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A Rohingya refugee man stands before Kutupalong camp in Ukhia near Cox's Bazar. Photo: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. has sanctioned four commanders in Myanmar's military and Border Guard Police as well as two military units for their involvement in ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims and other human rights abuses, the Treasury Department announced.

Why it matters: The Rohingya people have been terrorized by their primarily Buddhist neighbors and elements of the military, with entire villages burned and reports of massacres and mass graves. The Treasury said those sanctioned were responsible for "ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings." These are strongest steps taken by the U.S. as yet and follow the sanctioning of a general in December.

The big picture: Myanmar had only just opened up to the outside world after years of secretive military rule, culminating in a visit by then-President Obama in 2012. As the country teeters between the Chinese and American spheres of influence in Southeast Asia, the international community seems reticent to react and disrupt that balance.

  • Leaked documents seen by Politico illustrate an internal debate in the administration over whether to use the term "genocide" to describe the atrocities committed against the Rohingya. Doing so "could commit the U.S. to punitive steps toward a country in which President Donald Trump has shown little interest," Politico's Nahal Toosi writes.

Go deeper: Displaced Rohingya lament life in no-man's land

Go deeper

25 mins ago - World

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.