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Trump’s better deal with Iran looks a lot like Obama’s
Trump has repeatedly urged Iran to negotiate, saying that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions are his chief concern, talking points that experts say echo the 2015 deal.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being transferred to psychiatric hospital raises hopes for release, husband says
The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran has said her transfer to a hospital psychiatric ward raises hopes of her being released. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, was arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport while travelling with their young daughter in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies. Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said she was transferred from Evin prison on Monday to the psychiatric ward of Iman Khomeini hospital, in Tehran, where she is being held under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Mr Ratcliffe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the move could be a "prelude to her release". He said: "It's possible it's good news. It's possible it's a prelude to her release. It's also possible that it's a prelude to her getting treatment and all my fears are unfounded and she's getting treated and she's there for a while to get treatment and then will go back to prison. "But it's also possible that there's something else going on. One of the things that happened the last time she met the Revolutionary Guard, which was when she was on hunger strike, they were pressurising her to sign denouncements of the British Government and confess to various things. "So that's when I started getting worried - as yesterday carried on - is that are they isolating her again to squeeze her." Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian Embassy in London Her father said he visited the hospital on Tuesday but was not allowed to see his daughter and that she has not been allowed to contact her family. When Mr Ratcliffe first found out his wife was being moved to the hospital, he told Today: "We were quite hopeful that it was good thing, so we started off quite euphoric. "Now it's transpired that she's under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, it's worrying." Before being transferred, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe told relatives: "I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents. "Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic. "Look at me now, I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment. "Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it." In a press release, the Free Nazanin Campaign said it is not known what treatment she is receiving or how long she is expected to remain in hospital. The transfer comes after Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike for 15 days last month in protest at her "unfair imprisonment". Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella Mr Ratcliffe also did not eat for the period in solidarity with his wife as he camped on the pavement outside the Iranian Embassy in London. The couple's five-year-old daughter Gabriella has stayed in Iran with her grandparents since her mother's arrest. Mr Ratcliffe said: "Nazanin hoped that her hunger strike would move the Iranian authorities, and it clearly has. "Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on. "I am glad her dad has been down there to keep vigil outside. "Mental hospital has its worries at the best of times - but particularly when kept isolated and under the control of the Revolutionary Guard. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe timeline "Even now it still seems like games of power and control are being played by the Iranian authorities - even at the point of hospitalisation. "We hope again this is the beginning of the end. And yet, we were also here last summer. "We will be following up with the new prime minister whenever that is decided to ensure he takes personal responsibility for Nazanin's case." Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case.
African Revolt Draws Gulf Powers But Edges Toward Civilian Rule
(Bloomberg) -- Sudan’s military council signed a power-sharing deal with the country’s firebrand opposition that seeks to stem months of uncertainty and sporadic bloodshed after the overthrow of long-time President Omar al-Bashir.Under the accord, civilian and military representatives will form an 11-seat sovereign council with executive responsibilities, and elections will take place after three years. Images aired on pan-Arab satellite channels Wednesday showed the council’s deputy head, Mohamed Hamdan, and the opposition’s Ibrahim Al-Amin signing the agreement in the capital, Khartoum.Sudan’s army has controlled Africa’s third-largest country since mass demonstrations sparked by an economic crisis spurred it to oust Bashir in April. The opposition has kept up its protests despite a clampdown, accusing the council -- peopled by the old guard from Bashir’s three-decade rule -- of trying to prevent a genuine transition to democracy.Sudan’s upheaval has drawn in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who’ve pledged economic aid and seek to retain influence in the Red Sea nation as their tussles with Iran and Turkey for regional supremacy spread to the Horn of Africa. Prior interventions by the Gulf states in the uprisings that have rocked the Arab world since 2011 have acted to bolster national armies or maintain the status quo.The new pact, which analysts say still leaves many questions on the transition unanswered, was the fruit of sustained international pressure on Sudan’s military rulers in the wake of a June crackdown by security forces on a Khartoum protest site. More than 100 people were killed, with some of the bodies dumped in the Nile River.A second signing of a so-called constitutional declaration is scheduled to take place Friday.