The Week That Was #4

Foreign Policy Brief #170 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | February 16, 2023

Header photo taken from: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times




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A new series to catch you up on the top stories that occurred around the world last week.

Interactive Turkey Syria Earthquake MAPPING DESTRUCTION 07 1

Screenshot taken from: Al Jazeera

Turkey & Syria Earthquakes

Last week two powerful magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes struck both Turkey and Syria causing widespread destruction and loss of life. The earthquakes have been called the worst natural disaster of the century by the World Health Organization. The death toll currently stands at more than 40,000 between the two countries, with another 100,000 people hospitalized, and millions homeless. Rescue teams continue to search for any remaining survivors in the mountains of rubble, but efforts have turned more towards recovery than rescue. 

Dozens of countries have sent aid into Turkey, where currently more than 200,000 national and international relief workers are present. Aid however has been slower to reach Syria which is still embroiled in civil war. International sanctions have made it so relief is not able to enter into the country in many cases, and Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad has been resistant to allow aid to reach areas controlled by opposition forces. 

Syria has already been facing a massive humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced due to war and the destruction brought about by the earthquake will exacerbate the already dire situation within the country. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticized for his response to the natural disaster, recently he made statements attempting to reassure a country that was already suffering from economic hardship before the quake struck. “Nobody should have any doubt: This nation overcame many disasters, we will overcome this one, too”, he said.

Security in the Asia-Pacific

The leaders of Japan and the Philippines met last week and agreed to increase defense alliances in response to both countries’ worries of an expanding Chinese influence in the region. 

The defense arrangement signed by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will allow Japanese troops greater access to Philippine territory. 

The countries will also hold joint training exercises to help respond to the growing number of natural disasters and humanitarian needs due to extreme weather events brought on by climate change. Philippine President Marcos’s agreement with Japan comes shortly after US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin reached an agreement with the Philippines, allowing the US more access to the countries’ military bases.

During the same week North Korea held a military parade where it showed off its largest new missiles. The ceremony featured its new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

ca times.brightspotcdn
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida conclude their joint press remarks after their talks at prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan.

Photo taken from: Kimimasa Mayama / Associated Press

(click or tap to enlargen)

North Korea’s military parades are closely watched by foreign governments and experts as they often feature newly developed weapons that it intends to test or deploy. 


Pyongyang says its weapons development programmes fall under its sovereign right to self-defense, and are necessary because of aggressive policies and actions towards it by the United States and allies like South Korea and Japan.

Brazilian Amazon Deforestation Drops for the First Time in Years

An aerial view of a boundary demarcation area at the Arara Indigenous reserve during an operation to combat deforestation near Uruara, Para State, Brazil.

Photo taken from: Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped by 61% in the first month of 2023, which can in large part be accredited to left-leaning President Luiz Lula da Silva. Experts caution that while the decrease in deforestation is a good sign it’s still too early to celebrate. Deforestation decreased but has not stopped, satellite data collected by the space research agency Inpe showed that 64 miles of forest were cleared last month, though that’s down from the 166 miles lost in January 2022. 

The large-scale deforestation experienced throughout the last few years occurred under the watch and encouragement of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro who allowed incursions into indigenous territory to mine for resources. Brazil, now under its new government, has launched raids against the illegal gold miners who are responsible for the humanitarian crisis in the country’s largest Indigenous reservation. 

For years, Yanomami Indigenous leaders have said the expansion of illegal mining into their territories was causing widespread environmental degradation, violence, and disease and action is now finally being carried out to assist in the humanitarian and environmental emergency.

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