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  • South Korea confirms 2nd case of African swine fever Wed, 18 Sep 2019 00:43:43 -0400

    South Korea confirms 2nd case of African swine feverSouth Korea has confirmed a second case of African swine fever near its border with North Korea, raising concerns that the outbreak could spread and wreak havoc on the country's massive pig herds. An official from South Korea's agriculture ministry said Wednesday that workers were planning to cull some 5,000 pigs raised at a farm in the town of Yeoncheon after the highly contagious disease was confirmed in tests of a dead pig. Officials culled nearly 4,000 pigs and stepped up quarantine efforts Tuesday after confirming the country's first case of the disease.


  • Pompeo heads to Saudi Arabia after US blames Iran Tue, 17 Sep 2019 23:32:47 -0400

    Pompeo heads to Saudi Arabia after US blames IranUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed for Saudi Arabia Tuesday to discuss possible retaliation after Washington said it had proof that attacks on Saudi oil installations originated in Iran. "As the president said, we don't want war with anybody but the United States is prepared," Pence said in a speech in Washington.


  • Into the Unknown for Israel as Netanyahu’s Election Gamble Fails Tue, 17 Sep 2019 22:55:22 -0400

    Into the Unknown for Israel as Netanyahu’s Election Gamble Fails(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s election do-over looked set to produce a dramatic deadlock between legally embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political opponents, with no clear sign who will form the country’s next government.The lack of a decisive victory would be a setback for Israel’s longest-serving leader, who gambled on a revote to strengthen his political hand -- and possibly keep himself out of jail -- after a disappointing result in April. It would also thrust Israel into further political turmoil and drag out policy paralysis at a time when diplomatic and regional security challenges are mounting.Netanyahu’s nationalist Likud and former military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White are running neck and neck, the exit polls indicated. But each would need to bring in governing partners, and neither has the support of 61 of parliament’s 120 lawmakers, the polls showed. The political horsetrading will be hot and heavy in coming days as Netanyahu, who is battling corruption charges, and Gantz each try to line up the most support. There’s also pressure to yoke their parties in a national unity government, a move that might require Netanyahu to step aside -- or be forced out.While the exit surveys suggest Netanyahu, popularly known as Bibi, may lose his grip on power, it’s too early to eulogize him. Netanyahu is known as “the magician” for his deft political maneuvering, and he’s likely to try to peel away some supporters of the center-left camp.“The results here are less good for him than in April; and in April he didn’t make a government,” Simon Davies, a pollster and political consultant for Number 10 Strategies, said of Netanyahu. “Whichever way you look at it -- if the exit polls are right -- Bibi is not in a great position. Bibi is a consummate politician, though, and you’d never put it past him to get out of any situation.”By 5:35 a.m., only 26% of the votes had been counted, showing Likud with a narrow lead over Blue & White. After a near-final tally is released Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin will consult with the various parties to see whom they recommend he tap to form a government.The exit polls position former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, an on-again, off-again Netanyahu ally, to become this election’s kingmaker. Liberman’s objection to military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men led to the collapse of coalition talks after the April 9 election, propelling Netanyahu to engineer a revote rather than let a rival try to put together a government.In other worrisome news for Netanyahu, the Joint List of Arab parties is poised to become parliament’s third-largest faction, increasing its representation and eating into the bloc allied with the prime minister, the exit polls showed. It hasn’t ruled out recommending to Rivlin that Gantz form the government, a Joint List spokesman said. Throughout Israel’s 71-year history, Arab parties -- which reject Israel’s identity as the Jewish state -- have never sat in government, though some Arab lawmakers have served in Knesset on behalf of Zionist parties.Gamble BackfiredA defiant Netanyahu told cheering supporters at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv that he would enter into negotiations with prospective coalition partners “to form a strong Zionist government” and block a coalition that would rely on the support of the Joint List, which represents Arabs who constitute about 20% of Israel’s population. The crowd chanted, “Bibi, king of Israel,” and, “We don’t want unity!”Political newcomer Gantz ran a clean-hands campaign that, while lackluster, resonated with voters desperate for an alternative to Netanyahu, who has won four successive terms since 2009. Netanyahu was unseated after his first term in 1999 by another former military chief, Ehud Barak.Gantz stopped short of declaring victory but told a cheering crowd that “tonight, no matter how it evolves, begins the journey to repair Israeli society.”“Polarization and divisions are behind us, and unity and reconciliation are before us,” he said, vowing to work to set up a national unity government. He’s repeatedly said he would not team up with Netanyahu while he faces corruption allegations.With his political survival at stake, Netanyahu appealed to his nationalist base with pledges dear to their hearts, such as vowing to annex West Bank territory claimed by Palestinians, and painting the liberal left and Israeli Arab leaders as bogeymen. That continued on voting day, when he convened what was billed as an emergency party meeting amid reports of high turnout in Arab and liberal areas of the country.“Voters of the right, have you lost your minds?” Netanyahu said on Twitter. “Go out now and vote Likud in order to stop a left-wing government with the Arab parties.”Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, said Netanyahu’s anti-Arab message helped to get out the Arab vote, which had been thin in the April election.The prime minister entered the race badly weakened by what he says are baseless graft allegations cooked up by left-wing opponents. Before coalition talks collapsed in May, he was promoting new legislation that would grant him immunity from prosecution as long as he’s in office. If Netanyahu loses the election, that option will become a dead letter and he’ll become more legally vulnerable.In early October, the prime minister is scheduled to plead his case before Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, who will then decide whether to go ahead with bribery and fraud charges. Netanyahu is accused of accepting about $200,000 in gifts from wealthy friends and trying to win sympathetic press coverage by shaping rules to benefit media moguls.The political uncertainty dovetails with renewed confrontations with Iran and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and serious questions over the fate of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan. Israel’s political paralysis has already held up the presentation of the plan, which is facing an uphill struggle five years after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled.U.S. President Donald Trump has been one of Netanyahu’s most fervent allies, presenting him with political gifts such as the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and withholding funds from the Palestinians. Ahead of the April election, Trump boosted Netanyahu by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over a section of the war-won Golan Heights. That still wasn’t enough to help Netanyahu over the top this time.Exit polls show a surge in support for Liberman, whose tough stand against sweeping military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men resonated among voters on both left and right in a country where conscription is compulsory and many resent the concession. Liberman on Tuesday repeated his call for a national unity government that would include his party, Blue and White and Likud, while freezing out the ultra-Orthodox.Blue and White has said it won’t join a coalition with Netanyahu, so such a secular, broad-based coalition plan might not come to pass unless Likud pushes the prime minister out.“Assuming the numbers are correct, we are witnessing quite a dramatic outcome for the first time after a decade. There is a very high likelihood that Mr. Netanyahu will not serve as prime minister of Israel,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute research center.“It looks like Mr. Netanyahu’s path to 61 is blocked, while Mr. Gantz has greater options,” Plesner said. “We might also see change within the Likud, where a new chairman of the Likud might be able to form a new unity government with Blue and White.”Netanyahu has led Israel for a total of 13 years in which he scored unprecedented diplomatic achievements for his country, including the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, while seeing prospects for peacemaking with the Palestinians retreat.He also dismantled much of the socialist legacy of the country’s founders, with the broad economy and trade links flourishing even as a large income inequality gap makes it difficult for many to make ends meet.(Updates vote count in sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Yaacov Benmeleh and Michael S. Arnold.To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Teibel in Jerusalem at ateibel@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Amy Teibel, Benjamin HarveyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Israel's Netanyahu appears to suffer setback in exit polls Tue, 17 Sep 2019 22:02:21 -0400

    Israel's Netanyahu appears to suffer setback in exit pollsIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fell short of securing a parliamentary majority with his religious and nationalist allies in national elections Tuesday, initial exit polls showed, setting the stage for a period of coalition negotiations that could threaten his political future and clear the way for him to be tried on corruption charges. Initial results posted by Israel's three major television stations showed challenger Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party tied or with a slight lead over Netanyahu's Likud. While the results do not guarantee that Gantz will be the next prime minister, they signaled that Netanyahu, who has led the country for over 10 years, could have trouble holding on to the job.


  • Trump Feuds With Lindsey Graham Over ‘Weak’ Iran Policy Tue, 17 Sep 2019 21:34:27 -0400

    Trump Feuds With Lindsey Graham Over ‘Weak’ Iran PolicyPhoto Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettySen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign on Iran isn’t working. “Clearly what we’re doing isn’t working,” Graham said, adding that the goal of the administration’s Iran policy should be to deter Tehran from escalating tensions in the region. Following his phone call with The Daily Beast, Graham in a series of tweets called on the Trump administration to do more, saying the “measured response” by President Trump is “seen by the Iranian regime as an act of weakness.” On the same night as a Tuesday fundraising event in Silicon Valley, Trump tweeted back at Graham: “No Lindsey, it was a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!”The Trump administration has for years carried out a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, enlisting the Treasury and State Departments to annihilate the country’s economy via sanctions. With each new month it seems as though the administration finds a new Iranian company or sector to punish financially. That strategy, has been put to the test in recent months. Earlier this summer the Trump administration accused Tehran of sabotaging tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Since then, Democrats on Capitol Hill have called on Team Trump to change course, saying the campaign to deter Iran via sanctions was falling flat. One of the main architects of the maximum pressure strategy was former national security adviser John Bolton, an openly hawkish politico who has supported the idea of American military action against the Iranian regime. With his departure, the Trump team has leaned increasingly on the Pentagon for guidance on Iran. Graham seems to be filling the Bolton void, calling on the president to take “decisive action” against Tehran.Did Trump and Bolton Break Over Iran—or the Leaks?“The problems with Iran only get worse over time so it is imperative we take decisive action to deter further aggression by the Ayatollah and his henchman,” Graham tweeted Tuesday.The divergence between Trump and Graham is notable given that the Trump administration recently enlisted the senator to engage with outside parties about what a new Iranian nuclear deal may look like. In a previous interview with The Daily Beast, the senator said he spoke with the Trump team about the idea of asking the Iranian regime to agree to a so-called 123 Agreement—a key, legally binding commitment that requires countries doing nuclear deals with the U.S. to sign on to nonproliferation standards. The U.S. has entered into those agreements with more than 40 countries. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has also been involved in conversations with the Trump administration on Iran strategy. Following Trump’s tweet Tuesday night, Paul’s chief strategist tweeted at Trump, saying of Graham, “DRAG HIM.”Graham told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he had not spoken with Trump about the attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure but said the Israelis were “increasingly concerned” about the situation. “This is a provocative regime that shoots its own people down in the street, that threatens the existence of the state of Israel. This is an enemy of mankind, and if you are not willing to take this enemy on, you will regret it,” Graham said in an interview with The Daily Beast in August.  It wouldn’t be the first time the president found himself disagreeing on foreign policy with the senator, a former foe who has become a top confidant and sounding board for Trump.In the days since the attack, Trump has indicated to those close to him that he favors restraint over military strikes, and certainly over starting a war with Iran. According to two people who’ve heard the president say this, Trump has asked advisers and senior officials why the Saudis can’t just “handle it” themselves, and has made clear he’d prefer the United States not intervene militarily.That could, of course, change very quickly, if recent history is any guide. In June, the president approved strikes on Iran—strikes that were projected to kill at least dozens of Iranians—only to call the whole thing off not long before the U.S. would have attacked Iran. One factor driving Trump’s reluctance to bomb or go to war with Iran lies in his desire to win re-election next year.In multiple instances during his presidency, when senior administration officials have briefed him on Iran, Trump has gone out of his way to express his worries about the possible impact that growing tensions, or a shooting war, with the Islamic Republic could have on oil markets, according to two sources familiar with his private comments. In discussing this with officials, the president has suggested that a major clash between the two countries could create a ripple effect that erases economic gains that Americans have enjoyed in recent years—gains for which Trump has taken much credit and made a cornerstone of his 2020 campaign.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.


