Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Brexit Deal?

Maybe.

After weeks of negotiations that seemed to be going nowhere, another deal was struck on Thursday.

The EU’s top negotiator declared the backstop has been abolished. But not everyone is happy with the replacement.

The new deal means Northern Ireland will stick to some EU rules, while technically still being in the UK customs area. Crucially, some checks will still take place between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Four years after it comes into effect, Northern Ireland’s politicians will have a say on whether to keep the deal going.

The EU is expected to agree to the new deal, if Ireland is happy.

Mr Johnson has until Saturday 19 October to get his deal across the line in the UK Parliament – or else he is legally required to request an extension to Brexit.

MPs in London will decide whether to sit on Saturday to debate the deal in the first Saturday session since 1982 – and that was at the start of the Falklands War.

House Votes in Support of Hong Kong

In a bipartisan voice vote. It’s nice to see that our politicians have more moral courage than our basketball stars.

The bill was supported by Republicans and Democrats and was passed by a “voice vote” in the House of Representatives, meaning a recorded vote was not needed.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anyplace in the world,” said house speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat, said: “The house just sent a strong message to the people of Hong Kong: we stand with you in the fight for democracy and justice.”

Racism in Football

And we thought we were having a “national dialogue.”

European football’s governing body Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria, charging them with the racist behaviour, including Nazi salutes and monkey chants, of their fans.

The disruption of both teams’ national anthems by opposing fans will also be investigated.

Xi Threatens Violence

Chilling words coming from a tyrant.

China’s President Xi Jinping has issued a stern warning against dissent as protests continue in Hong Kong, saying any attempt to divide China will end in “crushed bodies and shattered bones”.

His comments came during a state visit to Nepal on Sunday, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said.

America to Trade Communists for Hong Kong Freedom Fighters

I’d be down for this

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American state department has come up with an ingenious plan to solve China’s democratic protest problems and make our nation great again in one fell swoop.

Through some great negotiating on the part of Donald Trump, we’ve struck a deal to trade all of our country’s Communists for Hong Kong’s democratic protesters.

After the deal was made, the military began rounding up the Communists—who didn’t complain, as they’re all for an authoritarian state—and putting them in cargo planes. They were then flown across the Pacific Ocean and dropped off in Hong Kong before the democratic protesters in China were loaded up into the now-empty planes and flown back to America.

“This is the best deal, maybe ever,” said Trump. “We’ll get rid of some wackos on the left, my buddy Xi will be happy with his new commie followers, and we’ll gain some great new citizens who will be really appreciative to me and never complain about anything. Greatest deal in the history of deals.”

(yes, I know it’s a parody)

U.S. Abandons Kurds

This is horrible from two perspectives. First, we are abandoning a staunch ally in the region. Second, it further encourages Iran to be belligerent against Saudi Arabia and Israel to test America’s resolve to support our allies.

US troops have begun withdrawing from positions in northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish operation against Kurdish fighters in the border area.

Kurdish-led forces have until now been a key US ally in Syria, where they helped defeat the Islamic State group, but Turkey regards them as terrorists.

The main Kurdish-led group called the surprise US move a “stab in the back”.

But President Donald Trump defended the pullout, saying it was time “to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars”.

The withdrawal represents a significant shift in US foreign policy and goes against the advice of senior officials in the Pentagon and state department. It follows a White House statement issued late on Sunday, saying US troops were stepping aside for an imminent Turkish operation.

Protests in Hong Kong In Spite of Mask Ban

Keep fightin

HONG KONG (AP) — Furiously yelling “Wearing a mask is not a crime,” tens of thousands of masked protesters hit Hong Kong’s rain-drenched streets Sunday in defiance of a new ban on facial coverings. Riot police later swept in with volleys of tear gas and muscular arrests as peaceful rallies again degenerated into widespread violence and chaos in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Instead of deterring rioting and calming anti-government demonstrations that have gripped the international trading hub for four months, the ban that criminalized the wearing of face masks at rallies only redoubled the determination of both peaceful marchers and more radical black-clad youths. The hard-liners again lobbed gasoline bombs and trashed subway stations and China-linked banks in the city.

For the first time in the crisis, men on the roof of one of the Chinese military’s barracks in Hong Kong raised a yellow banner warning protesters they were breaking the law when laser pointers were flashed at the building, according to video broadcast by Hong Kong media.

Police said masked rioters also attacked bystanders, including two men left unconscious after bloody beatings and a woman who took photos of rioting.

A massive peaceful march to the central business district — on streets spray-painted with the word “resist” and hemmed in by high-rises that echoed with protesters’ chants — came as Hong Kong’s High Court rejected a second effort to invalidate the mask ban.

