August 2012 Current Events: World News
Here are the key events in world news for the month of August 2012.
Syria Sinks Further into Civil War (August): Kofi Annan resigns as UN special envoy to Syria, citing the Syrian government's refusal to implement his peace plan, intensifying violence by rebels, and discord within the Security Council. He says "without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process." He also says it is imperative that President Bashar al-Assad step down. (August 6): Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab and at least two other ministers defect to Jordan and announce that they would support the opposition. They are the highest-level defections to date and are clear signs that Assad's hold on power is dwindling. (Aug. 15): The crisis in Syria spills into Lebanon when more than 20 Syrians are kidnapped in Lebanese territory. (Aug. 16): The United Nations Security Council terminates its observer mission in Syria due to the increasing violence. (Aug. 20): President Obama vows military action against the Syrian government if biological or chemical weapons in Syria are moved. It is the biggest threat of U.S. intervention so far. (Aug. 26): In Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, mass burials are discovered. The Local Coordination Committees reports that at least 630 residents of Daraya have been killed in the last week. Residents say that the Syrian army closed off the city before pounding it with gunfire and pulling residents from their houses.
Egypt Launches Airstrike in Sinai Peninsula (Aug. 8): Egypt launches its first airstrike in years in the Sinai Peninsula. Attack helicopters strike at gunmen in retaliation after 16 soldiers were shot and killed on August 5 at an Egyptian Army checkpoint. The attack on the Egyptian soldiers is President Mohammed Morsi's first crisis. Morsi orders an airstrike on the Sinai, which kills about 20 militants. (Aug. 12): Morsi reassigns several senior generals and the heads of each service branch of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), an influential force in Egypt that has effectively been in control since the fall of Hosni Mubarak and recently has been in a power struggle with the new civilian government. Defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a power broker in Egypt, is among the leaders Morsi stripped of his position. Morsi also voids a constitutional declaration imposed by the military that limited the role of the president, and implements a new order that vastly expands his power and that of the legislature. The bold move sends a clear message that the civilian government has taken back control of the country.
Ecuador Grants Asylum to Julian Assange (Aug. 16): Ecuador announces that it is granting political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been staying at the country's Embassy in London while waiting for the decision. The decision further strains relations between Ecuador and Great Britain. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño announces the asylum at a news conference, where he says, "The government of Ecuador, faithful to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or in its diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange." Patiño adds that Assange might face the death penalty if tried in the United States. Britain continues to reject the request for Assange to be moved from the embassy in London to Ecuador. Britain maintains its legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden where he is still wanted for questioning over accusations of sexual assault.
Punk Band Is Convicted of Hooliganism in Russia (Aug. 17): The three members of the all-female punk band Pussy Riot are convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in a penal colony for performing an anti-Putin song on the altar of Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral. At the sentencing of one of the most high-profile trials that Russia has seen in years, activists outside of the courthouse protest, chanting "Free Pussy Riot!" Police arrest dozens of protestors. Rallies supporting the three women are held in cities around the world, including London, New York and Paris. Immediately following the verdict, the United States, other governments, and human rights groups criticize the decision, calling the sentence severe. The women's lawyers say they will appeal the decision.
U.S. Military Death Toll Reaches Two Thousand in Afghanistan (Aug. 21): The United States military reaches 2,000 deaths in Afghanistan, based on The New York Times of Department of Defense records. It is an unfortunate milestone in the nearly 11-year-old war.
Russia enters the World Trade Organization (Aug. 22): After 19 years of negotiations, Russia becomes the newest member of the World Trade Organization. Russia has cut tariffs on imports and set limits on export duties as part of a series of reforms enacted to qualify for entry into the international trading arena. Expectations of membership include an increase of 3% in the Russian GDP, more foreign investment, and a doubling of U.S. exports to Russia-as long as trade relations are normalized through the lifting of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment.