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  1. #7996

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Brexit: May loses grip on deal after fresh Commons humiliation
    Amendments mean PM will have little room to move if Brexit deal rejected next week
    Heather Stewart and Peter Walker

    Thu 10 Jan 2019 09.40 GMT First published on Wed 9 Jan 2019 21.03 GMT

    Theresa May’s room for manoeuvre should her Brexit deal be rejected next week was further constrained on Wednesday night, after the government lost a second dramatic parliamentary showdown in as many days.

    An increasingly boxed-in prime minister must now set out her plan B within three working days of a defeat next Tuesday, after the rebel amendment passed.

    There were furious scenes in the House of Commons as the Speaker, John Bercow, took the controversial decision to allow a vote on the amendment, tabled by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

    A string of MPs, including the leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, repeatedly intervened to question the Speaker’s approach. Some accused him of being biased against Brexit.

    But parliament went on to back Grieve as the prime minister was defied by Conservative rebels determined to hand control of the Brexit process to MPs if next week’s vote is lost.

    The fresh defeat, which followed a separate backbench amendment to the finance bill on Tuesday, means the government will have to return to parliament swiftly with a plan.

    An accelerated timetable will also pile the pressure on Labour to move quickly. The motion setting out the government’s plan can be amended by MPs hoping to push their own alternative proposals, from a second referendum to a harder Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn’s party will have to decide which to back.

    Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, on Wednesday became the most senior Labour figure to suggest that the article 50 process might have to be extended, if the deadlock in parliament could not be broken.

    He told MPs: “There is a question of the extension of article 50, which may well be inevitable now, given the position that we are in, but of course we can only seek it, because the other 27 [EU members] have to agree.”
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  2. #7997

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Murdered journalists were tracked by police with shadowy Russian links, evidence shows
    By Tim Lister and Sebastian Shukla, CNN

    Updated 10:01 AM ET, Thu January 10, 2019

    CNN)New evidence shows that three Russian journalists killed in the Central African Republic last year were victims of a well-planned ambush involving a senior police officer with shadowy Russian connections -- and they were tracked from the moment they arrived in the country.

    The three journalists -- Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal -- went to CAR in July 2018 to investigate the activities of Russian private military contractors. Their intention was to find out how the contractors were involved in exploiting the CAR's mineral wealth.

    The trio were shot dead after the vehicle in which they were traveling was attacked on a remote road in the volatile country. Their fate has cast a spotlight on a growing Russian presence in Africa, involving the Kremlin, private companies with ties to to President Vladimir Putin and large shipments of weapons.

    The official explanation of their death is that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, victims of bandits or rebels. But that story never quite added up. Nothing of value was taken from their vehicle, their driver survived unscathed, and investigations remain incomplete.

    Now, six months later, there is evidence that far from being the victims of a random attack, the murder of the trio was carefully planned.

    The day they were killed, their driver was in regular communication with a senior CAR police officer, according to call logs seen by CNN. That officer followed the journalists in another vehicle as they drove north from Bangui, the capital of CAR. A major in the national gendarmerie, the officer is closely connected with Russian contractors working in the country, many of whom work closely with both the Russian government and Russian companies active in CAR. CNN has approached the CAR national gendarmerie for comment; it has yet to respond.

    The journalists were in CAR on a trip sponsored by the Center for Investigation -- a now-closed online news outfit funded by exiled Russian businessman and Putin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. "I want the people who were involved in this tragedy to be interrogated and charged," Khodorkovsky told a news conference in London on Thursday. "We believe that the Russian authorities should do this. They have every opportunity to interrogate people in Russia and also people in the CAR."

    A fatal mistake

    The trio arrived in CAR from Casablanca on July 28. Two days later they set out from Bangui in a blue-gray Mitsubishi 4 x 4 with a local driver. They were planning to visit a goldmine near Bambari that had recently been taken over by a Russian company -- some 400km away. By dusk they'd only reached the town of Sibut -- about halfway there. But instead of continuing east towards Bambari, they headed north towards a town called Dékoa.

    Just why they took that road, and why they travelled after dark, against the advice of local officials, is still unknown. Whatever the reason, their detour proved fatal. The UN says their vehicle was ambushed and they were shot dead in a remote area some 25km from Sibut.

    An independent autopsy carried out in Moscow found that one of the journalists, Orkhan Dzhemal, was shot a total of five times.

    According to local officials, the driver claimed the vehicle had been stopped by men wearing turbans and speaking Arabic -- even though the area is far south of any Arabic-speaking region.

    Khodorkovsky's staff in London, who launched an extensive investigation into the circumstances of the murder, say that most of the journalists' equipment, including fuel and backpacks, was left untouched.

