VIF News Digest: International Developments (19-25 Nov 2018)
Ivanka Trump’s email use spurs bipartisan calls for investigation
20 Nov 2018

President Trump defended his daughter Ivanka’s use of a personal email account for government business as senior Republicans and Democrats in Congress vowed to investigate her communications and whether they violated the law.

Trump dismissed comparisons of his daughter to Hillary Clinton, whom he criticized throughout the 2016 presidential campaign for use of a personal email server for her work as secretary of state in the Obama administration. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33,000. She wasn’t doing anything to hide her emails. I looked at it just very briefly today and the presidential records — they’re all in presidential records. There was no hiding,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he departed for Florida. “There was no server in the basement like Hillary Clinton had,” he continued, “you were talking about a whole different, you’re talking about fake news. So what Ivanka did, it’s all in the presidential records. Everything is there.” Click here to read...

US targets Iran-Russia network over oil sent To Syria
21 Nov 2018

The United States has moved to disrupt an Iranian-Russian network that sent millions of barrels of oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to indirectly fund terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

The complicated arrangement, described by the US Treasury in a statement yesterday, involved a Syrian citizen using his Russia-based company to ship Iranian oil to Syria with the aid of a Russian state-owned company. Syria then helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Hezbollah, which functions as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government and as a terrorist group, as well as to Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip. Click here to read...

Trump says US stands with Saudi Arabia despite journalist Khashoggi's killing
20 Nov 2018

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that the US stands with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In a lengthy statement — punctuated with eight exclamation points — Trump said that "we may never know all of the facts surrounding" Khashoggi's death, but "our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Trump said that U.S. intelligence agencies are still assessing all the information surrounding the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi royal family, in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA had concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself had ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, citing people familiar with the matter. Click here to read...

Donald Trump thanks Saudi Arabia for lower oil prices amid pressure
22 Nov 2018

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday ignored criticism that he gave Saudi Arabia a free pass on the murder of a dissident journalist, instead praising the Islamic kingdom for keeping oil prices low.

Trump, on holiday at his Florida Mar-a-Lago Club, doubled down on an unusually worded statement that he was essentially ignoring the killing of Jamal Khashoggi because of what he said were more important US strategic and commercial interests.

"Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82," he tweeted. "Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!" The fulsome praise for Saudi Arabia's help in maintaining cheap oil built on comments he made at the White House, saying that "if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof." "They've helped me keep them down," he said. Click here to read...

China and U.S. accuse each other of hypocrisy as WTO litigation begins
21 Nov 2018

The United States and China clashed on Wednesday at a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting with a US envoy accusing Beijing of using the WTO to pursue ‘non-market’ policies and a Chinese official saying it was Washington that was flouting the rulebook. US President Donald Trump has outraged US trading partners by erecting a tariff wall against imports of steel and aluminum - justified by U.S. national security concerns - and has hit Chinese goods with huge tariffs over accusations of stealing U.S. intellectual property.

At the meeting on Wednesday, where a slew of legal disputes over Trump's trade policies entered a formal adjudication phase, US Ambassador Dennis Shea said China was using the WTO to promote "non-market" policies, which had distorted world markets and led to massive excess capacity, especially in steel and aluminum.

The Chinese official retorted that Beijing did not want to get into a blame game and said the United States had failed to back up its ‘unfounded’ claims about China's economy, which it was using to disguise its own violations of the WTO rulebook. Click here to read...

US can't afford to stay ahead of China's military, former Pentagon official warns
20 Nov 2018

A former top Pentagon official says the United States will struggle to stay ahead of China militarily if it sticks to its budget strategy of tax cuts and massive deficits. The report by former deputy assistant secretary of defence, David Ochmanek, warns that if it loses its military edge, the United States could also lose the confidence of key allies and partners in Asia, such as Australia. His report, to be published by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney on Tuesday, coincides with the US pledge during the APEC summit to help redevelop the naval base on Manus Island, which could host Australian and American ships.

That announcement by US Vice President Mike Pence in Papua New Guinea appeared to link the Manus redevelopment to China by specifically referring to upholding the “freedom of the seas and the skies” - typically seen as shorthand for Chinese military activity in places such as the South China Sea. Click here to read...

Growing demand for Russia's S-400 is 'Message' to US - German Media
21 Nov 2018

Growing international interest towards Russian S-400 air defence systems is based on more than mere technological superiority of the model over its closest US rivals, German media outlet Die Welt reported, citing armaments experts. According to Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Russian Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies cited by the outlet, the global arms market is not only driven by supply and demand, but also by certain political motives.

According to the weapons expert, by buying Russian S-400s or even announcing an intent to do so, countries show that they remain independent of Washington, which is constantly reminding them of the threat of secondary sanctions over buying Russian weaponry. The expert stressed that, for example Turkey, doesn't really need such sophisticated air defence systems. Click here to read...

Interpol rejects Putin’s man as President after global uproar
21 Nov 2018

Interpol has been besieged by questions of legitimacy in recent years. Its biggest problem comes from rogue regimes abusing the organization’s role as a central police hub to call for global law-enforcement agencies to arrest their political opponents. This tactic of sticking up virtual ‘Wanted’ posters for exiles and dissidents has rapidly accelerated, leaving Interpol at risk it will become a tool of dictators and autocrats. Two of the most notorious culprits have been China and Russia.

