Biden vows to ‘break cycle of war and destruction’ in dramatic appeal to UN

Biden vows to ‘break cycle of war and destruction’ in dramatic appeal to UN
Biden told the international body: “Our collective future means we must break the cycle of war and destruction.” (AP)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Biden vows to ‘break cycle of war and destruction’ in dramatic appeal to UN

Biden vows to ‘break cycle of war and destruction’ in dramatic appeal to UN
  • US leader’s message gets mixed response as Washington faces growing rivalry for global dominance

NEW YORK: In what could prove to be his most important moment on the world stage to date, US President Joe Biden stood before the UN General Assembly in New York to declare an end to two decades of war, and a recalibration of US resources toward issues such as climate change, technology and infrastructure development.

In his first address to the UN General Assembly as president, Biden emphasized a list of policy priorities that also included preparations for the next pandemic and greater efforts to combat global warming.

However, the US president faces serious challenges in his bid to convince world leaders that foreign policy under his helm seeks greater global partnerships.

The reception to Biden’s message has been mixed at best, with the speech overshadowed by the chaos of the Afghanistan withdrawal, which drew significant criticism from allies who believe they were not properly consulted.

Biden told the international body: “Our collective future means we must break the cycle of war and destruction. Now we must again come together to affirm the inherent humanity that unites us is more than outward disagreements. We must be prepared for the next pandemic and climate change.”

He declared that the US has “turned a page” and for the first time in 20 years is not at war. Biden declared that there would be no “new cold war” for national resources to be marshaled on and said that the nation is looking at “what’s ahead of us, not what is behind.”

Biden’s message to the world and to America’s competitors comes at a time when serious questions hang over the ability and willingness of his administration to work in tandem with traditional allies and regional partners.

The US leader sought to lay out a new paradigm for America’s place in the world, saying: “We will lead with the power of our example, not just the example of our power. We will defend ourselves, including against terror threats, and we will use force as necessary. The mission must be clear and achievable, and taken under consent of the American people and whenever possible with our allies. Using military power should be the last resort. The America of 2021 is not the country it was in the immediate wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.”

But there have been grumblings over whether the US is prepared to seriously shift focus toward “big power” competition with near-peer competitors.

The administration is facing a particularly turbulent few months of foreign policy challenges that have been viewed with concern by America’s partners across the globe. From Afghanistan to the diplomatic imbroglio with France, and pulling out key US defense systems from the Middle East, Biden’s foreign policy has raised alarm bells in key world capitals.

Complicating efforts to shift focus to a sweeping new vision for foreign affairs, Biden’s approval ratings are the lowest since the start of his presidency, with an average of 46 percent of respondents approving and 50 percent disapproving.

Many allied capitals have privately grumbled that former president Trump and his foreign policy team were, in fact, more keen to consult and coordinate with them behind the scenes compared with Biden. “America First” may have been Trump’s most recognizable campaign and governing slogan, but analysts and diplomats in Europe and elsewhere view Biden as continuing rather than repudiating his predecessor’s foreign policy approach on a number of sensitive multilateral issues.

The lofty ideals of Biden’s “build back better world” blueprint, which he attempted to rally world leaders to to collectively work toward, are likely to ultimately clash with China’s competing vision for global governance.

Prof. Brenda Shaffer, a senior adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Arab News that “If the US was really interested in limiting China’s actions, it would not have given up a base in Bagram next to Xinjian. In recent decades, every administration comes in and says it is going to focus on major powers and not engage in nation-building, and every administration in the end continues in its nation-building attempts.”

She added: “Washington is likely to focus at the UN on issues of broad international agreement that all support on the rhetorical level — climate change, energy transition, eradicating poverty, justice, etc.”

Biden’s speech emphasized that with the Afghanistan war supposedly behind it, the US must treat climate change and the pandemic as the new national priorities.

According to Shaffer, the administration’s emphasis on climate change diplomacy “puts China in an excellent position. China just needs to agree to some goal to be implemented well down the road, and in exchange for this can get a real strategic concession from Washington.”

And while Biden stressed that the US must continue to support democracy and repudiate authoritarian systems, it is unclear whether the US is ideally positioned to counter a resurgent China that seeks to make its own mark on the international stage, particularly in the developing world.

According to Matthew Kroenig, of Georgetown University, “China presents a comprehensive threat to the rules-based international system, including in international institutions. China has gained influence within institutions with the purpose of undermining these bodies’ founding mission. China vetoes UN Security Council resolutions that are contrary to its interests, prevents the WHO from conducting an adequate investigation into the pandemic’s origins, and blocks the UNHRC from taking action on the genocide in Xinjiang. I would like to see Biden articulate this challenge from Beijing and for him to call on responsible powers to come together to address the threat.”

Biden’s policy ethos has the US sharing a common responsibility with the international community to find new ways to end conflict, and “break the cycle of war and destruction.”

That may be easier said than done. Disrupting such a cycle will require a clear-eyed approach that takes into account domestic considerations as well.

