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Foreign Policy Issues
A Chronology of News Coverage

February 26, 2019: Wall Street Journal: Cuba reliance on Venezuela’s cheap oil
The potential collapse of President Nicolás Maduro’s regime poses a threat to Cuba, which relies on Caracas for about 28% of the island’s oil needs.  Venezuela’s opposition says the government’s longstanding oil-barter agreement with Cuba is irrational.    If Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by the U.S. and about 50 other countries as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, wrests control of the country from Mr. Maduro, his government is expected to quickly halt oil shipments. The result would be power outages, fuel shortages and government spending cuts that would cause the Cuban economy to shrink by as much as 10%, according to Omar Everleny Perez, an independent Cuban economist in Havana.

February 26: Breitbart News: Key Dems support Trump talks with Kim Jong-un
A group of key Democrats in the House of Representatives have come forward to publicly back President Donald Trump ahead of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam. Led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a top voice in the Democrat Party pushing for an end to endless wars around the globe, a group of 18 Democrats have signed onto a resolution in the House that would formally end the Korean War in its 68th year. Technically, the war never ended–and U.S. troops have remained deployed along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea–since open conflict stopped decades ago.

February 26: Associated Press: Attacked and powerless, Venezuela soldiers choose desertion
A restive village on the Columbian border with Venezuela has become a refuge for the newly homeless: 40 Venezuelan soldiers who abandoned their posts and ran for their lives. A high-stakes plan by the Venezuelan opposition to bring humanitarian aid into the country floundered Saturday when troops loyal to Maduro refused to let the trucks carrying food and medical supplies cross, but it did set off a wave of military defections unlike any seen yet amid the country’s mounting crisis. Over 320 mostly low-ranking soldiers fled in a span of four days, Colombian immigration officials said Tuesday.

February 25: Yahoo News:  Venezuela’s Guaido meets with Pence
Vice President Mike Pence told Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido that Donald Trump supports him "100 percent" as the pair met regional allies on Monday to thrash out a strategy to remove Nicolas Maduro from power after the failed attempt to ship in humanitarian aid. The meeting comes after four people were killed and hundreds injured as Guaido supporters clashed with Venezuelan security forces on the borders with Colombia and Brazil over the weekend.

February 25: The Hill:
Hezbollah’s tunnels threaten Israel
For weeks, Israeli and Lebanese soldiers have eyed each other uneasily at close range while Israeli engineers neutralize cross-border infiltration tunnels. These sophisticated tunnels, clearly intended to attack civilians, embody Hezbollah’s ongoing efforts to threaten substantial harm to Israel. They are also a reminder of that border’s fragile calm, and the potential for major destruction and suffering that would befall both Israeli and Lebanese civilians in another conflict on Israel’s northern front.

February 24: SFGate.com: Debate on Venezuela shakes up Florida politics
The crisis in Venezuela is sending tremors through the political landscape of Florida, emboldening Republicans and throwing Democrats on the defensive in the nation's largest swing state.  Florida Republicans hope the outspoken push by President Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will help the GOP strengthen its bonds with the state's Hispanic voters, paying dividends in the 2020 election and beyond. Opposition to the socialist regime in Caracas, which is closely aligned with communist Cuba, has been a shared cause of the state's large and traditionally pro-Republican Cuban-American and Venezuelan immigrant communities.

February 20: Yahoo NewsRubio:  Soldiers have started to disobey orders
Venezuelan troops have begun disobeying orders from Nicolas Maduro’s top officers and are unlikely to heed calls to crack down on a humanitarian-aid caravan scheduled to enter the country this weekend, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said.  “Saturday’s a day when we’re going to find a lot about the Maduro regime,” Rubio, who’s been helping set U.S. policy toward Venezuela, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “I have reason to believe that rank-and-file military are not going to violently suppress aid workers.”

February 19: Reuters: Venezuela on the Brink
Venezuelan troops will remain stationed along the country's borders to prevent territorial violations, the defense minister said on Tuesday, ahead of the opposition's plan to bring in humanitarian aid to alleviate an economic crisis.  President Nicolas Maduro has rejected offers of foreign food and medicine, denying there are widespread shortages and accusing opposition leader Juan Guaido of using aid to undermine his government in a U.S.-orchestrated bid to oust him.

