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CWA # 553, 12 September 2021

The World This Week
20 years after 9/11, Paris terror trial, and a new government in Lebanon

  GP Team

The World This Week #136, Vol. 3, No. 37

D Suba Chandran, Sourina Bej, and Rashmi BR


US: 20 years after 9/11
What happened?
On 11 September 2021, the US remembered the terrorist attacks that took place twenty years ago on the same day. President Biden and two former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama took part in the ceremony at ground zero in New York, where more than 2700 people lost their lives when those two planes plunged into the twin towers. As had been the case since 2001, the family members of those who had lost their lives in those attacks, came to the venue, read the names and remembered them. President Obama said: “9/11 reminded us how so many Americans give of themselves in extraordinary ways - not just in moments of great crisis, but every single day...Let’s never forget that, and let’s never take them for granted.”

Similar events were held in Shanksville in Pennsylvania, where the United Airlines flight 93 crashed, after the plans of the hijackers’ failed. Former President George Bush took part in the remembrance meeting; President Biden also was there, after being at ground zero in New York. George Bush in his remarks, warned of the “violence that gathers from within” and said: “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home…But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols - they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

Elsewhere in the US, at the Pentagon ceremony, where 184 were killed on the same day in 2001, Gen Mark Milley said: “The people we lost that day are not just names and numbers…We remember them today for not only who they were, but who they could have become.”

0n 10 September, President Biden, in a video message, remarked: “To me, that’s the central lesson of Sept. 11th, is that at our most vulnerable - the push and pull of all that makes us human, and the battle for the soul of America - unity is our greatest strength…We find light in the darkness. We find purpose to repair, renew and rebuild. And as my friend told me that September, 20 years ago: We must not be afraid.” He tweeted: “20 years after September 11, 2001, we commemorate the 2,977 lives we lost and honour those who risked and gave their lives. As we saw in the days that followed, unity is our greatest strength. It’s what makes us who we are - and we can’t forget that.”

What is the background?
First, remembering 9/11. Ever since 2001, the Americans have come together on 11 September on the three main locations – Pentagon, Manhattan and Shanksville to remember the lives lost to the terrorist attack perpetrated by al Qaeda. As President Biden remarked in his video message, they would commemorate those whose lives were lost. Biden said: “To the families of the 2,977 people, from more than 90 nations…America and the world commemorate you and your loved ones, the pieces of your soul…We honor all those who are risked and gave their lives in the minutes, hours, months and years afterwards.”

Second, the global position of the US as a superpower, since 2001. When al Qaeda terrorists attacked the US in 2001, the US was leading a unipolar world. Russia was weak, and China was yet to emerge. Europe was an American ally. Outside the 9/11 attack, that should have been one of the significant moments for the US as a sole superpower in the post-World War II period. In the next twenty years, that moment would slowly. In 2021, as the US commemorate twenty years of 9/11, its global position as a superpower is questioned by the rise of China, resurgent Russia and a troubled relationship with its trans-Atlantic partner – Europe. Afghanistan and Iran, where the US invested substantially in the last two decades are seen as failures. 

Third, the US legacy of the War on Terrorism. After 9/11, the US declared a war on terrorism. As Bush said, one is with the US, or against it. From the United Nations to Russia, many went along with the US. Al Qaeda was the primary target then; later, Iraq became the second major target. Today, twenty years later, after the killing of Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden, has the US emerged successful? Al Qaeda network has been neutralised; some would argue, it has got dispersed more in the last two decades and have found its place in Africa and Southeast Asia. The last two decades also witnessed the rise of ISIS, another global terror network, deadlier than al Qaeda. While the US mainland has been saved from any further terrorist attacks, there were a series of high profile terror attacks in Europe. Madrid train bombings in 2004, London bombings in 2007, Paris attacks in 2015 and Brussels attacks in 2016 were a few high profile attacks in Europe.

Fourth, the divide within the US, during the last two decades. Former President Bush’s remarks on 11 September 2021, regarding the violence that is gathering “from within” and the “cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home” should underline the decline within. The Trump years, the attack on US Capitol Hill on 6 January 2021, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Texas legislation banning abortion are a few examples of the challenges that the US poses across the spectrum from within covering extremism, racism and gender. 

What does it mean?
The challenge for Biden is substantial, as he leads the US into the third decade after 9/11. There are serious fault lines within, besides the above social ones. Post-pandemic economic recovery, industrial resurgence, and infrastructural investments are a few areas, where the US would have to look inwards if it has to play a larger global role. An internally divided and economically weak US would pull Washington down to act as a global player. Externally, the rise of China would pose a challenge; however, it is not insurmountable. The challenge would be to build a coalition with its trans-Atlantic partners and build new ones across the Indo-Pacific. 

Biden could either remake the US and ensure that it plays its global role, or break it further, and lead to its further decline. The 2020s should be the most crucial decade for the US, since the end of the Second World War.



France: Trial begins for the 2015 terrorist attack 
What happened? 
On 9 September, the trial began against those accused in the 2015 terrorist attacks that had left 130 people dead and 350 injured in central Paris and Saint-Denis. The court is going to weigh on the pleas of the 20 accused, including Salah Abdeslam, the mastermind behind the attack.  While 14 of the accused face trials in person, six more are being tried in absentia.
 
What is the background? 
First, six years since the terror attack. In 2015 attackers killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more in coordinated shootings and suicide bombings at the Bataclan concert hall, a sports stadium, and bars and restaurants across the French capital. In the six years prior to the trial, France has witnessed more such terror attacks which have marked a shift in the collective consciousness of the society. The Nice truck attack of 2016 was equally lethal with 86 killed. The January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks to the beheading of Samuel Paty in 2020, these attacks have only reminded France that anyone and anybody could come under a terror attack. 
 
Second, trial as a symbolic gesture of collective memorialisation and healing. Symbolically the trial is the moment where facts could be examined, the ferocity of the act is acknowledged and the victims get justice if not compensation for the loss. One of the primary virtues of a trial is to situate the facts in order to understand exactly what happened. The trial comes in the backdrop of similar hearings of those accused in the Charlie Hebdo terror attack and the Christchurch attack in New Zealand. It is an important step towards the beginning of memorialization of the event at the individual as well as at the societal level. In this the role of the Judiciary as an institution to identify and open pathways for healings is significant. 
 
Third, the profile of the accused or the attackers. The attacks in 2015 were planned in Syria and carried out by Europeans who had joined ISIS and were able to travel back and forth undetected with the flow of migrants. The attackers were mostly French and Belgian citizens, born in Europe to immigrants from North Africa. Similar has been the ethnic background (that is second to third-generation immigrants) of the attackers who killed Samuel Paty, bombed the office of Charlie Hebo, or wielded the knife in Nice.

Fourth, France’s own war on terror at home. In the past year, the state institutions have not only responded heavily in cracking down the financial routes of the small franchisee-terrorist groups but have also passed new anti-terrorism legislation that gives police extended powers to search homes and make house arrests without prior judicial approval. Religious sites deemed radical can now be closed down. And a social questioning or puritan screening has begun on who is a French in France? The French model of identity is steeped in civic nationalism over recognizing the diverse ethnolinguistic identity thereby making the minorities invisible in the French society. 
 
What does it mean? 
The trial will add to the existing social caveats of divisions within the migrant groups. The intra and inter-group cohesion in French society have never been simplistic. And the trial puts a check on what it means to practice violent radical attacks but how much will it facilitate a social dialogue on why Islamic extremism could become a trend in France is still in doubt. On the other side of the spectrum where lensing and seeing the act of one Muslim man as the burden of a whole ethnoreligious community is also painfully problematic and marks the beginning of a social perception bordering on social exclusion. 



Lebanon: a new government after 13 months
What happened?
On 10 September, Lebanon’s presidency announced the formation of a new government under the leadership of Najib Mikati, a former Prime Minister who has previously held the position twice. PM Mikati and President Michael Aoun signed a government decree regarding the formation, in the presence of Speaker Nabih Berri. The announcement ended a 13-month stalemate and a complex political crisis. 
Addressing the press, Mikati stated that “the situation is very difficult. But it is not impossible if we unite as Lebanese. We have to put our hands together…work together, united with hope and determination.” Welcoming the announcement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the new government to “implement a tangible reform agenda” in accordance with the aspirations of the people. France, an important stakeholder in Lebanon, welcomed the new government, and President Emmanuel Macron said that it is “vita that Lebanon’s politicians stuck to engagements necessary to undertake key reforms.” 

