January 13: Rising tensions between Iran and the United States

Tehran, Iran

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (December 31, 2019 to January 13, 2020).

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What began as a protest in the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq has – in the past two weeks – resulted in the killing of a senior Iranian commander, a vote in the Iraqi parliament to expel American troops, and the accidental downing of a civilian plane in Iran.

Angered by American airstrikes, dozens of protestors comprised of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the United States Embassy in Baghdad. The clashes ended after two days, though later an American airstrike at Baghdad’s airport killed a senior Iranian commander, General Qassem Soleimani, the driving force behind his country’s shadow wars in the Middle East. The Iraqi parliament then voted in a non-binding resolution to expel American military from the country.

In Iran, hundreds of thousands of people turned out into the streets to pay they respects to General Soleimani. In retaliation for the killing, the country fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at American forces in two Iraqi bases. Then, a Boeing 737 bound for Ukraine crashed after take-off, killing all 176 on board. Iranian authorities first cited engine failure as the cause, but Iran later announced that its military had “unintentionally” shot down the jetliner, prompting days of angry demonstrations against the government.

Brexit and “Megxit” in the United Kingdom: Brexit: After three years of parliamentary stalemate, lawmakers approved a Brexit legislation which will take the country out of the European Union at the end of January. “Megxit”: Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, decided to step back from royal life, though the decision was not initially cleared by Queen Elizabeth II. The queen later said she supported the couple’s plan, agreeing to the couple’s period of transition from the United Kingdom to Canada.

Political developments around the world: In Austria, a coalition deal between the centre-right and environmentalist parties will return former chancellor Sebastian Kurz to power. In Taiwan, with more than 57 per cent of the vote, president Tsai Ing-wen won her re-election bid. Her eight million votes surpassed the record held by former president Ma Ying-jeou, who won 7.6 million in 2008. And in Venezuela, the government of president Nicolás Maduro – who remains in political standoff with opposition leader Juan Guaidó – took over the country’s legislature by preventing opposition members from entering and swearing in its own candidate. Thereafter, however, Mr. Guaidó was successfully sworn in.

In Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage was legally recognised.

Natural and man-made disasters: In Australia, wildfires ravaged the country, killing dozens as well as destroying homes and millions of acres. The intense fires also created their own weather systems, including a fire tornado. And in Indonesia, floods caused by torrential rains in Jakarta left dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced.

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