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Transnational Thursdays 26

This is a weekly thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or IR history. I usually start off with coverage of some current events from a mix of countries I follow personally and countries I think the forum lives in or might be interested in. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.


Hardcore libertarian Javier Milei has won the Argentine presidential election.

I know relatively little about Argentine politics, but every story I read reflects a staggering level of economic mismanagement. In general I'm quite anti-libertarian but in Argentina's case I think the government really has been so bad for so long that taking a chainsaw to the state apparatus as Milei promises to do is probably an improvement.

I'm excited for this, but my natural cynicism tells me that he'll fail like everyone does, and that'll discredit libertarianism for a while again.

I'm finding the negative responses to Milei ironic. Sure, he's a loose cannon, but does Argentina really need another five years of Peronismo? Argentina was once richer than France, Germany and Spain, now it's poorer than Turkey and Mexico. It's heartening to finally see the Argentines reject the economic populism that has served them so poorly for decades.

Not only did he win, he won 56-44. It was expected to be a close call but instead it was a blowout. I'm excited to see the libertarians have a chance to actually put their ideas into practice. Socialism is so popular among young people in the west that I'm worried for the future when the boomers start to die off. It's good to know that people can be persuaded to throw the bums out if things get bad enough. Hopefully there's enough left there to salvage and build something resembling a functional economy.


Migrant protests are back. Rosslare - a town of 2,100 - has become the site of a 1,000 person blockade of Rosslare Europort after the government announced they planned to house 400 migrant men in the Great Southern Hotel. 300 male asylum seekers are already being housed in the town so this proposal would fairly drastically change its makeup.

Unlike most migrant protests this one has the support of local politicians and started after a breakdown in negotiations between the government and local leaders. With actual political leaders involved it will be a lot harder for someone like Tommy Robinson show up and make it look like this is being organised by foreign provocateurs, clearly the views of locals are what is fuelling this.

I’m not sure how the economic importance of the Europort will come into play, there’s a lot more inventive for the government to settle this quickly but unless they win the public image battle arresting people and going ahead with the original plan won’t be a good look.

Latest Finland news from the last week.

RITUAL SACRIFICE? There have been police investigations on Nazi terrorism going on for a long time, and last weeks have certainly introduced a new twist. One of the persons fingered for potential connections to terrorism is an unnamed (and I won’t name them here) person the news called “Maisteri” (i.e. a “master”, a master’s degree holder), a Satanist accelerationist who has participated in terrorist planner chats to get them to commit acts of terror for their own nefarious reasons. The police are even suspecting the “Maisteri” might have made plans for a ritual human sacrifice.

Of course, all of this sounds like some heady stuff, but even before this there have been connections to the Nazi/heathen/Satanic Order of the Nine Angles (“O9A”), and that’s what we’re also apparently talking about here. O9A has been internationally connected to a great number of planned and actual crimes, both terrorist attacks and other stuff, so it’s not a completely far-fetched story. Finland does have a previous history of Nazism and Satanism being connected, from the notorious 70s Nazi leader Pekka Siitoin to the modern NSBM scene.

“Maisteri” has denied all connections to terrorism and has indicated that the suspected sacrificial plannings and such are just a part of research book for a fictional book. This is of course always a possibility – folks have done stranger stuff in the course of writing fiction – but he has at least left a considerable paper trail on the Internet showing at least considerable knowledge of O9A ideology and occultism, as well as support for accelerationism and heavy, deep-set elitism and far-right opinions in general.

What has also received attention is that the “Maisteri” is connected to the Finns Party. A number of other terrorism suspects also have a history in the party but have clearly been low-level actors who have left on their own volition, while “Maisteri” appears to have operated within the party as an expert/writer until very recently. The party has indicated that he’s no longer a member and has issued some general condemnations of the terrorists, but is otherwise keeping mum – which isn’t surprising, since this is hardly something the party wants to bring attention to.

O9A is very obviously a CIA honey trap.

What makes it obvious?

@Soriek I think Nara suggested having followups to the Israel mega thread be posted here, do you think that's a good idea, or that it might drown out the discussions on other countries/suck the oxygen out of the room?

People can definitely discuss them here if they want!