  • U.S. seeks U.N. action on Saudi attacks despite likely Russian opposition Tue, 17 Sep 2019 20:52:12 -0400

    U.S. seeks U.N. action on Saudi attacks despite likely Russian oppositionWASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. official on Tuesday called for a U.N. Security Council response to the attacks on Saudi oil facilities that the United States blames on Iran, but it was unclear what action he sought or whether Washington might secure Russian cooperation. "We do see a role for the U.N. Security Council to play. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not explain what he meant by "releasable information." The United States has, at times, released previously classified information to buttress its case at the Security Council.


  • The Latest: Netanyahu says he'll seek 'Zionist' government Tue, 17 Sep 2019 20:48:13 -0400

    The Latest: Netanyahu says he'll seek 'Zionist' governmentAfter an apparent election setback, Israel's prime minister says he will seek the formation of a new "Zionist" government that excludes Arab parties. Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a small crowd of supporters in Tel Aviv at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, more than five hours after voting ended. Initial exit polls placed challenger Benny Gantz's Blue and White party just ahead of Netanyahu's Likud, hurting Netanyahu's chances of remaining as prime minister.


  • Spain Limps Toward New Election as Parties Reject Sharing Power Tue, 17 Sep 2019 20:00:00 -0400

    Spain Limps Toward New Election as Parties Reject Sharing Power(Bloomberg) -- Spain is headed for its fourth election in as many years in November as the latest failure to produce a governing alliance highlighted the increasingly fractured state of its politics.“Spaniards need a stable and coherent government, not a compartmentalized government paralyzed by its own contradictions,” acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in televised comments late Tuesday. He spoke after King Felipe VI concluded there was no candidate with enough support to form a government and set Spain on course for a new ballot on Nov. 10.Spain has become increasingly ungovernable since the conservative People’s Party lost its majority four years ago amid a flurry of corruption scandals. With the Catalan push for independence and the financial crisis helping to splinter the political map, Sanchez failed to piece together a majority despite winning almost twice as many seats as the second-placed PP in last April’s election.While the economy continues to outpace other major euro-area economies, growth slowed more than expected in the second quarter and the political gridlock leaves Spain with no clear direction as Catalan separatists plot further unrest, the U.K. risks heading for a no-deal Brexit and global trade disputes increase.Sanchez had failed in a first bid to form a government in July when talks with anti-austerity party Podemos collapsed. A new ballot would offer the Socialists the chance to boost the number of its parliamentary seats from the 123 it has now.Even if they fail to reach the 176 deputies needed for an outright majority, Sanchez is betting he will emerge with a stronger hand in negotiating support from other parties. Recent polls show an increase in Socialist support.The party had been negotiating for months with Podemos, which had demanded cabinet posts under a formal coalition. Although Sanchez at first signaled he was willing to offer Podemos some ministerial posts, he later backtracked, arguing that a lack of trust made a formal partnership impossible.Podemos’s leader Pablo Iglesias accused Sanchez of obsessively pursuing absolute power by taking Spain to new elections. He “is committing a historic error of huge dimensions,” Iglesias said on Twitter Tuesday after it became clear a new government couldn’t be formed.The Socialist leader said a government with Podemos would not have worked because of disputes over power and policy.“Spaniards have said twice that Spain is progressive and wants to move forward,” Sanchez said. “I ask them to say so again even more clearly.”Sanchez took power last year when he ousted then-Premier Mariano Rajoy of the People’s Party in a no-confidence motion backed by Podemos and medley of other groups including Catalan separatist parties.At the head of his own precarious government, Sanchez was forced to call elections for April this year after he failed to pass a budget. Sanchez has said that Podemos should allow him to govern because his political program is progressive and includes many policies the party supports. Podemos and its allies won 42 seats in April’s vote.To contact the reporters on this story: Rodrigo Orihuela in Madrid at rorihuela@bloomberg.net;Thomas Gualtieri in Madrid at tgualtieri@bloomberg.net;Todd White in Madrid at twhite2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Charles Penty at cpenty@bloomberg.net, Ben SillsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Australia concerned for 3 held in Iran on spying charges Tue, 17 Sep 2019 19:42:56 -0400

    Australia concerned for 3 held in Iran on spying chargesAn Australian government minister on Wednesday expressed concern for three Australians arrested in Iran on suspicion of spying and separated their plight from a tense standoff in the Middle East over the weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham was responding after Iran on Tuesday acknowledged for the first time that it was holding three Australian citizens, including two British dual nationals, on suspicion of espionage.


  • Gamble pays off for Lieberman, who becomes Israeli kingmaker Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:56:57 -0400

    Gamble pays off for Lieberman, who becomes Israeli kingmakerThe veteran Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman took the political gamble of his life when he spurned his mentor, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and forced an unprecedented repeat election. With neither Netanyahu's Likud nor former military chief Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party forecast to secure a majority in the 120-seat parliament without his support, Lieberman has emerged as the election's true winner — the one most likely to dictate the makeup of the next government. Lieberman passed up the post of defense minister in Netanyahu's government following April's election and refused to join the new coalition because of what he said was the excessive influence it granted to ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.


  • Bachelet denied campaign took money from Brazil OAS company Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:47:42 -0400

    Bachelet denied campaign took money from Brazil OAS companyU.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is denying accusations by a former businessman ensnared in Latin America's biggest corruption scandal that her 2013 presidential campaign in Chile illegally took money from the Brazilian company OAS. The Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported this week that Leo Pinheiro of OAS told Brazilian authorities as part of a plea bargain that the company gave $140,000 to Bachelet's campaign to make sure an international consortium kept a contract to build a bridge to the Chilean island of Chiloe.


  • Trump strains to balance diplomacy, military threat to Iran Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:47:41 -0400

    Trump strains to balance diplomacy, military threat to IranThe Trump administration tried to balance diplomacy with fresh talk of military action Tuesday in response to the fiery missile and drone attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry — a strike marking the most explosive consequence yet of the "maximum pressure" U.S. economic campaign against Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was headed to Jiddah in Saudi Arabia to discuss possible responses to what U.S. officials believe was an attack coming from Iranian soil. Iran continued to deny involvement in last weekend's attack on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq oil processing plant and its Khurais oil field, a strike that interrupted the equivalent of about 5% of the world's daily supply.


  • Saudi oil production to resume as US officials 'claim attack came from Iran' Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:27:00 -0400

    Saudi oil production to resume as US officials 'claim attack came from Iran'Saudi Arabia has announced that oil production will be restored to normal by the end of the month, as US officials reportedly claimed that the weekend attack on major facilities in the kingdom, that shocked the world and sent prices soaring, came from Iran.Energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday average oil production in September and October would be 9.89m barrels per day and that it would ensure full commitments to its customers this month.


  • The Story of the 160 Victories Scored by Iran's F-14 Tomcats Tue, 17 Sep 2019 18:00:00 -0400

    The Story of the 160 Victories Scored by Iran's F-14 TomcatsIran’s force of American-made F-14 Tomcat interceptors dominated the sky during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. F-14s reportedly downed more than 160 Iraqi planes.


  • UPDATE 2-BoE governor appointment to be delayed until after forthcoming election- FT Tue, 17 Sep 2019 17:23:50 -0400

    UPDATE 2-BoE governor appointment to be delayed until after forthcoming election- FTThe appointment of the next governor of the Bank of England will be pushed back until after the forthcoming election, the Financial Times reported https://on.ft.com/2V0zs3P on Tuesday, citing people briefed on the matter. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney could be asked to extend his term if Brexit is delayed again, according to the report. The Treasury, in response to the FT report, said that the process of appointing the next BoE chief is on track.


  • Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry’ Tue, 17 Sep 2019 16:51:44 -0400

    Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry’The Swedish environmentalist was one of several who spoke at a Senate climate crisis task forceGreta Thunberg attends a Senate climate change task force meeting in Washington DC. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesAt a meeting of the Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, lawmakers praised a group of young activists for their leadership, their gumption and their display of wisdom far beyond their years. They then asked the teens for advice on how Congress might combat one of the most urgent and politically contentious threats confronting world leaders: climate change.Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who has galvanized young people across the world to strike for more action to combat the impact of global warming, politely reminded them that she was a student, not a scientist – or a senator.climate box“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”In remarks meant for Congress as a whole, she said: “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”The audience laughed. Supporters broke into applause. Senator Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the Green New Deal and leads the Senate task force, was perhaps surprised by her bluntness. But he smiled.Seated at the table with the teens were some of the most sympathetic and vocal supporters of bold action on climate change in Congress. But facing a Republican-controlled Senate and a hostile White House, the prospect of enacting reforms at the scale and scope called for by activists – and many scientists – is bleak.“We need your leadership,” he told Thunberg. “Young people are the army politically, which has arrived in the United States. You put a spotlight on this issue in a way that it has never been before. And that is creating a new X factor.”Still, Markey vowed to try: “We hear you. We hear what you’re saying and we will redouble our efforts.”Thunberg was one of several youth activists invited to address the task force during two days of action and speeches aimed at urging lawmakers to support “transformative climate action”. She was joined by activists from across the US and South America, part of a “multiracial, intergenerational” effort to combat climate change.The meetings and speeches in Washington are intended to raise awareness ahead of a global climate strike on Friday in which students and workers will walk out of schools and offices to pressure their governments to act as world leaders gather in New York for the annual United Nations summit.Nadia Nazar, co founder of Zero Hour, speaks to the media on 17 September in Washington DC. Photograph: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images“The generation of the Green New Deal will not only survive but we will thrive,” said Nadia Nazar, co-founder of the advocacy group Zero Hour, at a news conference earlier on Tuesday.“We will no longer be known as the kids fighting the apocalypse. We will be known as the solution to the climate crisis.”In the US, support for sweeping action on climate change is polarized. Many Republicans – among them Donald Trump – are still openly skeptical of the science behind global warming. Republican leaders have mocked Democrats for introducing a Green New Deal and have used the proposal as a cudgel against lawmakers and presidential candidates.The Green New Deal is an ambitious 14-page resolution that calls for a “10-year national mobilization” that would eliminate the nation’s emissions in one decade. Scientists say limiting warming to 1.5C would require cutting manmade carbon levels by 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero around 2050.Markey said their movement is shifting the political landscape. The senator pointed to the 2020 presidential debates as evidence of what has changed. Candidates are being asked about climate change and pushed to introduce plans to combat global warming. This is in stark contrast to 2016.“What has happened? You have happened,” he told the activists. “You are giving this extra level of energy to the political process that is absolutely changing the dynamics of politics in the United States.”The 2020 election, Markey said, will in many ways be a “referendum on climate change”.Thunberg arrived in the US after crossing the Atlantic on a solar-powered yacht. She rose to international prominence after launching “Fridays for Future”: student-led strikes that have spread to 135 countries. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.On Monday, she met Barack Obama. The former president shared a photo from their meeting, in which he praised Thunberg as “one of our planet’s greatest advocates” and someone who is “unafraid to push for real action”.> Just 16, @GretaThunberg is already one of our planet’s greatest advocates. Recognizing that her generation will bear the brunt of climate change, she’s unafraid to push for real action. She embodies our vision at the @ObamaFoundation: A future shaped by young leaders like her. pic.twitter.com/VgCPAaDp3C> > — Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 17, 2019Later on Tuesday, the group was scheduled to meet Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal in the House.On Wednesday, Thunberg will deliver what has been billed as a “major address” to members of Congress.


  • US sanctions Italy, Panama and Colombia firms over Venezuela ties Tue, 17 Sep 2019 16:28:13 -0400

    US sanctions Italy, Panama and Colombia firms over Venezuela tiesThe United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 companies linked to Colombian businessman Alex Nain Saab Moran, an associate of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The move is the latest US escalation of sanctions targeting the inner circle of Maduro, who is grappling with a political and economic crisis that the United Nations says has left a quarter of Venezuela's 30 million people in need of humanitarian aid.