What is the background?
First, the political crisis. The massive blast at the Beirut port opened the floodgates of an impending political crisis in Lebanon. On 4 August 2020, Beirut witnessed a major blast at the port, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands. The incident triggered massive protests on the streets demanding action and justice. Owning responsibility, PM Hassan Diab resigned. With his resignation, the politicians failed to arrive at a consensus and put forth a stable political solution. Former PM Saad Hariri too, failed to form the government, stating differences with President Aoun. Najib Mikati’s appointment as the PM-designate came in the backdrop of Hariri’s resignation. The new government brings an end to the 13-month deadlock. 

Second, the international pressure. France, the former colonizer, took a special interest in the political crisis of Lebanon and exerted immense pressure on the political elite to form a government. The US too joined the exercise. The overwhelming international and regional pressure to find a solution to the crisis is said to be one of the key reasons for the recent development. It must be noted that the presence of legitimate authority is extremely crucial for negotiating with the IMF and preventing Lebanon from a free fall.

Third, the crippling economic crisis. Lebanon is reeling under a severe economic crisis. Chaotic economic policies, extensive deficit expenditure, and mismanaged monetary policies have proved disastrous. The Lebanon Economic Monitor released by the World Bank in May 2021, concluded that the country’s economic situation may be one of the worst crises in over 150 years.

Fourth, social fallouts of the crisis. With the virtual absence of a functioning government for more than a year, the Lebanese society is suffering from the health system breakdown and pandemic, long hours of blackout, fuel shortages, unaffordable inflation and consequential poverty. According to the UN, three-quarters of the population lives in poverty. 

What does it mean?
First, a fresh start. Barring the two Christian parties, Mikati has the support of almost all the political outfits including Sunni, Shia and Druze parties. The newly formed cabinet is a fresh beginning, with some new faces, technocrats and specialists, nevertheless endorsed by various political parties. Though there is scepticism about what the cabinet is capable of doing, the fact that there is a full-working government is hope in the right direction. Marking this, the markets displayed optimism and Lebanese currency saw an increase in its value. 

Second, a bumpy road. Mikati and his cabinet take over amidst a crippling crisis and have the daunting task of bringing Lebanon on the path to recovery. However, it is not an easy task, as gaining confidence both in the Parliament as well as among the public is important. Implementing recovery plans together with the Lebanese political class and international actors like France and organizations such as WTO, IMF, requires multiple rounds of negotiation and confidence-building measures. 



Also, in the news …
By Sukanya Bali, Avishka Ashok and Juan Mary Joseph
 
East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: Top universities told to step up communist ideological education 
On 7 September, inspectors, sent by the Communist Party’s Central Committee, told Chinese education officials and elite universities to step up ideological education and enforce party discipline on campus. The orders came in the “feedback sessions” after a wave of inspections at some of the country’s top schools. The meetings included senior officials from the Ministry of Education and top managers from 31 universities directly under the committee’s supervision and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s top anti-graft agency. The inspectors mentioned that there were several “common and deep-seated political problems” in the schools, including slacking off in their ideological work. According to state media reports, 15 teams of inspectors were assigned from May to check on party units at the ministry and the universities. Among the institutions investigated are Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Fudan, Jiao Tong and Tongji universities in Shanghai.
 
Taiwan: Warns Honduras against Chinese ‘ploys’
On 6 September, Taiwan warned Honduras against falling for “flashy and false” promises, in the form of vaccine diplomacy by China after the latter’s presidential candidate Xiomara Castro said that she would “immediately open diplomatic and commercial relations with mainland China” if she were to win the elections in November. Castro, the wife of ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, is the candidate for the main left-wing opposition Liberty and Refoundation Party. Honduras is one among the only 15 countries that maintain formal relations with Taiwan. Taiwan’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Yui said in an interview with Honduran media last month that many promises from Beijing were unfulfilled and had left some countries in severe “debt traps”. Honduras and Taiwan have maintained 80 years of bilateral ties even as China has already snubbed seven of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, including 3 from Latin America - Panama, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. Latin America has been a key diplomatic battleground between the two sides for decades since they split in 1949.