    The driver was briefly interviewed by CAR authorities and Russian investigators, but neither CNN nor Khodorkovsky's staff have been able to locate him.

    Khordorkovsky's Dossier Center, which is based in London, gained access to phone records showing regular calls between the driver and the police officer. They show frequent calls on the day the journalists were murdered -- about an hour apart -- and the last came from Sibut.

    According to a source familiar with the police officer's background, he had attended a camp run by Russian military trainers on the border with Sudan, and maintained regular contact with Russian contractors after his training. Shortly before the journalists arrived in CAR, he had obtained a new cell phone and SIM card. Phone logs show he was in the vicinity of Bangui airport when the journalists arrived on a flight from Casablanca on July 28.

    Khodorkovsky's staff have also shared phone data with CNN which shows frequent communications between the police officer and one Russian in particular. According to documents seen by CNN, the Russian was a specialist trainer in counter surveillance and recruitment in Central Africa.

    Bullet holes in the side of the vehicle carrying the Russian journalists.

    In an apparent effort to disguise his communications, the Russian trainer had registered his mobile phone under a fake American name, using a forged passport, according to the Dossier Center's investigation. In reality he was working with one of the Russian military contractors that has a presence in CAR -- Wagner. CNN has seen his Wagner ID.

    Wagner has been sanctioned by the US Treasury for its activities in Ukraine, as has the man who runs the company, Dmitry Utkin. Someone of the same name is listed as a senior executive with a St. Petersburg company, Concord Management and Consulting -- a sprawling corporation owned by an oligarch with links to the Kremlin: Yevgeny Prighozin.

    Prighozin denies any links to Wagner -- but he too is under US sanctions for financing the Internet Research Agency, which generated fake social media accounts intended to influence the 2016 US election. CNN has contacted Concord for comment but has not received a reply.

    Prigozhin's interests have extended from Ukraine and Syria to African countries like Sudan, CAR and Libya, recently attending a meeting at the Ministry of Defense in Moscow with Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar. His activities demonstrate how a combination of state power and oligarchs are driving Russian ambitions in Africa.

    Russia's Africa play

    Russia stepped up its presence in CAR at the beginning of last year, after being given permission by the UN Security Council to supply weapons to the country's security forces. As part of the arrangement, Russia also sent some 170 military trainers to the CAR. Almost all were contractors. A source knowledgeable about the deployment says they were "high quality," with active links to the Russian security services.

    Government forces control only about one-fifth of CAR territory, with about a dozen rebel factions active across much of the country.

    Russia has avidly courted CAR president Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was invited to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last year, where he met with President Putin. Weeks after the Russian military trainers began arriving in early 2018, Touadera appointed a Russian, Valery Zakharov, as his special security advisor.

    According to diplomatic communications in Bangui seen by CNN, an aide to Zakharov took charge of the investigation into the journalists' deaths. A communication, sent by the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs on September 19, 2018, asks the aide how the Russian embassy in Bangui should respond to questions it has received from the victims' families.

    Repeated efforts by CNN to reach Zakharov and his office in Bangui have been met with silence.

    Zakharov has said that he worked in conflict resolution for Russian intelligence in the restive Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan in the 1990s. He recently took CAR citizenship and last September applied for a Russian visa. On his application, he listed his sponsor as M-Finans, one of several Russian companies active in CAR. (It is not clear why Zakharov decided to become a citizen of CAR, nor why as a Russian passport-holder he wanted to use a passport issued by CAR to travel home. )

    M-Finans is a St. Petersburg entity which was run by Yevgeny Khodotov until June last year, when he sold it to his wife. Company documents describe its main activity as the "extraction of precious stones." CNN has found that M-Finans' registration data lists an email address with the same domain as Concord Catering, part of the Prigozhin empire.

    Khodotov used to work as a police officer in St. Petersburg's organized crime investigation unit. Many of the unit's former employees have gone on to work in security roles for Prigozhin, according to Denis Korotkov, a reporter for St. Petersburg newspaper, who has been investigating Wagner activities since 2013.
    Soon after the Russian training mission in CAR began, several Russian companies began operations at mines that had been closed by the fighting between rebels and government forces. Some of those mines are in territory held by rebels, but Russian officials have established a relationship with several of the groups even while training government security forces.

    In August 2018, Russia convened a meeting of four of the rebel groups in Khartoum, capital of neighboring Sudan. France criticized the meeting as disrupting a dialogue led by the African Union. There are also dueling missions to train a new army in CAR -- an EU-funded effort as well as the Russian initiative that began in January last year. Russia signed a military cooperation agreement with CAR in August last year.

