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Armenia-Azerbaijan: Renewed fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region
In the news
On 8 August, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of targeting its military positions 10 times in 24 hours. The Azeri Defence Ministry claimed that in six of the incidents, Armenian forces opened fire “from positions in the direction of the Basarkechar, Garakilsa and Gorus regions” on Azeri military units “stationed in the direction of the Kalbajar and Lachin regions.”
On 3 August, Azerbaijan had claimed it had captured the territory in Karabakh in a retaliatory campaign, Operation Revenge, after an Armenian attack near Nagorno-Karabakh killed one Azeri soldier. Additionally, Baku accused Yerevan of violating the ceasefire, stating that its forces thwarted the Armenian troops’ attempt to capture a hill in the Lachin district, an area controlled by Russian peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the military in Nagorno-Karabakh disputed this and accused Azerbaijan of killing two soldiers, declaring a “partial mobilization” in response to the clash. Following the incident, Armenia called on the international community to help stop Azerbaijan’s “aggressive actions” claiming that Azerbaijan continues its “policy of terror” against the population of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Meanwhile, Russia accused Azerbaijan of violating the ceasefire over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and that Russia was "taking measures to stabilize the situation" with Armenian and Azeri representatives.
Issues at large
First, the recurring skirmishes in Nagorno-Karabakh. The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh which ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on 10 November 2020 was seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia. However, the ceasefire has since been broken several times with skirmishes becoming a common occurrence in the region. A report by the International Crisis Group highlighted that since mid-July, residents of Azeri villages have testified to increased Azeri forces' activity in Lachin, near the border with Armenia, and Shusha, which lies on high ground close to Stepanakert making it a strategic outpost.
Second, grievances of de facto authority in Nagorno-Karabakh. The ethnically Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as the Republic of Artsakh, has expressed frustration over Armenia’s willingness to make concessions to Azerbaijan under a larger prospective peace settlement. Additionally, reports of top Artsakh officials planning a referendum to become part of Russia have increased pressure on Armenia to address these issues. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has raised concerns over Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto authorities retaining an armed force, arguing that this force was illegal and has urged Russian peacekeepers to disarm it. However, Armenia and the de facto authorities rebutted it claiming disarmament was never part of the ceasefire deal.
Third, the stalled negotiations. Armenian and Azeri diplomats have been meeting regularly to formulate a peace deal to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. However, several unresolved issues are yet to be addressed. These include delimiting the border between the two countries, the nature of new transportation corridors in the region, and the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh itself and its current ethnic Armenian population.
Fourth, the apprehensions of Russian peacekeepers. Since 2020, there have been growing frustrations over the Russian peacekeepers’ presence in the region and their inaction in stopping ceasefire violations. Additionally, Russian peacekeeping forces conducted daily patrols in the disputed regions, but the patrols stopped a couple of days before the recent Azeri advances drawing criticism to the Russian troops in the region.
First, the continuation of ceasefire violations. The Nagorno-Karabakh region is likely to witness the continuation of low-intensity attacks as a result of the fallouts of the ceasefire. The 2020 ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan has failed to initiate a peace process because it has altered the power balance between the two countries and left many issues unresolved. Thus, these recurring skirmishes are likely to continue in the future.
Second, the rise of the de facto authority in Nagorno-Karabakh. Over the past few months, the de facto authority in Nagorno-Karabakh has stepped up its engagement with the region both militarily and politically. This is a cause of concern for both countries as they are unable to consult with the group.
Third, Russian peacekeeping forces. Russian diplomatic efforts and their peacekeepers' presence have not deterred an escalation in the situation. Since the Ukraine war, Russian peacekeeping forces have been criticised for being inactive in the region. Thus, the pressure on the peacekeeping forces is likely to increase.
Israel-Gaza: intermittent attacks end with Egypt-UN mediated ceasefire
In the news
On 5 August, Israel bombarded the Gaza strip of Palestine with missile attacks killing at least 45 people, including 16 children, and injuring more than 260. The “pre-emptive” strike by Israel called operation Breaking Dawn lasted three days. In retaliation, on 6 August the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) launched a volley of 1,100 projectiles targeting Tel Aviv and other heavily populated areas of Israel.
On 8 August, three days after the raids and counterattacks, an Egypt-UN mediated ceasefire was agreed upon. The PIJ demanded the release of its officials, Khalil Awawda (within the day) and Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi (within two weeks) to uphold the ceasefire. An Egyptian delegation in Tel Aviv was working on the release. The ceasefire has been upheld by both sides, but they have reserved the right to respond if the truce is breached.
