Weekly Global Newscast | 13 August - 19 August, 2018
China Reprimands New US Defense Act
Beijing protested a major US defense bill signed yesterday by President Donald J. Trump that includes boosted military support for Taiwan and harsher scrutiny of Chinese firms. The Chinese foreign ministry urged Washington to abandon its ‘Cold War mindset.’
In a move seen as targeting Chinese businesses, the $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act bolsters the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which is responsible for reviewing foreign acquisitions of US firms that could threaten national security. Congress must still approve a spending bill to fund the defense act, which includes delays on fighter jet deliveries to Turkey and $22 billion in spending for nuclear weapons programs.
‘It is not unusual for the approach to overseas investment to shift every time there is a big new player on the global scene. The previous large update of the CFIUS law came in the 1980s, in response to the rise of Japan,’ Rana Foroohar writes for the Financial Times.
‘Lawmakers say the bill starts the Pentagon down the path toward fulfilling the Trump administration’s national security strategy, which calls on the military to prepare for an era of great-power competition with Russia and China,’ Anne Gearan, Paul Sonne, and David Nakamura share their views for the Washington Post.
ISIL Suicide Bomber Targets School in Kabul
At least 34 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in front of an education centre in the west of the Afghan capital, Kabul, according to the health ministry.
Wednesday’s attack in the Shia neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi left dozens more injured, Waheed Majrooh, a spokesman for Afghanistan‘s ministry of public health, told Al Jazeera. The health ministry previously announced the death toll as 48. It was revised to 34 on Thursday.
Middle East & North Africa
US Increases Pressure on Iran
The United States has established a new action group to coordinate a pressure campaign aimed at changing the Iranian regime’s behaviour, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced.
The Iran Action Group will be headed by the new special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, who has led State Department efforts to persuade US allies to halt Iranian oil purchases as the United States reinstates sanctions. Pompeo said the Trump administration, which abandoned a 2015 landmark deal that saw sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, could reach a new agreement with Tehran if the government changes its behaviour both inside and beyond its borders.
‘The Iran Action Group is yet another echo of the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when the George W. Bush administration launched the “Office of Special Plans” out of the Pentagon to cherry-pick intelligence and make the case for war,’ writes Jamal Abadi, the President of the National Iranian American Council.
‘Many will criticize the Iran Action Group—and I am sceptical that the administration will get Iran back to the table, leaving it with unrealistic regime change. One important objective and, in my view, much-needed aspect of the IAG though is to coordinate inter-agency efforts on Iran. That is positive,’ says Ariane Tabatabai in a recent tweet.
‘Post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, the primary American question is whether Washington’s political elite is capable of imagining interventionism,’ state Reuel Marc Gerecht and CFR’s Ray Takeyh in a piece for the Weekly Standard.
Sub Saharan Africa
DRC Tests US-Developed Ebola Drug
Democratic Republic of Congo has started using the experimental ‘mAb114’ Ebola treatment to counter the latest flare-up of the virus, health officials said on Tuesday, the first time it has been deployed against an active outbreak. 42 people are believed to have died from the haemorrhagic fever in Congo’s tenth Ebola outbreak since it was discovered in the 1970s.
In all, there have been 66 cases to date, including 39 confirmed and 27 probable, the health ministry said on Tuesday evening, an increase of nine confirmed cases since Monday.
The outbreak has spread from its epicentre in North Kivu province to neighbouring Iturbi province after an infected person returned home, Congo’s health ministry said, complicating containment in a region beset by militia violence.
Turkey Gets a Helping Hand From Qatar
Qatar pledged to invest $15 billion in Turkey, saying it has ‘full confidence’ in the Turkish economy. The Turkish lira, which had been in freefall in recent weeks as a feud escalated between Ankara and Washington, continued to rally following the announcement.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, vowed yesterday to ‘stand by the brothers in Turkey’ after he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. The move comes days after the United States and Turkey imposed new tariffs on each other’s exports. Ankara has rejected calls by Washington to release a jailed American pastor, driving up tensions between the NATO allies.
‘Qatar’s lifeline, with largely unknown terms, simply isn’t going to cut it. Over the next year, the country’s external financing needs will approach $238 billion, according to HSBC,’ Colby Smith writes for the Financial Times.
‘Like Trump, Erdogan believes in using the classic populist formula to power his economy: reckless borrowing, a hot real estate market, a willingness to risk inflation,’ CFR’s Sebastian Mallaby opines for the Washington Post.
‘When [Erdogan] goes out there and makes these comments—blames the Americans or outsiders for everything—it is an attempt to whip up a nationalist fervour in Turkey and it’s also a way for him to distract from the major economic problems that have been taking place in Turkey,’ Nahal Toosi said in an interview with WNYC.
Indonesia Hit by Deadly Quakes
Multiple earthquakes – including a powerful and shallow 6.9-magnitude tremor – have rocked the Indonesian holiday island of Lombok, killing at least 10 people and setting off fresh waves of panic. A series of quakes were recorded by seismologists throughout Sunday, the first measuring 6.3 shortly before midday which triggered landslides and sent people fleeing for cover.
It was followed nearly 12 hours later by a quake measuring 6.9 and at least five more significant aftershocks, according to the US Geological Survey. The picturesque island is already reeling from two devastating quakes on Jul 29 and Aug 05 that killed nearly 500 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless.
Ten people were killed in the quake on Sunday evening, mostly by falling debris, with four deaths in eastern Lombok and six on the neighbouring island of Sumbawa, according to the national disaster agency.
US Faces Retaliatory Tariffs From Turkey
Turkey is increasing tariffs on some US products, including duties of up to 140 per cent on vehicles, cosmetics, and alcohol, as retaliation for what it has called an ‘economic war’ initiated by the United States.
The move comes after Washington imposed sanctions on several top Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium to protest Ankara’s jailing of American pastor Andrew Brunson. The Turkish lira, which has lost more than 40 per cent of its value against the dollar this year, made a modest comeback yesterday after the country’s central bank and banking regulator introduced measures to bolster the currency.
‘The fallout is not a function of the unique personalities and worldviews of the American and Turkish presidents, but rather at a fundamental level is the result of a changing world in which Washington and Ankara no longer share a common threat,’ Steven A. Cook writes in Foreign Policy.
‘[President Erdogan] is actually using Trump’s tariffs and Trump’s words to—as a cover for himself, as an excuse for why the economy is going so bad,’ Elmira Bayrasli said in an interview with NPR.
‘We are witnessing the gradual but steady demise of a relationship that is already an alliance in name only. Though the Trump administration is right to have confronted Turkey, it chose not only the wrong response, but also the wrong issue,’ opines Richard N. Haass in an article for Project Syndicate.