Western leaders have accused Russia of being responsible for being behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter at their home in the United Kingdom. In a rare, yet encouraging show of unity, the leaders of the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom released a joint statement condemning the attack and calling upon Russia to live up to uphold peace and security. The statement was released one day after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the nerve agent attack. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov labeled the allegations as ‘unacceptable.’ Moscow is expected to respond by ordering the expulsion of British diplomats from Russia in the coming days. Putin will possibly go beyond that and attempt to prod Britain in another way. Do not be surprised to hear about increased Russian air activity in close proximity to the British Isles over the coming days. Business might be about to pick up for the RAF Typhoons on QRA.
Author’s Note: Apologies for the shortness of this update. Scheduling conflicts have minimized the time I have available to write today.
International relations generally incorporate the major elements of a very successful soap opera. There is drama, action, and betrayal ad nauseam, the forming and breaking of alliances for strategic purposes, and occasionally a dash of comedy is added to the mixture. The ongoing squabble between North Korea and Malaysia contains every one of the abovementioned ingredients, and as in any good soap opera, the plot is growing steadily over time.
The latest installment of the crisis came earlier today when North Korea barred all Malaysian residents currently in North Korea from leaving the country. Malaysia responded by extending the travel ban on North Korean embassy officials to cover all North Korean citizens in the country. At present, there are eleven Malaysian citizens in North Korea. Nine of these are embassy staff members and their family members. The other two are working with the World Food Program. The number of North Koreans in Malaysia is not known, however, the Associated Press estimates there are roughly 1,000. Both countries have already declared each other’s ambassadors to be persona non grata, essentially a civil way of kicking a top diplomat out of the country. North Korea released a statement saying that Malaysians were barred from leaving the country until there is a ‘fair settlement’ between the two governments over the death of Kim Jung Nam.
All of this activity stems from the murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago. Malaysia accused North Korean agents of planning and executing the assassination and using VX, a nerve agent, as the weapon. The incident led to a tailspin of accusations, counter-accusations, diplomatic rhetoric, a criminal investigation….and now this. Malaysia and North Korea have historically enjoyed good relations. To be accurate, Malaysia has been one of North Korea’s best friends on the international stage. Those relations have frozen amid the current diplomatic standoff and the possibility of a complete diplomatic breakdown looms in the near future.
*Author’s note- The article on Rebuilding the USAF has been pushed off to next week in light of recent events in the Western Pacific. The focus for the rest of the week will be on what is happening there. *
After the ransacking of its embassy in Tehran over the weekend, Saudi Arabia has wasted little time in severing diplomatic ties with Iran. Less than a day later, a number of Saudi allies are hopping aboard the bandwagon against Iran. Sudan and Bahrain have severed ties with Iran outright, while the UAE has recalled its ambassador in Tehran. The Emirates will maintain its trade links with Iran for the time being. The diplomatic maneuvering is happening amid a backdrop of rising tension and increasing sectarian strife in the region. As Iran’s regional power and influence rises, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia view this as an increasingly serious threat.
When announcing the severing of diplomatic relations with Iran, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Iran of having “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region”. The Gulf States, like their Saudi ally, blame Iran for attempting to spread instability across the region. Following the execution of Sheik Nimr, Iran fired a volley of thinly-veiled threats at the Saudis, hinting that the execution will lead to imminent sectarian violence in the region. In the last twenty-four hours or so, Saudi police have come under heavy gunfire in the hometown of Nimr, while bombs have exploded in two Sunni mosques and a Sunni mosque was killed by gunmen in Iraq.
The timing of the attacks is quite suspect to say the least. Are these examples of spontaneous sectarian strife or is it happening on orders from Tehran?