The week at a glance...International
Obo, Central African Republic Hunting Kony: U.S. military officials this week gave a pessimistic assessment of their ongoing hunt for Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, indicating it could take years. President Obama sent 100 elite troops into central Africa six months ago to train and assist the thousands of African troops who have been searching for Kony in a jungle area the size of California that spans four countries. “This is not going to be an easy slog,” said Capt. Kenneth S. Wright, a Navy SEAL. “Knock wood, maybe we get lucky.” Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is notorious for kidnapping children to use as soldiers and sex slaves. It once had some 100,000 fighters, but is now thought to number about 200.
Jerusalem Overplaying Iran: Former high-level security officials in Israel have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of exaggerating the threat that Iran could develop and use a nuclear weapon against Israel. In a blistering critique last week, Yuval Diskin, the ex-head of the internal security service Shin Bet, said Netanyahu was “creating a false impression about the Iranian issue” and “appealing to the stupid public” by saying that bombing Iran would protect Israel. Instead, he said, it would likely push the Iranians to commit to nuclear weapons, a decision they haven’t yet made. In March, Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief, said attacking Iran was “the stupidest idea” he’d ever heard.
West Bank Mass hunger strike: Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners were in their second week of a hunger strike this week to protest Israel’s policy of holding people indefinitely without charges. The prisoners are fasting in solidarity with Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahleh, 33, who began a hunger strike two months ago to call attention to the issue. Diab has been in jail nine months and Halahleh nearly two years. Both are being held in what is called administrative detention for “suspected terrorist activity,” but because no charges have been brought they have been unable to defend themselves or hear the evidence against them. Some 250 activists protested outside the Ofer military prison in the West Bank this week.
Damascus, Syria What cease-fire? Both sides are flouting the truce in Syria, the United Nations said this week. Rebels killed more than a dozen troops in an ambush in Aleppo, while the army burned activists’ homes in Daraa. U.N. peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous said Syrian troops still hadn’t withdrawn their heavy weapons from cities and continued to shell civilian areas. The U.N. has authorized a force of 300 monitors, but so far only 30 are in place. Meanwhile, human-rights groups said the regime committed war crimes last month even as it was negotiating with the U.N. “Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops, and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the cease-fire to cause harm,” said Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch.
Kabul Obama commits U.S.: On a surprise visit to Afghanistan this week, President Obama signed an agreement with President Hamid Karzai that commits the U.S. to supporting the Afghan military for at least 10 years after the 2014 troop withdrawal. There will be no permanent U.S. base, and U.S. troops will no longer patrol Afghan territory after the pullout, but some forces will remain to help with training and counterterrorism—and to deter the Taliban. “As you stand up,” Obama told the Afghans, “you will not stand alone.” But he said the bulk of America’s work was done. “We devastated al Qaida’s leadership,” Obama said. “And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.”
Naypyitaw, Myanmar Suu Kyi in office: Longtime political prisoner and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi took a seat in Myanmar’s parliament this week, the first time she has been allowed to hold political office. The historic breakthrough is a result of sweeping reforms made by the government of President Thein Sein, who came to power last year after the military junta that ruled the country for decades stepped down. Suu Kyi and her fellow party members, elected in a special by-election last month, don’t have enough seats to affect any legislative votes, but vowed to press for change. “We just want to make the kind of improvements that will make our national assembly a truly democratic one,” she said.