Conflict Weekly 47

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Conflict Weekly 47
An assassination in Iran, Massacre in Nigeria and Suicide bombings in Afghanistan

  IPRI Team

IPRI Conflict Weekly, 03 December 2020, Vol.1, No.47

Iran: Nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassinated by remote-controlled gun mounted on a car
In the news
On 27 November, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi was assassinated, east of Tehran. According to Iran's semi-official Fars News agency, the scientist's car was sprayed with bullets by a remote-controlled machine gun operating from an adjacent car. 

Speaking at his funeral, Security chief Ali Shamkhani said the attackers "used electronic equipment." Tehran has alleged Israeli involvement in the assassination. Meanwhile, Iranian foreign minister Zarif warned of 'misinformation' over Mohsen's killing. He said a 'targeted misinformation campaign and psychological war' had commenced following the scientist's death.

Issues at large
First, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and Iran's nuclear program. During the early 2000s, Mohsen played a crucial role in the nuclear programme of Iran. Mohsen was a senior official in Iran's nuclear program and a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. Although the Iranian government insists that the country's nuclear pursuit is purely peaceful, Western suspicion led to crippling US sanctions aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Second, the Israel factor. Israel had previously accused the scientist of covertly helping Iran in developing nuclear weapons. Despite accusations, Israel has not publicly commented on its alleged role in the assassination. However, over the past decade, Israel has been linked to such attacks in Iran.

Third, discrepancies in the Iranian narrative. Although Iranian versions of the incident have substantially changed, the Iranian media currently maintains that Mohsen was killed using weapons "controlled by satellite" or a "remote-controlled machine gun". A report even quoted witnesses as saying "three to four individuals, who are said to have been terrorists, were killed". The exploding of a nearby Nissan pickup truck, during the attack, was also reported. On 30 November, head of the Supreme National Security Council Rear Admiral Shamkhani confirmed that it was a remote attack, using "special methods". 

In perspective
First, the upcoming change in US leadership. With US Presidential candidate Joe Biden's victory, US' Middle Eastern allies are preparing for the end of the Trump-Jared Middle-east plan, which materialized the normalization of certain Middle Eastern states with Israel through the Abraham accords.

Second, the regional poles. As the regional apprehensions are becoming rife, the tussle between the conflicting blocs in the Middle East (Saudi and Iran) is worsening.

Nigeria: The Maiduguri massacre, an indicator of increasing State failure
In the news
On 1 December, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the massacre of at least 78 farmers in the Zabarmari region of the Borno state in Nigeria. In the video, he says they attacked because a group of farmers had handed over one of their gunmen to the Nigerian Army.  

Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives summoned President Muhammadu Buhari and demanded that he brief them about the security situation of the country. The House also adopted a motion of urgent national importance. Further, Senators asked the President to sack the military chiefs and called for an immediate investigation into alleged corruption in the country's security system. 

On 28 November, unidentified assailants rounded up the farmers and slit their throats; several women were abducted. The incident which took place 20 kilometres away from the state capital, Maiduguri, has raised concerns in neighbouring areas, especially in the farming communities. Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have targeted labourers, farmers, herders suspecting that they pass on information to the military. 

Issues at large
First, the worsening overall security situation in Nigeria. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2020, Nigeria ranks third among the countries most impacted by terrorism. Apart from terrorism that has paralyzed mostly the north and north-western regions, the security situation across the country is volatile due to worsening socioeconomic indicators. Ethnic clashes between farmers and herders and crimes resulting from poverty and food insecurity are on the rise. 

Second, problems in governance and military approach. After the Maiduguri massacre, the Presidential spokesperson said the farmers had not obtained military clearance to be in the area. Later, he clarified that his statement was not an attempt to shift the blame to the farmers. However, there has been a similar lack of accountability from the government on security issues. On the other hand, lack of personnel, expertise and morale plague the military. After a spate of attacks against the military by the ISWAP and Boko Haram in 2019, the Nigerian army withdrew its troops from crucial positions. This left areas previously under military protection open to attacks by terrorist outfits. Further, the heavy-handedness of the military against the civilians has instilled a sense of resentment against the military in the minds of people. 

