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Sat, 22nd July 2017

Anirudh Sethi Report

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Archives of “Politics” Category

US Urges All Nationals In North Korea To “Depart Immediately”, Bans Tourists From Visiting

Dennis Rodman will be disappointed to learn that the US is set to ban all citizens from traveling to North Korea, according to two agencies that operate tours there. Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours said the ban would be announced on 27 July to come into effect 30 days later, the BBC reported. “After the 30-day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government.” The ban comes one month after US student Otto Warmbier died following his imprisonment by the Kim regime.

China-based Young Pioneer Tours, which had taken Warmbier to North Korea, and Koryo Tours said the ban will come into force on July 27 – the anniversary of the end of the Korean War – with a 30-day grace period. Koryo Tours added that the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular affairs for the United States in the North, informed it of the ban, but did not say how long it would last. The U.S. embassy in the South Korean capital, Seoul, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would “give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work”. Simon Cockerill, of Koryo Tours, said: “It remains to be seen what the exact text is, but the indication is it’s just a straight up ban on Americans going.” Mr Cockerill told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.

‘Unusual Activity’ Detected in North Korea May Indicate Submarine Missile Test

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides on the spot the underwater test-fire of strategic submarine ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 24, 2016US defense officials say that North Korea’s next missile test could happen under water, as Pyongyang appears to be gearing up for submarine-based launches in the near future.

Over the last 48 hours, a 65 meter-long North Korean submarine has exhibited “unusual deployment activity,” according to what two unnamed officials told CNN on Thursday. The vessel has sailed farther than it has before into international waters, travelling 62 miles to the Sea of Japan.

According to one of the officials, the submarine’s atypical behavior has caused South Korean and US forces to raise their alert levels slightly, as Washington keeps an eye on the vessel through reconnaissance.

This activity comes weeks after Pyongyang completed what Washington has deemed its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launch on the Fourth of July, with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un calling the launch a “gift package” for the US on the anniversary of its Independence Day. 

North Korean state media reported that future launches were likely, quoting Kim telling scientists that they should “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees.”

Kim also claimed that the Hwasong-14 missile tested most recently is capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, and some experts say that a missile from the North could have the capability to reach the US west coast in only a couple of years.   

US-China honeymoon clearly over as dialogue runs aground

 imageDespite recent shows of cooperation, Washington and Beijing seem to once again be drifting apart after failing to achieve much of substance on trade or North Korea at a bilateral meeting here Wednesday.

Not long after the so-called Comprehensive Economic Dialogue began, the U.S. Treasury Department called off a news conference planned for that day. The dearth of room for compromise was apparently clear from the start.

 “We will end the theft of American prosperity,” President Donald Trump said at a roundtable with American manufacturing executives. Half a year after taking office, he remains far from delivering on such key promises as replacing predecessor Barack Obama’s health care law, while Russia and other controversies have made Trump one of the least popular American presidents this far along in his term.

Hoping instead for headway on the trade deficit, the administration pushed China to reform its steel, information technology and financial sectors and to open up its markets. But Washington failed to draw out any concrete assurances Wednesday. The most that came from the dialogue was an American statement that “China acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit.”

Germany issues revised travel guidance for Turkey

German foreign ministry out with a statement 20 July

  • warns German citizens to be more careful
  • Turkey not always informing govt of arrests of German citizens in timely dashion
  • consular access not always guaranteed

“People who are travelling to Turkey for pvt or business reasons are urged to exercise increased caution, and should register with German consulates and the embassy even for shorter visits”

Foreign minister Gabriel takes it one stage further:

One can’t advise anyone to invest in a country when there is no legal certainty and where companies, completely respectable companies, are presented as terrorists and there are already examples of expropriation”

I therefore don’t see how we can still guarantee German company investments in Turkey, if as has happened, arbitrary expropriations for political reasons have not only been threatened but have already taken place.”

Lest we forget on-going concerns on matters closer to home in Europe as Turkish president Erdogan continues to cast his influence.

EURUSD unfazed for the moment with EURUSD holding 1.1500 and EURGBP climbing further to 0.8880 ahead of the ECB

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China’s dangerous taunt: Modi’s Hindu nationalism can trigger war

The Chinese media has ratcheted up its discourse against India, this time by taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and what it calls “Hindu nationalism”. An opinion published in China’s English language daily Global Times, titled “Hindu nationalism risks pushing India into war with China” also expressed the view that the border row “is an action targeted at China that caters to the demand of India’s religious nationalists.”

The election of PM Modi has “fueled the country’s nationalist sentiments”, said the article, published on Wednesday. His government, it added, “can do nothing if religious nationalism becomes extreme, as shown in its failure to curb violent incidents against Muslims since he came to power in 2014”.
 Pointing out that “New Delhi is demanded to act tougher in foreign relations” especially with nations like Pakistan and China, it said India’s strategists and politicians have shown “no wisdom in preventing India’s China policy from being kidnapped by rising nationalism”.

The Chinese media has been shrill about the stand-off at the border in Sikkim, which has been on for more than a month. Three days ago, another article in Global Times said China needs to prepare for the stand-off becoming a long-term situation and more such conflicts can trigger “an all-out confrontation” along the entire Line of Actual Control.

“Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Is Still Alive” Iraq, Kurds Claim

Less than a week after Reuters confirmed a previous report from the Russian foreign ministry, that Islamic State head Aby Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed during an airstrike in Syria, conflicting reports have emerged about Baghdadi’s death, with the Iraqi interior ministry first cited by Al-Arabiya that the terrorist group head is “likely still alive and hiding near Raqqa”, and subsequently a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official echoing the same, and telling Reuters that “he was 99 percent sure that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive and located south of the Syrian city of Raqqa, after reports that he had been killed.”