China: Announces first public state oil auction to stabilise prices
On 10 September, China’s reserves administration announced in a statement that the country is planning its first public auction of state crude oil reserves to a select group of domestic refiners. The move comes in the backdrop of China looking to minimize the high raw material costs for manufacturers. The National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration said that the auction is expected to "better stabilise domestic market supply and demand, and effectively guarantee the country's energy security." China's international crude futures are up 50% this year, and up 80% from a year ago.

Hong Kong: Alliance group charged; bail application denied
On 9 September, three chairs of the Hong Kong Alliance were charged with incitement to subvert state power.  Members were denied bail. Other standing members were also charged for not providing information as required. In July, the Alliance was charged under the National Security Department for “acting as a foreign agent." The Department has frozen HK USD 2.2 million belonging to the alliance.

Myanmar: Junta auction illegal Timber 
On 10 September, The Irrawaddy reported, the military regime will host an auction of 12,500 tons of hardwood, to raise funds for its coup. Prior to this Junta had held three separate auctions in which more than 14,000 tons of timber were sold. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said, “the military regime is seeking an injection of hard currency by selling off thousands of tons of illegal timber to international markets.”

South Asia This Week 
Pakistan: Navy conducts military exercise with Germany and the US
On 8 September, the Pakistani Navy conducted a two-day passing exercise in the Arabian Sea with their German and US counterparts. The exercise was held with the aim to strengthen cooperation and advance a common vision to ensure peace and stability in the region. Germany’s inclusion in the exercise marks the 70th anniversary of Pak-German relations.
 
Pakistan: Defence delegation makes unannounced visit to Myanmar
On 8 September, a recent report talked of an unannounced visit of a high-level delegation from the Pakistani Defence Ministry to Myanmar in the first week of the current month. The delegation and Myanmar military leaders held talks on advanced ordnance technology, aircraft repair and maintenance, and naval munitions. Myanmar has previously purchased JF-17 multi-role combat aircrafts from Pakistan and is currently in “advanced negotiations” to build third-generation models under license. A group of about eight officers from the Myanmar Police Force is also scheduled to visit Karachi between 10 September - 30 September for training in explosives and mine-disposal techniques.
 
India: UN representative terms Afghanistan situation "fragile" at the UN
On 10 September, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador, TS Tirumurti said at the UN Security Council Debate on Afghanistan, the situation in Afghanistan is "very fragile", India also said that it is important that the Taliban adhere to its commitment to not allow the use of the Afghan soil for terrorism,  from terror groups designated under the Security Council resolution 1267 such as Pakistan-based outfits, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
 
India: Foreign and Defence Ministers in dialogue with Australia 
On 11 September, India and Australia began the high-level 2+2 foreign and defence ministerial dialogue in New Delhi with External affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh holding closed-door talks with their Australian counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton. The foreign and defence ministerial talks are taking place to renew efforts by the Quad member countries to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The dialogue is aimed at further ramping up the overall defence and strategic cooperation between the two countries in the Indo-Pacific amid China's increasing military assertiveness in the region.

Afghanistan: Taliban Announces caretaker cabinet, UN envoy calls situation “grim”
On 7 September, the Taliban announced a caretaker cabinet after over two weeks of a power vacuum in the country. Mullah Hassan Akhund has been appointed as the head of state (prime minister), with Mullah Baradar and Mawlawi Hannafi as his deputies. The Taliban’s religious leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, issued a statement saying that the new cabinet, committed to protecting human rights, will start its work immediately and that Sharia law will be upheld in the country. On 9 September, China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan – the six neighbouring countries of Afghanistan – issued a joint statement, urging the Taliban to form an inclusive government and to not allow Daesh and Al Qaida to gain a "foothold" in Afghanistan. The statement was issued a day after the six countries held a Pakistan-initiated virtual ministerial meeting on Afghanistan--the first since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons described the situation in Afghanistan as "grim" and called for UN engagement to "shape the new reality” to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Azerbaijan: Conducts joint military exercise with Turkey amidst Russian peacekeepers
On 10 September, Turkish and Azerbaijani soldiers concluded joint military exercises in Azerbaijan’s Lachin region, close to a region operated by close to 2000 Russian peacekeeping forces. The region, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, is controlled by the Armenian-backed de facto Nagorno-Karabakh government. The exercise, which appeared to have been of a small-scale, comes amidst heightened tensions between Azerbaijan and Russia. Azerbaijan’s relations with Russia had recently hit a rocky patch with the former airing increasing public criticisms of the latter over the post-war order. The military move also marked the first time that Turkish troops have been openly deployed in the territories that Azerbaijan retook from Armenia during last year’s war. 

