(Image: Chamila Karunarathne/AP)
How terror detonated with precision across Sri Lanka (£)
A series of coordinated bombings — and fear of more to come — has convulsed Sri Lanka since Easter Sunday morning. The bombings stretched the width of the island nation of 22 million but were largely executed in a narrow timeframe, decimating three Christian churches and three luxury hotels.
By Thursday morning, at least 250 people were dead, including several Americans, and 500 more were injured in one of the worst terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Sri Lankan officials warned that additional bombings were possible as they searched for other suspects. Despite the massacre’s magnitude, surprisingly few witness testimonies were available, after authorities shut down social media to try and quell the spread of fake news. (Read more)
Modern extremism: this time it’s personal
The defining noise of the modern Western is a vicious whine. Today’s political winners are not generous in victory. They remain underdogs in their own minds and the minds of tens of millions who follow them: the victims of powerful forces, whose duplicity is beyond measure. In their fight against elites real and imagined, all tactics are justified. They can lie and cheat, engage in the modern equivalent of witch burnings, and mob their targets online. The willingness to descend into verbal violence surely presages actual violence. Indeed, the thuggery is already beginning.
Look everywhere and you see an inquisitorial insistence on the sinfulness of anyone who disagrees with the far Right or Left. Competing interests or philosophies no longer explain a rival view of the world. Dissent is evidence of personal wickedness and corruption. It is the personal element that is the most striking feature of modern conspiratorial politics. The underlying assumption is that an opponent would agree with Brexit or Trump or Jeremy Corbyn if they were honest. Only their sinfulness can explain why they refuse to embrace the true faith; a sinfulness fed by corrupt monetary motives, or an irrational hatred of whites, Muslims or sovereign nation states. (Read more)
Iran Oil Sanctions: A Rare Case Where Transactional Diplomacy Should Work
Meghan L. O’Sullivan
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s most recent announcement on Iran policy has raised some eyebrows. He indicated on Monday morning that the Trump administration will not renew waivers to importers of Iranian crude and that other suppliers (meaning Saudi Arabia) have agreed to increase production in to ensure the global oil market remains well-supplied. Skeptics question whether — after last summer’s debacle — there is sufficient trust between Washington and Riyadh for this arrangement to work. What skeptics may not have digested is that, while timing remains a problem, this is a classic win-win situation. It is a near-perfect example of the very limited universe of occasions when transactional diplomacy could actually work.
Last summer, President Donald Trump leaned heavily on OPEC members, both publicly and privately, to increase their production of oil. He and others in the administration insisted that their intention was to bring exports of Iranian oil to zero by threatening — and ultimately enacting — sanctions on any entity that continued to import such crude. The idea in Washington seemed to be that Trump had done his part by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions, and that Saudi Arabia and others needed to do theirs by ensuring that high oil prices did not result from these actions. (Read more)
Japan Enters a New Imperial Era
The land of the rising sun prepares for a new dawn — an emperor’s departure and another’s ascension.
Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, and May Day in Japan will see his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, become the 126th occupant of the Chrysanthemum Throne.
A land of contradictions
Japan is a land of contradictions. An economic powerhouse, once considered, and feared to be, on the verge of global dominance, but now suffering from a sense of drift and malaise.
Japan also features an emperor in a democracy. The reign of wartime emperor Hirohito, whose reign lasted from 1926-1989 is described as showa (enlightened harmony).
Japan has a democracy where the Liberal Democratic Party (not liberal but deeply conservative) has been in power for all but of a handful of years since 1955. (Read more)
Turkey’s “Outsider” Threats
In Turkey, the cost of living has soared and inflation is hovering at 20%. During last month’s local elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party—A.K. Parti in Turkish—blamed this on “outsider” threats undermining Turkey over longstanding economic issues at home. The weakening currency, for example, was cast as an American and Zionist-led conspiracy against Turkey. According to historian Seda Altuğ, this tendency to blame outsiders—particularly Kurds—is a trend as old as the Turkish nation state itself.
Since its foundation as a republic in 1923, Turkey has pursued a policy of violent assimilation against its own Kurdish minority as well as Kurds living across the southern border in Syria and Iraq. Altuğ points to the ubiquity of cross-border operation bills passed by the Turkish national assembly in the last three decades which allowed the military to pursue policies of pacification and/or annihilation beyond Turkish territory. (Read more)