    The head of the UN peacekeeping force in CAR, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, has publicly supported Russia's role. He told the Russian news agency Sputnik last year that "it's a very good thing, and we expect that soon there will be a face-to-face dialogue between the government and the armed groups."

    France, the former colonial power, has been much less enthusiastic. The mission of the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in CAR was extended last month but only after heated arguments between France and Russia in the Security Council.

    The United States is also wary of Russian ambitions in Africa. US National Security Advisor John Bolton said in December that "Russia, for its part, is also seeking to increase its influence in the region through corrupt economic dealings. Across the continent, Russia advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law."

    President Putin, in his end-of-year news conference, took a rather different view. He said companies like Wagner had "every right to work and promote their business interests anywhere in the world."
    As for the murdered journalists, Putin said it appeared that "some local groups are behind this attack."
    "Unfortunately," he added, "there is no reliable information yet."

    CNN's Mary Illyushina contributed from Moscow.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  3. #7998

    Re: World News Random, Random

    ‘Smiling face’: Saudi teen fleeing family granted asylum in Canada

    By Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Timothy McLaughlin January 11 at 12:28 PM

    BANGKOK — A Saudi woman who fled her family claiming fear for her life and used social media to amplify her calls for safe haven was granted asylum by Canada on Friday, an official in Thailand said.

    The decision to give haven to the 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun capped a nearly week-long drama that highlighted the power of social media to call attention to her case and reverse initial plans by Thai officials to deport her to Kuwait, where she fled her family while on holiday.

    Alqunun’s appeal for refu*gee status also underscored the severe restrictions that women in Saudi Arabia face. Under the kingdom’s strict guardianship laws, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel abroad, marry or be released from prison. In some cases, a male’s consent is also necessary to work.

    Alqunun, who was stopped by Thai authorities, had barricaded herself in her airport hotel room and demanded to meet with representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

    Using Twitter, Alqunun documented the standoff in real time, garnering tens of thousands of followers. A loose group of activists and friends bolstered her social media campaign using the hashtag #SaveRahaf and were able to successfully stave off deportation.

    She was admitted to Thailand on Monday while the U.N. refu*gee agency processed her request. Several countries, including Australia, had said they could welcome Alqunun as a refu*gee. But she expressed a preference for Canada.

    “The story ends today,” said the head of Thailand’s immigration bureau, Surachate Hakparn. “Ms. Rahaf is going to Canada as she wishes”

    He said Alqunun left Thailand on a flight en route to Toronto. She was in good health and spirits, he said, and had a “smiling face.”

    The U.N. refugee agency coordinated with Canadian authorities to resettle her there, and she will be in the care of the International Organization for Migration once she arrives, he added.

    Alqunun, from Hail in northwestern Saudi Arabia, said she feared she may have been killed if forced to return to her family. Her friends said she had suffered abuse at their hands.

    Alqunun’s father and brother, who denied any allegations of abuse, traveled to Thailand and attempted to meet her, but Surachate said she had refused the meeting. The two men planned to return to Saudi Arabia early Saturday, he said.

    Alqunun deactivated her Twitter account on Friday. Multiple supporters, including journalist Sophie McNeill, who has been in contact with Alqunun during her ordeal, said on Twitter that she was fine but had received death threats.

    “Rahaf temporarily suspended her #Twitter account because she has been receiving some very nasty, very real death threats. Not sure when she will resume,” tweeted Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. He called on Twitter to shut down those accounts.

    Thailand, which is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has a mixed history of handling asylum seekers. The country has signed on to international human rights treaties that bar it from deporting people to places where they are at serious risk of harm.

    It has served as a popular escape route for defecting North Koreans, who are generally sent to South Korea. However, in 2015 authorities deported about 100 Uighur Muslims back to China, sparking a backlash from human rights groups and the United States.

    More recently, Hakeem al-Araibi, 25, a former soccer player from Bahrain who had been granted refugee status in Australia after speaking out against a Bahraini official, was detained in late November in Thailand. He was traveling to the Southeast Asian country for his honeymoon when he was stopped.

    Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Thursday she raised her concerns over his continued detention with Thai authorities during a visit to Bangkok this week.

    “The Thai government is most certainly aware of the importance of this matter to Australia,” Payne told reporters.

    McLaughlin reported from Hong Kong.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  4. #7999

    Re: World News Random, Random

    So she ended up in Canada instead on Australia, but still the future is bright.

    It's likely that Australia offered to take her as well, but UNHCR rules say that in such cases they decide (randomly?) where exactly the refugee is resettled to avoid so called "resettlement shopping". What might have played the role in their decision is that Saudi-Canadian relationships are already bad anyway.
    Last edited by suliso; 01-11-2019 at 01:31 PM.
    Roger forever

  5. #8000

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Some more clarification from a BBC article:

    Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are "unable or unwilling to do so", according to its website.

