It was only a matter of time before growing anxiety over food supplies and prices across the globe induced action by nation-states and citizens alike. As 2022 motors along, concerns about the health of the global economy, the lingering hangover of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its recent return to China, and the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine have come together to create a perfect storm. Food prices are going through the roof in a number of nations, and it was only a matter of time before citizens took to the streets and protested.
Over the weekend Iran saw a wave of protests break out across the country over cuts in state subsidies on food. To be fair, Iranians already have a laundry list of grievances with their government and economic conditions always serve as a barometer of the population’s feelings. It comes as no surprise to see Iranian citizens come out in large numbers to protest the subsidy cuts, as well as other issues. The swift and brutal response by the Iranian government, however, has raised some eyebrows around the world. Tehran’s readiness to clampdown on and make an example of anti-government protesters is an indication the government expects prices to rise even more in the coming weeks. With the cut of subsidies last week, prices on a number of flour-based food staples rose in excess of 300%
There are also protests and street violence over rising food prices and inflation going on in Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. Those situations will be discussed in more detail later in the week.
Then there is the increasing worry over food supplies. India is moving to take pre-emptive action by restricting exports of wheat to create a safety cushion of sorts for its own population. The Indian government seeks to control rising prices and diminishing output due to global economic conditions and the extreme heat wave that has affected Indian wheat production. Predictably, India’s move has sent global prices skyrocketing and prompted the US and European Union to begin searching for solutions to improve food supply chains. Given the current conditions, Washington and Brussels need to hurry. At the present time, the situation worldwide appears fated to become significantly worse unless measures are taken within weeks.
The Afghan government has been dealt a crippling blow in the last 24 hours with two major cities falling to the Taliban. Kandahar, the second largest city in the country, and Herat are now under the control of Taliban forces. Ghanzi, Laskar Gah, and Ghor have fallen as well. The United States, Great Britain and other Western nations are preparing to evacuate their embassies in Kabul. The number of US troops to be deployed will number 3,000. They have reportedly already started arriving in the Afghan capital and according to some reports this evening, US airstrikes against government military installations in Kandahar have been launched. The purpose of these strikes was to destroy government military facilities and deny use of equipment and weapons to the Taliban. If further strikes are launched, their purpose will likely be to slow the Taliban advance down and buy time for the US and its allies to complete the embassy evacuations.
The writing is on the wall now. Kabul will fall and the current government will be replaced by the Taliban in a matter of days. China has already stated it will recognize a Taliban government in the event Kabul is taken. There are reports coming out of the country now that the Afghan government has proposed a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban. If accurate, this can only be viewed as a plea of desperation in the eleventh hour. Which means the government in Kabul is keenly aware the end is in sight.
As the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and governments around the world prepare for the return of the Taliban to power, I think we might be discussing related subjects here through the weekend at least.
Today, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett placed the Lebanese government in the hotseat when he stated to his Cabinet that Israel will hold that government responsible for any future rocket attack launched from its soil, no matter if Hezbollah launched the rockets or not. The matter of rocket fire from Lebanon was a topic pushed to the forefront in the last week as militants launched a large number of rockets into Israel, prompting Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire missions in return.
Bennett’s remarks come just 24 hours after Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that his group will retaliate against any future Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon. Nasrallah also warned Israel that Hezbollah will not be restricted by the economic crisis and political divisions now affecting Lebanon. If anything, the turmoil engulfing Lebanon at present offers Hezbollah the opportunity to act with impunity. Israel understands this, and it is likely a factor that motivated Bennett’s comments today. Israeli pressure placed on the Lebanese government gives it more motivation to rein in Hezbollah. Lebanon has enough problems to deal with at the moment without having to worry about a large-scale Israeli military response.
Whether or not the government can put Hezbollah in check is another matter altogether.
Author’s Note: This weekend has gotten away from me so I’ll push Part II of the North Korea Collapse Project to net weekend. Apologies.
Tensions between Iran and Israel continue to rise in the aftermath of last week’s drone attack on the oil tanker MV Mercer Street in the Gulf of Oman. Israel, as well as the United States and other Western nations blamed Iran for the attack. Yesterday, the attempted hijacking of another merchant ship in the same area has been linked to Iranian-supported forces in the region. Iran has denied claims made about its alleged involvement in both incidents. Then this morning, on the heels of that latest maritime incident, rockets were launched against Israel from targets in southern Lebanon, prompting counter-battery fire by Israeli artillery in response. By the afternoon, the situation appears to have quieted down, with the commander of UN Interim Force in Lebanon urging both parties to exercise restraint and avoid escalating on the first anniversary of the Beirut Port Explosion.
The Israeli government, however, has not been shy about laying the blame on Iran for recent the recent escalation in tensions around the region. At present, Israel is attempting to rally international action on Iran in response to last week’s attack on the Mercer Street. “We are working to rally the world, but at the same time we also know to act alone,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has stated. The meaning behind the last part of his statement serves as a warning to Iran and the world as well. If the international community is reluctant to take effective action against Iran, Israel act unilaterally.
*Author’s Note: Brief update today, free time has been limited. Apologies*
Overnight, a pair of rockets were fired at northern Israel from Lebanon. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the other fell in an unpopulated area. There was no damage or casualties. Israel responded promptly with artillery strikes against the areas where the rockets were launched from. When morning came, Israeli politicians were framing the rocket attack as a signal that spillover of the crisis in Lebanon could be imminent. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel will not endure rocket fire from Lebanon. Terrorists will “pay a painful price.
Lebanon’s condition becomes more critical with every passing day. The nation is contending with an economic depression, as well as escalating political and social chaos. It is, for all intent and purposes, already a failed state. Amid Lebanon’s destabilization, Iran is moving preparing to exploit the situation for its own benefit. Israel worries about the prospect of increasing missile fire from southern Lebanon prompting a new threat on its northern border. As Lebanon’s woes deepen, its neighbor to the south beginning to deal with blowback. Sudanese and Turkish workers, unable to earn livings in Lebanon are attempting to sneak into Israel and look for jobs. A small thorn, yet one that could be an indicator of more dangerous things to come in the future. The security of Israel’s northern border has become a major concern. As always, there is a direct link to Iran and its influence in Lebanon.