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Netanyahu's career on the line as Israel votes

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 10:08am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's career was on the line Tuesday as Israel held its second national election this year, with voters deciding whether to give him another term in office despite a likely indictment on corruption charges. Throughout an abbreviated but alarmist campaign characterized by mudslinging and slogans condemned as racist, Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a seasoned statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times. Gantz has tried to paint Netanyahu as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and honest alternative.


AP Analysis: Saudi oil attack part of dangerous new pattern

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:58am

The 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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:55am

Three 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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:52am

(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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:49am

Benjamin 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 adopts Afghan resolution without China's 'Belt and Road'

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:48am

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a compromise resolution extending the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan. It 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 clashed with the U.S. and other Security Council members Monday over China's insistence on including its flagship global program in the resolution.


UN expert: Suu Kyi's role in Rohingya abuses still unclear

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:47am

A 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.


The Latest: Egypt calls for world to back Saudi Arabia

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:36am

Egypt's foreign minister says his country is standing by Saudi Arabia following the weekend attack on major oil sites in the kingdom. Sameh Shoukry is calling on the international community to collectively back Saudi Arabia and identify who was responsible for the attacks on a Saudi oil field and the world's largest crude oil processing plant.


Even Donald Trump Thinks He’s Spending Too Much Time on Ethanol

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:32am

(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.


Iran Shows Trump That It’s Too Big to Be Crushed or Marginalized

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:30am

(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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:13am

Israel'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.


Israel Rivals Set to Slug It Out in the Second Election This Year

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:04am

(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.


Saudi king urges international response after oil field attacks blamed on Iran

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 9:04am

Saudi Arabia’s king has urged an international response to attacks on the kingdom’s oil industry blamed on Iran, which sent crude prices soaring and brought the region to the brink of war. King Salman, speaking for the first time since the weekend strikes, called on the international community "to shoulder its responsibility in condemning the perpetrators" and "clearly confronting" those behind it. He said the Saudi "is able to respond to such acts" regardless of their origin. The weekend strikes on Abqaiq - the world's largest processing plant - and the Khurais oilfield have knocked out 5.7 million barrels per day, or six percent of global total, making it the biggest disruption to oil production in modern history. They picked up slightly on Tuesday, after analysts said Saudi output could return to normal within weeks.   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  Saudi’s allies have condemned the attacks, which have served to show how costly a conflict between the kingdom and Iran would be. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, agreed on "the need to work together, alongside international partners, to agree a collective response,” according to Downing Street.   President Donald Trump had said the US would take its cue from Riyadh, which said the weapons used were Iranian made but that its investigation to establish the launch site was still ongoing. Mr Trump stressed that if there were to be a retaliatory strike, Saudi would have to play a leading role and that the US would not shoulder the cost. As to whether diplomacy with Iran had been exhausted, he said: “No, it’s never exhausted … You never know what’s going to happen … I know they want to make a deal … At some point it will work out.” There had been mooted plans for Mr Trump to to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, in an attempt to stop the tense situation from escalating. The prospect looked more likely after the departure of Mr Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, who had pushed a “maximum pressure” policy on Iran. Smoke from a fire at the Abqaiq oil processing facility fills the skyline, in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia Credit: Al-Arabiya However, following the latest developments, Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday dismissed the possibility of talks with the US “on any level”. "Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials. This is part of their policy to put pressure on Iran ... their policy of maximum pressure will fail," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said. "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," he added. Ayatollah Khamenei said the US wants to prove its "maximum pressure policy" against Iran is successful. "In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation," he said. "That's why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others have announced that we do not negotiate (with the US) either bilaterally or multilaterally." The crisis between Washington and Tehran stems from Mr Trump's pullout last year from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers. He also re-imposed and escalated sanctions on Iran that sent the country's economy into freefall. The US looked as though it might be dragged into direct confrontation with Tehran this week after the Islamic republic was accused of being behind Saturday’s attack on ally Saudi. Mr Trump tweeted that the US was “locked and loaded” but that it would take the lead from Riyadh. The US has stopped short of blaming Iran, but officials have privately briefed they have evidence the drones were launched from Iranian territory. “Well, it’s looking that way,” Mr Trump said when asked if Iran was responsible for the attacks. “We’ll let you know definitively. ... That’s being checked out right now.” He said he did not want war with Iran, however, if it came to it he noted the US has the best weapons systems. “The United States is more prepared” for a conflict than any country in history, the president said. “With all that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid it.”


Iran's supreme leader: No talks with the US at any level

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 8:46am

Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday "there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level"— remarks apparently meant to end all speculation about a possible U.S.-Iran meeting between the two countries' presidents at the U.N. later this month. Iranian state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who's been personally sanctioned by the Trump administration, as saying this is the position of the entire leadership of the country and that "all officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe" this. "There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level," he said.


Arrest warrant for Lebanese-American who worked for Israel

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 8:36am

A 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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 8:30am

Unknown 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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 7:28am

A 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

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 7:20am

Iran 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.


The Latest: Facebook penalizes Netanyahu page over poll post

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 7:18am

Facebook has penalized a chatbot on the page of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because it violated a law prohibiting the publication of public opinion polls in the days leading up to an election. It was the second time in less than a week that Facebook has taken action against Netanyahu's page, which uses an automated chat function to communicate with followers. The measure came as Israelis head to the polls in what is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu.


Activists: Bahrain court won't release activist from prison

Yahoo World News Feed - September 17, 2019 - 6:26am

Activists 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.


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