From a spy drama that poisoned ties between Russia and the West to major US turnarounds under President Donald Trump, here are some of the major events that marked 2018:
On March 4, Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter are discovered unconscious and poisoned by a highly toxic nerve agent, Novichok, on a bench in Salisbury, England. London points the finger at Moscow and in September issues arrest warrants against two Russian operatives. Moscow rejects all charges. Angry exchanges between the two capitals bring in other Western nations behind London. Dozens of Western and Russian diplomats are expelled in tit-for-tat reprisals, and new sanctions are brought against Russia.
On April 14, the Syrian army declares that all anti-regime forces have been forced out of the Eastern Ghouta area adjoining Damascus after a blistering two-month offensive that leaves more than 1,700 people dead. It is a major victory in the government’s effort to reassert control after the 2011 uprising that pulled the entire country into a devastating conflict. The same day the United States, Britain and France carry out pre-dawn strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma that killed scores of civilians. The regime denies the allegations.
On May 8, President Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the hard-won 2015 accord that limits Iran’s nuclear weapons programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions against the Islamic republic. One of his complaints is the “one-sided deal” does not go far enough in preventing Iran from creating a nuclear bomb. The remaining parties to the accord – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – insist Iran has abided by its commitments and vow to keep the deal intact.
On May 14, the United States opens its new embassy in Jerusalem, infuriating the Palestinians – who also claim the holy city as their capital – and flouting years of international policy.
On June 1, a populist coalition government takes power in Italy formed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right, anti-migrant, eurosceptic League. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, introduces a hardline immigration policy, largely closing Italy’s borders to migrants.
On June 12, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in Singapore, the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the two countries. They sign an agreement reaffirming Pyongyang’s commitment to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” So far however, North Korea has taken few concrete steps to abandon its nuclear weapons, and the two sides have argued over the meaning of the vaguely worded agreement.
On July 9, Horn of Africa neighbours Eritrea and Ethiopia announce the end of their two-decade war. A whirlwind peace process sees embassies and borders reopened, telephone and flight links reestablished and trade ties resumed.
On July 10, the last of 12 young football players and their coach are extracted safe and sound from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, 17 days after they were trapped there. The fate of the junior football team was followed around the world, with US and British diving experts joining the rescue effort and former Thai navy diver losing his life.
READ: Chronicling the drama of extraordinary rescue of Thai soccer team
On October 2, dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, enters his country’s consulate in Istanbul and is never seen again. After more than two weeks of denials and contradictory statements, Riyadh admits that he had been killed inside the consulate after what it says was a brawl. On December 13, the US Senate adopts a resolution holding crown prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible, despite vehement denials from Riyadh.
READ: CIA: Saudi 'MBS' had Khashoggi killed
On October 28, Latin America’s biggest country swerves to the right with the election of former army captain Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president. During a particularly virulent campaign marked by hate speech and outbreaks of violence, Bolsonaro is stabbed in the belly at a rally in September.
On November 17, protests flare across France in opposition to rising fuel taxes and living costs, then swell into a broader movement against the policies of the government of President Emmanuel Macron. The “yellow vest” protests, named after the fluorescent safety jackets worn by demonstrators, come to a head with rioting and looting in Paris.
READ: Macron to meet trade unionists
On November 19 tycoon Carlos Ghosn, head of the giant Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi auto alliance, is arrested in Japan over allegations of under-reporting his salary for years, which he denies. He is fired as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi and formally charged on December 10, when his detention is extended.
On November 25, after 17 months of tough negotiations, the European Union and Britain agree on an accord covering Britain’s exit from the bloc by March 2019. But British Prime Minister Theresa May on December 10 postpones a parliament vote on the deal set for the following day, acknowledging it would be rejected. She survives an internal party no-confidence vote on December 12.
On December 19, US President Trump orders the withdrawal of some 2,000 American soldiers deployed in northeastern Syria, where they are fighting Islamic State jihadists alongside a Kurdish-dominated force.
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