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  • Trump’s Betrayal of the Kurds? U.S. Allies Will Get Over It, and Soon

    President Donald J. Trump’s decision to redeploy U.S. forces from the Syrian-Turkish border, if not to withdraw the majority of U.S. troops from Syria altogether, constitutes a shameful betrayal of America’s Kurdish partners in the fight against ISIS and a needlessly self-inflicted wound to U.S. interests. Indeed the images of U.S. withdrawal are feeding ISIS, Iranian and Russian propaganda mills.But among the disastrous consequences of Trump’s decision summoned up by his critics, one seems hyper-inflated: the notion that deserting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has so shaken the confidence and trust of Washington’s longtime allies and partners that they will now think carefully about relying on the U.S. for their security and cooperating with the Americans.Last U.S. Base in Syria ‘Is Everything Wrong With Trump’s War’We don’t buy it. Even the victim of America’s latest perfidy – Mazloum Kobani, Commander of the SDF – recently expressed the hope (perhaps out of desperation) that the relationship with the U.S. would continue. Indeed, America’s relations with its most important Middle Eastern, European, and Asian allies will survive Trump’s stab in the back and almost certainly outlast his presidency.On the face of it, it’s easy to understand the impact that throwing the SDF under the bus had on America’s Middle Eastern allies, who understandably, in a cruel and dangerous Middle East, to worry for a living. The Israelis, who had long supported and identified with the Kurds as a minority felt particularly aggrieved, convinced America had now left the field to Iran. It is also important to bear in mind that Trump’s 180 on the Kurds took place against the backdrop of his “America First” policy, his dismissive attitude toward many of America’s Nato’s allies, and his unwillingness to respond with force to Iran’s attacks against Saudi oil installations in September (though the Saudis no doubt breathed a sigh of relief).But does Trump’s Kurdish betrayal spell disaster for America’s allies and rapture for their adversaries. Are we in for a major realignment because Trump has forgotten who America’s friends are? Almost certainly not. And here’s why. * * *THE KURDISH EXCEPTION* * *To compare America’s relationship to the SDF – a newly created non- state actor – with any of Washington’s traditional allies in the region or beyond is misplaced, misleading and just plain wrong. Whatever doubts South Korea or Japan have about Trump, it’s not driven by his policy toward a Kurdish/Syrian militia, but rather by the way he has dealt with both allies in the face of a threat from North Korea. Going forward, both will be watching how Trump deals with them and whether he fulfills his commitments to Tokyo and Seoul, not to the Kurds.. The SDF was a valiant partner in America’s campaign against ISIS. And deserting those who had sacrificed thousands of their fighters in the battle against ISIS was an abdication of moral responsibility. But both the history of America’s ties with the Kurds and the future of that relationship were quite different from America’s ties with its historic allies in Europe and Asia. America had a tactical marriage of convenience; there had never been a history of consistent cooperation and no domestic base of public support. The relationship was not anchored in shared values and Syria, unlike the major concentrations of wealth and power in Europe and northeast Asia, is of little strategic or geopolitical consequence for the balance of power in the Middle East.Few, if any, of America’s treaty allies – not even the British or the French who were contributing to the campaign against ISIS – were prepared to assume a long-term commitment to Kurds, offer the SDF security guarantees over the territory they controlled, or accepted Kurdish aspirations for autonomy given the Turkish determination to crush it. And that’s because the Kurds fate is of little matter to the US traditional allies. To assume, however, that they would draw the conclusion that Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds signaled that the U.S. would not defend them in response to an external attack or willingly put them in life threatening circumstances is a real stretch even in Trumpland.* * *MISUNDERSTANDING CREDIBILITY* * *In betraying the Kurds, Trump has been almost universally scorned for putting US credibility at risk with its allies in the region and beyond. According to this theory, if America fails to confront a challenger in one place, it will confront challengers in many places because of the loss of American credibility. Like so much that passes for conventional wisdom these days, it is wrong. And because it results from bad analysis, it can lead to very bad decisions that increase the risk of America going to war to defend its reputation. A 1984 Yale University Study reviewed dozens of cases between 1900 to 1980 for signs that if a country stood down in one confrontation, it would face more threats elsewhere. There was no correlation. International relations experts who have studied the role of credibility – or what is often referred to “as reputational anxiety" – in U.S. foreign policy agree on the following propositions: First, when an adversary of the U.S. is contemplating an attack on an American ally, its decision-making calculus on the risks and rewards of aggression is not based on what America may, or may not have done, to confront challenges in other circumstances; rather, it is determined by its perception of how Washington views its stake in the outcome of the potential conflict in the circumstances it is facing and whether America has the will and capacity to defend those interests. And second, the threatened American ally will make similar calculations about whether it can count on Washington to meet its security commitments. It is preposterous to believe, for example, that because of Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds, Kim Jong Un would order an attack on South Korea; Vladimir Putin would decide to attack a NATO country; President Xi Jinping would decide to seize Taiwan, or Iran’s leaders would decide to launch a full-scale attack on Israel. Nor is it likely that Trump’s decision will embolden these leaders to take greater risks in a situation where misjudging America’s resolve could lead to serious consequences for the survival of their country and their rule. The U.S. gets stuck in a self imposed credibility trap thinking wrongly that reputations are all that matter. Studies suggest that the Russians didn’t believe the US was weak because it abandoned South Vietnam and were surprised the US had stayed for so long. * * *TRUMP ISN’T FOREVER* * *America’s allies are justifiably concerned about Trump’s general unpredictability and erratic, mercurial, and impulsive behavior. His policies have strained America’s relationships with its allies. Japan and South Korea are worried about Trump selling them down the river to placate North Korea; Israel is worried about the possibility of a rapprochement with Iran and the absence of U.S. leadership in the Middle East. And yet these countries depend on America -- they have no alternative to an American guarantee of their security, certainly not Russia, and the US withdrawal of all its forces from Syria, if and when that happens, won’t change that. In fact, even as Trump withdrew U.S. forces there, he announced the additional deployment of several thousand troops, combat aircraft, and air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. That Riyadh is prepared again to host U.S. troops reflects how dependent it has become on U.S. support. And not only Saudi Arabia; this week Bahrain hosted, under U.S. auspices, a conference on maritime security with 60 countries including Saudi Arabia and Israel. The U.S. has an enormous military footprint in Qatar and Kuwait. None of the U.S. partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council lifted a finger to help the Kurds in their fight against ISIS and none made a significant contribution to the anti-Jihadist cause in either Syria or Iraq. So it is not terribly logical to argue that they would get all exercised about the U.S. ending its military support for the Kurds. America’s long-time allies make decisions based on their own circumstances, the common interests they share with the U.S., the context of their relationship, and whether or not they view Washington as fulfilling specific obligations and commitments to them. In some cases, America’s relations with its partners and allies go back decades and they are rooted not only in shared interests but common values as well. These relationships should not be taken for granted, but they are not easily breakable like fine China. And more than likely, even with an impulsive bull in that China shop, they’ll be around much longer than Donald Trump.Donald Trump Is Perfectly Happy to Let Allah Sort ’Em OutRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 17:24:42 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-EU's Tusk says he will recommend Brexit extension to avoid no-deal

    European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that he would recommend that the 27 other member states of the European Union approve a delay of Britain's departure date following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to put the Brexit deal on hold. For this I will propose a written procedure," Tusk said in a tweet. Johnson said on Tuesday it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in parliament made ratification of his deal by the Oct. 31 deadline almost impossible.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 17:16:52 -0400
  • Hong Kong Police Already Have AI Tech That Can Recognize Faces news

