Podcast / American Prestige / May 31, 2024

Strikes on Rafah, Long-Range Weapons in Ukraine, and a South Africa Election

On this news episode of American Prestige, headlines from around the globe.

The Nation Podcasts
The Nation Podcasts

Here's where to find podcasts from The Nation. Political talk without the boring parts, featuring the writers, activists and artists who shape the news, from a progressive perspective.

Strikes on Rafah, Long-Range Weapons in Ukraine, And A South Africa Election | American Prestige
byThe Nation Magazine

Danny and Derek are innocent, with news to boot. This week: in Gaza, Israeli bombs displaced Palestinians in tents (0:29) despite the ICJ ruling calling for a halt in that operation (4:36), global opinion on Palestine continues to shift (7:12), Egyptian-Israeli border clashes (13:59), and more; some developments regarding Iran’s nuclear program (18:19); a summit attended by representatives of China, South Korea, and Japan (22:35); the DPRK/North Korea has a failed satellite launch (25:55); an update on Sudan, namely the besieged city of El Fasher (27:56); the Burkina Faso military junta delays the transition to civilian control (29:54); in Ukraine news, Vladimir Putin hints at a ceasefire recognizing the current territorial status (34:22) while Antony Blinken hints at the US greenlighting Ukraine using American long-range weapons to strike Russia (36:09); in Mexico, a presidential election on Sunday (39:56) while Mexico City is on the verge of losing its water supply (41:59).

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Smoke billows following Israeli bombardment as displaced Palestinians move in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 31, 2024.

(Eyad Baba / AFP)

This week on American Prestige: In Gaza, Israeli bombs displaced Palestinians in tents (0:29), despite the ICJ ruling calling for a halt in that operation (4:36), global opinion on Palestine continues to shift (7:12), and there are clashes along the Egyptian-Israeli border (13:59); some developments emerge regarding Iran’s nuclear program (18:19); a summit is attended by representatives of China, South Korea, and Japan (22:35); the DPRK/North Korea has a failed satellite launch (25:55); we have an update on the besieged Sudanese city of El Fasher (27:56); the Burkina Faso military junta delays the transition to civilian control (29:54); Ukrainian President Vladimir Putin hints at a cease-fire recognizing the current territorial status (34:22), while Antony Blinken hints that the US may greenlight Ukraine’s using American long-range weapons to strike Russia (36:09); in Mexico, a presidential election will be held on Sunday (39:56), while Mexico City is on the verge of losing its water supply (41:59).

The Nation Podcasts
The Nation Podcasts

Here's where to find podcasts from The Nation. Political talk without the boring parts, featuring the writers, activists and artists who shape the news, from a progressive perspective.

Assassination And US Foreign Policy Since 1945 with Luca Trenta | American Prestige
byThe Nation Magazine

On this episode of American Prestige, Danny and Derek are pleased to welcome back to the podcast Luca Trenta, associate professor in International Relations at Swansea University and author of The President’s Kill List. The group discusses assassinations and international law, when and how assassination became a tool for US foreign policy, the difficulties in accessing declassified documents about this topic, the unsuccessful attempts on the life of Fidel Castro and successful operations against the likes of Osama Bin Laden and Patrice Lumumba, the intelligence community using assassination as a “low level” (i.e. not nuclear) form of retaliation in the Cold War, the contemporary justifications for assassinations as “self defense”, the notion of “imminence”, and more.

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This transcript was computer-generated and may contain errors.


Hello, Prestige Heads, and welcome to American Prestige.


I’m Danny Bessner,


here as always with my friend and comrade Derek Davison,


and we are excited to bring you the news.


Derek, let’s start with Gaza, and let’s start with the strike on Rafah and the fallout from said strike.


Yes, on Sunday, late Sunday, I believe, the Israelis carried out an airstrike


against what they said was a Hamas target in southern Gaza to the west of Rafah.


That airstrike…


caused a fire that swept through part of an encampment,


a tent encampment set up for people who had fled Rafah,


fled the Israeli assault on Rafah,


killed at least 45 people in very gruesome manner in many cases.


It has generated a new wave of international outrage in part, and we’ll get to this, but in part because


it took place two days after the international court of justice ordered the israeli


military to stop fighting in rafa to halt its operations so um you know it’s sort


of insult compounding you know compounding uh everything else


It’s hell on earth.


We went into the house and did not find anyone,


Fadi Dukan says,


when we checked over the wall and found a girl and a young man who had been cut


into pieces.


