The coronavirus dominates news coverage around the world, including at The Battalion – and rightly so. However, the world has not entirely stopped, and some critical events have happened over the past week and have largely flown under the radar.
Persian Gulf incident highlights United States-Iran tensions
Tensions have increased yet again between the United States and Iran, with video from April 15 showing Iranian fast boats approaching American ships in the Persian Gulf, sometimes coming dangerously close to the vessels. Eleven Iranian vessels – part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Navy – made what the U.S. Navy called “dangerous and harassing” maneuvers, including coming within 10 meters of a Coast Guard ship. Iran called American actions “unprofessional and provocative” but did not release any videos or evidence that contradicted American claims.
An already rocky relationship between the United States and Iran became even more tense in January 2020 after an American drone strike killed Qassem Soleimani, an IRGC general, commander of its special forces, and one of the most influential people in Iran. Iranian retaliation was minimal, but these incidents, plus disagreement over Iranian nuclear programs, have created cause for concern about another potential conflict in the Middle East.
Controversial attempt at a peace deal in the Balkans
Efforts to reach an agreement to establish recognition and normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo have ramped up over recent months, with the American Special Envoy to the region, Ambassador Richard Grenell, leading the push. Kosovo, which is majority ethnic-Albanian, was formerly part of Serbia but became independent in 1999 after NATO intervention in a brutal conflict. The United States and over 100 countries recognize its independence, but Serbia still considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory.
Both countries aspire to join the European Union, and a normalization of relations is a precondition to that aspiration. However, there is concern over whether this recent American push will produce an acceptable resolution, as many see it as heavily favoring Serbia – even though the United States has long been Kosovo’s most vocal proponent. Critics charge that the Trump administration is attempting to broker a deal before the November election in an attempt to get a foreign policy win while disregarding America’s traditional positions.
Shooting rampage in Canada
Canada experienced its worst-ever mass shooting over the weekend, as at least 16 people were killed in the province of Nova Scotia. The gunman, a middle-aged man with an intense obsession with the police, went on a rampage in a fake police car and police uniform. Aside from his profession – denturist – little is publicly known about the man or his motives. The murders occurred in several rural communities across the province. They ended in a shootout with police at a gas station near the suburbs of Halifax, the province’s capital. Because of the dispersed nature of the crime, the final death toll is not yet confirmed, and could still rise. Initial statements from the police indicate that the attack was planned. However, it is not known if anyone or anything was an intended target.