    (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong law enforcement authorities have access to artificial intelligence software that can match faces from any video footage to police databases, but it’s unclear if it’s being used to quell months-long pro-democracy protests, according to people familiar with the matter.Police have been able to use the technology from Sydney-based iOmniscient for at least three years, and engineers from the company have trained dozens of officers on how to use it, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The software can scan footage including from closed-circuit television to automatically match faces and license plates to a police database and pick out suspects in a crowd.In addition to tracking criminals, iOminiscient’s artificial intelligence can be used for everything from finding lost children to managing traffic. In one training session that took place after the protests began in June, the people said, officers asked how to automatically identify license plate numbers using dashboard cameras.Questions over the use of facial recognition technology have loomed over the protests, stoking fears that Hong Kong is moving closer to a mainland-style surveillance state. Demonstrators have worn masks, destroyed CCTV cameras, torn down so-called smart lampposts and used umbrellas to hide acts of vandalism. Authorities in turn used an emergency law this month for the first time in more than half a century to ban face masks, a move that triggered increased violence.“Hong Kong people are afraid of being captured by the CCTV cameras,” said Bonnie Leung, a district councilor and a former leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized some of the biggest protests in the past few months. “Why are people still wearing face masks? Because of the police surveillance.”While Hong Kong’s government has disclosed some ways it uses facial recognition technology, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration and the police haven’t publicly confirmed whether they are using it to monitor the protests. Patrick Nip, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said in June that no government department had procured or developed automated facial recognition-CCTV systems or applied the technology in CCTV systems.Nip’s office referred all questions on facial recognition technology to the police, which didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.iOmniscient declined to comment on whether Hong Kong’s police use its facial recognition technology. The company said that its technology also has the capability to keep identities anonymous for such uses as crowd control. Its systems are used in more than 50 countries and only a small portion of overall revenue comes from Hong Kong, where business opportunities are relatively limited given privacy concerns and fewer cameras compared with other cities, according to the firm.Under Hong Kong’s privacy laws, which are more stringent than the mainland, members of the public must be informed if they’re subject to surveillance. If authorities are matching faces or names to identity markers, that would fall under the privacy ordinance, according to Stuart Hargreaves, a law professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong who researches surveillance and privacy issues. However, police can claim an exemption if the data is being used to detect or prevent crime.“Is the ‘facial recognition’ simply the police combing through video footage for ‘known individuals,’ or is there some kind of automated AI system at play?” Hargreaves said. “The truth is we simply do not know.”The world’s five most-watched cities are all in China, with the top city of Chongqing having about 168 cameras per 1,000 people, according to estimates by Comparitech. By comparison, Hong Kong’s 50,000 CCTVs are one-tenth the number in London and not enough to put it in the top 20 most-watched cities.Hong Kong authorities have tried to appease concerns by pointing out that there is no in-built facial recognition in recently installed smart lampposts or in CCTV cameras at China government offices. Still, the technology has been used in the city for more than a decade, including at the airport and Shenzhen border for immigration control.Next year a new electronic identity system is scheduled to come into effect in which as many as 100 public services will make use of biometric authentication, including facial recognition, eye scans, and finger and voice prints. A unit of Ping An Insurance Group Co., whose shareholders include the Shenzhen government, is responsible for the design, implementation and support of the core system, as well as facial recognition and imaging processing, according to a government statement in April.Some Chinese companies recently blacklisted by the U.S. over human rights concerns in the far west region of Xinjiang have their tech in Hong Kong. Face scan technology from AI startup Yitu Technology will be among the options that staff can choose to access the headquarters of the government’s electrical and mechanical services department, according to a June statement on the three-month trial project.Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. cameras with facial recognition capabilities are installed outside of buildings including the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, though the facial recognition function hasn’t been turned on, according to responses from government agencies to lawmaker Charles Mok. The department told him it sent footage from its cameras to police seven times since the protests began.Neither Yitu nor Hangzhou Hikvision immediately responded to requests for comment.“The whole thing is: do you trust the government with your data?” said Mok, who has been in the information technology industry for more than 20 years. “That’s the problem, if there’s a whole breakdown of trust.”On the streets, riot police have sought to avoid the cameras even while arresting more than 2,000 protesters, including nearly 100 people for violating the mask ban. They’ve used flashlights to disrupt media coverage, and some officers removed ID numbers and donned masks to hide their identities for fear that they could become victims of personal attacks online, known as doxxing. Apple Inc. recently pulled a live mapping app used by protesters to track some police deployments including of water cannons.Hong Kong protesters have continued distributing masks at rallies, telling demonstrators to take one “if you aren’t feeling well” to take advantage of exemptions in the law.At least one Hong Kong company, TickTack Technology, pulled out of the smart lamppost program after protesters tore one down and found a Bluetooth Beacon the company used to signal its location to devices including smartphones. Demonstrators then doxxed some of the group’s founders.“We prefer to be low-profile till things cool down,” a TickTack spokesman said by email.Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Bureau said in a statement that it “deeply regrets” that a local enterprise was cowed into stopping the supply of its technology, calling it a “serious blow” to local innovation. The government has denied that the lampposts have facial recognition capabilities.Hong Kong’s colleges are also involved in facial recognition. Tang Xiaoou, a professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of Information Engineering, is a founder of SenseTime, the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup.The developer of facial recognition was among eight Chinese companies blacklisted by the U.S. over Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has implemented a massive program of surveillance and re-education camps to monitor the local mostly Muslim population. The company said it sees its technology as a “global force for good” and is disappointed with the U.S. sanctions, and will work to address any concerns.Sensetime said its focus in the city is on education and it does not have any contracts with the Hong Kong government. The group published Hong Kong’s first textbook on artificial intelligence for secondary schools.Banks including HSBC Holdings Plc allow clients to open accounts with selfies under guidelines of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which is also considering allowing face scans for ATMs. Customs guidelines allow firms to use face scans for security.The current protests may dampen enthusiasm for greater use of facial recognition. As demonstrations have become more violent and intense over the weeks, the number of masks has grown -- including, more recently, those of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Guy Fawkes mask associated with the Anonymous movement.“The government is just trying to take away our rights,” Angus, a 22-year-old student wearing a surgical mask and black clothes, said on the day Lam announced the ban. “They’re just the tool of the Chinese government. We don’t want to be China.”To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Schmidt in Hong Kong at bschmidt16@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at, Adam Majendie, Chris KayFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 17:00:00 -0400
  • EU Set to Delay Brexit After Johnson Defeated in Parliament

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s defining mission to take the U.K. out of the European Union in nine days’ time was derailed as members of Parliament dramatically blocked his plan to rush the Brexit deal into law.European Council President Donald Tusk responded by saying he’d recommend the EU accept the U.K.’s request for an extension. While he didn’t set a date, his suggestion that this could be agreed by letter, and without a summit, pointed to accepting the British Parliament’s request of a new exit date of Jan. 31. The pound fell on the vote.Johnson earlier in the day threatened that a delay until January would see him try to call an election. He didn’t repeat that threat in the evening, though. It’s possible the EU will offer to allow an earlier exit if Johnson can get his deal passed in the next month, something that seems plausible after the first vote of the evening.Minutes before Johnson was defeated on the timetable for his bill, he was victorious, with members of Parliament voting 329 to 299 to endorse the general principles of his deal. That’s a margin that gives him a decent chance of getting the bill through.The question is whether Johnson decides to use the time offered by the EU to pass his deal, or to go for an election -- something that could give him a majority, or could see him lose power to Labour, and see the entire Brexit project put into doubt.In any event, the chances of a no-deal Brexit are diminishing.After the votes, the prime minister’s office declined to rule out agreeing to a short delay beyond the Oct. 31 deadline, and Johnson said: “One way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent.”Speaking afterward, Johnson said his draft Brexit law will now be paused.“Let me be clear: our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on Oct. 31 and that is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House,” Johnson told the Commons. He promised to step up contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, and to consult with EU leaders and tell them he doesn’t want another delay. Tusk’s response came two hours later.Earlier, when MPs had voted to endorse the broad thrust of Johnson’s deal, the winning margin included 19 members of the main opposition Labour Party. Crucially, Johnson won that vote without the Democratic Unionist Party, his former allies, whose support he lost after he broke a commitment to them not to create a customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland. If Johnson can keep those 19 Labour MPs on board, he can pass his deal.‘Keep People’s Trust’Labour’s Lisa Nandy, one of the 19, warned Johnson that their support shouldn’t be taken for granted. “Those of us who are seeking to engage in the detail do so not because we will support a Tory Brexit -- our votes at Third Reading are by no means secure -- but because we want to see if we can improve the deal and keep people’s trust in our democracy.”The government is making promises to secure their support, and that of former Tories who have their doubts about Johnson. Minutes before the votes, MPs were assured they’d get a say on whether the government extended its post-Brexit transition period if it hadn’t concluded a trade deal with the EU by the end of next year. Some had feared another no-deal cliff edge.But though the prime minister could get support for his deal in principle, MPs refused to be rushed into signing it into law.Johnson’s opponents argued that they needed more time to scrutinize the historic exit deal than the three days of debate he had proposed for the bill to pass all its stages in the Commons.And so, MPs voted 322 to 308 against Johnson’s proposed fast-track timetable for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill -- the crucial piece of law to implement the deal he struck in Brussels last week.The defeat makes it now virtually impossible for the prime minister to get his hard-won accord ratified in time to meet his Oct. 31 deadline for leaving, his defining goal since he took over as prime minister from Theresa May in July.Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn offered to work with Johnson to come up with a better timetable to help Parliament improve the deal.(Adds Tusk recommends acceptance in second paragraph.)\--With assistance from Greg Ritchie.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at;Robert Hutton in London at;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at, Edward Evans, Alex MoralesFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:56:26 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-China plans to replace Hong Kong leader Lam with 'interim' chief executive -FT

    China is planning to replace Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam with an "interim" chief executive, the Financial Times reported, citing people briefed on the deliberations. If Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to go ahead, Lam's successor would be appointed by March and cover the remainder of her term, which ends in 2022, the newspaper said. Lam's top successors include former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority Norman Chan, and Henry Tang, who has also served as the territory's financial secretary and chief secretary for administration, the report said.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:53:55 -0400
  • France to review 'purely technical' Brexit delay at end of week-diplomatic source

    France is ready to grant an additional few days in order to facilitate the vote on Brexit legislation but rules out any extension beyond that, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday, the British Parliament rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposed timetable to pass Brexit legislation, making ratification of his deal by the Oct. 31 deadline almost impossible. "We'll see at the end of the week whether a purely technical extension of a few days is necessary to complete this parliamentary procedure," the diplomatic source said.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:44:04 -0400
  • China Drawing Up Plan to Replace Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam, Report Says

