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How the rest of the world views U.S. unrest

Nations watch America’s transition of power with concern

National Guard troops gather in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday. Associated Press/Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta

How the rest of the world views U.S. unrest

UNITED STATES: The U.S. Joint Force issued a statement—signed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark A. Milley and seven top commanders—condemning “insurrection and sedition” at the U.S. Capitol last week. Addressed to U.S. troops around the world, the statement made clear the military will support the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week, and it warned: “Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”

Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. forces in South Korea (at 28,500 troops the third-largest contingent outside the United States), reiterated the statement, saying Jan. 6 events on Capitol Hill were an “attempted insurrection,” and adding, “If you are serving in uniform and think it was something else, I would encourage (you) to sit down and read the Constitution that you swore an oath to support and defend.” The U.S. Army is working with the FBI to determine whether any of its forces were among the rioters, and National Guard personnel assigned to guard next week’s inaugural will undergo additional screening. Capitol Police briefed lawmakers this week on at least three plots, including upcoming armed demonstrations, and warned them against sharing too much information with the media—the kind of precautions diplomats and journalists typically receive on overseas assignments. George Washington University’s Project on Extremism—the repository for primary documents retrieved from Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists—now has a database on the 50-plus domestic terrorists arrested so far in the Capitol Hill siege. It includes individual court filings to date. Events in Washington demonstrated to world leaders that democracies are self-correcting and resilient because they vest power in institutions, not in rulers.

LUXEMBOURG: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his Europe trip after Luxembourg’s foreign minister and top European Union officials declined to meet with him. The tiny country’s Pompeo counterpart, Jean Asselborn, called President Donald Trump a “political pyromaniac” following his supporters’ attacks on Capitol Hill. Pompeo has condemned the violence but not discussed Trump’s role in it.

In Pompeo’s first speech following the events, to the Voice of America on Jan. 11, he criticized oppressive regimes and the “censorious instinct” of VOA itself, but did not mention last week’s assault. Here’s a roundup of global reactions.

YEMEN is at “breaking point,” said Norwegian Refugee Council head Jan Egeland, and U.S. actions this week to designate Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a terror group will further hamper humanitarian efforts. “Aid is overstretched, underfunded, and in crossfire. Aid must deal with de facto rulers on all sides,” Egelund tweeted.

Pompeo in a speech on Tuesday about the Iran–al Qaeda axis said the United States “must use our military force surgically against al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen when necessary.” Pompeo also confirmed the death of No. 2 al-Qaeda leader Abu Muhammad al-Masri in Tehran last August—suggesting the terror group has moved its headquarters to Iran.

SYRIA: Israeli airstrikes targeting warehouses and sites belonging to Iran-backed militias and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps killed 57 people at the Iraq-Syria border overnight. The site near Deir Ezzor was also where the United States fought its last battle against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria in 2019.

UGANDA has shut off access to social media platforms ahead of a presidential election on Thursday pitting 10 challengers against President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country for 35 years. The United States canceled its observer mission for the election, saying Thursday’s vote lacks credibility.

SPAIN: Madrid is buried in its heaviest snowfall in 50 years as a polar vortex brings cold and snow to much of Europe.

HONG KONG: Following the largest crackdown on pro-democracy activists since Beijing imposed a new national security law, authorities are casting a wide net for dissidents and imposing a digital clampdown.

JORDAN: With landmines cleared, the church at the Jordan River site of Jesus’ baptism celebrated its first Mass in 54 years.

HAITI: Residents marked the 11th anniversary of a deadly earthquake that killed 300,000 people, and an American business owner in Port-au-Prince described “the trauma that will never leave me.”

I’M WATCHING and recommend A Thousand Cuts, a documentary on press freedom under Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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