“This deal prevents the worst, but will not be sufficient on its own to bring Sudan back from the brink,” Alan Boswell, an analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said before the signing. “The coordinated pressure across continents required to produce this deal will now be required to keep it on track.”To contact the reporters on this story: Mohammed Alamin in Khartoum at firstname.lastname@example.org;Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at firstname.lastname@example.org, Michael Gunn, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Merkel’s Would-Be Successor Rolls Dice on High-Risk Cabinet Post
(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel’s would-be successor is gambling that one of Germany’s riskier cabinet jobs will help get her chances of becoming chancellor back on track.In an unexpected about-face, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer will take command of Germany’s military as defense minister. It’s a position that has ended several political careers in the past, though her predecessor, Ursula von der Leyen, just landed the job of leading the European Commission in Brussels.Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK in Berlin, had previously said she would steer clear of Merkel’s cabinet, preferring to distance herself from a coalition government that’s fraying at the seams. Instead, she would build her case to replace Merkel after the next election, due in 2021, from her position as leader of the Christian Democratic Union.But AKK has struggled to boost the fortunes of the CDU since taking charge in December. She fumbled with overtures to the party’s right wing and saw a slide in the polls. As of May, Merkel had grown more determined to stay in office amid doubts that AKK was up to the job, according to party officials close to the chancellor.By opting to take over Germany’s fighting forces, Kramp-Karrenbauer exchanges her independence for a position that could be the ultimate proving ground for her abilities.“If you want to show leadership you don’t think about the risk, you just get on with the job,” Ralph Brinkhaus, head of the CDU parliamentary caucus, said in an interview with ZDF television Wednesday. “In life, just as in politics, there are always risks, but if you don’t trust yourself to take on difficult tasks, then you don’t belong in politics.”Trump’s Spending DemandsIn Germany’s defense ministry, which oversees more than 180,000 active-duty troops, there are risks aplenty. AKK’s four predecessors, all in Merkel’s bloc, have seen their political fortunes fade. Two of them resigned in disgrace.When von der Leyen took over in 2013, she herself was tipped as a potential chancellor. After almost six years in the post, she was been mired in accusations about Germany’s military readiness, with helicopters that can’t fly, submarines that can’t sail, and an investigation into her use of outside consultants. The call to Brussels got her out of a fix.With about two years left in Merkel’s fourth term, AKK may manage to avoid some of the pitfalls of the defense ministry. But she will have to navigate the deteriorating transatlantic relations.Germany has been a regular target of calls by President Donald Trump for U.S. allies to boost funding for the military. Merkel, who turns 65 on Wednesday, has stood by a NATO-sponsored target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense, even if it takes longer to get there than Trump wants.However, officials in the Social Democratic Party -- Merkel’s junior coalition partner which controls the Finance Ministry -- says the 2% target is an arbitrary number that they have no intention of reaching.\--With assistance from Iain Rogers.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at email@example.com;Arne Delfs in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at email@example.com, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
More than 60 British lords criticise Labour's Corbyn over anti-Semitism
More than 60 opposition Labour members of Britain's upper house of parliament signed a statement in a newspaper on Wednesday accusing leader Jeremy Corbyn of failing "the test of leadership" over anti-Semitism in the party. Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights and critic of the Israeli government, has long been dogged by charges he has allowed a culture of anti-Semitism to thrive in Britain's main opposition party - something he denies. Eight lawmakers left the party earlier this year over anti-Semitism and Corbyn's position on Brexit, which has also angered many members who want Labour to adopt an unequivocal pro-European Union position.
Sudanese military, protesters sign power-sharing document
Sudan's ruling military and the pro-democracy movement on Wednesday signed a political document that's part of a power-sharing deal meant to end the country's deadlock after weeks of stalled talks. The signing is a key step in Sudan's transition after months of street protests that prompted the military to oust autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir and take over the country in April. The military and the pro-democracy movement, which represents the protesters, had agreed earlier this month on a joint sovereign council that will rule Sudan for a little over three years while elections are organized.