    (Bloomberg) -- The Chinese government is drafting a plan to replace Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam with an “interim” chief executive, Financial Times reports, citing unidentified people briefed on the deliberations.Lam’s successor would be installed by March, covering the remainder of Lam’s term should Chinese President Xi Jinping decides to carry out the plan, the paper cited the people as saying. Lam’s replacement would not necessarily stay on for a full five-year term afterwards.Leading candidates to succeed Lam include Norman Chan, former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang, who has also served as the territory’s financial secretary and chief secretary for administration, the people added.Hong Kong Announces $255 Million in Economic Support MeasuresTo contact the reporter on this story: Belinda Cao in New York at lcao4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Polina Noskova at, Sebastian TongFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:42:33 -0400
  • U.K. Parliament rejects Johnson's fast-track Brexit

    The U.K. Parliament voted Tuesday to accept Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal but reject his quick timetable.Parliament first granted Johnson the win on his overall deal before saying it wouldn't fully adhere to the agreement in the next three days. That makes it unlikely Britain will pull out of the EU by the Oct. 31 deadline, BBC reports.Johnson was already forced by law Saturday to ask the EU for an extension on the U.K.'s membership until January 2020. He said Tuesday he'll "pause" progress on his Brexit legislation until he hears back from the EU, but criticized Parliament for plunging the country into "further uncertainty."Emily Thornberry of the opposition Labour Party meanwhile called the Oct. 31 deadline an "artificial timetable," per The Washington Post. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile called Johnson "the author of his own misfortune," but did say he'd talk to Johnson to agree on a "sensible" timetable for the prime minister's deal to advance.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:28:00 -0400
  • EU's Tusk says he will recommend Brexit extension to avoid no-deal

    European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to put the Brexit deal on hold, he would recommend that the other 27 member states of the European Union approve a delay of Britain's departure date. For this I will propose a written procedure," Tusk said in a tweet.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:18:37 -0400
  • What Trump gets wrong about war against the Islamic State news

    President Donald Trump has made several incorrect or misleading statements about the five-year battle against the Islamic State group as he seeks to end what he calls "endless wars" and explain an abrupt abandonment of America's Kurdish partners in the face of a Turkish offensive. TRUMP: THE U.S.-LED EFFORT TO DEFEAT THE ISLAMIC STATE GROUP WAS "A MESS" BEFORE I TOOK OFFICE. It's true that he accelerated the military push in Syria, in part by giving U.S. commanders in the field more authority.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 16:05:10 -0400
  • Egypt's options dwindle as Nile talks break down news

    The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population. Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is around 70% complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia's 100 million people. Speaking at the U.N. last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he would "never" allow Ethiopia to impose a "de facto situation" by filling the dam without an agreement.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:57:04 -0400
  • UNHCR probes Libya-Malta interception in migrant rescue

    The U.N. refugee agency is investigating why Malta last week allegedly asked the Libyan coast guard to intercept a migrant boat in a zone of the Mediterranean under Maltese responsibility, in possible violation of maritime law, a U.N. official said Tuesday. Vincent Cochetel, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' special envoy for the central Mediterranean, told reporters in Rome that "there's some evidence that Malta requested assistance (from) the Libyan coast guard to intervene" in its own search and rescue region on Oct. 18.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:56:07 -0400
  • Brexit delay looms after UK MPs demand more time to debate deal news

    British MPs gave their initial approval Tuesday to legislation enacting Prime Minister Boris Johnson's EU divorce deal -- but rejected his plan to rush it through parliament, opening the door for yet another Brexit delay. Johnson immediately announced he would pause the process of trying to ratify the text he struck with European Union leaders last week, and said the EU should consider Britain's request for a delay beyond October 31. Responding to the vote, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said European Council president Donald Tusk was consulting EU leaders about a possible postponement.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:25:51 -0400
  • Russia, Turkey seal power in northeast Syria with accord news

    Russia and Turkey announced an agreement Tuesday to jointly patrol almost the entire northeastern Syrian border after the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, cementing the two countries' power in Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces. The announcement came as Kurdish fighters completed their pullout from a section of the Syrian-Turkish border as required by a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that was set to expire Tuesday night. Together the arrangements transform the map of northeast Syria, leaving Turkey in sole control over one section in the middle of the border, while Turkey, Russia and the Syrian government will have hands in the rest.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:23:27 -0400
  • EXPLAINER-What next for Brexit after UK parliament rejects Johnson's timetable?

    The British parliament rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's attempt to fast-track a Brexit law through parliament, making a delay beyond the Oct. 31 exit date almost inevitable, and casting the entire EU divorce into doubt. After agreeing a last-minute Brexit deal with the EU last week, Johnson was trying to pass the domestic law needed to enact it. The defeat leaves Johnson with no clear way to deliver his Brexit deal on time.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:13:46 -0400
  • Boris Loses Control as Parliament Rejects Brexit Exit Plan news

    REUTERSLONDON—Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to take Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31 was quashed by Parliament on Tuesday night, handing the initiative to the EU to effectively trigger a British election.Johnson threatened to call for a general election if British lawmakers refused to allow him to rush through his deal and the EU proposed a new extension of three months or more. Under a law passed in Westminster last month, Johnson is not allowed to negotiate to shorten whatever extension the EU chooses. Rather than seek to compromise with opponents who want proper time to scrutinize the Brexit deal, Johnson responded to the 322 to 308 vote defeat on fast-tracking it by halting the passage of his deal altogether while Britain waits to see what extension the EU will grant. “We will pause this legislation,” he said, a phrase that sounded innocuous but could well kick-start an epic new election showdown between the forces of Remain and Leave. A snap vote could take place before Christmas. It remains to be seen if Johnson is as good as his word—and there have been plenty of reasons to cast doubt on it in the past—as there was no specific mention of the election he had threatened earlier in the day in the aftermath of his defeat. Under Britain’s fixed-term parliament act, a two-thirds majority is usually required to call an election so both the government and the opposition would have to agree. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, did not need a second invitation, however. Soon after Johnson said he was pausing the agreement, Tusk tweeted that he was talking to leaders in Brussels about issuing a written extension, which is likely to delay the Brexit deadline until January 31.If that were confirmed, British politicians would be under heavy pressure to agree to hold an election and seek a fresh mandate from the voters before proceeding with any Brexit deal.Johnson had earlier won a vote on his deal—the first time his government has won a single significant vote in the Commons. That was a major step towards securing Brexit, as Parliament has always refused to back any formal arrangement that would result in leaving the EU.The next phase of the legislation’s progress is where things become more difficult, however, as lawmakers are able to amend the bill in order to clarify sections or—as No. 10 fears—introduce so-called wrecking amendments that would collapse the bill entirely.Just last week, Johnson had secured a compromise deal that many thought was impossible in Brussels, but that came at a serious cost. The EU had sworn they would not re-open the Withdrawal Agreement that had been negotiated with Theresa May, but then Johnson did what he said he would never do and he caved on one of his key red lines. He signed up to a version of the deal that May had rejected, which would effectively create a customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the mainland. That concession led to a breakthrough in Europe but it meant the Democratic Unionist Party, which had been propping up the Conservative government, fled from the deal. It was lawmakers who made the most aggressive speeches attacking the prime minister during a contentious debate in the House of Commons. Sammy Wilson of the DUP said he felt they had been betrayed by the Conservatives. “I nearly choked when the prime minister said it,” he said on Tuesday.Wilson and his nine DUP colleagues voted against Johnson’s expedited deal. Wilson was particularly aggravated that Johnson had been unfamiliar with the precise details of the deal he had agreed that would govern Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of Britain. There were doubts about exactly how familiar Johnson was with the customs rules that he was attempting to rush through Parliament.Jill Rutter, an independent former civil servant who worked at the Treasury and No. 10, said: “I don’t think Johnson understands what he has agreed for Northern Ireland…”With the Europeans jumping on his “pause” to bind Britain into another extension, Johnson may have also misunderstood that he was putting his job on the line. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:07:36 -0400
  • Taliban say new intra-Afghan peace talks to be held in China news

    A fresh round of intra-Afghan peace talks will be held in China next week, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Tuesday, raising hopes for renewed negotiations, even as violence surges in Afghanistan's 18-year war. The talks planned for Oct. 28 and 29 will be the first meeting between Taliban and prominent Afghans from Kabul since a July round of talks held in Doha, the capital of the Middle Eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office. On Monday, the U.S. State Department said its peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, started a fresh round of talks with European, NATO and U.N. allies about ending the war.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:05:36 -0400
  • 1 Brexit deal passes Parliament but another critical timing vote fails news

    A proposed deal that could lead to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU) passed a critical vote in Parliament on Tuesday, but was followed by another vote that failed, suggesting it might not meet the required deadline for Brexit to happen. The lengthy document details a package of laws required to be put in place to help allow the U.K.'s retreat from the EU to happen. The agreement is upwards of 110 pages long and details the deal reached between the EU and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:03:00 -0400
  • UK parliament to resume Queen's Speech debate on Wednesday - government

    Britain's parliament will resume its debate on the government's legislative programme on Wednesday, the leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said, after lawmakers rejected the timetable for a law to ratify its Brexit deal. The government had hoped to pass the Brexit legislation through the lower house of parliament by the end of Thursday, but lawmakers rejected that by 322 votes to 308, with many saying it was not enough time to scrutinise the bill. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would pause the legislation while waiting for the European Union to decide on a request to delay Brexit.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:01:17 -0400
  • The Latest: Russia's FM says deal implies end to offensive news

