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  • Anti-Establishment Uprising Upends Ukraine’s Political Order

    Anti-Establishment Uprising Upends Ukraine’s Political Order(Bloomberg) -- The anti-establishment party of comedian-turned President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dominated Ukraine’s parliamentary ballot, sweeping traditional political forces from power with a pledge to crack down on corruption and revive the struggling economy.Zelenskiy rode a wave of voter anger over the lack of progress flushing dirty officials from state institutions. His Servant of the People party -- named after the television show that propelled him to fame -- won 44% of the vote, according to an exit poll published after balloting concluded Sunday.The poll, covering results for the party lists that will fill half of the assembly’s 450 seats, indicated Zelenskiy will be able to form a ruling coalition with his most-preferred partner, the Holos party of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the country’s most popular rock singer, whose party got 6.3%, said the exit poll, which was of results until 6 p.m.Voters punished the parties of traditional forces, including that of former President Petro Poroshenko and ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who got 8.9% and 7.6%, according to the survey.The former Soviet republic also cast ballots for individual candidates -- some backed by parties, some independent -- in single-seat constituencies that are being contested by oligarchs, sports stars, and showbiz celebrities, potentially complicating Zelenskiy’s promise to overhaul Ukraine. First results are due starting later Sunday, with full data to be released later this week.Like the main character of his television show, a teacher who is thrust into the position of head of state, Zelenskiy had no political experience before his landslide election win in April. Since defeating Poroshenko, support for his party has tripled after he pledged to tackle corruption, energize the economy and resolve the violent conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east that has killed at least 13,000 people since 2014.“The way he has behaved in recent month inspires trust,” 39-year-old Oleksiy Voitsekhivskyi, a doctor in Kiev, said after voting. “I have only bad words to describe how the old parliament worked. That’s why I want new faces to adopt anti-corruption laws so that finally corrupt people will be in jail in our country.”Zelenskiy told journalists that, for the post of prime minister, he wanted to appoint a “professional economist” who hasn’t held that job or led a party. That fits the description of former Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk, who has expressed interest.The president has rejected the idea of a tie-up with Poroshenko’s party. Support for political forces sympathetic to Russia was 11.5%, slightly more than five years ago. For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the two countries will mend ties despite the conflict, according to the transcript of a June 19 interview with American film director Oliver Stone.“Rapprochement is inevitable,” Putin said.Some concerns remain over how successful Zelenskiy will be in affecting change. Most candidates in Servant of the People are political neophytes and some of his appointments, as well as business links to billionaire Igor Kolomoisky, whose television channel airs his shows, have drawn criticism that he won’t be able to escape the orbit of the all-powerful oligarchs.Zelenskiy has pledged to revoke automatic immunity from prosecution for lawmakers and to step up anti-corruption efforts after the previous administration adopted laws only under intense pressure from voters and foreign creditors.He has also promised to renew cooperation with the International Monetary Fund. The Washington-based lender repeatedly held back financial assistance from Poroshenko’s administration due to its failure to push measures through the assembly, known as the Rada, to restructure the economy and fight graft.“I see the political will, but there are many obstacles,” said Balazs Jarabik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Much will depend how Zelenskiy and his team can manage the state and the Rada differently than Poroshenko did.”\--With assistance from Volodymyr Verbyany and Daryna Krasnolutska.To contact the reporters on this story: Kateryna Choursina in Kiev at kchoursina@bloomberg.net;Yulia Surkova in Kiev at ysurkova@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Michael WinfreyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Militants bomb, derail phosphate train in central Syria

    Militants bomb, derail phosphate train in central SyriaSyria's transport ministry said a freight train carrying phosphate derailed and caught fire Sunday after getting hit by explosives planted on the tracks by militants in the country's center. The government-owned train was transporting phosphate from mines in Khunayfis in Homs province, and the ministry said technical teams were working to repair the railway and restore traffic. Last week, militants also targeted a gas pipeline in Homs province.


  • New audio shows UK could not prevent Iran takeover of tanker

    New audio shows UK could not prevent Iran takeover of tankerThe release Sunday of an audio recording has shed new light on the seizure of a British-flagged tanker at the hands of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as tensions flare in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The audio released by maritime security risk firm Dryad Global shows that a British frigate was too far away from the targeted tanker to keep it from being diverted into an Iranian port despite U.K. efforts to keep it from being boarded. On the recording, a stern-voiced British naval officer insists that the U.K.-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero must be allowed to sail through the Strait of Hormuz even as Iranian paramilitary forces demand — successfully — that the vessel change course.


  • Japan’s Abe Falls Short of Supermajority in Election Win

    Japan’s Abe Falls Short of Supermajority in Election Win(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed victory in Sunday’s upper house election while falling short of securing a supermajority to quickly push through his plans to make the first revisions to the country’s pacifist constitution.With the final vote tally not yet complete, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its partner Komeito have won at least 69 of the 124 seats up for grabs, public broadcaster NHK projected. Given the 70 seats they hold in the uncontested section of the chamber, this amounts to a simple majority of the total 245 seats.Abe, on course to be Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November, said the vote showed the public approved of his government’s guidance of the world’s third-largest economy. “Everyone said it would be no easy task to get a majority while promising a tax hike, but I think we were able to get the public’s understanding,” he told NHK.He and other proponents of constitutional change fell short of the 85 seats that would have given them a two-thirds majority needed to send any proposed constitutional revision to a national referendum, NHK said.Abe believes he can convince lawmakers to change their minds. “The two-thirds majority needed for constitutional reform is something we want to build from here on in through debate in parliament’s constitutional commissions,” he told NHK.Abe wants to add wording that makes explicit the legality of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution -- though this idea divides the electorate. The document has remained unchanged since it was enacted in the aftermath of World War II.Tax HikeThe sales tax increase is intended to help rein in the globe’s biggest debt load, which stems from increased social welfare spending for Japan’s rapidly aging population. The government has raised the tax twice since it was introduced in 1989, and both times saw an economic slide.Even though the tax hike was opposed by 57% of respondents to NHK’s exit poll Sunday, it didn’t stop Abe.The premier also laid out some plans for his government, saying Japan wants to play a role in calming the situation in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.K. is in talks with the U.S. and other allies about beefing up their military presence in the Persian Gulf to deal with the rising threat to shipping they say is posed by Iran.Voters have also supported his hard line on recent disputes with neighboring South Korea, and polls have shown they appreciate his efforts to build a relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump amid concerns over the stability of the U.S.-Japan alliance.Abe’s economic prescription of unprecedented monetary easing combined with government spending and regulatory reform has achieved only partial success since he returned to office in 2012. But near-full employment has helped buffer criticism stemming from scandals, cabinet gaffes and economic faults, while a splintered opposition has failed to take advantage of the shortcomings.The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which opposes both the tax hike and constitutional change, is set to solidify its position as the country’s largest opposition party, NHK said. Among other opposition lawmakers, a man with the neurological disease ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, was elected from the newly launched Reiwa Shinsengumi, the Mainichi newspaper reported.“Abe comes out of this election basically as strong as before -- he avoids lame duck status,” said Tobias Harris, Japan analyst for Teneo Intelligence in Washington. “He can still threaten a snap election.”The premier is free to call an election in the more powerful lower house at any time. The last election to the lower chamber was in 2017, meaning he need not do so for another two years.(Adds supermajority shortfall in first paragraph, Abe quotes in third and fifth paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Marika Katanuma, Shiho Takezawa, Takashi Hirokawa and Emi Nobuhiro.To contact the reporters on this story: Sophie Jackman in Tokyo at sjackman5@bloomberg.net;Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at ireynolds1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyung Bok Cho at kcho7@bloomberg.net, Jon Herskovitz, James LuddenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Mexico City Says Ex-Government Changed Data to Hide Crime

    Mexico City Says Ex-Government Changed Data to Hide Crime(Bloomberg) -- Mexico City’s government has been under attack by critics who say violence has spun out of control since a new, left-leaning administration took over in late 2018.Run by Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum since December, the city now says that the previous administration extensively under-reported crime. As a result, while it appears that the crime rate has shot up in 2019 under new leadership, by some measures it’s actually fallen.Reviews of tens of thousands of criminal files from 2018 show homicides didn’t rise by more than a third early this year, as previously reported, said Ernestina Godoy, Mexico City’s chief prosecutor. Violent crimes as a whole have dropped by 8% this year, she said.On Saturday, Mexico City released figures showing homicides rose to 786 from January through June, up 16% from 678 a year earlier. Previous figures, collated before the results of the review, had shown a 36% year-on-year jump for January-May.That’s still far too many, Godoy added. “This is not being done to justify our government,” she said. “We won’t deny the situation we are in.”Registry ‘Distorted’The new figures are bound to raise questions about how trustworthy any government’s crime statistics are in Mexico. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won election in a landslide a year ago on promises to crack down on rampant corruption and violence. Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s first elected female mayor, is a member of his party and a close ally.Godoy says United Nations officials oversaw the process of reclassifying the criminal cases.“The registry was distorted,” Godoy said in an interview at her office. “In cases of rape they were classified as sexual harassment or abuse, or just injuries.”Out of 214,000 files reviewed from 2018, more than 24,000 so-called high-impact criminal cases had been doctored, she said. Rape last year had actually been double the number reported by the administration of Miguel Angel Mancera, mayor since 2012.A spokeswoman for Mancera, now a senator, said he was traveling and couldn’t immediately comment. He denied the allegations when they were first made by Godoy in January in more general terms.(Updates with latest homicide figures in fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Steve GeimannFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Stena Bulk has asked to visit crew of seized tanker

    Stena Bulk has asked to visit crew of seized tankerStena Bulk, the British operator of a tanker seized by Iran, has made a formal request to visit the 23 crew members of the Stena Impero and is awaiting a formal response, it said on Sunday. "I can confirm a formal request for permission to visit the 23 crew members of the Stena Impero has been made to the authorities at the Port of Bandar Abbas," Stena Bulk President and CEO Erik Hanell said in a statement. "The request has been acknowledged, but we await a formal response.


