Globe Trot A summary of international news compiled by senior editor Mindy Belz

UN vote on Israel caps combative year for U.S. on world stage

International | Plus, WORLD’s senior editor picks the top 10 Globe Trot stories of 2017
by Mindy Belz
Posted 12/22/17, 04:59 pm

UNITED NATIONS: Eight countries joined the United States in voting against a resolution to condemn it for its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—a combative chapter closing a combative year for the United States on the world stage. In the vote, 35 countries abstained, including leading U.S. allies Canada and Australia, and 128 voted in favor, including most European nations and Great Britain. In many ways the UN action could be viewed as consistent, or at least expected, given that multiple UN resolutions on Jerusalem as a city with international jurisdiction remain on the books. But the body’s long-standing anti-Israel bias has prevented overturning them and recognizing Israel as a sovereign nation.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley gave a strident speech, saying the U.S. decision neither precludes a two-state solution nor attempts to settle Jerusalem’s boundaries. She threatened to cut aid to the UN and countries that voted against the United States.

The top 10 Globe Trot stories of 2017

1. IRAQ: The country’s liberation from Islamic State (ISIS)—after the terror group controlled one-third of its territory and threatened to establish a global caliphate there in 2014—leads the international news stories for 2017. The nine-month battle that formally ended in victory in July often was fought door to door. It represented for Iraq and its U.S.-led coalition forces a new level of urban fighting—and devastation: More than 60,000 homes were destroyed and about 10,000 civilians died in Mosul alone.

2. CHINA: At the National Party Congress in October, President Xi Jinping announced a “new era” 36 times in his keynote speech—dominated by Xi himself and characterized by a continued hard line on civil society and dissidents. Xi’s political ideology is now required learning in all schools. The new era includes an increased crackdown on human rights, highlighted by the closure of leading underground churches, fines for Christian activity, and the August death of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

3. EUROPE: One year after Britain voted to leave the European Union, friction and turmoil in the EU escalated. In March, British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered Article 50, beginning formal separation to culminate in 2019. In October, separatists in Catalonia declared independence from Spain, launching unrest and financial crisis as pro-independence parties won a narrow majority in a Catalan election in December. Poland, too, faced off with its neighbors as EU leaders condemned its judiciary reform measures.

4. RUSSIA: The ongoing flap over how the Kremlin may have intervened in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is not a top story on the global scene, but Russia’s aggression is. The Trump White House named Russia a “revisionist” power seeking to upend global order in its December national security strategy paper. And for the first time since Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the United States announced new sanctions against Russia and approved the sale of defensive weapons to resist incursions by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, where 1.7 million people have been displaced. Besides testing its own borders, Russia also regularly violates NATO airspace in the Baltics and has tested “deconfliction” zones it helped to establish in Syria in a scary encounter with American F-22s this month.

5. NORTH KOREA: A war of threats and insults between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump (“Why would Kim Jong Un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’” Trump tweeted last month) escalated all year, along with the Kim regime’s ability to do real damage. In a November test launch, North Korea fired an entirely new intercontinental missile capable of striking Washington, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster warned that the potential for war with North Korea is “increasing every day.”

6. SAUDI ARABIA: The emergence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds the potential to shake up an Arab world long ruled by octogenarians. The 32-year-old was behind announced reforms that include allowing women to drive for the first time, allowing movie theaters to open, and reopening one church (as a museum). But Salman also showed his capacity for crackdown in a November roundup of 11 princes, including some of the world’s leading billionaires, in a move to consolidate power under the guise of fighting corruption.

7. TURKEY: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued moving his NATO-member country toward hard-line Islamism, taking a leading role in the UN General Assembly’s December resolution against the United States and vowing to teach it “a good lesson.” Human toll: Turkey wants to jail NBA rebounder Enes Kanter, who is Turkish, for insulting Erdogan, and it likely will not be releasing American Ppastor Andrew Brunson, now facing his second Christmas in jail, anytime soon.

8. VENEZUELA: With the largest proven oil reserves in the world, the country’s ruin in the wake of a socialist revolution promised by Hugo Chavez is the heartbreak of the year. After tracking 21 public hospitals for five months, The New York Times reported at year end, “The mortality rate for children under 4 weeks old had increased a hundredfold.”

9. NEW ARCTIC: In its 2017 report, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the Arctic shows “no signs” of returning to the reliably frozen region of recent past decades. Climate change believers and skeptics continue to debate the role of human activity in the region’s above-normal temperatures, while others deal with new realities in what scientists are calling the New Arctic: maritime safety in its increasingly passable waters and changing conditions for seabirds and other wildlife dependent on the region.

10. MIGRANTS: Desperate escapes and migrant flows haven’t stopped amid the year’s ongoing global turbulence. Arrivals via unsafe sea rafts topped 160,000 as of Dec. 17, while migrant deaths at sea topped 3,000 as victims of turmoil continue to seek ways out of North and West Africa (most from Nigeria) and Syria.

VIETNAM: You will remember Kim Phuc Phan Thi as the “Napalm Girl,” from the 1972 photo of her fleeing, naked, Vietnam atrocities. This Christmas she wants the world to know she is still undergoing treatments for her burns, but “my heart is healed.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR! Globe Trot returns Jan. 3, 2018.

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Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.

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