Sunday, February 10, 2019

Today's links

"In today's challenging circumstances, when international security and the rule of law are subjected to serious tests, you, the diplomats, face important and major tasks. In particular, it is imperative to enthusiastically uphold the basic principles of international law and the universal role of the United Nations and to strive to rally the international community in fighting the terrorist threat."  V Putin

1--archive--House rejects measure backing Libya war

The House on Friday overwhelmingly rejected a measure giving President Barack Obama the authority to continue the U.S. military operation against Libya, a major repudiation of the commander in chief.
The vote was 295-123, with Obama losing the support of 70 of his Democrats one day after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had made a last-minute plea for the mission.
While the congressional action had no immediate effect on American involvement in the NATO-led mission, it was an embarrassment to a sitting president and certain to have reverberations in Tripoli and NATO capitals.
Complete coverage: Anger in the Arab World
The vote marked the first time since 1999 that either House has voted against a military operation. The last time was over President Bill Clinton's authority in the Bosnian war....

The measure's defeat was seen as a slap on the wrist for Obama, who critics say ignored the decades-old War Powers Resolution, which requires Congressional authorization for military actions not prompted by an attack on, or imminent threat to, the United States....

House Republican leaders pushed for the vote, with rank-and-file members saying the president broke the law by failing to seek congressional approval for the 3-month-old war.

House Republicans and Democrats are furious with Obama for failing to seek congressional authorization as required under the War Powers Resolution. The 1973 law, often ignored by Republican and Democratic presidents, says the commander in chief must seek congressional consent for military actions within 60 days. That deadline has long passed.
Obama stirred congressional unrest last week when he told lawmakers he did not need authorization because the operation was not full-blown hostilities. NATO commands the Libya operation, but the United States still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work as well as drone attacks and bombings....

Earlier this week Clinton said lawmakers were free to raise questions, but she asked, "Are you on Qaddafi's side, or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been bringing them support?"...

Earlier this month, the House voted 268-145 to rebuke Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for the Libyan mission and for launching U.S. military forces without congressional approval.

2--Syrian gov’t allegedly shows ‘positive signs’ towards Kurdish self-governance: report

In regards to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Birazi told Bas News that the Syrian Democratic Forces, the armed wing of the SDC, that the Americans have shown no concrete signs of leaving the country.
This coincides with the latest reports about the U.S. military increasing their troop presence inside Syria, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to withdraw his armed forces from the country.

3--Senior Kurdish Leader: We Were Forced To Seek Help From Moscow & Damascus

Two weeks ago, Ilham, who is visiting the U.S., confirmed that Kurdish forces are negotiating with Damascus in order to prevent any Turkish attack on northeastern Syria. Back then, she stressed that Kurds will pick a deal with President Bashar al-Assad over a Turkish invasion.
Ilham’s new remarks show that the SDC still hopes that Trump will cancel his decision and keep some US troops in Syria. However, it seems unlikely that the significant US presence on the ground in Syria will remain.

4--Putin--the Greater Eurasian Partnership

Putin stressed the need to advance the peace process in Syria, to step up efforts "to promote Eurasian integration processes" and expand "the external relations of the Eurasian Economic Union with an eye to forming the Greater Eurasian Partnership." The latter initiative envisions inter-bloc integrative processes among the EEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and ASEAN, and consists of virtually the entire continent of Asia.

5--Putin's Game-Changer plan for giant EU-Asia free trade zone--Russia to Push Greater Eurasian Partnership Concept at APEC

President Vladimir Putin is set to push the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership at the annual APEC meeting in Danang, Vietnam tomorrow. The GEP is a proposed combination of the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union, members of the Shanghai Co-Operation Organisation, ASEAN, and China’s Belt & Road Initiative.

“The project of the Greater Eurasian Partnership is open to new participants”, President Putin said ahead of the APEC Economic Leaders’ summit in Vietnam on November 10-11.
“I would like to mention our idea to create the Greater Eurasian Partnership. We suggested forming it on the basis of the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road initiative. To reiterate, this is a flexible modern project open to other participants.”

Putin has suggested in meetings previously held with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the Greater Eurasian Partnership is created on the basis of the Eurasian Economic Union and Chinese initiative One Belt, One Road. Comprehensive development of infrastructure, including transport, telecommunications and energy, should lay the foundation for effective integration, he said. Modernization of Russian sea and air hubs in the Far East is in full swing, he said. In addition, Russia is developing transcontinental railway routes and building new gas and oil pipelines.
“We are committed to implementing bilateral and multilateral infrastructure projects, which will link our economies and markets,” Putin said. “Among other projects, I am referring to the Energy Super Ring that unites Russia, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, and the Sakhalin-Hokkaido transport link. We pay special attention to integrating Russia’s Siberian and Far Eastern territories into the network of APR economic ties,” he said. “These efforts include a whole range of measures to enhance the investment appeal of our regions, and to integrate Russian enterprises into international production chains.

For Russia, the Far East growth is a “national priority for the 21st century. We are talking about creating territories of advanced economic growth in that region, pursuing large-scale development of natural resources, and supporting advanced high-tech industries, as well as investing in human capital, education and healthcare, and forming competitive research centers. We hope that our foreign partners, primarily from APEC economies, will play an active role in implementing these programs and projects. All the more so, as foreign participants of the annual Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok already had a chance to gain confidence in the prospects and feasibility of our plans.”