Kyrgyzstan: Russia-Led CSTO Starts Military Drills 
On 7 September, the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) started Rubezh (Frontier) 2021 manoeuvre, a three-day military exercise, in Kyrgyzstan’s Edelveis training field. The exercise, which comes in response to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, is focused on blocking and neutralizing illegal armed groups that unlawfully enter a CSTO member state's territory. Tajik troops who were also scheduled to take part in the exercise withdrew at the last moment for unspecified reasons. Other members of the CSTO are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. Russia, which has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, has vowed to defend their allies in Central Asia against any security threat from Afghanistan.

Israel: Military chief says ‘accelerating’ Iran strike plans
On 7 September, Israel’s Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi said in an interview that military plans to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme have “greatly accelerated” and are being intensified. The statement comes as questions arise on the ability to revive a landmark accord that will limit Tehran’s weapons development to continue to grow. He also said efforts were underway to check for Iran’s allies in the Middle East and thereby engage in “minimising Iranian presence in the Middle East with an emphasis on Syria.”
 
Yemen: UNHRC publishes report on the war and condemns violations from previous findings
On 8 September, a new report by the United Nations Human Rights Council reviewed the war in Yemen over the last year, with the panel condemning the same violations from their previous findings. These include airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that supports the Yemeni Government, and shelling of civilians, “particularly by the Houthis, the Government of Yemen, the Southern Transitional Council and the Coalition”. The report stressed that all parties in the conflict were responsible for violations, many of which may be international crimes. Kamel Jendoubi, the Chairperson of the Group of Eminent Experts said that “The climate of fear, lawlessness and impunity for all those living in Yemen has worsened further despite political agreements and high-level discussions between key actors.”

Syria: Military groups operating under Turkey-backed SNA merge
On 10 September, five military groups operating under the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) in northern Syria united as the Syrian Liberation Front at a ceremony held in the al-Bab district. The five divisions announced that they would operate with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in areas prone to terrorism. The Syrian Liberation Front will have around 20,000 soldiers and will be comprised of the Hamza Division, Mutasim Division and Sultan Suleyman Shah Division as well as the 20th Division and North Falcons Brigade.
 
Guinea: Suspended from the African Union after the military coup
On 10 September, Guinea was suspended from the African Union, including all the activities and decision-making bodies. The move came after a military junta, led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, accused President Alpha Conde of corruption, and arrested him. The junta has also dissolved the country's constitution, closed the borders and frozen government bank accounts to seize state assets.  Guinea has also been suspended from the 15 nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which called for an "immediate return to constitutional order" in the country. An ECOWAS delegation has arrived at the capital to hold talks with the junta. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also condemned the ruling military junta and called for Conde's release. Conde, the country's first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958, won a third term in the 2020 presidential election which the opposition had deemed fraudulent. The political unrest in the country has led to a sharp rise in the prices of aluminium, the highest recorded price in more than a decade. Guinea is a key global supplier of bauxite, the raw material required to aluminium. Aluminium Corp. of China, the biggest producer of bauxite, which has a project in Guinea, said that all its operations were running normal with ample bauxite inventories at its plants in China. 

Libya: Releases political prisoners as part of reconciliation
On 7 September, Mohammad Younes Menfi, the chairman of Libya’s Presidential Council, announced the launch of the comprehensive national reconciliation project with the release of political prisoners. The decision, which was based on judicial rulings, will see several political prisoners who have either completed their sentences or who were not convicted of being released. The Council’s spokeswoman Najwa Wahiba, said that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi Gaddafi and Gaddafi’s former cabinet and intelligence chief, Ahmad Ramadan, will also be released. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement that the releases “represent a significant step towards respect for the rule of law and human rights.

