the brief: issue four


Laurent Gbagbo’s acquittal and return

by Connor Crout

Laurent Gbagbo, the ex-president of Ivory Coast, has returned home after being acquitted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, having been invited back by his successor Alassane Ouattara. The reason for his acquittal was due to the prosecution failing to prove there was a ‘common plan’ to keep Gbagbo in power as well as a failure to demonstrate that Gbabgo’s public speeches ordered or induced any of the alleged crimes.

These charges were raised after Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat in the 2010 presidential election (where he lost to Ouattara), which triggered a civil war leaving 3,000 people dead. Some hope that Gbagbo’s return will allow the government to focus on other things such as economic reform, however for some his return is a reminder of the deadly violence.


Naftali Bennett sworn in as Prime Minister, but grievances still at a boiling point in Israel-Palestine

by Theo Mitchell

Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Prime Minister on 13 June after a rowdy Knesset meeting; he will now attempt to lead a potentially unstable coalition for two years before swapping with Lapid. Bennett has vowed to reverse Netanyahu’s leadership style, aiming to both mend ties with the Democrats and diffuse the civil unrest seen following the Sheikh Jarrah evictions.

Palestinian groups have condemned the new Prime Minister. They cite his vigorous support for expanded settlements in Palestinian land, support for further annexations in the West Bank, and opposition to a Palestinian state. 

His first days in office have seen continued intercommunal tensions in Israel and Palestine. Israeli far-right groups, with initial government approval, marched through East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs!”. Simultaneously, Israel launched airstrikes into Gaza after alleged firebombs were sent from the besieged region.

Fresh exchanges in a familiar conflict

by Rachael Ward

Israel’s freshly formed coalition government is being confronted with the simply unavoidable struggles in taking the reins of leadership. Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas after Hamas launched incendiary balloons towards Israel. The launching of balloons, causing twenty fires, was prompted by a Jewish nationalist march in East Jerusalem. This exchange of weaponry responses ends a short-lived ceasefire which ceased to contain much conflict.

Though not unexpected, violence has again gathered pace without a moment’s breath as the truce finalising 11 days of conflict was sealed scarcely a month ago. While this fresh outburst of violence is the first conflictual complexity for Israel’s new government, it marks a familiar ordeal for Israelis and Palestinians. There is uncertainty surrounding the conflict, yet what is clear is how quickly tensions can implode and how finely balanced agreements between the two sides are.

Drought in Kyrgyzstan spells trouble for region

by Joe Mawer

Water in Central Asia has been used as a political tool for decades, creating tensions between the downstream and upstream countries. A drought in Kyrgyzstan has caused water levels in many of the rivers to drop and there is a lack of water for irrigating crops. According to Eurasianet, officials are blaming a lack of rain and cold temperatures in the mountains meaning that the glaciers are not melting.

This has caused prices of basic items like corn in Kyrgyzstan to rise, but it also may have an impact on downstream countries, such as Uzbekistan, which need the Syr Darya for their agriculture too. This may lead to large problems for the economies of Central Asia, which like the rest of the world, have suffered due to the pandemic. 


Athens cautiously welcomes de-escalation

by Orestis Sechas

The much-anticipated meeting on Monday in Brussels between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was held in a ‘positive climate’ and created reasonable expectations that the summer of 2021 will be better than initially expected and different to that of 2020. 

The two NATO allies advanced positive measures on the agenda and agreed that their bilateral talks must continue in the context of international law and diplomacy. Both sides expressed a desire for direct contact without the involvement of third parties and stressed the necessity of on-going dialogue to avoid all kinds of provocation and to foster a calmer climate.

However, disagreements obviously remain, and the Greek political class must not delude itself as to its neighbour’s intentions. A change of tactics due to external political pressures and economic hardships, as it is happening now, do not alter Ankara’s long-term goals. Indeed, Athens should welcome de-escalation, but with a vigilant eye and proper armour.


USA: Gender surgery for trans veterans

by Harry Padoan

Back in 2017, Donald Trump announced that the US military would no longer accept transgender individuals to serve – a position that was widely regarded as both bigoted and unnecessary. However, the Biden-Harris administration has already gone a long way in reversing previous attitudes.

After overturning the trans military ban, the US government recently announced that veterans will be offered gender confirmation surgery. The service, which is likely to be taken up by over 4000 veterans, has been described as life-saving by secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough. This move will undoubtedly be seen as a monumental episode in the fight for transgender rights.


Australian brings wine dispute with China to WTO

by Jessica Pender

Australia has formally filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization following the high tariffs placed on wine exports by the Chinese government. The export tax had been raised up to 218 percent, hitting winery businesses who primarily sell to the Chinese market. However, China claims that the tariffs were imposed in response to dumping, a form of trading malpractice. The increased rate could stay in place for the next five years.

This follows a series of tariffs on Australian produce previously installed by the Chinese government. The sanctions are a sign of the squabbles over trade between the two nations, escalated during the G7 conference when Australia called for collective opposition against China’s trade policies.

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has warned that the nation “will respond to economic coercion” and take a stronger stance globally to tariff manipulation. Bringing the dispute before the WTO will determine whether or not sanctions on Australian products will continue.


El Salvador’s struggle to implement the use of bitcoin

by Gracie Daw

El Salvador announced plans to formally use bitcoin as legal tender. The plans state the country will use the digital currency in parallel with the US dollar. However, these plans are unlikely to be implemented by the deadline of 6 September because the World Bank has denied El Salvador’s request for help. This is because the institution has said that they cannot support bitcoin because of its ‘environmental and transparency shortcomings’.

It is certainly true that bitcoin has a significant environmental impact given the energy needed to mine the cryptocurrency is larger than the historic emissions of certain countries, such as Ireland or Argentina. Furthermore, the introduction of bitcoin in El Salvador is likely to complicate talks with the IMF, where El Salvador is hoping to be given a financial programme of over $1 billion.

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