Xpat Weekly Update: The 5 Most Important Global Stories This Week

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1. Apple Phone Encryption and the FBI

Apple appealed a court order demanding it provide a “back door” that would allow the FBI to break into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Apple’s current refusal to provide the technical assistance sets up a crucial confrontation between the U.S. government and private industry over the latter’s obligation to serve as a tool of government to bypass security measures, instituted in many cases to protect the privacy of the public. Unless the FBI backs down, the case will almost certainly find its way to the Supreme Court, with far-reaching global effects.

Juan Cole

2. Is There Any Stopping Donald Trump?

The Republican establishment is reeling from what a Telegraph columnist call “a celebrity Godzilla with a bad hairdo.” Is there any way to halt Donald Trump’s advance? The short answer appears to be “no.” Trump continues to rack up primary victories enroute to becoming the Republican nominee for president; in his most recent victory in the Nevada caucuses, Trump pulled in more votes than the second and third place finishers’ added together.

Trump previously won in New Hampshire and South Carolina, with a strong finish in Iowa. His message appears to be one of angry populism, with frightening calls to racism and hate, that is resonating with America’s displaced middle class. And if he is the nominee against Clinton, can she beat him?

The Telegraph

3. Russia Pulls Back From Cooperating With U.S. on Afghanistan

America’s 14+ year war in Afghanistan continues to flounder in a slow death spiral. Among the bad news this week were statements from Russia that the nation would no longer support American efforts against the Taliban, choosing instead a combination of diplomacy and garrisoning their own borders against the spread of Islamic fundamentalists.

The Taliban, meanwhile, continues to mark battlefield successes against the U.S.-trained and equipped Afghan army. The Taliban now controls most of Helmand Province, with the Afghan military in retreat there and elsewhere. Having recently shut down electricity to large portions of Kabul for several days, the Taliban slipped away only after a combined U.S.-Afghan operation.

New York Times

4. Obama Going to Cuba; First Visit by U.S. President in 88 Years

Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba in 88 years, when he visits Havana in March. The visit is another significant step by the administration in its ongoing efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Obama, perhaps in light of his policies’ near complete failure in the Middle East, is increasingly focused on leaving relations with Cuba as his foreign policy legacy. The visit, however, will not be without controversy, and irony, as Obama is expected to lecture the Castro regime on its human rights failings, albeit on the same island where the United States maintains its indefinite detention, offshore penal colony, at Guantanamo.


5. U.S. Scrambles to Hold Anti-Islamic State Coalition Together

After the deadly bombing in the Turkish capital of Ankara, and Turkish shelling of Kurdish forces in retaliation, the U.S. is now scrambling to keep two key members of its coalition against the Islamic State from going to war with each other.

For several months, the U.S. government has struggled to manage the competing interests of Turkey, a NATO ally, and the Kurds, whose priority is to expand their territory and autonomy. The American dream is for both to focus their efforts solely on destroying Islamic State, a goal largely against the self-interests of both groups. Any further Turkish-Kurd violence threatens the region with a WWI-like implosion.


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