Morning Brief

Is the U.S. Facing a White Nationalist Terrorism Crisis?

Plus: A general strike in Hong Kong, India revokes Kashmir's special status, and what to watch in the world this week.

A sign is posted near the scene of a mass shooting that left at least 20 people dead on August 4 in El Paso, Texas.
A sign is posted near the scene of a mass shooting that left at least 20 people dead on August 4 in El Paso, Texas. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: A weekend of gun violence in the United States draws global condemnation, Hong Kong faces a general strike, and India revokes Kashmir’s special status.

We welcome your feedback at morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.


U.S. Mass Shootings Draw Global Criticism

At least 29 people were killed in two mass shootings in less than 24 hours in the United States this weekend, stunning the country. On Saturday, a gunman inspired by white nationalist ideas opened fire at a Walmart in majority-Latino El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people. Just 12 hours later, nine people were shot dead by another gunman in Dayton, Ohio. (The motive for the second attack has not been determined.)

The El Paso shooting ignited a debate over the consequences of anti-immigrant rhetoric by U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies. On Sunday, U.S. authorities said they were investigating the attack as a domestic terrorism case. It has also elicited international reactions: A headline in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald declared the United States to be “in the midst of a white nationalist terrorism crisis.”

Mexico’s response. Mexican officials were quick to respond. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador condemned the El Paso attack, in which he said that six Mexican citizens were killed. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called it “barbaric,” and pledged to take “legal actions” to protect Mexicans in the United States—including a push for Mexico’s attorney general to charge the suspect. “For Mexico, this individual is a terrorist,” Ebrard said.

Online radicalization. The El Paso suspect allegedly posted a white-nationalist manifesto on 8chan, a far-right platform where most users operate anonymously. The attackers this year in Christchurch, New Zealand and at the Poway synagogue in San Diego, California, also posted on 8chan—a space that, unlike online jihadist forums, is not heavily policed.

Experts have characterized the acts as part of a global white nationalist movement in which potential shooters are radicalized online, FP’s James Palmer explains: “Shootings such as Christchurch draw attention to the sites and the message, and media coverage ends up amplifying it.”


What We’re Following Today

Hong Kong enters ninth week of protests. Protests on Monday in Hong Kong slowed public transportation systems across the city as a general strike threatened to disrupt the financial center. The mass demonstrations followed another weekend of clashes between anti-government protesters and police, who fired tear gas to disperse a crowd on Sunday.

At 10 a.m. local time, Chief Executive Carrie Lam addressed journalists for the first time in three weeks. “Such disruptions have seriously undermined Hong Kong’s law and order and are pushing our city, the city we all love, and many of us helped to build, to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” she said.

A few hours later a car rammed a barricade manned by protesters in Yuen Long, the area where gangs assaulted commuters with apparent impunity at a train station last month; one person was reportedly injured by the car. The strike is having an impact on the local economy: the Hang Seng stock index dropped by 2.7 percent, several train lines were suspended, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was blocked by protesters in both directions, and approximately 200 flights were canceled at Hong Kong International Airport after 2,300 airport workers went on strike.

India revokes special status for Kashmir. Anxiety is growing in the Indian-administered part of the disputed territory of Kashmir, where authorities increased security over the weekend, shutting down the internet and imposing evacuations and curfews. On Friday, Indian officials had warned of possible attacks by militant groups based in Pakistan, and 10,000 Indian troops were deployed.

Today, Home Minister Amit Shah shocked parliament by announcing that the government would repeal Article 370 of the constitution, which had granted some autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government also announced it would revoke article 35A, a move which could open the door to Indians from elsewhere in the country buying property and settling in the state; Kashmiris fear that it could alter the demographic composition of the Muslim-majority state.

The moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government sparked outrage from opposition members of parliament. Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, argued that the government’s “unilateral decision” was “illegal and unconstitutional.” She and another former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, have been placed under house arrest.

The decision is likely to face legal challenges and spark widespread protests. “Doing away with Article 370 now opens the door for an open Palestine-type independence struggle within Kashmir,” argued Ajai Shukla, a defense analyst.

U.S. tries to head off Turkish offensive in northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that Turkey will go ahead with a third military offensive against Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Meanwhile, U.S. officials plan to hold meetings Ankara today in a last-ditch attempt to get Turkey to back down. Turkey and the United States have not yet reached an agreement over a jointly-patrolled “safe zone” in the region. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia, a U.S. ally operating in the area, to be a terrorist group.

Iran captures Iraqi tanker. On Sunday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps seized another oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz, accusing the Iraqi crew of smuggling fuel. The move comes amid heightened tension in the region and as the United States aims to create a maritime security coalition in the Persian Gulf. Speaking in Australia on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “very confident” in the future coalition despite caution from European allies. Australia has not yet committed.


The World This Week

Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban continue in Doha this week. Officials told Reuters that they expect the eighth round of negotiations, which began on Saturday, to end in a peace deal before August 13.

Russia’s opposition plans to hold a nationwide protest on Saturday, a week after police again detained over 1,000 people during a rally in Moscow demanding fair local elections. Russia has opened a criminal investigation against the opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who is still serving a 30-day sentence for organizing the first protest.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper meets his South Korean counterpart in Seoul this week. Their meeting follows several North Korean missile tests last week intended to push South Korea and the United States to halt a joint military exercise later this month.

For behind-the-scenes analysis on stories like this, subscribe to Security Brief Plus, delivered on Thursdays.


Keep an Eye On

Germany’s regional elections. A poll in the east of Germany over the weekend showed the country’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), in front of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Regional elections will be held next month in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony. Losses for the Social Democrats there could increase pressure on its fragile coalition with the CDU.

Price hikes in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s government has raised fuel prices twice in the last week, as inflation continues to skyrocket in the country. (Zimbabwe introduced a new currency earlier this year.) The rise in the cost of diesel in particular is certain to have a ripple effect: Facing hours-long power cuts, businesses have become reliant on diesel generators.

Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Nuon Chea, a Khmer Rouge leader convicted of genocide in Cambodia last year, died on Sunday at the age of 93. His death leaves just one surviving defendant on trial at the country’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Khieu Samphan, who has lodged an appeal against the genocide conviction. The case is expected to be the court’s last.

Japan-South Korea tensions. The South Korean military could conduct exercises this month on disputed islands in the Sea of Japan. The drills were scheduled for June but postponed by South Korea in attempt to reduce heightened tensions with Japan. But since Japan removed South Korea as a preferred trading partner on Friday, it appears the exercises may go ahead.


Odds and Ends

Russia will soon send a floating nuclear power plant into the Arctic to provide energy to the remote Chukotka region. The plant—a pilot project for the state nuclear energy company—has drawn criticism from environmental activists, the Guardian reports.

Some performers in the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which opened on Friday and runs for three weeks, have requested their pay in U.S. dollars or euros instead of British pounds. Last week, the British pound hit a two-year low against the dollar.


That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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