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Sat, 22 Jul 2017
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Trump cabinet briefing on Daesh shows 'renewed focus' on annihilating terror group

© REUTERS/ Azad Lashkari
A classified briefing led by US President Donald Trump's cabinet officials demonstrates the administration's revitalized commitment to destroy Daesh terrorist group, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker said in a press release.

The briefing was conducted behind closed doors on Wednesday by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

"There is a lot more clarity and a lot more focus on partnering with other countries to completely annihilate ISIS [Daesh]," the release stated after the briefing. "There is a renewed energy and a renewed focus, and I think every senator present today knows this administration is not playing around."


China questions if it's possible to negotiate with the United States

In the recent past it hasn't been too difficult to assess or interpret US foreign policy. By and large the world, in the era of hideous confrontational aggression of George W Bush, was "either with us or against us in the fight against terror" — but now in the Age of Trump the threat of global terror has been sidelined by the threat and occasional actuality of erratic behavior by President Donald Trump.

It is difficult, for example, to define the policy the White House advocates as regards to China, the world's most populous nation that is exercising more and more international influence, which it is perfectly entitled to do. It seemed on 7 April 2017 that all was sweetness and optimism, because after President Trump entertained President Xi at his Mar-a-Lago estate he was effusive in declaring that "The relationship developed by President Xi and myself I think is outstanding. We look forward to being together many times in the future. And I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away".

Then, on 12 April the two Presidents spoke on the telephone but all that the White House had to say about the exchange was "President Donald J Trump spoke last night with President Xi Jinping of China to follow up after President Xi's visit to Mar-a-Lago. It was a very productive call".


Britain threatens to return tons of nuclear waste to EU if Brexit talks fail

© Christian Ohde / Global Look Press
Britain is threatening to return boatloads of radioactive waste to Europe if an agreement on post-Brexit nuclear regulation is not reached.

The UK has 126 tonnes (139 US tons) of plutonium at Sellafield nuclear plant - the world's largest civilian stockpile. Almost a fifth of the material originates from other countries including Italy, Germany and Sweden.

The state-owned plant in Cumbria has been reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from across Europe since the 1970s, producing reusable uranium, plutonium and radioactive waste.

In what is being taken in Brussels as a thinly-veiled threat, a paper setting out the UK's position for the negotiations stresses the right "to return radioactive waste ... to its country of origin" should talks collapse.


'Threat to the rule of law': EU may strip Poland of voting rights over judicial reforms

© Agencja Gazeta/Jakub Porzycki / Reuters
A protester holds a copy of the Polish Constitution during an opposition protest at the Market Square in Krakow, Poland July 16, 2017.
Poland has come under fire from the European Commission, which may opt to trigger Article 7, which includes possible deprivation of voting rights in the European Council, in response to Warsaw's proposed overhaul of the judiciary.

The European Commission is threatening to sanction Warsaw if it fails to take into account the commission's "grave concerns" and amend the proposed judicial reforms. The new measures, initiated by Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), will empower parliament and the justice minister to appoint judges to the Supreme Court.

"If adopted, [the laws] would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary," First Vice-President Frans Timmermans stated following the European Commission meeting on Wednesday.


Trump lambastes AG Sessions for 'very unfair' Russia probe recusal and FBI conflicts of interest

© Carlos Barria / Reuters
President Donald Trump has expressed discontent with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and accused other prominent members of the Justice Department and the FBI of having conflicts of interest in a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times.

Trump complained that Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigations was "very unfair to him [the president]," in a 50-minute interview with the New York Times published Wednesday.

"Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else," Trump said. "It's extremely unfair - and that's a mild word - to the President."

Trump also criticized Sessions for testimony he provided during the Senate confirmation hearings when he said he never met with any Russians during the campaign.


Kremlin confirms Iraq to buy 'large batch' of advanced Russian T-90 tanks

© Alexey Kudenko / Sputnik
Moscow and Baghdad have struck a major deal to deliver "a large batch" of advanced Russian-made T-90 tanks to the Iraqi military, a Kremlin official said. The T-90s will reinforce the Iraqis' M1A1 Abrams fleet damaged in the fight against Islamists.

"A significant contract for a large batch" of T-90 tanks has been signed between Baghdad and Russian manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, Vladimir Kozhin, an aide to the Russian president on military-technical cooperation, told the Izvestiya newspaper.

The defense industry official refused to disclose the price of the deal, but said "the number [of tanks] is substantial." Iraq's Ministry of Defense has also confirmed the purchase of the Russian-made tanks, according to the newspaper.


Carnage continues: UN reports at least 20 civilians killed in Yemen airstrike

© Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
An airstrike in Yemen has likely killed at least 20 civilians, including women and children, the United Nations has said. It added that it is "deeply shocked and saddened" by the attack.

The airstrike in Yemen's embattled Mawza district, in the Taizz governorate, was reported Tuesday, according to a statement released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Although the UNHCR said the number of civilian casualties is still being verified, initial reports point to "at least 20 deaths, including that of women and children."

It notes that most of those killed in the airstrike are believed to have been from the same family. They had reportedly been displaced to Mawza from the nearby Al Mokha district.

Injuries were also reported, according to UNHCR, with a number of people taken to nearby hospitals.


Saudi king's conniving son ruthlessly plotted his ascent to the throne

© Saudi Press Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as the next in line to be king.
As next in line to be king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef was unaccustomed to being told what to do. Then, one night in June, he was summoned to a palace in Mecca, held against his will and pressured for hours to give up his claim to the throne.

By dawn, he had given in, and Saudi Arabia woke to the news that it had a new crown prince: the king's 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman.

The young prince's supporters have lauded his elevation as the seamless empowerment of an ambitious leader. But since he was promoted on June 21, indications have emerged that Mohammed bin Salman plotted the ouster and that the transition was rockier than has been publicly portrayed, according to current and former United States officials and associates of the royal family.



Trump to tap Raytheon military contractor lobbyist to lead Army

© Stars and Stripes‏ / Twitter
The Trump administration will nominate a former US Army officer and lobbyist for the missile manufacturer Raytheon to be the next Army secretary. It will be his third attempted nomination for the post.

The latest nominee to be the Army's top civilian is Mark Esper, a top lobbyist for Raytheon. He is a West Point graduate and a retired lieutenant colonel. His military career included a combat tour in Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He was also a former aide to Senators Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) and Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), according to the Washington Examiner.

Pentagon officials privately expressed confidence that Esper ‒ with his military, Pentagon and Capitol Hill experience ‒ will win quick Senate confirmation. He currently serves as Raytheon's vice president of government relations.


Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine agrees on safe zones around Donbass infrastructure

© AFP 2017/ Aleksey FILIPPOV
Participants of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine have agreed on creating safe zones around important infrastructure objects in Ukraine's conflict torn Donbass region, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine Martin Sajdik said Wednesday.

The situation in east Ukraine worsened at the end of January when fighting between local militias and the Ukrainian military intensified in the towns of Avdiivka and Yasynuvata.

"The participants of the group returned to the issues of securing critical infrastructure sites. The sides expressed readiness to establish safe zones around a pumping station in Vasilyevka and the Donetsk water filtration station [DFS]," Sajdik told reporters.