“The Greater Eurasian Partnership is a Game-Changer” says Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates. The building of it is already underway; China has applied for a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, and when this is agreed it will bring Chinese manufactured goods, duty free, right to the borders of the European Union.  As concerns ASEAN, Vietnam already has an FTA in effect with the EAEU and several other ASEAN nations have expressed interest. The impact on global trade flows will be significant.”

6--..Doug Noland--With “risk on” back on track, why then would “safe haven” bonds be attracting such keen interest? 


German 10-year bund yields sank eight bps this week to nine bps (0.09%), the low going back to October 2016. Two-year German yields were little changed at negative 0.58%. Ten-year Treasury yields declined five bps this week to 2.64%, only nine bps above the panic low yields from January 3rd. Japanese 10-year yields declined another basis point this week to negative three bps (negative 0.03%), only about a basis point above January 3rd lows. Swiss 10-year yields declined six bps this week to negative 0.33% - the low since October 2016. 

So, who’s got this right – risk assets or the safe havens? Why can’t they both be “right” – or wrong? There is much discussion of a confused marketplace: extraordinary cross-currents leaving traders confounded. In search of an explanation, I’ll point to the consequences of Monetary Disorder.

7--Brzezinski: U.S. Should Work With Russia, Turkey to Solve Global Problems


8--archive  Trump Mollifies Lindsey Graham on Troop Withdrawal From Syria (what did Trump tell Graham?)

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a vocal Republican critic of President Trump’s plan for a 30-day troop withdrawal of American troops from Syria, suggested on Sunday that the pullout had been slowed and that he felt “a lot better” about it after a lunch with the president.
“I think we’re in a pause situation where we are re-evaluating what’s the best way to achieve the president’s objective of having people pay more and do more,” Mr. Graham said.

He did not elaborate on what that meant. But he may have been referring to assurances that Mr. Trump is said to have given some military officials that they can have more time than 30 days to ensure a proper drawdown of troops.
Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement on Twitter this month that he planned to withdraw the 2,000 American troops in Syria over the advice of military officials drew strong objections from many of his usual allies, like Mr. Graham, and helped prompt Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign...

“We talked about Syria and he told me some things that I didn’t know that make me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria,” Mr. Graham said. “He promised to destroy ISIS. He’s going to keep that promise. We’re not there yet, but as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line and the president understands the need to finish the job.”

Mr. Graham told reporters that Mr. Trump was “worried about Iranian influence and the potential dangers to Israel from having a superhighway from Beirut to Tehran in terms of delivering weapons into Lebanon, and he’ll be talking to Turkey about making sure we don’t have a war between the Turks and our allies the Kurds.”

In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” before the lunch, Mr. Graham issued a starker warning about the threat to the Kurds, who are allied with the United States but whom Turkey regards as insurgents.
“If we leave now, the Kurds are going to get slaughtered,” Mr. Graham said, adding: “The president is reconsidering how we do this. He’s frustrated, I get that.”

9--Dec 21-2018  archive   ---Mattis resignation triggered by phone call between Trump and Erdoğan

US president complied with Turkish leader’s demands and took own advisers by surprise, accounts say

Accounts in the US and Turkish press of the Friday call between Trump and Erdoğan show the volatile US president complying with the Turkish leader’s demands and taking his own advisers by surprise.
It is the latest example of a pattern in which Trump tends to side with authoritarian foreign leaders, over the advice of US officials.

Trump has also ordered the withdrawal of half the 14,000 US military presence in Afghanistan, but it is the decision over Syria which appears to have precipitated Mattis’s decision to leave office.

“As soon as the US folds its tent and leaves, Turkey will immediately begin an air bombardment followed by a ground attack by the [Ankara-backed] Free Syrian army. Thousands will die, thousands will be displaced and will be given no haven within Syria. They will be turned away at the Turkish border,” said David Phillips, a former senior state department official, and the author of the new book: The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned the Kurds and Lost the Middle East....

According to a version of events in the Associated Press, the US position going into the call was to demand that Turkey stall a planned offensive into Syria aimed at US-backed Kurdish elements of the SDF, which Ankara sees as indistinguishable from the Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.
“The talking points were very firm,” one of the officials quoted by the Associated Press said. “Everybody said push back and try to offer [Turkey] something that’s a small win, possibly holding territory on the border, something like that.”

Erdoğan responded by saying that Isis had been 99% defeated.
“Why are you still there?” Erdoğan demanded, according to the account.

With the Turkish leader still on the line, Trump asked the same question of his national security adviser, John Bolton, who repeated US policy until then, that the defeat of Isis had to be “enduring”, preventing the possibility of a resurgence.
To the surprise of Bolton and Erdoğan, Trump instantly sided with the Turkish president.

According to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, whose account is similar to the Associated Press’s, Trump declared: “OK – do it.” Not hearing an instant response from Bolton, Trump demanded to know whether his national security adviser was still on the line. When Bolton said he was, Trump ordered: “Start the work.”
Bolton and his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin, were left to sort out the details.
The Hurriyet report said the initial timetable for US withdrawal was between 30 and 60 days, which was later extended to up to 100 days.
Such an abrupt withdrawal would leave the SDF vulnerable to Turkish attack. Observers said it gave the SDF little choice but to try to reach deal with the Assad regime, in an effort to safeguard some Kurdish autonomy.


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