    Russia's foreign minister says that a deal between Russia and Turkey implies an end to the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria. The deal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allows Turkey to keep its troops in areas in northeastern Syria they seized since the start of Oct. 9 offensive and gives the Russian troops and the Syrian army control over the rest of the Syria-Turkey frontier.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:58:15 -0400
  • 157 dead in Iraq protests: new official toll news

    The death toll from week-long anti-government protests that erupted in Baghdad and southern Iraq at the start of October totalled 157, an official inquiry announced Tuesday, ahead of further demonstrations. It also said commanders from across the security forces had been dismissed in the wake of the violence, including from the army, police, anti-terror, anti-riot, anti-crime, intelligence and national security units. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, in a report of its own, said that "serious human rights violations and abuses have been committed" and excessive force used against demonstrators.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:57:26 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson to call EU leaders to discuss Brexit next steps - spokesman

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold conversations with other EU leaders on Tuesday to determine what their next steps are after parliament rejected his proposed timetable to pass Brexit legislation, his spokesman said. Earlier, Johnson said he would end an attempt to win parliamentary approval for the legislation that would enable Britain to leave the European Union and instead press for an election if lawmakers rejected the timetable.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:51:52 -0400
  • Johnson to Press Ahead After Timetable Setback: Brexit Update news

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson’s mission to take the U.K. out of the European Union in nine days’ time was thrown off course as members of Parliament blocked his plan to rush the Brexit deal into law.The House of Commons voted 322 to 308 against Johnson’s proposed fast-track timetable for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill -- the crucial piece of law to implement the deal he struck in Brussels last week. The defeat followed an initial victory for Johnson in gaining parliamentary support for the general principles of the deal he struck with the EU.Key DevelopmentsDefeat makes it virtually impossible for Johnson to get his accord ratified in time to meet the current exit day deadline of Oct. 31.Speaking after result, Johnson said his policy remains that Brexit should not be delayed, but that the legislation will be put on hold. Johnson also said he’ll step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31. The pound fell.Read more: Northern Irish Loyalists Warn of ‘Angry’ Backlash to Brexit DealFollow developments as they happen here. All times U.K.Johnson Pauses Brexit Legislation (7:44 p.m.)After the house of Commons rejected Boris Johnson’s proposed accelerated timetable for debating his Brexit legislation, he said he’ll put it on hold and step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31. In the meantime, he’ll await the EU’s verdict on the extension to the Brexit deadline he was forced by Parliament to request.Immediately before Johnson spoke, opposition Labour Party Leader Jerem,y Corbyn offered him an olive branch, asking him to “work with all of us to agree a reasonable timetable” for the legislation, and he suspected MPs would vote for it.Johnson Loses Vote on Fast-Tracking Bill (7.36 p.m.)Boris Johnson’s victory in securing passage of his Brexit legislation to the next stage of debate in the House of Commons was swiftly followed by defeat, as MPs rejected his proposed accelerated timetable for conducting that scrutiny.The House of Commons voted by 322 to 308 to reject Johnson’s plan, which would have seen the legislation debated in just three days. MPs objected to such a short period of time to scrutinize legislation which will have repercussions for trade, the economy and the union of Northern Ireland with England, Scotland and Wales.Johnson Wins First Vote on His Brexit Deal (7.15 p.m.)Boris Johnson won a dramatic vote on his new Brexit plan by a margin of 329 to 299 on Tuesday evening. It’s the first demonstration that the House of Commons is prepared to approve the broad principles of an agreement that takes the U.K. out of the European Union: the chamber three times rejected the previous deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.But the prime minister’s victory may be short-lived: MPs are now voting on the accelerated timetable proposed by Johnson to scrutinize and amend the plan. He’s planning to push it through the Commons in just three days, so that he can avoid delaying Brexit for a third time, beyond the current Oct. 31 deadline. If they reject his schedule, he’s said he’ll pull the legislation.DUP’s Wilson Attacks Johnson’s Deal (5 p.m.)Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party tore into Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement. “I don’t believe we should be voting for this bill tonight,” he began. His primary objection is that the deal treats Northern Ireland -- a red line for his party -- and referring to the premier’s assurances on how measures applying to the province could be temporary, said: “The prime minister thinks I can’t read the agreement.”“We will be left in an arrangement whereby EU law on all trade, goods, will be applied to Northern Ireland,” he said.House of Commons Speaker John Bercow then interrupted Wilson before he could finish and confirm he’ll be voting against the deal -- but it didn’t sound good for the government.Letwin Backs Down on Timetable (4.15 p.m.)Oliver Letwin, one of the former Conservative MPs who has been such a thorn in Boris Johnson’s side, is now trying to help. “Getting seriously worried,” he said on Twitter, arguing that it would be a disaster if the bill were pulled. Instead, he said it was “the least of the evils” to back down in the face of Johnson’s threat and accept the accelerated timetable “whatever we really think of it.”Labour MPs Propose Referendum Amendment (3:40 p.m.)Phil Wilson, a Labour MP who put his name to an amendment calling for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal earlier in the year, told Bloomberg he’d proposed it again. “We have put the amendment down because we genuinely believe in 2016 people voted to leave but they didn’t vote on how to leave,” he said.Labour to Whip Against Bill, Timetable (3:25 p.m.)The opposition Labour Party will whip its members of Parliament to vote against the second reading of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill, and also to oppose the accelerated timetable -- the so-called program motion -- the premier proposes to debate the legislation, two people familiar with the matter said.But in the chamber of the House of Commons, party leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested that rebels won’t be punished with expulsion from the party -- as Johnson did to his own Conservative rebels last months. Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick, who has repeatedly rebelled on Brexit matters, for assurance that such a punishment wouldn’t be meted out, Corbyn declined to give it, but at the same time, suggested rebels will be safe.“I believe in the powers of persuasion,” Corbyn said. “And tonight, I would like to persuade my honorable friend come with us vote against this bill and vote against the program motion.”Can Johnson Even Call An Election? (3:10 p.m.)It’s all very well for Boris Johnson to threaten an election (see 2:45 p.m.), but if it were in his power to call one, Britain would have already voted. Johnson tried twice at the start of September to get one, failing both times because under the law, two thirds of MPs have to vote for an early election for one to happen.That means that as before, Johnson would still need the opposition Labour Party’s agreement, and that’s far from certain, even though leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he’d support one if it weren’t for the risk of a no-deal Brexit.In theory, Johnson could change the law to set another election date. That would require only a simple majority -- though he doesn’t have one of those, either.Barnier to Lead New EU Task Force (3 p.m.)The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, already has his next job lined up -- even though the U.K. is still navigating its withdrawal. The European Commission on Tuesday announced Barnier as head of the EU’s new Task Force for Relations with the U.K.The task force will coordinate work on “strategic, operational, legal and financial” issues related to Brexit, according to an emailed statement from the commission. It will also “be in charge of the finalization of the Article 50 negotiations, as well as the commission’s ‘no-deal’ preparedness work and the future relationship negotiations with the U.K.”What Exactly Is Johnson’s Election Threat? (2.45 p.m.)Boris Johnson’s election threat was carefully constructed. Here is it is full:“I will in no way allow months more of this. If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead gets its way and decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the government continue with this. It is with great regret bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.”The “until January” part of that could be significant. Johnson was required by law to seek a delay of Brexit until Jan. 31 if he was unable to get a deal done -- but the EU isn’t obliged to offer that long. If they offered a shorter period, perhaps Johnson is hinting he wouldn’t go through with his threat to pull the bill.Practically, given the time it would take to hold an election -- at least five weeks -- and the uncertainty around the outcome, it would be risky for the EU to offer a shorter delay. In that scenario, the U.K. could easily find itself on a course out of the door without a functioning government at all.Johnson Threatens Election If MPs Block Timetable (2:26 p.m.)Boris Johnson confirmed earlier reports he will indeed pull his Brexit bill if MPs reject the government’s accelerated timetable this evening.When asked by the SNP’s David Linden, Johnson told MPs that if the motion proposing a fast-track timetable is voted down, “the bill will have to be pulled” and “we will have to go forward to a general election.”Kinnock Proposes Single Market Amendment (2 p.m.)Labour MP Stephen Kinnock proposed an amendment to the bill which seeks to ensure the U.K. stays aligned with the EU single market after it’s left the EU.In an interview with Bloomberg, Kinnock said businesses have raised concerns that the EU would never do a free trade deal with a country that had diverged from its rules and regulations to become “Singapore on Thames.”The amendment proposes the government will work toward close alignment with the single market, “dynamic” rights and protections for workers and the environment, and to participate in EU agencies.Kinnock said the amendment has been proposed for debate and potentially voting on Tuesday or Wednesday.PM ‘Will Ditch Bill’ if Defeated on Timetable (1:45 p.m.)The prime minister may have the votes to get his deal approved but faces a major battle to convince MPs to rush the law through Parliament in just a few days. If they refuse his request for a speedy timetable, Johnson has little chance of meeting his goal of getting Brexit done by Oct. 31.The premier’s team hit back, with one senior government official in Johnson’s office saying he will abandon the bill entirely if he loses the vote on the fast-track timetable motion on Tuesday.The official said the prime minister will ditch the bill if Parliament votes again for a delay and the EU offers an extension to the Brexit deadline to Jan. 31. The official said the government will pull the Bill, there will be no further business for Parliament, and the Johnson will move to trigger an election before Christmas.The official’s comments may put more pressure on MPs to agree to the accelerated timetable ahead of the vote. The pound fell by as much as 0.5% to $1.2891, a fresh low for the day.Johnson: Back Brexit Deal to ‘Heal’ Britain (1:30 p.m.)Johnson opened the debate in Parliament on his deal, calling on MPs of all parties to back his Withdrawal Agreement Bill so that voters can focus on domestic priorities instead of Brexit.Passing the bill later Tuesday will allow the nation to “turn the page and allow this parliament and this country to heal,” Johnson said. A vote to support the new Brexit agreement would provide a “shot in the arm” for the British economy and unleash a “tide” of investment, he said. The premier was replying to a question on why the government hasn’t provided economic impact assessments of his deal.Johnson to Make Case for Fast Timetable (1 p.m.)Boris Johnson will be making the case for a three-day timetable for his Brexit bill to pass through the House of Commons when he opens the debate shortly, according to a U.K. official, though the prime minister won’t say what he’ll do if MPs vote against the accelerated schedule.But precedent suggests the bill could be pulled. According to the official, since so-called program motions were introduced in the 1980s, there is only a single example -- in 2011 -- of one being voted down. That bill was withdrawn, the official said.Johnson to Open Debate on Brexit Bill (12:30 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson will open the main debate on his Brexit legislation in the House of Commons, his spokesman told reporters, with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland making closing remarks at about 6:30 p.m.Voting down the timetable -- known as the program motion -- for the three-day passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons would have “serious implications,” spokesman James Slack said, declining to say what the government plans to do in that scenario, including whether the Brexit bill would be pulled.“If the program motion is passed, we have a clear path to leave on Oct. 31,” Slack said. “If it’s not passed, there’s no guarantee the EU will grant an extension.”Brexit May Tie N. Ireland to EU Forever: Judge (12:25 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal could permanently bind Northern Ireland to European Union law, according to an Irish judge at the bloc’s second-highest court, who suggested the accord may eventually bring the people of the island of Ireland together.Johnson’s agreement would have “very long-term consequences for the continued separation of Northern Ireland from Ireland,” Judge Anthony Collins said at an event in Brussels late Monday. That’s because EU law and practice would continue to be applied, which will aid the economic development of the region, he said.Boles Proposes Amendment to Extend Transition (11:15 a.m.)Former Conservative MP Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent in Parliament, has proposed an amendment that would force the government to seek an extension of the Brexit transition period to Dec. 2022 if it hasn’t agreed a trade deal with the European Union by the deadline at the end of next year.The amendment reflects unease among MPs that the government’s legislation creates a potential new cliff edge in Dec. 2020, when the U.K. could still face trading on no-deal terms with the EU if the government doesn’t reach a trade agreement. Labour’s Hilary Benn said on Twitter the draft law gives Parliament no say if the government doesn’t propose an extension -- and Boles’s amendment seeks to address that.Labour Party ‘Outraged’ at Government’s Timetable (11 a.m.)The main opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said the Labour Party is “outraged” at the government’s accelerated timetable for debating its Brexit bill, but stopped short of saying the party would oppose what it sees as an “artificial” deadline. She told the BBC a decision would be made at a shadow cabinet meeting later on how to vote on Tuesday.Government Hints It Will Pull Bill If MPs Amend It (8.30 a.m.)Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC radio the government will not accept any amendments to the Brexit bill that “compromise the integrity of the deal we have secured from the EU,” implying the government will pull the bill altogether and seek a general election if MPs change Johnson’s legislation to include a second referendum or to keep the U.K. in the EU’s customs union.Labour has repeatedly voted down Johnson’s attempts for a general election, arguing an extension must be agreed with the European Union first.Juncker Expresses Brexit Regret (8:25 a.m.)For the European Union, Brexit has been a “waste of time and a waste of energy” when the bloc should have been doing other things, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.Standing with EU Council President Donald Tusk before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker said the EU has done all in its power to prevent a no-deal Brexit. He reiterated that the European Parliament -- which has a veto over the Brexit deal -- would only be able to ratify the deal after the British Parliament. That’s a potential spanner in the works when it comes to Boris Johnson’s ambition to leave the bloc on Oct. 31.EU’s Tusk Still Consulting on Delay (8:20 a.m.)EU Council President Donald Tusk said the situation on Brexit is complicated by the events in the House of Commons on Saturday, and a delay will depend on what the U.K. Parliament “decides or doesn’t decide.” Tusk is still consulting the EU’s 27 leaders on how to respond to Boris Johnson’s extension request, he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.MPs Have Time to Scrutinize Deal: Government (8:10 a.m.)Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News there will be “sufficient” time for members of Parliament to go over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and that the “vast majority” know where they on Brexit.But MPs from across the House of Commons are threatening to vote against Boris Johnson’s accelerated timetable for his Brexit plan, arguing three days of debate is not enough for proper analysis of the 110-page piece of legislation.Former Conservative Cabinet minister Rory Stewart, who now sits as an independent, told BBC radio Parliament should have “normal time” to discuss the bill, highlighting concerns from voters who wish to remain in the European Union and a lack of trust in Johnson’s government.Johnson: Get Brexit Done and Move On (Earlier)On the eve of the votes, the prime minister appealed to members of Parliament to back his deal and push it through the House of Commons.“We have negotiated a new deal so that we can leave without disruption and provide a framework for a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation,” Boris Johnson said in an emailed statement.“I hope Parliament today votes to take back control for itself and the British people and the country can start to focus on the cost of living, the NHS, and conserving our environment,” he said. “The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I. Let’s get Brexit done on Oct. 31 and move on.”Earlier:Boris Johnson Finally Gets to Put His Brexit Deal to the VoteBrexit’s Big Winner So Far Is Boris Johnson: Clive CrookFacebook Pledges Tighter Scrutiny for Next U.K. Election\--With assistance from John Ainger, Robert Hutton, Aoife White, Stephanie Bodoni, Ian Wishart and Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at;Robert Hutton in London at;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:50:44 -0400
  • Pentagon chief meets Saudi king after troop deployment news