Netanyahu makes history as Israel's longest-serving leader
As Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel's longest-serving prime minister, he is solidifying his place as the country's greatest political survivor and the most dominant force in Israeli politics in his generation. After failing to form a parliamentary majority following April elections, the country is holding a repeat vote on Sept. 17.
Merkel Picks AKK to Take Over Troubled German Defense Ministry
(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Angela Merkel unexpectedly picked Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed Brussels-bound Ursula von der Leyen as defense minister, handing the head of Germany’s Christian Democrats a difficult portfolio as she seeks to develop her bid to become chancellor after Merkel’s term ends.The German leader, who has said she intends to remain in charge until the next scheduled election in 2021, moved quickly to replace von der Leyen, whose nomination as the next president of the European Commission was approved by the bloc’s parliament on Tuesday.The 56-year-old Kramp-Karrenbauer, known in Germany as AKK, inherits a job considered something of a poisoned chalice. Critics say the country’s armed forces are chronically underfunded. They have been plagued by allegations of inefficiency and reports of faulty equipment, with helicopters that can’t fly and submarines unable to sail.“When such an important position -- a core job in the cabinet -- becomes available, then a CDU leader must step up and take responsibility, and she is doing that,” Ralph Brinkhaus, head of the CDU parliamentary caucus, said in an interview with ZDF television Wednesday.“If you want to show leadership you don’t think about the risk, you just get on with the job,” he added. “In life, just as in politics, there are always risks, but if you don’t trust yourself to take on difficult tasks, then you don’t belong in politics.”Germany has been a regular target of calls by President Donald Trump for U.S. allies to boost funding for the military. Merkel, who turns 65 on Wednesday, has stood by a NATO-sponsored target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense, even if it takes longer to get there than Trump wants.However, officials in the Social Democratic Party -- Merkel’s junior coalition partner which controls the Finance Ministry -- say the 2% target is an arbitrary distraction that they have no intention of implementing.(Adds Brinkhaus comments beginning in fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org;Iain Rogers in Berlin at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Iran says minister's missile remarks meant to challenge US
Iran says remarks by the country's foreign minister about Iran's missile program possibly being up for negotiations with the U.S. meant to challenge Washington's arms sales policy to the region — and were not meant to indicate a readiness by Tehran for any such talks. The Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Mohammad Javad Zarif's comments "threw the ball into the U.S. court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
PRESS DIGEST- New York Times business news - July 17
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday Iran appeared willing to negotiate over its missile program "for the first time," in what he and U.S. President Donald Trump presented as evidence that sanctions and military pressure were working, less than a month after the president halted a planned military strike against Iran. - A federal judge on Tuesday ordered President Donald Trump's former adviser Roger Stone Jr. off major social media platforms, declaring that he violated a gag order by using them to attack the special counsel's investigation and officials tied to it.
Lebanese Delegation Requested Saudi Aid, Former Premier Says
(Bloomberg) -- A delegation of three former Lebanese premiers asked Saudi Arabia for financial assistance to help shore up their country’s deteriorating finances ahead of a probable shift toward austerity.Fouad Siniora, Najib Mikati and Tammam Salam met with King Salman on Monday in Riyadh and proposed ways the kingdom could help, Salam said in an interview.“We brought up the financial issue and that Saudi used to place deposits and invest in treasury bills in the past. We said this would seriously contribute to fortifying Lebanon financially,” said Salam, who’s a member of parliament.Saudi Arabia began mending ties with Lebanon earlier this year when it lifted a travel advisory imposed in 2013 and dispatched a team of officials from the Shura Council to Beirut. Relations between the two countries took a hit after Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a close ally of the kingdom, resigned from Riyadh over Iran’s growing role in his country. Hariri rescinded the resignation amid claims it was orchestrated by the Saudis. Riyadh last year renewed a $1 billion credit line to Lebanon.Lebanon has pledged to reduce its budget deficit, fight corruption and overhaul its loss-making state-owned utility company to unlock $11 billion in loans and grants offered at an investor summit last year. Parliament is discussing the much-delayed 2019 budget in hopes of showing the international community that it’s serious about reforms.To contact the reporter on this story: Dana Khraiche in Beirut at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mark Williams, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
US hopes North Korea talks will go ahead despite Pyongyang threat
The United States said Tuesday it hoped to hold denuclearization talks with North Korea, after Pyongyang warned that US-South Korean military exercises could affect their planned resumption. The North had earlier Tuesday hinted it could even reconsider its moratorium on nuclear testing over next month's drills, which have been held for years but were scaled down to ease tensions with Pyongyang. It was the North's first statement on the talks since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to a resumption of dialogue at an impromptu meeting in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas on June 30.