On 9 August, an emergency UN Security Council meeting was held to discuss the situation in Gaza and the ceasefire agreement. Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan called for the UNSC to place “full accountability” on the PIJ, stating “They fire rockets at Israeli civilians while using Gazans as human shields. This is a double war crime.” A UN Special Rapporteur, meanwhile, termed Israel’s strikes “illegal and irresponsible” and has called for an investigation to check if Israel had breached international law.
Issues at large
First, Israel’s motive behind the attack. Israel in the past week carried out raids on the Jenin refugee camp and arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior member of the PIJ. Israel then proceeded to launch a “pre-emptive” strike to prevent the PIJ from responding to the raids and arrests. Additionally, Israel’s interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid is hoping to be elected to power in general elections scheduled for November 2022. This attack can be seen as a political move to display power and ensure he gets elected.
Second, PIJ’s retaliation. The PIJ’s poorly planned attack resulted in 200 projectiles falling inside Gaza and injuring more civilians. As a result, Israel and its allies feel justified to brand PIJ as terrorists and support Israel’s right to defend itself. Israel has blamed the PIJ for the deaths of Gaza’s residents and launched an investigation into the errant missiles that hit the strip.
Third, Israel’s targetting of high-ranking officials of PIJ. In its attack, Israel killed two commanders of the PIJ, Tayir al-Jabari of the al-Quds brigade and Khaled Mansour from Jabari’s southern counterpart. Israeli attacks are aimed at weakening any resistance by Palestine and targeting its senior officials reduces the military might of Palestine.
Fourth, US support for Israel. The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, has supported Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats and many US officials have sent out tweets appreciating the Iron Dome system. The US has firmly stated its support for Israel in the international arena.
Fifth, regional divide on the attacks. The countries that have signed the Abraham accords such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco have refrained from condemning Israel’s attacks. At the same time, Iran which supports and funds the PIJ warned that Israel will pay a heavy price for these attacks. Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar have condemned Israel’s aggression.
First, relief to Gaza’s residents. The blockade imposed by Israel on Palestine has been lifted as a part of the ceasefire agreement and humanitarian aid has been flowing into the Gaza strip much to the relief of its residents. The only power plant in Gaza, previously shut down due to the raids, received fuel shipments, and power has been restored to the Gaza strip. The ceasefire provides time for injured civilians to recover and mourn their losses.
Second, the fragility of the truce. The terms of the truce are contingent upon Israel releasing the PIJ officials it arrested. Both sides have explicitly stated that they reserve the right to respond if the truce is breached. There is a high risk that any side may launch another attack in what they consider a breach.
Third, Israel’s recurring attacks. Israel undertakes pre-emptive attacks on various locations in Palestine stating that it's defending itself from Palestine’s terror attacks even when there has been no provocation. In the current round of attacks, Israel has punished Gaza before it responded, which does not justify its claim of self-defence. Against this backdrop, similar incidents, such as what happened in the early week of August, are likely to recur in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The US: White House to invest USD 370 billion through Climate Bill
In the news
On 7 August, the US Senate Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act aiming to combat climate change, lower the cost of prescription drugs, and increase the corporate tax to extract revenue. US President Joe Biden said: “The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law". This act focuses largely on the climate crisis and will inject over USD 370 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This act could become the most significant federal investment ever to have addressed the climate change battle.
The bill suggests an increase in the production of cleaner energy through solar and wind power. It also proposes to bring down the prices of electric vehicles to boost their market demand and to provide oil companies with USD 1.5 billion to encourage them with technologies like carbon capture and sequestration. The bill also mandated the government a lease sale of around 60 million acres of federal waters for the production of oil and gas, keeping intact the availability of fossil fuels as well.
Issues at large
Firstly, the energy consumption trajectory. The US is the second largest carbon emitter after China but has failed to live up to its greenhouse gas reduction commitments made during COP summits. The US commitment to cut its carbon emission by half by 2030 was derailed by the untimely Russian invasion of Ukraine, which created a fuel supply shortage around the world, and led the countries to look for self-reliant options. Consequently, the Biden administration has pressed for an increase in oil and gas production to combat the crisis. However, the administration has now pushed forward a bill that transforms the American energy consumption and climate policy sector.
Secondly, the divided Senate. Following a 27-hour-long session, the bill was passed with a party-line vote of 51-50, which indicates the displeasure of the Republicans who claim that such heavy expenditure will only cause further deterioration of the economy. Some fellow Democrats like Kyrsten Sinema also raised opposing remarks, causing some addition and subtraction to the bill. Although there was criticism among the Democrats, they were united when it came to voting for the bill. The Republicans opposed the Democrats' claim that the bill will pay for itself by pointing out the reinstatement of the “Superfund tax.” This will reinstate taxes on crude oil and imported petroleum products thereby increasing spending.