Ethiopia: Controversial mega-dam to start producing power next month
On 10 September, Ethiopia said that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a controversial $5 billion mega-dam built over the Blue Nile will start generating electricity in a month, transforming the lives of millions of Ethiopians. Two of the dam’s turbines will initially produce 750 megawatts of electricity, followed by eight times the amount once the project is completed. The project has caused tensions between Ethiopia and its neighbours, Egypt and Sudan, surrounding concerns of its impact on essential water supplies.

Europe and The Americas This Week
Russia: Foreign Ministry accuses US-based tech companies of interference in elections 
On 10 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed to have “irrefutable evidence” on the interference of US-based tech companies in the Russian elections. The Ministry summoned the US Ambassador John Sullivan and expressed Russia’s intolerance in the matter. Even though the US diplomatic mission claimed to discuss stability of relations with Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry denied and criticized these claims while strictly demanding tech giants like Google and Apple to not interfere in the upcoming Russian elections. 

Belarus: Maria Kolesnikova sentenced to 11 Years in Prison 
On 6 September, Maria Kolesnikova, a singer turned activist and politician was sentenced to 11 years in prison for leading mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko. She was charged with extremism and attempting to seize power illegally along with Maxim Znak, another opposition leader. Both the politicians claimed that the charges were absurd and denied any wrongdoing. 

The UK: Government decides to send migrant boats back to France
On 9 September, the UK announced its plans to send back illegal boats coming from France. The decision has further intensified the disagreement between France and the UK as they try to prevent people from riskily crossing the Channel in dinghies. Home Secretary Priti Patel also expressed that the UK could restrict the flow of USD 75 million while claiming that stopping migrant boats was her number one priority. The French Minister responded to the decision by tweeting: "France will not accept any practice that goes against maritime law, nor financial blackmail.”

The UK: EU rejects demand to renegotiate N. Ireland protocol
On 8 September, the EU's Brexit coordinator rejected a British demand to renegotiate the Northern Ireland trading protocol and asked both parties to resolve the issues around it. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated his government's stance, telling parliament that the protocol, as it was being applied, was not protecting the Good Friday peace agreement. European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic who oversees the EU's relationship with Britain after it left the bloc, is due to meet Irish prime minister Micheal Martin and visit Northern Ireland over the week to come up with possible solutions.

El Salvador: Government officially adopts bitcoin as legal tender
On 7 September, El Salvador became the first country to adopt bitcoin as a legal tender. In an interview with local media outlets, President Nayib Bukele explained the idea behind adopting the digital currency as a legal tender. He hoped that the use of the currency would enable the country to engage and open new financial opportunities and help the country out of its economic crisis. The country also disabled their state-run bitcoin-wallet to increase the capacity of the servers and accommodate new users. 

Mexico: Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion
On 7 September, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that abortion is not a crime and announced that punishing abortion is unconstitutional. Although the ruling is effective only in certain regions, it sets a precedent for all judges in the country. Court President Arturo Zaldivar said: "From now on you will not be able to, without violating the court's criteria and the constitution, charge any woman who aborts under the circumstances this court has ruled as valid."

The US: Biden & Xi discuss transnational issues in the first call
On 10 September, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping was engaged in a 90-minute call, the first set of talks for the two leaders' in seven months amid cool relations between the countries.  The two leaders discussed a wide range of transnational issues, including the investigation into the origins of COVID-19, climate, human rights, economic matters and respecting each other’s core interests. Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported that Xi suggested to Biden that the countries should continue with contact, dialogue, and cooperation. White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the call as respectful and candid, intended to keep channels of communication open between the countries and that it wasn't directed to produce final outcomes.

The US: Sets up a drone task force in Gulf amid rising Iran tension 
On 9 September, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet said that it launched a new task force in the Gulf, with drones and artificial intelligence after maritime attacks showed Iran to be responsible. Since February, Iran and Israel have been accused of engaging in a "shadow war", in which vessels linked to each nation have come under attack in waters around the Gulf in tit-for-tat exchanges. 



About the Authors
Sourina Bej is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Bonn. D Suba Chandran is a Professor and Dean in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Rashmi BR is a PhD scholar at NIAS. Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok are Research Associates at NIAS. Juan Mary Joseph is a research intern at NIAS.

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