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“Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive,” Lahur Talabany told Reuters in an interview, adding “don’t forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing.”

 By now, however, it no longer matters whether the “leader” is alive or dead: after Iraqi security forces retook Mosul from ISIS control last week, and the group under growing pressure in Raqqa, ISIS is scattered and on the run. If anything, Baghdadi has become a liability to others and himself.

Recall that it was the Islamic State which originally reported Baghdadi’s death, perhaps as a means of easing the blow from the ongoing ISIS failure:

“Daesh organisation (IS) circulated a brief statement through its media in the (IS-held) town of Tal Afar in the west of Mosul, confirming the killing of its leader al-Baghdadi without giving further details,” Xinhua news agency cited Iraqi news agency al-Sumaria News as saying. “Daesh called on the (IS) militants to continue their steadfastness in the redoubts of the caliphate and not being dragged behind the sedition.”

Still, Talabany said the Islamic State was shifting tactics despite low morale and it would take three or four years to eliminate the group. After defeat, Islamic State would wage an insurgency and resemble al-Qaeda on “steroids”, he said. Which likely means more unrest in Europe.

As Reuters also adds, the future leaders of Islamic State were expected to be intelligence officers who served under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the men credited with devising the group’s strategy.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin which originally reported news of Baghdadi’s death now appears to be backing off, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the Kremlin has “no precise info on ISIL leader al-Baghdadi’s death”, adding that “conflicting reports on the matter keep coming.”

Trump Departs Macron With “Excruciating” 30 Second Handshake While Kissing French President’s Wife

When Donald Trump arrived in Paris for his first official visit to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Bastille Day celebrations, the media was fascinated whether their “sequel” handshake would be another white-knuckle affair of the “not too innocent” kind, as Macron described his famous first handshake with the US president. In retrospect, it was a bit of a letdown, perhaps because since then the two had several opportunities to work on their greetings and appeared both more at ease, although questions did emerge about Trump’s handshake with Brigitte Macron, which among other things, afforded Trump the opportunity to say the first lady was in “great shape.”

But if the introductory handshake was less than remarkable, nobody was ready for the most recent Trump-Macron poignee de mains, which the Independent described as a “strange, shifting, exruciating coming together that appeared to have a life of its own.”

Many who witnessed the handshake, as the men walked down the Champs-Élysées, said it looked bizarre, however it appeared anything but for the US President who was so at ease with his French host and the Bastille Day crowds, that the handshake lasted no less than 30 seconds.

 Twelve seconds into the handshake – with both men on the move at this point – Trump put one hand on Macron’s chest and, a few moments later, placed his left arm on the shoulder of Ms Macron, while still holding on her husband with his right. Then Trump briefly takes the French First lady with both hands, while Macron keeps holding onto Mr Trump’s right hand as well. Finally, with the timer on 28 seconds, Mr Trump grips Mr Macron’s hand once more, taps his fingers and finally lets him go. A full half-minute of presidential flesh-pressing has taken place.

Meanwhile, it was difficult to decipher what Melania Trump made of this manual ménage à trois: she stoically watched and smiled a full 30 seconds before her husband and the Macrons appeared to realize she was there. Then they finally held hands with her too. Ultimately, the event was deemed sufficiently dramatic for CNN to create a “second-by-second” analysis of the Trump-Macron handshake.

BREAKING : Daesh Confirms Death of Group Leader al-Baghdadi

This July 5, 2014 photo shows an image grab taken from a propaganda video released by al-Furqan Media allegedly showing the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul

According to the source, Daesh terrorists issued a brief statement in which they reported the death of their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as well as the name of the “new Caliph.”

On June 16, the Russian Defense Ministry said al-Baghdadi was likely eliminated as a result of a Russian Aerospace Forces strike on a militant command post in the southern suburb of the city of Raqqa in late May. It noted that it was in the process of confirming the information through various channels.

On June 23, US Operation Inherent Resolve Col. Ryan Dillon said that the US has no conclusive evidence to believe that Baghdadi was killed in Russian airstrikes. However, the US “certainly would welcome the death of al-Baghdadi, but we do not have any definitive proof to lead us believe that this is accurate,” he added.

On June 29, Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov told Sputnik that the information of the Russian side the probability of al-Baghdadi’s death is about 100 percent. The lawmaker noted that information received from different sources indicated that there was a power struggle within Daesh for its top position, which serves as signal that al-Baghdadi is dead.

Al-Baghdadi appeared in the media for the first time in 2014 when he declared the creation of a caliphate in the Middle East. Since then, the media have reported several times about the death of the Daesh leader, though the information has never been confirmed.

US-Russia Reportedly Ready For Cease-Fire In Syria

While the Trump-Putin meeting continues to stretch on way beyond its 30 minutes scheduled time, prompting media types to speculate endlessly, AP reports that sources are saying the United States and Russia are prepared to announce a cease-fire in Syria very soon…

As AP reports,  U.S. officials say the United States and Russia have reached an agreement for a cease-fire in southwest Syria.

 The cease-fire is set to take effect July 9 at noon Damascus time. Word of the cease-fire has emerged as President Donald Trump is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the cease-fire publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

 The deal marks a new level of involvement for the U.S. in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war.

 A separate deal to create “de-escalation zones” was brokered between Russia, Turkey and Iran, but not the U.S., but follow-up talks this week in Kazakhstan to finalize a cease-fire in those zones failed to reach a deal.

 The U.S. and Russia have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war.

This is a positive sign that there is some rapprochement between the two nations… but John McCain won’t like it.

And here’s CNN worrying about the length of the meeting..