The Israelis, as I say, claim they were attacking a Hamas facility.


They say they killed two senior officials in Hamas in the strike.


They have since released evidence purportedly showing that they used weapons.






go figure,


but also smaller munitions,


smaller bombs that would indicate a targeted,


quote unquote,


targeted strike.


They’re claiming that what happened was they dropped these bombs.


on the hamas facility that should have just taken that facility out that somehow


this triggered a secondary explosion or explosions in perhaps a nearby ammunition


dump and those secondary explosions then were to direct led directly into the the


fire for the israelis it seems like they


want to say that this absolves them of blame for the fire rather than fixating


blame on them as the prime mover that caused the fire.


I don’t quite understand how the concept of cause and effect works in the Israeli military,


but to me,


it would indicate that they did cause the fire.


There’s been,


as I say,


a good deal of international outrage,


particularly in as much as these were people who were already displaced by the


Israeli operation in Rafah in the first place,


who had gone to Al-Malasi,


which is this coastal region near Rafah that the Israelis claim is safe.


They claim it’s a safe zone for people to evacuate to.


And they were killed anyway.


I mean, they were killed in this place.


They were attacked and killed in the following day, I believe, on Monday, Monday into Tuesday.


The Israelis continue to bombard Mawassi on Mawassi.


There were at least 21 people killed in subsequent, I believe, shelling.


that hit the camp.


The Israelis are again denying that they had anything to do with this subsequent attack.


I don’t know who else would be shelling the camp at this point,


but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.


Again, kind of just compounding this on an international level, and I think we can get into the


The shifting,


I think,


of some of the ways that this conflict in Gaza,


this massacre,


this atrocity in Gaza is being covered in a little bit.


But this certainly was a major, I think, moment on par with…


the attack that hit the the world central kitchen convoy on par with some you know


the uh the refugee camp attack fairly early on in jabalia uh not long after the


october 7th attacks in terms of just kind of uh spiking what what israel is doing


in gaza to to the forefront of international consciousness what about the


international court of justice ruling that just came down




I alluded to that,


but on Friday,


the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah.


This is the result of the South African government,


which brought months ago a case to the ICJ over Israel’s actions in Gaza,


arguing that they violate the International Genocide Convention.




they had gone back to the court asking for a new set of emergency orders dealing


with the Rafa operation.


Uh, the court, there was, it was unclear whether the court would comply with that, but they did.


And they in plain text seem to have given, uh,


the South African government what it wanted, which was an order for Israel to stop what it’s doing.


The Israelis have, of course, not stopped what they’re doing.


The Biden administration,


which hitherto,


I think,


probably would have said that obeying binding ICJ rulings is one of the rules of


the rules-based order,


has now thrown that out the window,




and is going to back Israel on this.


So is the UK and other Western governments.


Not all, but


You know, some at least have have decided to stick it out.


The Israelis are justifying this on a what I would say is a particularly


tendentious reading of the decision the court


The full text or the relevant passage here is the court ordered or said that Israel,


and I’m quoting here,


must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governorate,


which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could


bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.


To me,


that means if you’re doing anything in Rafah that could kill one Palestinian,


you are bringing about the physical destruction in part of that community.


So you have to stop, but not to the Israelis.


They’re just saying basically,




we’re attacking Rafah,


but we’re not doing it to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part


of the Palestinian community in Gaza.


So we can keep doing what we’re doing just, you know, because we say so.


Essentially, we say we’re not doing it for these reasons.


And so basically,


We don’t, it’s, we’re okay under the court ruling.


I think,




that’s a bad faith reading of the decision,


but that’s the loophole that they’re trying to create and drive through.


No, I don’t believe it, Derek.


Tell me the truth.


What am I thinking?


We’ll definitely keep on following that one.


What about global opinion generally?


We wrote on our sheet, global opinion shifting?




I just want to consider,


this is for me to sort of,


I think we need to take stock of the last couple of weeks.


Wow, Derek, this isn’t your personal diary.


Bring it correct next time.


I like to use this show to collect my thoughts.


So I think we should take stock here of what’s happened over the past,


Two weeks, we’ve learned that the International Criminal Court is going for arrest warrants.


The chief prosecutor,


Karim Khan,


is going for arrest warrants against Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Galant.


We’ve learned that the International Court of Justice is ordering the Israelis to


stop what they’re doing in Rafah because it is presumably in danger of violating


the 1948 Genocide Convention.