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters: "Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world. When the UN made a request of us that we grant Ms al-Qunun asylum, we accepted."

    Canada has previously angered Saudi Arabia after calling for the release of detained women's rights activists in the country - prompting Riyadh to expel Canada's ambassador and freeze all new trade.

    After days of speculation that she would move to Australia, Rahaf al-Qunun found herself on a flight in the opposite direction, to Canada. She was seen briefly, being escorted to the departure gate by UN officials.

    As her plane took off Police General Surachate Hakparn, the immigration chief whose change of heart on Monday allowed her temporary asylum in Thailand, told journalists she had left the country cheerful and grateful to those who looked after her here.

    Her father and brother, he said, who had come on what turned out to be a futile visit to try to persuade her to return to Saudi Arabia with them, would be leaving Thailand shortly after her.

    It is only two days since the Australian government announced that it had been approached to take Ms Qunun, and that it would treat her request sympathetically. The UN usually approaches only one country at a time to seek asylum.

    It is not clear why the Australian option fell through, and the UN switched to Canada. It might be that Australia's tough line towards refugees, and the insistence of its Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that she would get no special treatment, threatened to slow down the processing of her application.

    The UN was concerned about her safety, following online threats to her life, and Canada may have been able to process her resettlement more quickly.

    Canada being willing and able to move quicker than others is probably the right answer. In fact thinking about it a bit more Canada might be the better option anyway (climate aside). A diverse society, easier to blend in than pretty much anywhere else.
    Roger forever

  6. #8001

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Perhaps many Canadians have a different opinion, but I kind of like their prime minister. Such a contrast to Trump and from a distance seems like one of the most decent major country leaders.
    Roger forever

  7. #8002

    Re: World News Random, Random

    That Saudi teenager made a serious mistake during her escape as explained below and it almost ended very badly for her, but inadvertently she made a big favor to the rest of the world by making more people aware of medieval practices of Saudi society. For that alone she deserves a bit of a preferential treatment. Perhaps together with publicity from Khashoggi's murder something will change for the better eventually.

    Also it's interesting to read that there seems to be a secret online community of other escapees which helped her. Reminds me of American underground railway network for escaping slaves. I was wondering before how did she plan it all and where did she get money at her age to buy a ticket all the way to Australia.

    Inside Desperate Teen's International Flight to Freedom as the World Watched: 'I Swear They Will Kill Me'

    SUSAN KEATING January 11, 2019 08:46 AM

    It was early last Saturday when Saudi Arabian teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun crept past her vacationing family as they slept in their Kuwait hotel room, slipped outside and got into a taxi bound — she hoped — for a new life.

    Rahaf, 18, was not alone as she left: On her cell phone she spoke furtively with a friend who had already successfully fled their native kingdom.

    “She was scared,” that friend, a 19-year-old woman named Shahad, tells PEOPLE. “Rahaf had the feeling that you don’t know what is going to happen to your life, good or bad. It was a matter of life and death.”

    Rahaf was in danger both from Saudi officials and from her own family, says Shahad, who escaped two years ago and has established a new life under an assumed identity in Sweden.

    “She skipped Saudi Arabia because her family locked her up in her room for six months,” Shahad says. The alleged offense was that she had cut her own hair.

    Rahaf’s story is one of many, according to humanitarian observers: Saudi Arabia, a monarchy whose society is intimately bound up with an extremely conservative branch of Islam, places severe restrictions on its women and girls.

    “Women live under male guardianship, where a male relative has control over virtually every aspect of their lives,” says Sarah Leah Whitson, an official with Human Rights Watch, a New York-based international advocacy group. “Women have been jailed for things like marrying without permission.”

    Had she tried to flee from Saudi Arabia, Rahaf would have required the permission of a “male guardian,” even at 18. But she waited until her family was in Kuwait.

    “She had to get away, like I did,” says Shahad, who spoke with PEOPLE via encrypted communication.

    That night last week, under the cloak of a sunless moon, Rahaf boarded the first of two flights on a cross-continental journey to seek asylum in Australia, where she reportedly already had a tourist visa. But she miscalculated one key element, Shahad says.

    “She wanted to stay two days in Thailand,” says the friend who has known Rahaf since they both lived in Saudi Arabia.

    Shahad and other escapees who were coaching her during her flight advised her to stay inside the airport in Bangkok and to proceed directly to the departure lounge for her connecting flight. “We friends said, ‘No, Thailand is not a safe country,’ ” Shahad says. (As the New York Times has noted, “Thailand has a history of sending refugees back to autocratic countries.”)