Third, the lack of regional and international response. While the problem of terrorism has spilt over to neighbouring countries like Niger and Chad, there have been no sustained joint operations to address the issue. For example, in April 2020, the Chadian President announced the withdrawal of Chadian troops from joint operations against "armed groups active in the Lake Chad region and the Sahel." Internationally, the global war on terror has failed to bring any change to the security situation in Africa. Though the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been brought down, the ideological influence has risen in other parts of the world, like in north and west Africa.  

In perspective
Despite, numerous operations against terrorism like - Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Safe Corridor - Nigeria has failed to reduce the impact of terrorism. President Buhari who won the elections in 2015 on the promise of improving the security situations has failed to bring about any change. Further, in October, the Nigerians' protest against the brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squads transitioned into a protest against the government and the rampant corruption. Unless President Buhari introduces substantial reform in the security system, it is unlikely that the public scrutiny will fade.

Afghanistan: Violence continues despite the Doha talks; suicide bombings leave 34 people dead
In the news
On 29 November, at least 34 people were killed in two separate suicide bombings that targeted a military base and a provincial chief. According to an official in Afghanistan's National Security Council, 31 soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded in eastern Ghazni province when an attacker drove a military vehicle full of explosives onto an army commando base before detonating it.

The other attack took place in southern Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber targeted the convoy of provincial council chief Attajan Haqbayat in Zubal, where at least three people were killed and 12 were injured, including children. No group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Further, these attacks took place as Afghan government representatives and the Taliban are holding talks in Qatar.

Issues at large
First, the steady rise of militancy and conflicts over the past couple of months. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months, with ground fighting causing the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops. Further, the UNAMA report claimed that violence has also failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Doha. Earlier in November US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said attacks by anti-government forces have increased by 50 per cent in the third quarter of the year, compared to the second quarter.

Second, Afghan forces are still not capable of providing security. According, to the acting Defence Minister the Afghan forces have been independently conducting 96 per cent of operations, adding that they receive air support from international forces only when needed. Although Afghan officials have stated that their military is capable of fighting militant aggression once foreign troops leave the country, the Afghan forces still depend on outside support against such attacks. Further, the US's decision to withdraw only make it more difficult for the Afghan forces, who ultimately need to reduce their reliance on foreign support.

Third, the surge in Islamic State terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. There has been an alarming surge in IS terrorist attacks mostly targeting the civilian population in Afghanistan. The IS has carried out numerous high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent years, the most recent being the attack on the Kabul University. Although there have been many campaigns to curb this terrorist group, it still maintains capable terrorist cells in cities like Kabul, protected by secure messaging apps and careful communication with outside leadership.

In perspective
First, the blame game continues with no one held responsibly. The government has blamed the Taliban for the attacks, but the Taliban has denied responsibility. This leaves the question of who is behind these attacks and for what reason. Further, although IS has claimed responsibility for few of the attacks that have taken place over the last weeks it is still not clear if they are solely responsible for these attacks.  

Second, the inability of the intra- Afghan talks to prevent such attacks. Although both sides have stated that they had resolved most issues on how the negotiations should be conducted, the question of reduction of violence is yet to be addressed. Further, the US withdrawal of troops as violence continues rise is likely to further complicate the intra- Afghan Talks.

From around the world
Peace and Conflict from Southeast and East Asia 

China-Australia: PM Scott Morrison demands apology from the Chinese government for "repugnant" image on Twitter 
On 30 November, Australia demanded an apology from China for posting a fake picture on its government Twitter account that depicted an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing should be "utterly ashamed" for sharing the "repugnant" image. The demand for apology comes amid escalating political and economic tensions between the two countries. The image made reference to a report published earlier this month that alleged 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013. The bilateral relations between Australia and China have rapidly deteriorated in 2020 after Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and in recent months, China imposed a series of economic blows, including tariffs on Australian imports including wine, barley and beef.