  • Liam Fox: Britain must accept that Iran nuclear deal is 'dead' Tue, 17 Sep 2019 16:26:44 -0400

    Liam Fox: Britain must accept that Iran nuclear deal is 'dead'Britain must accept the Iran nuclear deal is “dead” and join America in trying to force Tehran back to the negotiating table, former defence secretary Liam Fox said tonight. Mr Fox, who was in the cabinet until July, will use a speech in Washington to warn that the 2015 agreement was "flawed" from the start and that attempts to keep it alive are "futile". The intervention is effectively a call for Boris Johnson to join Donald Trump in withdrawing from the deal and comes amid escalating tensions in the wake of the attack on two Saudi oil facilities.  Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday ruled out talks with US officials “at any level”, appearing to end hopes of a meeting between Mr Trump and Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, at the United Nations in New York next week. Meanwhile King Salman of Saudi Arabia spoke for the first time since the drone attack over the weekend, calling on fellow world leaders to deliver a united message of condemnation. This satellite overview handout image obtained September 16, 2019 courtesy of Planet Labs Inc. shows damage to oil infrastructure from weekend drone attacks at Abqaig  He called on the international community "to shoulder its responsibility in condemning the perpetrators" and "clearly confronting" those behind it. The threat of imminent military action appeared to have faded, for now at least, as the Trump administration sought proof to back up its suspicion that Iran was behind the attacks. Since pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, which was struck by his predecessor Barack Obama, Mr Trump and his officials have attempted to lobby other signatories to do likewise. Britain has remained in the pact, which swapped the cessation of Iran’s nuclear programme for sanctions relief, along with France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, as well as Iran itself. But since Mr Johnson became prime minister there has been renewed lobbying from the US administration to move Britain closer to the its position and perhaps even leave the deal entirely. Mr Fox, who was international trade secretary until the summer and remains well-connected in Republican circles, will reveal his opposition to the deal today in a speech to the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank. “Following the decision of President Trump to withdraw, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is dead and European attempts to salvage it are futile," Mr Fox writes in a piece for The Telegraph’s website previewing the speech. "Britain should follow the US lead and operate a policy that would reduce Iranian oil exports to zero in an attempt to force a change of behaviour from the Khamenei regime. Smoke from a fire at the Abqaiq oil processing facility fills the skyline, in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia Credit: Al-Arabiya "The agreement has been shown to give scant, and only short term, reduction in Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. The original aim of halting Iran’s nuclear weapon programme now offers merely a delay with the problem left as a toxic legacy to future governments." Saturday's drone attack on Abqaiq - the world's largest processing plant - and the Khurais oilfield have knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd), or six percent of global total, making it the biggest disruption to oil production in modern history. Iran has denied it launched the attacks, with the Houthi rebels in Yemen - who Tehran backs - claiming responsibility.  But the Saudi defences failed to stop the missiles because they were pointing South to prevent an attack from Yemen, according to a senior US official talking to CBS News - raising suspicions the attack came from elsewhere.  The strike has intensified tensions between Iran and the Saudis. It has also decreased the chance of Mr Trump pivoting and seeking a new nuclear deal with Iran after years of its “maximum pressure” campaign.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said: "Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials.” He added: "If America changes its behaviour and returns to the nuclear deal, then it can join multilateral talks between Iran and other parties to the deal.” Mike Pence, the US vice president, tweeted: America’s maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime is working. And if Iran conducted this attack to pressure the President to back off, they will fail.— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) September 17, 2019 Mr Johnson talked to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, on Tuesday and agreed a “collective response” was needed over the attack, according to a read-out from Downing Street. Meanwhile Germany is set to extend its embargo on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia for a further six months, despite calls in Berlin to ease the ban over growing tensions in the Gulf. “I see no reason to change the government’s position on this matter,” Ms Merkel said on Tuesday, effectively shutting down calls from her own MPs to lift the ban.


  • UN adopts Afghan resolution without China's 'Belt and Road' Tue, 17 Sep 2019 16:22:33 -0400

    UN adopts Afghan resolution without China's 'Belt and Road'The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a compromise resolution Tuesday extending the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan that drops a Chinese demand to include a reference to China's $1 trillion "belt and road" initiative but stresses the need for regional connectivity. China and Russia had been clashing with the U.S. and other council members over China's insistence on including its flagship global program in the resolution.


  • Israel election: early exit polls suggest Netanyahu is in trouble Tue, 17 Sep 2019 15:37:37 -0400

    Israel election: early exit polls suggest Netanyahu is in troubleIsrael was holding its breath on Tuesday after early election exit polls suggested Benjamin Netanyahu’s centrist rivals had won more seats in parliament, potentially endangering the prime minister’s 13 years in power.  While no final results were available, two out of three early exit polls indicated that Mr Netanyahu’s Likud had fallen slightly behind Blue & White, the centrist coalition led by former army general Benny Gantz. A third poll showed the parties tied. The exit polls, which have been wrong in the the past, suggested that neither Mr Gantz nor Mr Netanyahu had a clear path to forming a majority coalition government, which likely means weeks of post-election negotiations before a final result is clear.  There was no immediate reaction from either Likud or Blue & White and both sides appeared to be waiting for more complete results before making statements on victory or defeat.  But if the results held, it would be a remarkable set back for Mr Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and has held power continuously for more than a decade through a string of clear election victories. Letters from Jerusalem RHS One figure who may play a kingmaker role in coalition negotiations is Avigdor Lieberman, Mr Netanyahu’s former defence minister who turned against angrily against his former boss after the last election in April. Despite hailing the political Right, Mr Lieberman refused to join Mr Netanyahu’s coalition and denied the prime minister a majority. Mr Netanyahu then called an unprecedented second election.  The exit polls suggested Mr Lieberman's small secular nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu, had improved its standing and could now hold the balance of power in coalition negotiations.   Mr Lieberman has been coy about his intentions but has hinted that he might back Mr Gantz, a secular liberal. Both men have spoken about the need to counter the influence of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and of forcing Mr Netanyahu from office.  Avigdor Lieberman could be a major player in post-election negotiations Credit: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File The first stage of the post-election negotiations will be for Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, to survey party leaders in the divided parliament and assess whether Mr Gantz or Mr Netanyahu has more support. Mr Lieberman’s backing is likely to be crucial as both men try to convince the president they have the best chance of forming a majority government.  The process of trying to cobble together a coalition could take weeks and analysts could not rule out the possibility of a third election if neither side is able to get a majority.  Both Blue and White and Likud won 35 seats in the last election in April. When Mr Netanyahu was unable to form a majority government he called an unprecedented second election to try win an overall majority.  If Mr Netanyahu is unable to cobble together a coalition this time, he faces the possible risk of a mutiny within his own Likud party. Senior Likud figures have so far insisted they will not rise up against their leader. “It will never happen. We are totally against anybody telling the Likud who to vote for,” Nir Barkat, a senior Likud MP, told The Telegraph.  But Blue & White believes Likud officials could eventually overthrow Mr Netanyahu if they believe he has become a drag on the party’s prospects of holding onto power.   The election followed a similar script to the one that preceded it in April, focusing less on policy differences and more on the central question of whether or not Mr Netanyahu should stay in office after 13 years in power.  The prime minister presented himself as an indispensable leader and the only man with the stature and experience on the world stage to guide Israel through the dangerous currents of the Middle East.  His campaign put up massive posters showing him shaking hands with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India. “Netanyahu: a different league,” the posters read.  “I don’t like Bibi but he’s the best person for the job,” said Shula Feldman, 39-year-old British-Israeli originally from London. “For me, the issue of security overrides everything.”  Like many Likud voters, Mrs Feldman, said she believed the criminal prosecution against Mr Netanyahu was at least partly motivated by politics. “I don’t think there would be charges if he didn’t have so many enemies,” she said.   Mr Netanyahu also repeated campaign tactics that have worked for him in the past including making increasingly extreme pledges to his Right-wing voter base, inciting against Israel’s Arab minority, and issuing panicked warnings that he was going to lose.  Less than a week before the election, Mr Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley into Israel, an unprecedented step that would destroy any lingering hopes of a Two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was widely seen as an effort to energise his voter base.   Facebook suspended a chatbot belonging to Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party after it sent visitors a message warning of  “Arabs who want to destroy us all – women, children and men”.  For his part, Mr Gantz offered himself as a unifying figure who would bring Israel together after years of Mr Netanyahu’s divisive rule. He charged the prime minister with seeking to cling to power only to protect himself from the criminal corruption charges swirling around him.  “The time has come when the majority takes care of everybody and not the minority takes care of one person,” Mr Gantz said, alleging that Mr Netanyahu would rely on the votes of extremists to pass an immunity law that would shield him from prosecution.  Mr Gantz, a liberal, staked out a more aggressively secular position than he did in the last election and promised to challenge the power of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties which Mr Netanyahu has relied on. Mr Gantz said his hope was to form “a secular unity government” led by Blue & White but which also included Likud and the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party.   However, Mr Gantz said that Likud could only join such a unity government if it first ditched Mr Netanyahu as its leader. Senior Likud figures have said so far said they will remain loyal to Mr Netanyahu.  Moshe Mordechai, a 67-year-old driving instructor, said he normally voted Likud but now intended to back Mr Gantz. “It’s time for a change. Gantz impresses me and I have had enough of Bibi,” he said.


  • An Oil Price Surge Could Hurt Consumer Spending, and the U.S. Economy Tue, 17 Sep 2019 15:19:21 -0400

    An Oil Price Surge Could Hurt Consumer Spending, and the U.S. EconomyFor months, American consumers have kept the economy humming. While businesses pulled back, shoppers continued to spend.But a prolonged surge in gasoline prices after the attacks on oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia could undermine that phenomenon and increase the risk of a recession."It's clearly not a positive, and it adds a negative to the outlook," said Steve Blitz, chief U.S. economist at T.S. Lombard, an independent research firm. "It's another straw on the camel's back."Monday's nearly 15% spike in oil prices to $62.90 a barrel isn't big enough to bring on a recession -- it only returns crude prices to where they were this spring. And the economy expanded from 2011 to 2014 even when prices were above $100 a barrel.Monday's jump is expected to add roughly 20 cents to gas prices, which now average $2.56 a gallon nationally, said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service. Those higher prices should be in place by the end of the month, he said.He estimates that the typical American family uses 90 gallons of gasoline every month, which means it would spend an extra $18 a month as a result of the attacks on Saudi Arabia.But a shock in the form of a rapid $20 or $30 a barrel jump in oil prices would have a bigger economic effect."At that level, the consumer takes a significant hit," said Ethan Harris, head of global economics and research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.A $25 a barrel increase in oil prices, the kind of move analysts cite as a potential threat to the economy, would add 50 cents to the cost of each gallon of gas. That would mean an extra $45 in monthly spending for the typical family.The Federal Reserve will be keeping a close eye on energy prices as policymakers meet in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most observers expect the Fed to reduce interest rates a quarter-point.Worries about growth have been building over the last six weeks. If consumer spending faded, the economy wouldn't have much to fall back on.An important measure of manufacturing published this month showed that factory activity had contracted two months in a row. And in the second quarter, business and residential investment fell.The financial markets have been shaky, and short-term bond yields have exceeded returns on longer-termed notes, a sign a recession could lie ahead.Through all of that, consumers have appeared to be in fine shape. Retail sales rose 0.4% in August, after a 0.8% jump in July, the government reported Friday. Demand for automobiles, sporting goods and building materials all showed strength.And the University of Michigan reported Friday that its preliminary September reading for consumer confidence stood at 92, a bit better than expected and an improvement from August.Changes in energy prices can cause broader economic swings, including when prices drop sharply. A plunge in oil prices from $106 a barrel in June 2014 to $30 in February 2016 dealt a blow to manufacturing as demand for oil-related products fell and, in turn, slowed overall economic growth.The effect of higher oil prices on businesses is complicated because oil's role in the economy has changed since the energy shocks of the 1970s. Buoyed by oil production from shale deposits in Texas, New Mexico and other states, the U.S. has slashed imports and has become a major exporter of oil and gas.Higher prices would help not only oil companies but also steel producers, which have become major suppliers of metal pipe and other goods to the energy industry. They'd most likely see a pickup in demand as drilling activity increased, offsetting some of the damage a spike would cause to consumer spending.But other businesses, particularly those in the transportation sector, could suffer. Companies, including airlines and delivery firms that rely on cheap fuel to make money distributing packages for online retailers, could be big losers if oil prices soar."Shale has shifted the paradigm," said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. "On the one hand, with higher prices there is a hit to consumers. But there's an incentive for oil and gas companies to invest and produce more to reap the benefits."The biggest risk to consumers -- and the economy itself -- would be a significant military conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Businesses, already cautious about spending, would pull back further. Consumers would likewise retreat."When these things happen, people stay home and watch the news," said Blitz of T.S. Lombard. "You'd see a dip in spending at the mall."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


  • A coalition of the few: U.S. and Saudi Arabia stand alone against Iran Tue, 17 Sep 2019 15:15:48 -0400

    A coalition of the few: U.S. and Saudi Arabia stand alone against IranPresident Donald Trump hasn't yet blamed Iran outright for the latest attacks, which an Iranian-backed rebel group has claimed as its handiwork.