The Latest: Iran says it helped a tanker with tow to harbor
Iran's state-run media is quoting the country's Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the Islamic Republic helped an oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz amid U.S. concern that Tehran seized one there. The state-run IRNA news agency early Wednesday quoted Abbas Mousavi as saying Iran towed an unnamed vessel to harbor after it suffered a technical malfunction.
US pushes for talks as North Korea hints it may lift nuclear test moratorium
Washington has said it looks forward to resuming disarmament talks with North Korea despite a threat by Pyongyang on Tuesday that it might call off its suspension of its 20-month nuclear and missile tests. The latest missive by the North Korean foreign ministry pre-empted a planned joint US-South Korea military exercise in August, which it called “a rehearsal of war, aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack.” The statement said that Donald Trump, the US president, had pledged to suspend the military drills at his first historic summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore last year, which he reiterated at another unprecedented meeting of the two leaders last month on the border between the North and South. It pointed out that its own earlier declaration of a moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests was made to improve ties and “not a legal document inscribed on paper.” It added: “With the US unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made,” stressing the military drill would also affect talks if it went ahead. Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump agreed to resume talks when they met last month Credit: Susan Walsh/AP The statement bodes badly for breaking the deadlock in nuclear disarmament talks, even after Kim and Mr Trump agreed to resume working level negotiations after the US leader took the extraordinary step last month of becoming the first sitting US president to enter North Korea. At the time, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, predicted negotiating teams would get back to the table by mid-July. On Tuesday, the state department remained upbeat about the prospect of progress. "We would hope that no one would try to block, in their government or our government, the ability for President Trump and Chairman Kim to make progress on the commitments they made to each other in Vietnam," spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told a briefing, referring to the leaders’ February summit in Hanoi. "We look forward, of course, to resuming those negotiations, and we hope to talk, always, so we can advance progress on these commitments," Ms Ortagus said, reported Yonhap.
North Korea Likely Suffering Worst Downturn Since 1990s Famine
(Bloomberg) -- How much are sanctions hurting Kim Jong Un? North Korea’s economy hasn’t been in such bad shape since his father was battling floods, droughts and a famine that some estimates say killed as much as 10% of the population.The South Korean central bank’s annual report on its northern neighbor -- due for release later this month -- will provide a fresh look at the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign just as the two sides prepare to restart talks. While North Korea’s isolation, secrecy and dearth of official statistics make estimates difficult, the economy probably contracted more than 5% last year, according to Kim Byung-yeon, an economics professor at Seoul National University.“As long as sanctions remain, time is on the U.S. side,” said Kim Byung-yeon, who also wrote the book “Unveiling the North Korean Economy.” “Sanctions are the most effective means to draw North Korea into negotiations, so they should not be lifted or eased without major progress on denuclearization.”A decline of 5% would mean that international curbs on North Korean trade -- measures crucially backed by China -- have put the country on its weakest economic footing since 1997. Back then, the isolated nation was reeling from policy missteps under Kim Jong Il and a famine so bad some defectors reported rumors of cannibalism.The Bank of Korea estimated a 3.5% contraction in 2017, leaving North Korea an economy roughly the size of the U.S. state of Vermont. Park Yung-hwan, a BOK official in charge of North Korean growth data, declined to comment on the central bank’s latest calculations since the work was still underway.One thing sanctions aren’t doing: stopping Kim from developing the nuclear arsenal that prompted his showdown with Trump. The cost launching the more than 30 ballistic missiles Kim Jong Un has tested since taking power in 2011 comes in at about $100 million, according to estimates by South Korea’s defense ministry.Nevertheless, Trump is counting on the economic pressure to compel Kim to compromise after the two leaders agreed in a historic meeting at the Demilitarized Zone last month to resume working-level talks. The president had earlier rejected the North Korean leader’s offer to dismantle his aging nuclear complex at Yongbyon in exchange for the removal of the toughest sanctions.