Australia: "To partner with the US to develop hypersonic missile," says Defence Minister 
On 1 December, the Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said, Australia will jointly develop hypersonic cruise missiles with the US in an attempt to counter China and Russia which are developing similar weapons. "We will continue to invest in advanced capabilities to give the Australian Defence Force more options to deter aggression against Australia's interests," Reynolds said in a statement. Earlier this year Australia had set aside up to 9.3 billion Australian dollars for high-speed, long-range missile defence systems, including hypersonic research. Australia said in July it would boost defense spending by 40 per cent over the next decade to acquire longer-range strike capabilities across air, sea and land. The decision by Canberra could now be viewed by China as an attempt to broaden the tension in military arenas which also parallels Australia's expanding strategies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Thailand: Prime Minister found not guilty, favours the constitutional court ruling 
On 2 December, the constitutional court in Thailand voted unanimously in favour of its Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha with regard to a conflict-of-interest case filed by the opposition leaders. Prayuth was accused of remaining in military housing despite his retirement from the army in 2014. Prayuth, in his defence, has reiterated that he needed to stay there for security reasons. The court said the former army chief's stay in the residence was in line with the army's rules, and the safety. "The plaintiff did not commit acts that constituted conflicts of interest. He did not seek personal gains, whether directly or indirectly, nor breach ethics. His ministerial post therefore does not end according to the constitution," ruled the court. The court's decision comes amid months of protests to demand Prayuth's removal - a call he has resisted.

Hong Kong: Joshua Wong and three prominent pro-democracy leaders get 13 months jail term
On 2 December, pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong, Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been sentenced to a 13-months jail term over an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019. The sentencing is one of the toughest and most high-profile ruling for an opposition figure this year and solidifies, as some critics say, Beijing-backed government's intense crackdown on Hong Kong's opposition and chipping away freedoms guaranteed after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Reacting to the court ruling, Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab urged Hong Kong and Beijing authorities to stop their campaigns to stifle the opposition.  

Cambodia: Mass trial of opposition leader and activist begins
On 27 November, a court in Cambodia began hearing the cases of nearly 130 government critics and opponents charged with treason for taking part in nonviolent political activities over the past three years. Only 33 defendants attended the court session. Most of the accused are former members or supporters of the disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). As the sole opposition party in Parliament, it had been expected to build a challenge to Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party in the 2018 general election. But in late 2017, Hun Sen launched a clampdown on his opponents and the CNRP was forced by the high court to disband and its lawmakers removed from Parliament. This trial is now believed to be conducted to safeguard Hun Sen's continued power control.

Peace and Conflict from South Asia 
India: Transporters call for a nation-wide strike as farmers' protest against privatization of agriculture intensify
On 2 December, the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), an umbrella body of goods' vehicles operators representing about 10 million truckers, called for a strike from 8 December in support of the farmers' protest that has currently gripped the country. The transporters would halt the movement of essential goods across the country if the demands of the farmers protesting against three farm laws passed in September to liberalize the sector are not met. Farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the laws which will privatize farming and will replace existing middlemen with more powerful corporate entities. The laws are entitled to permit private traders to stockpile large quantities of essential commodities for future sales and lay down new rules for contract farming. The farm leaders have opined this will leave them at the mercy of private buyers.

India: Second phase of the DDC elections held in Jammu and Kashmir 
On 2 December, polling for 43 constituencies in the second phase of election for District Development Council (DDC) in Jammu and Kashmir was held. The contest is between the newly launched People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, the BJP and the Apni Party floated by former finance minister Altaf Bukhari. "Of the total 280 DDC constituencies in J&K, 25 will go to polls in Kashmir and 18 in Jammu in the second phase of the election," election commissioner of the union territory KK Sharma said. As many as 7.90 lakh voters are eligible for voting in this phase and 142 polling stations have been set up across the union territory. The first phase of polling, also for 43 seats, was held on 28 November. As much as 51.76 per cent voting was recorded in this phase.