Thirdly, the role of the MNCs. Although the bill postulates a deliberate strain on the corporate sector, the major MNCs in the petroleum sector like Shell US, Chevron, and ExxonMobil have all lauded the introduction of the bill. However, the imposition of a minimum corporate tax on the richest corporation might not sit right with them. This tax demands a 15 percent return, which expects to bring around USD 313 billion in revenue.
Firstly, the reconciliation factor. After an 18-month-long wait, the Senate passed the bill through a parliamentary manoeuvre called reconciliation, which allows approval by a simple majority. This move might return to haunt them if the policy does not fare as planned. However, manufacturing more solar panels and wind turbines will create a new job market, which will play to the advantage of the Democrats. Similarly, the lowered cost of energy consumption will be another deciding factor for the people in the upcoming elections.
Secondly, the election gamble. The Democrats are hoping that the people will understand their approach to reducing carbon emissions. However, the rising inflation is an immediate roadblock. The Democrats claim that the policy will pay for itself and will reduce the federal deficit over time, but it certainly won’t happen in three months. The Republicans have already claimed that this policy is a job-killing spending spree that will lead to a state of recession. Now, the Democrats have to play safe and not let the Republicans be proven right three months before the elections.
Lastly, the government’s whopping financial commitment reflects how they are not afraid to make big decisions. Moreover, the bill would bring the US to the forefront of the climate change battle. Being the second-largest carbon emitter, this action by the US will encourage more nations to take concrete steps toward saving the environment.
Also, from around the World
East and Southeast Asia
China: Taiwan reacts to military drills by conducting counter-drill exercises
On 8 August, Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps spokesperson announced that the army would hold anti-landing exercises in Pingtung as China continued its military drills in response to the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit. On the same day, China’s Eastern Theatre Command announced that it would conduct joint drills including anti-submarine and sea assault operations after its initial four days of military drills. The duration of the drills has not been disclosed.
China: Foreign Minister explains stance on the South China Sea issue
On 5 August, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed the 12th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia and reiterated China’s stance on the South China Sea issue. Wang invoked the historic and legal basis to justify China’s claims and position over the South China Sea. He further explained that China was committed to resolving issues through bilateral consultation and negotiation and adhered to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. On the US involvement in the issue, Wang expressed China’s discontent over the sudden US interest after pledging non-interference in the sovereignty of the islands. He said: “What is the credibility of a major country if it changes its established policies so arbitrarily according to its own political needs? How can it win the trust of others in the future?”
China: NGO report accuses the US of human rights violation
On 9 August, the China Society for Human Rights Studies released a report on the alleged human rights violation by the US in the Middle East and other geographic regions. The report claimed that the US was responsible for serious crimes in the Middle East, including launching wars, massacring civilians, causing harm to human life and property, and infringing on people’s livelihood. The report said: “Facts show that the United States has seriously violated the basic human rights of people in the Middle East and other places, causing permanent damage and irreparable losses to countries and people in the region.”
China: Envoys from 30 Islamic countries visit Xinjiang
On 7 August, Xinhua Net reported that 30 Islamic countries had sent their envoys to visit the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China. The envoys from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan visited the capital city Urumqi from 1 to 5 August and were briefed about the economic and social development of the Chinese government. The visit was an opportunity for the country to portray a different narrative from the one being propagated by the Western countries.
Vietnam: Insists on conflict de-escalation in the Taiwan Strait
On 3 August, the Vietnam government called international actors to refrain from aggravating the conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Việt Nam persists in implementing the ‘One China’ principle and hopes relevant parties exercise restraint, refrain from escalating the situation in the Taiwan Strait, and actively contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability, promoting cooperation and development of the region and the world.” The government’s response comes in the wake of the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to extend support in the face of threats from China.
Myanmar: Insurgent groups capture military camps
On 8 August, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and People’s Defense Forces (PDF) acquired control over two military camps in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. They captured camps in Sezin village, Hpakant, and Shwe Pyi Myint village. The latter region houses Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA), an ethnic Lisu militia group that shares close connections with the Junta troops. As a result of increasing conflict, the junta “launched air strikes” in the region. As of now, the KIA and PDF forces have collaborated in launching attacks in the Kachin State and the upper Sagaing region.