“We will look forward, of course, to resuming those negotiations, and we hope to talk about all ways that we can advance progress on these commitments,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told a briefing Tuesday in Washington. Here’s a look at some indicators of North Korea’s current slump:China FreezeNorth Korea is heavily reliant on China, which accounts for about 90% of the country’s trade. And Beijing’s decision to support tougher international sanctions against North Korea following its sixth nuclear test in September 2017 has put severe pressure on the economy.Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council hit everything from North Korea’s exports of raw materials, minerals and clothes to the movement of manual-laborers and software engineers. The drying up of hard currency due to plunging trade is potentially creating an “economic crisis” for Kim, the state-run Korea Development Institute in Sejong, said earlier this month.China’s imports from North Korea have slowed to a trickle, falling about 90% year on year to just $195 million in 2018, according to the Korea International Trade Association. Meanwhile, exports of food and fuel from China to the North have also tumbled.Fuel ShortagesBefore sanctions were in place, North Korea imported about 3.9 million barrels of oil in 2015, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook. Sanctions capped the country’s imports to a 500,000 barrels of oil last year.But Kim’s regime has found ways to evade the sanctions, using illicit high seas transfers to obtain oil and export its goods, the U.S. and its allies have said. The country’s ports received at least 263 tanker deliveries of refined petroleum, according to U.S. estimates, enough to bring as much as 3.78 million barrels of fuel.The fuel crunch has exacerbated decades of economic stagnation. North Korea’s oil consumption has fallen by about 80% from 1991 to 2017, according to the United Nations World Food Program, one of the few international bodies with access to on-the-ground reporting and statistics in the country.Agricultural DeclinesLess fuel has meant less diesel to run farm tractors and irrigation pumps, hitting farms already affected by droughts last summer. Last year, farmers had a little less than 90 milliliters (3 fluid ounces) of fuel a day to farm an area about the size of two soccer fields, according to calculations based on WFP data.The sanctions have led to shortages of other necessary agricultural items, including machinery and spare parts, and farm output has dropped in the provinces that make up North Korea’s southern and western breadbaskets, the World Food Program and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations said in a May assessment.Paddy production declined at least 17% last year in South Hwanghae and North Pyongan provinces, regions that together account for half of North Korea’s rice. “The unintended negative impact sanctions can have on agricultural production, through both direct and indirect impacts, cannot be ignored,” the report said.In April, Kim replaced his prime minister and leading technocrat Pak Pong Ju with Kim Jae Ryong, a veteran overseer of one of North Korea’s most impoverished provinces whose reputation for weathering tough times suggests leader Kim may also see a need to dig in rather than experiment should the sanctions continue.(Adds State Department spokeswoman in eighth paragraph)\--With assistance from Jiyeun Lee.To contact the reporters on this story: Sam Kim in Seoul at email@example.com;Jon Herskovitz in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at email@example.com, ;Malcolm Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, Paul JacksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
We Asked Two Experts If a War with Iran Is Coming
Pollack stated that Washington’s actions were counterproductive to America’s interests in securing a new, better nuclear deal. America’s policy of maximum pressure on Iran continues, with the U.S. Department of the Treasury announcing new sanctions on eight Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commanders. That directive was tweeted during a luncheon event on Iran at the Center for the National Interest, which was moderated by Geoffrey Kemp, the Senior Director of Regional Security Programs at CFTNI who also served in the White House during the first Reagan administration as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs on the National Security Council Staff. The discussion focused on the ongoing crisis, Iran and America’s interests, and whether war could be avoided.“[Donald] Trump’s approach is self-defeating,” declared panelist Kenneth Pollack, Resident Scholar for Middle Eastern Political-Military Affairs at the American Enterprise Institute, and both a former Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs and a former Director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council. Pollack explained that the hardliners keep claiming vindication, noting that they had warned that the United States might tear up the Iran deal. Pollack emphasized that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei started in the moderate camp but has drifted steadily toward a hardline position.(This first appeared in June 2019.)