  • Trump Names His Leading Five Candidates for Top Security Job Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:29:22 -0400

    Trump Names His Leading Five Candidates for Top Security Job(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’s considering five candidates for national security adviser to replace John Bolton, who left the White House abruptly last week.Trump told reporters on Tuesday that candidates include Ricky Waddell, a former national security official in the Trump administration, and Robert C. O’Brien, a presidential envoy for hostage affairs.Trump is also considering Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the under secretary for nuclear security at the Energy Department and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.The other candidates are retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, a national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, and Fred Fleitz, the president and chief executive officer for the Center for Security Policy and a former chief of staff for Bolton.Trump ousted Bolton last week, saying he “strongly” disagreed with many of his positions. Bolton -- known for his hard-line approach to U.S. adversaries, including Iran, North Korea and Venezuela -- had also clashed repeatedly with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.The president is giving Pompeo a significant voice in choosing who will replace Bolton, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Pompeo has backed O’Brien and Waddell.(Updates with additional candidates starting in third paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan Fabian in Mountain View, California at jfabian6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Bill FariesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • UPDATE 2-U.S. believes attack on Saudi Arabia came from southwest Iran Tue, 17 Sep 2019 14:28:45 -0400

    UPDATE 2-U.S. believes attack on Saudi Arabia came from southwest IranThe United States believes Saturday's attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities were launched from Iran, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday, with one of them saying it originated in Iran's southwest. The officials did not provide evidence or detail the U.S. intelligence they used to make the assessments. Such U.S. intelligence, if shared publicly, could add to pressure for a response by the United States, Saudi Arabia and others.


  • Here's why Iran would target major Saudi oil fields and risk a US military response Tue, 17 Sep 2019 13:50:56 -0400

    Here's why Iran would target major Saudi oil fields and risk a US military responseIf Iran was responsible for the shocking attack, it falls in line with a pattern of dangerous escalations to harm the US for its harsh sanctions.


  • Dutch economy 'robust' but Brexit, trade war clouds gather Tue, 17 Sep 2019 13:39:48 -0400

    Dutch economy 'robust' but Brexit, trade war clouds gatherThe Dutch economy is set to grow by 1.5 percent next year Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said Tuesday, as officials warned of a slowdown blamed on Brexit and the ongoing US-China trade war. Speaking at the opening of the Dutch parliament, Hoekstra also announced that the Dutch government was loosening its purse strings to spend more on stimulating the economy, including the sluggish housing market, child care and defence. "Despite all the upheaval, the Dutch economy remains robust," Hoekstra told MPs at the presentation of the 2020 budget.


  • French customs, Eurotunnel confident of 'smooth' post-Brexit traffic Tue, 17 Sep 2019 13:37:53 -0400

    French customs, Eurotunnel confident of 'smooth' post-Brexit trafficFrench customs officials and Eurotunnel said Tuesday that they were confident of maintaining a smooth flow of traffic through the Channel Tunnel at Calais after Britain leaves the EU, as they conducted a joint dress rehearsal for Brexit. During the rehearsal, trucks crossing into France from the British side had the bar codes of their customs declarations scanned by a Eurotunnel agent, a formality that will become systematic once Brexit takes place.


  • British PM tried to silence parliament, Supreme Court told Tue, 17 Sep 2019 13:16:09 -0400

    British PM tried to silence parliament, Supreme Court toldPrime Minister Boris Johnson closed down parliament to silence opposition to his Brexit strategy in an unlawful abuse of power, Britain's Supreme Court heard Tuesday as the battle over Brexit reached the highest court in the land. Judges began hearing three days of highly-charged arguments over whether it was lawful for Johnson to advise Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue, or suspend, parliament for more than a month, as the clock ticks down to Britain's October 31 EU exit date. Campaigners challenging the suspension argue that Johnson's motivation for shuttering the chamber from last week to October 14 was to avoid MPs trying to stymie his plans for Britain to leave the European Union with or without a divorce deal from Brussels at the end of next month.


  • AP Analysis: Saudi oil attack part of dangerous new pattern Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:58:22 -0400

    AP Analysis: Saudi oil attack part of dangerous new patternThe assault on the beating heart of Saudi Arabia's vast oil empire follows a new and dangerous pattern that's emerged across the Persian Gulf this summer of precise attacks that leave few obvious clues as to who launched them. Beginning in May with the still-unclaimed explosions that damaged oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the region has seen its energy infrastructure repeatedly targeted. "Iran can count on public skepticism to afford it some deniability under any circumstances, but an attack of this magnitude stands a much greater chance of provoking very severe diplomatic and military consequences," warned Michael Knights, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


  • Three million Syrian refugees could be repatriated into safe zone in northeast, Turkey says Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:55:36 -0400

    Three million Syrian refugees could be repatriated into safe zone in northeast, Turkey saysThree million Syrians could return to their country to a planned "safe zone", Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.  A US-Turkey safe-zone deal was agreed in August, and now forces from both countries are setting up the area in northeast Syria, which Mr Erdogan says needs to be enlarged in order to accommodate three million people.  He is pushing for the busy exclusion zone to extend from Turkey's border to Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, deep into territory held by Kurdish forces.  Mr Erdogan said he aims to settle "at least one million of our Syrian brothers," and wants to extend the safe zone following talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president.  It is believed to be unlikely that US-backed Kurdish fighters will accept Mr Erdogan's offer.  Labelled terrorists by Ankara, Kurdish groups say Turkey is planning to use the safe zone to drive out the Kurds already living there.  Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch an offensive against the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, which have been key to the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Mr Erdogan hosted Mr Putin and Mr Rouhani in Ankara Credit: ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images Speaking after the meeting with his Russian and Iranian counterparts on Monday, Mr Erdogan said it was unacceptable to support militant groups "under the pretence" of battling Isil.  Since the introduction of the safe zone deal, tens of thousands of civilians have fled from the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib to the Turkish border, with many more expected to join them as Russian and Syrian regime forces attempt to re-take the area.  Turkey has borne much of the brunt of the exodus of Syrians fleeing fighting, and has hosted 3.7 million Syrian refugees since the outbreak of civil war in 2011.


  • First Day of Court Ends With Johnson on Back Foot: Brexit Update Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:52:00 -0400

