Top 5 international stories of the week

By Travis Wussow
Feb 5, 2016

Every Friday, we will bring to you the top five international stories of the week, with a particular emphasis on religious liberty, justice issues, and geopolitical issues that impact liberty and justice.

1. Syrian peace talks have been delayed for three weeks as Assad's forces make major headway against rebel forces holding Aleppo. Some analysts have argued that these talks are certain to fail anyway, but it does not appear that the international community has a good “Plan B” at the moment. Meanwhile, King Abdullah Jordan said this week that the country is at a “boiling point” with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

This week, there were reports that Islamic State commanders are taking refuge in Libya. This provides some indication that the so-called Islamic State is diversifying its territorial holdings as well as seeking refuge from an aggressive and effective air campaign. Also this week, donors at a London fundraiser pledged to raise “billions” of dollars in humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees.

2. Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will go on, despite Zika virus concerns. The World Health Organization is scrambling to respond to the virus, which can cause serious birth defects if a pregnant woman is infected. This week, ERLC published a helpful explainer on the virus. The first case of Zika was reported in Texas; reportedly the disease was transmitted sexually.

3. North Korea announces satellite launch to UN agencies as early as next week. The satellite launch has been widely condemned by the international community, in part because the launch has been seen as a pretext for a ballistic missile test. In advance of the launch, the US has readied missile defense assets. Japan also has placed its military on alert as a measure of readiness, as international pressure against North Korea mounts to abandon the missile test.

4. Nigeria requests a $3.5 billion loan as plummeting oil prices drain the country's budget. Sustained low oil prices triggering major economic instability and could be a major destabilizing force in the Middle East and North Africa. Royal Dutch Shell has announced that its profits are down 56 percent on low oil prices, leading to a 10,000-job layoff.

5. Germany makes major arrests of suspected Islamic State operatives in Berlin. The two Algerian men are believed to have attended a training camp in Syria. German police continue to search for two other suspects linked to a terror plot. Security in Germany has been heightened since the Paris attacks and sexual assault episodes in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

Have suggestions for a top five article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at

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