    US Defence Secretary Mark Esper discussed "strategic cooperation" with Saudi King Salman Tuesday, days after Washington ordered thousands of soldiers to the kingdom as tensions fester with Iran. The meeting in Riyadh, where Esper arrived late Monday after an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, also took in defence issues and the current situation in the region, the official SPA news agency said. The agency later added that Esper had met powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also defence minister.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:48:40 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson says will pause Brexit legislation until EU decides on delay

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday the government would pause legislation to ratify its Brexit deal with the European Union while the bloc decides whether to offer a delay to Britain's planned Oct. 31 exit. "I will speak to EU member states about their intentions.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:45:28 -0400
  • Russian Nuclear Bombers Sent to S. Africa in Rare Cooperation

    (Bloomberg) -- Russia will on Wednesday land the world’s biggest military aircraft in South Africa, the Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ bomber, in a rare display of cooperation between the defense forces of the two countries.The two bombers, which are capable of launching nuclear missiles, are the first to ever land in Africa and will be escorted by fighter jets from the South African Air Force when they touch down at the Waterkloof air base in Tshwane, the South African National Defence Force said in a statement. The bombers will arrive at 6:30 a.m. and a number of other Russian military aircraft will also land at the site.“The military-to-military relations between the two countries are not solely built on struggle politics but rather on fostering mutually beneficial partnerships based on common interests,” the SANDF said. Russia’s defense ministry put out a similar statement.The arrival of the bombers in Africa’s most industrialized nation coincides with Russian President Vladimir Putin hosting an Africa summit this week, the first such event to be organized by Russia. The nation is competing with China and the U.S. for influence in Africa.(Adds time of landing in second paragraph)\--With assistance from Stepan Kravchenko.To contact the reporter on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: John McCorry at, Pauline BaxFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:42:47 -0400
  • Turkey and Russia announce deal to withdraw all Kurdish forces from Syrian border news