Families Threaten to Import Jihadis into U.K.

If they pull it off, I would prosecute the families for abetting and importing terrorists into the country.

British families are plotting to smuggle relatives who joined Islamic State out of Syria amid a Cabinet row over the issue, intelligence sources claim.

They say there has been ‘chatter’ among those living in the UK about how they can help suspect jihadi family members get back to Britain.

Islamic State members have already been smuggled out of camps where British citizens are held, another western security source said, adding that the ‘window of time for countries to repatriate effectively is closing very quickly’.

Hong Kong Continues to Fight Totalitarianism

Keep on fighting.

HONG KONG, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Hong Kong protesters are to join a global “anti-totalitarianism rally” on Sunday, following another night of violent clashes with police after weeks of pro-democracy unrest in the Chinese-ruled city.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon on Saturday night to disperse protesters who threw petrol bombs and rocks, broke government office windows and blocked a key road near the local headquarters of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

A series of protests for and against the city’s Communist Party rulers in Beijing is planned ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic on Tuesday, including at the consulate of former colonial power Britain.

Thousands, young and old, gathered peacefully on Saturday at a harbourside park to mark the fifth anniversary of the “Umbrella” pro-democracy movement which gridlocked streets for 79 days in 2014.

Then the violence began, following a pattern of the last few weeks.

Anti-government protesters have attacked the legislature, Beijing’s main Liaison Office, occupied the airport, thrown petrol bombs at police, vandalised metro stations and set street fires.

Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds fired into the air.

The protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

British Liberals Attack Private Schools

Coming soon to an American legislature near you courtesy of the Democratic Party.

(Bloomberg) — The main U.K. opposition Labour Party adopted a policy to scrap private schools such as Eton — the alma mater of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the second-in-line to the throne, Prince William.

Delegates at Labour’s annual conference passed a resolution on Sunday to include “a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector” in the party’s next general election manifesto.

“This is a huge step forward in dismantling the privilege of a tiny, Eton-educated elite who are running our country into the ground,” said Laura Parker, national coordinator of Momentum, a grassroots movement set up to support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “Every child deserves a world-class education, not only those who are able pay for it.”

The new policy shows how Labour under Corbyn is seeking to make political capital by attacking the rich. Stoking a class war plays to the party’s base in a country which is still very much defined by its class system.

A Labour government would take measures including scrapping the charitable status enjoyed by private schools, meaning they would lose their tax breaks, according to the resolution.

The motion also advocated ensuring that only 7% of students admitted by universities come from private schools — in line with the national proportion of pupils attending them — and redistributing their investments, endowments and properties “democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions.”

Yemeni Rebels Want Peace

Ha! I think I remember this tactic on the playground. Punch someone in the nose and then say that you want peace before they have a chance to hit back. Clever, if utterly insincere.

The UN has welcomed a proposal from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels to end all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative.

A statement said the proposal could send “a powerful message of the will to end the war”.

The offer comes a week after drone and missile strikes hit Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

Houthi rebels have claimed to have carried out the attack, but the US and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran.

[…]

In a televised announcement, Houthi Supreme Political Council chair Mahdi al-Mashat said the group would end all strikes on Saudi Arabia, provided the kingdom and its allies did the same.

“We reserve the right to return and respond in the case there is no reaction to our initiative,” he said, and called on all parties in Yemen to work towards “comprehensive national reconciliation”.

Hulk Smash

So… one of the actors who plays a fictional green giant comments on the British Prime Minister’s invocation of said fictional character. That seems about right for our modern civic discourse.

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo has reacted to Boris Johnson’s comments in which he compared the UK leaving the EU to the green superhero.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the prime minister said Hulk “always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be”.

But Hollywood star Mark said the Hulk “only fights for the good of the whole”.

“Mad and strong can also be dense and destructive,” he added.

Iran Attacks Saudi Arabia

Iran attacked by way of their Yemeni proxies, but that’s how Iran always attacks.

Ten drones launched by Iran-backed militants sparked a huge fire at the world’s largest oil processing facility and a major oilfield in Saudi Arabia in the early hours of this morning.

The fires at Abqaiq in Buqyaq, which contains the world’s largest oil processing plant, and Khurais, which contains the country’s second largest oilfield, have now been brought under control since the drone attacks at 4.00am local time.

Tensions are running high in the region after attacks in June and July on oil tankers in Gulf waters that Riyadh and Washington blamed on Iran.