    First Day of Court Ends With Johnson on Back Foot: Brexit Update(Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit, sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, and tell us your Brexit story. The Supreme Court concluded the first of three days of hearings into Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. It’s a landmark case that not only threatens to undermine his position as prime minister, but could also force him to recall the legislature -- giving opponents of a no-deal Brexit more time to pass laws to force his hand.While it’s notoriously difficult to determine how a case will turn out from judges’ questions, lawyers observing the proceedings said opponents of a so-called no-deal Brexit had the better day. During a period of intense scrutiny, a government lawyer promised to provide a written statement outlining what Johnson plans to do if he loses.Key Developments:The first day of hearings has ended in London. There are two more days to come, and the court has not given a date for its rulingRead profiles of the judges hereJudges press Johnson’s lawyer on what premier plans to do if he loses case; Richard Keen promises to file written answer to the courtPound reverses losses, rising as much as 0.5%How Brexit Could Unleash a U.K. Constitutional Crisis: QuickTakeLiberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson said her party would cancel Brexit on day one if elected to governmentCourt Ends First Day, as Questions Offer ‘Clue’ (4:30 p.m.)The first day the Supreme Court hearing into Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament has drawn to a close. The session first saw arguments from lawyers including David Pannick representing anti-Brexit businesswoman Gina Miller, who argued that Johnson had acted unlawfully in ordering the prorogation.In the afternoon, a government lawyer came under pressure from judges to clarify what Johnson’s position would be if he lost at the nation’s highest court. On balance, Miller’s team are likely to be slightly happier.The questions being asked by the judges “are a clue,” trial lawyer Gavin Millar said. “I thought David Pannick got quite an easy ride this morning, which may be an indicator.”And Robert Hazell, a constitutional law professor at University College London, said: “I think if I were the government after the first day, I think I would be feeling a bit more worried.”On Wednesday morning, the court will hear from leading U.K. government lawyer James Eadie.EU Open to Deal, Needs U.K. Proposals: Coveney (4:10 p.m.)The European Union remains open to a Brexit deal, but is still waiting on written proposals from the U.K., Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters in Dublin on Tuesday.Coveney reiterated that Ireland won’t sign up for permanent checks on the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland after Brexit, but added he didn’t think checks would be needed close to the frontier anyway. That differs from Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s warning earlier this month that some form of checks near the border could be needed.Swinson Pledges ‘Brighter’ No-Brexit Future (3:25 p.m.)Jo Swinson ended a polished first leader’s speech to the Liberal Democrat party conference with a pledge to “change our politics, stop Brexit, and win a brighter future.”“We cannot be satisfied with a place on the fringes of British politics, narrow and pure, small and irrelevant,” Swinson said of her party, which currently has just 18 MPs out of 650. “We can defeat nationalism and populism.”The speech drew sustained applause, and was peppered with ovations when Swinson delivered lines on standing to be prime minister, and saying that being a woman isn’t a weakness -- a reference to Boris Johnson’s past references to people as a “big girl’s blouse” and a “girly swot.”Her policy initiatives stretched beyond Brexit, with measures to protect the climate and wider environment, to increase youth services and to broaden government priorities beyond boosting GDP and encompass the wider wellbeing of society.Judges Quickly Turn on Government Lawyer (2:45 p.m.)Several Supreme Court justices quickly turned on the lawyer for the government in the case over Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament, demanding a clearer explanation of what the premier would do if he lost.Justice Brian Kerr went further, pushing to discover if Johnson would recall lawmakers or attempt to suspend the legislature again.“Can we take it that he wouldn’t prorogue Parliament again,” Kerr asked.Richard Keen, a lawyer for the government, said that Johnson would abide by the ruling, but stopped short of saying that Parliament would immediately be recalled.“If this court finds that the advice of the prime minister was unlawful, the prime minister will take all necessary steps to comply with any declaration made by the court, and that is the appropriate way that this matter should be addressed,” Keen said.Keen promised the court he would get a written answer on what the prime minister would do if he lost the case.Lib Dems Would Cancel Brexit on Day 1 (2:40 p.m.)The Liberal Democrats will cancel Brexit on day one of a new government if they win a majority in the next general election, leader Jo Swinson said in her speech at the party conference in Bournemouth.Swinson also compared Prime Minister Boris Johnson to a “socialist dictator” for overriding constitutional norms, and said opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn “is Brexit by nature,” according to text of the speech handed to journalists before her speech.There are also new party policies in her speech: The Liberal Democrats will push introduce a New Zealand-style “wellbeing budget” alongside annual budgets, and make sure that every new government policy has an assessment on its impact of people’s health, welfare and happiness. The party will also push green policies, she said.More Than 4.4 Million Requests for Live Stream (2 p.m.)The U.K. Supreme Court said its servers received more than 4.4 million requests to access the live stream for Tuesday’s hearing on the suspension of Parliament. While that doesn’t mean more than 4 million people tried to log on, the court said it’s “a good preliminary indicator of general numbers.”Those figures don’t include viewers on TV channels including BBC and Sky, meaning the proceedings were probably the most-watched in European legal history.Is Politics Legitimate Grounds for Suspension? (1:20 p.m.)Justice Patrick Hodge asked if a legitimate purpose for suspending Parliament could be to “obtain a political advantage.”The question was considered by a lower court in London earlier this month, which said even if prorogation was purely political, the issue would not be “territory in which a court can enter.”But David Pannick, a lawyer leading the opposition to a no-deal Brexit, said the court should look at “the scrutiny of Parliament” rather than the purely political outcome.Johnson ‘Confident’ of Legal Arguments (12:40 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that he is “confident in our arguments” in the cases at the Supreme Court, his spokesman, James Slack, told reporters at a briefing in Westminster.Johnson, who spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier, told his senior ministers that he agreed to an intensification of Brexit talks at a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, Slack said.The prime minister “continues to believe there’s a deal to be done with the EU, but at the same time no-deal planning must continue at pace,” Slack told reporters. Technical and political talks will continue this week and the two sides will move to daily meetings “shortly,” he said.Judge Asks If Confidence Vote Was Right Option (12:30 p.m.)Justice Robert Reed asked whether courts should intervene, given that Parliament had the option to hold a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s government before the suspension but chose not to.“Where Parliament has stayed its hand, should the Courts intervene?” Reed asked.David Pannick, the lawyer for the anti-no-deal Brexit side, replied that the question blurred arguments related to policy and law. The issue of whether politicians chose not to call a confidence vote is irrelevant to the question of whether what Johnson did was legal, he said.“It is no answer that there could have been a political solution,” Pannick said.Two Judges Ask About Work Lost to Suspension (12 p.m.)Court President Brenda Hale and Justice Robert Carnwath both ask lawyers challenging the government what legislation was dropped because of the suspension of Parliament.“It would be of great interest to know which bills were lost in the prorogation,” Hale asked.David Pannick, who represents Brexit opponents, said that Parliament wasn’t able to debate or ask questions of the executive during the extended break. One bill that was dropped, according to the Parliamentary Review, was divorce legislation, which might interest Justice Hale, a former family law specialist.Pannick said that the “plain effect” of the decision was to prevent Parliament from performing its duties.What Could the Court Verdict Look Like? (11:10 a.m.)Both the English and Scottish claimants are seeking a declaration that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen was unlawful and “null and void.”The prime minister said in his own legal filing that he intends to abide by any declaration made by the court. But his lawyers have left some wriggle room, arguing that the Scottish court didn’t have jurisdiction to make the order in the terms that it did, they said.In response, attorneys for the Scottish claimants called the government’s argument “unsustainable nonsense.” Meanwhile Gina Miller’s lawyers want the court to overturn the prorogation order directly.Supreme Court Defines Its Role (10:50 a.m.)Supreme Court President Brenda Hale opened the three-day hearing by reminding the room that the role of the judges is non-political and concerned solely at bringing sense to differing opinions from lower panels.“This is a serious and difficult question of law -- amply demonstrated by the fact that three senior judges in Scotland have reached a different conclusion to three senior judges in England,” she said. “The Supreme Court exists to resolve these difficult issues.”“The determination of this question will not determine when and how the United Kingdom will leave the European Union,” she continued.Scottish Lawyers Prepare for Another Suspension (10:25 a.m.)The lawyers for politicians in the Scottish challenge to Boris Johnson are already looking ahead to rumors that the prime minister might suspend Parliament again -- even closer to the Brexit deadline.“If a fresh decision is taken by the Executive to prorogue Parliament, that new decision will again be unlawful if and insofar as it is still taken for an unlawful purpose (stymieing parliamentary accountability),” lawyers said in their filing.The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Johnson’s office is considering another suspension as a way of getting around a law requiring the government to seek a Brexit extension if it can’t secure a divorce deal with Brussels. After his appearance on Bloomberg Television (see 9 a.m.), Jolyon Maugham said he’d also heard that might be the case.Lawyers File Preliminary Arguments (9:35 a.m.)The government told judges in its preliminary filing that when Parliament meets is a political issue, noting that prorogation -- effectively the suspension of the legislature -- has been recognized since 1707.The issue “is intrinsically one of high policy and politics, not law,” the government said in court filings posted on the Supreme Court website.Lawyers for Gina Miller, the businesswoman who previously sued to force then Prime Minister Theresa May to allow Parliament to vote on a key Brexit benchmark, argued that the five-week suspension hindered lawmakers’ oversight of the executive branch during a period when “time is very much of the essence.”The prime minister’s reasons to suspend Parliament were “infected by factors inconsistent with the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty, in particular his belief that Parliament does nothing of value at this time of year,” Miller’s lawyers said in their filing.Maugham: Brexit Opponents Mobilizing Against PM (9:15 a.m.)Opponents of a no-deal Brexit are discussing forming an emergency government if Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to get around the new law demanding he seek a Brexit extension if he can’t secure a divorce deal, lawyer Jolyon Maugham said in his Bloomberg Television interview (see 9 a.m.).Johnson has said he won’t ask for a delay to the 31 Oct. Brexit deadline, even though the Benn Act requires him to do so if he can’t negotiate a withdrawal agreement with Brussels.“I would not be surprised to see two goes at forming an emergency government,” he said. “One led by Jeremy Corbyn, and if that were to fail -- and one imagines it would -- another led by a more unifying cross-party figure.”Maugham Criticizes Johnson’s Strategy (9 a.m.)Jolyon Maugham, a London lawyer spearheading one of the cases in front of the Supreme Court, told Bloomberg television the case has historic significance.“Everyone who believes in democracy has to hope that I am going to succeed,” he said on Tuesday.If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the government, a prime minister would be able to suspend Parliament for an entire electoral period, he said.“That is an absolutely remarkable proposition that reduces parliamentary democracy to a husk,” Maugham said.Judiciary Must Be Respected, Buckland Says (Earlier)Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the “robust independence” of the judiciary must be respected whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court case. Some officials questioned the impartiality of the Scottish court, which ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was unlawful.“We will examine the ruling very carefully and abide by the rule of law,” Buckland told the BBC on Tuesday. U.K. judges are “world class and world leading, and we must let them do their job.”Earlier:Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plan Goes to Court With EU Talks in ChaosCan Boris Johnson Sell an All-Ireland Backstop to Save Brexit?Brexit Bulletin: The Dilemma of a Deal\--With assistance from Anna Edwards, Jessica Shankleman, Thomas Penny, Peter Flanagan and Alex Morales.To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Browning in London at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net;Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net;Franz Wild in London at fwild@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Anthony AaronsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Netanyahu issues frantic warnings to Right-wing voters as Israel goes back to the polls Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:49:01 -0400

    Netanyahu issues frantic warnings to Right-wing voters as Israel goes back to the pollsBenjamin Netanyahu spent Israel’s election day issuing increasingly frantic warnings that he was in danger of being defeated, as millions of Israelis went to the polls to decide whether he should continue his 13 years in power.  In what has become a familiar election playbook, Mr Netanyahu spent the final hours of voting telling Right-wing voters that they were complacent and in danger of waking up to a Leftist government if they did not turn out.  “Only you will decide whether a strong Right-wing government will be formed under my leadership or a weak Left-wing government,” he told supporters as he darted between campaign stops in Jerusalem.  Mr Netanyahu has made the same warnings ahead of each of his recent elections, leaving many Israelis to believe he is simply trying to maximum his vote and is not in any real danger of losing.  The prime minister also appeared to flout election laws by giving two radio interviews after voting had started and by publishing polling data on his Facebook account. Facebook temporarily supended a chatbot on his account in response.     A woman walks past a Likud party election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump in Tel Aviv Credit:  CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS Mr Netanyahu’s election rival, Benny Gantz, a former general who leads the centrist Blue & White party, spent much of the day in the liberal bastion of Tel Aviv, urging voters to cast the prime minister out of office.  “We will succeed in bringing hope, all of us together, without corruption and without extremism,” he said, a reference to the criminal corruption charges against Mr Netanyahu.  The prime minister faces a hearing next month where Israel’s attorney general will make a final decision on whether to bring charges on allegations that Mr Netanyahu manipulated media regulations to benefit a press mogul in return for favourable news coverage.  Mr Netanyahu denies wrongdoing.   The final polls of the election show Mr Netanyahu’s Likud and Mr Gantz’s Blue & White tied on around 32 seats. Neither party appeared to have a clear path to forming a majority coalition, setting the stage for what could be weeks of post-election negotiations.   Children accompany an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man to a voting station in the city of Bnei Brak during the Israeli parliamentary election Credit:  MENAHEM KAHANA/ AFP The two parties both won 35 seats in the last election in April. When Mr Netanyahu was unable to form a majority government he called an unprecedented second election to try win an overall majority.  If Mr Netanyahu is unable to cobble together a coalition this time, he faces the possible risk of a mutiny within his own Likud party. Senior Likud figures have so far insisted they will not rise up against their leader. “It will never happen. We are totally against anybody telling the Likud who to vote for,” Nir Barkat, a senior Likud MP, told The Telegraph.  But Blue & White believes Likud officials could eventually overthrow Mr Netanyahu if they believe he has become a drag on the party’s prospects of holding onto power.   The election followed a similar script to the one that preceded it in April, focusing less on policy differences and more on the central question of whether or not Mr Netanyahu should stay in office after 13 years in power.  The prime minister presented himself as an indispensable leader and the only man with the stature and experience on the world stage to guide Israel through the dangerous currents of the Middle East.  His campaign put up massive posters showing him shaking hands with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India. “Netanyahu: a different league,” the posters read.  “I don’t like Bibi but he’s the best person for the job,” said Shula Feldman, 39-year-old British-Israeli originally from London. “For me, the issue of security overrides everything.”  Like many Likud voters, Mrs Feldman, said she believed the criminal prosecution against Mr Netanyahu was at least partly motivated by politics. “I don’t think there would be charges if he didn’t have so many enemies,” she said.   Mr Netanyahu also repeated campaign tactics that have worked for him in the past including making increasingly extreme pledges to his Right-wing voter base, inciting against Israel’s Arab minority, and issuing panicked warnings that he was going to lose.  Less than a week before the election, Mr Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley into Israel, an unprecedented step that would destroy any lingering hopes of a Two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was widely seen as an effort to energise his voter base.   Facebook suspended a chatbot belonging to Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party after it sent visitors a message warning of  “Arabs who want to destroy us all – women, children and men”.  For his part, Mr Gantz offered himself as a unifying figure who would bring Israel together after years of Mr Netanyahu’s divisive rule. He charged the prime minister with seeking to cling to power only to protect himself from the criminal corruption charges swirling around him.  “The time has come when the majority takes care of everybody and not the minority takes care of one person,” Mr Gantz said, alleging that Mr Netanyahu would rely on the votes of extremists to pass an immunity law that would shield him from prosecution.  Mr Gantz, a liberal, staked out a more aggressively secular position than he did in the last election and promised to challenge the power of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties which Mr Netanyahu has relied on. Mr Gantz said his hope was to form “a secular unity government” led by Blue & White but which also included Likud and the secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party.   However, Mr Gantz said that Likud could only join such a unity government if it first ditched Mr Netanyahu as its leader. Senior Likud figures have said so far said they will remain loyal to Mr Netanyahu.  Moshe Mordechai, a 67-year-old driving instructor, said he normally voted Likud but now intended to back Mr Gantz. “It’s time for a change. Gantz impresses me and I have had enough of Bibi,” he said.


  • UN expert: Suu Kyi's role in Rohingya abuses still unclear Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:47:28 -0400

    UN expert: Suu Kyi's role in Rohingya abuses still unclearA top U.N. investigator said Tuesday "it's still an open-ended question" about how much Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be implicated in human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims. Marzuki Darusman said it was "probably the case" that Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace prize laureate, may not have been "knowledgeable" about a violent crackdown against the ethnic minority that erupted in August 2017 and ultimately drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from their homes in Myanmar. "It's still an open-ended question to what extent she might be implicated," said Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney-general who headed a fact-finding mission on Myanmar over the last two years on a mandate from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council.