This week, in a move of spectacular PR naivete, Interpol was expected to replace its former Chinese president with a Russian one. But after a global outcry lead by the US and anti-Putin dissidents in London, the organization blinked at the last moment on Wednesday, electing South Korean Kim Jong-yang as president. Click here to read...

Putin may meet with Saudi Crown Prince in Argentina
21 Nov 2018

According to Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, talks between the Russian leader and the Saudi crown prince "cannot be ruled out." "I don’t know what will be discussed, although, of course, such an exchange of views cannot be ruled out," the Kremlin spokesman told reporters when asked whether there were plans to discuss the situation in the oil market.
"We assume that both of them (Putin and Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud) will attend that summit (in Argentina), so they will have an opportunity to talk to each other on its sidelines one way or another," Peskov added.
The G20 summit is scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires from November 29 to December 1. Click here to read...

Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin told Mike Pence Russia did not meddle in US election
19 Nov 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin told US Vice President Mike Pence Russia had nothing to do with meddling in the 2016 US elections, Interfax reported on Monday, during discussions about an upcoming meeting between Putin and President Donald Trump. Putin and Pence spoke in Singapore last week about key issues that could be discussed at the meeting between the two leaders, expected to take place at the G20 summit in Argentina in late November, a Kremlin spokesman said.

Pence raised the issue of external meddling in the US election but Putin told him that "the Russian state had nothing to do ... and cannot have anything to do with meddling" in any electoral processes, Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. Click here to read...

Ethiopian Jews protest for right to immigrate to Israel: VOA
19 November 2018

Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews gathered in the country’s capital Addis Ababa on Monday to protest the Israeli government’s refusal to allow all of them to immigrate to Israel, which they say has split families between the two countries.

About 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, many of whom are related to the nearly 8,000 still awaiting permission to perform ‘aliya’, or Jewish immigration. Last October, the Israeli government made plans to bring over 1,000 people — but only one family has been allowed into the country since then. Click here to read...

Nigerian Opposition's Abubakar says to invest $90 bn annually on I infrastructure - Election Manifesto: Reuters
19 November 2018

Nigerian opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar said on Monday he would invest $90 billion annually in infrastructure over the next 5 years if he wins presidential elections in 2019.

Abubakar made the commitment in his manifesto for the February 2019 race, where he will seek to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari. Click here to read...

Mozambique and Kenya scrap entry visas: allAfrica
22 November 2018

Mozambique and Kenya have agreed to scrap entry visas, and this agreement should take effect within a few days when it is ratified by the governments of the two countries. The announcement was made in Nairobi on Wednesday, the first day of a visit to Kenya by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, at a joint conference given by Nyusi and his Kenyan host, Uhuro Kenyatta.

After his arrival in Nairobi in the late morning, Nyusi met almost immediately with Kenyatta, and their talks were followed by a session of the Mozambique/Kenya Joint Commission - the first time this body has met since the two countries signed a cooperation agreement in 1991. Click here to read...

US airstrikes kill 44 Al-Shabaab militia in less than 48 hours: allAfrica
22 November 2018

Another airstrike by US forces killed seven more Al-Shabaab militants less than 48 hours after 37 terrorists were killed in a move meant to reduce their ability to plot future attacks.

All the airstrikes were carried out in different areas within war-torn Somalia where Al-Shabaab operatives remain after they were pushed from key areas like the capital Mogadishu and the port city of Kismayu by African Union Mission forces. In a statement, the Germany-based US Africa command says no civilian was injured during the airstrikes. Click here to read...

South Africa Prez signs $266 minimum wage bill, 6 million to benefit: africanews
24 November 2018

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has signed a new minimum wage bill, local media portals in the country reported on Friday. Although signed today, the new minimum wage of 3,700 rands (about $266) a month is expected to take effect on January 1, 2019. It is set to benefit some six million workers currently earning below the amount.

The minimum wage, a policy championed by President Ramaphosa, is seen as an important step to tackle labour instability and wage inequality. Click here to read...

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe unable to walk, seeking treatment in Singapore: The Telegraph
25 November 2018

Former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has been receiving medical treatment in Singapore for the last two months and is no longer able to walk, though he should return home next week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Saturday.

Mr Mugabe, 94, who ruled the southern African nation for nearly four decades since independence from Britain in 1980, was forced to resignin November 2017 after an army coup. Click here to read...

Suspected militant attack kills 12 in North Mozambique: VOA
25 November 2018

Twelve people have been killed in a suspected Islamist militant attack in northern Mozambique, with thousands of villagers fleeing into neighbouring Tanzania, police sources said Sunday.

Hardline Islamists have launched several attacks in the majority Muslim province during the last year, stoking unrest just as Maputo pushes ahead with oil and gas development in the region. Early Friday, "there was an attack in Nangade district, where there are no security patrols. The attackers killed 12 people, mostly women and children," a police source in Cabo Delgado province, who asked not to be named, told AFP. Click here to read...

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