And we have…


seen three European countries, Norway, Ireland, and Spain, recognize Palestine as a state.


They did that this week.


They announced it last week.


They did it officially this week.


We’ve also seen the Slovenian government say that it is going to recognize Palestine probably next month.


And I just want to consider how far this has shifted


In the last I mean,


based on looking back to where we were on October 7th and October 8th,


when those attacks took place in southern Israel and the outpouring of global


support for Israel and goodwill and condolences and,


you know,


all of the just lockstep support for Israel that we saw at that time.


compared to where we are now,


where this is,


you know,


just these major international events are taking place to condemn Israel,


to recognize Palestine.


None of them are going to have a huge tangible impact.


I don’t want to, you know, blow smoke about that, but they are symbolically huge.


And the amount of goodwill, I think, that the Israelis have burned through


in the brutality of their campaign in Gaza since October 7th.


You have to just sort of drop your jaw and look at this.


It is stunning to me that this is where we are,


that we have countries going as far as to recognize a Palestinian state in response


to what they’ve seen.


Not the United States, of course.


We don’t get into that sort of thing.




and we’ll see how long that lasts and to what degree that has practical effects on


the ground or even in the medium term.


I think that’s an open question.


Let’s talk about the humanitarian situation in Rafah and Biden’s so-called red lines.




I mean, the assault on Rafah has continued unabated since Friday.


It’s continued for a couple of weeks now at this point.


There are Israeli tanks reportedly in central Rafah.


There are you know,


the Israelis have displaced around one million people,


according to the United Nations.


They are devastating this place that the Biden administration supposedly set out a


red line about in conversations with the Israelis and publicly that said,


we don’t think a full ground assault in Rafah is something we could support and we


don’t agree with the Israelis doing it.


This is a red line for us.


Now that the Israelis have done it, clearly done it,


The the line out of the Biden administration is just basically this this doesn’t


this wasn’t what we were talking about.


We weren’t talking about what they’re doing now.


We were talking about something else.


I don’t know what they could have been.


The president wasn’t moving the stick anywhere.


He was talking about major ground operations in Rafah.


proper, which is what we’ve been saying all along.


When he was referring to population centers, that’s exactly what he was referring to.


As I said in my opening statement,


what happened on Sunday shows just how difficult military operations are in a


densely populated area.


And yes, of course, RAFA is a densely populated area.


But there was a piece in the Washington Post a few days ago that quoted David Satterfield,


who was most recently the humanitarian point person for Gaza,


who was…


speaking, I think, at an event or, yes, it was an event for the Council on Foreign Relations.




you know,


somebody at the upper echelons of the Biden administration,


not somebody speaking to reporters necessarily for posterity,


but his comments at this event on Friday were basically like everything we said we


were concerned about in RAFA,


what has happened has been worse than what we feared.


And yet somehow this is not


trip the red lines and as i say one million people according to the un displaced uh


there’s been no systematic evacuation as far as we know there’s no been no effort


to to you know extra effort to meet the humanitarian needs of these people not only


that but humanitarian aid is not coming in through the rafa checkpoint anymore


because of this operation


The Doctors Without Borders said there’s been no meaningful humanitarian aid come


into Gaza in weeks in a statement they issued this week.


So the humanitarian situation has gotten worse.


That was supposedly another red line that the Israelis had to have


a credible evacuation plan that would take care of the people that they were displacing.




so none of it,


none of what the Israelis have done have,




have met,




the conditions that the Biden administration set out.


And yet they’ve said nothing except, uh, yeah, this is all fine with us.


We’re, we’re okay with it.


Uh, now we hear, um,


The Israeli national security advisor,


Zaki Hanegbi,


said on Wednesday that he thinks that the annihilation of Gaza is going to take at


least through the end of 2024.


I don’t know that he means at this pace or if we’re going to see tent massacres on


a weekly basis from now until then.


But certainly the conflict at a macro level, he says, is going to go on for at least that long.


Just coincidentally,


that would be long enough to maybe help Donald Trump get elected president,


because I think Benjamin Netanyahu would appreciate that.


Joe Biden doesn’t seem to really care all that much about preventing it.


So that’s that’s another thing that I think would you would think would draw some


response or some reaction,


some negative reaction from the Biden administration.


And yet, you know, silence crickets.


Let’s talk about these clashes that Egypt and Israel have had on the border.


Yes, there was one clash on Sunday night around the same night as the Rafah tent airstrike massacre.