  • Even Donald Trump Thinks He’s Spending Too Much Time on Ethanol Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:32:01 -0400

    Even Donald Trump Thinks He’s Spending Too Much Time on Ethanol(Bloomberg) -- Global disputes over trade and nuclear weapons have consumed plenty of President Donald Trump’s time and attention -- but a narrow, domestic clash over U.S. biofuel policy may be giving those issues competition.Trump has held more than a half dozen meetings and helped broker at least three near-deals on U.S. ethanol and biodiesel mandates since he moved into the White House. Despite the intense Oval Office negotiations, a lasting compromise between warring oil and biofuel interests has eluded the commander-in-chief. And now his patience may be wearing thin.Trump joked to people at one recent White House meeting on the topic that he had spent more time on ethanol than on both China and Iran, according to people familiar with the matter. The people asked not to be identified describing a private meeting.“The president is tired of dealing with this,” Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, told reporters Tuesday. “He’s more or less said so many times.”And that frustration began long before the current negotiations, Grassley said, recalling Trump’s efforts last year to lift fueling restrictions on higher-ethanol E15 gasoline.“Even back when we were in the White House talking about E15,” Grassley said, “it just seemed like he could never get to the bottom of the ethanol issue or he couldn’t satisfy both Big Oil and the farmers, and he was trying to do that.”Trump’s latest quip may have betrayed his frustration with the ongoing biofuel policy fight, which pits two of his favored constituencies -- agriculture and energy interests -- as well as several swing states against each other.Advocates for corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel say the Environmental Protection Agency has too eagerly granted oil refineries waivers exempting them from mandates compelling them to use the renewable fuels. Oil industry allies, at the same time, have implored the administration to keep issuing the waivers and rein in the costs of tradable credits they use to prove they’ve fulfilled annual blending quotas.One White House official complained to lobbyists that the president was tired of dealing with the issue at a meeting last week, according to a person familiar with the exchange.Long-Running IssueTrump was pulled into the issue even before he took office, as billionaire investor, then-refinery owner and later unpaid presidential regulatory adviser Carl Icahn in August 2016 complained about a “rigged” marketplace for the renewable fuel credits. He helped vet Trump’s nominees to lead the EPA and eventually tried to craft his own compromise with biofuel supporters.In the spring of 2018, Trump presided over months of negotiations -- ultimately reaching a pact in June that promised to simultaneously boost ethanol and keep refining costs in check. Within days, the plan fell apart, following fierce criticism from Iowa’s two Republican senators, Grassley and Joni Ernst.Now, Trump is trying again, after warnings that an uproar in Iowa and other politically important farm states over refinery waivers could haunt him at the ballot box next year. Refining executives from Valero Energy Corp. and Marathon Petroleum Corp. pressed their case with Trump last week. Corn Belt senators and ethanol producer Archer-Daniels Midland Co. also made their own arguments in a meeting with the president.Trump already promised a “giant package” of changes he boasted would make farmers happy while keeping oil refineries in business. But it looks like he’ll have to get through at least one more meeting first. More senators -- this time from states with big refining interests -- are seeking an audience with the president this week.(Updates with comment from Grassley starting in fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net;Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth Wasserman, Justin BlumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Italy, France to Bury Hatchet With a Cozy Dinner and No Salvini Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:31:06 -0400

    Italy, France to Bury Hatchet With a Cozy Dinner and No Salvini(Bloomberg) -- For Giuseppe Conte, having Emmanuel Macron over for dinner at his Roman home in the 16th-century Palazzo Chigi is about drawing a line under Italy’s silly spat with France and jumping on a new political reality.Back in February, Italy’s leading populists took turns baiting France to drum up votes ahead of European parliamentary elections. Macron responded by recalling his ambassador to Rome and relations were chilly for a while.But now everyone is ready to move. Trouble-making Matteo Salvini has been sidelined after his naked power grab flopped spectacularly over the summer. Conte is back and anchoring a more centrist pro-European government. Macron is slowly supplanting Germany’s Angela Merkel as the bloc’s top power broker.It’s time to join forces.Conte, once an unknown law professor, has grown in stature and needs some political muscle ahead of a 2020 budget that could run foul of European Union’s deficit rules. He wants French help in pushing for flexibility and is lobbying to exclude investments from deficit calculations.Does he have an ally in Macron in wanting a broader review of fiscal rules? France and Italy are both in charge of significant economic dossiers in the new Commission, a French adviser noted.Loosening UpEU members are discussing the idea of a common budget and measures to fight economic slowdowns, the official said, adding that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has been increasingly vocal about the need for governments to step up and support their flagging economies with fiscal policy.Over dinner, Conte will make the case Italy needs help on the front line of migrant arrivals from across the Mediterranean. In the past, Salvini’s threats to divert boats of migrants to France played well in the polls at home while straining relations further with its neighbor and a key trade partner.Specifically, Italy wants French backing for both asylum-seekers and economic migrants to be automatically welcomed by EU states, with possible fines for members who refuse, according to a senior Italian official who declined to be named discussing confidential preparations for the meeting.Macron also wants an automatic solution to distribute migrants, according to the presidential adviser, and to change an agreement that says asylum-seekers must make their request in the first EU country of arrival. France wants migrant ships to dock at the closest port, and is discussing the fate of economic migrants, insisting that they should be mainly sent home.If economics and migration will keep the two leaders occupied for most of the three-course meal, there is plenty of shared business for them to untangle in the coming months from automobiles to finance and the media.\--With assistance from Geraldine Amiel, Helene Fouquet, Tommaso Ebhardt, Daniele Lepido and Alessandro Speciale.To contact the reporters on this story: John Follain in Rome at jfollain2@bloomberg.net;Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.net;Ania Nussbaum in Paris at anussbaum5@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Flavia Krause-JacksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Iran Shows Trump That It’s Too Big to Be Crushed or Marginalized Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:30:50 -0400

    Iran Shows Trump That It’s Too Big to Be Crushed or Marginalized(Bloomberg) -- Earlier this year, President Donald Trump warned that “it’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens.” Something big has happened with an attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, and yet the administration in Washington looks like the one with the problem.After leading voices in the Trump administration laid the blame squarely on Iran, it isn’t obvious how the U.S. can effectively retaliate against a country that is already under maximum economic sanctions. Iran is too big for the U.S. to invade even if there were appetite among U.S. voters for another Gulf war, and has demonstrated its ability to strike back hard should the U.S. decide to escalate.U.S. sanctions have cratered the Iranian economy. Yet administration hopes that this would lead to a popular backlash against the government in Tehran, forcing it to cave to American demands, have yet to bear fruit.Instead, the regime has relied on responses honed over 40 years of international isolation, upping the ante to show that if the U.S. continues forcing Iranian oil exports to zero in an attempt to bankrupt its government, Iran has the power to halt the oil exports of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, too.“We are caught in this vicious circle,” said Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. “The U.S. has to realize that Iran is part of this region. Iran cannot be excised.”Revolutionary GuardRather than retreat in the face of withering revenues, which was a part of the logic that informed U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal that had lifted sanctions, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is increasingly active in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and even Afghanistan.For the Guard -- which has long defined itself as the Middle East’s ultimate bulwark against U.S. military power -- sanctions are almost seen as a call to arms.“Saudi Arabia’s Backbone is Broken; The U.S. and al Saud are in Mourning!” crowed the front page headline in Monday’s edition of Kayhan newspaper, whose chief editor is directly appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.On social media, too, the mood among Iranians has been more jingoistic than fearful.A 2017 clip of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman saying “we won’t wait for the war to come to Saudi Arabia, we’ll take the war to Iran,” has been widely recirculated and mocked in recent days. “Well Bin Salman my brother, tell me how’s Aramco doing?” said one Twitter user’s caption for the clip, referring to Saudi Arabia’s leviathan oil company.Regional InfluenceThat bravado is ultimately misplaced, because nothing Iran has done to date has brought the lifting of sanctions -- the central problem for the country of 82 million as a whole -- any closer, according to Michael Knights, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. At the same time, Iran’s capacity to make its interests felt across the region has been on full display.“We have a sequence of events since about May 12, where the Iranians have pushed on one red line and relationship after another,” said Knights. “From a military perspective it has really been superbly executed, from tanker attacks that didn’t spill a drop of oil into the Gulf, to these now, which were of the same quality that the U.S. would have displayed in the mid-90s, using the cruise missiles it had then.”Each tactical success has further raised Iran’s prestige in the region, a higher priority for regime conservatives and the IRGC than restoring the economy, according to Knights.That forward-leaning approach is part of a longer term game plan, as Iran seeks to benefit from a gradual U.S. withdrawal from the region that’s likely to continue regardless of who is elected president in 2020.“The U.S. has been looking for years for a re-posturing in the Middle East that would entail a lighter commitment on their end,” said Cinzia Bianco, Arabian Peninsula research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, a think tank. “This is crucial to what happened with Aramco, because the IRGC is fully aware of this context and is trying to test its new limitations.”Balance of PowerThe attack could have a lasting impact on the balance of power in the region, because it cruelly exposed the scale of an ongoing change in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, according to Pierre Noel, senior fellow for economic and energy security at the International Institute for Security studies, in London. “The Saudis lost in 30 minutes the war they had been preparing for for 50 years,” Noel said in a briefing on Tuesday. “They lost 50 percent of their national oil output, to Iran, and without the U.S. being immediately able or willing to offer cover.”That has rendered empty, or at least severely limited, the absolute U.S. security guarantee for Saudi Arabia and its oil fields that Saudi and other countries in the region have long assumed.Much of what happens next will depend on how hard the U.S. and Saudi decide to push their case that Iran, rather than its Houthi proxies in Yemen, was responsible for Saturday’s bombing of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure at Abqaiq. If the U.S. decides to force the issue and produce hard evidence in public, the pressure to be seen to retaliate will be high, according to Knights and others.Iran has denied responsibility for the attack, which the Houthis have claimed for themselves. It won’t negotiate with the U.S. at any level, Khamenei said on Tuesday. That would appear to rule out a meeting of Trump and President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in New York this month.Missiles and DronesThe European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned unilaterally last year in a precursor to re-imposing sanctions are content to stay on the fence for now. The governments of France and Germany, both of which were instrumental in establishing a special purpose vehicle meant to aid Iran over U.S. opposition, condemned the attacks without laying blame.Iran’s military, at least, appears to be calculating that Trump will prefer to leave the case inconclusive and stick with less risky, costly and unpopular alternatives to an act of war.“It’s necessary for everyone to know that all U.S. bases and their vessels are within a 2,000 kilometer (1,240 mile) reach of our missiles,” the IRGC’s aerospace forces commander, Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh said in an interview with the Iranian news agency, Tasnim, on Sunday.Iran has about 50 medium range ballistic missiles deployed and others in development, as well as about 130 drones, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “Neither we nor the Americans have any intention of going to war,” the brigadier general said.\--With assistance from Lin Noueihed.To contact the reporters on this story: Marc Champion in London at mchampion7@bloomberg.net;Zainab Fattah in Dubai at zfattah@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net, Alan Crawford, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Fighting for survival: Keys to Netanyahu's return to power Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:13:13 -0400

    Fighting for survival: Keys to Netanyahu's return to powerIsrael's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is in a race for political survival as the country holds repeat parliamentary elections Tuesday. If Netanyahu's Likud party and his smaller allies can secure a narrow 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, he will be well on the way to forming a coalition of hard-line religious and nationalist parties. Most critically for him, such a coalition would be expected to grant him immunity from prosecution on a series of expected corruption charges.