Venezuela crisis: Trump administration ‘plans to divert $40m in aid’ to Guaido-led opposition
Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly planning to divert more than $40m in humanitarian aid for Central America to support the US-backed opposition in Venezuela. Citing sources and an internal memorandum, the Los Angeles Times suggested the $41.9m had been destined for Guatemala and Honduras. The countries are at the center of a migration crisis in which thousands of people have fled poverty, violence and corruption and attempted to cross the southern US border.The money will instead be used for salaries, airfare, propaganda, technical assistance for elections and “good governance” training for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and his faction, the memo reportedly said. Spokespeople for the State Department, Mr Guaido and Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Mr Guaido invoked the Venezuelan constitution in January to assume an interim presidency, arguing the South American country’s President Nicolas Maduro was illegitimate.Four months later, he led a failed attempt to spark a military rebellion against Mr Maduro, who said it was part of a US-orchestrated coup. The president has called Mr Guaido a US-backed puppet and has so far retained his grip on the levers of government.Close allies of Mr Guaido have subsequently been arrested. While his parliamentary immunity has been lifted, he has so far not been jailedUnder Mr Maduro’s leadership, the economy has collapsed and shortages of food and medicines have become widespread. Fuel has also become scarce in parts of the oil-rich country and and some drivers have queued for days at petrol stations. There have also been frequent blackouts.Mr Maduro’s government has blamed US sanctions for the shortages, while the opposition had argued that they are the result of mismanagement and corruption by consecutive socialist governments.In April, United Nations agencies said more than 4 million Venezuelans had fled the country, adding that the pace of people fleeing had ”skyrocketed” since the end of 2015.The State Department announced in June it was slashing hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, after Mr Trump said the three countries were not doing enough to stem migration. Agencies contributed to this report
Trump administration to continue deporting Venezuelans despite crisis
* US as yet unwilling to grant temporary protected status * Senators accuse Trump of ‘having it both ways’ over MaduroThe Ascencio family from Venezuela are returned by US authorities to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico as part of the so-called Remain in Mexico program for asylum seekers this month. Photograph: Salvador Gonzalez/APThe Trump administration has said it is not yet willing to grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans, meaning it will continue to deport people back to a country it says is being destroyed by a tyrant.The news comes amid a humanitarian crisis that could forcibly displace as many as 8.2 million people by the end of 2020, and the same month that the United Nations accused the Venezuelan government of killing thousands of its own citizens.In a letter released on Tuesday, the acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services director, Ken Cuccinelli, said the administration was not willing to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to Venezuelans. “As it relates to Venezuela,” Cuccinelli wrote in the letter, addressed to the Senate minority leader, Dick Durbin, “the US Government continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela.”Venezuela is now the leading country of origin for asylum seekers in the United States, with nearly 30,000 Venezuelans applying for protection in 2018.The TPS program is designed to prevent foreign nationals from being deported back to countries facing civil unrest or the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster. It has also been a target of the White House, which has sought to terminate TPS for migrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.“Venezuela is exactly the sort of situation that TPS was designed to address,” said Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas advocacy director at Amnesty International.Donald Trump has presented himself as a steadfast opponent of the Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and most prominent supporter of his opponent Juan Guaidó, but his administration continues to deport Venezuelans to their homeland. Between October 2017 and September 2018, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 336 Venezuelan citizens.