Weekly Snapshot
20-26 May 2018

Pax America’s Weekly Snapshot for your week starting Monday, 21 May 2018:

1. Gina Haspel Confirmed to Lead the CIA

After weeks of partisan resistance from lawmakers, the Senate, on Thursday, has finally confirmed Gina Haspel as the first woman ever to lead the CIA. She drew controversy over her involvement in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation programs, even running some prisons where these techniques were used. In her confirmation hearings, Haspel did say that the agency would not resume its enhanced interrogation programs, as they were damaging to the officers and the United States standing in the world.

She had trouble from John McCain, Jeff Flake and Rand Paul for her refusal to explicitly condemn waterboarding as immoral. But she was able to overcome those “no” votes with the help of some red state democrats who fear going against the Trump agenda with the midterm elections looming.

2. The U.S. Opens its embassy in Jerusalem

On Monday, May 14th, 2018 the united states officially opened its new embassy in Jerusalem. This marks the final set in the official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This decision has created outrage by the Arab world, particularly the Palestinians. This culminated with large protests on the Gaza Strip.

The six-week protests called the “March of Return” escalated on Monday due to the U.S. recognitions. Violence started with rocks and Molotov cocktails being thrown at the Israelis protecting the border. Israeli forces ended up shooting into the crowd, killing 58.

Other countries are already starting to move their embassies to Jerusalem following the United States lead. On Wednesday, Guatemala moved its embassy to Israel’s capital city as well, also urging other countries including Paraguay and Romania who are considering moving embassies as well.

3. School shooting in Santa Fe, Texas

Ten people were killed and ten more wounded in a school shooting on Friday. This high school just south of Houston is home to the most recent attack at a school, adding to the already staggering number of attacks thus far this year. At least one teacher and several students were killed, and ten others were wounded. Some still in critical condition.

The suspect in custody is 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis. He admitted to authorities that he was the shooter. Along with the two guns (a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver). Authorities also found homemade explosives devices in the school and nearby. These included pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and pressure-cooker bombs. The shooter’s dad was the legal owner of the guns and is unclear whether he knew his son had obtained possession of them.

4. US puts sanctions on top Hezbollah Financier and Representative in Iran.

On Thursday, the United States Treasury department implemented new sanctions on Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi. Bazzi is one of the main financiers of Hezbollah. These sanctions will affect five of Bazzi’s companies in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East.

The Treasury department also imposed sanction on Hezbollah’s representative to Iran, Abdallah Safi Al-din. He is the main person who helps facilitate the financial relationship between Hezbollah and Iran.

On Wednesday, the United States, with the support of the Gulf States, imposed more sanctions on Hezbollah’s top two leaders, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Naim Qassem.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement “The savage and depraved acts of one of Hezbollah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated”. He went on to say, “This administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran”.

This coming in the wake of President Trump pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, is a sign that the Trump administration is not going to back down from Iran any longer. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to outline a plan on Monday about the US’s plans to build a coalition to take a closer look at what it sees as Iran’s destabilizing activities.

5. Chinese Bombers land on the Disputed Island in the South China Sea

Late in the week, the Associated Press reported the Chinese air force had done landing and takeoff drills on an island in the South China Sea. The location was Woody Island in the Paracel Island Chain. Just one of the many islands that are in the middle of the dispute between China and sovereign states of the region. The H-6Ks were taking off from an air base and making simulated strikes against sea targets before landing back on the island.

6. New sanctions on Russia over violation of Missile control.

A new round of sanctions are being ordered on Moscow, this time for their violation of the 1987 pact that banned the testing and fielding of missiles with ranges of 310 – 3,417 miles, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russian officials are denying they violated the treaty citing that the missiles in questions cannot fly that far.

The Sanctions were ordered by President Trump as a memo to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The new sanctions are set to be published within the next two months. The sanctions come after the annual defense policy bill, that was passed in 2017, accused Russia of violating the INF treaty. The sanctions could include visa bans, asset freezes and any other sanction President Trump would deem appropriate.