The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 34

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday October 2nd, 2023

Good morning everyone,

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In Europe, France sends a military attaché to Armenia, the UK releases conflicting statements regarding a potential troop deployment to Ukraine, and two shootings in the Netherlands leave three people dead.

Over in the Middle East, Israel fights organized crime, Iran prepares weapon deals, and the Turks strike the PKK in response to a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile in Africa, the US halts economic aid to Gabon, Burkina Faso’s military thwarts a coup attempt, and Eswatini holds elections.

In the Americas, an international coalition prepares to go to Haiti, the US averts a government shutdown, and the Cuban embassy is targeted.

In Asia and Oceania, Indonesia opens a bullet train with the help of China, Australia produces anti-drone weapons for Ukraine, and North Korea eases COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, & the Atlas team

Refugee Crisis in Armenia

Refugees crowd at the Russian Peacekeeper base which was set up in the former Stepanakert Airport, September 20th, 2023.

Tuesday, September 19th, - Present, 2023 (2 Minute Read) On September 19, Azerbaijan launched a large attack on the de facto independent Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). The initial attacks resulted in at least 200 deaths on the side of Artsakh (including a number of civilians) and an unclear number of deaths on the Azeri side. Azerbaijan called it an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and managed to seize a number of key roadways and landscapes.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire took place the next day, September 20th, but not before thousands of civilians were evacuated from front-line villages. Very quickly, a refugee crisis began as thousands of others also began to pick up their belongings and head either for Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, the Russian peacekeeping base that was nearby, or to the Lachin corridor, awaiting its opening by Azerbaijan.

On September 21, Artsakh officials met with Azeri officials within Azerbaijan itself to discuss the “reintegration” of Artsakh into Azerbaijan. The meeting yielded very little results, only reiterating largely the terms of the ceasefire, which included the complete disarmament of the Artsakh Defence Army. In this meeting, Azerbaijan had promised to deliver humanitarian aid to Artsakh, which had been under an Azeri blockade since December. This aid never arrived; however, aid from Armenia was finally allowed through the Lachin Corridor on September 23.

One day after aid arrived, on September 24, refugees from Artsakh began to flow into Armenia, as they would rather leave than live under the Azeri administration. Initially, the transfer was slow, with only 1,050 people crossing over in the first day. On the second day, this rose to 6,650. On the third day, September 26, the number of refugees more than doubled to 19,000 people in total, or 15% of Artsakh’s 120,000 population. The 50% mark was hit the very next day, on September 27, after 65,036 people crossed over within 4 days. As things presently stand, over 100,000 people have left Artsakh heading for Armenia, or over 80% of its population.

When refugee flow began, the official position of the Armenian government was that they would prefer if Artsakh’s residents were able to stay within Artsakh and live under Azerbaijan with security guarantees. However, they stated that, should this become “impossible" they would assist refugees coming to Armenia. Their position has seemingly changed, as they call the mass exodus “forced deportations” by Azerbaijan. Armenia’s government has provided those without accommodations with shelter and other necessities.

On September 28, the Republic of Artsakh’s President officially dissolved the Republic, which had been de facto independent since 1991. Many of its cities, including Stepanakert, have been completely emptied, and it is unclear if any major populations, or any people at all, will remain within Artsakh.


September 28th, 2023 - French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has stated that France will be deploying a Defence Military Attaché to Armenia during a question period in France's parliament. She spoke not only of France's growing relationship with Armenia but also specifically called out Russia, stating that “Russia has abandoned Armenia and is complicit in Azerbaijan’s military operations”. She also said that France will be opening a consulate in Armenia's Syunik province, as well as allocating further funds for humanitarian aid. At the beginning of the year, France allocated 5 million euros to offer assistance to Armenia and Artsakh. Now, with the recent developments and massive refugee flow, France has allocated an additional 7 million euros.

September 30th - October 1st, 2023 - The UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps had announced that the UK would be deploying troops to Ukraine as a part of a “training mission” for Ukrainian troops, as well as to provide a better advisory role due to being closer to the front than they could provide from NATO countries. However, the following day, in an interview, PM Rishi Sunak seemingly walked back on this statement from his Defence secretary, stating that it would be a possibility in the “long term”, and that troops would not be deployed. Russia declared that any UK troops within Ukraine would be “legitimate targets”, and that they would be “mercilessly destroyed”.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. n(Photo from PA).

September 28th, 2023 - Two separate shootings by the same perpetrator left three people dead in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The first shooting took place at a home in the Delfshaven district, where a 39-year-old woman was killed. Her 14-year-old daughter was seriously wounded at the scene and later succumbed to her wounds at a hospital. Before the suspect fled the scene, he began a fire within the home. He then headed to the Erasmus Medical Centre campus, where he shot and killed a 43-year-old man who was a teacher at the campus. Police did not release a motive; however, they stated it seemed the people killed were specifically targeted.

Middle East

September 30th, 2023 - In southern Israel, near Kiryat Malachi, a car bombing and a subsequent police pursuit left two individuals dead and two others wounded. This incident occurred mere hours after a fatal shooting in the coastal city of Ashkelon. In the city of Ramle, police confronted and critically injured an individual who reportedly opened fire at officers. Hebrew media reports indicate that the police were actively monitoring members of the Jarushi crime family, who were traveling in separate vehicles. During this operation, one individual from the group allegedly launched an explosive device at another vehicle, triggering the tragic chain of events. Police are investigating these shootings as possible organized crime.