Well, we don't have to permanently disavow the Israel meatheads or anything--I think @narabuns is right that these are a good home for the topic when there's not enough discussion to justify a top-level post, but there's still going to be a week-by-week judgment call to be made about "how crazy are things in the Greater Jerusalem Area this week?"


Liberia’s runoff election between incumbent George Weah and Joseph Bokai happened Tuesday. The first round had them absolutely neck and neck with respectively 43.83% and 43.44%. Since the first round more opposition parties sided with Weah, but currently Bokai seems to be pulling ahead. Weah’s election in 2017 was the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power so hopefully this election is respected as well. I prepared this section in advance because I honestly expected the results to be out by now but I will update this section as they come in!

United Kingdom

Suella Braverman is out as Home Secretary, to be replaced by the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly:

He will inherit a department dealing with the fallout from Ms. Braverman’s face-off with Britain’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police of London, over pro-Palestinian marches in the capital.

Also looming on his agenda: a decision due Wednesday from the Supreme Court on the lawfulness of the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a signature policy for the Conservatives that has been divisive with the public…

In his most recent role, Mr. Cleverly oversaw Britain’s foreign relations amid the uncertainty prompted by Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and wars raging in Gaza and in Ukraine.

It’s an interesting decision to shuffle the Foreign Secretary at a time when international relations seem so tumultuous, and he’s being replaced by…David Cameron? This rather surprising outcome caught quite a few of us off guard, including these commentators (are all reporters in Britain this brutal?) It must be surreal leaving power after Brexit and coming back to whatever exactly the Tory party is now. Commentators don’t have much to say with regards to his nomination:

“Sunak is not that interested in foreign policy,” said Jonathan Powell, a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. “This is a case of, ‘who can I give foreign policy to so I don’t have to worry about it for the next year?’”

But the domestic politics of Mr. Cameron’s appointment “are pretty hard to divine,” Professor Bale said, “leaving aside, of course, the day or two of distraction it will provide from Suella Braverman’s belated departure.”

In defense of his selection, Cameron has significant experience dealing with foreign statesmen and was generally well liked abroad. On the other hand, the big issue he’ll be thrust into is Israel and Palestine, and the last PM I know being brought back as a Foreign Secretary was Balfour, and that sure didn’t end out too great for Palestine…

Mr. Cameron’s six years in Downing Street will make him an exceedingly well-connected foreign secretary. But critics are scrutinizing the foreign policy positions of his government, some of which look questionable in hindsight.

Mr. Cameron played host to President Xi Jinping of China in 2015, heralding a “golden era” in relations with Beijing. He joined a U.S.-led military intervention in Libya in 2011, which resulted in the overthrow of its dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, but was criticized in Britain for the messy aftermath.

the last PM I know being brought back as a Foreign Secretary was Balfour

Nice story, but unfortunately it was Douglas-Home

I stand appropriately humbled.


I’ve covered a while back the mess of the last Iraqi election, where the anti-Tehran winner Moqtada al-Sadr was ousted by the Iranian aligned Federal Supreme Court, leaving the loose coalition of pro-Iran parties, known as the Coordinated Framework, still running the show. In more exciting news, that same Supreme Court has now ruled that it will terminate the Mohamed al-Halbousi’s tenure as the Parliament Speaker, the highest role a Sunni can hold in Iraq’s consociational government. Ostensibly the reason was because of a dispute between him and another Sunni official, also now removed, though it leaves the government a little rudderless. It is unclear who will replace him but the position must be held by a Sunni.

The United States Institute of Peace offers a one year retrospective on Al-Sudani, the leader who took over in Al-Sadr’s wake:

Iraq has played an important role in Iran-Saudi and other rapprochement efforts in the Middle East for a few years now. As prime minister, al-Sudani has continued on the path toward regional integration and collaborative engagement.

They [the government under Al-Sudani] have leveraged the relative political stability and security of the current moment to pursue the “Development Road,” a project that promotes Iraq as a dry canal of ports, highways and railways that connect Asia to Europe — as ambitious and big a vision as other countries in the region.

Iraq has also signed contracts with General Electric, Total Energies, Siemens and others to improve energy production domestically while sharing a piece of the economic pie. The al-Sudani government’s support for financing the al-Muhandis company and connecting Iraq and Iran by rail might be seen as entrenching Iran’s interests and agenda — which are often viewed as malign by many of Iraq’s citizens, neighbors and western supporters. But another view might see the move as part of a pragmatic approach to portray Iraq as a web of mutually beneficial economic interests in the region.