Kroenig said: “The major shift in US strategy toward great power competition and away from terrorism and insurgency happened in the Trump administration, but Biden is continuing this trajectory. Whereas Trump focused heavily on competition and confrontation, Biden is attempting a more balanced approach that includes, first, strengthening the US at home, and, second, seeking engagement with China on common challenges, like climate change.”

Biden urged the international community to “get to work” on the common tasks ahead to make a better world for all. Competition with China is increasingly likely to heat up on a number of fronts, regardless of the US leader’s intent to seek dialogue rather than confrontation. Biden said that the US and the international community now stand at an “inflection point” and must decide how the world can “come together to affirm the inherent humanity that unites us.”

Looking beyond the nobility of such a goal, many of America’s traditional allies will still wonder whether Biden’s administration will live up to the grand ideals and sweeping calls for improving lives across the world, or whether his speech will become a footnote in a line of foreign policy blunders.


Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
Updated 6 sec ago

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
  • Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand
  • Each pill is estimated to cost between $1.97 and $2.96
MANILA: The Philippines will receive 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s COVID-19 antiviral drug next month, licensed importers and distributors said on Wednesday, as Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand.
Singapore and Malaysia have signed deals to buy the drug, Molnupiravir, while Indonesia is finalizing a purchase agreement, among a slew of orders after data from interim clinical trials showed the pills could halve the likelihood of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe COVID-19.
“Molnupiravir can now be accessed by our countrymen upon being prescribed for such use by their respective physicians,” Monaliza Salian, president of MedEthix, a Philippine health care products importer, told a news conference.
MedEthix will import 300,000 courses of Molnupiravir for COVID-19 patients in four hospitals, she added. The shipment will be the first batch of the drug to arrive in the Philippines.
Each pill is estimated to cost 100 to 150 pesos ($1.97 to $2.96), said Meneleo Hernandez, president of pharmaceutical firm JackPharma, which will distribute the drug locally.
The Philippines has approved the “compassionate use” of Molnupiravir for 31 hospitals, Food and Drug Administration Chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said on Wednesday.
Molnupiravir would be the world’s first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval.
The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,218 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day tally in more than five months. It has so far fully inoculated roughly 26 million of its 110 million population.
With nearly 2.77 million cases and more than 42,300 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
  • Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Unidentified gunmen attacked a police patrol overnight in northwest Pakistan, killing four before fleeing the scene, a police official said Wednesday.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack in Lakki Marwat, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Police official Umar Khan said a search operation for the culprits was still underway.
Khan provided no further details and only said the funeral of slain officers was held Wednesday morning.
Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years, most of which have been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and the Daesh group. Both organizations have been emboldened by Taliban resurgence in neighboring Afghanistan, where Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border.


Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
Updated 27 October 2021

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
  • Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials

TOKYO: Japan strongly condemned the Sudanese security and armed forces’ actions of detaining prime minister Hamdok and other senior government officials and opening fire on the anti-military demonstrators, leaving many casualties.

“The government of Japan is deeply concerned about Sudan’s situation and condemns dissolving the Transitional Government by the arms forces,” an official statement by the foreign ministry said. “Such actions undermine the transition to civilian rule based on the Constitutional Declaration.”

Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials.

“Japan closely cooperates with the international community and calls for the restoration of transition to civilian rule in Sudan,” the statement said.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
Updated 27 October 2021

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
  • Since the pandemic began, Poland has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths

Poland reported 8,361 daily COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths on Wednesday, the health ministry said.
Since the pandemic began Poland, a country of around 38 million, has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths.


India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
Updated 27 October 2021

India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
  • India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Wednesday established a committee of experts to look into accusations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government used Israeli military-grade spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists and activists.
The Supreme Court order came in response to petitions filed by a group of Indian journalists, rights activists and opposition politicians following an investigation by a global media consortium in July. The committee, headed by a retired judge, is expected to give its findings by year-end.
India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India.
Modi’s government has “unequivocally” denied all allegations regarding illegal surveillance. India’s information technology minister Ashwani Vaishnaw in Parliament dismissed the allegations in July, calling them “highly sensational,” “over the top” and “an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.”
But the government in an affidavit did not tell the court whether it used the Israeli equipment for spying, citing security reasons.
On Wednesday, the court said the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising security concerns.
“Violation of the right to privacy, freedom of speech, as alleged in pleas, needs to be examined,” the Press Trust of India cited Chief Justice N.V. Ramanna as saying.
Based on leaked targeting data, the findings by a global media consortium provided evidence that the spyware from the Israel-based NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company, was allegedly used to infiltrate devices belonging to a range of targets, including journalists, activists and political opponents in 50 countries.
The company said in July it only sells to “vetted government agencies” for use against terrorists and major criminals and that it has no visibility into its customers’ data.
Critics call those claims dishonest and have provided evidence that NSO directly manages the high-tech spying. They say the repeated abuse of Pegasus spyware highlights the nearly complete lack of regulation of the private global surveillance industry.
Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. In the case of journalists, that allows hackers to spy on reporters’ communications with sources.
Rights groups say the findings bolster accusations that not only autocratic regimes but also democratic governments, including India, have used the spyware for political ends.