February 17: Yahoo News: Venezuelans send out SOS from Colombian border
Desperate doctors and nurses are protesting at Venezuela's border with Colombia, demanding that President Nicolas Maduro allows in humanitarian aid that remains tantalisingly out of reach.  "Right now it's a critical situation, it's terrible because we have nothing: no gloves, no dressings, no medicines," Francis Duran, a 34-year-old nurse at the San Antonio hospital in the border town of Urena, told AFP.

February 10: Bloomberg News:  As Maduro digs in aides looking for alternatives
Nicolas Maduro is under pressure at home and abroad, and being encouraged by the U.S. to go to “a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela.”  The question is where would -- or could -- he go? The Venezuelan leader has held on for years in the face of protests, a collapsed economy and international sanctions, via a tight grip on the military and by cracking down on the opposition.  But the stress has never been greater. The financial noose is tightening globally, many neighbors and western nations are calling on him to hold elections or step aside, and the opposition has galvanized under Juan Guaido into a more cohesive force.

February 6: Bloomberg News: Venezuela’s rank-and-file soldiers deserting in droves
Even before the U.S.-backed leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly called on the military to abandon President Nicolas Maduro, the government was trying to stop a surge of desertions and ordered border guards to stop soldiers trying to leave the country without permission. Two documents illustrate the erosion of the armed forces. One lists about 4,300 national-guard officers who deserted since 2014.  The second, dated Nov. 13, orders personnel at entry and exit points to prevent members of the military and retirees on reserve duty from going abroad without specific authorization.

February 1: Associated Press:  US pulls out of Cold War nuclear deal with Russia
The United States announced Friday that it is pulling out of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, arguing that it should not be constrained by a deal Moscow is violating with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Trump repeated a years-long U.S. accusation that Russia secretly developed and deployed “a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.” He said the U.S. had adhered to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty since it was signed in 1987, but Russia had not.

January 31: Bloomberg: Political prisoner is calling the shots in Venezuela
In two weeks, Juan Guaido has become the international symbol of Venezuelan revolt, projecting the image of a steely and unflappable operator. But his out-of-nowhere rise is due in large part to his mentor, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who from his living room has unified and orchestrated the movement despite a house arrest that bars him from politics. Intelligence police monitor Lopez’s home around the clock, a tracking device is attached to his ankle and he’s prohibited from talking to reporters. Allies and members of his inner circle say the 47-year-old former presidential candidate nonetheless holds planning meetings and directs activists.

January 29: Bloomberg News: Venezuela: Socialist Government sends
masked special police to attack/kill demonstrators
Since protests against Maduro began last week, the socialist regime has regularly sent the police’s elite Special Action Force racing into Caracas slums on personnel carriers and motorcycles. Its masked members, all in black, attack demonstrators with weapons including tear gas, guns and even grenades. They settle long-standing scores and rob residents’ homes, eyewitnesses say. At least 35 people have died amid the demonstrations, adding to scores of deaths in two years of unrest.

January 29: Reuters: Two bombs explode in Iran; police officers wounded
Two bombs exploded on Tuesday in front of a police station in the city of Zahedan in southeastern Iran, local officials told state media, causing minor injuries to three police officers.  Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni militant group, claimed responsibility for the explosions. The group said it had targeted a police station with “two strong bombs”, damaging a police car and motorcycle.

January 26: Yahoo News US calls to “stand for freedom” re: Venezuela
The U.S. pressed all nations to "stand with the forces of freedom" in Venezuela, encouraged by a tougher European line as Russia stood in the minority in backing embattled leader Nicolas Maduro.  State Mike Pompeo made a forceful case at a special session of the UN Security Council.  He said, "Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem."  Pompeo also urged all countries to end financial transactions with Maduro's government, which has struggled to pay bills despite the country's oil wealth.  He denounced Russia and China, which have stood by Maduro, saying that they were "propping up a failed regime in the hopes of recovering billions of dollars in ill-considered investments and assistance made over the years."