    Turkey and Russia announced last night they had reached a deal to avoid a return to fullscale fighting in northeast Syria, just hours before a US-brokered ceasefire between Turkish and Kurdish forces was due to expire.  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin emerged from marathon talks in Sochi with an agreement that would see all Kurdish forces pull back 30km from the Syrian border over the next six days.  Russia and Turkey will then launch joint military patrols in the area to ensure the deal is being implemented. There was no immediate comment from Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the deal. But if the agreement holds it means Turkey will not restart its military offensive, which many feared would resume as soon as an earlier ceasefire ended at 10pm on Tuesday.   "According to this agreement, Turkey and Russia will not allow any separatist agenda on Syrian territory," Mr Erdoğan said. Turkey and Syria border The talks in Sochi underscore how quickly Russia has replaced the US as the main powerbroker in northeast Syria in the days since Donald Trump, the US president, pulled American forces out of the region. Russian forces will now stand guard in areas that only a few weeks were ago were being patrolled by US troops.  The evening agreement between Russia and Turkey capped a dramatic day as the world counted down the hours until the end of the ceasefire brokered last week by US vice president Mike Pence. The US said earlier in the day that it believed that Kurdish forces had fulfilled their obligations to withdraw from a key 120km stretch of the border and warned Turkey that it would impose sanctions if the Turkish military resumed attacks.  Areas of Rojava and Iraqi Kurdistan before the Turkish offensive The Russian-Turkish deal appears to expand on the earlier American agreement and ensure that Kurdish forces will leave the entire length of the border. Turkey will maintain control in areas it has already seized while Russian and Syrian regime forces will hold the rest of the border. The agreement also states that the Kurds will withdraw from two holdout towns in western Syria, Kobani and Tel Rifaat, which Turkey has been trying to dislodge them from them for more than a year.      Sergey Shoygu, the Russian defence minister, said up to 500 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) members had escaped from Kurdish-run prisons in northeast Syria amid the chaos of the Turkish offensive.  US troops are withdrawing from northeast Syria Credit: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images Meanwhile, confusion over the US plan to withdraw forces from Syria deepened on Tuesday after Iraq’s government said the retreating troops did not have permission to stay in Iraq. “There is no permission granted for these forces to stay inside Iraq,” the Iraqi military said. The comment appeared to contradict claims by the Pentagon that the roughly 1,000 soldiers would stay in Iraq to continue fighting Isil.  Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, said he would try to smooth the issue during a visit to Iraq and added that the additional American forces did not plan “to stay in Iraq interminably”. There was a bleak reminder of the threat from Isil inside Iraq when it emerged Tuesday that a senior Iraqi police commander had been killed in an ambush by jihadist fighters.  Bashar al-Assad visited his forces in Idlib for the first time in years Bashar al-Assad made a rare trip outside Damascus to visit his troops on the front line in southern Idlib, where Syrian regime forces are battling against jihadists and rebels to take back the last opposition-held province in Syria.   The visit is the first time Assad has stepped foot in the province in years and marks his growing confidence after several weeks of good news for Damascus.  While his forces are make slow progress in Idlib, they were handed an unexpected victory in northeast Syria after Kurdish forces invited them in to confront Turkey.   Assad took aim at the Turkish president during the trip to Idlib, saying: “Erdogan is a thief and is now stealing our land.”  He vowed to continue his assault on Idlib, which is home to around 3 million civilians, and said a victory in the provice would help “decisively end chaos and terrorism in all of Syria”.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:42:10 -0400
  • Johnson Wins First Parliamentary Vote on His New Brexit Plan

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson clinched a dramatic vote for his new Brexit plan, in the first demonstration that parliament is prepared to approve the broad principles of an agreement that takes the U.K. out of the European Union.The government won by 329 to 299 votes in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, paving the way for the next legislative stage, when Members of Parliament will be able to amend it. Before that, they will vote on whether to accept the prime minister’s accelerated timetable for the legislation to pass before Oct. 31. After the chamber three times rejected the deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, today’s vote is the first time the Commons has indicated it’s prepared to back a deal already negotiated with the EU. If Johnson is able to hold onto the slender majority as the legislation continues its passage through the Commons and then the House of Lords, he’ll able to fulfill his pledge to deliver Brexit. It’s a remarkable turnaround for Johnson, who a month ago was found to have illegally suspended parliament, watched his brother quit the government and sacked 21 members of the Conservative Party for refusing to sign up to his no-deal stance.He’s planning to push the so-called Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the Commons in just three days to avoid delaying Brexit for a third time. Some MPs who support debating the bill further may object to the accelerated timetable and switch sides.Opponents argue the timetable is too short to debate such an important piece of legislation, which will have repercussions for trade, the economy and the union of Northern Ireland with England, Scotland and Wales. The government argues that most of the issues covered by the bill have been debated over the past three years in Parliament.Johnson has said he’ll pull the bill if the timetable is rejected. He’s already been bounced into requesting a delay to Brexit by legislation passed against the government’s will, but made clear he doesn’t want that extension. If he can’t get the legislation through by Oct. 31, it’ll be in the hands of the EU to decide whether to grant the extension to Jan. 31 sought by Parliament or to opt for a shorter or longer delay. If the bloc refuses to do so, the U.K. will be on track to crash out of the EU without a deal on Oct. 31.To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Heather HarrisFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:19:32 -0400
  • Sudan council agrees to consider rebel group's proposals

    A top Sudanese official says the transitional government and rebel leaders have wrapped up a first round of talks aimed at ending the country's years-long civil wars, with the government agreeing to consider proposals by the Sudan Liberation Movement-North. Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the Sovereign Council, says Tuesday the talks will resume Nov. 21. The round of talks ended a day after the government agreed on the agenda for negotiations with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of rebel groups from the western Darfur region.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:11:53 -0400
  • McConnell resolution prods Trump to keep troops in Syria news

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation Tuesday denouncing Turkey's invasion of northern Syria and gently prodding President Donald Trump to halt his withdrawal of U.S. troops from the embattled country. Senate Democrats also said they wanted to plunge ahead with sanctions legislation. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., would bar arms sales to Turkey and place sanctions on the assets of top officials in Ankara.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:07:46 -0400
  • Man accused of plan to attack Milwaukee temple goes on trial news

    A man accused of plotting a mass shooting in defense of Islam at a Masonic temple in downtown Milwaukee will try to convince jurors at his trial starting Wednesday that FBI informants encouraged him for months to purchase weapons for the attack. Attorneys for 26-year-old Samy Hamzeh plan to argue that the FBI entrapped their client, who they say never owned a gun, has no criminal record, and was incapable of mass murder. The FBI has said their agents thwarted an act of terrorism when they arrested Hamzeh in January 2016.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 14:07:16 -0400
  • UK minister Buckland offers assurance to wavering lawmakers on Brexit transition

    British justice minister Robert Buckland said on Tuesday the government would bring forward a change to Brexit legislation to allow parliament a say on the merits of an extension to the transition period after exit. Some lawmakers are concerned that if they back the deal, Britain could still leave the European Union without an agreement after the transition ends in December 2020 if a future trading partnership is not agreed with Brussels by July that year. Some want to have an additional guarantee that if there is no future trading relationship by that date, the government will seek to extend the so-called transition.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 13:56:49 -0400
  • US to ask NATO to pay more to protect Saudi Arabia from Iran news

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that he will urge allies later this week to contribute more to the defense of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region to counter threats from Iran. The U.S. has already agreed to send three Patriot missile batteries, dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 13:55:15 -0400
  • Iraq inquiry: Excessive force used on protesters; 149 killed

    An Iraqi government-appointed inquiry into week-long protests earlier this month has determined that security forces used excessive force, killing 149 people and wounding over 3,000. Eight members of the security forces were also killed. The committee recommended sacking senior commanders in Baghdad and several of the southern provinces where protests erupted beginning Oct. 1.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 13:39:56 -0400
  • Boris Johnson Might Yet Get Brexit Done: Counting the Votes news

    (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson will find out Tuesday evening whether he can muster a majority in the House of Commons to support his Brexit deal. Even if he does, it may not be enough to get the agreement through Parliament by his Oct. 31 deadline.Having twice been denied a vote on whether lawmakers support his deal, Johnson has introduced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which would implement the deal in law, and plans to push it through Parliament at a breakneck pace. His moment of truth will come at around 7 p.m. in London, with what’s known as the Second Reading vote -- on whether Parliament agrees with the general principles of the bill.He needs to persuade 61 Members of Parliament to back his deal. It looks like he has 64, based on what lawmakers have said over the last week. Here’s our tally of how many look like they will support his deal.However, his plan to fast-track the legislation through Parliament is more controversial. Even lawmakers who support his deal have expressed concern about the lack of time it provides for proper scrutiny. If he doesn’t pass that hurdle, he could still deliver Brexit -- just not in time for his deadline.Based on what MPs have said over the last few days, it looks like Johnson will get closer to a majority than he did on Saturday -- where he lost by 322 to 306 -- but still not make it over the line.Now for the health warning. This analysis is necessarily imprecise: MPs can and do change their minds. Some are keeping their cards close to their chest.Here’s how the numbers break down:Johnson’s Target: 320Once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson needs 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons.May’s Baseline: 259The last time Theresa May tried to get her deal through, in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. They are mostly likely to back a Johnson deal too, but there are some problems.Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. They were joined by Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy. Also out of the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year in frustration at the Brexit deadlock.As a result there are question marks against 19 former Tories who previously backed May’s deal. On top of that number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election.That leaves Johnson 61 votes short. Where can he go?‘Gaukeward Squad’: 19The expelled Tories, who take their name from former Justice Secretary David Gauke, are temperamentally loyalists -- some had never voted against their party before September. Many of them are looking for a way back in -- including Gauke.In Saturday’s vote, seven of the Gaukeward Squad went against Johnson, but almost all made it clear they were ready to back his deal. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond still seems uncertain, but Johnson seems to have the vast bulk with him.Democratic Unionist Party: 10Johnson worked hard to try to keep Northern Ireland’s DUP engaged, but they have come out firmly against the new deal. They have deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland and want a stronger consent mechanism that hands a greater say to the regional assembly.They seem to have failed in their efforts to persuade Tories to vote against the deal, but on Saturday, they inflicted defeat on Johnson by voting against him, and they look ready to do it again.The Spartans: 28The self-titled “Spartans” are Conservative MPs who refused to vote for May’s deal. They chose their name to recall the fearsome Ancient Greek warriors who held off a numerically superior Persian force at the Battle of Thermopylae.When Johnson became prime minister, the Spartans were adamant they opposed anything but the most minimal Brexit agreement. But in recent weeks they have begun to see the virtues of compromise. This is the result of the Benn Act, legislation that aims to prevent the U.K. leaving on Oct. 31 unless Johnson has reached a deal. It’s made the Spartans fear losing Brexit altogether.On Saturday, Johnson had the support of all of the Spartans, with their leader Steve Baker offering MPs assurances of their good intentions in an effort to boost support for Johnson. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will all vote for his deal, but the prime minister should be reasonably confident he has their support as long as he doesn’t let his deal get rewritten.Labour: 31May pinned her hopes on winning the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored. She struggled to get more than five to vote with her, but 15 who didn’t back her last time joined some who did in signing a letter this month urging the EU to do a deal. That might imply a commitment to vote for such an agreement.Against that is the fear of retribution from their party if they do so. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team sense that defeating Johnson’s deal is a key step on their route to beating him at an election. Others in the party see defeating a deal as essential to securing another referendum.A law unto herself is Kate Hoey, a fierce supporter of Brexit but also an MP with Northern Irish roots, who said she will oppose the deal. Since Johnson announced his plan, some Labour MPs who previously made pro-Brexit noises have started to come out of the woodwork, so we’ve increased the number of potential Labour votes by 10.Saturday saw six Labour MPs voting with Johnson, and three more abstaining. He needs more, but at least three more have promised to support his deal.Independents: 5Four independent MPs backed May’s deal in March. A fifth, John Woodcock, might also be tempted. He voted with Johnson on Saturday. But Sylvia Hermon, who backed May’s deal, represents a Northern Irish seat and is opposed to Johnson’s deal.Other MPs: 2Two possible supporters defy categorization. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who is stepping down at the next election, represents a seat that voted to leave the EU and has been critical of his party’s anti-Brexit stance. On Saturday he said he was against Johnson’s deal. In better news for the prime minister, his brother Jo, an opponent of Brexit, voted with him on Saturday.The JokerIf it comes to a tie, Speaker John Bercow has a casting vote. It’s not clear how he would exercise it.(Updates throughout reflecting upcoming Tuesday votes.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson and Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, ;Heather Harris at, Greg Ritchie, Edward EvansFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 13:30:09 -0400
  • Rights group: Possible war crimes in fight for Libya capital