  • Net closes on leaker who cost ambassador Kim Darroch his job as teenage Brexit Party employee comes forward to claim scoop

    Net closes on leaker who cost ambassador Kim Darroch his job as teenage Brexit Party employee comes forward to claim scoopThe investigation into the leak of the confidential dispatches of Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to Washington, is progressing faster than expected with extensive evidence being collected about a number of suspects, according to security sources.Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Branch, GCHQ and another government security agency have been involved in the investigation which is believed to have rapidly narrowed down the identity of suspects, despite Sir Kim’s emails having been made potentially available to more than a hundred people.Officials close to the inquiry believe “there was a degree of orchestration” behind the theft of emails and their subsequent publication in a newspaper, and are considering “all motives, including political ones”, they say.A 19-year-old freelance journalist has claimed in the Mail on Sunday, the newspaper which published Sir Kim’s emails, that he was a conduit for the leak. He had obtained the material, he said, while talking to civil servants for a research project.Steven Edginton works as a “digital strategist” in Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and is also “chief digital strategist” at “Leave Means Leave”.He has contributed to Brexit Central’s website and worked for pro-leave website Westmonster, and the right-wing Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group.Sir Kim’s dispatches were highly critical of the chaotic and dysfunctional nature of Donald Trump’s administration, and the US president’s relationship with truth.It led to a furious reaction from Mr Trump, who kept up a barrage of insults towards the Ambassador for a number of days along with demands for him to be recalled from Washington.Sir Kim resigned after Boris Johnson, in a debate with Jeremy Hunt in the contest for the Conservative party leadership, repeatedly failed to offer an assurance that he would keep the ambassador in place if he became prime minister.Sir Kim had been scathingly criticised by leading Brexiters, including Mr Farage, who demanded he be replaced by someone is pro-Brexit and also sympathetic to Mr Trump.Asked about Mr Edgington and the leak, Mr Farage told The Independent: “I know him, he is a young man, a freelance and he has done what every other journalist would have done given such stuff.“I did not know his part in the leak until I read about it. He works for us, I knew he had also some other freelance activities. I can’t understand all this fuss, after all what was passed to him wasn’t a national secret, it wasn’t the nuclear codes, so I don’t see what all this is about.”Asked whether whoever stole the ambassador’s emails and passed them on should be prosecuted, Mr Farage responded: “I don’t know what the terms of his contract were, whether it was covered by the Official Secrets Act. But I think it does show how fed up many people are about the way the civil service has been politicised over Brexit, there is real anger about this. There have been plenty of leaks, I think the establishment is totally over-reacting to this particular one.”Mr Johnson, after facing severe criticism, including from a huge number of Tory MPs, for failing to stand by the ambassador, declared his wish that whoever was guilty of the leak “should be run down, caught and eviscerated”.Mr Trump meanwhile, in a volte-face of the type for which he has become known, asserted later that the ambassador had said “very good things” about him and was “sort of referring to other people” when criticising the White House.Mr Edgington tweeted in April this year “after the establishment have betrayed Brexit, we are currently working on the fight back. All efforts are being made”. Another tweet said: “Ministers are simply fed documents by Remainer civil servants and without question follow their advice and order.”He insisted in his newspaper article, however, that there was no political motivation to him passing on the documents. It was, he wanted to stress, “simply an honest journalistic endeavour … As a 19-year-old freelance journalist with a passion for politics, I was looking for a big project through which to develop my career”, leading to speak to “current and retired civil servants” and ultimately gain access to the emails.A senior security source refused to comment on Mr Edginton’s claims, saying it “did not materially change” the course of the investigation.One person, according to officials, was primarily responsible for stealing the emails and although this may have been an “opportunistic” theft, the inquiry is looking into the alleged plan involving a number of people in the way it was then disseminated.In his article, Mr Edgington said of Sir Kim’s emails: “I was shocked by the brutal language from a supposedly impartial diplomat ... Sir Kim’s comments about Trump were jaw-dropping and suggested a lack of impartiality.”But he went on to observe, rather confusingly: “Sir Kim was simply articulating what many in Washington and Whitehall have said about the president and his advisors since he took office.”Mr Edgington said he did not regret “my role in the story”, although he said the furore it has generated has caused him to lose weight and struggle to get to sleep. He was now “suspicious of everything”, recounting how “last week I was eating my lunch near the Houses of Parliament when I spotted a middle-aged man dressed as a tourist taking pictures of me. He then furtively ducked behind a tree before, I think, getting into a white van, was it the security services? Am I being followed? I will probably never know...”According to pressure group Hope not Hate, Mr Edginton has been associated with right-wing group Turning Point UK (TPUK), a pro-Trump organisation in America which has been endorsed by a number of Brexiteers, including Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg.However, another major pro-Brexit figure, Aaron Banks, described a leading member of TPUK, John Mappin of jewellery family Mappin & Webb, as “a total fruit loop”.Mr Banks, who it was recently alleged, was providing Mr Farage with a furnished Chelsea home, a car and driver, and money to promote him in America claimed in his book “Bad Boys of Brexit” Mr Mappin had told him “he’s trying to launch a super-powered brain-control system that requires delivery facilities in fifty languages in every major city”.Mr Mappin, a scientologist, had made Facebook postings about “a new breakthrough in scientific and SPIRITUAL TECHNOLOGY” made by the movement’s founder, L Ron Hubbard.


  • Israeli minister boasts his country has been 'killing Iranians'

    Israeli minister boasts his country has been 'killing Iranians'An Israeli minister boasted Sunday that his country was the only one that "has been killing Iranians", after tensions between Britain and Iran rose in the Gulf. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi's comments to public radio were a reference to Israeli strikes in neighbouring Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah military targets. Asked if he feared that Israel would not receive the backing of the United States in the case of a conflict with Iran, Hanegbi suggested that Tehran would avoid such a scenario.


  • UK finance minister strikes blow as Johnson prepares to become PM

    UK finance minister strikes blow as Johnson prepares to become PMBritish finance minister Philip Hammond said Sunday he would make a point of resigning before Boris Johnson became prime minister, saying he could never agree to his Brexit strategy. Former London mayor Johnson is the runaway favourite to win the governing Conservative Party's leadership contest on Tuesday and then replace Prime Minister Theresa May when she quits the premiership on Wednesday. The postal ballot of 160,000 grassroots party members is expected to return Johnson, 55, as the new Conservative leader over his contender, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.


  • Iran's Zarif calls for 'prudence and foresight' as tensions mount

    Iran's Zarif calls for 'prudence and foresight' as tensions mountIran's top diplomat said on Sunday that only "prudence and foresight" could alleviate tensions between his country and Britain after Tehran's seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker. "Having failed to lure @realDonaldTrump into War of the Century, and fearing collapse of his #B_Team, @AmbJohnBolton is turning his venom against the UK in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire," Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.


  • UPDATE 1-Chinese companies looking to buy U.S. farm products -Xinhua

    UPDATE 1-Chinese companies looking to buy U.S. farm products -XinhuaSome Chinese companies are seeking new purchases of U.S. agricultural products, China's official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, citing authorities, as Beijing and Washington look for ways to end a protracted trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at last month's G20 summit in Osaka to restart trade talks that stalled in May. Trump said at the time he would not impose new tariffs and U.S. officials said China agreed to make agricultural purchases.


  • Brexit Is Dead, Long Live Brexit: How Britain Can Still Finalize Its European Divorce

    Brexit Is Dead, Long Live Brexit: How Britain Can Still Finalize Its European DivorceThe only real threat posed by a hard Brexit is the prospect of cataclysmic technical barriers being thrown up, like the nonrecognition of British commercial aircraft licenses in the EU. But of course these too cut both ways. It’s hard to imagine EU airlines giving up their precious landing slots at London’s Heathrow airport, which have been valued at $75 million for a single slot. Or EU banks giving up access to London’s capital markets.When Britain’s prime minister Theresa May took office in 2016 with a pledge that “Brexit means Brexit,” she held all the cards in negotiations over leaving the European Union. She had a direct popular mandate, if not for herself, then at least for Brexit. Her EU opponents had to coordinate the negotiating positions of twenty-seven different countries, several of them possible exit candidates themselves, and many of them (Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and others) at loggerheads with the EU executive authorities in Brussels.


  • The Latest: Israel minister says strikes deter Iran

    The Latest: Israel minister says strikes deter IranAn Israeli Cabinet minister says Iran knows "who not to mess with" because Israel is the only country in the world that is killing Iranian operatives. Tzachi Hanegbi spoke to Israel Radio on Sunday after Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.


  • Why North Korea Won the Handshake Summit

    Why North Korea Won the Handshake SummitOn June 30, 2019, President Donald Trump, accompanied by Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea, crossed the border at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). In doing so, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step onto North Korean soil. Also present was South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who is keen to help mediate between America and North Korea in hopes of reviving the denuclearization talks which stalled during the Hanoi summit.This unprecedented three-way summit appears to have been essentially a made-for-TV spectacular designed for Trump and Kim’s domestic audiences. Trump’s publicity machine constantly emphasizes the feel-good one-to-one personal relationship between Trump and Kim, but a fundamental question remains: is there or will there be any actual progress on denuclearization? So what did Kim get from the meeting? It seems he is closer to persuading Trump to accept the North Korean agenda: no pressure for regime change, and a freeze on North Korea’s missile and nuclear program instead of a ban, thus tacitly recognizing North Korea as a nuclear power. Probably it means that the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility will be traded for the partial lifting of sanctions against North Korea. If this is the outcome, then clearly Kim will be the big winner of the meeting. And what about Moon? Despite his broad smiles during the photo session, he seems ready to make significant concessions to the United States. These may include joining in with sanctions against Huawei or participating in U.S.-led Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea. Moreover, Moon might buy more U.S.-made weapons and systems or agree to increased burden-sharing to support America’s military presence. Any such concessions would reveal Moon as a serious loser from the meeting.