January 26: Reuters: Hezbollah could enter Israel for years via tunnels from Lebanon
Iran-backed Hezbollah has "for years" been able to enter Israel, the Lebanese group's leader said on Saturday, responding for the first time to Israel's discovery of tunnels dug into Israeli territory from Lebanon.  Israel's unveiling of what it called Hezbollah "attack tunnels" last month, and Lebanon's accusation that an Israeli border barrier crosses into its territory, have increased tensions.  Israel regards Iran as its biggest foe and Hezbollah as the main threat on its borders. It has waged an increasingly open campaign of military strikes against them both in Syria, where they are fighting on the government side in the civil war.

January 25: Associated Press:
  Anti-Maduro coalition came from secret talks
The coalition of Latin American governments that joined the U.S. in quickly recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president came together over weeks of secret diplomacy that included whispered messages to activists under constant surveillance and a high-risk foreign trip by the opposition leader challenging President Nicolas Maduro for power, those involved in the talks said.  In mid-December, Guaido quietly traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to brief officials on the opposition’s strategy of mass demonstrations to coincide with Maduro’s expected swearing-in for a second term on Jan. 10 in the face of widespread international condemnation, according to exiled former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an ally.

January 24: South China Sea Post:  U.S. warships sail through the Taiwan Straits,
turning up pressure on Beijing
Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and Taiwan said multiple Chinese military jets flew near the southern tip of the self-ruled island to the West Pacific on the same day for a naval training exercise.  US guided missile destroyer McCampbell and the USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted “a routine” Taiwan Strait transit “in accordance with international law”, a US Pacific Fleet spokesman said.   “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific…  and The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

January 23: Bloomberg News: 
Venezuela President squeezed as Trump recognizes Guaido as President:
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is under unprecedented pressure after the U.S. and other nations recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful head of state and protests against the ruling regime expanded.  Trump formally recognized Guaido minutes after the 35-year-old president of the Venezuela National Assembly declared himself the head of state. Countries including Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Panama quickly followed the U.S. lead.

January 21: Associated Press: Signs of fraying in military support for Venezuela president
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro launches his second term challenged by a re-energized opposition movement.  Experts say his hold on power relies more than ever on military backing.  He has granted bonuses to rank-and-file soldiers and placed generals in key government posts, but with Venezuela sliding into economic collapse, there have been signs in recent years of fraying in military support. On Monday, authorities reported detaining a small group of National Guard soldiers who stormed a police station in the capital of Caracas before dawn. The soldiers captured a captain and used two vehicles to steal a cache of weapons from another outpost, officials said.

January 20: Beyond Parallel
Undeclared North Korean missile sites
Though the subject of speculation by open-source researchers for years, new research undertaken by Beyond Parallel has located 13 of an estimated 20 North Korean missile operating bases that are undeclared by the government.  Indications are that these missile operating bases  can be used for all classes of ballistic missile from short to long range ballistic missiles.  Presumably these would have to be subject to declaration, verification, and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal between the U.S. and North Korea.  Apparently these bases are not launch sites but bases where missiles could be dispersed to camouflaged pre-prepared launch sites throughout the country.

January 20: CNBC:
Chinese economy growth lowest pace in 28 years
China on Monday announced that its official economic growth came in at 6.6 percent in 2018 — the slowest pace since 1990.  That announcement was highly anticipated by many around the world amid Beijing's ongoing trade dispute with the United States its largest trading partner.

January 17: The Wall Street Journal:  US considers  lifting tariffs on China
U.S. officials are debating ratcheting back tariffs on Chinese imports as a way to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions in a trade battle  that has rattled global economies.  The idea of lifting some or all tariffs was proposed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a series of strategy meetings, according to people close to internal deliberations. They say the aim is to advance trade talks and win China’s support for longer-term reforms.  But Mr. Mnuchin faces resistance from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is concerned that any concession could be seen as a sign of weakness, these people said.

January 7: The UK Sun: China scrambles ships and aircraft as US destroyer sails through the South China Sea:
The South China Sea has become a flashpoint that experts have warned could spark a conflict.  hina lays claim to vast swathes of ocean and many islands - but some parts are also claimed by the likes of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.  America's military presence and exercises in the area are a direct challenge to China's claim, which Beijing has used to justify setting up military bases and even runways on the disputed islands.

