What would we be talking about instead? What stories would have defined 2020 so far? Even before the worst pandemic in a century, tectonic changes were already underway. The news was exhausting. But the world is still turning, despite the movements of half of humanity in one way or another being restricted. Even outside of Covid-19, it was a year of significant development.
Iran after Qassem Suleimani
In the middle of the night in Baghdad, on January 3, an American drone fired the largest blow in the Middle East in a generation, killing 10 people, including Qassem Suleimani, chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ expeditionary force.
The 62-year-old general had been a thorn in the American occupation camp in Iraq, overseeing the Islamic Republic’s campaign in Syria and maintaining proxies that made Iran a regional player. We thought it was untouchable. Donald Trump marked his murder with a silent tweet of a grainy American flag.
The chaotic days following the murder involved a deadly crash during one of the general’s funerals, the first Iranian missile strikes against American troops, the accidental downing of an airliner over Tehran – killing the 176 people on board – and an explosion of anti-regime demonstrations in Iranian cities.
Reverberations can be felt for years: almost all of the regional projects that Suleimani oversaw upon his death failed, the Observer reported this month, and the al-Quds force is struggling to manage its network of proxies without its giant presence.
The other plague
This year, the largest swarms of locusts have descended on farms in parts of Africa, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, posing “an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods, “according to the UN.
The pests form large destructive clouds that can travel approximately 55 miles (90 km) in 24 hours. A swarm of about one square kilometer can consume the same amount of food in a day as 35,000 people. The risk of a second wave would still be critical, including in Yemen, where food security is already dramatic in the midst of the ongoing civil war.
Riots in Delhi
Hostility towards Indian Muslims has permeated the Indian mainstream in the past five years since the election of the country’s national Hindu Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. In February, he overflowed on a state visit from Donald Trump, which resulted in the country’s worst religious violence in decades.
It was widely recognized that the catalyst was a leader of the ruling party, Kapil Mishra, who issued a public ultimatum on February 23 stating that if the police did not clean the streets of predominantly Muslim protesters, his supporters would be “forced to strike the streets “.
At least 50 people were killed in the ensuing violence between Hindu and Muslim crowds, amid allegations that Delhi police backed down to allow Hindus to commit acts of violence while beating to death some of the Muslim men under their care.
The riots and murders added to the unease over the type of India that could emerge from Modi’s years of power.
U.S. withdraws from longest war
After nearly 19 years, more than 43,000 civilian casualties and three American presidents, the Trump administration signed a peace agreement with the Taliban on a Saturday afternoon in late February.
It was a good deal for the Taliban: they managed to exclude elected officials in Kabul and deal directly with the Americans. On paper, US troops could leave the country by spring 2021. The Taliban have promised to sit down with their Afghan government counterparts and conclude a separate peace agreement later, but there is no guarantee that they will. will do so, and their attacks on the Afghan army and police continue.
The United States says continued violence means their troops can stay, but it is clear, especially to the Taliban, that Washington is desperate to get out of the war.
A few days after Bernie Sanders swept the Las Vegas Democratic primary, it appeared that a so-called “democratic socialist” was going to win the nomination for a large American party. Instead, the Democratic establishment rallied to former Vice President Joe Biden, the standard bearer of the Obama and Clinton campaign for liberalism.
Biden cleaned up Super Tuesday and shortly after winning the nomination, but there was no win tour or conciliation rally with his opponents. Instead, the 77-year-old appeared to disappear from view as the magnitude of the coronavirus emergency finally reached policymakers and the public. He is currently campaigning from the basement of his Delaware home.
The longest heat wave in Antarctica to date
On February 6, an Argentine weather station at the northern tip of Antarctica recorded a temperature of 18.4 ° C (65.1 ° F) – about the same as that of Los Angeles that day, noted NASA.
