Skip directly to content

Yahoo World News Feed

Subscribe to Yahoo World News Feed feed Yahoo World News Feed
The latest news and headlines from Yahoo! News. Get breaking news stories and in-depth coverage with videos and photos.
Updated: 17 hours 10 min ago

The death rattle of the Never Trump Republicans

November 13, 2019 - 3:45am

Never Trump Republicanism isn't quite dead, but it sure is getting close.Ever since President Trump burst onto the political scene and quickly shot to the top of the polls months from the start of the 2016 primary season, mainstream Republican politicians and pundits have been forced to respond. First there was dismissal and condescension. Then, once the voting began, there was concern mixed with certainty that Trump's support would soon collapse. This was followed by panic when it didn't.By the summer of 2016, the institutional GOP was deeply divided between those who favored rallying around the unorthodox nominee and others who favored sabotage -- before, during, or after the Republican convention. The latter camp -- the Never Trumpers -- lost out that summer. It lost far more decisively when Trump defied their (and nearly everyone else's) predictions by winning the election against Hillary Clinton. And it's gone right on losing for the past three years.The latest defeats, coming as a brutal one-two punch over the past few days, have come from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former South Carolina Gov. and Congressman Mark Sanford. Haley has been at or near the top of many Never Trump wish lists of candidates to challenge Trump for the nomination in 2020 or (less fancifully) to lead efforts to retake control of the party in 2024. Yet over the past week, Haley has made clear in a flood of interviews that she stands foursquare behind the president -- on efforts by members of the Trump administration to undermine him, on impeachment, and on pretty much everything else.Sanford, meanwhile, announced on Tuesday that he's suspending his campaign to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination next year. That leaves former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh as the longest of long shots to take a stand against and stop Trump in the upcoming GOP primaries -- at least in those contests that haven't been canceled altogether by state Republican parties.Why has Haley come out so strongly in favor of Trump? Why has Sanford given up the fight for the nomination? Because both of them accept something that the remaining Never Trump Republicans simply refuse to admit to themselves: The party they once knew and loved, the party that I once admired (while also dissenting from it in numerous areas of policy), is dead and gone, replaced by a party whose voters strongly, overwhelmingly support the presidency of Donald Trump.Haley defends and backs Trump because she wants to have a political future in the Republican Party. Sanford has given up on his primary challenge because he realizes that it's utterly futile. I understand why this would be difficult for a life-long Republican to accept. Hell, it's pretty difficult for lots of Americans of either party to accept. But it's still a fact.Trump won his party's nomination in 2016. He won the presidency in part because Republicans overwhelmingly voted for him. Since then they have stuck with him through the firing of the FBI director, the interminable Russia investigation, dozens of policy fights and defeats, hundreds of embarrassing leaks, thousands of offensive tweets, countless acts of incompetence and cruelty, the Mueller Report, and now an impeachment probe into how the president used extortion "to get a foreign country to sabotage a U.S. election in his favor."The result of all this? Trump currently enjoys 89 percent approval from Republicans. He is exceedingly unlikely to be removed from office at the conclusion of the impeachment process -- because Republicans in the Senate almost certainly won't turn on him. Why? Because their constituents don't want them to.You can lament this. You can try to fight it. But the fighting needs to be undertaken with intelligence, with a clear-sighted acknowledgement of reality. That means recognizing that the struggle for control of the Republican Party is over. The faction that ran the show from 1981 until 2016 -- the faction of Reagan and (George H. W.) Bush and (George W.) Bush and (Jeb) Bush and John McCain and Mitt Romney and Jeff Flake and James Comey and Bill Kristol -- is finished, caput, dead, and buried. It has been overthrown. The voters are done with it. Even Romney -- a former presidential nominee and current Utah senator who has long been revered in Utah -- finds himself with his approval rating underwater because he dared to speak out against the president for treating his office like a racket run by a two-bit mob boss.Jonah Goldberg, Michael Gerson, and George F. Will could talk the ghost of Ronald Reagan himself into challenging Trump in 2020, and Trump would trounce him.The sooner the remaining Never Trumpers accept this, the sooner they'll stop indulging in fantasies and start putting their talents and commendable moral revulsion at the president and state of the party to more productive use.What would that look like? Well, for one thing, they could drop the pretense that the remaining primary challenges to Trump are serious efforts at winning the Republican nomination with a more acceptable candidate when they are actually kamikaze missions out to take the president down regardless of the consequences. Since this effort is bound to fail in the primaries, the next step would be for one of these candidates, or someone else, to launch a third party run designed to divide the Republican vote and help ensure that Trump loses in the general election. The Never Trumpers might not have anything close to the numbers to take back the party, but they might have enough to inflict serious damage in a tight race.But this would of course turn the Never Trumpers from mere nuisances into mortal enemies of the GOP as it is currently constituted. They would thereby forfeit all hopes for future influence in the party.The same fate would await them if they went just a step further and became Democrats, as their colleagues Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin have, in effect, done (I don't know if either pundit has literally joined the Donkey Party) -- actively working to elect Trump's Democratic opponent. That's a perfectly fine thing to do. But then they would no longer be Republicans at all and would have to accept in an even more profound way that their influence on and within the party is finished.That's hard. But sometimes life and change are like that. This is one of those times, whether or not the Never Trump no-longer Republicans have the courage to accept it.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from theweek.com The coming death of just about every rock legend The president has already confessed to his crimes Why are 2020 Democrats so weird?


