Year in review: International Affairs

From the unpredictable policy decisions of President Donald Trump to the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China, the year 2018 saw a host of developments that threatened world peace, political stability and trade and economy. The year was also marked by election upsets, street protests, diplomatic overtures, policy U-turns and violence. Here is the year in review

The big 10

1. Death in a consulate

Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist who was living in the U.S., went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for some paperwork for his marriage. He never returned. Turkish prosecutors say Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate and dismembered and his body parts were dissolved in acid. Saudi Arabia admitted that he was killed inside the consulate, but hasn’t said what happened to the body,

Riyadh has blamed the incident on some rogue officials and claims to have arrested those involved and prosecuted them.

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi spoke at an event hosted by a London think tank on September 29, three days before he disappeared during a consulate visit in Istanbul. Khashoggi was later named one of the Time ‘Persons of the Year’. A funeral prayer for journalist Jamal Khashoggi on November 16 in Istanbul.

2. Trump embraces Kim

On June 12, nearly nine months after Donald Trump threatened military action against North Korea, the U.S. President was shaking hands with the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, seeking a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis.

The roots of this detente can be traced back both to the engagement policy of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s positive response to it.

3. From deal to no deal

While Mr. Trump was preparing for his biggest diplomatic handshake with Mr. Kim, he was also intent on undoing the the Iran nuclear deal, a key achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama. Despite certifications by the IAEA that Iran was fully complying with the terms of the deal, on May 8, Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement.

Subsequently, the administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration after the deal was signed.

4. Elusive Brexit

Nearly two and a half years after the Brexit referendum, there is still no consensus on the modalities of how to carry out Britain’s divorce with the EU. In November, the U.K. and the EU reached a draft withdrawal agreement, but there is no agreement within Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet on the deal.

In December, Ms. May survived a leadership challenge from within her party, but a bigger challenge would be a parliamentary vote on Brexit, which has to happen by January 21.

5. Electoral upsets

Malaysia: Mahathir Mohamad, a political veteran of more than 50 years, broke away from his own party, backed the main Opposition coalition and clinched a shock victory on May 9 against Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Maldives: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the candidate of the Maldives Democratic Party-led coalition, defeated President Abdulla Yameen, who faced allegations of stifling the country’s democracy, in the September 23 presidential election.

Year in review: international affairs

6. One President, Two PMs. No government

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on October 26 and appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the position, triggering a constitutional crisis.

But after Mr. Rajapaksa failed to prove majority in Parliament and the Supreme Court restrained him from functioning as the Prime Minister, the President reinstated Mr. Wickremesinghe on December 16.

7. Democrats make gains

On November 6, in an election marked by big turnout and a high number of women candidates, Democrats, by picking up 40 seats, gained control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010. However, the Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, defeating Democratic incumbents in States like Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.

Rashida Tlaib (Democrat-Michigan) in Washington in November.

Ilhan Omar (Democrat-Minnesota), the first Muslim-American Congresswomen.

Deb Haaland (Democrat-New Mexico), the first Native American Congresswoman

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat-New York)

8. To kill a spy

The Russia-West relations soured further this year when Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the U.K.’s intelligence services, and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in Salisbury on March 4 with Novichok nerve agent.

In March, the U.K. accused Russia of attempted murder and ordered the expulsion of several diplomats, in which it found support from 28 other countries. A total of 153 diplomats were expelled. Russia denied the accusations and the pointed fingers back the U.K.

9. Trade war

In keeping with his ‘America First’ policy, President Trump launched a trade war with China.. Tariffs on about $250 million worth of Chinese goods take effect between July and September, forcing China to retaliate.

10. Leader for life?

China’s National People’s Congress passed a resolution on March 11 that eliminated presidential term limits set by the 1982 Constitution. This cleared the way for Xi Jinping, arguably the most powerful leader since Mao, to remain in power indefinitely. In the following week, he was appointed to a second five-year term.


Other developments

Jan. 19: Turkey launches military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin region

Feb. 8: Bangladesh’s ex-Prime Minister and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is jailed for five years in a corruption case. She is later barred from contesting the forthcoming general election.

Feb. 15: Cyril Ramaphosa becomes the new South African PM after Jacob Zuma resigns amidst corruption probe.

Feb. 23: Komaali Kings becomes the first Sri Lankan Tamil language film in 40 years to have a mainstream release, marking the rebirth of the Tamil film industry in the country.

April 19: Miguel Diaz-Canel succeeds Raul Castro as President of Cuba, ending almost 60 years of Castro rule.

July 9: Eritrea and Ethiopia officially declare an end to their twenty-year conflict.

Oct. 6: U.S. Senate votes to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh (208158366) as the 114th Supreme Court Justice. He replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired on June 27.

Oct. 29: Boeing 737 passenger jet, owned and operated by the low-cost Lion Air airline, crashes minutes after taking off from the capital Jakarta. All 189 people on board were feared killed, making it the second-deadliest air crash in Indonesia’s history.

Port officials stand near debris from Lion Air Flight 610 that crashed into Java Sea, at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.