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. Saudi–Iranian tensions on the rise as Saudis and Iranians break off diplomatic relations. As Iran re-enters the international community after the nuclear agreement, Saudi Arabia is working with its allies to contain rising Iranian power. On Saturday, Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who had studied in Iran for 10 years. In response, an Iranian mob attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting a portion of it on fire. In response to allegations that the attack was facilitated by the Iranian government, the Saudis broke off diplomatic relations with Iran. Bahrain, Sudan, Kuwait, Djibouti, the UAE, and Qatar have joined in by cutting or downgrading their own diplomatic relations. Foreign policy analysts are divided on the importance of this development. After all, Saudi–Iranian and Sunni–Shia tensions in the Middle East are nothing new. But this development will make cooperation more difficult at just the time when it is desperately needed in the region.
2. North Korea claims to successfully test a hydrogen bomb. Few in the international community believe this claim, arguing that a small thermonuclear device was actually tested. The test, which was conducted 50 miles from the Chinese border, heightens tensions between China and North Korea; the international community is still working to coordinate a response to the North Korean regime.
3. Iranian TV broadcasts video of subterranean ballistic missile facility. In defiance of international threats for new sanctions, Iranian media broadcast video from inside a ballistic missile research facility run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The missiles featured in the video, the Emad, are capable of carrying a nuclear payload an estimated 1,300 kilometers. The video presents a major challenge to the U.S., which has been struggling to contain Iranian attempts to test the limits of its relationship with the international community.
4. Chinese stocks tumble, stock exchange suspended twice this week. For the second time in one week, the Chinese government shut down trading on the Chinese stock exchange. The sell-off, which amounted to double-digit losses for the week, has injected a great deal of uncertainty into the world economy. Economic uncertainty in China could lead to political and social instability, in turn leading to an increase in persecution of those seen as a threat to the Chinese elite, including Christians.
5. Sexual violence in Cologne fuels anti-refugee rhetoric and sparks debate on tolerance for refugee and migrant populations. More than 100 women have come forward to report sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany. Many of the women report being surrounded and assaulted by men who “spoke neither German nor English.” The incident raises concerns about the efficacy of police enforcement on New Year’s Eve. The response to the attacks also raise concerns about anti-Islam and anti-migrant rhetoric, which is already on the rise in Europe.
Have suggestions for a top 5 article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at [email protected]