And we don’t know if these were connected,


but there was some sort of shooting incident involving Egyptian border guards and


Israeli soldiers.


one Egyptian border guard was killed.


Both countries say they are investigating this.


Tensions have been high on the border since the Israelis seized the Gazan side of the Rafah checkpoint.


The Egyptians closed the checkpoint from their side.


And so,


as I say,


there’s been no,


between those two events,


there’s been no aid coming through and the two governments have sort of traded accusations.


The Israelis, you know, say they’re ready to let aid through, but the Egyptians are stopping it.


The Egyptians say that


what the Israelis did in seizing the checkpoint was a violation of agreements that


they had between those governments.


The Israelis now say that they have taken control of the entire Philadelphia corridor,


which runs along the Gaza-Egypt border.


It’s a no-man’s land.


But the Israelis say they are in tactical control now of that border.


This is something the Egyptians did not want to see happen.


The Israelis insist they have to do it because there are tunnels that go under the


corridor where Hamas is able to smuggle weapons and other things in for its militants.


You know, this is this is all pointing toward a real deterioration in the relationship here.


I don’t know if we’re going to see other shooting incidents again.


I don’t really know what caused this one is still under investigation.


But, you know, I think it highlights how bad things have gotten.


So the pier is doing really well.


Could you give us an update on how that’s going?


Yeah, the Joe Biden Memorial Pier is not working anymore.


It lasted for, it got like a week, two weeks maybe out of it.


High seas and rough weather.


How much did that cost?


It was like $25 million.


Am I making that up?


This is interesting.


It cost, according to the figure that the Pentagon put out, maybe accidentally, it cost $320 million.


$320 million.


Yeah, which was about twice what they initially thought it was going to cost.


Of course, it’s the Pentagon.


Of course, it costs twice as much.


I saw a little snippet of a report,


I think yesterday,


where the administration is trying to cook the books basically to get the cost,


the official cost down to $80 million so that they can claim it was all worth it,


even if they only get two weeks of it.


of aid out of it.


I don’t know how they’re trying to do that or what the mechanism is,


but that is funny that you bring that up.


The pier itself has been damaged by rough seas and storms in the region.


Four U.S.


ships either ran aground or were somehow,


you know,


disabled in the course of trying to maintain the pier over the past week or so.


And parts of the pier,


as I say,


have actually need to be towed ashore to be repaired before they can be put back out.


And the pier can, I guess, resume operations to the extent that any of its operations would.


were underway in the first place.


The administration says it’s brought hundreds of metric tons of aid ashore through the pier.


It’s unclear how much of it has actually gotten to anybody.


A lot of it was,


there have been convoys,


small convoys of trucks coming off of the pier to a UN,


I think World Food Program organization


warehouse in Dar al-Balaw.


One of those,


I think a couple of days after the pier came online,


was simply ransacked by Palestinians who were starving and took the food.


The others,


I think,


have more or less proceeded safely to the facility,


but I don’t know how much of it’s been distributed or how much of it has even


gotten off the pier for that matter.


Well, it was a worthy investment.


Let’s talk about the Iranians.


Much more cost effective than just telling the Israelis to open up the goddamn


checkpoints and let the aid in.


Oh, most definitely.




Yeah, no, that couldn’t happen.


Come on, get real.


Let’s talk about Iran’s nuclear program.




the International Atomic Energy Agency,


as it does,


put out a new quarterly report this week on Iran’s nuclear program that found Iran


stockpiling substantially more enriched uranium than it had found in the previous


report in February.


It’s holding a little bit over 6,200 kilograms of enriched uranium.


Most of that is at the low level that you would use for reactor fuel,


but that’s about 675 or so kilograms more than it had in February.


Greater concern is that the Iranians are holding about 142 kilograms of uranium


enriched to 60%,


which is considered highly enriched uranium.


That’s about 20 kilograms more than they had according to the IAEA’s previous report.


At 60% enriched uranium, you’re not far from weapons grade.


I mean,


you have to get to 90% or above for a true nuclear warhead type of material,


but it’s not that difficult to further refine from 60% to 90%.


It takes just a fairly short time in a centrifuge.


So with this amount, they estimate that the Iranians have enough


highly enriched uranium for about three nuclear weapons if they were to decide,


we’ve had enough of this,


we’re going to build our own nuclear weapon.


This has enhanced or strengthened, intensified what has been a growing desire on the part of three


the three European governments that have been involved in negotiations over Iran’s


nuclear program,


that’s France,




and the UK,


to take some action against Iran when the IAEA’s board meets next month.