In his first year, al-Sudani also had to work with Iran and the Kurdistan Region leadership to prevent further Iranian missile and drone attacks on Iranian opposition based in Iraq. Khor Mor gas field was attacked multiple times, with fingers pointing to Iran and its proxies attempting to hamper Kurdish and Iraqi aspirations to become a player in the global gas market.

Relations with Turkey is also a mix of working through difficult portfolios, including the expansion of Turkish military attacks inside Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, water issues, oil export via Ceyhan, trade and construction.

Furthermore, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruling that a 2012 Iraq-Kuwait maritime agreement was unconstitutional raised alarms among gulf neighbors regarding Iraq’s commitment to its obligations.

Also, minor spatterings of the Hamas-Israel war seem to have spilled over to the US in Iraq as well with attacks on multiple US targets. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Iraq last week and spoke with Al-Sudani about avoiding future anti-American violence. However, the attacks have continued.

United States troops in Iraq have been targeted in new attacks using drones and explosives, military and security sources reported.

Three attacks took place on Thursday, the sources told Reuters. The incidents add to the more than 40 assaults that US and allied troops based across the Middle East have come under since the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7…

As well as two drone assaults at bases, a US-led coalition convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in the vicinity of Mosul Dam.

The security sources said the patrol was accompanied by Iraqi counterterrorism forces and that a vehicle in the patrol was damaged. Three US troops sustained minor injuries but had returned to duty, the official added.

Drone attacks targeted American and coalition forces at the Ain al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad and al-Harir airbase in Erbil. Both drones were destroyed before reaching their target, the sources said.

A statement from Iraqi Kurdistan’s counterterrorism service added that the attack at al-Harir had caused a fire at one of its fuel depots, but added that US-led coalition forces had evacuated the airbase on October 20.


The deadline for Venezuela to approve Maria Machado for the general election draws closer without any formal activity yet. If this demand is not approved then America’s sanctions will snap back into place. Speaking of voting, Venezuela is now holding a referendum over whether to reopen a territorial dispute with neighboring Guyana, which Guyana considers “an existential threat”. They’re probably not wrong - the territory in question, the Essequibo region, is like two thirds of the whole country.

The Tunisia-sized swath of jungle west of the Essequibo River in the dispute is rich in gold, diamonds, timber and other natural resources.

Guyana launched a case at the world court in 2018 seeking to have U.N. judges uphold the 1899 ruling. It returned to the court last month after Venezuelan authorities published five questions the country plans to ask in a consultative referendum scheduled for Dec. 3 about the future of the Essequibo.

“The collective decision called for here involves nothing less than the annexation of the territory in dispute in this case. This is a textbook example of annexation,” said Paul Reichler, an American lawyer representing Guyana…

It is a significant escalation in frictions between the countries that have increased since 2015 as a result of oil exploration operations by ExxonMobil and other companies in offshore areas intersecting the disputed territory.

The Venezuelan government maintains that Guyana does not have jurisdiction to grant concessions in maritime areas off the Essequibo.

The referendum is scheduled to take place six weeks after Venezuela’s opposition held a presidential primary that exceeded participation expectations, including in areas long considered strongholds of the ruling party.

Perhaps coincidentally, on Tuesday, the same day Guyana will be presenting to the ICJ, ExxonMobil is beginning production at a third offshore facility under Guyana’s EEZ.

What is the Venezuelan opposition's current stance on the Guyana issue?

Machado is in favor of Venezuela gaining the land, but is opposed to the referendum / claiming it without going through the appropriate legal channels, which is basically equivalent to ackowledging they won't get it:

María Corina Machado, the presidential candidate of Venezuela’s main opposition coalition, has urged the government to adhere to the process at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve the Essequibo territorial controversy with Guyana. Speaking to publication EFE, Machado said Venezuela should hire the best defense to “win” the case, a stance contrary to the Maduro regime’s rejection of the ICJ’s involvement.


The long expected reality seems to be approaching that the EU will struggle to complete its promised contributions to the war in Ukraine:

Early this year, EU leaders promised to provide 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine’s front line by spring next year in what would have amounted to a serious ramp-up of production. But the 27-nation bloc, for over half a century steeped in a “peace, not war” message and sheltering under a U.S. military umbrella, is finding it tough to come up with the goods.