  • U.K.'s Hammond to Quit If Johnson Becomes Premier: Brexit Update

    U.K.'s Hammond to Quit If Johnson Becomes Premier: Brexit Update(Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit on Twitter, join our Facebook group and sign up to our Brexit Bulletin.U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he’ll quit his post if Boris Johnson wins the Conservative Party leadership contest on Monday, because of his own opposition to a possible no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31.Key Developments:Michael Gove set for more responsibility in Johnson-led governmentHammond says he’ll quit on Wednesday if Johnson wins leadership contestDefense Minister Tobias Ellwood says U.K. looking at options on IranHammond Says He’ll Quit if Johnson Succeeds May (10:45 a.m.)Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he plans to quit his post on Wednesday if Boris Johnson beats Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May. In a BBC TV interview, he cited Johnson’s demand that members of his government should accept the chance of a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31."That is not something I could ever sign up to," Hammond said. "It’s very important that a prime minister is able to have a chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of policy, and I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday."Asked if he’d also quit if Hunt were to pull of a surprise and beat the favorite, Hammond suggested he wouldn’t, saying "Jeremy’s position is more nuanced and I haven’t heard him express clearly a requirement for a sort of loyalty pledge around the Oct. 31 no-deal exit."Ireland Pushes Back Against Johnson Proposals (10:30 a.m.)Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney on Sunday pushed back against a number of Brexit positions espoused by Boris Johnson. In a BBC interview, he said Ireland isn’t prepared to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May and won’t drop the Irish backstop provision in it.“If the approach of the new British PM is that they’re going to tear up the withdrawal agreement then I think that we’re in trouble,” Coveney said. “It’s important to say very clearly if respectfully that the facts don’t change around Brexit.”Coveney also said Johnson’s suggestion to keep no-tariff and no-quota trade after a no-deal Brexit by relying on the World Trade Organization’s GATT treaty isn’t a “viable option at all.” He did say, however, that Ireland is prepared to countenance a different vision of the future relationship between the U.K. and EU than that advanced by May. Ireland would also look at realistic options for alternative arrangements to ensure frictionless trade at the border with Northern Ireland.U.K. Looking at ‘Options’ on Iran: Defense Minister (9:15 a.m.)The U.K. is looking at “a series of options” on how to deal with the situation in Iran, Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said on Sunday, adding that Britain wants a “professional relationship” with the Middle East nation.“We’ve seen a ratcheting up of tensions in the Middle East,” Ellwood said in a Sky News interview. “We need to try and de-escalate this.”Ellwood also said the U.K. is “absolutely committed” to maintaining a military presence in the Persian Gulf and keeping the Strait of Hormuz open. He warned the U.K. needs to invest more in defense, including the Royal Navy. “That’s something the next prime minister will need to recognize,” he said.Brexit Mustn’t Detract from Iran: Former Navy Chief (Earlier)Alan West, a member of the House of Lords and former chief of naval staff, warned the next prime minister that there’s a “very real risk” of war in the Middle East and that they cannot ignore the situation in the Persian Gulf.“Whoever the next prime minister is, he is going to face a major international crisis as soon as he is in post,” West wrote in The Observer. “It cannot be ignored because of Brexit.”West said the U.K. should make clear to Iran that while up until now Britain has tried to persuade the U.S. to ease sanctions on the middle eastern nation, it will now back stronger sanctions unless Iran releases the British tanker.Coveney: Ireland Will Engage with Next U.K. Premier (Earlier)Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said his country will “work closely” with the next prime minister to safeguard common interests. Writing in the Sunday Times, he said Ireland’s one red line is to ensure the peace process in Northern Ireland isn’t put at risk. He warned of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit, which he said would “cause huge damage to us all.”While Coveney said the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May isn’t up for negotiation, he extended an olive branch to the new leader by stressing that Ireland’s goal remains a future relationship with the U.K. that renders “unnecessary” the so-called backstop -- the part of the deal that both candidates say needs to be dropped.Gove Set for Cabinet Promotion under Johnson (Earlier)Both the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph report that Boris Johnson’s one-time nemesis Michael Gove, who scuppered his bid in 2016 for the party leadership, is set for a promotion if Johnson wins the leadership contest. The Sunday Times says the environment secretary may be put in charge of the communities department, with responsibility for increasing housebuilding. The Telegraph suggests he may be given added responsibilities for climate change while staying in his current role.To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, ;Andrew Davis at abdavis@bloomberg.net, Lars Paulsson, Sam UnstedFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Teenage Journalist Behind Darroch Leak Denies Link to Brexit

    Teenage Journalist Behind Darroch Leak Denies Link to Brexit(Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit on Twitter, join our Facebook group and sign up to our Brexit Bulletin.A teenage freelance reporter who worked on the story that revealed unflattering comments by Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. about President Donald Trump says his reporting wasn’t linked to any pro-Brexit plot.Steven Edginton, 19, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that his reporting on an internal cable to London from Washington ambassador Kim Darroch was part of a seven-month investigation into how the British civil service is preparing for Brexit, even though the teenager admits he also helps run social media accounts for the Brexit Party.“I am sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists, but this was not a Brexiteer plot to topple Sir Kim, nor was it some devilish scheme to torpedo the independence of the Civil Service by installing a political appointee in Washington,” Edginton wrote. “Instead, it was simply an honest journalistic endeavor.”Darroch called Trump’s administration “inept” and “utterly dysfunctional” in an internal letter from June 2017, according to a July 7 article in the Mail on Sunday by Edginton and another freelancer, Isabel Oakeshott. Trump responded by calling Darroch a “pompous fool” and said he’d cut off all contact.The episode dominated political debate in the U.K., and put pressure on Boris Johnson, who is likely to succeed Theresa May as prime minister next week. Johnson, a former foreign secretary, refused to back Darroch during a televised debate.It also led to British authorities saying they’d investigate the source of the leak. Edginton said he was read the contents of Darroch’s letter by a “source.” He said in today’s article that he suspects he’s under surveillance by security services.To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Lars Paulsson, Sam UnstedFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • 2020 Democrats Are Starting to Turn Obama’s Legacy Against Biden

    2020 Democrats Are Starting to Turn Obama’s Legacy Against BidenPhoto Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/GettyFormer Vice President Joe Biden has used Barack Obama’s beloved status among Democratic voters to insulate him from criticism from the massive field of candidates jockeying to be the next president. But in recent weeks, the Democratic frontrunner has had that legacy used against him, with his competitors pointing the to shortcomings of the last Democratic administration as evidence that Biden’s not up to the task of leading the next one. “Barack Obama, personally, is incredibly popular among Democratic primary voters,” Karthik Ganapathy, a progressive consultant now running his own firm, told The Daily Beast. “And also at the same time, there’s a growing recognition that income and wealth inequality got worse under his eight years, the climate crisis got worse during his eight years, deportations went up during his time in office, and so on.”Can the Obama Coalition Outlast Obama?The idea that the Obama legacy would be anything other than a massive positive for Biden as he navigates the 2020 Democratic party has been treated as indisputable within Democratic circles. And for good reason. A CNN poll taken in early 2018 found that he had a 97 percent favorable rating among Democrats. For a while, fellow Democrats running for the White House seemed content to simply avoid challenging the former VP as he repeatedly referenced his time in the Obama administration when touting his work on health care and beating back attacks over his record on race relations. But that hesitancy has softened in recent weeks. On issues stemming from immigration to health care and foreign policy, the 2020 candidates have been increasingly critical in their public assessments of the Obama administration. And they’ve used opportunities from the debate stage to candidate forums to try and turn Biden’s ties to the former president from an overwhelming asset into something more complicated.Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign has used Obama’s own words to challenge Biden’s notion that Obamacare simply needs to be built upon. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) challenged Biden over the Obama administration's deportation policies. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) backed off support for the Obama administration’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal as originally written. And Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) has attacked Biden for a naivete about dealing with Republicans—in what has been interpreted as an implicit rebuke of Obama’s own failure to fully grasp GOP recalcitrance. The subtle targeting of Biden has come as Democratic activists and progressives have continued to grapple with the Obama legacy as well. In particular, the Trump administration's family separation policy and inhumane conditions in detention facilities has sparked a broader conversation among Democratic voters about whether the Obama administration’s own deportation policies laid the groundwork for the current controversies. Biden to Get Rematch With Harris in Detroit Democratic DebateAt least two times in the last month, protesters have faced down Biden to demand an apology for the three million deportations that occurred during the Obama administration. Activists with Movimiento Cosecha, an immigrants rights organization, held a protest at Biden’s Philadelphia campaign headquarters over a week ago and subsequently confronted him at a New Hampshire campaign stop. Through their “Dignity 2020” plan, they called on Biden and his other competitors in the field to pledge to end detention and deportation, immediately legalize the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and reunite families separated during the current and past administration. “We wanted the general public to understand that just defeating Trump in 2020 is only part of the solution,” Carlos Rojas Rodriguez, an organizer with the group, told The Daily Beast. “And there’s a lot of people that think that if Trump was no longer in the White House that the immigration crisis would go away and that’s just not true.” Rodriguez, who is now a citizen but lived undocumented for 10 years, said they’re closely tracking how other candidates have been responding to questions about Obama’s immigration record and are tentatively planning to have a presence in Detroit leading up to the next Democratic presidential debate. Already, they’ve seen some candidates take a harder look at the legacy. During the first Democratic debate in Miami in late June, Sen. Harris made a point of voicing dissent with President Obama’s use of the Secure Communities program, which allowed for local authorities to share fingerprints of those in jail with federal authorities. Obama ended the practice in 2014 but Trump restored it in 2017. “On this issue, I disagreed with my president, because the policy was to allow deportation of people who by ICE's own definition were non-criminals,” Harris said, though the degree to which she did is somewhat questionable. More recently, Julián Castro who served as the secretary of housing and urban development under Obama, said that he believed the administration had been too harsh when it came to immigration, a shift from prior stances. “I have learned the lessons of the past. It seems like Vice President Biden hasn’t,” he was quoted as saying at the League of United Latin American Citizens convention last week. Warren, Biden Campaigns Appear to Find Loophole Around Paid InternshipsBut the criticism has extended beyond the issue of immigration. In the first debate, Booker said that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a landmark foreign policy achievement in Obama’s second term, could have been better. Many, including Biden, have also introduced sweeping climate change plans with hallmarks of the Green New Deal and taken a No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, which activists have seen as a necessary corrective to the Obama administration’s lack of action on the drastic threat of climate change. “We would love to see candidates pressure Biden on that legacy, specifically looking at the increase in oil and gas drilling on public lands, in the U.S. in general,” Garrett Blad, a spokesperson for the climate action group Sunrise Movement, said, noting that a climate-only debate could foster these kinds of discussions. “And question him on those things. We’re glad to see that Biden has taken the No Fossil Fuel money pledge and has done what Obama didn’t do in denying that influence of the oil and gas executives and lobbyists on his campaign.” And this past week, as Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have offered differing plans for the nation’s health-care system, the latter has pointed to Obama’s own language about Medicare for All being a “good new idea” and hit the former vice president for being too timid in his desire to build off of Obamacare. Biden's campaign declined to respond on the record. But some Obama veterans have not been surprised that the legacy they build is now being more directly challenged. But while they encouraged candidates to have a conversation about improving on the Obama administration, they also cautioned that it needed to be done carefully. “It’s imperative for all candidates to offer an agenda that builds on what Barack Obama accomplished and there is room for good faith criticism of the things we didn't do or could have done better,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to the president said. “However, Obama has a 96-percent approval rating among Democrats so a strategy to beat Biden by going after the Obama legacy seems unlikely to succeed.”But the demands of the moment, from inequality to mounting student loan debt and a global climate crisis, have led a majority of the field to aim even higher than the lofty ambitions of Obama’s first presidential campaign.“If in 2008, we needed change, in 2020 we need results,” Rebecca Katz, a longtime progressive Democratic consultant, said. “That’s the difference.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • Iran says probe into seized ship depends on crew cooperation

    Iran says probe into seized ship depends on crew cooperationIran said on Sunday that the speed of its investigation into a British-flagged tanker depends on the cooperation of its crew, after ignoring calls to hand back the vessel. The Stena Impero tanker was impounded with its 23 crew members on board at the port of Bandar Abbas after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized it on Friday. The Guards on Saturday released video footage showing a ship with the Stena Impero's markings being surrounded by speedboats before troops in balaclavas descend down a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel.