Merkel to Ratchet up Huawei Restrictions in Concession to Hawks

November 13, 2019 - 3:35am

(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is prepared to make a key concession to security hawks by tightening barriers aimed at Chinese equipment supplier Huawei Technologies Co., according to people familiar with the plans.A draft of security measures being rolled out by the German government aims to block Huawei components from entering the core network of the country’s ultra high-speed fifth-generation technology, the people said on condition of anonymity. The new rules may assuage officials in Merkel’s intelligence services and the U.S. administration who have warned about the risks of Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government and 5G’s susceptibility to sabotage or espionage.Telecom executives are prepared to accept such a restriction in the key areas of next-generation infrastructure if Huawei’s products aren’t barred from the less sensitive parts, where they’re needed to ensure an efficient build-out, according to an industry official familiar with the talks.The German leader, who has cultivated relations with Beijing and insisted that her government won’t single out a Chinese vendor, has come under increasing pressure to toughen her stance on Huawei to ensure that German data is protected. Security hawks have accused Merkel and her allies in the Economy Ministry of taking a soft line on China in an effort to bolster trade relations.Now Berlin’s planned move could potentially upset Beijing which has lobbied governments across Europe and the West to resist a U.S. campaign against the company. Moves to restrict Huawei’s market access have already strained Beijing’s ties with nations ranging from Australia to the Czech Republic.The debate has mirrored the one in the U.K., where government action has been ensnared by a division in the administration and the public. The government in London will defer a decision on Huawei and 5G until after the general election next month.Merkel hinted at the shift toward greater security last week, saying Germany will “significantly strengthen” standards for 5G, even as the government won’t single out individual companies. Chinese components make up a significant share of previous generation networks, she said.“Huawei is a partner, or a provider, that has already been active in Germany for the construction of the 2G and 3G networks,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin last Friday. “We know that we will have to significantly strengthen security standards for the 5G expansion.”Security measures will include assessing a vendor’s “trustworthiness” in order to receive certification by German authorities, according to one of the people. 5G networks will also be required to diversify suppliers, so that no single vendor can control parts of the infrastructure, and to include overlapping capacity in case sections of the network are taken offline, the person said.The Huawei restrictions could quell tensions within Merkel’s government, which seeks to balance security concerns with good relations to a key export market. Merkel, who has built a rapport with President Xi Jinping’s government, made her 12th visit as chancellor to China in September.The tensions in Germany spilled into the open last month when Merkel’s spy chief, Bruno Kahl, the head of the Federal Intelligence Service, said in rare public testimony Huawei was too dependent on the Chinese Communist Party and “can’t fully be trusted.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has leaned on Merkel’s government to reject Huawei, cited the comments in a speech on Friday.Still, Kahl said that Huawei restrictions should only be applied for 5G core networks. “There may be areas where a participation doesn’t have to be excluded,” he told lawmakers on Oct. 29.That’s a salve for industry, which has warned that an across-the-board Huawei ban would hobble its ability to expand 5G in Germany, which is struggling to keep pace on digital infrastructure. Deutsche Telekom AG said earlier this year that a ban would delay roll-out of the technology by at least two years and cost billions.Huawei has insisted that it poses no risk to infrastructure in Europe’s largest economy. David Wang, the company’s deputy chief executive officer in Germany, said there’s no reason to exclude a company that’s served the telecommunications industry without fault for years.“We have a 100% clean record,” Wang said Monday on a panel at an economic conference in Berlin. Huawei would never do something to hurt its business, he said.\--With assistance from Peter Martin.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.net;Stefan Nicola in Berlin at snicola2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Donald Trump takes swipes at China but says 'phase one' trade deal could come soon

November 13, 2019 - 2:30am

US President Donald Trump lambasted Beijing's trade practices in a speech in New York on Tuesday while also saying "a significant phase one trade deal with China could happen soon, but we will only accept the deal if it's good for the United States and our workers at our great companies".His remarks, at an event hosted by the Economic Club of New York, came as the world looks to see if the two largest economies are able to agree on a "phase one" deal that would begin to wind down the 17-month-long trade war.China "is having the worst year in more than half a century, their supply chains are cracking very badly and they are dying to make a deal," Trump said."But we are the ones that are deciding whether or not we want to make a deal."An interim agreement is expected to include a US pledge to scrap tariffs scheduled for December 15 on about US$156 billion worth of Chinese imports, including mobile phones, laptop computers and toys. In his speech, Trump reiterated that the tariffs were "going to 15 per cent very soon" if a deal wasn't reached."Trump's statements about a prospective trade deal in the near term were more measured" compared with when he announced a "substantial phase-one deal" last month, said Anna Ashton, senior director of government relations at the US-China Business Council.Speaking at the White House on October 11 after a round of high-level talks, Trump said that US negotiators had reached a deal that would delay the implementation of more tariffs, and that he expected he and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, might sign the agreement when they met in mid-November at the Apec summit in Chile.But, Ashton said on Tuesday, "the same incentives for the Trump administration to reach a deal remain.""Securing agricultural purchases, in particular, almost certainly remains a high priority, since farmers have continued to bear an awful lot of pain as the trade war has dragged on," she said.The speech took place as US stock indices were trading at record highs, although global markets whipsawed last week after conflicting messages over whether part of the planned tariffs would be rolled back. And despite stock market gains, US economic growth has slowed to about 2 per cent annually.On Tuesday, Trump criticised China's trade practices but blamed previous US leaders for the situation."Before my election, Washington politicians stood by and did nothing while China ransacked our companies, stole our intellectual property, subsidised their industries at the expense of ours and dumped their products in a deliberate strategy to close our factories," he said."Since China's entrance into the World Trade Organisation in 2001, no one has manipulated numbers better or taken advantage of the US more. I will not use the word cheated. I will not say the word cheated. But nobody's cheated better than China, but I will not say that. We'll say that off the record, OK? ... And I don't blame China, by the way. I blame our leaders."Ali Wyne, a policy analyst with the RAND Corporation in Washington, said Trump's remarks were consistent with his tactics throughout the trade conflict."The mixed messages are in keeping with the president's penchant for unpredictability, which, he often contends, enhances his negotiating leverage," Wyne said.The Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday that China and the US have agreed to remove additional tariffs in stages once an interim deal is signed.Both sides are working to finalise details of the agreement, the foreign ministry said. Officials in the US and China would then decide how many of the duties would be scrapped in the first phase.In Washington, however, no official word about tariffs has come from the Office of the US Trade Representative or the White House. News outlets including Bloomberg cited anonymous US officials in reporting the rollbacks, but Trump denied such an agreement on Friday.Asked by reporters at the White House if he would remove the punitive tariffs, Trump said: "They'd like to have a rollback. I haven't agreed to anything."Trump had suggested that he and Xi could sign a phase-one deal at the Apec summit. But it was cancelled because of domestic unrest in the host country, and where the pact will be signed has become a central question.At the White House on Sunday, Trump said that if a deal was reached, it would be signed somewhere in the US."First of all, I want to get the deal," he said. "The meeting place, to me, is going to be very easy."US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Bangkok. Photo: AP alt=US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Bangkok. Photo: APUS Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is not a key member in the US negotiating team, told Bloomberg that Iowa, Alaska, Hawaii and even locations in China were all possibilities.In talks with Ross and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien in Bangkok on Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that China and the US must stabilise their relations and resolve their differences on the basis of mutual respect.The breakthrough in the talks came after China pledging to buy as much as US$50 billion worth of US agricultural products and open up its financial markets further to foreign investors.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