Bangladesh: Dhaka witnesses protests over hike in fuel prices
On 7 August, people in Dhaka protested against the hike in fuel prices. Protestors demanded a decrease in fuel prices to their previous rates in two days, cancellation of a hike in transport prices, and concessions for students using public transport. Bangladesh increased petrol prices by 51.1 per cent and kerosene prices by 42.5 per cent. This is the largest hike in fuel prices in the history of the country. Bangladesh has taken the step to counter rising inflation and address the increase in the deficit. It has sought assistance from IMF to manage its foreign reserves.
Afghanistan: ISIS-K claims responsibility for two explosions targeting Shias in Kabul
On 5 August, eight people were killed and 18 others injured in Kabul during a Shia community gathering in Kabul’s western neighbourhood Sar-e-Kariz. On 6 August, three people were killed and seven others were injured in a blast in Kabul's Pol-e-Sukhta area, another Shia-dominated area. The Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the official affiliate of the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for these attacks on the Shia community during the days of the Ashura. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said: “Following the Islamic State-claimed blasts in Kabul in recent days that killed and injured more than 120 people, the UN family in Afghanistan urges greater security for minorities so that Ashura can be marked without further attacks.”
Pakistan: Protests laid off for 24 hours by North Waziristan
On 7 August, the elders from the settled districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa approached the Jirga of the Uthmanzai tribe and requested them to end their three-week-long protest against the targeted killing and to reopen the roads and bazaars. Dozens of loaded vehicles had been stranded on the highway. Trade with Afghanistan via Ghulam Khan Border crossing has also been halted due to the closure of roads in the district. The elders, following Pakhtun traditions, also presented sheep to the Jirga as Nanawati, which is a way of seeking reconciliation or mediation. Officials said that the tribe had accepted the Nanawati and postponed their strike for the next 24 hours.
Pakistan: Taliban confirms TTP leader’s killing in Afghanistan
On 8 August, Taliban spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani confirmed the killing of senior Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Omar Khalid Khorasani and two others in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, TTP officials urged the Taliban government in Afghanistan to investigate the incident and unearth “spies” who could be responsible for the death of senior TTP leaders.
Pakistan: Four soldiers killed in North Waziristan suicide attack
On 9 August, the Inter-Services Public Relations said that four soldiers were killed in a suicide blast at a military convoy in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to the ISPR, intelligence agencies have begun investigations on the suicide bomber who carried out the attack and his handlers and facilitators.
Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa
Israel-Palestine: Israeli forces kill al-Aqsa Brigades commander
On 9 August, the Israeli forces raided Nablus, a city on the West Bank, and killed Ibrahim al-Nablusi, the Commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Al-Nablusi was on the run for several months and had survived multiple assassination attempts by the Israeli forces. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the gunfire lasted for several hours leaving three Palestinians dead and wounding 60 others.
Lebanon: Hezbollah warns Israel against targeting Palestinian militants in Lebanon
On 9 August, Hezbollah’s chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against conducting any operation against the Palestinian militants who were in Lebanon. In a televised address on the Day of Ashura, he said “any attack on any human being will not go unpunished or unanswered.” The statement comes as a response to Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz who said that the country will take action against the Islamic Jihad militants and officials who are in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.
Iraq: Protests by al-Sadr’s supporters
The demonstrations in support of the Sadrist movement continued through the week, and the protestors continued their sit-in at the Parliament building in Baghdad, calling for the dissolution of the Parliament and early elections. Meanwhile, the southern Iraqi province of Basra also saw massive protests, with people taking to the streets to protest against the power cuts. The protests began after the collapse of the electricity grid in six southern provinces due to excessive demand amid temperatures reaching 50 degrees Celsius. The protestors in Basra also supported al-Sadr’s candidature.
Yemen: Conflict escalates between the UAE and Saudi Arabia-backed fighter groups
On 8 August, violence broke out between the proxy fighters of the UAE and the Islamic alliance of Saudi Arabia in the southern province of Yemen, Shabwah, marking the largest clash since the new President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi took the position. To control the fight, the Presidential Council replaced many local military leaders but failed to deter the escalation. According to locals, the reason behind the conflict was the divide between the population and provocation by Governor, Awlaqi who claims to be the representative of the Presidential Council. Awlaqi stated: “I appeal to my brothers and the residents of Shabwah to stop the bloodshed and to stop the escalation and fighting that establish conflicts and societal strife that only serves parties from outside the governorate.”
Senegal: Government and separatist group sign peace agreement
On 4 August, the rebel group Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance signed a peace agreement with the federal government. Signing the agreement in The Gambia, the group agreed to lay down their arms. However, Amnesty International’s Senegal Director said the group did not pose a huge threat to regional stability; instead, groups operating along the Gambian border were more aggressive. Therefore, the Director emphasized the need to include other groups in negotiations towards a peace deal.