They have been angling for a while to either censure Iran or do something.


There’s an array of things they could do.


They could refer the issue to the UN Security Council,


although it would probably not go anywhere after that.


But there are a number of things that they could do to sort of scold Iran for its nuclear program.


The U.S.


has been the Biden administration has been kind of pressuring them to back off.


I think they are particularly concerned about doing something at the next IAEA meeting,


which is next month.


because of the impact it could have on Iran’s presidential election now,


which is coming up since following the unexpected death of Ebrahim Raisi is coming


up on June 28th.


But it sounds like,


according to Reuters at least,


that the three European governments are going to go ahead anyway at this point,


even though the U.S.




opposed to what they’re doing.


And what it looks like they’re doing,


they’re circulating a resolution anyway that would authorize the IAEA to do a full


comprehensive report on Iran’s nuclear program that is outside the scope of,


beyond the scope,


I guess,


of its quarterly reports and would be more detailed,


more comprehensive.


That that would, first of all, probably be seen as intrusive by the Iranians.


And second of all,


that could itself lead to further action like censoring Iran at the IAEA or


something like that.


So it would probably irritate Tehran, to say the least.


And that could it’s unclear where that would go.


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Thank you for listening.


And now back to the show.


Thank you, Derek.


Let’s talk about this China, South Korea and Japan summit.




South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol hosted the prime minister of Japan,


Kishida Fumio,


and the premier of China,


Li Chang,


in Seoul on Monday.


This was the first trilateral summit between senior officials in those three countries since 2019.


It does have a sort of new Cold War flavor in that


uh japan and south korea are increasingly uh you know concerned about china


concerned about you know kind of kind of uh making it clear that they are uh on the


u.s side of the equation and that uh that rivalry uh for the most part it sounds


like they kind of tabled uh you know kind of


what I want to say here,


ignored or decided not to have any discussions about any of the tensions that that


creates in their various relationships.


There’s no discussion of tensions in the East China Sea or any concerns about


sanctions that China has in the past imposed on South Korea or anything like that.


They kind of left all that to the side and talked about commercial relations


vague statements about collaborating on a variety of things.


They did talk about North Korea.


This was the one sensitive issue that they talked about.


They issued a joint statement, which was somewhat interesting, that maintained or stressed


the longstanding goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.


It’s interesting that China was on this statement,




of course,


being North Korea’s main international backer,


with maybe Russia kind of supplanting it a bit recently.






I think that it does reflect the fact that,


that the Chinese government remains uneasy about the fact that North Korea has


nuclear weapons.


I mean,


that there’s,


this has always been the case,




and it hasn’t changed even though China continues to support North Korea,




and shield it somewhat from the pressure that’s levied on it by the United States,


there are still misgivings about the idea of having nuclear weapons on the Korean


Peninsula within China.


Of course, North Korea reacted badly to this.


They called the statement itself a grave political provocation.


And again,


indications of a bit of irritation,


I think,


on the part of the North Korean government with China for having…


joined onto this statement.


Speaking of North Korea, let’s continue to speak of North Korea.


Yes, I thought this was a segue.


That’s good, Derek.


You’re getting so good at podcasting three years in.


Oh, shit.


It’s our three-year anniversary soon.


What are we going to do to celebrate?


Should we finally do our live show?


Yeah, I don’t know.


Maybe, maybe.


Do you think fans will be surprised that we’ve never met in person?


That’s kind of nuts, actually.


That is kind of nuts.


Yeah, someone of our rich donors should give us a billion dollars and force us to meet.


Yeah, there you go.


I would meet you for a billion dollars.


Derek just got happier than I’ve ever seen him in my three years of working together.


Let’s talk about this North Korea satellite launch.


And unfortunately or fortunately, it failed.




So North Korea, which has been


preparing for some time,


several days at least,


for another space launch,


and has the goal of putting,


I think,


three spy satellites into orbit this year.


They put one into orbit last year, but they’re trying to keep the dream alive, I guess.




you know,


maybe intentionally,


maybe not,


who knows,


with Monday’s summit they conducted this launch that they’ve been preparing for.


It failed.


The rocket exploded during its initial stage.


What appears to have happened is that the North Koreans were trying out a new rocket,


new type of rocket,


using an engine that…


is fueled by liquid oxygen and petroleum products.


This is different from the rockets that North Korea typically uses in its space program.


Speculation, I think, justifiably is that they developed it


with Russian technical assistance.