Iraqi Kurdish president in protest-hit Baghdad for talks

November 13, 2019 - 2:16am

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan travelled to Baghdad on Wednesday for talks with senior officials just hours ahead of a special parliament session to discuss weeks of deadly anti-government demonstrations. The head of the United Nations' mission in Iraq (UNAMI) was expected to attend the legislative meeting in the afternoon as diplomatic pressure on Baghdad intensifies. Protests demanding a new leadership have rocked Iraq's capital and Shiite-majority south for weeks, the demonstrators undeterred by government pledges of reform or the deaths of more than 300 people.


Turkey says it captured ‘important’ IS figure in Syria

November 13, 2019 - 1:33am

Turkey’s interior minister said Wednesday that his country’s forces have captured an "important" figure within the Islamic State group, in Syria. Suleyman Soylu said the suspect is still being interrogated but did not identify the person or provide further details. “We recently captured an important man within the (IS) in Syria.


The Latest: UN envoy ‘urgently’ working to end Gaza fighting

November 13, 2019 - 1:17am

The U.N. Mideast envoy says negotiators are “working to urgently de-escalate” fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement Wednesday during a trip to Cairo that he was “very concerned about the ongoing and serious escalation” of hostilities. Mladenov was to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as part of efforts to broker a ceasefire.


Lebanon protests sliding into violence amid impasse

November 13, 2019 - 12:48am

A man opened fire with a shotgun over the heads of protesters in a town north of Beirut on Wednesday. It was the second shooting incident in as many days amid nationwide protests and as tensions rose in Lebanon between supporters and opponents of President Michel Aoun. The incident came a day after a 38-year-old father was shot dead by a soldier at a protest Tuesday night, marking the first such fatality since the economically driven demonstrations against the government engulfed the country on Oct. 17.


Neglected heartland seen as key to Brexit-dominated election

November 13, 2019 - 12:21am

In Hartlepool, a tough, proud English port town whipped by bitter North Sea winds, people have long felt ignored by politicians in far-off London. Political parties in Britain's Brexit-dominated December election are battling fiercely to win Hartlepool and places like it: working-class former industrial towns with voters who could hold the key to the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street. Hartlepool has elected lawmakers from the left-of-center Labour Party for more than half a century.


Israel hits Gaza amid rocket fire, Palestinian deaths rise

November 13, 2019 - 12:03am

Israeli airstrikes pounded Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza on Wednesday and militants resumed rocket fire toward Israel after a brief overnight lull, as the death toll rose to 23 Palestinians, including a 7-year-old boy and two other minors, in the heaviest round of fighting in months. The military said more than 250 rockets were fired at Israeli communities since the violence erupted following an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander. With the strike, Israel stepped up its battle against Iran and its proxies across the region.


Johnson Aims Not to Be Swept Away By Floods: U.K. Campaign Trail

November 12, 2019 - 11:39pm

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.For a governing party ahead in the polls, there’s always one big worry in an election: Stuff happening. In Boris Johnson’s case, it’s floods across the North of England that have forced hundreds out of their homes. One of the districts affected is a Conservative target, and the party needs to pick up pro-Brexit seats across the region. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn argued the government had responded slowly because it doesn’t really care.At an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening, the prime minister agreed to deploy troops to help the relief efforts. Pictures of soldiers carrying sandbags could help Johnson look like a man of action. But more rain and flooding could underscore the risks of holding an election in the cold, wet months of the year.Must Read: Brutal Cuts to U.K. Local Services Laid Bare as Austerity EndsComing up:Corbyn campaigns in Scotland, starting in Glasgow at 10.30 a.m.Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson talks about youth services in North London at 10.30 a.m.Labour Treasury spokesman John McDonnell will promise to increase health spending by an average 4.3% a year, funded by increased taxes on business and the rich, in a speech in London at 11 a.m.Johnson will make a speech in the West Midlands around 4.30 p.m., saying a Corbyn government would offer the country “more political self-obsession and onanism.”Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage holds a press conference in Hull at 11 a.m., and then speaks in Grimsby at 7 p.m.The Polls:YouGov, taking into account the Brexit Party’s decision not to stand in Tory seats, has the Conservatives on 42%, Labour on 28%, Liberal Democrats on 15% and the Brexit Party on 4%Here’s a summary of recent polls.Catching Up:The Conservatives have released their first television ad of the campaign, featuring Johnson answering questions about when he last cooked a meal (steak and chips) and whether he likes MarmiteThe U.K. economy lost jobs in the third quarter and vacancies posted their largest annual decline since the financial crisisFormer Tory Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced he’ll run as an independent candidate after being thrown out of the Conservatives by JohnsonLeave donor Arron Banks urged Farage to stand aside in more seats targeted by the Tories or risk losing Brexit, the Telegraph reports The Markets:The pound was little changed Tuesday and early Wednesday, after climbing 0.6% on MondayThe chances of a Conservative majority remain broadly unchanged according to betting markets, with Ladbrokes seeing a 63% chance of that outcome. The bookmaker’s odds imply a 45% chance that Johnson’s party will win 300 to 349 seats, out of a total of 650.\--With assistance from Peter Flanagan.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Emma Ross-ThomasFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