“At the same time the government is saying it needs to monitor the situation more, administration officials are calling the government of Maduro a ‘thugocracy’, and decrying the humanitarian situation that so many Venezuelans are facing,” Krishnaswami added.In a joint response to the administration’s letter, Senators Durbin and Bob Menendez said the president “cannot have it both ways. He cannot warn Americans that Venezuela is so dangerous they should avoid traveling there and then turn around and tell Venezuelans in the US they are forced to return.”A USCIS representative insisted that “the letter is being misinterpreted”, noting that, ultimately, a TPS designation “is a decision made by the Secretary of Homeland Security”.Néstor Guillén, a Venezuelan green-card holder in the US since 2006, said the disparity between US rhetoric and action reflects “hypocrisy and opportunism” by an electorally minded Republican party. “TPS is the lowest-hanging fruit by which we can help Venezuelans in the short term,” he said. The Trump administration is “selling snake oil, not lending humanitarian assistance”.Refusing to grant TPS “sends the absolute wrong message to Venezuelans, and to the rest of Latin America”, said Geoff Ramsey of the Washington Office on Latin America. “It’s as if this administration’s concern for Venezuelans ends the instant they leave their country.”
U.S. to Brief Diplomats on Plan to Boost Gulf Maritime Security
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plans to brief foreign diplomats based in Washington this week on a new maritime security initiative to protect shipping in the Middle East, following a spate of attacks on tankers in recent months.U.S. Central Command has been working on a plan to deter threats to shipping in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, according to Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran.“When I was in the Gulf, I heard very clearly the need for enhanced maritime security,” Hook said at an Axios event on Tuesday. “The Secretary has heard it, when he and the president were at the G-20, there were conversations about it,” he said, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump.In May and June, six tankers were attacked just outside the Gulf. About one-third of the world’s seaborne crude and fuels passed through the Strait of Hormuz last year, highlighting its key role in global oil markets. While Iran has been blamed for attacks on merchant shipping, it has denied responsibility.Hook said the strategy to safeguard shipping lanes would be unveiled at a joint briefing with the Department of Defense on Friday. He cautioned that any effort would need the support of other nations to be successful.“Most of the oil that flows through the Strait finds its way to Asia,” Hook said. “It’s very important for like-minded nations in the region to play their part.”The U.S. is trying to put together a coalition “over the next couple of weeks” that would provide naval escorts to commercial shipping, General Mark Milley told a Senate hearing on July 11.Geopolitical tensions in the region have escalated since the U.S. stepped up sanctions against the Islamic Republic over the last few months.A small oil tanker that had gone missing in the Persian Gulf had technical difficulties and was towed into Iranian waters for repairs, an Iranian foreign ministry official said earlier on Tuesday, according to the ISNA news agency.\--With assistance from Daniel Flatley and John Hughes.To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Cunningham in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Marino at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mike JeffersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Can Russia and America Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race?
Delegations from the United States and Russia plan to meet in Geneva in mid-July 2019 to begin discussing a possible extension of the New START treaty, one of the major arms-control accords limiting the size and power and the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.The 2010 treaty restricts both the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on a maximum of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers.But the treaty expires in 2021. And experts worry that the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump, in particular Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, plans to sabotage a possible extension in order to allow for unlimited atomic rearmament.“Before the Group of 20 summit last month in Japan, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he planned to push Pres. Donald Trump for an extension to New START,” The Associated Press reported. “Putin said his nation was ready to agree to an extension, but that Russia had not seen any initiative from the Americans even though the treaty expires in 2021.”“Trump’s national security team has dithered for more than a year on beginning talks with Russia to extend [New START] before it expires in February 2021,” wrote Daryl Kimball, an expert with the Arms Control Association in the United States.”It is now apparent that Bolton is trying to steer Trump to discard New START.”“There's no decision, but I think it's unlikely,” Bolton said of New START in a June 2019 interview.
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