January 6: Reuters
Iran and Russia scheduled to conduct joint military exercises
Iran and Russia are preparing to hold joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea, including rescue and anti-piracy drills, the commander of the Iranian navy was quoted on Sunday as saying.   “Tactical, rescue and anti-piracy war games between Iranian and Russian naval forces are being planned and will be implemented in the near future,” the semi-official news agency Mehr quoted Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi as saying. Iran and Russia have held several naval drills in the Caspian Sea, including in 2015 and 2017. Iran and Russia have close ties, including in Syria where they both back President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.

January 4: Fox News:  China should think twice before threatening to attack Americans
China is betraying a level of strategic anxiety not yet seen as the impact of trade tariffs looms and its return to its historical power role in the Asia seems to have stalled.  China’s leaders assumed after the 2008 global financial crisis that the Communist, centrally controlled economic state’s time had come giving it an opportunity to regain its historic role in the region.  But Xi and his followers have watched their diplomatic, economic and military initiatives come up short rather than causing other nations in the region to realign with China  as they had expected.  Now the Trump administration’s trade tariffs threaten to destabilize the Chinese economy, resulting in a cascade failure of Xi Jinping’s broader strategy and threatening to undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party

January 3: Bloomberg:
Venezuela has lessons for U.S. socialists
It’s hard to overstate how disastrous the reign of Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro has been for Venezuela.  Reports depict the hellish, never-ending struggle for survival in Caracas, the country’s capital. Hungry children roam the streets, people fleeing the country, nonexistent healthcare, endemic violence and even water is scarce. Chavez’s peaceful revolution transformed a peaceful country into  a nightmare that puts the ruinous Soviet Union of the 1980s to shame.

It’s important for other countries not to ignore Venezuela’s example, but to use it as a cautionary tale. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-NH) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have embraced socialism, as have many young Americans. But before going the way of Venezuela they should consider the end result. 

November 4, 2018: The Daily Caller: Cruz and Rubio praise Trump for Iran sanctions urge even more:
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised President Trump Friday for issuing a second round of sanctions against Iran, but they urged the White House to impose "maximum pressure" by going even further. The White House announced earlier that all of the sanctions lifted under the Obama administration would be reimposed, targeting industries critical to the Iranian economy.

Trump has been promulgating a hard-lined message of non-compromise by elevating tension on Iran, but the administration's newly declared sanctions seemingly fail to reach the desired level of a zero-tolerance policy, many Republicans. Eight countries will be given waivers for the energy-related sanctions and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) will also not immediately be sanctioned. SWIFT is a standardized messaging network between financial institutions that enables banks to securely transmit information. Iran would be unable to receive payments for its oil if its banks are not part of SWIFT. Cruz and Rubio took issue with both the waivers and SWIFT's exemption.

November 1, 2018: Bloomberg:  Saudi Prince starts to pay the price for Khashoggi’s murder:
The fallout from the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi is mounting for the Saudi kingdom’s young leader abroad.  Some of the investors who courted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stayed away from his economic gathering in Riyadh last week, the U.S. is now signaling its position on the man is shifting.

One Arab diplomat said the Crown Prince is beginning to look “dangerous” for western leaders.  Even his supporters say privately there will now have to be a period of change as Saudi Arabia tries to rebuild the confidence of allies burned by the kind of unpredictability that had been alien to its foreign policy. And, as one senior Arab official put it, the only pressure that counts is American pressure.

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May 5, 2017: The Daily Caller: Russia moves to bar US military from skies over Syria:
The Russian government is attempting to bar the U.S. from most of Syria’s airspace in its latest effort to implement a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war, a senior diplomat told reporters attending the ceasefire conference Friday in Kazakhstan. Russia’s special envoy to Syria Aleksandr Lavrentiev said the U.S. led international coalition against ISIS would only be allowed to strike ISIS’s capital along with “some populated areas in the area of the Euphrates, Deir al-Zour and further on the Iraqi territory.” He emphatically declared, “The work of aviation, especially the forces of the international coalition, is absolutely not envisaged. With notification or without notification, this issue is now closed.”