“The 1 million will not be reached, you have to assume that,” said German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, ahead of a meeting of EU defense and foreign affairs ministers in Brussels.

U.S. aid to Ukraine is also politically up in the air, but existing appropriations should last a bit longer

Militarily, Ukraine has some breathing space: Under previous spending bills passed by Congress, Mr. Biden can still draw about $5.6 billion in matériel from the military’s reserves (mostly thanks to a Pentagon accounting error that overvalued aid that has already gone to Ukraine).

For context, a $500 million drawdown in June was enough to fund Bradley and Stryker vehicles, air defense munitions, artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, anti-tank weapons, anti-radiation missiles and precision aerial munitions, according to the State Department.

And a pause in new funding does not affect existing Pentagon contracts under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. That means new weapons and equipment will continue to be shipped to Ukraine in the coming months and years.

As of May, the Defense Department reported that $5.6 billion had been contracted to produce items for Ukraine such as HIMARS missiles, tactical vehicles, radar, ammunition and many others.

I’ve also heard anecdotally, though cannot verify, that the DoD can just significantly undervalue the equipment they’re shipping over to stretch the remaining funds out longer.

Does anyone know how long it takes, very roughly, from funding being approved to the goods actually showing up on the frontlines?

It heavily depends on specific, it could be in hours (easy to transport off the shelf stuff already present in Poland), minutes (release of data/intelligence) or take years where you need to train people to fly F-16 or months to develop hardware/software links between NATO missiles and Cold War-era soviet planes.

Compare ammunition bought from/donated by Polish army and delivered from warehouse in the Eastern Poland to delivering from USA not yet produced and dedicated versions of tanks, but without very interesting secret stuff.

Or donating commercially available Motorola radios (this could be done and was done by random people who were able to recognize importance of such devices) vs getting through decisions whether to deliver ATACMS.

What the actual value of equipment and munitions sent is by no means clear, at least to me. Is it what it nominally cost to produce when it was produced? What it cost to produce inflation adjusted? What the deprecated value of it is? What the deprecated value of it is minus disposal costs? Is it what a replacement would cost?

If anything I think much of the aid has been financially overvalued to a ridiculous degree for optics reasons and now the accounting valuation may change as the optics or political viability of appropriating funds for sending aid change.

Newly produced munitions is hard to change how you valuate it though, it costs what it costs.

El Salvador

While some activists for democracy have been worried by President Bukele looking increasingly nearer to taking an unprecedented second term, he maintains substantial support from the population as well as, uh, bitcoin enthusiasts:

With President Nayib Bukele’s re-election date less than three months away, Bitcoin is seeing continued increases in institutional support within El Salvador, suggesting a strong foundation for the country’s experiment with Bitcoin as legal tender…

Although these two years [since switching from the US dollar to Bitcoin] have been marked by growing pains, many clear signs now exist that El Salvador’s new economic model is gaining acceptance in the broader world economy. For instance, the S&P upgraded the nation’s credit rating in November, citing consistent efforts to manage its debt obligations and overall economic stability. A major boost to this growing stability has been Bitcoin and its new opportunities, as tourism has massively increased with visitors from the US alone doubling since Bukele first took office. Bukele’s administration credits Bitcoin with this success, with Vice President Ulloa calling it the “driving force” of the “rebirth of the country." The data seems to bear this out, as El Salvador has become popular with foreign full-time residents in addition to tourists, due to the ease of using bitcoin in daily life.

Also, El Salvador has now agreed to begin levying substantial fines of $1,130 on travelers coming from Africa and India. Coincidentally, this is exactly the kind of action the US has been requesting of Central America, coming at a time when Bukele doesn’t want too much US criticism of his constitutionally murky candidacy in the election in three months:

El Salvador’s aviation authority said most passengers who have to pay the fee are headed to Nicaragua on the commercial airline Avianca. Because of its lax visa requirements, Nicaragua is a transit point for migrants from Haiti and Cuba, as well as from Africa, who are trying to reach the U.S.

A U.S. embassy spokesperson declined to say whether the U.S. had requested the fee. But the ability to help the U.S. control migration could be a political boon for El Salvador President Nayib Bukele as he seeks reelection despite a constitutional prohibition and faces scrutiny for his human rights record…

While the Biden administration has said Central American nations “ need to step up and do more” to control migration, not all of them have received the request with open arms.