There have been,


you know,


as part of North Korea’s deal to supply Russia with munitions for use in Ukraine,


part of what they get back supposedly is technical support from Russia related to


missiles and the space program.


And so this probably, you know, they probably developed this new rocket with help from the Russians.


That fuel mix, liquid oxygen and petroleum products is,


the kind of fuel mix that advanced space programs like Russia,


the U.S.,




et cetera,


use in their rockets.


So it would represent,


and really the fact that they used it at all,


even though it failed in this initial attempt,


represents a pretty significant leap forward for the North Korean space program and


will probably pay dividends for them down the road again,


even though this particular launch didn’t work out.


Thank you, Derek.


Uh, let’s talk about Sudan and what’s been going on there.


Uh, yes.




this is just basically,


you know,


a lot of the same stuff that we’ve been,


been talking about for a while now.




but just to keep it on people’s radar,




the rapid support forces continue to surround the city of Al-Fasher,




There are hundreds of thousands of people trapped in this encirclement in North Darfur state.


This is the one city in Darfur that remains out of Sudanese government, in Sudanese government control.


It remains out of the RSS hands.


It’s packed with people displaced from other parts of Darfur.


It had been a humanitarian hub.


The aid is no longer getting in, I think, because of the encirclement.


Tens of thousands of people were displaced


Last week,


late last week,


by the RSF from one displaced person’s camp in Al-Fasher,


the fighting got so serious that about 60,000 people out of around 100,000 people


in the camp fled.


So that’s created a worsening displacement crisis.


Now you’ve got people displaced from the displacement camp.


There are reports of dozens of people being killed on a weekly basis,


and this is without the heavy fighting.


The RSF is still,


I think,


waiting for reinforcements before it goes into the city or attempts to go in in a


big way.


But still,


there’s been enough fighting kind of on the outskirts and skirmishing that you’ve


got dozens of people being killed,


it seems like,


every week now.




As I said, humanitarian assistance isn’t coming in.


They’re running out of water, running out of food.


And I don’t have any big new events to talk about,


but I do think that we need to keep kind of making sure people are aware of what’s


happening here.


Thanks, Derek.


Let’s talk about Burkina Faso,


where the junta has delayed the transitional government,


the transition,


as it were.




Over the weekend, the ruling junta of Burkina Faso decided to give itself another five years in power.


The junta, under a deal it made with the Economic Community of West African States,


after it seized power in 2022,


was supposed to be holding an election in July,


a national general election in July that would transition out of military rule to


something at least nominally civilian.


But it held what it called a national dialogue event on Saturday,


and at the end of that,


I guess it was a really interesting dialogue,


decided that it’s not ready to hold elections and it’s gonna stick around for at


least 60 months from July 2nd,




That was the specific designation that the junta made.


Of course,


the junta has quit the economic community of West African states,


you know,


quit earlier this year.


So it’s no longer,


you know,


I think no longer feels bound to that agreement anyway and just isn’t ready,


I think,


to give up power.


I talked about this with Alex Thurston a few weeks back,


and his comment,


I think,


applies here in terms of why these juntas are hanging on to power and not


transitioning to even like a staged democracy where the leaders of the junta would


still be


in power, but they would take on the trappings of civilian rule.


And I think it’s because there are still complications that can come up in a


transition like that that could result in the junta losing power.


And they just don’t want to even take that minimal risk.


So they’re not transitioning at all, essentially.


Let’s move on to the South African election.




South African voters voted on Wednesday.


The counting is underway.


It probably will not be completed until at least Sunday for any kind of final


figure in the general election.


That is likely, according to polling, pre-election polling, likely to happen.


result in the African National Congress losing the parliamentary majority it has


held consistently since the country came out of apartheid in the 1990s.


It’s unclear how far short of a majority


uh, the ANC is going to fall, uh, assuming it does fall short of a majority.


Uh, there have been already some preliminary kind of, uh, projections made based on early results.




and the two that I’ve seen,


one of them,




puts the ANC at just 42% in the new parliament,




seats in the new,






One of them, the other one puts them at 45%.


45% would certainly be more manageable, I think, for the ANC to try and form a coalition.


But South Africa, again, since the end of apartheid, has never had a coalition government.


It’s been the ANC with sole majority that entire time.


So it doesn’t have a lot of experience with this at the national level.


It does have some experience with coalition governments at regional or local levels,


and they tend not to work out.


They tend to collapse fairly quickly and be unstable.


