The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 10

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

Good morning everyone,

The big news this week comes from the United States, where President Donald Trump has been indicted and is facing charges related to paying to silence an alleged former lover. Whether that will stick or not is not something we'll discuss here. Instead, the rest of the world has remained appropriately busy. In Asia, we have China issuing threats over Taiwan's foreign travels and Australia locked in a diplomatic tangle with China over the detention of a dual-national accused of spying. In Europe, the French protests continue to rage as parliament recognizes the Holodomor as a genocide and NATO gets approval to add a new member. In Africa, the UN has raised concerns over an agreement between the UK and Rwanda to resettle refugees as the junta in Burkina Faso is accused of war crimes. Throughout the Americas, cartel violence continues to rage as tensions rise between neighbors, and in the Middle East, Israel takes center stage after a shooting at the Temple Mount and the protests come to a resolution.

It's just another day at the office. Let's see what we got:- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, & the Atlas team


Sunday, April 2nd, 2023: The US has increased its strength in the Middle East following a series of attacks on US troops in Syria by Iranian-affiliated militias, the Pentagon announced on Friday. Last month, Iranian drone and rocket attacks killed a US contractor and wounded several personnel, with retaliatory American strikes causing dozens of militia casualties. Coinciding with this were a series of strikes matched with fiery rhetoric between Israeli and Iranian forces in Syria.

The U.S.S. George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group announced it will be extending its deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea due to the increased tensions, with a US A-10 Warthog squadron deploying to the region as well. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to "do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said of Iran and Iranian-backed Hezbollah, that Israel would not tolerate any harm to the nation. These statements came just hours after Syria announced airstrikes in Damascus were being attributed to the IDF. Defense Minister Gallant said, "The Iranians are extending their outreach to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza and are attempting to entrench themselves in Syria and Lebanon." Syrian state news reported that Israel fired missiles at targets in the central city of Homs and surrounding areas, injuring five Syrian army personnel. Syrian air defenses shot down some of the missiles. Iran confirmed several officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were injured and killed during other Israeli strikes, marking three strikes in four days.

"We will not allow the Iranians and Hezbollah to harm us. We have not allowed it in the past, we won’t allow it now or anytime in the future. If necessary, we will push them out of Syria to where they belong—and that is Iran," Gallant added. The recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria are just a few of the hundreds of strikes Israel has carried out against Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria since the start of the civil war.

President Bashar Al-Assad has taken advantage of the most recent earthquake in Syria to mend relations with estranged neighbors and welcome their political and economic assistance after suffering greatly from civil war. Experts believe that this branching out of Syria has caused Iran to act out in fear of Syria potentially no longer allowing Iran to use its territory for its proxy war.


March 29th, 2023 - The self-proclaimed Luhansk Peoples Republic has announced its dissolution and "integration" into Russia. This is the first of the four separatist regions of Ukraine to declare independence and integrate with Russia, though Donetsk is likely to soon follow. Luhansk, as it presently stands, is the most Russian-controlled separatist area. 

March 28th, 2023 - The French Parliament voted to recognize the Holodomor as genocide. The Holodomor is mostly known as an intentional famine in Ukraine, though it saw significant russification efforts as well as significant Soviet government repression throughout 1932–33. The recognition passed with a 168-2 vote. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba took to Twitter to express their gratitude to France.

President Zelenskyy’s twitter post, thanking France and condemning the “totalitarian Kremlin Regime, past or present”.

March 27th, 2023 - Hungary has voted to allow Finland into NATO after months of debate. Previously, Hungary had barred the entry of both Finland and Sweden due to strained diplomatic relations between them, largely due to questions raised about Hungary’s democracy and accusations of authoritarianism. Seeking to resolve the issue, Hungary sent delegations to both Sweden and Finland in February to try and resolve any diplomatic issues. Though they have relented upon Finland's ascension into NATO, they have yet to allow Sweden, though they say they hope to see Sweden in the alliance eventually.

Middle East

March 31st, 2023 - A 26-year-old Palestinian man named Mohammad Al-Osaibi was shot and killed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. According to Israeli forces, he was shot after attempting to stab an IDF guard and attempting to grab his weapon. According to Palestinian sources, IDF soldiers were attempting to clear worshippers from the mosque, and the man was shot when he attempted to "defend a woman from assault" from an IDF soldier.

A photo from an onlooker video of Osaibi after he was shot at Al-Aqsa mosque.

March 30th, 2023 - After President Erdogan announced that Turkey would take steps to allow Finland to join NATO, the Turkish parliament formally voted on the agreement. With the Hungary vote on the 27th, all NATO members have now voted in favor of allowing Finland into the alliance. Turkey was previously holding up Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the alliance over the two nations relationships with Kurdish groups. Though they have allowed Finland, Sweden is still barred. Russia has previously issued various threats to Finland should they join NATO, ranging from increased troop presence on the border to military action.