  • Cancerous: What One Expert Called U.S. Military Spending. That's Wrong.

    Cancerous: What One Expert Called U.S. Military Spending. That's Wrong.America needs to have a serious debate about the nature of its national defense and associated budget.Questions such as how the country should deal with the rising challenge of China, Russia’s adventurism, as well as the threats posed by the rogue regimes of Iran and North Korea need serious consideration and discussion.That’s why Fareed Zakaria’s article, “Defense spending is America’s cancerous bipartisan consensus,” published in The Washington Post, is so disappointing. It advances a superficial and non-serious argument on an immensely important national issue.The author asserts that America’s defense budget is “out-of-control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding.”For his supporting proof Zakaria cites a series of anecdotes and folklore. For example, the now apocryphal $14,000 toilet seats (from decades ago) or more recently, expensive coffee cups purchased by the Air Force.  But one or two examples of over-spending does not meet the burden of proof for “utter mismanagement.” Zakaria further references an essay recently written by self-described peace activist Jessica Matthews, who is critical of one way the defense budget is assessed, unsurprisingly finding fault with the data that shows our defense spending as a percentage of our nation’s gross domestic product is at a historic low.


  • China Steps Up Defense of Xinjiang Policies in Government Report

    China Steps Up Defense of Xinjiang Policies in Government Report(Bloomberg) -- China issued a defense of its policies in the Xinjiang region where its detention of ethnic Uighurs has drawn criticism from the U.S. and other western nations. Xinjiang is an "inseparable part" of China, and internal and external hostile forces including separatists, religious extremists and terrorists are distorting history and facts to split the country apart, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It cited a white paper on the history of the northwestern province published Sunday in Chinese.At the United Nations earlier this month, the U.S. and 21 other mostly Western nations urged China to end its mass detentions of as many as one million Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority.The “transformation through education” camps in the far western region of Xinjiang have prompted calls for sanctions from lawmakers, human rights advocates and religious groups. While China contests the number detained, the government has defended the crackdown as necessary to fight terrorism and improve Uighurs’ economic prospects after years of unrest and attacks.Ethnic cultures in Xinjiang have historically reflected elements of Chinese culture, and the Arab civilization had an influence only at the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries when Islam spread in the region, according to the paper called "Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang.""The Uighur conversion to Islam was not a voluntary choice made by the common people, but a result of religious wars and imposition by the ruling class," according to the paper. Buddhism was once the predominant religion in Xinjiang, it said, adding that now, a significant number of people in Xinjiang do not follow any religion, and many Uighurs practice other religions.Xinjiang progressed in the past when there was more cultural diversity, Xinhua reported from a section of the white paper."Having a stronger sense of identity with Chinese culture is essential to the prosperity and development of ethnic cultures in Xinjiang," according to the paper.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Feifei Shen in Beijing at fshen11@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Malcolm ScottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Looks Like a Winner. But Is He a Leader?

    Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Looks Like a Winner. But Is He a Leader?(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party, Servant of the People, is set to win Sunday’s parliamentary election, gaining a near-majority that would hand the novice president more power than his predecessor enjoyed. What Zelenskiy is going to do with it is largely still a mystery.Ukraine’s constitution places the responsibility for forming the cabinet in the parliament’s hands. This means Zelenskiy, elected in April on promises of draining the political and bureaucratic swamp, has had his hands tied so far: The outgoing parliament, which he dismissed soon after taking office in May in order to hold an early election, has been hostile to him. (Because Servant of the People was registered only last year, it had no sitting members of the legislative body.) Zelenskiy, for example, got into a public row with Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who failed to consult him as he continued former President Petro Poroshenko’s rigid, unproductive line in the matter of freeing 24 Ukrainian sailors held captive in Russia. The president has been unable to get the parliament to dismiss Klimkin.So Zelenskiy, a former comedian and TV producer, focused on running his party’s election campaign rather than trying to govern. His approach was two-pronged: Proving to voters that he’s going to be relentlessly demanding of Ukraine's bureaucracy and political class and showing that he’s willing and able to de-escalate the conflict with Russia.To the former end, he traveled around Ukraine and spoke harshly with various officials. In Boryspil, a small city just east of Kiev, he kicked a city council official out of a meeting, denouncing him as a “highwayman” and a “devil.” “Do you consider me an idiot?” he asked Oleksandr Vlasov, head of Ukraine’s State Fiscal Service during a meeting in Odessa before asking for his resignation. (Vlasov resigned, though Zelenskiy had no power to fire him). In the industrial city of Zaporizhzhya, he made the mayor promise to resign if an important bridge isn’t fixed by October 15.These fireworks have been somewhat reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev, who once ran Soviet Ukraine and then the entire Soviet Union with similar brio; or of Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of neighboring Belarus. But, in the context of a campaign, it was probably the best way for Zelenskiy to show he is holding true to his promise of renewal. To boost the message, Zelenskiy proposed that top officials and state company bosses from the Poroshenko presidency be “lustrated” –  banned from government jobs. Ukraine’s anticorruption agencies, meanwhile, have taken a sudden interest in businesses close to Poroshenko and his team;  officially, Zelenskiy has nothing to do with that.Negating Poroshenko’s showy militarism was the other pillar of Zelenskiy’s campaign. He canceled the Independence Day military parade in August, one of his predecessor’s favorite events, and ordered that its cost of $11.5 million be paid out as bonuses to troops. And he worked hard to engineer a big prisoner exchange with Russia, something Poroshenko was loath to do, insisting that the Kremlin unconditionally release dozens of Ukrainians held in Russia on various political charges.At the time of this writing, the exchange hadn't occurred, but significant steps had been taken to make it possible. Swallowing his pride, Zelenskiy called Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 11 to discuss the issue. The two countries’ human rights commissioners, Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Denisova and Russsia’s Tatyana Moskalkova, met in Moscow to exchange lists of prisoners. The Ukrainian list included the 24 sailors taken prisoner by Russia last year when their vessels tried to break through to the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol past a de facto Russian blockade. (This request earned Zelenskiy some criticism, since an international maritime tribunal had ruled that Russia should free rather than exchange them. ) On Wednesday, however, a Russian court extended their detention another three months.Whether the prisoner exchange takes place in the coming days or not,  Zelenskiy has succeeded in showing Ukrainians that, though he has no intention of surrendering to Putin, he’s focused on negotiating rather than simply relying on Western support or nurturing vain hopes of an eventual military victory. That reinforces his earlier, popular promises to work toward ending the war with Russian-backed separatists.All this activity has kept Servant of the People’s support steadily above 40 percent in an overwhelming majority of polls. No other party has been polling more than 12 percent. Poroshenko’s European Solidarity Party has failed to get much traction, and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland and rock singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Voice parties appear destined to play bit parts in the next parliament unless Zelenskiy needs their support to form a majority coalition. Even if that occurs, their rewards still won’t be huge, given their low support levels. Essentially, Zelenskiy has owned the campaign on the national level. The only likely surprises can come from first-past-the-post constituencies, which fill half the parliament. That system leaves the old elites a chance to hold on to some political influence, and Servant of the People’s candidates in some localities appear weak compared with the political veterans and business tycoons running against them.Nonetheless, Zelenskiy has a shot at near-dictatorial powers. So far, he’s given little indication of what he might do with them, and there’s no unity even among his closest advisers on how soft or how tough a stance Ukraine must take with Russia and its own Russian-speaking population. The world has only really seen Zelenskiy the politician in campaign mode. He’s been impressive – but he’s still a wild card as Zelenskiy the leader.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Looks Like a Winner. But Is He a Leader?

    Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Looks Like a Winner. But Is He a Leader?(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party, Servant of the People, is set to win Sunday’s parliamentary election, gaining a near-majority that would hand the novice president more power than his predecessor enjoyed. What Zelenskiy is going to do with it is largely still a mystery.Ukraine’s constitution places the responsibility for forming the cabinet in the parliament’s hands. This means Zelenskiy, elected in April on promises of draining the political and bureaucratic swamp, has had his hands tied so far: The outgoing parliament, which he dismissed soon after taking office in May in order to hold an early election, has been hostile to him. (Because Servant of the People was registered only last year, it had no sitting members of the legislative body.) Zelenskiy, for example, got into a public row with Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who failed to consult him as he continued former President Petro Poroshenko’s rigid, unproductive line in the matter of freeing 24 Ukrainian sailors held captive in Russia. The president has been unable to get the parliament to dismiss Klimkin.So Zelenskiy, a former comedian and TV producer, focused on running his party’s election campaign rather than trying to govern. His approach was two-pronged: Proving to voters that he’s going to be relentlessly demanding of Ukraine's bureaucracy and political class and showing that he’s willing and able to de-escalate the conflict with Russia.To the former end, he traveled around Ukraine and spoke harshly with various officials. In Boryspil, a small city just east of Kiev, he kicked a city council official out of a meeting, denouncing him as a “highwayman” and a “devil.” “Do you consider me an idiot?” he asked Oleksandr Vlasov, head of Ukraine’s State Fiscal Service during a meeting in Odessa before asking for his resignation. (Vlasov resigned, though Zelenskiy had no power to fire him). In the industrial city of Zaporizhzhya, he made the mayor promise to resign if an important bridge isn’t fixed by October 15.These fireworks have been somewhat reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev, who once ran Soviet Ukraine and then the entire Soviet Union with similar brio; or of Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of neighboring Belarus. But, in the context of a campaign, it was probably the best way for Zelenskiy to show he is holding true to his promise of renewal. To boost the message, Zelenskiy proposed that top officials and state company bosses from the Poroshenko presidency be “lustrated” –  banned from government jobs. Ukraine’s anticorruption agencies, meanwhile, have taken a sudden interest in businesses close to Poroshenko and his team;  officially, Zelenskiy has nothing to do with that.Negating Poroshenko’s showy militarism was the other pillar of Zelenskiy’s campaign. He canceled the Independence Day military parade in August, one of his predecessor’s favorite events, and ordered that its cost of $11.5 million be paid out as bonuses to troops. And he worked hard to engineer a big prisoner exchange with Russia, something Poroshenko was loath to do, insisting that the Kremlin unconditionally release dozens of Ukrainians held in Russia on various political charges.At the time of this writing, the exchange hadn't occurred, but significant steps had been taken to make it possible. Swallowing his pride, Zelenskiy called Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 11 to discuss the issue. The two countries’ human rights commissioners, Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Denisova and Russsia’s Tatyana Moskalkova, met in Moscow to exchange lists of prisoners. The Ukrainian list included the 24 sailors taken prisoner by Russia last year when their vessels tried to break through to the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol past a de facto Russian blockade. (This request earned Zelenskiy some criticism, since an international maritime tribunal had ruled that Russia should free rather than exchange them. ) On Wednesday, however, a Russian court extended their detention another three months.Whether the prisoner exchange takes place in the coming days or not,  Zelenskiy has succeeded in showing Ukrainians that, though he has no intention of surrendering to Putin, he’s focused on negotiating rather than simply relying on Western support or nurturing vain hopes of an eventual military victory. That reinforces his earlier, popular promises to work toward ending the war with Russian-backed separatists.All this activity has kept Servant of the People’s support steadily above 40 percent in an overwhelming majority of polls. No other party has been polling more than 12 percent. Poroshenko’s European Solidarity Party has failed to get much traction, and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland and rock singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Voice parties appear destined to play bit parts in the next parliament unless Zelenskiy needs their support to form a majority coalition. Even if that occurs, their rewards still won’t be huge, given their low support levels. Essentially, Zelenskiy has owned the campaign on the national level. The only likely surprises can come from first-past-the-post constituencies, which fill half the parliament. That system leaves the old elites a chance to hold on to some political influence, and Servant of the People’s candidates in some localities appear weak compared with the political veterans and business tycoons running against them.Nonetheless, Zelenskiy has a shot at near-dictatorial powers. So far, he’s given little indication of what he might do with them, and there’s no unity even among his closest advisers on how soft or how tough a stance Ukraine must take with Russia and its own Russian-speaking population. The world has only really seen Zelenskiy the politician in campaign mode. He’s been impressive – but he’s still a wild card as Zelenskiy the leader.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • U.A.E Says Yemen Coalition 'Preparing for Next Phase'

    U.A.E Says Yemen Coalition 'Preparing for Next Phase'(Bloomberg) -- The Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is preparing for the next phase in the war, a United Arab Emirates minister said.“The coalition is preparing for the next phase with its political and military tools and is determined to achieve its strategic objectives,” said U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Twitter. The alliance “repelled attempts to change the balance of power and restored the government and what now remains is restoring sustainable political stability,” he said. To contact the reporter on this story: Zainab Fattah in Dubai at zfattah@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • UK car sector accelerates towards electric future

    UK car sector accelerates towards electric futureBritain's auto industry, seeking to swerve Brexit obstacles, is accelerating toward electrification as consumers shun high-polluting diesels, driven by rapid advances in technology and greener government policy. Four famous car brands born in Britain but now foreign-owned -- German-held Bentley and Mini, Indian-backed Jaguar Land Rover, and Chinese-controlled Lotus -- have each this month outlined plans for purely electric models to sit alongside their petrol vehicles. All-electric cars, which need to be charged from the mains, and hybrids, which combine electrics with petrol or gasoline engines, are gaining in popularity as more consumers turn away from the pollution-spewing internal combustion engine.


  • Lawyers Stranded in No-Deal Brexit Seek Loopholes to Keep Jobs

    Lawyers Stranded in No-Deal Brexit Seek Loopholes to Keep Jobs(Bloomberg) -- U.K. lawyers with lucrative careers in European Union law are fighting to save their jobs after the bloc’s top courts warned that a no-deal Brexit would forbid them from representing clients.In an April letter, a senior official at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg urged British lawyers practicing EU law to put in place contingency plans to avoid being frozen out of cases at the institution’s two tribunals.Three months on, the prospect of the U.K. crashing out of the EU looms once again. Parliament is trying to prevent a no-deal exit, but there’s no guarantee they will be able to rein in the next prime minister. Boris Johnson, the favorite in the leadership race, has vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 with or without a deal and his underdog rival is also prepared to walk away without an agreement.“A hard Brexit thanks to Boris Johnson means that those British lawyers without a workable and robust solution will lose their legal professional privilege and audience rights,” said Trevor Soames, a Brussels-based competition lawyer at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. “Those working from London without a credible Brussels presence will lose out as I doubt international, non-U.K., clients will go to London-based lawyers for Brussels-related work.”If there’s no deal, a certificate to practice law before a U.K. tribunal “would no longer fulfill the conditions,” the registrar at the EU General Court warned. Lawyers should “ensure that the necessary steps are taken” to be able to defend their clients and that “it is naturally with some regret that I draw this matter to your attention.”Attorneys registered in England and Wales based in London and Brussels, the EU’s unofficial capital, have found various workarounds. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, depending on residency rights, citizenship and, for some, the need to sit exams.Many have registered with the Brussels bar and taken on local citizenship to become full Belgian lawyers. More flocked to Ireland. Both routes have pitfalls.Matthew Levitt, an EU antitrust lawyer with Baker Botts in Brussels, qualified as an English barrister and a solicitor in London. Barristers normally plead in court while solicitors do traditional legal work in a firm and advise clients.“That was all fine until Brexit loomed,” he said. Plan B was to register as an Irish solicitor, joining more than 3,330 England and Wales solicitors who have taken this path since early 2016.He then got a letter in March from the Law Society of Ireland “saying here’s your 2019 practicing certificate, but you should be aware that it is conditional,” said Levitt. The condition was that lawyers needed a permanent establishment in Ireland. “Effectively what they were saying is that it was invalid.”“There was quite a lot of concern and outrage,” said Levitt. Due to the uncertainty he decided to become a member of the “Brussels A list,” a fully fledged Belgian lawyer.The Law Society of Ireland said that the status of those practicing outside the jurisdiction is “legally complex” and after queries from solicitors it’s developed detailed guidance. But Levitt says he now “feels fully secure,” partly because he also became a Belgian citizen.Soames went direct to the Brussels bar and also took Belgian citizenship. Last month, he pleaded for the first time as a Belgian lawyer before the EU courts in Air Canada’s appeal of antitrust fines.The Brussels profession has been “very open and welcoming” to foreigners “who have been practicing for a suitable period of time in Brussels, are residents in Brussels and have an office in Brussels,” said Soames.But, under a Belgian law dating back to 1970, lawyers can only keep their rights if they are also citizens of an EU nation. That’s a “slight problem, therefore, for U.K. lawyers,” said Soames, because they would lose this status after Brexit.This is “obviously a matter of enormous and understandable concern to those who have made their careers upon European law,” he said.Belgian professional bodies say they are looking for solutions. A Brexit law from this year grants an extension and allows attorneys to hold on to their rights in case the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal until December 2020.James Webber, who works on U.K. and EU competition law at Shearman & Sterling mainly in London, registered in Ireland but is optimistic of avoiding a no-deal Brexit trap.“It’s just going to be much, much messier than any of us have been used to up till now. But, that’s Brexit.”To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net, Peter Chapman, Emma Ross-ThomasFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • With a team 'he'll be fine': UK braces for maverick leader

    With a team 'he'll be fine': UK braces for maverick leaderSupporters of Boris Johnson, who looks certain to become the next British prime minister, hail his optimistic vision for post-Brexit Britain, but insist he will have a team to take care of the details. "If he's got good people around him, he'll be fine," said 67-year-old backer Sue Busby, a grassroots member of the governing Conservative Party that looks set to propel Johnson to power this week. The former London mayor has wooed Conservatives with a promise to get Britain out of the European Union and if elected party leader, he will take over from Theresa May as prime minister on Wednesday.


  • Boris v Jeremy: Who are the rivals to be Britain's next PM?

    Boris v Jeremy: Who are the rivals to be Britain's next PM?London (AFP) - As the race to become Britain's next prime minister draws to a close, here is a look at the two rival candidates, their campaigns and their main Brexit and domestic policies:


  • Panama to withdraw flag from tanker towed to Iran, cites violations

    Panama to withdraw flag from tanker towed to Iran, cites violationsPanama's maritime authority said on Saturday it had begun the process of withdrawing the registration of an oil tanker called MT Riah, which was towed to Iran after it disappeared from ship tracking maps in the Strait of Hormuz on July 14. Panama began the flag withdrawal process on Friday after an investigation determined the tanker had "deliberately violated international regulations" by not reporting any unusual situation, the authority said in a statement. Iran has said it towed a vessel into its waters from the strait after the ship issued a distress call.


  • British Airways, Lufthansa suspend Cairo flights

    British Airways, Lufthansa suspend Cairo flightsBritish Airways and Lufthansa both said Saturday they were suspending flights to Cairo for unspecified reasons related to safety and security. The British carrier said it was canceling flights to the Egyptian capital for a week. Lufthansa said it was suspending its flights as a precaution, mentioning "safety" but not "security" as its concern.


  • UK considering options over seized ship: minister

    UK considering options over seized ship: ministerLondon was considering several options in response to Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker, junior defence minister Tobias Ellwood said Sunday. Britain has said its priority is to de-escalate tensions with Iran in the Gulf, and has called for the release of the Stena Impero oil tanker which was seized Friday in what Britain said was an illegal move in Omani waters. "We are going to be looking at a series of options," Ellwood told Sky News television.