The British Election’s Trillion-Pound Question

November 12, 2019 - 11:30pm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently promised 55 billion pounds ($70.64 billion) of extra spending a year on investment, if elected on Dec. 12, considerably more than the 20 billion in extra annual spending on capital projects that Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has pledged. Voters might wonder, if a little more spending is good, why wouldn’t a lot more be even better?The Tories have come up with a neat way to answer that. After Mark Sedwill, the head of the civil service, blocked a government plan to publish a report on Labour’s fiscal plans (deemed a breach of impartiality rules), Conservative Party number-crunchers put out their own, which found that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party plan will add up to more than 1.2 trillion pounds of new spending. That’s a whopping number, even spread over a five-year parliament. It’s also probably fictional. The methodology suggests the Conservatives began with a trillion in mind and worked backward until there were enough inputs to reach it.The Tories hardly needed to exaggerate. Even if Labour’s splurge doesn’t quite reach the trillion-pound mark, McDonnell’s spending plans are still orders of magnitude bigger than those of the Conservatives. They would raise capital spending to levels not seen since the 1970s. The major difference in the Labour plan, though, is less the quantum of spending than the kind of spending envisioned, the new fiscal rules that would govern it and the radical philosophy that underpins the program.To cross the trillion-pound threshold, the Conservative Party accountants added up all the commitments in Labour’s 2017 manifesto (611 billion pounds, by their measure) and then tallied the various new commitments that were voted on at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this year. This includes nearly 70 separate policies, from nationalizing the Big Six energy suppliers (which the report puts at 124 billion pounds) to abolishing private schools (35 billion pounds) to a car scrappage scheme (800 million) and free TV licenses for people over 75 (2.47 billion).It’s not known, however, in which form any of these will appear in the actual 2019 party manifesto. Abolishing private schools and confiscating their land and endowments, for example, is a policy the party leadership is clearly uncomfortable with. The Conservatives could have waited a week for Labour’s actual plans and figures to be published (manifestos setting out a party’s legislative intentions are generally released about three weeks before the election). But where’s the fun in that? And by then the Conservatives will need to defend their own manifesto pledges and costs. You can see why they wanted to play the trillion-pound card early.Boris Johnson’s Tories would be better off making the case for more public sector investment, done responsibly. Years of austerity and squeezed public budgets have left chronic underinvestment in many parts of Britain, from social care — long-term non-medical care for the elderly and the disabled — to the education sector and infrastructure. Substantial investment is also needed in commitments to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. Overall, average public sector spending as a percentage of GDP is about 40% in the U.K., compared with almost 49% among similar European countries, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research; and Britain underspends Europe in these key sectors, as the chart below shows.But while clearly Britain could do more, a state sector that grows too large and bloated would soon require more taxation and borrowing and could crowd out private sector investment. Tory plans would expand the government’s room for capital expenditure but still require a balanced budget within three years.The trillion-pound tally was designed to paint a maximally unflattering portrait of Labour. Yet the headline number isn’t the biggest problem with Labour’s approach to fiscal policy. The party’s 2017 manifesto pledged to lower the national debt, giving voters some comfort that a Labour government wouldn’t write checks it couldn’t cover. But now, rather than promise simply to reduce the national debt as a percentage of GDP, McDonnell speaks about the “overall balance sheet” and a broader “public sector net worth” measure.The big difference in this new scheme is that the value of any asset purchased with borrowed money would be used to balance out the debt, so that “net worth” wouldn’t change. This gives Labour more room to spend. Nationalizing utilities wouldn’t break the bank because the value of the utilities themselves would offset the borrowing needed to purchase them. All of this would depend, however, on the markets being willing to lend the government great amounts of money at low interest rates. That might not be a problem initially, but what about over time, when growth slows, or if the government proves a poor manager and the value of the assets declines? The Labour vision also depends on raising a great deal more from taxation.These fiscal rules are rooted in governing philosophy. McDonnell speaks of “an irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favor of working people.” Labour puts government at the center of economic life, a paradigmatic shift for Britain. Most people would support policies that genuinely lift the living standards of the poorest, reduce inequality, raise productivity and promote economic growth. To do that, however, Labour would have to be very careful not to discourage investment and innovation. France’s bloated public sector is a living monument to how vast government bureaucracies can depress job creation. And it goes without saying that all this becomes even more challenging under any Brexit scenario.That said, the trillion-pound figure could also backfire on Conservatives. On the hustings, Labour candidates might find it advantageous to sidle up to voters and say “Hey, all those extra zeros on the spending figures there are a feature, not a bug.” The Tories would do better to focus on quality over quantity. Voters are smart enough to grasp the difference.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mary Duenwald at mduenwald@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