Bangladesh: 'It is difficult for women to get justice,' says Human Rights Watch report
On 25 November, the Human Right Watch published a report on rising gender-based violence in Bangladesh taking stock of the role of judiciary and access to justice for the victims of violence in the country. "Violence against women and girls is so pervasive in Bangladesh, it is sometimes dismissed as unsolvable," says the report. Marking the 16 days of activism, the government and donors should listen to activists who are offering workable solutions and the Bangladesh government should ensure that legal aid is reaching women and girls in need and that they are aware of their rights, said the report taking a sharp critique of the government's skewed attention to gender violence.

Nepal: Protests seeking justice for Uighur Muslims in China  
On 29 November, the Muslim Kalyankari Samaj in Nepal organized a protest against atrocities on the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China. The protesters raised voice against the demolition of thousands of mosques in Xinjiang and the treatment being meted out to them by the Chinese government. The Muslims in Pokhara also joined the international community in expressing their views on the gruesome human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims. The community leaders said that they would keep raising their concern against atrocities on Uyghurs in the future as well.

Pakistan: Ahead of PDM rally, Imran Khan calls for stern action against violations of COVID-19 rules
On 1 December, Imran Khan ordered authorities "to take stern action" against the opposition leaders if the Pakistan Democratic Movement conducts its rally in violation of the COVID-19 guidelines in Lahore on 13 December. The stern actions include lodging FIRs against the organizers and leaders. According to the news report in the Dawn, ahead of the anti-government rally, hundreds of opposition workers were booked and arrested while Pakistan Peoples' Party leader Ali Qasim Gilani was shifted to Multan jail on 29 November.

Pakistan: World's loneliest elephant finds a family all the way in Cambodia 
On 2 December, the "world's loneliest elephant", Kaavan, reached Cambodia on a flight Islamabad in Pakistan after which the elephant will spend his days at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. Animal experts began the task of airlifting Kaavan on 29 November, in a crate made especially for him. His departure from Pakistan marks the end of a campaign led by local activists and American singer and actress Cher, who has been campaigning for the elephant's freedom since 2016.

Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East and Africa 
Nagorno-Karabakh: Azerbaijan reclaims territories held by Armenian forces 
On 1 December, Azerbaijan completed reclaiming territories held by Armenian forces after a peace deal ended six weeks of fierce fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hailed the restoration of control over the areas as a "historic victory" and a demonstration of his nation's "unbending spirit." "We all lived with one dream, and now we fulfilled it," said the President in an address to the nation. The reclamation follows a protracted six-week violent conflict killing thousands. Azerbaijani families are beginning to return to hometowns for the first time in decades.

Iraq: Fears loom large over intra-Kurdish clashes
On 3 December, according to a news report in Al Jazeera, fears loom large of a conflict between Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and forces of the ruling Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the autonomous region of northern Iraq. Tensions between the two sides are increasing amid a military standoff on the Iraq-Turkey border. The tensions began when the KRG-led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) accused the PKK of assassinating Ghazi Salih, a security official working at the Sarzer border crossing in Duhok province on 8 October. The PKK denied the charges but the situation quickly intensified when the PKK on 29 October claimed responsibility for a "successful sabotage action" on a KRG pipeline to Turkey near Mardin province, suspending all oil exports.

Iran: The Parliament approves bill to stop nuclear inspections 
On 1 December, Iran's parliament approved a bill that would suspend the UN inspections of its nuclear facilities and require the government to boost its uranium enrichment if European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions. The vote to approve the bill, would require approval by the Guardian Council and comes a day after the killing of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist. The bill would give the European countries one month to ease sanctions on Iran's key oil and gas sector and to restore its access to the international banking system. It would have authorities resume enriching uranium to 20 per cent which is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than what is required for civilian applications.