    A leading rights group on Tuesday said it has evidence of potential war crimes by Libyan factions fighting a months-long battle for Tripoli, the capital. London-based Amnesty International said its investigation showed that the warring parties have killed and maimed scores of civilians, with both sides having launched indiscriminate attacks and using inaccurate explosive weapons in populated urban areas. Forces loyal to Khalifa Hifter, a veteran army officer based in the country's east, began an offensive to capture Tripoli in early April, clashing with an array of militias loosely allied with a U.N.-supported but weak government based in the capital.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 13:26:17 -0400
  • Mnuchin, Kushner to Return to Saudi Forum After Khashoggi Death

    (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, plan to attend an annual Saudi Arabian investment forum a year after skipping the event because of the kingdom’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.They plan to stop in Israel before going to Riyadh, according to people familiar with the matter. They’re departing this weekend and will be joined by Brian Hook, a U.S. State Department special representative for Iran.The investment forum, called the Future Investment Ini tiative, is a the three-day confab, known as “Davos in the Desert.” Held in Riyadh Oct. 29 to 31, the meeting is set to attract some of Wall Street’s top dealmakers, as well as representatives from major institutional investors across the globe.The Treasury Department declined to comment.Mnuchin last year boycotted the investment meeting after Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in Turkey. The Treasury chief still traveled to Riyadh in October 2018, meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.The CIA has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s murder, according to the Washington Post. Saudi Arabia’s reputation abroad has also taken a hit since the 2018 killing and the arrest of prominent women’s rights activists accused by authorities of undermining state security.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at;Nick Wadhams in Washington at nwadhams@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at, Justin Blum, Joshua GalluFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 13:24:56 -0400
  • UK Labour Party says open to discussing different timetable for Brexit law

    Britain's opposition Labour Party said on Tuesday it was open to finding a compromise on the timetable for passing Brexit legislation through parliament, having rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposal to fast-track the exit bill. "I remain available at any point to seek a consensus with you on a programme motion that would command the support of all sides of the house," said Labour's Chief Whip Nick Brown, in a letter to his opposite number in government, published by Brown's office on Twitter. The government's timetable, known as a programme motion, is due to be put to a vote after 1800 GMT.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:45:36 -0400
  • 7,000 Syrian refugees arrive in Iraq in 7 days: UN news

    Over 7,100 refugees arrived in Iraq from Syria within seven days, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday, as Turkish forces targeted Kurdish regions after the U.S. withdrew troops. A majority of the people -- three out of four -- are women and children, including unaccompanied minors, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said at a press briefing in Geneva.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:09:00 -0400
  • Lebanon PM seeks foreign support for reforms amid protests news

    Lebanon's embattled prime minister sought international support Tuesday for economic reforms announced a day earlier, which were intended to pacify massive protests calling for his government to resign. Saad Hariri hopes the reform package will increase foreign investments and help Lebanon's struggling economy. Lebanon's biggest demonstrations in 15 years have unified an often-divided public in their revolt against status-quo leaders who have ruled for three decades and brought the economy to the brink of disaster.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:45:00 -0400
  • Northern Irish Loyalists Warn of ‘Angry’ Backlash to Brexit Deal

    (Bloomberg) -- Northern Irish loyalists vowed to resist what they see as the economic reunification of Ireland implicit in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, warning of civil disobedience on the streets of Belfast that risks tipping over into violence.In London on Tuesday, Parliament will vote on the general principles of Johnson’s accord with the European Union, which binds Northern Ireland tightly to the bloc to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.“You are going to have an organic explosion of anger” if Johnson’s deal is passed, Jamie Bryson, who has emerged as a de-facto spokesman for loyalists, said in an interview. “We are going to have a difficult position to prevent loyalists taking to the streets and we would hope that would be peaceful. But you are asking people to go along with surrendering their country -- it is not going to happen. It’s a very fluid situation and it wouldn’t take much to spark it off.”The Democratic Unionist Party is opposed to the deal, suggesting it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the union. The U.K. effectively split Ireland in 1921 to placate a largely Protestant, unionist majority in the north in the face of increasingly demands from the Catholic-dominated south for independence from Britain.“If this goes ahead we are into an economic United Ireland, the whole basis of the Union is gone, it’s weakened,” Bryson said. “It is going to have to be resisted.”Still, other forces in unionism cautioned against inflaming the situation. The Orange Order, which celebrates Northern Ireland’s place in the U.K., said it’s not the time for widespread protest which could paralyze the region, Reuters reported.“There is a feeling people need to do something but I would be encouraging people that it isn’t a case for street protest at this time,” Orange Order Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson told Reuters.Bryson said all sides want to avoid a return to violence.“There’s a danger if you get a massive amount of people on the streets,” he said. “Violence would be foolish but I can’t predict the future.”Meanwhile, in Dublin, Sinn Fein suggested a vote on a uniting Ireland could take place sooner rather than later. The U.K. government can only call a unification referendum when it considers it likely a vote would be carried. “Germany was reunified in in one year,” Michelle O’Neill, leader of the party’s Northern Irish wing, said in a speech on Tuesday. “In less than one year, and that’s something for everybody to think about. Sometimes events can over take you.” To contact the reporter on this story: Rodney Edwards in London at redwards102@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at, Dara DoyleFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:41:34 -0400
  • Trump hints at 'incredible' trade deal with North Korea

    President Trump wants more than just a nuclear agreement from North Korea.Trump spent more than an hour during a Monday Cabinet meeting spinning on everything from how he "captured" ISIS to how he doesn't believe in part of the Constitution. But buried in those talks was another, lesser discussed implication: That Trump is working on a trade deal with North Korea.After railing about health care at the end of the Monday remarks, Trump snuck in an unexpected mention of international trade deals. "These trade deals are incredible," Trump said. "Whether it's North Korea, South Korea -- probably, something is going to be happening with North Korea too," he continued, and then added some more vague claims: "There's some very interesting information on North Korea. A lot of things are going on. And that's going to be a major rebuild at a certain point."Trump's North Korea suggestions were obviously light on the details, and after mentioning the "rebuild," he moved on to talk South Korea and China. So it's unclear if a deal is really in the works, or if Trump was just stumbling through the region on his way to discuss South Korea.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:28:00 -0400
  • Egypt arrests 22 for planned protest over grisly murder case

    Egypt says it has arrested nearly two dozen people for allegedly trying to incite protests over a grisly murder that's shocked the country. Earlier this month, a teenage boy fatally stabbed another boy who was defending a girl from sexual harassment. The killing of Mahmoud el-Banna has stunned Egypt.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:25:23 -0400
  • US To Sell North Korean Ship, Pay Proceeds To Tortured Victims' Families

    The Justice Department on Oct. 21 said the U.S. now owns a seized North Korean-flagged bulk ship that for several years illicitly transported coal from North Korea and returned with machinery in its hulls. The 17,061-ton Wise Honest was believed to be one of North Korea's largest bulk ships. The forfeiture "finalizes the U.S. government's seizure of the Wise Honest and officially takes this North Korean vessel out of commission," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in New York said in a statement.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:23:13 -0400
  • Iraq: American troops leaving Syria cannot stay in Iraq news