It was part of the continent’s longest warm spell ever, a nine-day heat wave that melted 20% of an island’s snow cover. “I have not seen ponds melt that quickly develop in Antarctica,” said Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College at the NASA Earth Observatory. “You see these kinds of melting events in Alaska and Greenland, but not usually in Antarctica. “
The abnormal temperatures have been attributed to the confluence of warmer than average sea surfaces, a high pressure system over South America and a warming phenomenon known as the foehn effect.
They are set against the backdrop of another impending crisis: a temperature increase of almost 3 ° C on the Antarctic Peninsula over the past 50 years, which is part of a pattern of unusual weather events associated with heating worldwide, including the catastrophic bush fire season in Australia.
Sudan bans FGM
Legislative change in Sudan could improve the lives of millions of women. According to the UN, about 87% of girls and women in the country have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Most are cut between five and 14 years of age.
Activists in April welcomed the passage of a new law that makes the practice punishable by up to three years in prison, but were sober about its impact. This practice is ingrained in Sudanese culture and will take time to be completely eradicated. “There is so much work to do. It’s a start, a good start, “said Fatma Naib, UNICEF communications officer for Sudan, The Guardian.
Genocide suspect in detention
A dawn raid in a Paris suburb in May trapped one of the most wanted men in the world. Félicien Kabuga, a wealthy Rwandan businessman, is accused of having created and financed the famous Interahamwe militia which in 1994 murdered around 800,000 people in less than three months.
Its radio, Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, would have helped lay the foundations for the genocide with its incessant dehumanization of the Tutsi population. “You missed some enemies,” he said in a notorious broadcast during the killings. “You have to go back there and finish them.” The graves are not yet full. “
In 2003, an attempt to capture Kabuga in Nairobi ended in the mysterious death of the man who was believed to have abandoned his location. French police said the 84-year-old also spent time in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
He has not yet pleaded guilty before a French or international court, but his lawyers said last week that he had the right to be presumed innocent.
The lethal shooting of 26-year-old African-American Ahmaud Arbery while jogging in a coastal city in the US state of Georgia in February initially received little national attention. The two men accused of killing him claimed to have done so in self-defense. Police and prosecutors have shown little enthusiasm in pursuing the case.
That changed with the May 5 release of a video describing Arbery’s final moments. The man is slowly dragged by a car while jogging on a quiet street. He reaches another vehicle and two armed men appear. A fight ensues with one and more shots. The last scene shows Arbery dying on the street.
The shocking images led to the arrest of the three men present during the shooting, and rekindled popular rage over the dangers that black men can face in predominantly white communities, and impunity and inaction who regularly follow their death.
The end of the two-state solution?
Once a marginal notion adopted by the Israeli far right, the idea that the Jewish state would simply declare parts of the Palestinian territories – where its settlements have proliferated for decades – its own territory has, over the past year, integrated the mainstream.
This could soon become Israeli law. The new government alliance of Benjamin Netanyahu and his former electoral rival Benny Gantz, plans to advance legislation in the coming months aimed at eventually declaring about 30% of the occupied West Bank as Israeli territory, in accordance with the “peace plan” published by Trump in January – and flatly rejected by Palestinian leaders.
The Trump plan calls for the annexation to take place in consultation with Palestinian leaders, but it is unclear what conditions – if any – the White House would impose on the Netanyahu-Gantz government. The annexation was “an Israeli decision,” said Mike Pompeo recently.
European leaders, the UN and many retired Israeli generals and security officials have expressed their objection to the plan, arguing that it would isolate Israel and spill oil on the volatile region. It would also mean the death of the two-state solution, the 1994 peace plan between the Israelis and the Palestinians that was the framework for all subsequent negotiations, but which many analysts say has been on its deathbed for years. .
Other stories from this year
- Film mogul Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault in a historic trial.
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving a WhatsApp message from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to digital forensic experts.
A man described as “Britain’s most prolific rapist” was convicted in January. The court learned that Reynhard Sinaga may have assaulted at least 159 men for several years by luring them into his home and drugging them.
The belligerent leaders of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, signed a fragile peace agreement in February.
The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on January 31.