Paramedics at the scene of a car bombing near Kiryat Malachi. (Photo - Liron Moldovan/Flash90)

October 1st, 2023 - A recent report has unveiled Iran's intricate strategy in Syria, with the aim of facilitating the transfer of weapons from Hezbollah to Arab tribes allied with the Syrian regime. Furthermore, Iran seeks to export arms to Moscow. This multifaceted approach could lead to a flow of weapons from Hezbollah to both Arab tribes and Russia, while simultaneously allowing Hezbollah to phase out older munitions, positioning itself for the acquisition of more advanced weaponry and potentially garnering Moscow's favor. This development also presents a potential challenge to the U.S. presence in Syria.

September 30th, 2023 - In response to a recent terrorist attack, the Turkish military announced that they have conducted an aerial operation targeting approximately 20 locations associated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The operation focused on eliminating caves, shelters, and depots linked to the group. The attack reportedly followed a suicide bombing near the Ministry of Interior Affairs, resulting in injuries to two police officers. On the same day, law enforcement engaged and killed a second assailant in a subsequent shootout, as confirmed by the interior minister.


September 26th, 2023 - The US State Department has announced it will be pausing economic aid to Gabon after a coup took place within the nation on August 30th, which they referred to as the “unconstitutional intervention by members of the country’s military”. In 2021, the US provided 97 million USD in aid to Gabon through the US Agency for International Development, largely aimed at maintaining Gabon’s extensive rainforests. Gabon’s August 30th coup came four days after the nation's elections, which re-elected President Ali Bongo. The Bongo family had ruled over Gabon for 56 years.

September 27th, 2023 - Burkinabe military leaders stated that they had thwarted a coup attempt and arrested four officers in connection with it. The coup attempt took place one day prior to their statement, on the 26th. The coup attempt, a rumor at the time, was paired with protests by the populace, both in support of and against the present military leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore. Notably, earlier in September, three soldiers had been arrested and charged with plotting against the military government. The Burkinabe government additionally stated that two officers from Tuesday’s coup attempt were still on the run.

Burkina Faso Military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore (Photo from Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

September 29th, 2023 - Eswatini held parliamentary elections, electing 59 MPs. However, there is one catch. Eswatini is an absolute monarchy. The 59 MPs elected were not allowed to run for a political party and only hold an advisory role within government, not being awarded any legitimate power. The elections have drawn criticism from outside powers as an attempt to legitimize Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Eswatini is led by King Mswati III, who has ruled since 1986. The elections come two years after pro-democracy protests led to the deaths of 46 people during clashes with police. The elections were reported to have been peaceful.

The Americas

October 1st, 2023 - UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that a "robust use of force" is needed to disarm the gangs and restore order in Haiti, which have taken over the country following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. Kenya, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Spain, Senegal, and Chile have all committed to sending security forces to secure key infrastructure and humanitarian efforts.

Haitian military personnel. (Photo - Matias Delacroix / Associated Press)

October 2nd, 2023 - An unidentified perpetrator launched Molotov cocktails at the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., an act characterized as a "terrorist attack" by the Cuban government. The motivation behind the assault remains unknown, although Cuban officials attribute it to a protracted history of hostility towards their nation. The incident is under investigation by local police, the Secret Service, and the State Department. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and the State Department have issued condemnations in response to the attack.

October 1st, 2023 - After weeks of infighting within the Republican Party, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy submitted a bill to temporarily fund the government in order to avoid a potential US government shutdown. The bill, much to the dissatisfaction of the Democrats, holds no measures for further funding to Ukraine. This move dealt a blow to a small group of staunchly conservative Republicans who stalled negotiations with demands for spending cuts and no Ukraine aid. Following the House's adjournment, the Senate had to adopt the House legislation, with only nine Republican senators opposing it. McCarthy acknowledged this last-minute agreement wasn't his preferred route, as he had aimed for a more conservative stopgap measure but lacked sufficient Republican support.

Asia and Oceania

October 1st, 2023 - Indonesia is on the brink of unveiling the inaugural high-speed railway in Southeast Asia, marking a significant milestone within the framework of China's ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. This transformative project is poised to dramatically curtail travel time between the capital city and another major urban center, reducing the current three-hour journey to just about 40 minutes. Although the initiative has faced its fair share of challenges, including delays and mounting costs, leading to concerns about its commercial feasibility among certain observers, it enjoys unwavering government support. The Chinese-manufactured bullet train, aptly named "Whoosh," is set to play a pivotal role in bridging Jakarta and Bandung.

The Whoosh train. ( Photo - via Indonesia Posts English)

October 1st, 2023 - An Australian defense firm has unveiled an innovative weapon offering a cost-effective solution for Ukraine to combat Russia's wave of suicide drones. The Slinger 30mm cannon, designed by Electro Optic Systems, is a lightweight system capable of neutralizing drones at distances of approximately half a mile. This weapon can be mounted on a truck and operated through a joystick and screen interface, as reported by Australia's ABC News. As part of a U.S. aid package to Ukraine, ten of these systems are slated for delivery by the end of the year.

October 1st, 2023 - North Korea has declared the resumption of foreign entry into the country, effective immediately, as reported by China's state-run media. This development marks a relaxation of the stringent COVID-19 border controls that North Korea had enforced since early 2020. According to China Central Television, individuals entering the nation will be obligated to undergo a two-day quarantine. However, Chinese travel agencies specializing in North Korean tours stated that they had not received any official notifications concerning the authorization for foreigners to enter the neighboring country.

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