Israel: Early elections as Ganz divorces Netanyahu, votes to dissolve the parliament 
On 2 December, the parliament (Knesset) in Israel voted to dissolve in a preliminary vote, bringing the country closer to a fourth election in less than two years. Sixty-one lawmakers voted in favour, and 54 voted against. The proposal will now go to the Legislative Committee for discussion. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that his Likud party will vote against the bill, which was put forth by the opposition. Benny Gantz, hoping to spur Netanyahu to reach a compromise on the 2021 state budget, voted in favour. Slamming Netanyahu, Gantz said that the Knesset's dissolution could have been averted had Netanyahu passed the biannual budget. In his address, Gantz said he'd had "no illusions" about Netanyahu when he formed the government. He accused Netanyahu of blocking key appointments, delaying legislation and claiming credit for the accomplishments of others.

Uganda: Bobi Wine resumes election campaign after suspending over violence
On 2 December, Bobi Wine, the Ugandan singer and contesting presidential candidate, announced resuming of his electoral campaign after suspending it after members of his campaign were injured and his car was shot during clashes with security personnel. He told reporters that he had asked the electoral body to protect opposition politicians from harassment by the security forces. "If they can't do it, they should resign," said Wine. He told the election commission to ensure that the security forces stop blocking roads and venues to prevent opposition candidates from campaigning. The police have defended themselves, saying they were implementing guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Bobi Wine is seeking to end the decades-long rule of 76-year-old President Yoweri Museveni in an election scheduled for 14 January.

Mali: Al Qaeda-linked terrorists bomb three French military bases 
On 30 November, Al Qaeda-linked terrorists rocketed French military bases in Kidal, Menaka and Gao in northern Mali. In this rare display of coordinated attacks, the camps were hit by "indirect fire," although no deaths or injuries were reported. The region has more than 5,100 personnel. In a statement on Al Thabat, an affiliated media outfit, al Qaeda said, "the rocket attacks of the Mujahideen, in support of Islam and Muslims, targeted the bases of the French infidel army." The attacks after the French forces killed Bah ag Moussa, a military leader of al Qaeda's North Africa wing on 10 November.

Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas
COVID-19 vaccine: The UK is first to authorize Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, first shots roll out next week
On 2 December, the UK has become the first country ahead of the US and the European Union to authorize the Covid-19 vaccine of the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. This paves the way for the first doses to be rolled out across the country next week. "Help is on the way," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine shows it was 95 per cent effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns, said Pfizer in November.

France: Protests over security law after racial abuse by police 
On 29 November, protests broke out in France as tens of thousands took to the streets against the new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black man. Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law which would restrict the publication of police officers' faces. Some 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the interior ministry said. Protest organizers said some 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital. French President Emmanuel Macron said the images of the beating of music producer Michel Zecler by police officers in Paris last weekend "shame us." The incident had magnified concerns about alleged systemic racism in the police force.

France: Former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing passes away from COVID-19 complications 
On 3 December, the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a key architect of European integration in the early 1970s, died at the age of 94 after contracting Covid-19. Giscard, who served as France's leader from 1974 to 1981, was hospitalized in Tours with respiratory problems and was released only to return to the hospital in mid-November. He died after suffering from complications linked to the virus, according to a statement issued by the Foundation Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Giscard was known for steering the modernization of the French society during his presidency, including allowing divorce by mutual consent and legalizing abortion. He was elected President at 48, coming to power after years of Gaullist rule, and sought to liberalize the economy and social attitudes.

Germany: Far-right extremist group 'Sturmbrigade 44' banned
On 1 December, Interior Ministry of Germany banned the neo-Nazi group "Sturmbrigade 44" after a series of raids across three German states. The Interior Minister Horst Seehofer described the group, as "Wolfsbrigade 44," allowing a series of measures to be taken against its members. The classification allows officials to confiscate assets and propaganda material, with the aim of also collecting evidence on any right-wing extremist structures. Raids on the properties of 13 group members took place on in the states of Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Russia: Probe begins on Navalny's interview on coronavirus 
On 1 December, Russian authorities announced that they are probing opposition figure Alexei Navalny's comments during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic for inciting extremism. The investigators are reportedly examining whether Navalny's interview on 27 April interview with the liberal Ekho Moskvy radio station contained calls for a violent overthrow of the Russian government. If the charges are proven and labelled it will carry prison sentence for five years for "public calls for terrorism."