“Most governments have recognized that what is of clear interest to the United States is migration and so therefore it becomes a bargaining chip,” said Pamela Ruiz, Central America analyst for International Crisis Group. “They will either become partners or adversaries on this issue.”


When the military of Mali overthrew the government and expelled the French and the UJN, they left themselves with only a bare bones, tatterdemalion military, working together with the Wagner Group at times, to fight the resurgent Taureg insurgency in the north, which I’ve covered in the past here. Observers, including me, predicted they would lose control of the situation. However, they actually seem to be making progress:

Mali’s military has seized control of the northern town of Kidal, marking the first time the army has held the Tuareg rebel stronghold in nearly a decade, state broadcaster ORTM reported Tuesday…

Soldiers from Mali’s army, accompanied by mercenaries from Russian military contractor Wagner, have been battling Tuareg fighters for several days in an effort to take control of the town following the departure of United Nations peacekeepers two weeks ago.


The Guardian touches on Germany’s rough economic period:

Industrial production has fallen for five straight months and is more than 7% below its pre-pandemic levels. The International Monetary Fund expects Germany to be the weakest economy in the G7 group of leading rich nations this year, and the only one to see output fall…

After shrinking this year between July and September there was a good chance, according to Brzeski, of a similarly weak performance in the final three months of 2023. Those two consecutive quarters of contraction would leave the economy in a technical recession.

Germany has managed to find alternative sources of energy to make up for the loss of Russian gas from the Ukraine war but it has been more expensive. Energy-intensive sectors such as chemicals have been particularly hard hit.

There have been other adverse shocks. Germany’s strong export performance in the years running up to the pandemic was in part due to strong demand from China, which has now moderated. Meanwhile, its motor industry is being attacked on two fronts – from cheap Chinese electric cars, and from the incentives provided by Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act for low-carbon manufacturing to migrate to the US.

Also, @Southkraut has covered Die Linke’s former leader Sahra Wagenknecht leaving to form a more immigration skeptical party. She brought nine other lawmakers with her, but apparently they hadn’t formally stepped down from their seats to allow Die Linke to replace them. On Tuesday the beleaguered and divided Die Linke has announced that they see no path forward and will now dissolve their caucus. In the last election they had 4.9% of the vote (39/736 seats) and will be unlikely to win enough to gain seats in the next election. However, the party will continue to exist and work in the state governments it participates in. It’s unclear what exactly the future holds.

Following the trend of I guess everyone becoming more immigration skeptical, the governing CDU [edit: coalition of the SPD, Greens, and FDP] has announced more immigration controls, apparently against the wishes of their coalition partner the Greens:

Stricter measures to deal with a large number of migrants arriving in Germany have been agreed by the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and state leaders, as NGOs criticised Italy’s plans to create centres in Albania to accommodate asylum seekers.

After a marathon session of talks in Berlin that continued into the early hours of Tuesday, Scholz said the measures would help speed up asylum procedures, restrict social benefits for migrants, and provide more federal funding for local communities.

You mean the governing SPD, surely?

Laziness on my part - I even read a piece recently on the CDU victories in state elections describing them as the opposition party. I looked up the German government but saw they were the largest party, pattern matched that to Scholz having high profile roles in Merkel's governments, and assumed away the rest. All I can say in my defense is apparently our resident German was as surprised as I am!

Surprised by how easily I missed it! I won't have it said that I didn't know which parties formed the current government - their election and their actions were of significant impact on my life through pandemic measures and housing market, and I have spent many hours facepalming over their misdeeds.

Has their rule policy-wise just not been very different from the previous governments?

Not much, no, they were both middle-of-the road establishment governments, both with SPD involvement, only one with the conservative CDU and the other with the Greens and liberal FDP on board. So naturally the previous government was a bit slower overall, whereas the current one accelerated the timetable for various progressive doodads like trans rights and climate projects, until they suddenly found out that the FDP isn't there just for show and that little yellow party is currently telling everyone else to stop wasting taxpayer money. Fun to watch. But really, in the end nobody's rocking the boat, and the boat of Germany is big and bureaucratically overloaded and sits low in the water and is slow to turn. There's nothing revolutionary to expect.