  • Over 20,000 rally in Moscow as election anger boils over

    Over 20,000 rally in Moscow as election anger boils overMore than 22,000 people packed a Moscow square Saturday to demand free and fair local polls, incensed by the authorities' refusal to put popular opposition candidates on the ballot. Staging their largest protest in years, opposition leaders such as President Vladimir Putin's top opponent Alexei Navalny and ordinary Muscovites rallied after authorities refused to register independent candidates seeking to contest the September vote for the capital's parliament. "This is my city!" the crowd chanted during the two-hour-long sanctioned rally.


  • UPDATE 1-Britain says Iran approached tanker in Omani waters - letter to U.N.

    UPDATE 1-Britain says Iran approached tanker in Omani waters - letter to U.N."The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law," Britain's U.N. mission wrote to the Security Council. The letter, seen by Reuters, was also sent to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


  • Irish, EU governments sound out Johnson to avoid no-deal Brexit -Sunday Times

    Irish, EU governments sound out Johnson to avoid no-deal Brexit -Sunday TimesAhead of Boris Johnson's likely election next week as Britain's prime minister, EU countries are secretly wooing him in a bid to thrash out a new Brexit plan that would avoid a no-deal disaster, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. German and French figures as well as the Dutch and Belgian governments have also established contact with Johnson's team and signalled an intention to do a deal, it added. In a limited extract released on Saturday evening ahead of publication, the paper reported that Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has indicated Dublin is prepared to compromise.


  • Iran's poking at West heightens risks of military missteps

    Iran's poking at West heightens risks of military misstepsRather than tangle with a stronger U.S. military, Iran is poking and prodding its Western antagonists in ways apparently designed to avoid triggering war but that nonetheless seem to heighten the risk of missteps and miscalculation that could lead to an armed conflict with global consequences. The tensions picked up Friday with Iran reporting it had seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf , one day after the U.S. said it destroyed an Iranian drone that had flown within threatening range of an American warship in the Strait of Hormuz. In June the Iranians shot down a U.S. Navy drone in the same area, prompting President Donald Trump to authorize a military strike on Iran, only to call it off at the last moment .


  • A War with Iran Would Wreck the American Energy Market

    A War with Iran Would Wreck the American Energy MarketReading Ilan Goldenberg recently described for Foreign Affairs what a war with Iran would look like. His analysis was informative, vivid and harrowing. But while his attention was focused primarily on the Middle Eastern theatre, I was wondering how such a skirmish would play out here in the United States.Specifically, how it would look for Americans at the gas pump.Goldenberg writes that even isolated, small-scale missile attacks or cyberattacks could drive oil prices to a now-unthinkable $150 a barrel, which is nearly $100 more than what West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures are currently trading at.


  • Why Trump Won't Bomb Iran

    Why Trump Won't Bomb IranAfter President Donald Trump decided not to “bomb Iran” in retaliation for shooting down an unmanned Navy drone that was either very close to Iranian air space, many of his conservative critics accused him of acting more like President Barack Obama rather than President Ronald Reagan.According to critics like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), President Donald Trump’s decision to call off the air strikes, which he had apparently approved, was a replay of Obama’s refusal to bomb Syria after Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had crossed Obama’s red line by using chemical weapons against the rebels who were trying to get him to leave office.These same critics note that Reagan attacked Iran on April 18, 1988, two days after a mine planted by the Iranians wounded ten sailors and damaged an American destroyer, the USS Roberts, which was one of the ships escorting reflagged Kuwaiti tankers through the Strait of Hormuz.Both of these historical analogies give a misleading impression of how Obama and Reagan actually handled these issues. In fact, Trump should take some lessons for dealing with the current crisis with Iran, which is largely of his own creation, by understanding how these two predecessors responded to similar situations.


  • Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

    Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outletsA day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha'i faith. Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran's seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure.


  • Iran Has Its Own 'Maximum Pressure' Campaign Against Trump

    Iran Has Its Own 'Maximum Pressure' Campaign Against TrumpFor one year, Tehran continued adhering to the JCPOA. However, the destabilizing effects of the new sanctions proved intolerable.By most accounts, the United States and Iran came within minutes of armed conflict with each other on June 20, 2019. Around 4:30 AM that morning, a U.S. Navy RQ-4N Global Hawk spy drone flying a routine circuit over international airspace in the Persian Gulf was shot down by an Iranian Ra’ad surface-to-air missile system.Later that day, U.S. forces were ostensibly “ten minutes” away from striking three Iranian bases likely with air- and sea-launched missiles when President Donald Trump changed his mind and canceled the attack. He later cited concerns that killing an estimated 150 Iranians over the loss of an unmanned drone was a disproportionate response.(This first appeared in June 2019.)


  • Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards

    Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards“Allahu akbar”, or God is great, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard marine was heard shouting off camera as the group took control of the British-flagged Stena Impero. Scaling down ropes onto its bow, the balaclava-wearing hijackers made a daring - and seemingly well-rehearsed - raid of the oil tanker, as seen in alleged footage released by Fars news agency last night.  The wind was choppy, the skies overcast. With no navy escort, the Stena stood little chance. Minutes later, at 4.19pm on Friday afternoon, the Stena Impero would “go dark” - not something normally done by commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The first clue as it what happened was its abrupt change of course, which was picked up by marine tracking services. Its destination was a port in Saudi Arabia, but it had taken a sharp turn and was heading into Iranian waters. Minutes earlier it had been boarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who had hijacked the vessel using speedboats and a helicopter and turned off its communication systems. Approximately 40 minutes later, a British-owned, Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar also went dark. The trackers picked it up following the same route as the Stena Impero. The crew onboard was questioned for an hour before the vessel was released, unlike the Stena which was escorted on to the coast of Bander Abbas in southern Iran. British authorities were alerted back home and quickly called a meeting of Cobra to figure out their response. This image grab taken from a video provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guard official website via SEPAH News The capture of one of their ships was something they had been dreading,though not something that had come entirely as a surprise. Tensions have been heating up in recent weeks in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint. At the start of the month, Gibraltar authorities - aided by a detachment of Royal Marines - detained a tanker which was suspected to be carrying Iranian oil destined for a refinery in Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. "If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities' duty to seize a British oil tanker," an Iranian official tweeted on July 5, the following next day, in response to the news. Revolutionary Guards issued similarly direct threats. Fearing they would make good on them, the Navy sent Type-23 frigate HMS Montrose to shadow its tankers through the strait and dispatched another, HMS Duncan, for support. The Montrose sped to help Stena from Omani waters on Friday, but was an hour too late. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, had tried to defuse the situation last weekend by suggesting the UK was willing to release the supertanker, but a court in Gibraltar on Friday ruled to hold it for another 30 days. The decision would have further angered Tehran, which has denied the oil was bound for Syria and accused the UK of acting in bad faith. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran The legality of Britain’s impounding of the Grace 1 has been questioned, however sanctions lawyers say that as it had been travelling through British overseas territory it was subject to EU laws. Revolutionary Guards yesterday tried to justify their seizure of the Stena with alternating claims, including that it had “violated maritime law”, had been driving on the wrong side of the water, risking an accident, and had in fact collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored. No such distress call was picked up by any other ship in the area. Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman of Iran's Guardian Council, which rarely comments on state matters, said they did not need an excuse to take the Stena and spelled out that it had been a tit-for-tat response. "The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law and Iran's moves to confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights," he said. There is now something of a Mexican stand-off in the Gulf, with both countries seemingly unwilling to hand over the other’s ship. “Iran has responded in a way that presents the UK with a problem,” Michael Stephens, Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London, told the Sunday Telegraph. “The ball is now in our court. “The UK could choose to detain more Iranian ships, or look to gather a group of states around the table, such as France, Germany and the US, to see how, and in what ways, more pressure can be placed on Iran both economically and strategically,” he said. However, he believed no major decision would be agreed on until Prime Minister Theresa May’s handover to Boris Johnson later this week. The Foreign Office has stressed it is keeping separate the issues of Iranian threats in Gulf waters, EU sanctions policy on Syria, and the nuclear deal. But inevitably they have all become intertwined. The latest Iranian aggressions can be tracked back to last year, when President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions. The Islamic Republic has legitimate frustrations over the American withdrawal to the deal - which it had been adhering to - that was supposed to swap limiting its nuclear programme for an end to sanctions crippling its economy. At the same time as ratcheting up tensions, however, Mr Trump has made it clear he wants to avoid all-out war with Iran, as has the UK. Iran tensions | Read more Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on Thursday offered an olive branch to Mr Trump - a deal which would see Tehran accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear programme in return for the permanent lifting of sanctions. Mr Trump has sent Senator Rand Paul, rather than John Bolton, his hawkish anti-Iran national security adviser, for meetings with Mr Zarif, who is in New York on United Nations business. Neither has publicly responded to Mr Zarif's proposal. However, hardliners and the Revolutionary Guard back home want out of the deal, saying the US’s pullout only proved what they always knew - that it cannot be trusted.   "I suspect Stena is a bargaining chip,” Charles Hollis, a former British diplomat in Iran, told the Telegraph. “It came only days after Zarif showed some willingness to open negotiations, which may have led some hardliners to want to disrupt things a little.  “I still don’t think any side is looking for a conflict,” said Mr Hollis, who is now managing director of risk management company Falanx Assynt. “The fact that there are some people on both sides were seeking a deescalation means there may be a deal to be found.” He warned however, that Friday’s incident showed the margins for manoeuvre are “shrinking” and “the risks of unintended consequences growing.”


