“Saudi Arabia admitted using UK cluster bombs, Fallon to tell MPs” The Guardian, 19/12/16

Article Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/19/michael-fallon-commons-statement-yemen-uk-cluster-bombs-saudis

Our Summary:  This Guardian report states UK Defense secretary will be telling the UK parliament about the use of UK made cluster bombs by Saudi Arabia in Yemen against Houthi rebels. The Defence secretary makes the statement after a Amnesty International study found the use of cluster bombs 6 months ago. The UK is a signatory to the convention that bars the use and assistance to use Cluster Munitions. This is a “major embarrassment”, UK and Saudi may be in breach of International humanitarian law.

The UK line of defense in this matter is that the munitions were used against specific targets near the border. Saudi is not a signatory to the international treaty on cluster munitions. The issue highlights UK military involvement in the air campaign in Yemen and if they knew the cluster bombs were being used. The UK MoD has stressed their role as “guidance” and not operational decisions to assist the Saudi military. The last known export of cluster bombs to Saudi was made in the late 1980s. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the banning of the sale of military hardware to Saudi Arabia.

Over the years UK has been selling “billions and billions pounds” worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. It is inevitable that some of these weapons would find their way into this war in Yemen, in the form of cluster bombs. Thousands have already been killed in this war on Houthi rebels, with the “Saudi coalition’s reckless and indiscriminate bombing of homes, hospitals, schools and factories”. Amnesty International UK director states that it doesn’t require a full scale investigation to decide that all weapons exports to Saudi Arabia should be stopped.

Our Verdict: The weapons industry and sales will be a grey area in international business, in most cases in our opinion. The use of cluster bombs by governments is not new, see also Israel and Syria. The question is not if they should be used or not, that is clear to those that have signed the international treaty on cluster munitions. The issue is how much blame should be laid upon those manufacturing and exporting such weapons? Without supplies of such weapons governments could not use them, cluster bombs by their very nature are designed to kill indiscriminately with maximum effect. The actual role of the UK government in the Saudi campaign over Yemen will be clear only after a thorough investigation, which may or may not occur.

Key Word: Billions

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“US hacking claims: Obama told Putin to ‘cut it out'” BBC News, 17/12/16

Article Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38349989

Our Summary: This BBC report claims US president warned Russian president Putin to “Cut it out” in a phone call before the US presidential election. Mr Putin was warned of “serious consequences” in September. In October the US accused Russia of interfering in the US elections. Mr Obama has promised a “proportional response” to the hacking of presidential candidate Hilary Clinton’s emails, suggesting a counter cyber offensive. He also mentioned that some republicans were taking the Russian involvement lightly. Also urging incoming president Mr Trump to launch an investigation into the matter.

Earlier Mr Trump downplayed allegations that he was assisted in winning the election, calling them “ridiculous and politically motivated”. On 16th December, the CIA director stated that the FBI agrees with the claim that “Russia’s goal was to help Mr Trump win”. Meanwhile Russia has dismissed the claims as “indecent”. A Mr Putin spokesman spoke to ask the US to bring evidence of wrongdoing or “stop talking”.

Mrs Clinton claimed to party donors that the hacking attack was a personal indifference with the Russian president due to her comments about the Russian elections 5 years ago, when she claimed they were rigged. The FBI director started an inquiry into the hacked emails 11 days before the vote and were dropped 2 days before voting day. During Mrs Clinton’s first comments since the saga began, she spoke about how this case was “about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation.”

The hacked emails included some 19000 from the Democratic National Committee and those of the Clinton campaign chief, John Podesta.

Our Verdict: This on-going issue of the hacked emails doesn’t seem to be waning. The evidence suggests that Mr Trump may have been helped by Russia, which is not difficult to believe especially when considering his unusually warm relationship with Mr Putin. The question here is, if there will be an investigation in the hacking and where that is likely to lead? President Obama has called Mr Trump to initiate the investigation, this is very unlikely considering the claims are putting his election win into question. Regardless of the outcome of an investigation if any, the revelations of the emails do not change. They were an unfair tool, helping the public make a decision, handicapping the democrat candidate against Mr Trump and strengthening him at a key moment in the campaign. The war of words from Mr Obama will not last, it will be interesting to see how the Trump-Putin relationship progresses going forward.

Key Word: Proportional

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“Evacuation of east Aleppo under way during ceasefire” Al Jazeera News, 15/12/16

Article Link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/east-aleppo-civilians-trapped-uncertain-ceasefire-161215034620364.html

Our Summary: This report claims 950 civilians have been evacuated from Eastern Aleppo. The evacuation is taking place through ambulances and buses under a “fragile exit deal” brokered by Russia. A slow speed convoy moved from East Aleppo to West Aleppo crossing government controlled areas. However reports from Syrian Civil Defense claimed Assad-loyal militias opened fire on the convoy killing one and injuring 4.

The WHO reports “total of 21 buses and 19 ambulanes had left east Aleppo” on the way to rural parts of Western Aleppo. The ceasefire started on Thursday and is expected to last three days in a an aim to evacuate as many “civilians and fighters” as possible despite the firing on the convoy vehicles. Fighting ceased Thursday morning with civilians reaching the departure points for the buses. Civilians have been given the choice of staying or leaving, with most choosing to leave fearing massacres by government forces.

