Article Oct 17, 2016

Top 5 international stories of the week

Every Monday, we 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. Asia Bibi, Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy, has hearing before Supreme Court delayed indefinitely. Asia Bibi, a mother of five, was sentenced to death in 2010, accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad during a dispute in her village. She would be the first woman executed for blasphemy in modern Pakistan. She has been imprisoned for seven years, and she will now continue to wait for her appeal. The case has attracted intense international attention, and the Pakistani judicial system is under intense pressure from both the international community and Islamists within Pakistan. The case was delayed because one of the justices on the Pakistani Supreme Court was Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court when a related blasphemy case was heard.

2. U.S. Navy fires cruise missiles on Houthi-controlled radar targets in Yemen. What the U.S. Navy characterized as “limited self-defense strikes” marked the first time the U.S. has become militarily involved in the Yemeni civil war, which has waged since March 2015. The attack was a response to two separate incidents where missiles were apparently fired at U.S. warships in the Red Sea from territory held by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

3. During second presidential debate, Secretary Clinton proposes no-fly zone in Syria. When asked during the second debate how she might respond to the Syrian civil war, which has created an ever-expanding humanitarian crisis, Secretary Clinton again floated the idea of a no-fly zone in Syria. A President Clinton would likely take a harder line on Russia, a tack Mrs. Clinton urged President Obama to take when she was Secretary of State. In an awkward exchange during the second debate, Donald Trump was forced to disavow comments made by his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, that “Provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength.”

4. U.S. State Department urges “strong response” to Russian hacking and interference with presidential election. The FBI has indicated that Russian hackers were responsible for obtaining and leaking the emails; the leaks are apparently intended to influence the American election. It appeared the Obama administration has been seeking to avoid direct conflict with Russia over the incident, but Foreign Policy’s John Hudson reports:

“There needs to be a thoughtful, principled, strong response,” said Kathleen Kavalec, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. She said the U.S. response must send a “clear message” and “assign responsibility,” in addition to making clear that “we won’t tolerate future intrusions.”

5. UNESCO issues decision denying Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization issued a new decision sponsored by the Palestinians along with Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan that failed to recognize the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The decision has been widely criticized by Western governments and the Israeli government. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted in response to UNESCO’s action: “What’s next? A UNESCO decision denying the connection between peanut butter and jelly? Batman and Robin? Rock and roll?”

Bonus chilling but conspiratorial Russia story: Reports claim that Putin orders the relatives of foreign officials living abroad to return home. Several tabloids, including the Daily Mail, have suggested that this is a sign of impending global war. It is true, after all, that tensions between Russia and the West are on the rise. I should note that Snopes throws some water on the story, claiming that the call to return home has more to do with suggestions that Russians living abroad absorb Western values (and accents) than an impending invasion.

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