  • Secrets: Everything You Wanted to Know About Israel's Nuclear Weapons

    Secrets: Everything You Wanted to Know About Israel's Nuclear WeaponsThe Iranian nuclear nonproliferation agreement has been the top foreign policy issue throughout Washington for the past two months.  Approving or disapproving the deal was the first order of business for the U.S. Congress until the very last day of congressional action under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (September 17).  Hours of debate have been conducted on the floors of the House and Senate, both chambers have held roll call votes, and Senate Democrats bonded together to filibuster a motion of disapproval — a resolution that would have prevented President Obama from providing the Iranians sanctions relief.The Obama administration’s main selling point for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is based on the theory that forcing Tehran to downgrade its nuclear program will make the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — the world’s most frenetic and violent region even without nuclear weapons— far less urgent.  Yet we should remember that there is in fact a state in the region that already possesses nuclear weapons. That state happens to be Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East: Israel.(This first appeared in September 2015.)There are a lot of mysteries surrounding Israel’s nuclear arsenal. That is partly due to the Israeli security establishment’s unwritten rule of never speaking about the country’s nuclear weapons program in public in order to preserve the principle of deterrence.  But there are indeed some basic elements of Israel’s nuclear program that are acknowledged by defense analysts in the United States and around the world.1.    The Number is in Doubt:


  • Iran tanker crisis 'ominous' for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, husband says

    Iran tanker crisis 'ominous' for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, husband saysThe husband of jailed British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said he is worried her future has become “more uncertain and ominous” after Iran’s seizing of a UK tanker in the Gulf. Richard Ratcliffe has expressed concerned for his wife, whom he has not heard from since she was moved on Monday from Tehran’s Evin prison to a psychiatric hospital. Mr Ratcliffe said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, who had recently ended a 15-day hunger strike, has not been allowed contact for almost a week. “We were hoping now it is the start of a new week in Iran that we might at least get access. Nazanin’s dad is going down today again to try,” Mr Ratcliffe told the Telegraph. “I told the Foreign Office yesterday that in my view we should now regard Nazanin as held incommunicado.” He said it was not known what treatment she was receiving or how long she was expected to remain in hospital. At Evin prison, she had been allowed regular phone calls to Mr Ratcliffe and her lawyer. “With the tankers, obviously everything feels rather more uncertain and ominous," he said.  "It reminds me of the very earliest days when she disappeared under IRGC control," he added. "But I have promised myself I will wait a full week before really panicking."   Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose British nationality is not recognised by Tehran, is serving a five-year sentence for espionage, charges she denies. Days before she was transferred, she told relatives: "Three and a bit years later (...) look at me now - I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment. "Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it." Mr Ratcliffe said he was concerned what the decision by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to move her to hospital meant, as when they were involved "bad stuff happens". It was the powerful Revolutionary Guard which on Friday seized the British-flagged Stena Impero after warning it would retaliate the UK’s “unlawful” impounding of an Iranian ship. Amid statements on the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, tweeted on Saturday that he was “very concerned about this week's transfer of Nazanin to an IRGC (Revolutionary Guard Corp) hospital.  “We'd hoped this meant she was getting medical treatment she needs but the fact that she has been cut off from contact with her family is giving us huge cause for concern.” The Foreign Office has tried to keep separate Mrs Zaghar-Ratcliffe’s case and the military manoeuvrings in the Persian Gulf, but there are concerns they are being linked by the Islamic Republic.


  • New Greek Leader Unveils Economic Plan in First Policy Speech

    New Greek Leader Unveils Economic Plan in First Policy Speech(Bloomberg) -- Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is moving into policy implementation mode, starting with plans to revive the economy and cut taxes.Lawmakers will vote late Monday on a procedural confidence motion in the new government after a debate that started Saturday. At the outset, Mitsotakis presented his four-year economic agenda in his first plenary speech to parliament since winning national elections on July 7.Greece’s 2020 budget will show the country’s “fiscal balance isn’t disrupted nor are the primary surplus targets of the previous government,” Mitsotakis said. By achieving the targets for this year and next, the government will have the ability to lower the primary surplus level in the coming years “to a more realistic level,” he said.The premier’s priority is a reform of Greece’s complex tax system to create a more pro-business environment, necessary for attracting investment to boost the economy’s recovery. Mitsotakis wants to make good on election pledges to alleviate the tax burden for crisis-weary Greeks, specifically for the middle classes who were targeted the most by the previous administration.Creditors SupportiveWhile Greece’s creditors are generally supportive of the proposed tax changes, they want him to make sure that agreed fiscal targets won’t be endangered. Greece should make growth its top priority while at the same time maintaining the agreed primary surplus, ESM Managing Director Klaus Regling said in Athens this week.German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday she is “convinced” that Mitsotakis’s program “will bring with it good chances for more growth, and a strengthening of impulses for growth in Greece.”Mitsotakis said he will introduce legislation as soon as next week to reduce the so-called Enfia property tax by as much as 30%, according to the value of properties. Other measures, including cutting business taxes, will be introduced later.The government plans to reduce the corporate tax rate to 20% in two phases. The first step, in September, will cut the rate to 24% from 28% in 2019 and to 20% in 2020. The tax on dividend payments will be slashed by half to 5%, while payment of property gains tax and the sales tax for building work will be suspended for the time being.Power ProviderMitsotakis said his government will seek a strategic investor for the country’s ailing state-run electricity provider Public Power Corporation SA and to kick-start stalled projects, starting with Hellinikon.The flagship investment that envisages the transformation of a former airport site on the Athens riviera -- more than twice as big as New York’s Central Park -- into a metropolitan park including luxury hotels, a casino resort, marinas and apartments. The investment “will start immediately and will be a symbol of the new Greece,” Mitsotakis said.Also planned is the privatization of Hellenic Petroleum SA and the sale of a 30% stake in Athens Airport, he said.\--With assistance from Antonis Galanopoulos and Iain Rogers.To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tugwell in Athens at ptugwell1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sotiris Nikas at snikas@bloomberg.net, Steve Geimann, Tony CzuczkaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • UK 'asked US not to sabre rattle over tanker seized by Iran'

    UK 'asked US not to sabre rattle over tanker seized by Iran'The UK is believed to have asked its US ally to initially refrain from making inflammatory public statements about the seizure of the Stena Impero by Iran as they sought a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Donald Trump was noticeably muted in his immediate response and Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said little in the immediate aftermath. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, spoke with his counterpart Mike Pompeo, who was in Argentina, on Friday night. British and US officials continued to speak through the night on Friday. White House officials did not push back on reports that the UK conveyed a message to the US that it wanted to try to de-escalate the situation. Mr Trump had already spoken to Boris Johnson on Thursday, although it was not clear whether they discussed Iran. The following day, when asked about the Stena Impero, Mr Trump did not give his usual full-throated response to acts of Iranian aggression, instead saying he had "heard about it" and would "work with the UK" Mr Pompeo was asked about Iran during an interview in Argentina late on Friday, but aid only: "We’re doing everything we can in the United States to de-escalate with Iran. We want them simply to cease being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror." The softened tone also came as Mr Trump confirmed he had authorised Rand Paul, the anti-interventionist Republican US senator, to speak to Iranian officials Mr Paul wants to become Mr Trump's "go-between" with Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, and asked Mr Trump for permission duding a round of golf a week ago. Mr Trump confirmed late on on Friday: "Rand is a friend of mine. And Rand asked me if he could involved.  The answer is yes. We'll see what happens. Iran is showing their colours. It's going to work out very nicely." However, there are also suggestions that, in private, Mr Trump has become increasingly frustrated with the Iran situation in recent days. He is believed to have been displeased at the reluctance of Iran's top leaders to meet with him, especially since he stepped back from a planned military strike last month. There were indications of that frustration during his muted response on Friday when he said: "This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran. Trouble. Nothing but trouble." A helicopter hovers over British-flagged tanker Stena Impero near the strait of Hormuz Credit: Reuters Meanwhile Lt Gen. Robert Ashley, head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said he believes Iran "does not want war," and "the outcome would be very horrific for all". Iran was aiming to drive a wedge between the Us and its European allies, he said Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, he added: “What you see is an attempt to break that status quo, to look to divide us with our European powers." The US is already monitoring its commercial cargo ships in the Strait of Hormuz using military aircraft. Meanwhile, Russia accused the US of “taking advantage” of rising tensions in the region to deploy hundreds of extra troops to Saudi Arabia. Around 500 are being  being sent  to the Prince Sultan Air Base, east of Riyadh, Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev said: "Neither Iran nor the United States, by and large, are interested in a real war. However, the game of nerves and the raising of stakes will continue." Germany's called the seizure of the British tanker an "unjustifiable intrusion" on shipping which "further exacerbates an already strained situation." A German foreign ministry spokesman said: "Another regional escalation would be very dangerous, it would also undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis." France condemned the seizure and said it "harms the needed de-escalation of tensions." A US defence official told CNN the US is using armed military aircraft to monitor American commercial cargo ships on their passage through the strait, which can take eight hours. There were no further details given and it was not clear whether the monitoring was being extended to non-US ships.


