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What We’re Watching: US Olympic boycott threat, Myanmar junta delays vote, US resumes aid to Palestinians

What We’re Watching: US olympic boycott threat, Myanmar junta delays vote, US resumes aid to Palestinians

Man walks past a board with logos of 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Will the US skip the 2022 Olympics? The Biden administration and its allies are reportedly discussing the possibility of a coordinated boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Although the State Department almost immediately tried to walk back its own previous statement, the move would be an act of protest over allegations of China's vast human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. Skipping the games is a big deal, symbolically at least. The last time the US did so was in 1980, when America boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan a year before. But practically speaking, do boycotts have a real effect on anyone besides the athletes who miss a shot at gold? That's a thornier question. Regardless, there are many ways to define "boycott" — the US could — and likely would — do as little as simply keeping its top diplomats from attending. China, for its part, has threatened a "robust response" to any efforts to snub the Beijing games.

Myanmar junta digs in its heels: As widely feared by pro-democracy activists, Myanmar's ruling generals on Wednesday announced they may delay new elections until at least 2023. The extension of the post-coup state of emergency confirms that the regime is indeed content with killing protesters and stifling the opposition until it deems citizens are scared enough that a military-backed party will "win" when eventually it's time to go to the polls. So, what's the way forward for Myanmar? The generals have so far held steady in the face of mounting street protests, international sanctions, and even a potential rift with China over attacks on Chinese-owned businesses. Rumblings of an impending civil war are getting louder, but it's hard to imagine a ragtag army of dissidents and ethnic minority groups posing a serious threat to the well-armed and battle-hardened military. As long as the junta is willing to watch the country burn if necessary to stay in power, the generals are likely to keep — literally — calling the shots for a long time.

US resumes aid to Palestinians: In the latest reversal of the Trump administration's Middle East policy, President Biden is restarting US funding to the Palestinians. The Biden administration will dole out $235 million, the lion's share of which will go to UNRWA, which provides financial and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Biden has also signaled his intention to give even more money to Palestinian leadership, and possibly reopen the Palestinian diplomatic mission shuttered during the Trump presidency. The current US administration aims to foster goodwill amongst the Palestinians, who felt shunned by President Trump's Mideast peace proposal, broadly seen as dismissing their interests and favoring Israel. Washington also hopes to restart peace negotiations between the two sides in the medium term, yet any engagement will need to wait until the dust settles on Israel's political stalemate and the Palestinians vote in their own polls in May and July. The situation is very much in flux.


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