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Blackwater USA – Daily Brief 5/28/19

Afghanistan

  • Al Jazeera had a good article on what’s stopping Afghanistan from profiting on its mineral resources. The answer is in the subtitle—”poor security, weak legislation and corruption”—but it’s still a good read. Pasted below.
  • Former Afghan Pres. Karzai and Deputy Taliban Emir Mullah Baradar both attended a ceremony in Moscow celebrating 100 years of Afghan-Russian “relations.” It sounds like the ceremony was quite jubilant, and mostly ignored the years they were at war.
  • While there, Mullah Baradar said for (I think) the first time that the Taliban “is firmly committed to peace,” but reiterated its qualification that peace requires U.S. troops to leave.
  • Meanwhile back in Logar and Khost, the Taliban continued its non-peaceful attacks on the ANSF, killing 18 ANA in separate attacks.

Libya

  • A new Gallup poll showed that record numbers of Libyans lacked money for food (43%) and shelter (37%) in 2018, and nearly a third said they would leave the country if they could.
  • Al Jazeera Arabic—probably tipped off by the GNA—investigated some “mysterious” cargo planes flying between Israel, Egypt and Libya that carried big cargo loads into Benghazi around the time that Khalifa Haftar’s LNA started its assault on Tripoli, raising speculation about that assault being part of a proxy war funded / supported by other countries.
  • defenseWeb also said that Jordanian Mbombe 6×6 and Al-Mared 8×8 armored vehicles were recently used by Haftar’s LNA in Libya. Meanwhile, Turkey is supplying BMC Kirpis to Fayez al Serraj’s rival GNA, so we can expect things to get worse in Tripoli.

Venezuela

  • Reuters says that around 150 Venezuelan military defectors are arming themselves in Cucuta, Colombia, in preparation for an invasion to overthrow Pres. Maduro. That seems mostly symbolic, though—it’s likely even smaller than the contingent of loyal soldiers on the other side of that bridge.
  • NBC took a different investigative angle, writing a story about how even Venezuela’s criminals are struggling in the face of rising costs. “If you empty your clip, you’re shooting off $15.” Doesn’t seem like a terrible thing to me.
  • Meanwhile, the EU appointed Spanish-Uruguayan diplomat Enrique Iglesias (no relation to the 1990s Latin heartthrob of the same name) as its envoy to Venezuela.

Iran

  • The WSJ said that moneychangers in Tehran—who often have a better pulse on public sentiment than overeager analysts—don’t think the recent escalation is anything more than rhetoric. Said one: “War? I don’t think so. If the Americans had wanted to attack, they would have done so 40 years ago.”

DRC

  • Villagers in Vusahiro, DRC attacked a team fighting the ongoing Ebola outbreak there, and looted their health center.

Mexico

  • Pres. AMLO fired his diva environment minister after she demanded that a commercial flight wait 38 minutes for her to arrive. AMLO himself has made a big show of trying to sell the presidential plane and fly commercial instead, so it looks bad for his environment minister to act like she’s more special than other passengers.

Serbia / Kosovo

  • Kosovar police arrested over 20 people in Serb-populated parts of Kosovo (likely Serbs) over alleged smuggling and corruption activity, and Serbia responded by putting its troops on “combat alert” and issuing some pretty terse statements.

Azerbaijan

  • The Telegraph reported that the wife of jailed Azeri banker Jahangir Hajiyev has spent over £16 million ($20 million) at Herrod’s over the last 10 years, including one transaction of £53,000 ($67,000) at the sandwich bar—where even the lobster roll costs less than £20. UK authorities are rightfully investigating money laundering allegations.
  • Today is Azerbaijan’s Republic Day—celebrating the 101st anniversary of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic—but authorities are restricting celebrations ahead of tomorrow’s Europa League final.

Israel

  • Presumed PM Netanyahu has only two days left to form a coalition government, and analysts are starting to worry he won’t meet the deadline. NBC says the issue that he and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman can’t agree on is whether the ultra-Orthodox should have the same military requirements as other Israelis.

South Africa

  • A young, white couple was shot dead in broad daylight after their car ran out of gas around 20 km north of Johannesburg, and the South African media is linking it to a brutal murder of a white farmer / activist 250 km outside of Pretoria last week, and a general 25% rise in killings of white farmers in 2018 (though this couple weren’t farmers).

Strategic Minerals

  • The Editor-in-Chief of China’s Global Times says that China is “seriously considering” restricting exports of rare earths to the U.S., in subtle retaliation for new U.S. tariffs on China.
  • However, a senior official from China’s National Development and Reform Commission told Xinhua that China was merely prioritizing its own needs for rare earths ahead of those of other countries. Either way, it seems like the threat is real: 80% of U.S. rare earths imports come from China, so it would be easy for China to disrupt the U.S. market.

Other News

  • Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was booted out of office over a video in which he seemed to drunkenly consider flirting with a sexy Russian agent. That’s the first time since WWII that Austria’s Parliament has kicked a chancellor out of office, and it seems like the vote was more personal than political: Kurz’s conservative People’s Party actually picked up eight percentage points in last week’s EU Parliament elections, after the video had already come to light.
  • The first major U.S. opioid trial trying to hold drug-makers account for drug addiction and opioid deaths starts today in Oklahoma, and it’s likely to be an example for how U.S. courts will handle similar cases.
  • A deranged oil man in Kawasaki, Japan stabbed and slashed a group of schoolgirls at a bus stop, killing one girl and an older man before taking his own life. Police say the attacker was the father of one of the children.