    Shahad says, “She did not listen to us because she thought there was no Saudi embassy in Thailand. She was wrong. When she tried to get a visa to Thailand, the trouble started.”

    A man who apparently claimed he would help obtain the necessary visa reportedly instead took Rahaf’s passport and plane ticket to Australia. According to the Times, he returned with others who said that her family wanted her back and had reported her missing.

    The exact details of the incident are disputed: a Saudi ambassador initially said Rahaf had broken the law in Thailand but later country officials described her case as a “family affair” in which they were uninvolved, according to PBS and the Times; a Thai immigration official, however, said that Rahaf didn’t have the money or paperwork needed to travel.

    What quickly became clear was that Rahaf had set off an international incident, in limbo in the Bangkok airport and subject to deportation to Saudi Arabia — but refusing to go quietly.

    In a newly established Twitter profile, she posted that she was being followed by Saudi agents. Thai authorities placed her inside a transit hotel room to await being placed on a flight to Kuwait.

    Within days, Rahaf garnered nearly 130,000 followers. Though her social media photos depicted an everyday teen, snapping selfies sporting various filters such as animal noses or color washes, her messages to the world were grave.

    “Mona I am scared,” Rahaf tweeted to a new online friend. “There are just a few hours left. I swear they will kill me at the airport if they return me to Saudi.”

    In an interview with the Times, she described the abuse in her family, including the six months she spent locked up. She said her home country was “like a prison.”

    “I can’t make my own decisions,” she told the Times. “Even about my own hair I can’t make decisions.”

    “They will kill me because I fled and because I announced my atheism,” she said of her family. “They wanted me to pray and to wear a veil, and I didn’t want to.”

    Online, Rahaf begged for help from all corners of the world — the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia.

    “Please contact us!” she wrote on Sunday.

    That same day, she sent additional SOS messages and a plea for asylum: “based on the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, I’m rahaf mohammed /sic/, formally seeking a refugee status to any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family.”

    Representatives from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not respond to questions from PEOPLE. The teen’s father and brother went to Bangkok to see Rahaf, but she would not meet with them, according to PBS. It appears her family has not publicly commented on her allegations of abuse.

    “The unique thing about this case is that she had access to social media, and was able to report on it and bring the world’s attention to her plight,” Elaine Pearson, with Human Rights Watch, told PBS. “I think there are many cases like this that go unreported.

    During her the standoff at the airport, Rahaf barricaded herself inside her hotel holding room, propping a mattress and a table against the door. She was afraid to eat or drink. “I think they are trying to get me to eat the food to drug /roofie me to ship me back to Kuwait,” she tweeted on Monday. (Her account has since been taken offline.)

    Followers around the world voiced their support, concern and encouragement, as well as contact information for various agencies that could help. Their chorus reached the Switzerland-based United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. From there came some relief.

    “The UNHCR has referred Ms. Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement,” a spokesperson from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs wrote in a statement to PEOPLE. “The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals.”

    Now, says Human Rights Watch’s Whitson, Rahaf is in good hands.

    “She is obviously very brave and determined and resilient,” Whitson says. “She was put in an impossible position. She had no recourse but to flee. She is under the protection of the UNHCR staff, so she is safe.”

    “She is very happy now,” says friend Shahad. “Everything is going to be okay.”

    Shahad plans to visit her resettled friend as soon as she can. In the meantime, she is proud that she and other women were able to coach Rahaf to freedom.

    Says Shahad: “I helped her because it is the right thing to do.
    Roger forever

  8. #8003

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Quote Originally Posted by suliso View Post
    Perhaps many Canadians have a different opinion, but I kind of like their prime minister. Such a contrast to Trump and from a distance seems like one of the most decent major country leaders.
    The right wing in Canada is starting to get really mad about him because the pipelines are not getting built and people feel he apologizes too often. Cultural genocide is something that apparently only requires one apology in the minds of some. The left wing in Canada is starting to get mad because he's trying to build pipelines, and not doing enough for the environment and the rights of Aboriginal people. It's playing perfectly into the hands of the Liberals going into an election later this year to split the politics in Canada and have a plurality of voters choose them and to retain a majority government.

  9. #8004

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Short of a true national emergency no politician with a real power in a democratic country is liked by more than ca 65% of the population. Impossible to please all groups at once. Only we foreigners can afford not to care about all those internal matters
    Roger forever

  10. #8005

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Trump’s vow to ‘devastate’ Turkey rattles negotiations over Syria withdrawal
    By John Hudson and Kareem Fahim January 14 at 9:33 AM

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo crisscrossed the Middle East this week to explain the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria, he repeated that he was “confident” and “optimistic” that he was nearing a deal with Turkey on a mutually agreeable exit plan.