The report continues by citing that according to the ceasefire agreement rebels would be transferred to Idlib City. Turkey said to meet Iran and Russia on 27th December in Moscow. Turkey has said those leaving East Aleppo will be taken to Idlib province a Rebel Alliance stronghold. A UN commission inquiry received reports that some rebels were stopping civilians leaving the city “using them as human shields”. Aleppo has been split between Rebel held East and government held West since 2012. A Syrian analyst at Doha institute believes the Syrian government will now focus its efforts on Damascus since the capture of Aleppo. Since the start of the war, Aleppo has seen heavy fighting which has seen much of the city destroyed, with the need for “rehabilitation of whole systems of infrastructure”.

Our Verdict: The report breathes a sigh of relief after the latest atrocity committed in the Syrian war. The ceasefire brokered by Russia has meant civilians and those injured have potentially three days to evacuate the city. However the opening of fire on the buses used for evacuation of civilians shows the fragility of the ceasefire. The interesting point is that remaining rebel fighters will be transferred to Idlib (65km from Aleppo) according to the ceasefire agreement. This we believe is a move to protect Assad forces from reprisal attacks from rebels but also to contain the rebels in one area, maybe for a future campaign. The rebuilding of the city and the country, its infrastructure and economy will attract those that are stakeholders in this war.

Key Word: Stakeholder

 

“South China Sea: Satellite photos ‘show weapons’ built on islands” BBC News, 14/12/16

Article Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38319253

Our Summary: The BBC report begins with a satellite photo showing potential military structures on the South China Sea islands. China has previously said it does not intend to militarise the region. Satellite photos by a US group show anti aircraft guns and missile defence systems on several islands. The AMTI (Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative) has been monitoring the “construction of hexagon shaped buildings” on the Spratly Islands for many months and is confident all buildings “house military defences”.

The group claims some building can be seen with “gun barrels” showing and others maybe Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS), usually used to shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft. Some structures are hidden in the ground making them less exposed to air strikes. The AMTI suggest these weapons systems indicate China is “serious about defense of its artificial islands” and that these systems would a “last line of defense” in possible attacks from countries such as the US and others. There has been no comment from China about this issue. Previously China has claimed the islands are part of its sovereignty and therefore giving it a right to defend them. In October the US has sent warships into the region to “demonstrate the lawful use of the sea”, the islands sit around important shipping lanes, prompting China to comment the US move as “intentionally provocative”.

China has claimed most of the South China Sea including “reefs and islands” with building of artificial islands, dismaying others in the region. Those also contesting ownership of the region include “Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei”. In July, a case won by the Philippines at the International Tribunal for rights in the South China Sea against China, has been ignored. China claimed the case was “Ill-founded” and was not binding.

Our Verdict: This BBC News report highlights the ever escalating dispute between China and its neighbours. The continuing claims by China over the South China Sea with now military hardware presence on the Islands, shows how far China is willing to go to lay claim on the region. On the other hand the US warship exercise in October indicates it wont allow China to take an easy ride into the region. The installation of military hardware on the islands highlights China’s anticipation of possible military action on the islands by external forces, notably the US. This adds to our recent analysis on “China warns Trump against ignoring its Taiwan interests” Reuters, 13/12/16 of the changing China-US relationship. China’s ignoring of the International Tribunal verdict involving its claim to islands and the counter-claim by the Philippines, shows how China may not go away from the region without a fight.

Key Word: Anticipation

 

“Civilians killed on spot as battle for Aleppo nears end” Al Jazeera, 13/12/16

Article Link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/civilians-killed-spot-battle-aleppo-nears-161213133240891.html

Our Summary: The news article covers the atrocity taking place in Aleppo by Assad’s forces at present. Civilians have been executed “in scores” as the battle for Aleppo nears its end. According to reports Assad’s forces have entered homes and killed those inside. Included in those 82 killed are 13 children and 11 women. Thousands of civilians are still trapped in the former rebel stronghold of eastern Aleppo. Fighting started weeks ago and Assad forces are closing in onto full control of the city.

This will be the biggest setback since the start of the Syrian war 5 years ago. About 80,000 civilians remained trapped in eastern Aleppo. Nearly 100 children have been reportedly trapped in a building under fire, according to an unnamed doctor. The report continues with witness describing the carnage on the streets with dead bodies lying around and nowhere to shelter. The UN special adviser for Syria described the past 24 hours most “horrific” in the battle for Aleppo. Those reporting from within eastern Aleppo describe there are civilians trapped beneath rubble but civilian defence cannot do any thing to help. Some on social media have shown dissent to inaction of the UN and the international community.

The UN Human Rights Chief on Tuesday said “What is happening with Aleppo could repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idlib. We cannot let this continue.”. The governments assault has been backed by artillery fire and air strikes, 463 have been killed since Mid-November. Weekend talks between US and Russia to arrange a ceasefire for evacuation of civilians failed. Turkey who also supports opposition forces in Syria said on Tuesday it aims to intensify ceasefire talks with Russia. The UN estimates nearly 400,000 civilians have been killed since the Syrian began in 2011.