So there’s concern.


that a coalition government here would collapse or be unstable.


The ANC is paying for a lot of things, perceptions of corruption, a lackluster economy.


There’s been a lot of violence that’s taken place during this campaign season and


an inordinate amount of violence that,




is being kind of laid at the feet of the ANC,


which is the governing authority,


and has not been able to kind of…


could take control over this violence and clamp down on it.


So that’s just adding to perceptions that the party is stagnating.


And I don’t know that voters are intending to elect a different party.


And again, the opposition is going to be splintered.


And I don’t think there’s a chance,


there’s much of a chance of a coalition forming that excludes the ANC because the


opposition is so disparate.


Ideologically, it would be difficult for them to come together.




but I,


I do think there’s,


there’s definitely a desire to send a message to the party here that,




it has,




it is failing the South African people.


And I’m,


I’m no expert on this,


but that seems to be the,




the sense of a lot of people who are,




kind of analyzing what’s going on here.


Uh, thank you, Derek.




let’s move on to our final two topics,


but let’s start with Ukraine where Putin has kind of signaled he might want a ceasefire,








there was a report in Reuters on Friday citing four Russian sources anonymous that


Putin was ready to is ready to halt the war in Ukraine along the current lines,


you know,


sort of recognize that the territory that Russia holds is the territory that Russia holds.


And there will be no, you know, that that it’s not going back to Ukraine.


putin didn’t confirm that report but he was in belarus and was questioned about it


by reporters and did opine that he thinks peace talks should resume uh without


confirming anything in the in the reuters report and there’s not much to go on


again these are anonymous sources uh from you know supposedly speaking on behalf of


vladimir putin who you know doesn’t have a lot of credibility in the west for or in


ukraine for obvious reasons


So I don’t know how much to make of this.


Probably, you know, it’s not worth making very much of it.


The Ukrainian government has had no,


you know,


sent out no indication that it would be willing to stop the war now in a way that


even tacitly recognizes that Russia is going to control the territory,


the Ukrainian territory that it controls.


You know,


I don’t think they would…


They would definitely not do formal recognition,


but even sort of just…


um you know making it seem like they are comfortable with russia holding that


territory i think is something it’s a bridge too far for the ukrainians uh so i you


know i don’t expect this to go anywhere i do think that negotiations should be


going on at some level but uh you know if you say that you’re you’re accused of


being an appeaser so let’s just leave it there and let’s talk about the united


states and its changing opinion perhaps on providing ukraine with long-range






this has been a push over the last several weeks to allow the Ukrainians to use


long-range U.S.-made weapons to attack targets in Russia.


This is the guardrail that the Biden administration has put on the provision of


those weapons is that Ukraine can only use them to attack targets within the


internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.


The Ukrainians are pushing…


uh hard to be allowed to attack targets inside russia with these weapons they’ve


enlisted uh a number of european officials nato the secretary general of nato yen


stoltenberg uh earlier this week uh became you know uh the the latest person to uh


to sort of make this push uh emmanuel macron has been uh ringing this bells for a


little while and has given them given the ukrainians permission to use french


weapons if they want to to attack targets in russia


But the Biden administration had been kind of holding out in the same way that it


held out against Abrams tanks and F-16s.


And the pattern is always that they eventually give in.


What looks like this week,


Antony Blinken,


noted blues man and secretary of state,


suggested on Wednesday while he was in,


I think,




told reporters or made suggestions to reporters that,


you know,


we would probably be OK.


If the Ukrainians wanted to use U.S.


weapons to attack inside Russia, it’s up to them.


Really, they have to decide what targets they want to hit and we’ll go off of what they say.


So the indications are that this is going to this is going to start happening probably fairly soon.


We haven’t encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine yet.


But Ukraine,


as I’ve said before,


has to make its own decisions about the best way to effectively defend itself.


We’re going to make sure that it has the equipment it needs to do that.


Another hallmark of our support for Ukraine over these now more than two years has been to adapt.


As the conditions have changed,


as the battlefield has changed,


as what Russia does has changed in terms of how it’s pursuing its aggression,




We’ve adapted and adjusted to, and I’m confident we’ll continue to do that.


There was a piece in the Washington Post that I think should raise some concerns for people about this.




the Ukrainians have attacked over the past week or so,


they’ve attacked two Russian radar sites that are apparently supporting the Russian


military in Ukraine,


but also serve as nuclear early warning stations.


You know, there are obvious reasons to be concerned about attacking sites like that.