    But a pugnacious tweet from President Trump on Sunday night vowing to “devastate” the Turkish economy if Ankara attacks U.S.-backed Kurds revealed a much wider chasm between the two sides and prompted a new round of recriminations from Turkey.

    The United States “will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted.

    Hours later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blasted Trump’s “threatening language” and said his country was “not going to be scared or frightened off,” adding: “You will not get anywhere by threatening Turkey's economy.”

    The row marked the second time in a week that the White House has intervened in negotiations led by the State Department in a way that infuriated Turkey and caught U.S. diplomats flat-footed.

    In trying to explain Trump’s tweets on Monday, Pompeo told reporters in Riyadh that he assumed Trump meant the United States would levy sanctions on Turkey if it attacked the Kurds but that he did not know for certain.

    “I assume he's speaking about those kinds of things, but you would have to ask him,” said Pompeo, who noted that he had not talked to Trump about the tweet.

    It was not the first instance of mixed messaging from the White House and State Department on the delicate issue of leaving Syria.

    Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan erupted after national security adviser John Bolton made remarks conditioning the withdrawal of American troops from Syria on protection of Syrian Kurdish fighters who fought alongside U.S. forces against the Islamic State. Turkey’s government considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters, also known as the YPG, to be part of a terrorist movement and has vowed to attack them after the United States withdraws.

    Bolton intended to refer specifically to America’s Kurdish proxy forces, but he struck a nerve by using imprecise language and appearing to dictate to Erdogan, U.S. and Turkish officials said.

    The misstep angered James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, who had been immersed in negotiations with the Turks when Bolton's comment upended the talks, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.

    Trump's abrupt order to withdraw from Syria in December surprised U.S. allies and has left questions about the pace and scale of the pullout. Trump originally said U.S. troops were leaving “now,” but he has since said it would happen “slowly” after the United States ensured a lasting defeat of the Islamic State.

    Pompeo said U.S. messaging over concerns about Turkish attacks on the Kurds has never changed.

    “The administration has been very consistent with respect to our requirement that the Turks not go after the Kurds in ways that are inappropriate,” Pompeo said. “If they are terrorists, we're all about taking down extremists wherever we find them. I think the president's comments this morning are consistent with that.”

    Trump’s tweet included a demand that Turkey create a “ 20 mile safe zone.” After the tweet, the Turkish lira lost about 0.84 percent of its value against the dollar.

    Pompeo said U.S. and Turkish diplomats were negotiating such an arrangement this week but that nothing has been finalized.

    “We want to make sure that the folks who fought with us to take down the caliphate and ISIS have security and also that terrorists [in] Syria aren't able to attack Turkey — those are our twin aims,” he told reporters after meeting with the leaders of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.

    “Both sides are trying to negotiate the width of a potential safe zone,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The idea is that Turkish troops and Ankara-backed forces would move into the rural areas in the safe zone, while the YPG would retain control of some of the Kurdish majority cities. This would be a sharing agreement that might be acceptable to all sides, if the U.S. stands behind it.”

    Cavusoglu expressed support for the 20-mile safe zone on Monday, saying it had long been a Turkish objective.

    “They bandied this idea after they saw Turkey's determination,” Cavusoglu said. “We are not against it.”

    With potential room for agreement, Cagaptay said a key factor will be avoiding diplomatic gaffes. “If there is one thing that makes the Turks’ blood boil, it is language that equates the Kurds and the YPG,” he said.

    Anne Gearan contributed to this report
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  11. #8006

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Brexit vote: British Parliament rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal, leaving withdrawal from E.U. and prime minister’s political future in doubt
    by William Booth , Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum January 15 at 4:42 PM

    LONDON — With just 73 days to go until Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union, lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected — by a vote of 432 to 202 — the withdrawal deal that had been painstakingly negotiated between Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union.

    The landslide vote was pure humiliation for a British leader who has spent the past two years trying to sell her vision of Brexit to skeptical public, and her failure increased doubts about how or whether Britain will leave the E.U. on March 29.

    May stood almost alone in the House of Commons on Tuesday, as many in her own party abandoned their leader.

    Historians had to go as far back as the 19th century to find a comparable party split and parliamentary defeat — to Prime Minister William Gladstone’s support for Irish home rule in 1886, which cut the Liberal Party in two.

    “The events in Parliament today are really quite remarkable,” said Cambridge University political historian Luke Blaxill. “This doesn’t happen.” Meaning, usually British parties fight with one another in Parliament — but members don’t tear their own parties apart.

    Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labour Party leader, called the loss historic and said May’s “delay and denial” had led to disaster. “She cannot seriously believe after two years of failure she is capable of negotiating a good deal,” Corbyn said.