    U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq's military said Tuesday as American forces continued to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey's invasion of the border region. The statement appears to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:21:32 -0400
  • Turkey's Halkbank could face fine for failing to appear in U.S. court: prosecutor news

    A U.S. prosecutor on Tuesday called Turkey's Halkbank a "fugitive" after it failed to make an initial court appearance in a criminal case accusing it of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard said at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan that prosecutors had served a summons on the bank's U.S. lawyer, and that the bank was "in contempt" for not appearing. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is presiding over the case, said the bank would get another two weeks.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:12:42 -0400
  • Iranian beauty queen pleads for asylum in the Philippines news

    An Iranian beauty queen is seeking asylum in the Philippines, fearing for her life after Tehran demanded her extradition for a crime she claims she did not commit.  Bahareh Zare Bahari, who represented Iran at the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant in Manila, and who has studied dental medicine in the Philippines since 2014, has been held for six days at the country’s Ninoy Aquino airport after Iran slapped an Interpol Red Notice on her for alleged assault.  In a series of messages, the distraught Ms Bahari told the Telegraph that the case was a “big lie,” adding that she believed she was being targeted for her political activism and outspoken support of women’s rights. If she was deported to Iran, “they will kill me,” she said.  Markk Perete, undersecretary at the Philippine department of justice, said that “the only reason she was held at the airport -  and we really don’t call it detention -  it is really restraining her from entering the Philippine territory, is only because of that Red Notice issued against her.” He added that the request had been made “presumably on account of a pending criminal case against her in Iran, and this case was filed by an Iranian national against her in relation to an assault that happened presumably here in the Philippines.” Bahareh Zare Bahari, who is studying dental medicine, is an outspoken advocate for women's rights Credit: Facebook However, Mr Perete said that the Philippines was unaware of this allegation, and that an earlier accusation of commercial fraud against her had been dismissed.  There were no criminal cases pending against Ms Bahari, he confirmed. “We don’t have any cause for refusing her entry for violation of our laws.” Ms Bahari’s asylum plea is now being considered by the justice department, with the help of a lawyer.  Meanwhile, the dental student is confined to Terminal 3’s transit area awaiting her fate. “There is no updating, no information about the reason why [they] keep me here so long,” she said.  She believes her political statement at the pageant - waving a poster of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled former crown prince, and one of the foremost critics of Iran’s Islamic government - made her enemies in Tehran.  Mr Pahlavi's name has been invoked by some Iranian groups who have called for a return of the monarchy to deal with corruption and poor economic conditions. “I used his photo on stage to be [the] voice of my people because all news and media are ignoring my people,” she said.  Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called for “a fair and impartial hearing of her claim” in Manila.  “It’s absolutely critical the Philippines provides Bahareh Zare Bahari with support, including access to legal counsel, to compile and file her asylum application,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.  “While waiting for the details to become clear, there should be no action under Iran’s Interpol red notice, especially since under Interpol rules a red notice is null and void if the person named in the notice is found to be a refugee fleeing from the state that issued it.”

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:11:46 -0400
  • 'America is running away': Syrian withdrawal turns chaotic news

    The crowd hurled potatoes that thudded on the sides of the hulking U.S. armored vehicles. "What happened to Americans?" one man shouted in English up at the sole U.S. soldier visible on the back of a vehicle. It was yet another indignity in a U.S. withdrawal that has been carried out over the past two weeks with more haste and violence than expected — and which may now be partially reversed.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:09:30 -0400
  • Hungary's Orban Gave Trump Harsh Analysis of Ukraine Before Key Meeting news

    WASHINGTON -- Just 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine, President Donald Trump met, over the objections of his national security adviser, with one of the former Soviet republic's most virulent critics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and heard a sharp assessment that bolstered his hostility toward the country, according to several people informed about the situation.Trump's conversation with Orban on May 13 exposed him to a harsh indictment of Ukraine at a time when his personal lawyer was pressing the new government in Kyiv to provide damaging information about Democrats. Trump's suspicious view of Ukraine set the stage for events that led to the impeachment inquiry against him.The visit by Orban, who is seen as an autocrat who has rolled back democracy, provoked a sharp dispute within the White House. John Bolton, then the president's national security adviser, and Fiona Hill, then the National Security Council's senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed a White House invitation for the Hungarian leader, according to the people briefed on the matter. But they were outmaneuvered by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who supported such a meeting.As a result, Trump at a critical moment in the Ukraine saga sat down in the Oval Office with a European leader with a fiercely negative outlook on Ukraine that fortified opinions he had heard from his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and from President Vladimir Putin of Russia repeatedly over the months and years.Echoing Putin's view, Orban has publicly accused Ukraine of oppressing its Hungarian minority and has cast his eye on a section of Ukraine with a heavy Hungarian population. His government has accused Ukraine of being "semi-fascist" and sought to block important meetings for Ukraine with the European Union and NATO.Ten days after his meeting with Orban, Trump met on May 23 with several of his top advisers returning from the inauguration of Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The advisers, including Rick Perry, the energy secretary; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, reassured Trump that Zelenskiy was a reformer who deserved U.S. support. But Trump expressed deep doubt, saying that Ukrainians were "terrible people" who "tried to take me down" during the 2016 presidential election.Orban's visit came up during testimony to House investigators last week by George P. Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine policy. The meeting with Orban and a separate May 3 phone call between Trump and Putin are of intense interest to House investigators seeking to piece together the back story that led to the president's pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.Kent testified behind closed doors that another government official had held the two episodes up to him as part of an explanation for Trump's darkening views of Zelenskiy last spring, according to a person familiar with his testimony. A third factor cited to him was Giuliani's influence.Kent did not have firsthand knowledge of either discussion, and it was not clear if the person who cited them did either. But two other people briefed on the matter said in interviews that Orban used the opportunity to disparage Ukraine with the president. The Washington Post first reported on the meeting with Orban and the call with Putin.It would not be surprising that Putin would fill Trump's ear with negative impressions of Ukraine or Zelenskiy. Putin has long denied that Ukraine even deserved to be a separate nation, and he sent undercover forces into Crimea in 2014 to set the stage to annex the Ukrainian territory. Putin's government has also armed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, fomenting a civil war that has dragged on for five years.But allowing Orban to add his voice to that chorus set off a fight inside the West Wing. Bolton and Hill believed that Orban did not deserve the honor of an Oval Office visit, which would be seen as a huge political coup for an autocratic leader ostracized by many of his peers in Europe.Mulvaney, however, had come to respect Orban from his time as a member of Congress and his involvement with the International Catholic Legislators Network, according to an administration official close to the acting chief of staff. Orban has positioned himself as a champion of Christians in the Middle East, a position that earned him Mulvaney's admiration, the official said.Another official pushing for the Orban visit was David B. Cornstein, the United States ambassador to Hungary, who sidestepped the State Department to help set up a White House meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter. An 81-year-old jewelry magnate and longtime friend of Trump's, Cornstein told The Atlantic this year that the president envied Orban. "I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orban has, but he doesn't," Cornstein said.The Oval Office meeting with Trump took place just four days after Giuliani told The New York Times that he would travel to Ukraine to seek information that would be "very, very helpful to my client" and three days after Giuliani canceled the trip in response to the resulting criticism.In moves that have disturbed democracy advocates and many U.S. and European officials, Orban's government has targeted nongovernmental organizations, brought most of the news media under control of his allies, undermined the independent judiciary, altered the electoral process to favor his party and sought to drive out of the country an American-chartered university founded by billionaire George Soros.Orban's government has pressured Ukraine over what it says is discrimination and violence against ethnic Hungarians living in the western part of the country.Orban's efforts to undermine Ukraine in Europe drew enough concern among U.S. officials that Volker, while the State Department special envoy, visited Budapest and other places to meet with Hungarian officials to encourage them to talk with their counterparts in Kyiv to resolve their differences.Mulvaney's role in facilitating Orban's visit adds to the picture of the acting chief of staff's role in the Ukraine situation. It was Mulvaney who conveyed Trump's order suspending $391 million in U.S. assistance to Ukraine at the same time the president was trying to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.At a briefing last week, Mulvaney denied that the aid was held up to force Ukraine to investigate Biden but confirmed that one reason it was frozen was to make sure Ukraine investigated any involvement with Democrats in the 2016 presidential campaign. After a resulting furor, Mulvaney then sought to take back his comments, denying any quid pro quo.Bolton and Mulvaney also clashed when it became clear Mulvaney was facilitating Sondland's role in pressing Ukraine. "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," Bolton told Hill, according to her testimony to House investigators.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 10:57:03 -0400
  • EU sets up team under Barnier for post-Brexit UK ties news

    The European Commission said Tuesday that its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will head a new team to guide future relations with Britain after it leaves the EU. Britain is due to leave the union on October 31, but will remain in a transitional relationship for at least 14 months while Brussels and London negotiate a trade deal. Barnier's "Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom" will be a merger of his team that negotiated the withdrawal agreement and the EU's "Brexit preparedness" team.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 10:19:56 -0400
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