico had reached an agreement on certain revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  In his comments from the White House today, the President said:

“It’s a big day for trade, big day for our country. A lot of people thought we’d never get here, because we all negotiate tough.  And this is a tremendous thing. This has to do — they used to call it NAFTA. We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement, and we’ll get rid of the name NAFTA….”

“But I think we’ll give them a chance to probably have a separate deal.  We can have a separate deal or we can put it into this deal.  I like to call this deal the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.  I think it’s an elegant name.  I think NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations for the United States because it was a rip-off.  It was a deal that was a horrible deal for our country, and I think it’s got a lot of bad connotations to a lot of people.  And so we will probably — you and I will agree to the name.”

The statement is a bit misleading.  The changes in the US-Mexico arrangement involve changing the percentage of automobile components that must be manufactured in North America from 62.5% to 75%.  Additionally, according to the New York Times: “Under the changes agreed to by Mexico and the United States, car companies would be required to manufacture at least 75 percent of an automobile’s value in North America under the new rules, up from 62.5 percent previously, in order to qualify for Nafta’s zero tariffs. They will also be required to use more local steel, aluminum and auto parts, and have 40 percent to 45 percent of the car made by workers earning at least $16 an hour, a boon to both the United States and Canada and a win for labor unions, which have been among Nafta’s biggest critics.”  NAFTA, however, also involves Canada, which has voluntarily agreed to sit out on the US-Mexico negotiations, waiting for a settlement.  Canada has to approve the agreement before it becomes official.  Moreover, NAFTA was approved by Congress and any revision would have to be approved by Congress.   What is interesting about the agreement with Mexico is that it internationalizes Mr. Trump’s tariffs–the net effect will be to raise automobile prices in the US.

Posted August 27, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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