Last Week in Foreign Affairs (October 1 - October 7)
Saudi-American Journalist Believed to Have Been Assassinated by Saudi Arabian Government
A Saudi-American journalist is believed to have been killed in the Saudi consulate in Ankara last week, a charge that Saudi Arabia vehemently denies. Jamal Khashoggi is a dual Saudi-American citizen who once rubbed elbows with the rich and powerful in Saudi politics. In response to the rise of crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, Khashoggi fled to the United States and became a contributing writer for the Washington Post. Many of his articles attempted to sound alarms over the increasing autocratic nature of Salman. On Tuesday, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey to pick up marriage documents while his fiancee waited in the car. He never came out. Additionally, Turkish police tracked an unusual amount of Saudi officials visiting the country at the same time Khashoggi was scheduled to pick up his documents. The Saudis for their part claim that Khashoggi actually left the compound soon after he entered. Turkish police have observed surveillance cameras in the area and claim that they show no sign of his exit from the consulate, but the Saudi’s maintain that such observations are “false”. The American response has been largely cautionary, considering that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are important regional allies.
The First Chinese Head of Interpol Has Disappeared
The first Chinese head of Interpol Meng Hongwei, an international law enforcement cooperative based in France, has been missing for almost a week. The Chinese Communist Party announced on Sunday that the president was under investigation on “suspicion of violating the law” and is “under the supervision” of a party anti-corruption unit. For The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which monitors citizens for party disloyalty among other responsibilities, the abduction and detainment of such a prominent member of the international community is a stunning move even considering the increasingly authoritarian standards of the party under Xi. Hours after the announcement, Interpol received a resignation purportedly written by Mr. Meng. Mr. Meng’s wife, who has received and reported death threats targeting herself and her husband, received a chilling text from her husband hours before the announcement was made. Mr. Meng texted her “wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji four minutes later. The call never came, and these disturbing texts are the last contact anyone has received from Mr. Meng.
Brazilians Head to the Polls in a Presidential Election Fraught with Drama and Deception
Brazilians will vote in one of the most contentious presidential elections of the past three decades on Sunday. Jair Bolsonaro is a right-wing Trump-Duterte type candidate who once told a congresswoman that she did not deserve to be raped because she was “very ugly.” He furthermore claimed that he would rather see his son “die in an accident” than come home with another man. His challenger Fernando Haddad became the default Worker’s Party candidate after former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was barred from running due to a 12 year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering. Lula, who left office with an astounding 90% approval rating, vehemently denies the charges and claims he is the victim of a right-wing political conspiracy. The election itself will most likely lead to a runoff because of failure to meet the 50% threshold. Voting is compulsory in Brazil, and the country faces a national referendum over its political direction. Whether Brazil wants to retain its vaguely socialist policies that have lifted millions out of poverty, or change to the “drain-the-swamp” candidate to combat corruption and restore law and order remains to be seen.
Complex Russian Cyber Warfare Operation Exposed by the Netherlands
The Dutch government on Friday released a myriad of details about Russia’s complicated and sophisticated attacks on international watchdogs. One group targeted was the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons due to their investigation into the chemical attacks in the UK. GRU, as the Russian intelligence agency is known, sent half a dozen agents to the Netherlands in an attempt to perform what is called a “close-access hack operation”. In this type of attack, hackers sit within range of a building’s wifi and attempt to break through and acquire credentials and passwords.These reports were released on the same day that the UK accused GRU of cyber attacks on a global scale, as well as the same week that the US indicted seven Russians thought to be complicit in these attacks. Russia has, as usual, denied any knowledge of such a plot. When presented with the hundreds and thousands of pages of investigative material compiled by the Western countries, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed the documents were “fake news”, saying “The rich imagination of our UK colleagues truly knows no limits. Who comes up with this?” The Kremlin spokesperson concurred, saying that Western governments were driven by “hysteria” and “spy phobia”. The US is considering new sanctions on Russia in response to the new allegations.