South Africa: Migrants attacked by a mob for alleged criminal activities
On 4 August, residents of the Krugersdorp township attacked migrants accusing them of criminal activities in the area. The development comes after 130 people were arrested on charges of raping eight South African women near a mining dump on 28 July. The residents attacked the migrants with machetes and hammers; they also stripped and whipped the migrants before setting the migrant camps on fire. A witness to the demonstration against the migrants said: “We want support from the police because the illegal miners are terrorizing us. We cannot simply walk around the neighbourhood at night because they rape us.” Krugersdorp houses several criminal gangs attempting to exploit the abandoned mines in search of any leftover gold. Several immigrants from Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe live in the area.
Democratic Republic of Congo: MONUSCO spokesperson expelled over remarks
On 3 August, the Foreign Ministry released a statement expelling the MONUSCO spokesperson claiming that the UN official had stoked tensions leading to week-long protests. The government accused the spokesperson of making “indelicate and inappropriate” statements and therefore maintained that the UN official’s presence will not “promote a climate of mutual trust and calm between Congolese institutions and MONUSCO.”
Europe and the Americas
Russia: Iranian Satellite launched by Soyuz-2.1b amid the Ukrainian War
On 9 August, the Russian launch rocket Soyuz-2.1b carried Iran’s Khayyam satellite from the Russia-controlled Baikonur cosmodrome. Despite the global criticism and boycott of Russia, Iran has maintained its ties with Moscow. In this context, they have refrained from criticising the Ukraine invasion and deflected suspicions that Moscow could use Khayyam to spy on Ukraine. Western intelligence officials claim that Russia "plans to use the satellite for several months or longer" by using the data to assist its war efforts before allowing Iran to take control of the Khayyam. To this, the Iranian Space Agency responded by saying, "No third country is able to access the information" sent by Khayyam and the data that would be transmitted would be controlled by Iran from day one and is unlikely to be useful for Russia due to the "encrypted algorithm.”
Russia: Moscow responds to Zelenskyy’s call to deprive Russian citizens of access to the West
On 8 August, in an interview with the Washington Post, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed to ban all Russian travelers from going to the West. Ahead of the anticipated referendums, Zelenskyy called on the Western countries to shut their borders to all Russian nationals regardless of their stance on their country’s invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin criticized the move calling it “off-the-scale irrationality,” and said the measure was unfeasible and counterproductive. Anti-war Russians too were not supportive of the proposal and warned that it could backfire and consolidate Putin’s support base.
Russia: Brittney Griner’s sentence signals prisoner exchange talks between Russia and the US
On 4 August, US basketball star Brittney Griner was convicted in Russia of drug possession and sentenced to nine years in prison. She was also fined RUB one million, following a long and politically charged trial. On 05 August, after her sentencing, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow is prepared to discuss a possible prisoner exchange with the US. The exchange is likely to see Griner and Paul Whelan, arrested in Russia for espionage charges being exchanged for Victor Bout, an infamous arms dealer from Russia.
Russia and Ukraine: Blame game over Zaporizhzhya shelling
On 5 and 7 August, shelling was reported at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. The shells hit a high voltage power line due to which operators had to disconnect two reactors. The International Atomic Energy Agency Director, General Rafael Mariano Grossi, criticized the action saying that it was risking a nuclear disaster, and has asked for access to the plant. Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said that Russia was engaging in “nuclear terrorism”, but Russia's Defence Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant.
Ukraine: Amnesty International report blames Ukraine for risking civilian lives
On 4 July, Amnesty International in its recent report accused Ukraine of voluntarily endangering civilian lives by concentrating its troops in residential areas. The report stated that establishing military bases was not only risking civilians but also violating the laws of war. In response, Zelenskyy said that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine cannot be justified and blamed the report for promoting propaganda and using disinformation tactics like Russia. Later, Amnesty International announced that they regretted the distress caused by the report but confirmed the charge behind its findings.
Latin America: Fourth oil tanker damaged in the continuing fire in Cuba
On 9 August, the fire at the oil storage in western Cuba continues. The firefighters and rescuers have been attempting to control the blaze through boats, planes, and spraying foam, but the fourth tank has caught fire. So far, one person has died and 125 injured; 14 firefighters have been missing. The tank facility is key to Cuba’s electricity supply as it depends on the oil pipelines, and it is also important for unloading and transhipments to import crude oil, fuel oil, and diesel. Therefore, Cuba is set to be impacted economically and face electricity shortages from the continuing fire.