A military spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, considered an Iranian proxy force in the region, has claimed responsibility for today’s attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais, two major facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia run by state-owned oil giant Aramco.

Brexit Showdown

Wow! Changing parties mid-speech.

Conservative MP Phillip Lee has defected to the Liberal Democrats ahead of a showdown between Boris Johnson and Tory rebels over Brexit.

Dr Lee, the MP for Bracknell, took his seat on the opposition benches as the PM addressed the Commons.

His defection means Boris Johnson no longer has a working majority.

MPs hoping to pass legislation to block no deal have cleared the first hurdle after Speaker John Bercow granted them an emergency debate.

That debate could last up to three hours, followed by a vote. If the MPs win the vote – defeating the government – they will be able to take control of Commons business on Wednesday.

That will give them the chance to introduce a cross-party bill which would force the prime minister to ask for Brexit to be delayed until 31 January, unless MPs approve a new deal, or vote in favour of a no-deal exit, by 19 October.

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

It seems right now – although there is still some arm twisting going on behind the scenes – that the government is set to lose the vote.

We are finding ourselves in the middle of a full-throttle confrontation between a Parliament that does not want to allow the country to leave the EU without a deal and a prime minister who secured his place in power promising he would always keep that as an option.

Both of them cannot be the victors here.

Pro-Democracy Protesters in Hong Kong Continue the Struggle

Godspeed.

Hong Kong police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse crowds as tens of thousands marched in the city, defying a ban.

Demonstrators lit fires, threw petrol bombs at riot police and attacked the parliament building.

An event to mark five years since Beijing ruled out fully democratic elections was banned in China’s special administrative region.

On Friday, several key pro-democracy activists and lawmakers were arrested.

The protest movement grew out of rallies against a controversial extradition bill – now suspended – which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

China Begins Sweeping Arrests Against Democratic Activists

How many of them will be disappeared?

Several prominent Hong Kong democracy activists have been arrested in less than 24 hours amid a police crackdown.

Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow of the political party Demosisto were arrested on Friday for illegally organising a protest, before being released on bail.

Independence campaigner Andy Chan was arrested at the airport on Thursday while trying to fly to Japan.

They are among 900 people arrested since protests began in June.

Lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai of the localist Civic Passion party was also detained, his office said. It was unclear why he was held.

UK Government Asks Queen to Suspend Parliment

Brexit gonna Brexit.

The government has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament just days after MPs return to work in September – and only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Boris Johnson said a Queen’s Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

But it means the time MPs have to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October would be cut.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was a “constitutional outrage”.

The speaker, who does not traditionally comment on political announcements, continued: “However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of [suspending Parliament] now would be to stop [MPs] debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.”

It would be “an offence against the democratic process and the rights of Parliamentarians as the people’s elected representatives”, he added.

Macron Isolated at G7

He tried to pull a fast one and ended up standing alone.

But by Sunday afternoon, following Trump’s refusal to give Macron his backing over Iran, the French President was forced to dial back on his earlier remarks. “When I speak, I speak in the name of France but I also speak in light of yesterday’s conversation.”
Under pressure to be clear about whose support he had for his Iran initiatives, Macron seemed to indicate he was acting alone. “Initiatives will continue to be taken by each of us,” he said.
“The G7 is an informal club. There is no formal mandate.”

Hong Kong on the March

Amazing.

An estimated 1.7 million people in Hong Kong – a quarter of the population – defied police orders to stage a peaceful march after a rally in a downtown park, after two months of increasingly violent clashes that have prompted severe warnings from Beijing and failed to win concessions from the city’s government.

Huge crowds filled Victoria Park on Sunday afternoon and spilled on to nearby streets, forcing police to block traffic in the area. Torrential rain came down an hour into the rally, turning the park into a sea of umbrellas. At the same time, protesters walked towards Central, the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, and surrounded government headquarters.

Sudan’s Leaders Sign Agreement

This doesn’t look promising.

Sudan’s ruling military council and civilian opposition alliance have signed a landmark power-sharing deal.

The agreement ushers in a new governing council, including both civilians and generals, to pave the way towards elections and civilian rule.

Gen Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, widely regarded as Sudan’s most powerful man, has pledged to abide by its terms.

Sudan has seen pro-democracy protests and repression since long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April.

[…]

Under the deal, a sovereign council, consisting of six civilians and five generals, will run the country until elections.

The two sides have agreed to rotate the chairmanship of the council for just over three years. A prime minister nominated by civilians is due to be appointed next week.

So the civilian and martial war lords have agreed to create an oligarchy to run the country. I don’t think that’s what the democracy protesters had in mind.