May 4: Fox News:
House Passes North Korean Sanctions Bill
The House overwhelmingly voted Thursday to impose new sanctions on North Korea amid heightened tensions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  The vote, 419-1, targets North Korea’s shipping industry and use of slave labor.   It also requires that the Trump administration report to Congress within 90 days on whether North Korea should be reinstated on the government’s state sponsors of terror list. Such a designation would trigger more sanctions, including restriction on U.S. foreign assistance.  Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the top American military officer in the Pacific, has warned lawmakers that it's a question of when, not if, Pyongyang successfully builds a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S.

May 1: Yahoo News: North Koreans warn of nuclear test at any time
North Korea warned Monday that it will carry out a nuclear test "at any time and at any location" set by its leadership, in the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters in the region.  Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high for weeks, with signs that the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a sixth nuclear test -- and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.

April 26: The Daily Mail: North Korea prepares for War!
Kim Jong-Un's army readied for war as they fired rockets and torpedoes at mock enemy warships during North Korea's 'largest ever' live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday.  Hundreds of tanks were lined up along the eastern coastal town of Wonsan in a show of military strength to celebrate 85 years since the North Korean army was created.  The exercises on Tuesday involved the firing of more than 300 large-calibre artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks.  Just one day later, South Korea conducted joint military live-fire drills with the US at Seungjin fire training field in Pocheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea.

April 19: Fox News
Secretary Tillerson: Iran nuclear deal failed approach – Vows comprehensive review

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ratcheted up criticism Wednesday of the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, publicly confirming the Trump administration is conducting a “comprehensive review” and declaring they have “no intention of passing the buck.”  In some of his toughest language yet, Tillerson said at a brief press conference that the Iran deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” and only delays it becoming a nuclear state.  He faulted the agreement for “buying off” a foreign power with nuclear ambitions, saying: “We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.”

April 15: BBC News:
North Korean missile launch fails says South Korea
North Korea has attempted to launch a missile on its east coast which is believed to have failed, South Korea's military says.  It comes a day after the state warned the US that it was "ready to hit back with nuclear attacks" amid mounting tension in the region.  On Saturday, a military parade was held in Pyongyang as a show of force.  North Korea has already conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches.

April 13: NBC News:
U.S. could launch preemptive strike on North Korea if they conduct nuclear test
The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.   North Korea has warned that a "big event" is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.   The intelligence officials told NBC News that the U.S. has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site.

April 8: The Independent Journal:
Ex-Obama official: Trumps attack on Syria an indictment of Obama’s policies

“Our administration never would have gotten this done in 48 hours,” one former senior Obama official said. “It’s a complete indictment of Obama.”  There was apparently a faction within Obama’s inner circle who believed allowing Syria to cross his “red line” without consequences or any military action was a serious foreign policy mistake. It now seems apparent that Obama was pushing back against some of his own advisers.

“I feel like finally we have done the right thing,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as Obama’s first-term chief of policy planning at the State Department and long publicly urged a more forceful response to Assad’s horrific attacks on civilians during the six years of war that have wracked Syria, told me. “The years of hypocrisy just hurt us all. It undermined the U.S., it undermined the world order.”

April 3: Yahoo.com: U.S. withdraws from U.N. fund
The State Department said on Monday it was ending U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the international body's agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries.  In a letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, the State Department said it was dropping the funding because the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."  The cut marks U.S. President Donald Trump's first move to curtail funding for the United Nations and is likely to raise further questions about how deep those cuts will eventually go throughout the organization, where the United States is the top donor.

March 17: The Daily Caller: 
Tillerson to North Korea: Military Action is on the Table!
Rex Tillerson told reporters in Seoul, South Korea Friday that a military response is “on the table” if North Korea takes military action threatening South Korean or U.S. forces.  “Certainly, we do not want things to get to a military conflict,” the secretary of state said in response to a question from CNN. “Obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that would be met with an appropriate response.”

