In Other News – Russia accused weaponizing gas supplies; ISIS-K continues to challenge Tabliban authority; & More – 10/22/2021

October 22, 2021

Russia accused of weaponizing gas supplies amid Europe’s ongoing energy crisis. Putin appears to be exploiting Europe’s energy crisis to get EU approval for Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline that bypasses Ukraine, transferring gas from Russia to Germany. While Putin insists that he hasn’t been withholding gas destined for Europe pending the project’s approval, the International Energy Agency has stated that Russia could be doing more to increase gas availability. Natural gas prices in Europe and Asia are reportedly at record highs, due to a combination of increased demand post-Covid, extreme weather, and speculation on the EU’s emissions market, and with winter nearing Europe is looking to ensure the safety of both its economy and citizens. While Putin blames Europe for not storing enough gas after the harsh winter of 2020-2021, he has also remarked that if the Nord Stream 2 is approved he’s 100% certain that Europe’s energy woes would be resolved. Further, it will offer Putin the welcome consequence of endangering Ukraine’s gas supply by pushing Ukraine to the end of the new west-to-east receiving line.

ISIS-K continues to challenge Taliban authority with steady stream of destructive attacks. October has seen multiple, extremely deadly attacks against the Afghan Shi’a population carried out by members of ISIS-K, in what’s part of a larger effort for the group to disrupt any new order established by the Taliban. Two separate bombings of Shi’a mosques during well-attended Friday prayer sessions have resulted in at least 100 deaths and hundreds of injuries. ISIS-K has also been notably active in parts of the country that aren’t its traditional strongholds, like Kandahar, and the group has been brazen enough to kill Taliban police chiefs and other officials. The United Nations has called the most recent Shi’a mosque attack part of “a disturbing pattern of violence” and there isn’t going to be an easy or clean resolution. Weekly ISIS propaganda published via Telegram has further highlighted ISIS’ intent to target Shi’a throughout the Middle East, with particular attention to the ethnic minority Hazara Shi’a population of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in addition to ethnic minorities, women, artists, and journalists continue to be targeted and disenfranchised by both ISIS-K and the Taliban.

Venezuela-US tensions rise after extradition developments of two key Venezuelan figures. Last weekend Alex Saab, a businessman accused of laundering money for Venezuela and a close advisor to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, was extradited to the United States after being detained in Cape Verde since June 2020. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked that the criminal case against Saab, who also has purported ties to Hezbollah, had transpired for over a decade, but Maduro immediately retaliated by shutting down scheduled negotiations with Washington and detaining six US oil executives. Earlier this week, the Spanish high court gave permission for another extradition to the United States, but this one pertains to a Maduro opponent− Hugo Carvajal, a Venezuelan former spy chief who faces charges of narcotics trafficking and collaboration with the FARC. Carvajal reportedly had a falling out with Maduro and could hold incriminating evidence against him. In the meantime, Maduro seems to be wasting no time upping his US defenses, announcing that Venezuela and Iran will sign a 20-year cooperation accord.