14 October 2018   Leave a comment

US President Trump threatened Saudi Arabia with “severe punishment” if the allegations concerning the disappearance of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.  National Public Radio relates the Saudi response:

“‘The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action,’ Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency said Sunday, ominously noting that the country plays ‘an influential and vital role in the global economy.’

“Citing an ‘official source,’ the Saudi Press Agency added that Riyadh ‘affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it.’ Rather, if Saudis face ‘political pressures’ such as accusations or sanctions, ‘the outcome of these weak endeavors, like their predecessors, is a demise.'”

There is considerable confusion about the evidence which Turkey purports to have proving that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul.  That confusion most likely stems from the fact that Turkey does not wish to reveal how it has “bugged” the Saudi Embassy.  But several media outlets report that the evidence has been shared with the US.   The controversy has threatened a major conference sponsored by Saudi Arabia whose official title is the “Future Investment Initiative” but is often referred to as “Davos in the Desert” which is scheduled for 23-25 October.   Many participants have dropped out of the conference and pressure is being applied to many more, including US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, to cancel as a protest.   The US-Saudi relationship is murky given the private financial interests President Trump has with Saudi citizens which have yet to be fully disclosed.

One of the most important parties in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition is the Christian Social Union (CSU) which has ruled in the southern German state of Bavaria for many years.  For the first time since the 1950s, the CSU appears to have lost its majority in the Bavarian Parliament.  The CSU lost support on the issue of migration, and the pro-immigration party, the Greens, gained significant support.  But the right-wing party, Alternative for Germany, earned 11% of the vote and will therefore have seats in the Bavarian Parliament.  The loss raises serious questions about Merkel’s already fragile coalition, and an increasingly polarized German electorate with gains on both the right and the left.  A weaker German government is not good news for the beleaguered European Union. 

The US and the Taliban have been meeting face-to-face for several years in Qatar to discuss a possible end to the conflict in Afghanistan.  The meetings have not yielded substantive results, but there are reports that the two sides are discussing a possible pull-out of the roughly 14,000 US troops in the country.   The talks are only preliminary and it is difficult to see how they will move forward, but the mere fact that the topic is being entertained as a topic is a new position for the US.  The Taliban controls more territory than it did at the time of the US invasion in 2001, but it cannot control any of the major cities for any period of time.  But the people of Afghanistan have made it clear that they want the fighting to end

Posted October 14, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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