Interesting, thanks for the expanded detail.

How did I miss that? I guess we had such a long stretch of CDU governance under Mutti Merkel, it just became second nature to assume that they're always in charge and whatever interlude is happening at present isn't a real government.

Additionally, for Germany:

Last year, the governing coalition retroactively repurposed funds amounting to 60 billion €, originally meant to compensate for damages caused by the COVID pandemic, from the 2021 budget to fund various climate measures. Yesterday, the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerG) ruled that this was an unconstitutional breach of the Debt Brake (Schuldenbremse), which was meant to strictly limit state spending to prevent the accumulation of greater debt. The court found that the government had not provided sufficient justification for in how far spending on climate would offset the negative consequences of the pandemic, such justification being required by the Debt Brake clause of the constitution.

The Left is now calling for the Debt Brake to be removed altogether because money is a spook (*), the Greens want it to become more flexible since to them the justification is good enough, the liberal FDP and conservative CDU call it Working As Intended, and to be honest I don't know what the others said so far.

(*) My words. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

As always, the BVerG is a bit of a wild card. I haven't heard of anyone having predicted this, and the last time they were big in the news was when they rubber-stamped (or duly supported, depending on your point of view) whatever the government did in the name of pandemic measures.


I’ve covered before how Armenia went from being a quasi-Russian protectorate to eventually moving from the camp. In the 2020 war Russia did little to back Armenia up; after the Ukrainian invasion Armenia condemned Russia, joined the International Criminal Court which indicted Putin, canceled joint Russian military drills, and even started doing military drills with the US. When the most recent invasion happened Russia of course did nothing. The most recent update and perhaps final step in Armenia leaving the Russian orbit is Armenia this week formally announcing that they will not attend the Russian-led Collective Treaty Security Organization summit, which normally includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and, in theory, Armenia.

Of course, the United States didn’t really back Armenia up in NK either, so they’re left to deal with their unruly neighbor on their own. Rather than choose to continue to fight, they chose instead the route of peace. Both leaders have now said a diplomatic treaty between them is very near to finalized. Armenia has, unsurprisingly, rejected Russia’s offer to broker the deal.

Separately, Armenia has now signed on to a deal that does involve Russia - a transit trade agreement with the former two countries as well as Iran, Syria, and Turkmenistan. The North-South transport corridor has been a project Iran has wanted for some time now, but that in theory was intended to pass through Azerbaijan, so it will be interesting to see what future it has in light of the conflict - clearly the impacted countries are all still interested!


The war between the Bamar military junta of Myanmar and their one trillion ethnic secessionist groups has been waging forever, but a twist in the past two years has changed the power dynamic quite a bit - several of the rebel groups have been for the first time working together. For the first time in a while it seems like the military is on the defensive from multiple angles:

Myanmar’s military government faced a fresh challenge Monday when one of the armed ethnic groups in an alliance that recently gained strategic territory in the country’s northeast launched attacks in the western state of Rakhine.

The Arakan Army launched surprise assaults on two outposts of the Border Guard Police, a paramilitary force, in Rakhine’s Rathedaung township, according to independent online media and area residents. The attacks took place despite a yearlong cease-fire with Myanmar’s military government…

The offensive in the northern part of Shan state was already seen as a significant challenge for the army, which has struggled to contain a nationwide uprising by the members of Peoples’ Defense Force. The pro-democracy resistance organization was formed after the army seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021. It also set up loose alliances with several of the ethnic armed groups.

“If combat persists, it will open a significant new front for the regime, which is already overstretched with fighting, including on its eastern border with China,” Richard Horsey, the senior adviser on Myanmar for the Crisis Group think tank, said in an emailed statement.

This comes on the Heels of the United Nations releasing a grim retrospective on the conflict:

About 90,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar due to the intensifying conflict between the country’s military rulers and an alliance of ethnic armed groups, the United Nations said.

“As of 9 November, almost 50,000 people in northern Shan were forced into displacement,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on Friday.

A further 40,000 people have been displaced by clashes between the military and its opponents in neighbouring Sagaing region and Kachin state since early November, OCHA added…

On Thursday, Myint Swe, appointed as Myanmar’s president after the coup, told a national defence and security council meeting in the country that “if the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts”.