    He then introduced a motion of no-confidence, to be debated and voted upon on Wednesday.

    Afterward, leaders of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, announced they would support the prime minister, thereby making her ouster unlikely.

    Rob Ford, a professor of politics at Manchester University, stressed that these were strange times. “Normally, if you were looking at a defeat of 50-plus votes on the No. 1 item on the government’s agenda, then that would be it. Game over. The prime minister would be gone and the government would probably fall immediately. But that’s clearly not going to happen,” Ford said.

    May called Tuesday’s vote in Parliament the most important in a generation. She told lawmakers that the choice was plain: support her imperfect compromise deal — and the only one that Europe will abide, she stressed — or face the cliff edge of no-deal Brexit.

    Staring directly at Corbyn, May said that everyone who thought they could go to Brussels and get a better deal was deluding themselves.

    But the vote against her deal was decisive.

    Moments after the result came in, she said, “The government has heard what the House has said tonight.”

    She has until Monday to return with a Plan B. Her office has been tight-lipped about what alternatives she might offer. May said she would reach out to members of Parliament to find out what Brexit deal, if any, they would endorse.

    “What Theresa May does now will become less and less relevant to what outcome we get. The key thing to be watching is what Parliament does next and what Labour does next,” Ford said.

    Leaders in Brussels, who expected the deal to fail, were still stunned by the scale.

    “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement. “While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.”

    A chaotic, no-deal departure could have harsh economic and humanitarian consequences for both sides. Some countries’ legislatures are halting ordinary business to pick up emergency laws to prepare.

    E.U. policymakers and negotiators said they saw little they could do to try to ease any deal through the British Parliament. And at least one prominent voice suggested Britain might reconsider its divorce effort altogether.

    “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted.

    The movement for a second Brexit referendum has been gaining strength in Britain. But the path to getting there remains long and complicated.

    In any event, Britain may be forced to ask for extra time to work out its problems, and the March 29 departure date may no longer be realistic. An extension would require unanimous consent from the remaining E.U. countries.

    “While there is no point in reopening negations, we need to do everything else to avoid a hard #Brexit,” wrote the head of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Norbert Röttgen, on Twitter. “If vote is given back to people, UK should get more time.”

    In the chamber at Westminster, the debate before the votes were cast on Tuesday was impassioned. As members hooted and jeered, the speaker gaveled them to be quiet, complaining of the “noisy and unseemly atmosphere.”

    “The House must calm itself. Zen!” John Bercow shouted.

    Rising Labour Party star David Lammy recalled how he had confronted his constituents who sympathized with the violence carried out by rioters in London in 2011. Now he said felt the same duty to confront his neighbors over Brexit.

    “Why? Because we have a duty to tell our constituents the truth, even when they passionately disagree ,” Lammy said. “Brexit is a con, a trick, a swindle, a fraud.”

    In another emotional speech, Geoffrey Cox, a Conservative lawmaker and the attorney general, urged the chamber to back May’s deal. “You are not children in the playground, you are legislators — we are playing with people's lives," Cox said.

    Outside Parliament, the scene was raucous. Thousands of protesters, many in costumes, gathered to shout at each other — illustrating how unsettled and divisive Brexit remains more than two years after voters opted in a 2016 June referendum to leave the European Union.

    Brexiteers banged drums and rang a “liberty” bell, while pro-E.U. demonstrators handed out “Bollocks to Brexit” stickers in Parliament Square beside two huge video screens set up for the live broadcast of the final speeches and the vote.

    Jeff Wyatt, 54, a pro-Brexit voter, held aloft a placard that accused May of treason. Another man in the crowd suggested that the prime minister should face the executioner’s ax.

    “For the first time in the history of my country, we’ve got Parliament against the people,” Wyatt said, gesturing at the Palace of Westminster.

    Monika Wolf, 57, was clutching an E.U. flag and a Union Jack. She moved to Britain from Germany in 1981, and studied and raised her children here. In an ideal world, she said, Brexit would be stopped. She hoped to see “more statesmanship from the big parties — they both talk about bringing the country together, but so far they haven’t done anything at all to make that happen.”

    Birnbaum reported from
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  12. #8007

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Do they understand that THEY VOTED TO LEAVE and there is NO good deal?
    To our British members: what part are we missing? The vote was to shoot yourself in the feet, repeatedly. So know, what can she do?
    (And I really have no opinion on May. She seems to me to be a non-entity).
    Starry starry night

  13. #8008

    Re: World News Random, Random

    Fun only starts now
    Roger forever

  14. #8009
    Everyday Warrior MJ2004's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008

    Re: World News Random, Random

    An FT opinion piece from this weekend, by Simon Kuper:

    How Remainers should handle . . . remaining
    ‘Abandoning Brexit will be damaging — but then so are all the UK’s other options’

    It’s now quite likely that Brexit won’t happen. The Commons is expected to vote down Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, several times if necessary, probably starting next week. Meanwhile hundreds of MPs are manoeuvring to prevent a no-deal Brexit. So Britain may remain, perhaps after a second referendum.

