Newscoop Footnotes: February 25, 2019

Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes —

the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.

The U.S. Special Counsel Bob Mueller seems close to releasing his report on possible collusion by the Trump 2016 campaign with Russia. With media attention on that right now, a lot of important things in the world are slipping under the radar.

For instance:

  • Egypt executed nine men last Wednesday for what it claims was their 2015 car bombing and murder of Egypt’s top prosecutor. Amnesty International described their trial as grossly unfair, with confessions extracted by torture. One of the accused men said at a hearing: “We have been electrocuted so much we could power Egypt for 20 years.”

    Egypt’s current President Abdel Fattah al Sisi was involved in the 2013 military coup that overthrew the country’s former democratically-elected president Mohammed Morsi. Since then, Sisi’s government has sentenced hundreds to death for charges widely considered politically motivated. And journalists are filling Egyptian prisons. In fact, Egypt, China and Turkey are together jailing one-half of the journalists imprisoned in the world today. Reporters Without Borders has called Egypt “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.”

  • On issues of human rights, Egypt’s ally Saudi Arabia is even worse. Reporters Without Borders confirms that “Saudi Arabia permits no independent media and tolerates no independent political parties, unions, or human rights groups. The level of self-censorship is extremely high…”  In August 2018, when Canada’s foreign minister publicly criticized Saudi Arabia for the detention and abuse of peaceful female rights activists, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador, and suspended all business and direct flights between the two countries. Then, as if to prove Canada’s point, the Saudis within days publicly beheaded a man in Mecca and crucified his body.

    The Saudi women’s rights activists are still in prison. Last October, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And now, while the rest of the world demands that Saudi Arabia be held accountable for Khashoggi’s murder and the mounting human rights abuses, U.S. president Donald Trump continues to deflect all discussion of human rights.

    Now, a new report issued February 19th by congressional Democrats indicates that the Trump administration has tried to transfer sensitive nuclear technology to the Saudis — in violation of U.S. federal law, and against the instructions of the top National Security Council legal advisor. Such a sale would likely initiate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

    There are a number of factors that could account for Trump trying to hand over nuclear technology to the Saudis. Here are two things being discussed: 

    1. One of the nuclear power developers that would benefit from selling nuclear technology to the Saudis has also provided major debt-relief to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

    2. With Donald Trump’s legal woes mounting, and his public support waning, he needs the U.S.        evangelical vote in the 2020 election. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence are also both evangelical Christians, subscribing to the dogma of unconditional support for Israel. For most evangelicals, that support of Israel involves unconditional condemnation of Iran. And most see condemnation of Iran as involving unconditional support for Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Just another reminder that important issues relating to global security are often driven by U.S. domestic political considerations. And also, that for the Trump administration, everything has a price.

This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes – important events getting too little attention.


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