  • Deadlocked Israeli Rivals Slug Out This Year’s Second Election Tue, 17 Sep 2019 11:04:39 -0400

    Deadlocked Israeli Rivals Slug Out This Year’s Second Election(Bloomberg) -- Israel went to the polls for Tuesday’s election do-over a fiercely divided nation, with no definitive sign whether legally embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his grip on power.While the latest opinion surveys gave Netanyahu a bump, they still suggest he’ll struggle to put together a parliamentary majority without secularist former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, a onetime ally who refused to join his government following the April 9 election.Follow our TOPLive coverage of Israel’s electionLiberman, long seen as this election’s kingmaker, had slipped in recent polls, and sentiment could still shift further in the premier’s favor. If it turns out Netanyahu does need his fickle friend, the real drama will come as he tries to peel off lawmakers from the opposing camp -- or be forced out if he fails.“It could end with another stalemate, and several weeks during which the president taps someone to form a government and he runs into obstacles,” said Yoram Meital, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University. “It’s a very polarized political landscape, and it’s too early to predict how it will end.”How Ultra-Orthodox Perks Set Israel Election Agenda: QuickTakeNetanyahu’s uncertain prospects come at a bad time for him personally, as he tries to head off possible corruption charges, and for his plans to quash Iranian and Palestinian ambitions.With his political survival at stake, Netanyahu was busy on election day trotting out tried-and-true ploys to propel Israeli nationalists to the polls: turning the liberal left and non-Zionist, Israeli Arab leaders into bogeymen.“Voters of the right, have you lost your minds?” Netanyahu said on Twitter. “Go out now and vote Likud in order to stop a left-wing government with the Arab parties.”Netanyahu has also made a bid for nationalist votes by promising to annex parts of the West Bank, a move Israel has shunned for more than 50 years.Jordan’s King Abdullah II, speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Tuesday, said he was “extremely concerned” by that pledge.“This does not help a conducive atmosphere to bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together, so these type of statements I think are a disaster to any attempt to move forward to a two-state solution,” he said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.One of the Netanyahu campaign’s gambits fell afoul of Facebook, which suspended his Likud party’s chatbot for the second time in a week, this time for violating Israeli election law by publishing poll information after a Sept. 13 deadline.“We work with Elections Commissions around the world to help protect the integrity of elections,” Facebook said. “We have restricted this bot for violating local law until the polling stations are closed tonight.” Polls close at 10 p.m. local time. Final polls over the weekend predicted the Netanyahu-led bloc will land about 58 seats in the 120-member Knesset, with Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu capturing eight, up from five in April but down from a high of 11. The grouping led by the premier’s chief rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, is set to secure about 53 seats, they indicated.Staying in power could be crucial to Netanyahu’s efforts to stay out of court -- and possibly jail. He entered the race weakened by what he says are baseless graft allegations cooked up by left-wing opponents. Before coalition talks broke down, he was trying to push through new legislation granting him immunity from prosecution while in office.The political uncertainty has dovetailed with renewed military confrontations with Iran-backed militants along Israel’s northern frontier with Lebanon and Syria, and at its southern boundary with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Against this backdrop, the Trump administration plans to release its Middle East peace proposal just days after Israel’s election, Netanyahu said last week.The country’s elections-related paralysis has already delayed presentation of the plan’s political component.The economy rarely strayed into the campaign given solid growth. But the next government will have to decide what mix of tax hikes or spending cuts is needed to bridge a widening fiscal deficit.As long as Netanyahu wins more support in parliament, analysts expect he’ll get first crack at piecing together a coalition, even if Blue and White on its own has a slight edge over Likud.Netanyahu says he won’t resign if coalition talks flop again. But Likud leaders might not give him another chance.“If he doesn’t succeed, the party will oust him,” predicted Meital, the Ben-Gurion University political scientist.(Updates with Netanyahu tweet, Facebook suspension starting in seventh paragraph.)\--With assistance from Alisa Odenheimer.To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Teibel in Jerusalem at ateibel@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, ;Benjamin Harvey at bharvey11@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Amy TeibelFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Arrest warrant for Lebanese-American who worked for Israel Tue, 17 Sep 2019 10:36:36 -0400

    Arrest warrant for Lebanese-American who worked for IsraelA Lebanese judge issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for a Lebanese American who confessed he'd worked for Israel during its occupation of Lebanon for nearly two decades, Lebanese judicial officials said. The officials said acting military investigative judge Najat Abu Shakra postponed the questioning of Amer Fakhoury at the Military Court in Beirut pending permission from Lebanon's Bar Association for an American lawyer to attend.


  • 10 fighters killed in new, unclaimed strikes in east Syria Tue, 17 Sep 2019 10:30:59 -0400

    10 fighters killed in new, unclaimed strikes in east SyriaUnknown aircraft attacked a weapons depot belonging to Iranian-backed paramilitary forces in an eastern town near the Iraqi border early Tuesday, killing at least 10, a Syria war monitor and an Iraqi security official said. An Iraqi security official said the strike hit weapons depots belonging to Iraqi factions operating under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the name given for the mainly Shiite militias in Iraq that Iran supports. The strikes are the latest in a series of unclaimed attacks both inside Iraq and along the border with Syria targeting Iran-backed militias.


  • UK's Johnson will act if court says parliament suspension was unlawful -lawyer Tue, 17 Sep 2019 09:28:02 -0400

    UK's Johnson will act if court says parliament suspension was unlawful -lawyerA lawyer for the British government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that if it ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful, he would take action to remedy the situation. "It will be then for the prime minister to address the consequence of that declaration (that the suspension was unlawful)," Richard Keen told the court during a hearing.


  • Iran charges three detained Australians with spying Tue, 17 Sep 2019 09:20:18 -0400

    Iran charges three detained Australians with spyingIran has charged three detained Australians with spying, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, after the reported arrest of a travel-blogging couple and an academic. Two of the Australians were alleged to have used a drone to take pictures of military sites, while a third was accused of spying for another country, spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters. It was the first official confirmation that Australians have been detained in Iran after the families of three of them said last week they had been arrested in the Islamic republic.


  • Activists: Bahrain court won't release activist from prison Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:26:58 -0400

    Activists: Bahrain court won't release activist from prisonActivists say a court in Bahrain has refused to release a prominent activist and allow him to serve out at home the remainder of his five-year prison sentences for tweets. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said Tuesday the court refused the noncustodial sentence request for Nabeel Rajab. Bahrain's state-run media did not immediately acknowledge the decision.


  • Jordan's king: Israel annexing settlements would be disaster Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:22:05 -0400

    Jordan's king: Israel annexing settlements would be disasterJordan's King Abdullah II says if Israel goes ahead with the idea of annexing all the settlements in the West Bank it would be a "disaster" for attempts to find any two-state solution with the Palestinians. Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday, Abdullah said he was "extremely concerned" about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow to annex all the West Bank settlements.


  • Putin’s Trolling of Trump Isn’t Just About Missiles Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:22:04 -0400

    Putin’s Trolling of Trump Isn’t Just About Missiles(Bloomberg Opinion) -- President Vladimir Putin’s offer to sell Russian air defense systems to Saudi Arabia is about more than mere trolling, even though it caused laughter from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.  Putin was trying to persuade the entire Middle East that working with him is more effective than cooperating with the U.S. One could regard it as a kind of mafia-style protection offer: The new, more aggressive gangster on the block is making a bid because the current king of the streets has grown lazy and risk-averse.On  Monday, Putin was in Ankara for talks on the Syrian conflict with Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He made every effort to blend in, referencing the Quran and making constant references to Muslim traditions.  “The Holy Quran says violence is only acceptable when defending your kin,” Putin told a press conference after the summit. “So we’re willing to provide aid to Saudi Arabia in defending their kin, their country.”  The Saudis should “make a wise, statesmanlike decision,” he suggested, and purchase S-300 air defense systems as Iran did, or the more modern S-400 ones which Turkey recently purchased. “They will reliably protect any Saudi Arabian infrastructure,” Putin said, referring to the recent drone attack on Saudi refineries.Putin’s Quranic scholarship is a little dubious (the Islamic holy book actually permits Muslims to fight back when attacked, not when protecting “kin”), but Rouhani was willing to let it pass. He asked Putin facetiously which system he’d recommend to the Saudis -- the S-300 or the S-400. “Let them have their pick,” Putin replied.  In reality, it’s the S-400 that Russia has been trying hard to sell to Saudi Arabia, so far without success. It has also offered the missiles to Qatar. Neither the S-300 nor the S-400 has seen any real combat use. Theoretically, and as seen in exercises, these are powerful weapons. But not even Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, who has had a few opportunities to use the S-300s he received from Russia last year, has done so.The point of acquiring such systems isn’t so much to shoot down enemy aircraft and missiles but to make a bid for Russian support in case of a crisis. For that, Erdogan, whose country is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has been willing to live with the threat of U.S. sanctions and even lose access to U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.Russia’s bid to replace the U.S. as the go-to problem solver in the Middle East is based on the success of its relatively low-cost but highly effective intervention in Syria, where the Russian air force and deniable mercenaries have helped propel Assad’s forces to victory in a bloody civil war. Putin’s foray in Syria was meant, in part, as a sales demonstration to Middle Eastern regimes: Russia will, if asked, intervene on the side of the incumbent ruler in the interest of stability, and it will do so quickly and without political strings attached. The U.S. offers neither of these advantages.President Donald Trump is, at heart, an isolationist unwilling to send U.S. troops overseas, and his instinct so far has been to pull out of Middle Eastern countries rather than start new wars. The current field of Democratic presidential hopefuls is almost uniformly pacifist: Most off the candidates support a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, and all are for ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. The U.S. public is tired of overseas military adventures. Russia’s advantage in this regard is that Putin doesn’t care what the public thinks when he feels it’s in Russia’s interest to intervene militarily in some far-off place. Moreover, he uses Kremlin-friendly private military companies to provide a cloak of deniability.Putin also makes a point of not trying to tell his situational allies – or perhaps “clients,” current and potential, is a better word – how to run their countries. Assad may be up to his elbows in blood, but he’s the “legitimate” ruler; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be responsible for the murder of  journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Putin has gone out of his way to act friendly with the prince when others shunned him. U.S. help often comes with patronizing advice and sometimes even with direct support for regime change. Putin defends the right of incumbents to act in line with what they see as their traditions – thus the several references to the Quran he made in Ankara.This, of course, makes for some awkward exceptions to the ancient rule that says the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend. Russia’s closeness to Iran, on full display on Monday, is an irritant to Saudi Arabia, especially when the U.S. says Iran was responsible for the drone attack on Saudi infrastructure. On the other hand, Russia is Saudi Arabia’s natural ally in protecting the global oil market from the disruption caused by U.S. shale operators. Besides, Saudi Arabia working with the Kremlin could potentially be a way to end Iranian provocations since Moscow will talk with Tehran rather than hit it with sanctions as the U.S. does.It’s hard to see Saudi Arabia siding openly with Russia and undermining its long-standing alliance with the U.S., no matter how tempting Putin might make it sound. Putin’s foreign policy record doesn’t spell trustworthiness, and his steadfast support for Assad isn’t proof that he’ll be as unfailingly loyal to other potential clients. Besides, the U.S. has shown the crushing might of its military on more occasions than Putin’s Russia; there’s no question that its ability to win any conventional armed conflict is greater than Russia’s today.In the medium to long term, however, which power is seen as the chief  problem-solver in the Middle East depends on U.S.  willingness to bring its might to bear. Trump’s actions against Iran haven’t been overwhelmingly effective. The Yemen conflict,  in which the U.S. has sides with the Saudis, is still raging. U.S. foe Assad controls most of Syria. And Turkey hasn’t suffered any adverse consequences for defying the U.S. with its S-400 purchase.Putin is waiting in the wings and signaling that he speaks the same language as the clients he’s courting.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at stebaker@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Putin’s Trolling of Trump Isn’t Just About Missiles Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:22:04 -0400