    Abandoning Brexit scares even Remainers like me. Leavers will say the elite has ignored “the will of the people”. The horde shouting “Nazi!” at Remainer MP Anna Soubry this week may prove a harbinger. There could be political violence (death threats to MPs have become common), a revival of the UK Independence party, and American levels of polarisation. Every problem the UK faced afterwards would be blamed on the betrayal of Brexit.

    Abandoning Brexit will be damaging — but then so are all the UK’s other options now. As Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform tweeted: “We’ll be horribly divided for a generation whether or not we have 2nd ref.” In fact, abandonment should prove bearable, if Remainers handle it well.

    The main reason to believe Britons can leave Brexit behind them: until the referendum, it was almost a non-issue. Few people seemed to care whether they were ruled by a distant elite in Brussels or ditto in Westminster. In the decade up to 2015, typically fewer than 10 per cent of Britons named the EU as “one of the most important issues facing the country”, according to polling by Ipsos Mori. Even in the 2015 election, with the Conservatives pledging a referendum if they won, only 6 per cent said the EU was the main issue. Brexit barely featured in the campaign.

    Many Britons stayed switched off during the referendum campaign. I tramped around economically deprived Birkenhead, near Liverpool, for two days before the vote, and saw precisely one campaign poster (for Remain) in somebody’s window.

    The referendum turned this marginal issue into the central cause of British politics. Brexiters won by attaching Brexit to two issues that voters did care about: immigration and the National Health Service. But Brexit, if binned, could fade back into marginality. After all, very few Britons (except tax dodgers afraid of the EU’s new anti-tax-avoidance directive) have any economic stake in it. More Leavers now expect Brexit to weaken rather than strengthen the economy, say pollsters YouGov.

    Clearly, though, once people have voted Leave, they become attached to leaving, if only because they want to be heard. Remainers can offer a plausible democratic argument for remaining: the referendum was advisory; May’s government spent two-and-a-half years monomaniacally pursuing Brexit, and negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the EU; but if both MPs and a second referendum reject the agreement, and there’s neither a parliamentary nor popular majority for no deal, then Brexiting would be undemocratic. Still, that argument won’t persuade many Leavers. Remainers may need to spend decades engaging with their concerns.

    It’s often said that what would help is tackling the inequality that supposedly prompted Brexit. That might well mollify a segment of Leave voters: the group that Ipsos Mori calls “ working-class Leavers”, often northern Labour voters. But these are precisely the people already abandoning Leave, according to polling: they account for much of the four-point average swing to Remain since 2016.

    A harder segment of Leave voters seems less bothered by inequality. These are what Ipsos Mori calls “British Values Leavers”, mostly older homeowners outside cities who dislike ethnic or cultural change, and think Britain was better in the past. Most of them vote Conservative, hardly a party dedicated to economic redistribution. They’ve been joined by some fellow Tories who have become Leavers since the referendum.

    Remain cannot win over most British Values voters. But it can achieve social peace by showing them respect. That means avoiding May’s errors: she ignores the other side while endlessly intoning that “the people have spoken”. Remainers must also avoid castigating Leavers as stupid. It’s true that Leave voters in 2016 were under-informed. However, so were Remainers. Who knew then what the customs union was? Who knew that the UK imports nearly all its insulin? Who realised that the Irish border would complicate Brexit? Almost all Remainers and Leavers simply voted their world view. There’s no shame in that. Life is too short to become an expert on the EU. That’s what policymakers and politicians are for.

    Now Remainers ought to model themselves on the ultimate healing politician, Nelson Mandela. He treated everyone with what his comrade Walter Sisulu called “ordinary respect” — always standing up, for instance, when a tea lady entered the room. Respect helped melt his opponents. Mandela spent years in jail studying Afrikaans and Afrikaners, most of whom considered him a terrorist. He knew they would never vote for him. But because they felt he heard them, they handed him their country.

    Over time, demography favours Remain: nearly every minute, a Leave voter dies and a Remainer turns 18. Meanwhile, there will be anger and possibly violence. Abandoning Brexit will disfigure Britain for decades. It’s still probably better than actually Brexiting.

  15. #8010

    Re: World News Random, Random

    I don't see how Theresa May can survive a confidence vote after the Commons so heavily defeated her Brexit deal.

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