The British Election’s Trillion-Pound Question

November 12, 2019 - 11:30pm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently promised 55 billion pounds ($70.64 billion) of extra spending a year on investment, if elected on Dec. 12, considerably more than the 20 billion in extra annual spending on capital projects that Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has pledged. Voters might wonder, if a little more spending is good, why wouldn’t a lot more be even better?The Tories have come up with a neat way to answer that. After Mark Sedwill, the head of the civil service, blocked a government plan to publish a report on Labour’s fiscal plans (deemed a breach of impartiality rules), Conservative Party number-crunchers put out their own, which found that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party plan will add up to more than 1.2 trillion pounds of new spending. That’s a whopping number, even spread over a five-year parliament. It’s also probably fictional. The methodology suggests the Conservatives began with a trillion in mind and worked backward until there were enough inputs to reach it.The Tories hardly needed to exaggerate. Even if Labour’s splurge doesn’t quite reach the trillion-pound mark, McDonnell’s spending plans are still orders of magnitude bigger than those of the Conservatives. They would raise capital spending to levels not seen since the 1970s. The major difference in the Labour plan, though, is less the quantum of spending than the kind of spending envisioned, the new fiscal rules that would govern it and the radical philosophy that underpins the program.To cross the trillion-pound threshold, the Conservative Party accountants added up all the commitments in Labour’s 2017 manifesto (611 billion pounds, by their measure) and then tallied the various new commitments that were voted on at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this year. This includes nearly 70 separate policies, from nationalizing the Big Six energy suppliers (which the report puts at 124 billion pounds) to abolishing private schools (35 billion pounds) to a car scrappage scheme (800 million) and free TV licenses for people over 75 (2.47 billion).It’s not known, however, in which form any of these will appear in the actual 2019 party manifesto. Abolishing private schools and confiscating their land and endowments, for example, is a policy the party leadership is clearly uncomfortable with. The Conservatives could have waited a week for Labour’s actual plans and figures to be published (manifestos setting out a party’s legislative intentions are generally released about three weeks before the election). But where’s the fun in that? And by then the Conservatives will need to defend their own manifesto pledges and costs. You can see why they wanted to play the trillion-pound card early.Boris Johnson’s Tories would be better off making the case for more public sector investment, done responsibly. Years of austerity and squeezed public budgets have left chronic underinvestment in many parts of Britain, from social care — long-term non-medical care for the elderly and the disabled — to the education sector and infrastructure. Substantial investment is also needed in commitments to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. Overall, average public sector spending as a percentage of GDP is about 40% in the U.K., compared with almost 49% among similar European countries, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research; and Britain underspends Europe in these key sectors, as the chart below shows.But while clearly Britain could do more, a state sector that grows too large and bloated would soon require more taxation and borrowing and could crowd out private sector investment. Tory plans would expand the government’s room for capital expenditure but still require a balanced budget within three years.The trillion-pound tally was designed to paint a maximally unflattering portrait of Labour. Yet the headline number isn’t the biggest problem with Labour’s approach to fiscal policy. The party’s 2017 manifesto pledged to lower the national debt, giving voters some comfort that a Labour government wouldn’t write checks it couldn’t cover. But now, rather than promise simply to reduce the national debt as a percentage of GDP, McDonnell speaks about the “overall balance sheet” and a broader “public sector net worth” measure.The big difference in this new scheme is that the value of any asset purchased with borrowed money would be used to balance out the debt, so that “net worth” wouldn’t change. This gives Labour more room to spend. Nationalizing utilities wouldn’t break the bank because the value of the utilities themselves would offset the borrowing needed to purchase them. All of this would depend, however, on the markets being willing to lend the government great amounts of money at low interest rates. That might not be a problem initially, but what about over time, when growth slows, or if the government proves a poor manager and the value of the assets declines? The Labour vision also depends on raising a great deal more from taxation.These fiscal rules are rooted in governing philosophy. McDonnell speaks of “an irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favor of working people.” Labour puts government at the center of economic life, a paradigmatic shift for Britain. Most people would support policies that genuinely lift the living standards of the poorest, reduce inequality, raise productivity and promote economic growth. To do that, however, Labour would have to be very careful not to discourage investment and innovation. France’s bloated public sector is a living monument to how vast government bureaucracies can depress job creation. And it goes without saying that all this becomes even more challenging under any Brexit scenario.That said, the trillion-pound figure could also backfire on Conservatives. On the hustings, Labour candidates might find it advantageous to sidle up to voters and say “Hey, all those extra zeros on the spending figures there are a feature, not a bug.” The Tories would do better to focus on quality over quantity. Voters are smart enough to grasp the difference.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mary Duenwald at mduenwald@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Spain's Political Engine Spluttered to Life: Brussels Edition

November 12, 2019 - 11:13pm

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weekday morning.The broken-down engine that is Spanish politics has spluttered into life with the agreement by leftist parties to try to form a new government. The pact between acting Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias looks tricky but not impossible: The duo will have to bolt on alliances with other groups and will need the help of Catalan separatists to secure a majority. They have pledged to increase pensions in line with living costs, prompting concerns about the system’s sustainability. Bank stocks fell as investors sensed a less favorable environment.What’s HappeningTariff Reprieve | The EU expects to dodge punitive tariffs on its automobile exports to the U.S. today, after an intense lobbying campaign by German carmakers. But a sword of Damocles will remain over the continent’s economy, as Donald Trump is only expected to delay the decision, rather than shelve the plans entirely. Eastern Troubles | Eastern Europe may become a casualty of Germany’s economic malaise. The region has held up well until now, but data to be released on Thursday is expected to reveal the weakness is spreading.Unwelcome Member | After sending Boris Johnson two unanswered letters, incoming Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen expects the British government to nominate a representative for the bloc’s executive by the end of this week. As incongruous as that may sound, the latest Brexit extension means the new Commission can’t be confirmed and sworn in unless a Brit joins its ranks — even if only for a few weeks.Macron Braces | Emmanuel Macron and his team are digging in for a winter of strikes, and the government says it won’t back down. “Every time we touch the pension system, there are strikes,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in an interview. “My aim is to show the French people that the future system is more advantageous, fairer, and more solid for them.”In Case You Missed ItEuropean Defense | EU governments approved a new set of defense-cooperation projects to bolster Europe’s military clout after French President Macron warned that global institutions need an urgent overhaul. Along with a planned 13 billion-euro European Defense Fund, the moves are the cornerstones of efforts to reduce the bloc’s reliance on U.S.-dominated NATO. Trump Threat | The Trump administration ratcheted up pressure on the World Trade Organization by threatening to block its budget and effectively halt its work from next year. It could force countries to fundamentally rethink their reliance on the WTO to negotiate trade deals and settle a growing number of disputes.Confidence Boost | German investor confidence rose to the highest level in six months, raising hopes that the worst of the economic downturn may be over. But Europe’s largest economy isn’t out of the woods yet: while trade tensions are showing signs of easing, the outlook is still murky.Capital Workaround | European banks have found a silver lining to their recent troubles: They can make a case that they’re too weak to abide by new regulations being set by Brussels. After years fighting a rearguard battle against tighter requirements, some bankers in Europe now say they sense an opportunity to persuade policy makers to go easier. Chart of the DayPeople living in Finland are the most content, while those from Bulgaria trailed in the satisfaction ranking of European countries, according to Eurostat data. Inhabitants of Austria, as well as non-EU members Switzerland and Norway, also indicated a high degree of happiness.Today’s AgendaAll times CET.9:15 a.m. CEPS event on IMF’s toolkit for climate mitigation policies 11 a.m. Eurostat to release industrial production reading for September 4 p.m. MEPs will discuss the latest developments and rising tensions among Eastern Mediterranean countries following Turkey’s offshore drilling activities 6 p.m. ESM Managing Director Klaus Regling speaks at annual meeting of the Association of Banks in East Germany  7:30 p.m. Council President Donald Tusk speaks at a ceremony at the College of Europe  NATO-Industry Forum held in Washington D.C. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini receives Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis speaks at the launch event of the Long Term and Sustainable Investment Intergroup in StrasbourgLike the Brussels Edition?Don’t keep it to yourself. Colleagues and friends can sign up here. We also publish the Brexit Bulletin, a daily briefing on the latest on the U.K.’s departure from the EU. For even more: Subscribe to Bloomberg All Access for full global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.How are we doing? We want to hear what you think about this newsletter. Let our Brussels bureau chief know.\--With assistance from Nikos Chrysoloras.To contact the authors of this story: Viktoria Dendrinou in Brussels at vdendrinou@bloomberg.netCharles Penty in Madrid at cpenty@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