If the Russians feel like their early detection capabilities are under threat,


they could put themselves on a higher state of nuclear alert,


which could,


you know,


raise the still admittedly slim possibility,


but uncomfortably,


you know,


potentially not as slim as we would like possibility of a nuclear exchange at some


point of some kind of,


you know,


accidental or mistaken possibility.


by the Russians that causes, you know, World War III.


So the U.S.


has been talking to the Ukrainians about,


you know,


attacking these sites and kind of urging them not to do it.


The Ukrainians say they have to because these are,


you know,


they’re supporting the Russian war effort in Ukraine.


And they haven’t managed to hit either of the facilities that they targeted,


but that’s with the weapons that they have at their disposal now.


If they start using presumably more advanced weapons


U.S.-made weapons, who knows what they could hit and who knows what the repercussions of that could be.


Let’s move on to Mexico, where there is a forthcoming election.


The time of AMLO is coming to an end,


and the era of Claudia Scheinbaum,




but I think she’s mostly referred to as Claudia Scheinbaum,


is emergent.


So let’s talk about this election, Derek.


Yeah, we’re going to do a little preview with Alex Zivina in a couple of days.


So I don’t want to dwell on this, but people should be aware that it’s happening on Sunday.


AMLO can’t run for re-election because that’s presidential terms.


You only get one term in Mexico.


So Claudia Scheinbaum, who…


has been mayor of Mexico City,


which is a sort of platform for people who want to run for president,


has been seen as a protege of AMLO’s.


They’re very close.


She’s the candidate of his Morena party.


Polling has given her an overwhelming, I mean, it would be shocking if she didn’t win on Sunday.


So, you know, I mean,


We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.


But every indication is that she is going to be elected and will sort of succeed


AMLO as his chosen kind of follower,




as I said.




Got a bit of a different background from Amlo.


Their politics seem generally pretty simpatico, but she does have sort of an academic background.


She’s viewed, from what I can tell, as a bit less…


kind of off the cuff than AMLO.


So, you know, a bit more controlled, contained.


But generally speaking,


on a policy level,


I think,


you know,


you won’t see as many quotable things from her necessarily as AMLO is want to do.


But she will presumably continue to govern in much the same way on a policy level.


And of course,


as always,


great things are happening in Mexico City where Tenochtitlan,


the beautiful lake that Hernan Cortes found,


has been systematically destroyed over the last 500 years.


Yeah, I don’t want to make light of this, but it is bad.


It’s really bad.


It’s been reported in a number of outlets over the last few months, but EcoWatch.


had a good summary of it this week.


And Mexico City is basically in danger of running out of water.


It gets a sizable portion of its water from the Kutzamala water system.


And reservoirs, because of drought, they’re currently under what is called a heat dome.


The water, the reservoirs are historically emptying out.


They’ve hit historic lows.


And so perhaps as soon as June 26th, what the story says, they could be in danger.


That system could shut down and they could be in real danger of running out of water.


Now, most of Mexico City’s water does come from underground aquifers that have been


Kind of systematically destroyed, as Danny suggested, since the time of the conquistadors.


Essentially, the Spanish, when they came in, drained out the lakes and built these…


hard impervious surfaces on the surface that have been built upon and built upon


and built upon over the centuries.


And now like rainwater just doesn’t get through.


It doesn’t replenish the aquifers.


So they’re just being drained out systematically as well.


Another big issue is that the city’s water infrastructure is crumbling.


I think it loses like 40% of its water just to


This was at least in the EcoWatch piece, loses like 40% of its water to just leakage and waste.


Increasingly, as you might expect, given the water shortages, theft is becoming a big problem.


Black market sales of water are becoming a big problem.




you know,


it’s a really dire circumstance for one of the biggest cities in the Western


Hemisphere and unclear.


Certainly, you know, whoever, certainly like Scheinbaum said,


wins uh she’s gonna have to deal with this uh as one of the first things i would


think of her uh presidency is it’s a potentially huge crisis thank you derek uh and


thank you everyone for listening and we will see you soon keep on rocking in the


free world bye bye


We’ll be right back.

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Derek Davison

Derek Davison is a writer and analyst specializing in international affairs and US foreign policy. He is the publisher of the Foreign Exchanges newsletter, cohost of the American Prestige podcast, and former editor of LobeLog.

Daniel Bessner

Daniel Bessner is an historian of US foreign relations, and cohost of American Prestige, a podcast on international affairs.

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