Currents Updates #2

Emmanuel Macron Wins French Presidential Election

Occurred: May 8, 2017

Emmanuel Macron, a pro-EU centrist, won the French Presidency over the far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen who is known for her hardline stance on immigration/immigrants, islamist extremism, and law. Macron, serving as the youngest president in modern French history, now faces issues of terrorism, economic stagnation, and mass unemployment.  However, despite his message of unity, commitment to the European Union, and pro-business reform, Macron, as a centrist, will also have political challenges of gaining a parliamentary majority in order to fulfill his promises.

 

F.B.I. Director James Comey Fired

Occurred: May 9, 2017

In the midst of growing concern over a potential relationship between the Trump Administration and Russia, James Comey, the F.B.I. Director, was fired while investigating possible Russian collusion. The official reason pointed to Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email, although Trump was widely considered a beneficiary of Comey’s actions. Officials also stated that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, were largely involved in the decision to remove James Comey. These justifications, however, proved insufficient for both Republicans and Democrats, many of whom are unsettled by the timing and context of James Comey’s release. Trump has since made remarks regarding potential ‘tapes’ of his conversation with Comey, raising even more controversy over the decision and execution of James Comey’s dismissal. Recent comments made by Donald Trump incited a call for an independent investigation into the Russian activity and potential obstruction of justice.

 

Ransomware Virus

Occurred: May 12, 2017

Malware hacked from the NSA was used to infect companies’ systems (especially in Europe and Asia). The virus, known as the WannaCry virus, exploited Microsoft operating systems by infecting links and attachments. Infected systems display a message demanding ransoms for returning encrypted files.  Inconclusive reports speculate a possibility of North Korean involvement in the malware. Microsoft has since criticized the NSA for stockpiling vulnerabilities that leaked and caused damage.

 

U.S. New Sanctions on Syria Over Human Rights

Occurred: May 16, 2017

Due to claims regarding Syrian abuses and murders of detainees in a military prison, the Treasury Department froze and banned American-Syrian transactions of five companies/people. Among those affected are Ihab Makhluf and Iyad Makhluf, cousins of President Bashar Assad.

 

Trump Travels to Saudi Arabia

Occurred: May 21, 2017

“Barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.” – Donald Trump

Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet with Saudi leaders in Riyadh, where he spoke about the need for enhanced efforts by the international community to eradicate terrorism.

He began his discourse by saying, “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.”. He continued, “Drive. Them. Out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of his Earth!”.

In a strong departure from the Obama era policy of speaking on human rights violations when in the Middle East, (while simultaneously giving billions of dollars to Iran, a country whose human rights abuses are unparalleled) Trump maintained his stance that “I [Trump]  am the president of the United States, not the world”.

He did not mention human rights abuses, instead opting to condemn terrorists. He states, “America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.

While in Riyadh, Trump signed a 110 billion dollar arms deal with the Saudis. The deal is intended to help Saudi Arabia combat terrorism and weaken Iranian influence in the region.