November 12, 2019 - 11:13pm

(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on what's moving European markets in your inbox every morning? Sign up here.Good morning. Donald Trump made threats on tariffs and criticized the Fed, Spanish politicians still have work to do and the violence in Hong Kong is showing few signs of abating. Here’s what’s moving markets.Tariffs and RatesThe highly-anticipated speech from U.S. President Donald Trump at the Economic Club of New York didn’t include too much that was new but reiterated some favored topics with verve. Trump said the U.S. will substantially raise tariffs on Chinese goods if no deal is struck between the two countries and he repeated the same threat for any other countries that don't play ball. The president also went after the Federal Reserve again, slamming the central bank’s shunning of negative rates as bad for the U.S. He also warned that should he lose the 2020 election, that could put market gains in danger.Spain’s GovernmentSpanish Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists cut a deal on Tuesday to work with the anti-establishment Podemos party to work together in a coalition to govern the country, an attempt to bring at least some degree of certainty to the country’s political situation. It’s a significant move but there are still some big hurdles to get over yet, not least the fact that the two parties don’t have enough votes to form a majority and so some wooing of the smaller parties will be required to get a government fully formed. All eyes on Madrid after Spanish stocks and bonds underperformed following Tuesday’s news.‘Unthinkable’Stocks in Hong Kong took a plunge again and the swings are getting wilder as the tensions between pro-democracy protesters and the local government show few signs of abating, with the security chief warning of “unthinkable consequences” if the violence continues. There is growing debate among the protest leaders about the tactics being used amid fears they could embolden China to exert its authority further. Early data indicate the economy is still suffering the effects of the unrest and local banks are telling staff to cancel meetings and be safe.BorrowingFunding costs are low and companies are getting in while the getting is good. U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc. has sold the largest block of bonds of the year to fund its purchase of Allergan Plc, encouraged by narrowing credit risk premiums as investors pile money into corporate credit funds. These cheaper costs and the outlook for these to rise in coming months may also help explain the bold pushes in recent weeks from private equity, another example of which can be seen in reports that 3G Capital, known normally for investing in consumer businesses, is eyeing the elevator business of German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG.Coming Up…Asian stocks retreated, led lower by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, and futures in the U.S. and Europe aren’t painting a prettier picture of the open. U.K. and U.S. inflation data will land, as will the latest World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency. On the earnings front, the U.K. has flurry of midcap names reporting including housebuilder Taylor Wimpey Plc, property firm British Land Co. Plc and pub chain JD Wetherspoon Plc, where the man in charge is a notable Brexit supporter. Also, the impeachment hearings will start and be televised, plus President Trump is meeting with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.What We’ve Been ReadingThis is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours. U.K. public services cuts under austerity have been laid bare. Global pollution is rising and won’t peak before 2040. The unsolved mystery of the Medallion Fund’s success. Inside the toxic phone booths at WeWork. Google sued a London taxi outfit called Goooglie Cars. The demise of Libor will upend a popular derivatives contract. The new sustainable travel trend? Train bragging.Like Bloomberg's Five Things? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. Find out more about how the Terminal delivers information and analysis that financial professionals can't find anywhere else. Learn more.To contact the author of this story: Sam Unsted in London at sunsted@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Yemen Gets A Rare Shot at Peace

November 12, 2019 - 11:00pm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Yemen is a graveyard of optimism. In five years of war, a cessation of hostilities — even if temporary — seemed possible several times. There was a truce in the summer of 2015, two ceasefires and peace talks in Kuwait in 2016, and talks in Stockholm at the end of 2018.Each time, the hopes raised were just as quickly snuffed out, interred along with the 100,000 people killed in the fighting.So it would be easy, even expedient, to regard with skepticism the reports of back-channel negotiations between two key belligerents, Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels. But a flurry of other developments in the past two weeks allow for a resurrection of hope.First, a quick reminder of how we got here. In 2014, the Houthis, a Shiite sect from northern Yemen backed by Iran, took Sana’a from the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. A Saudi-led Arab coalition joined the fighting on Hadi’s side, with intelligence and logistical support from the U.S. The Houthis advanced all the way south to Aden, where they encountered stiff resistance from a combination of Hadi’s forces, southern militias and the Arab coalition.But earlier this summer, that coalition was frayed by divisions between Hadi and the southerners, leading to the prospect of a civil war within a civil war. This played right into the hands of the Houthis and their Iranian patrons.Meanwhile, elements of the Arab coalition, especially the United Arab Emirates, were tiring of the endless war. The Houthis, now receiving more support from Tehran, were launching missile, rocket and drone attacks deep into Saudi territory.Now for the fresh signs of hope. In late September, the Houthis announced they were suspending attacks on Saudi territory. Shortly afterward, the Saudis announced a limited cease-fire in some parts of Houthi-controlled Yemen, including Sana’a. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he was open to “all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen.” Houthi leaders echoed the sentiment.The Saudis then turned to the crisis in the south, and sponsored a peace deal between Hadi and the southern separatists. This allowed the UAE to pull some troops out of Aden.The Emiratis also declared that the Houthis were “a part of Yemeni society and they will have a role in its future” — the most conciliatory language from Abu Dhabi in a long time. And the Saudis said they had “an open channel” to the rebels.Alert readers will have noticed that one key voice is missing: Iran’s. The Islamic Republic has been somewhat distracted in recent weeks by mass protests in Lebanon and Iraq over the role of Iranian proxies — Hezbollah and Shia militias — in national affairs. Iran also finds itself sidelined from the conversation in Syria, where Russia and Turkey seem to be calling the shots.Whether the softening of the Houthi stance meets full approval from Tehran is hard to know. Compared with its proxies elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran’s relationship with the Yemeni rebels is relatively new; it is also more opportunistic and transactional than ideological. Unlike Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, the Houthi leadership doesn’t pay open obeisance to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Nor does Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian military commander who manages the proxies, travel around Yemen as he does in Iraq.The real test of Houthi agency, independent from Iran, lies in whether the rebels can make a long-term deal with the Saudis — even if that doesn’t fit into Tehran’s plans. Equally, reaching that deal will be a test of Riyadh’s ability to pry a proxy away from the Iranian grip, using diplomacy where kinetic means have failed.There’s little the U.S., or any other nation, can do to help beyond encouraging the Saudis to stick to the jaw-jaw instead of the war-war. But the international community can, and should leap at the opportunity to get more humanitarian assistance to the Yemenis. Rescuing optimism from its Yemeni grave will take time, but this is as good a time as any to start digging.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Yemen Gets A Rare Shot at Peace