February 15: Yahoo News
Trump Promises Israel that Iran will never get the bomb

President Donald Trump hailed the United States' "unbreakable" bond with Israel on Wednesday and promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran would never be permitted to build a nuclear weapon.  Trump's vow was designed to address Israeli concerns over the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, which Netanyahu has warned expires too soon to permanently remove the threat. "With this visit the United States, again, reaffirms our unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel," Trump said.

February 3: Yahoo News:
White House Investigation:  Leaks of Trump Calls to  Australia and Mexico

The White House is looking into details of how President Donald Trump's recent phone conversations with his counterparts in Australia and Mexico were leaked to news organizations.  Trump cut short a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after a discussion about a refugee swap deal.  In an earlier call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto about paying for a wall on the southern U.S. border, Trump lightheartedly said he might send the U.S. military to Mexico to stop drug cartels.  

February 1: Sky News: Brexit divisions laid bare in heated Parliamentary debate
The first major Commons vote on the road towards the UK leaving the EU is to take place after MPs complete a marathon two-day debate on triggering Article 50.  At the end of the first day of the second reading debate on the bill, which went on until four minutes to midnight, almost 100 MPs had already spoken for and against.

Prime Minister Theresa May is assured of a large majority in favor of the Government's bill to approve triggering Article 50. 

January 21: The UK Independent
China bracing for change in PRC/US Relations
China has reacted nervously to Donald Trump’s inauguration, with one state-controlled media outlet warning of “dramatic changes” and “fires” being lit by the new US administration.   International relations experts in China suggested the time had come for Beijing to make preparations for a sharp deterioration in relations with Washington.  Trump frequently hit out at China during his campaigning, branding the Beijing government “currency manipulators” and implicitly threatening a trade war.  His inauguration speech did not directly reference the country, but he spoke about foreign industries being “enriched” at the expense of American jobs.

January 21: Associated Press: Israeli Leader to Iran – Friends or Foe?
Israel's leader has recorded a conciliatory message to the people of Iran, saying, "we are your friend, not your enemy."  In the video uploaded to his Facebook page Saturday, Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the people of Iran in English, with Farsi subtitles. He says he will soon discuss with President Donald Trump how to counter the threat of an Iranian regime that calls for Israel's destruction, but that he distinguishes between the regime and the people.  "You have a proud history. You have a rich culture. Tragically, you are shackled by a theocratic tyranny," he says.

January 16: Fox News: North Korean Defections increase among political elites
More North Koreans are fleeing their country for political reasons, rather than economic reasons, and an increase in defections by Pyongyang’s elite will ultimately weaken Kim Jong Un’s regime, South Korea’s unification minister said in an interview.  Defectors like Thae Yong Ho, the North Korean deputy ambassador in London, whose defection to Seoul last year was the most high-profile in nearly two decades. The support of North Korea’s top government officials is crucial to ensuring Mr. Kim’s continued rule.  More than 30,000 defectors from all walks of life moved south last year.

A crippling famine triggered the first major wave of defectors from North Korea about 20 years ago, but many now say that they are leaving the country “not just because they are starving, but for a better life, and for freedom and for their children’s education,” Mr. Hong said.

January 16: The Hill:  Gitmo Detainees Transferred to Oman
Ten prisoners being held at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been transferred to Oman. The detainees – whose names and nationalities have not been made public – are being transfered" for a temporary residency and out of consideration of their humanitarian situation," Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement reported by the state-run Oman News Agency.

There has been no announcement about the transfer from the U.S. government, but a defense official confirmed the transfer to the Washington Post. President Obama pledged to close the prison during his tenure, but Congress stalled his efforts. The last-minute transfer comes less than a week before President-elect Trump’s inauguration.

January 13: The UK Telegraph: Obama makes deal with the devil: Sudan Sanctions
Barack Obama was accused of making “a deal with the devil” after he eased sanctions against Sudan on Friday, reversing two decades of policy towards an Islamist regime that massacred its own people and sheltered Osama bin Laden.  The American president signed an executive order that, by relaxing a 20-year-old trade embargo on Khartoum, represents the culmination of a grand rapprochement by his administration towards “rogue” regimes like Iran, Cuba and Burma.

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