Denmark: Zombie minks likely to be dug up from mass graves
On 1 December, the government in Denmark has announced its intention to dig up mink that were culled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after some resurfaced from mass graves. Denmark ordered all farmed mink to be culled early this month after finding that 12 people had been infected by a mutated strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, which passed from humans to mink and back to humans. The decision led to 17 million animals being destroyed and to the resignation of Food and Agriculture Minister Morgens Jensen. Dead mink were tipped into trenches at a military area in western Denmark and covered with two meters (about six feet) of soil. But hundreds have begun resurfacing, pushed out of the ground by what authorities say is gas from their decomposition. The Danish newspapers have referred to them as the 'zombie mink.'

The US: COVID-19 cases surge as experts credit it to extensive Thanksgiving travel
On 1 December, the US continued to report more than 1,00,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the holiday weekend, as experts warned that widespread Thanksgiving travel has mostly likely fuelled the surge. The number of new cases reported in the US topped 2,00,000 for the first time on 27 November, according to Johns Hopkins University. Since January, when the first US infections were reported, more than 13 million cases have been recorded and more than 2,65,000 people have died. Positive news emerged when Moderna said it would apply for the US authorization to use its coronavirus vaccine as the company announced final results from its trial confirming 94 per cent efficacy.

The US: "No electoral fraud found to overturn Biden's win," says Attorney General William Barr
On 1 December, the US Department of Justice said that it has not found evidence of any large-scale ballot fraud that would reverse President-elect Joe Biden's projected win over President Donald Trump in the election. The Attorney General William Barr's statement to the media now sharply challenged the claims by Trump, his lawyers and many of his political allies that he was the victim of massive voting fraud that swindled the Republican incumbent out of a win over the Democratic challenger. "Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. They are not systemic allegations. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down," said Barr.

The US elections: Arizona and Wisconsin certify victory for Biden, Trump to challenge
On 30 November, the US states of Arizona and Wisconsin declared President-elect Joe Biden as the certified winner further widening the chances of a win for President Donald Trump. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs certified the state's results while Governor Doug Ducey, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel served as witnesses. In addition to Biden being certified as the winner of Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly was certified as the winner of the Senate election in the state. Similarly, the Wisconsin Elections Commissions Chairwoman Ann Jacobs certified the votes in that state one day after a partial recount, which found dozens of more votes for Biden. Challenging the votes, Trump tweeted, "The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over."

Brazil: Deforestation of Amazon reached the highest level in 12 years 
On 30 November, Brazil's space agency (Inpe) published in its report that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has surged to its highest level since 2008. A total of 11,088 sq km (4,281 sq miles) of rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020. This is a 9.5 per cent increase from the previous year. Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. Scientists say it has suffered losses at an accelerated rate since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. The Brazilian president has encouraged agriculture and mining activities in the world's largest rainforest. Brazil had set a goal of slowing the pace of deforestation to 3,900 sq km annually by 2020. But under Bolsonaro, development-induced deforestation of the rainforest have continued wherein the President has also cut funding to federal agencies that have the power to fine and arrest farmers and loggers breaking environmental law.

Brazil: Bolsonaro to wait to recognize the winner of the US election 
On 29 November, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said he will wait "a little bit longer" to recognize the winner in the US Presidential election, suggesting that there was evidence of fraud in the process. Drawing parallels from what the US President Donald Trump calls 'massive poll rigging', Bolsonaro also questioned the legitimacy of Brazil's electoral process, decrying its electronic voting system and calling for a return to paper voting. Bolsonaro, an ally of President Trump, said he had heard the US vote was rigged, but presented no evidence. "I have sources and they said there was a lot of fraud."

About the authors
Apoorva Sudhakar, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Lakshmi V Menon, and Sourina Bej are Research Assistants, Project Associate and Research Consultant at NIAS.



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