November 12, 2019 - 11:00pm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Yemen is a graveyard of optimism. In five years of war, a cessation of hostilities — even if temporary — seemed possible several times. There was a truce in the summer of 2015, two ceasefires and peace talks in Kuwait in 2016, and talks in Stockholm at the end of 2018.Each time, the hopes raised were just as quickly snuffed out, interred along with the 100,000 people killed in the fighting.So it would be easy, even expedient, to regard with skepticism the reports of back-channel negotiations between two key belligerents, Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels. But a flurry of other developments in the past two weeks allow for a resurrection of hope.First, a quick reminder of how we got here. In 2014, the Houthis, a Shiite sect from northern Yemen backed by Iran, took Sana’a from the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. A Saudi-led Arab coalition joined the fighting on Hadi’s side, with intelligence and logistical support from the U.S. The Houthis advanced all the way south to Aden, where they encountered stiff resistance from a combination of Hadi’s forces, southern militias and the Arab coalition.But earlier this summer, that coalition was frayed by divisions between Hadi and the southerners, leading to the prospect of a civil war within a civil war. This played right into the hands of the Houthis and their Iranian patrons.Meanwhile, elements of the Arab coalition, especially the United Arab Emirates, were tiring of the endless war. The Houthis, now receiving more support from Tehran, were launching missile, rocket and drone attacks deep into Saudi territory.Now for the fresh signs of hope. In late September, the Houthis announced they were suspending attacks on Saudi territory. Shortly afterward, the Saudis announced a limited cease-fire in some parts of Houthi-controlled Yemen, including Sana’a. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he was open to “all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen.” Houthi leaders echoed the sentiment.The Saudis then turned to the crisis in the south, and sponsored a peace deal between Hadi and the southern separatists. This allowed the UAE to pull some troops out of Aden.The Emiratis also declared that the Houthis were “a part of Yemeni society and they will have a role in its future” — the most conciliatory language from Abu Dhabi in a long time. And the Saudis said they had “an open channel” to the rebels.Alert readers will have noticed that one key voice is missing: Iran’s. The Islamic Republic has been somewhat distracted in recent weeks by mass protests in Lebanon and Iraq over the role of Iranian proxies — Hezbollah and Shia militias — in national affairs. Iran also finds itself sidelined from the conversation in Syria, where Russia and Turkey seem to be calling the shots.Whether the softening of the Houthi stance meets full approval from Tehran is hard to know. Compared with its proxies elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran’s relationship with the Yemeni rebels is relatively new; it is also more opportunistic and transactional than ideological. Unlike Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, the Houthi leadership doesn’t pay open obeisance to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Nor does Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian military commander who manages the proxies, travel around Yemen as he does in Iraq.The real test of Houthi agency, independent from Iran, lies in whether the rebels can make a long-term deal with the Saudis — even if that doesn’t fit into Tehran’s plans. Equally, reaching that deal will be a test of Riyadh’s ability to pry a proxy away from the Iranian grip, using diplomacy where kinetic means have failed.There’s little the U.S., or any other nation, can do to help beyond encouraging the Saudis to stick to the jaw-jaw instead of the war-war. But the international community can, and should leap at the opportunity to get more humanitarian assistance to the Yemenis. Rescuing optimism from its Yemeni grave will take time, but this is as good a time as any to start digging.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Syria, Russia and sanctions on agenda during Erdoğan's 'critical' US visit