March 27th, 2023 - Following weeks of some of Israel’s largest ever protests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has temporarily suspended his planned judicial reform. The reform is suspended until the summer Knesset session. The decision was reached after protests drastically escalated when Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was fired by Netanyahu after speaking out against the reform. The reform itself seeks to have supreme court judges appointed by the government, rather than independently. As it stands, judges are not voted in. It is viewed by supporters as necessary to democratize the supreme court, and seen by opposition as a power grab by Netanyahu, who is presently facing corruption charges. 


April 2nd, 2023 - Raila Odinga, runner-up in the recent Kenyan election, has announced he is temporarily suspending protests after agreeing to participate in a bipartisan parliamentary committee suggested by President William Ruto. Odinga accuses Ruto of stealing the election, in which Ruto won 50.5% of the vote and Odinga won 48.85%. Since March 20th, Odinga has led protests that have resulted in three fatalities, significant property damage, and looting. He has also launched several legal and constitutional challenges, which have failed, with Kenya’s supreme court declaring Ruto’s victory to be legitimate. The parliamentary committee will aim to address any concerns Odinga has about the election process. Though Odinga announced he would resume protests after a week should "this process not bear fruit".

Pro-Odinga protestors run from a water cannon during recent protests (Photo from africanews YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP).

April 3rd, 2023 - A video has recently come out of Burkina Faso that shows the execution of seven unarmed boys, many of whom were below the age of 18. The video, originally posted in WhatsApp groups on February 14th, shows the boys stripped of much of their clothing and their hands bound. Several of the soldiers in the video were wearing Burkinabé uniforms, including some bearing the flag of Burkina Faso, and the vehicles seen match with foreign vehicles supplied to the Burkinabé military. The military junta’s tactics to counter jihadist militants have grown distinctly more aggressive in recent weeks. The government has raised a volunteer force of about 50,000, who frequently round up "suspected jihadists", or those accused of supporting militants, with a large number of extrajudicial killings occurring from these round-ups. The government has denied responsibility for the killings, stating they were done by militants disguising themselves as Burkinabé soldiers.

April 2nd, 2023 - In April of last year, the United Kingdom and Rwanda signed a deal to resettle migrants and asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda. The deal applies to those who entered the UK after January 1, 2022, and gives them the option to settle in Rwanda or be assisted in returning to their home country. The deal, in part, is meant as a deterrent, in particular for those who reach the UK by making the dangerous and illegal crossing of the English Channel. However, on Sunday, the UN human rights office stated they were "extremely worried about the impact" of the plan. Though UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman continues to insist that the plan will be beneficial, the UN office states that the accommodations in Rwanda are "not robust enough".

The Americas

March 29th, 2023 - Nine Colombian soldiers were killed and eighteen injured after the National Liberation Army (ELN) launched an attack near a military base in El Carmen. The soldiers were providing security in a village not far from the base when they were attacked in the early hours of the morning by a series of explosives. The ELN is a Marxist rebel group that Colombia has registered as a terrorist organization. The attack was the fifth reported attack by the ELN in March alone.

Colombian soldiers in the aftermath of an alleged guerrilla attack on April 14, 2015. (Christian Escobar Mora/EPA)

March 30th, 2023 - Former US President Donald Trump has officially been indicted by a New York Grand Jury over a 2016 "hush money" case related to pornstar ‘Stormy Daniels'. Trump is the first US President to be indicted for a crime, with President Nixon coming close but being pardoned. A few weeks ago, Trump took to Truth Social claiming he would be arrested, and told his supporters to lead protests to "take our nation back" should he be indicted and arrested.

Asia and Oceania

March 29th, 2023 - China sent diplomatic protests and veiled threats to the United States after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen landed in New York on her way to Central America. Though her initial landing was just part of her transit, she may meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on her return trip, a meeting China says could lead to a "serious confrontation". They raised similar concerns when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan a number of months ago. President Tsai is headed to both Guatemala and Belize as Taiwan seeks to strengthen its central American alliances. The visit comes after Honduras severed ties with Taiwan on the 26th in favor of China.

Taiwanese supporters gather outside President Tsai’s hotel in New York. (Photo from Reuters)

March 31st, 2023 - Australia has expressed its "deep concerns" about the continued detention of Cheng Lei, a Chinese-Australian journalist. Nearly a year ago, on March 31st, 2022, she faced a closed-door trial in violation of an agreement between Australia and China, in which China must allow consular access to Australian citizens. The trial failed to reach any sort of verdict or sentence, leaving Cheng Lei in detention. "Today marks one year since Australian citizen, Ms. Cheng Lei, faced a closed trial in Beijing on national security charges. 12 months on, she is still waiting to learn the outcome of the trial," said Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Cheng, who has been detained for two and a half years now, was arrested on suspicion of "illegally supplying state secrets overseas".

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