    Putin’s Trolling of Trump Isn’t Just About Missiles(Bloomberg Opinion) -- President Vladimir Putin’s offer to sell Russian air defense systems to Saudi Arabia is about more than mere trolling, even though it caused laughter from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.  Putin was trying to persuade the entire Middle East that working with him is more effective than cooperating with the U.S. One could regard it as a kind of mafia-style protection offer: The new, more aggressive gangster on the block is making a bid because the current king of the streets has grown lazy and risk-averse.On  Monday, Putin was in Ankara for talks on the Syrian conflict with Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He made every effort to blend in, referencing the Quran and making constant references to Muslim traditions.  “The Holy Quran says violence is only acceptable when defending your kin,” Putin told a press conference after the summit. “So we’re willing to provide aid to Saudi Arabia in defending their kin, their country.”  The Saudis should “make a wise, statesmanlike decision,” he suggested, and purchase S-300 air defense systems as Iran did, or the more modern S-400 ones which Turkey recently purchased. “They will reliably protect any Saudi Arabian infrastructure,” Putin said, referring to the recent drone attack on Saudi refineries.Putin’s Quranic scholarship is a little dubious (the Islamic holy book actually permits Muslims to fight back when attacked, not when protecting “kin”), but Rouhani was willing to let it pass. He asked Putin facetiously which system he’d recommend to the Saudis -- the S-300 or the S-400. “Let them have their pick,” Putin replied.  In reality, it’s the S-400 that Russia has been trying hard to sell to Saudi Arabia, so far without success. It has also offered the missiles to Qatar. Neither the S-300 nor the S-400 has seen any real combat use. Theoretically, and as seen in exercises, these are powerful weapons. But not even Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, who has had a few opportunities to use the S-300s he received from Russia last year, has done so.The point of acquiring such systems isn’t so much to shoot down enemy aircraft and missiles but to make a bid for Russian support in case of a crisis. For that, Erdogan, whose country is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has been willing to live with the threat of U.S. sanctions and even lose access to U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.Russia’s bid to replace the U.S. as the go-to problem solver in the Middle East is based on the success of its relatively low-cost but highly effective intervention in Syria, where the Russian air force and deniable mercenaries have helped propel Assad’s forces to victory in a bloody civil war. Putin’s foray in Syria was meant, in part, as a sales demonstration to Middle Eastern regimes: Russia will, if asked, intervene on the side of the incumbent ruler in the interest of stability, and it will do so quickly and without political strings attached. The U.S. offers neither of these advantages.President Donald Trump is, at heart, an isolationist unwilling to send U.S. troops overseas, and his instinct so far has been to pull out of Middle Eastern countries rather than start new wars. The current field of Democratic presidential hopefuls is almost uniformly pacifist: Most off the candidates support a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, and all are for ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. The U.S. public is tired of overseas military adventures. Russia’s advantage in this regard is that Putin doesn’t care what the public thinks when he feels it’s in Russia’s interest to intervene militarily in some far-off place. Moreover, he uses Kremlin-friendly private military companies to provide a cloak of deniability.Putin also makes a point of not trying to tell his situational allies – or perhaps “clients,” current and potential, is a better word – how to run their countries. Assad may be up to his elbows in blood, but he’s the “legitimate” ruler; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be responsible for the murder of  journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Putin has gone out of his way to act friendly with the prince when others shunned him. U.S. help often comes with patronizing advice and sometimes even with direct support for regime change. Putin defends the right of incumbents to act in line with what they see as their traditions – thus the several references to the Quran he made in Ankara.This, of course, makes for some awkward exceptions to the ancient rule that says the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend. Russia’s closeness to Iran, on full display on Monday, is an irritant to Saudi Arabia, especially when the U.S. says Iran was responsible for the drone attack on Saudi infrastructure. On the other hand, Russia is Saudi Arabia’s natural ally in protecting the global oil market from the disruption caused by U.S. shale operators. Besides, Saudi Arabia working with the Kremlin could potentially be a way to end Iranian provocations since Moscow will talk with Tehran rather than hit it with sanctions as the U.S. does.It’s hard to see Saudi Arabia siding openly with Russia and undermining its long-standing alliance with the U.S., no matter how tempting Putin might make it sound. Putin’s foreign policy record doesn’t spell trustworthiness, and his steadfast support for Assad isn’t proof that he’ll be as unfailingly loyal to other potential clients. Besides, the U.S. has shown the crushing might of its military on more occasions than Putin’s Russia; there’s no question that its ability to win any conventional armed conflict is greater than Russia’s today.In the medium to long term, however, which power is seen as the chief  problem-solver in the Middle East depends on U.S.  willingness to bring its might to bear. Trump’s actions against Iran haven’t been overwhelmingly effective. The Yemen conflict,  in which the U.S. has sides with the Saudis, is still raging. U.S. foe Assad controls most of Syria. And Turkey hasn’t suffered any adverse consequences for defying the U.S. with its S-400 purchase.Putin is waiting in the wings and signaling that he speaks the same language as the clients he’s courting.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at stebaker@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • EXPLAINER-Brexit deal emerging or not? Latest in Britain-EU talks Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:08:00 -0400

    EXPLAINER-Brexit deal emerging or not? Latest in Britain-EU talksThe European Union has pushed back against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's assertion that a new Brexit deal was in the making. A month before a make-or-break EU leaders' summit and some six weeks before Britain is due out, Johnson asked on Tuesday to intensify talks, while the bloc implored London to present workable proposals to unlock an agreement. Johnson's negotiator David Frost held four rounds of talks with the bloc recently as London pushes to ditch the contentious backstop clause that could tie Britain to EU trading rules after Brexit to preserve the seamless border between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.


  • With Saudi Oil Under Attack, Trump's Deference to It Returns to Fore Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:08:00 -0400

    With Saudi Oil Under Attack, Trump's Deference to It Returns to ForeWASHINGTON -- After oil installations were blown up in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, President Donald Trump declared that the United States was "locked and loaded," a phrase that seemed to suggest he was ready to strike back. But then he promised to wait for Saudi Arabia to tell him "under what terms we would proceed."His message on Twitter offered a remarkable insight into the deference Trump gives to the Saudi royal family and touched off a torrent of criticism from those who have long accused him of doing Riyadh's bidding while sweeping Saudi violations of human rights and international norms under the rug.It was hard to imagine him allowing NATO, or a European ally, such latitude to determine how the United States should respond. But for Trump, the Saudis have always been a special case, their economic import having often overwhelmed other considerations in his mind.Whether, and how, to commit U.S. forces is one of the most critical decisions any U.S. president can make, but Trump's comment gave the impression that he was outsourcing the decision. The fact that the other country was Saudi Arabia -- a difficult ally that came under intense criticism for the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist -- reinforced the long-standing criticism that the energy-rich kingdom buys U.S. support."What struck me about that tweet was not just that it's obviously wrong to allow Saudi Arabia to dictate our foreign policy, but that the president doesn't seem to be aware of how submissive it makes him look to say that," said Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., a former assistant secretary of state."It is a big deal to attack oil fields," Malinowski added. "It does affect more than just Saudi Arabia's interests. But whatever we do, we have to do what's best for us and we have to recognize that the Saudis have a profound bias."Trump told reporters Monday that he had not "promised" to protect the Saudis and that he would "sit down with the Saudis and work something out." But he expressed caution, suggesting that for all of his bellicose language, he was not rushing toward a military conflict.Asked whether Iran was behind the attack, Trump said, "It is looking that way." But he stopped short of definitive confirmation. "That is being checked out right now," he added.Trump warned that the United States had fearsome military abilities and was prepared for war if necessary. "But with all that being said, we would certainly like to avoid it," he added. "I know they would like to make a deal," he said of the Iranians, whom he has been trying to draw into talks over their nuclear program. "At some point, it will work out."There is no evidence it will work out soon. The Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the notion on Monday that President Hassan Rouhani would meet Trump in New York next week when both are scheduled to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. While Trump said in June that a meeting could happen without preconditions, and his own aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, repeated it last week, Trump called that "fake news" over the weekend and falsely blamed the news media for making it up.The notion of the United States doing the bidding of the Saudis has a long and bristling history. Critics complained that Saudi Arabia effectively hired out the U.S. military to protect itself from Saddam Hussein's Iraq and reverse his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The Saudi government even forked over $16 billion to reimburse the United States for about a quarter of the cost of the war that followed in 1991 -- along with Kuwait, the most of any country.The resentment felt over the years by U.S. officials crossed the ideological spectrum, summed up pithily in a leaked 2010 cable by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who served under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The Saudis, Gates told the French foreign minister at the time, always want to "fight the Iranians to the last American."Among those who seemed to share the sentiment in the past was a New York businessman and television entertainer named Donald Trump. "Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars, which they won't, or pay us an absolute fortune to protect them and their great wealth-$ trillion!" he tweeted in 2014.Since taking office, Trump has made Saudi Arabia his closest ally in the Middle East other than Israel, and has strongly supported its multifront struggle with Iran for dominance in the region. He has also left little doubt about the primacy of money in the relationship, openly citing the value of arms contracts in explaining why he would not criticize the Saudi government for Khashoggi's killing.When two Saudi oil processing centers were hit by an aerial assault over the weekend, Trump spoke out quickly, much as any president might given the effect on world oil supplies."Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked," Trump tweeted. "There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!"The statement was strange for many reasons. Pompeo had already named the Iranians as the culprits; Trump did not. But the seeming abdication of fact-finding and decision-making to the Saudis gave Democrats a moment to argue that the president was willing to let the Saudi monarchy make decisions for the United States."If the President wants to use military force, he needs Congress -- not the Saudi royal family -- to authorize it," Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, wrote on Twitter.Heather Hurlburt, a national security official under President Bill Clinton who is now at New America, a Washington-based research organization, said it would be perfectly normal for a president to consult an ally before taking action in such a circumstance."It's not remotely normal for a president to talk publicly about that, to use language that sounds as if we aren't making our own decisions about whether to use force -- or trusting our own intelligence," she said. "And it's completely unprecedented with a country that is not a treaty ally."The White House declined to comment on Monday beyond Trump's remarks, but some national security conservatives were willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt."Obviously, it's difficult to know for sure what's going through the president's mind," said John P. Hannah, a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.But he said his guess was that Trump "wants the country most affected and threatened by the attack to step up publicly, pin responsibility squarely on Iran and put some real skin into the game by formally requesting that the U.S. and international community come to the defense of Saudi Arabia and global economy."That could help mobilize international opinion and perhaps forge a coalition against Iran, "rather than an excuse to do nothing," Hannah added.In his comments to reporters Monday, Trump seemed intent on avoiding the perception that he was taking direction from the Saudis. If there is any response to the strikes on the oil facilities, he said, then the Saudis would play a part themselves -- if nothing else, by financing it. Which, of course, made it sound like the United States was willing to be, in effect, a mercenary force for the Saudis."The fact is the Saudis are going to have a lot of involvement in this if we decide to do something," he said. "They'll be very much involved. And that includes payment. And they understand that fully."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


  • Merkel Sees No Reason to End Saudi Arabia Weapons Embargo Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:04:58 -0400

    Merkel Sees No Reason to End Saudi Arabia Weapons Embargo(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel said she sees no reason for Germany to end its embargo on arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, days after the attacks on the kingdom’s oil facilities.“At the moment I don’t see any conditions for the government to change its position,” Merkel said at a news conference after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Berlin. Germany’s stance was “determined by the Yemen conflict” and a diplomatic resolution to hostilities there is urgently needed, she added.Germany’s ban on Saudi arms sales, including on projects involving companies like Airbus SE, has led to the disruption of defense exports across Europe, triggering complaints from the U.K. and France.The existing halt on weapons deliveries runs until the end of this month and would need to be renewed. Exceptions have been made for some joint export projects with other nations.Merkel condemned the weekend attacks in Saudi Arabia, which eliminated about 5% of global oil supply and raised the risk of more conflict in the region, and said Germany is waiting for more information about who was responsible.“I don’t have a conclusive perspective, but of course it’s broadly in the context of the very tense situation in the region,” she said.To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Brussels at pdonahue1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Iain Rogers, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • UPDATE 1-UK will work energetically on Brexit deal, PM Johnson tells Merkel - spokesman Tue, 17 Sep 2019 07:38:34 -0400

    UPDATE 1-UK will work energetically on Brexit deal, PM Johnson tells Merkel - spokesmanBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday that he would work with energy and determination to reach a Brexit agreement and will discuss it at a meeting of the United Nations next week, his spokesman said. After a bruising visit to Luxembourg on Monday when Johnson was booed by protesters and criticised by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, the British leader spoke to Merkel earlier on Tuesday, redoubling efforts to secure a deal to leave the European Union. "The prime minister reiterated that the UK and the EU have agreed to accelerate efforts to reach a deal without the backstop, which the UK parliament could support, and that we would work with energy and determination to achieve this ahead of Brexit on 31st October," Johnson's spokesman said.


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