November 12, 2019 - 10:30pm

Trump to receive Erdoğan warmly but US-Turkish relations are at a low ebb – and policymakers are braced for a crucial week of talksDonald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Nato summit in Brussels in July 2018. The pair’s relationship is seen by many as the only reason relations have not completely collapsed. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ReutersThe Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, may receive a warm welcome from Donald Trump when he arrives in Washington on Wednesday, but his reception elsewhere is likely to be extremely frosty.US-Turkish relations are perhaps at their lowest in the last 40 years, reaching a new crisis point after Ankara’s decision to invade Kurdish-held parts of Syria last month. Just this week, a new crisis has erupted after Turkey tried to deport a US citizen believed to be a member of Islamic State to Greece, leaving him in a legal and physical no man’s land between the two countries.It is also widely feared the trip could once again be marked by violence. Erdoğan’s previous state visit in 2017 went down in infamy after phone footage captured the president looking on calmly as members of his security detail attacked unarmed protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, putting 11 people in hospital.Despite recent pointed US moves against Turkey – including criminal charges against one of Turkey’s biggest banks for its part in a scheme to evade sanctions against Iran, and Congress’s vote in favour of a resolution recognising the Armenian genocide – the rapport between the countries’ two leaders has endured.Indeed, the strength of Erdoğan and Trump’s personal relationship is regarded by many as the only reason relations have not yet completely collapsed. Instinctively, Trump is closer to Erdoğan on Syria than to much of his administration. The Turkish president will seek to persuade Trump to go with his gut and ignore the advice of his own officials.Ankara has described this week’s meetings as “critical” for setting the shape of future ties with the US, and Turkish policymakers appear willing to bet on Trump being the only decision-maker in Washington who really matters.A White House official said that Trump was determined to take the long view on Turkish relations and will be looking for areas of common ground.“The alliance has seen both our countries through very dark times. We are not going to throw it away lightly if there is a way forward,” one senior administration official said.Here’s what’s at stake: SyriaOne of the Trump administration’s main goals this week is to get Turkey to agree to a permanent ceasefire in Syria. The 9 October offensive triggered bipartisan outrage in the US over the attack on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US’s ground partner in the five-year-long fight to defeat Isis.Erdoğan is seeking to persuade Trump to finally sever US ties with the SDF and leave north-eastern Syria to Turkey and Russia. He thought he had won the argument in the infamous 6 October phone call when the US president appeared to give the green light for the Turkish incursion. Since then, the Pentagon and state department have pushed back, convincing Trump to leave a residual force in eastern Syria, with the ostensible mission of “securing the oil”, but which is also intended to maintain the SDF partnership.“There’s no intention for our cooperation to end,” a senior administration official said in advance of the meeting.The Turkish president will seek to drive a wedge between the president and his own officials on Syria. He has done it before but it has become evident that Trump has little support in his own party for his position. Congress last month passed a sanctions package to punish Turkey over its Syria operation while key members of the Senate, including Trump ally Lindsey Graham, have vowed to advance it if Ankara encroaches further into Kurdish-held territory. Human rightsThe human rights abuses being committed by Turkish-backed militias in north-eastern Syria are a big issue for the administration. They are bringing congressional sanctions closer, angering evangelical Christians and driving a wedge between the US and its Kurdish allies.Senior administration officials have said the issue will be raised with Erdoğan. Ankara has blamed the Syrian militias for the abuses, but one senior US official said on the eve of the presidential visit: “As far we’re concerned, our interlocutor on these things is Turkey because Turkey has been supporting these people, and Turkey took the initiative to cross the border.” Russia, jets and missile defence systemsThis summer, Ankara pushed ahead with the first deliveries of the Russian-made S-400 missile defence system, an unprecedented move by a Nato ally.Turkey says it was forced to buy the sophisticated Russian equipment in 2017 after the US refused to supply the alternative Patriot missile defence system.The US subsequently kicked Turkish pilots out of the F-35 fighter jet training programme over worries that if Turkey integrates the S-400 into its defences, sensitive data about the F-35, a new generation multi-role stealth fighter, could be accessed by Moscow.“This is one of those very tough problems that the president will be trying to address head on,” a senior US administration official said on Tuesday.Despite the threat of sanctions, which could significantly weaken Turkey’s already fragile economy, Ankara – which is establishing ever closer ties with Russia – has so far refused to bow to the pressure from Washington, calling it a matter of national sovereignty.No sanctions have materalised yet but last week White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien reiterated that the threat was real. “If Turkey doesn’t get rid of the S-400, I mean, there will likely be sanctions … Turkey will feel the impact of those sanctions,” he told CBS News. The Halkbank scandalHalkbank, one of Turkey’s biggest state-owned banks, was finally charged last month with violating US sanctions against Iran over the transfer of approximately $20bn in gold and funding through a complex web of shell companies and sham transactions that involved high-ranking Turkish officials, discovered in 2013.The indictment was met with deep anger across Turkey, and helped strain relations between the Nato allies to their current breaking point. Erdoğan labelled the charges “an unlawful, ugly step” designed to punish Turkey over its recent Syria operation. Fetullah Gülen and Turkish detaineesTurkey has long been frustrated by the US refusal to extradite the cleric Fetullah Gülen, whom Ankara alleges is responsible for a failed 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan but has not produced sufficient evidence to convince US courts.While Washington has largely stayed quiet in the face of increasingly authoritarian measures enacted in Turkey cracking down on political opposition and freedom of speech, it has dug its heels in over the detention and prosecution of Turkish US consular employees who are accused of spying and links to Gülen. Sanctions threatsCongress and the Senate have been keen to distance themselves from the White House’s policy towards Turkey, although sanctions slapped on Turkish ministries and senior government officials in response to Ankara’s Syria offensive were widely viewed as not as harsh as expected and quickly lifted after Erdoğan agreed to a pause in fighting after meeting with Pence and Pompeo.However, if Turkey refuses to step away from Russia’s S-400s more punitive measures are possible. The memory of crippling US sanctions and increased tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium in 2018 related to the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson which sent the Turkish lira into freefall is still fresh.


Trump and Erdogan to meet amid strained US-Turkey relations

November 12, 2019 - 10:15pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump will meet as relations between the NATO allies are at their lowest point in decades, with Turkey rebuffing the U.S. and turning to Russia on security issues and Ankara facing a Washington backlash over attacks on Syrian Kurds. Erdogan and Trump have a difficult agenda Wednesday that includes Turkey's decision to buy a Russian air defense system, its attack on U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria and other disputes that threaten a proposed $100 billion trade deal.


Pentagon chief tries to keep Asia in focus with second trip

November 12, 2019 - 10:15pm

Barely four months into his tenure, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is making his second trek across the Pacific. Esper's Asia visits illustrate the central feature of a revamped U.S. defense strategy: Focus first on China as a threat to U.S. global predominance, rather than remain bogged down in a generation-long fight against extremist groups.


Israel targets Islamic Jihad leadership, sending message to Iran

November 12, 2019 - 9:57pm

Israel on Tuesday targeted two senior commanders from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, killing one in the Gaza Strip and missing the second in Syria as it stepped up its battle against Iran and its proxies across the region. The death of Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife as they slept in their home in eastern Gaza set off the heaviest fighting in months between Israel and Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group that is even more hard-line than Gaza’s Hamas rulers.


Pages


Advertisements