Here are the main events in Politics that occurred over the past week:
1. Push to Repeal “Obamacare” Resumes in the Senate
On September 13, the efforts to repeal The Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) in the Senate resumed after a two-month hiatus. The new repeal effort has thus far been led by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). The overall details of the bill have been somewhat sketchy thus far, but several provisions of the bill have come to light in recent days. The main change would be to turn control over the healthcare exchange market to individual states by setting up block grant that states could use to develop any health-care system it wants. This approach would be beneficial to the states that rejected the Medicaid expansion provision of the ACA. Additionally. the proposal would scrap the individual mandate component of the ACA and place new restrictions on federal funding for women’s health organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
The reaction to the proposal by Senators Graham and Cassidy has been mixed thus far. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have endorsed the plan and pledge to do all in their power to see that it become law. Additionally, several Republican Senators opposed to the previous efforts to repeal the ACA such as John McCain (R-AZ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have signaled a willingness to support this most recent effort. On the other hand, the recent repeal effort has been met with universal opposition by members of the Democratic Party, who correctly point out that any changes to the existing healthcare system will negatively impact low and middle-income Americans and worsen income inequality. Moreover, several Republican Senators such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke out against the plan as well, arguing that it does not go far enough in reducing government involvement in the healthcare system. It can be argued that the Graham-Cassidy healthcare reform proposal might stand a good chance of passing assuming that several of the more moderate Democratic Senators such as Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) sign on in support.
2. Tensions With North Korea On The Rise
The ongoing tensions between the US and North Korea continued to rise this week. On September 14, North Korea flew a ballistic missile over Japan for the second time this month. The missile flew about 3,500 km before splashing down far out into the Pacific Ocean. Much like with the earlier test, the Japanese government condemned the launch and vowed to work closely with its allies such as the US and South Korea to contain the regime and place additional pressures in order to convince it to change its policies. It is widely considered that the recent test was in response to the passage of tough sanctions resolution against North Korea by the UN Security Council on September 11. The new sanctions directly target the North Korean economic sector by banning all textile exports to the country and restricting shipments of oil products to North Korea.
3. Oppression Against Rohingya Muslims Continues
The ongoing genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar continued unabated this week. The Rohingya’s are a Muslim sect that practices a form of Sunni Islam and have lived in Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest states, for hundreds of years. Violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar is part of a “longstanding pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization” that have persisted since the early 1960s and has been encouraged in part by the government of Myanmar. For example, the Myanmar government denies the Rohingya citizenship, restricts interfaith marriages between the Rohingya and non-Rohingya residents of the country, and has a strict family planning policy limiting the reproductive rights of Rohingya Muslim women. The most recent incident began with a supposed attack on a Myanmar military base by a group affiliated with the Rohingya community. In response, the Myanmar government launched a major purge against the Rohingya community that has thus far resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of some 400,000.
The international community has reacted with universal condemnation of the recent campaign against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Several Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey urged the government of Myanmar to stop the bloodshed and end all discriminatory acts against the Rohingya Muslims. Perhaps the strongest condemnations against the Myanmar government came from Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran. In a speech on September 12, Khamenei urged the international community to “exert political and economic pressure on Myanmar’s “cruel” government to make it stop a deadly crackdown on minority Rohingya Muslims.” Surprisingly, US President Donald Trump has been silent on the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, which has bolstered the perception that President Trump is indifferent to human rights abuses at the global level.
4. Referendum For The Creation Of An Independent Kurdish State Gains Support
The proposed referendum for the creation of an independent Kurdish state based on the borders of the Iraqi Kurdistan region picked up some steam on September 13 with the endorsement of the proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Kurds are a non-Arab ethnic group located in several mountainous areas in the Middle East such as Southwestern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Northwestern Iran, Northern Syria, and parts of Lebanon. The Kurds have historically been a stateless group that has faced much oppression from regional powers, most notably Iraq under Saddam Hussien. In recent years, the Kurdish people gained some degree of autonomy with the creation of an autonomous region in Northern Iraq in 2005. The leadership of Kurdistan hopes to gain recognition as an official nation with a referendum on September 25. Despite the aspirations of the Kurdish people to create their own state, several countries such as the US, Iran, Turkey, and Iraq have come out against the referendum, arguing that any major territorial changes will only serve to upset the balance of power in the Middle East and embolden extremist groups such as ISIS.
It can be argued that the Israeli government is a supporter of the establishment of a Kurdish state for several reasons. Arguably the main reason is that the establishment of a Kurdish state will directly serve Israel’s nefarious agenda by weakening two of its major adversaries in the region, Iran and Syria, through the establishment of a country with favorable ties to Israel within their proximity. Additionally, the Israeli and Kurdish people have had a close political relationship since the 1960s, which may translate into increased support on the international stage for Israeli policies and may shield Israel from expanded criticism against its destructive regional policies.