Here’s today’s foreign policy mandate: US President Joe Biden announces sanctions Myanmar’s military, Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping Hold her first call since Biden took office and women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is released from prison Saudi Arabia.
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Biden announces sanctions against Myanmar
US President Joe Biden announced US sanctions against Myanmar’s military junta ten days after the military assumed absolute power and the arrest of members of the country’s democratically elected leadership.
Biden will freeze $ 1 billion in Myanmar’s national assets held with US banks. Further sanctions against a “first round of goals” are expected this week.
The president’s announcement comes as protesters in Myanmar started the sixth day of demonstrations in a row on Thursday.
Will it change anything? Don’t rely on it, Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based advisor to the International Crisis Group, told Foreign Policy. “Sanctions are symbolically important,” said Horsey. “They may have some impact on margins, but we shouldn’t pretend they’re changing the way the military behaves.”
Put simply, Myanmar’s generals have seen sanctions before – including the most recent one for ethnic cleansing their Rohingya minority – and whatever the international community can muster, it is unlikely to oust them. “What the generals are seeing is a broad-based uprising from almost every section of society opposed to the coup,” Horsey said. “That’s where the real pressure is.”
What can the protests achieve? Courtney T. Wittekind examines whether this protest movement can be successful in foreign policy. Wittekind finds Myanmar’s young organizers “concerned about the prospect of a return to the dark past” but “confident that their movement will lead to transformative results”.
What we are following today
The Biden-Xi call. US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping made their first call since the US leader took office, the White House announced yesterday.
According to a reading of the appeal by the White House, Biden raised human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, as well as ways of working together on common areas such as climate policy. According to Chinese state television, Xi called for various lines of communication to be restored to prevent confrontation and described the events in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan as internal affairs.
The call came shortly after Biden hired the Pentagon to conduct a review of US strategy toward China. As James Palmer of FP writes in the weekly China Letter, the assessment is timely, “but it is not enough to only look at it from a military point of view.”
Saudi activist released. Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison on Wednesday after 1,001 days in prison. Al-Hathloul was convicted along with several other women’s rights activists under vague anti-terror laws in 2018. Under the terms of her release, Al-Hathloul is banned from traveling for 5 years and has a suspended sentence of two years and eight months. “Loujain’s years of imprisonment have ended, but she’s not free,” said Adam Coogle, Middle East expert at Human Rights Watch.
Introduction of EU vaccines. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, assumed responsibility for the slow introduction of vaccines in the European Union compared to other world powers during a debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“We’re still not where we want to be. We were late to authorize. We were too optimistic when it came to mass production, and maybe we were too confident that what we had ordered would actually be delivered on time, ”said von der Leyen. The EU leader claimed that despite the bloc’s mistakes, 70 percent of citizens would receive a vaccine by the end of summer. The European Union recorded 500,000 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, although the real number is likely higher.
Iran’s nuclear movements. Iran has started producing uranium metal, another violation of the 2015 international nuclear deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on Wednesday. The metal is used in the core of atomic bombs, although Iran claims its production is purely for research purposes. The move increases pressure on the United States and Iran to reach an agreement on the US return to the deal after leaders of the two countries disagreed on whether US sanctions against Iran were before or after Negotiations would be lifted.
Tokyo’s Olympic Problems. Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, is expected to resign due to the public outcry over sexist remarks, the Fuji News Network reported. Mori was quoted as saying that he would prefer to limit women’s speaking time on the Olympic Board of Trustees because “they struggle to cope, which is annoying”.
Koo d’etat. Indian lawmakers are threatening to abandon Twitter in favor of the Indian lookalike app Koo in a dispute with the Silicon Valley company. The Indian government has ordered the removal of hundreds of Twitter accounts and posts in the past few days because of allegations that users are spreading misinformation about ongoing peasant protests. The Caravan, a well-known magazine, was initially blocked on Twitter before the company reversed the move.
On Wednesday, Twitter announced that some purchase orders will not be met as it is considered a violation of Indian law. The Indian IT ministry published its displeasure with Twitter in the competing app Koo when a number of Indian leaders, including Trade Minister Piyush Goyal, advocated a Twitter exodus. The Koo app has increased tenfold due to the spitting – a total of 3 million in the past two days. In the long run, pressures for Twitter to comply with government demands could be too difficult to resist as it hopes to expand its Indian user base of around 17 million.
A mysterious metal monolith that appeared in a field in southeastern Turkey has been proven to be a hoax to promote Turkey’s new space program. The object appeared last week in a rural area near Sanliurfa, sparked speculation and was soon armed.
The monolith’s inscription, “Look at the sky, see the moon,” betrayed the game when it was used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his Wednesday speech to announce the space program, which includes plans for a moon mission. The stunt is not believed to be related to the mysterious monoliths that were first discovered in the Utah desert and have been appearing around the world since last summer.
That’s it for today.
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Photo credit: Saul Loeb / AFP