Our Verdict: This report highlights the latest atrocity of this 5 year old war. Assad and his forces seem to have been reignited by the fuel provided by Russian backing, killing mercilessly Syrian civilians. The taking back of Aleppo may be a symbolic victory for the Assad regime, however we question the Syrian regimes defiance after 400,000 civilians have been killed and cities have been turned to rubble. What will Assad rule over if he wins this war?  Nations turning to Russia for ceasefire talks show the ever increasing influence of Russia in this conflict and its central role in peace and stability in the region. The breaking down of ceasefire talks between the US and Russia also show the tacit approval  and support Assad has received for this offensive. So is Russia implicit in the killing of Syrian civilians?

Key Word: Atrocity

“China warns Trump against ignoring its Taiwan interests” Reuters, 13/12/16

Article Link: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-trump-china-idUKKBN1410LR

Our Summary: This articles begins with a video highlighting the key facts of this issue with China’s concerns with Donald Trump’s “One China” comments. These comments highlight the changing relationship being initiated by Trump to strengthen ties with Taiwan rather than China and as the video states puts into “question nearly 4 decades of US policy”. The phone call from Taiwan was the first since Jimmy Carter had nearly 40 years ago. China warns any damaging of the “One China” concept would adversely affect the improving US-China relationship.

Following on the article explains how China has expressed concerns regarding the US president elects comments about Taiwan not necessarily being part of “One China”. The protest from China occurred after Donald Trump accepted a phone call from the Taiwanese president. China say the Taiwan issue “concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that China is keeping a close eye on developments surrounding the issue.

However despite this China has reached out through a senior Chinese diplomat who urged the incoming US administration to “avoid the broader picture of China-US ties seriously being interfered with or damaged”. The Chinese diplomat discussed how the China-US relationship was not only important for the people of both countries but also for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. Whilst Trump considers who will be the new US ambassador to China, someone friendly with Beijing or a Bush era official who “urged a tougher line” with China. This same official urged the new US president to take a position to halt China military extension into Southern and Eastern China seas. He also mentioned ties could be improved gradually by initially inviting Taiwanese diplomat on visits to the White House.

Our Verdict: This Reuters article signifies the challenges facing the world with its relationship with a “rejuvenated” US lead by Donald Trump who wants to make “America great again”. His boldness here with an issue sensitive to the Chinese government further exemplifies, that Trump’s rhetoric during the Presidential campaign may have credence. In most circumstances this would be good, when those leaders vowing to their nations and making promises, to follow these promises to action. However in this case and others involving Donald Trump his bold moves threaten the relative peace and good relations between nations. China has tried here to use diplomacy to try deter the new US administration from meddling with the Taiwan-China affair. The true indication of the incoming Trump administration’s stance regarding future relations with China, would be the choice Donald Trump makes for the US Ambassador to China. Will he choose the Chinese friendly Iowa governor or the Tough-on-China former Bush administration official?

 Key Word: Interference

“Oil Surges as Saudis Eye Deeper Cuts While Non-OPEC Joins Deal” Bloomberg, 12/12/16

Article Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-11/oil-surges-as-saudis-eye-deeper-cuts-while-non-opec-joins-deal

Our Summary: This important news report by Bloomberg begins with the rallying of the oil price, the most since July 2015 due to announced cuts in oil production by Saudi. Oil futures rose on US and UK markets. Saudi Energy Minister announced that the oil cuts would “substantially to be below” previously agreed on November 30th. A deal with non-OPEC producers to collaborate in reducing output will result in reduction by 558,000 a day next year, a first in 15 years.

Oil futures in US have risen 20% since OPEC announced reduced output on 30th November. The report continues by mentioning how Saudi the largest OPEC producer is taking back control of the market. The plan covers 60% of supplies but excludes “US, China, Canada and Brazil.” On the US market WTI oil rose $3.01 to $54.51 and $3.56 to $57.89 for Brent on UK markets.

This action on the Oil market is likely “to push market into deficit”. Oil and gas producers gained in Asia. The report also reveals that the Saudi Energy Minister and his Russian counterpart had been working on the agreement for a year in secret. The report highlights how Russia and Saudi are need of higher oil prices to bolster their economies that driven by energy exports. US shale producers have jumped to the opportunity with an dramatic increase in oil rigs. The aim of such move by Saudi is to recalibrate oil inventory rather raise prices and initiate a “sharp production response”.

Our Verdict: This latest move by Saudi reiterates the growing influence it is having on world politics and the global economy. Especially when considering the collaboration with Russia and the shifting relationship with the US, a longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia, its clear to see the moving patterns in global politics. The growing calls of western nations in implicating Saudi in “proxy wars” in the Middle-east, referring to leaked Clinton emails and comments last week by UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson; Further signifies this as a possible counter-move by the Saudi government to show discontent and political independence from western nations. The cut in oil production may harm the US the least due to impetus provided by shale producers drilling again. However its possible effect on the already slowing global economy will be more significant.

Key Word: Collaboration