  • Where Are the Trump Officials? Aspen Forum Goes Without in 2019

    Where Are the Trump Officials? Aspen Forum Goes Without in 2019(Bloomberg) -- Call it the Case of the Vanishing Trump Administration Officials.That was the mystery that played out at the 2019 Aspen Security Forum, where senior officials, thought leaders and reporters gather annually in one of America’s wealthiest ski and sun playgrounds to debate timely matters of national security and foreign policy. The event was established a decade ago to bring Republicans and Democrats together for robust, bipartisan discussions.But this year’s gathering was marked chiefly by the absence of any of President Donald Trump’s top officials. They either had scheduling conflicts or opted to stay away from an event that became synonymous a year ago with the contortions top officials must perform in defending Trump’s more unpredictable policies.“We’ve got very senior people here -- and we’re very grateful to them for being here -- but there’s no question that we don’t have some of the cabinet level people here that have been here in past years,” said Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who now heads the Aspen Strategy Group, which took over running the event in January.“I hope very much that we can assure the Trump administration next year that they can come and they can present their views and be heard,” Burns said.Too PolarizedThe absence of administration officials begged the question of whether the U.S. is currently too polarized to even discuss national security, an area decision-making without adequate debate can have devastating consequences.On the lush green lawns of the Aspen Meadows Resort, attendees even had a name for the phenomenon: the “Coats Factor.” That’s a reference to the moment a year ago when Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, was caught off guard when told Trump had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington.“Say that again?” a visibly surprised Coats asked his interviewer. “O.K...That is going to be special.”The Coats Factor isn’t just about Coats. Attendee Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of homeland security at the time, had to backtrack after she said Russia’s 2016 election interference efforts weren’t designed to favor one candidate or another. And FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were asked to account for the president’s actions, days after the Helsinki summit with Putin.Pence, PompeoPerhaps as a result, invitations sent this year to Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and numerous other top administration officials went largely unaccepted, according to organizers.Several officials accepted and then canceled at the last minute. They included acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, who stayed in Washington to testify Thursday to a House panel about the situation at the U.S. border.The Trump administration has portrayed developments at the U.S.-Mexican border as a top national security threat, but the topic was barely raised at Aspen.McAleenan may have wished he was enjoying Aspen’s cool conditions instead of facing heated questions from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who grilled him about the treatment of migrants in U.S. detention facilities. “We’re doing our level best,” McAleenan told the lawmakers.Civil SparringSome administration officials did attend, though. The most senior was Sigal Mandelker, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. She sparred civilly on Friday with Wendy Sherman, a former State Department undersecretary who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned. Amy Hess, executive assistant director of the FBI’s criminal, cyber response and services branch, also spoke on Saturday.Among others in attendance included Philip Davidson, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, also spoke on Saturday.But there was, among participants, a distinct feeling of being let down. Officials may have stayed away out of fear for hurting their careers: Coats remains in his job, but has faced speculation for months that Trump wants him gone, in part because of his remarks a year ago.Vacant PostsThe absences were also a reminder of how many officials occupy key posts in the Trump administration on an “acting” basis.Some conservatives complained they were invited only to provide token opposition. Other potential invitees were told to stay away because administration officials felt the 2018 conference was too anti-Trump, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.“There has long been an insular phenomenon in foreign policy circles where a few Washington types go to conferences to speak to a few more Washington types,” Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany said by email, describing a larger issue. “The latest trend is to shrink the circle even more by having Washington types discuss issues with just one side of the political aisle.”While Trump and most of his team didn’t show up, the president was on everyone’s mind. As panelists discussed a resurgent Russia’s implications for European security, Trump continued to rage against four congresswomen of color. And as the sun rose in a cloudless sky on Friday in the Roaring Fork Valley, Trump unloaded on New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman -- who spoke at the forum as recently as 2018 -- whom he called “the Chin” and “a weak and pathetic sort of guy.”Standing OvationThe political leanings of the audience were clear. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright got a standing ovation when she declared that Trump is “dividing our country and dehumanizing those with whom he disagrees.”And jokes about Robert Mueller’s Russia report were frequent, days before the former special counsel is scheduled to testify to lawmakers about his investigation.“Why is the president unfailingly uncritical of Vladimir Putin and yet incessantly critical of the Democratic leaders?” Burns asked on a panel with former Acting Central Intelligence Agency director John McLaughlin.“Well isn’t that the $64,000 question,” McLaughlin cracked. “And if I knew it, my name would probably be Robert Mueller.”That theme reached its apex when Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, appeared alongside NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who passed along Trump’s Putin invitation to Coats a year ago while the pair were on stage, eliciting the “that’s going to be special” response.Rice had sharp words for the president, yet offered a succinct response when an audience member asked what should be done about the group that seemed very removed from Aspen this year -- the 63 million Americans who cast their vote for Trump in 2016.“You respect them,” Rice said. “They’re fellow Americans who are entitled to their opinions.”To contact the reporters on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.net;Nick Wadhams in Aspen, Colorado at nwadhams@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, Steve Geimann, Ros KrasnyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Suspect in shooting of Turkish diplomat arrested

    Suspect in shooting of Turkish diplomat arrestedKurdish security officials say they have arrested the lead suspect in the shooting of a Turkish diplomat in Iraq's semi-autonomous region. A gunman opened fire in a restaurant in Irbil on Wednesday, killing the Turkish diplomat and an Iraqi national. There was no claim of responsibility although suspicion fell on Kurdish militants, who operate in parts of Iraq's Kurdish region and have waged an insurgency against Turkey.


  • Is a new US-led war looming with Iran?

    Is a new US-led war looming with Iran?The United States is deploying troops in Saudi Arabia as tensions soar with its arch-rival Iran raising concerns over navigation in the Gulf's strategic Strait of Hormuz. It will be the first deployment of its kind since 2003, when American forces withdrew from the kingdom after a 12-year presence and two US-led wars with Iraq that culminated with the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein. Separate statements from Riyadh and the US Central Command, or CENTCOM, say the Saudi deployment aims to ensure stability in the turbulent Gulf.


  • Iraqi forces launch anti-IS operation north of Baghdad

    Iraqi forces launch anti-IS operation north of BaghdadIraq's military said Saturday its troops in partnership with security agencies and paramilitary forces launched the second phase of an operation aimed at clearing remnants of the Islamic State group from north of Baghdad and surrounding areas. The military said the new target area is north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces. Although Iraq declared victory against IS in July 2017, the extremists have turned into an insurgency and continue to carry out deadly attacks in the country.


  • UPDATE 1-Iranian ship repaired in Saudi Arabia heads back to Iran

    UPDATE 1-Iranian ship repaired in Saudi Arabia heads back to IranAn Iranian ship which had gone to Jeddah port in Saudi Arabia because of technical problems in May is heading back to Iran, Iran's ISNA news agency reported on Saturday. There was no immediate confirmation from Saudi authorities. The Mehr news agency reported in early July that Saudi officials were not allowing the ship, the Happiness 1, to leave the port because of a dispute over the payment of repair costs.


  • Space Force: The long and bumpy road to getting Trump’s pet project off the ground

    Space Force: The long and bumpy road to getting Trump’s pet project off the groundAfter decades of research and hundreds of missions there are currently around 2,000 active satellites in space. But with Elon Musk’s SpaceX having recently launched 60 of what it hopes to be up to 12,000 satellites and Amazon planning to launch more than 3,000 of its own, the cosmos is due to get a lot more crowded and potentially a lot more dangerous. It is into this arena that China, Russia, France, India and a number of other nations are looking to expand their national defence programmes. But one government stands above all others at the moment in looking to “dominate” this frontier. The US and Donald Trump.In announcing the creation of one of his pet projects – the Space Force – last year, Trump said: “It is not enough to have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.”In February this year the president added that his administration “has recognised space as a war fighting domain – there will be nobody that come close to matching us”.For Alexandra Stickings, a research fellow for space policy and security at the the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, this mix of rhetoric and the current picture in space is “terrifying”.“There are millions of pieces of debris alongside the thousands of satellites up there, that we have trouble tracking … That is going to get more and more difficult when you have thousands of new satellites and a number of new operators involved.”With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this weekend, the movement towards the creation of the sci-fi-sounding Space Force has been put back into the spotlight – with Charles Miller, a space policy advisor during both the Barack Obama and Trump administrations, and who was part of the Trump transition team for Nasa, believing that more urgent discussions are needed over the idea being “inevitable”.“It is the next level of national security ... The greatest risk for a third world war right now is allowing us to be so open to having our national security disrupted by having a country such as China or Russia destroy our satellites.”For Trump the vision is simple – the US must counter the threat from Beijing and Moscow as part of his “America first” doctrine, but not unusually for the Trump administration, the bombast clouds what is a complex picture both on the ground and in space.* * *Space is seen by officials in governments around the world as important in so many areas – from communications to experimental science and the tracking of military assets – and space policy experts have repeatedly made clear important international conversations need to be had about how a balance will be struck between nations.The United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa) is integral to laying out a framework for the peaceful use of space, but there is also the military element. Nato is expected to declare space a war-fighting domain later this year, which will have implications for Article 5, the mutual defence clause among other issues.Article IV of the international 1967 Outer Space Treaty forbids member states from placing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in orbit around the Earth, on celestial bodies or stations in outer space. Military bases, installations and fortifications, weapons testing and conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies are also forbidden. But the legality of other military uses in space is still a question without a definitive answer and that is a gap Trump’s Space Force, or anything similar by other nations could exploit.Stickings says it is about keeping a “particularly fine balance” especially between the big three nations of the US, China and Russia.“US allies are quite dependent on them for their space capabilities, for example the UK and a lot of Europe don’t have a lot of sovereign capability – so in that sense, they are dependent on how the US is protecting its own satellites and what it’s doing to counter threats,” she says. This is part of what makes the Space Force so important.“But there is a flip side to that as well,” according to Stickings. “If you are dependent on another country and that country starts to use provocative rhetoric, is that putting you more at risk? So there is a sense of other countries needing to up their their own game.” France has already announced the creation of its own space force as part of its national defence programme and the UK is assessing its capabilities too.The type of rhetorical brinkmanship Trump has partaken in with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programmes, and the risk of mistakes that brings, is also true in space.“One of the things about space is that attribution is very difficult,” says Ms Stickings. “If your satellite stops working was it solar energy? A piece of debris that hit it? A meteorite? Or was it an actual attack?“By putting it at that war footing, you have the worry that people will jump to conclusions there will be a miscalculation when nobody was actually at fault – so there are a lot of conversations around the question of ‘what do we mean by a hostile attack and how do we prove hostile intent?’.“And if you are using the idea of war, it makes those conversations a lot more important and potentially fraught,” she adds.* * *Trump and his administration also face difficulties in congress. With a conversation that is still so hypothetical, there is often friction, despite the need to act fairly swiftly.There are competing visions as to what to tackle first and whether separate departments are needed – whether the military elements in space are just there to support the armed forces or are a different entity.“It all requires technology that we don’t actually have right now,” says Russ Rumbaugh of the Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit, independent group that houses the only federally funded research and development centre in the US committed to space.“That means that conversation is always a little bit clouded as we are not talking about any near-term view,” says Rumbaugh, who is systems director for the corporation’s Centre for Space Policy and Strategy. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have different views on what the Space Force should be and cost, with estimates ranging from $3bn to $5bn. There is also the added complication of the new Space Development Agency (SDA), created in March this year.According to Miller, who was on the Trump-Nasa transition team, it is there to help “rapid innovation and development”. “The current air force space programmes are slow and bureaucratic and take a decade to create a new system – and that is a recipe for failure,” he says.In the SDA’s first call for ideas ideas from contractors, released on 1 July, it said its mission is to “rapidly develop and deploy a threat-driven, next-generation space architecture to counter near-peer efforts to contest or deny our space-based systems”. But congress is not convinced.The chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee recently denied a Pentagon request to allocate $15m to the SDA, citing confusion over its position and the resignation of the agency’s first director Fred Kennedy in June, less than fourth months after the SDA was created.“The committee is concerned about the turmoil surrounding the Space Development Agency and uncertainty about programme plans and leadership, shortly after its establishment in March 2019,” a letter denying the money said.There is speculation that there was infighting over the direction of the SDA, which was exasperated by the recent departure of the acting US secretary of defence, Patrick Shanahan, who had been a big champion of the SDA amid some pushback from other officials that the agency would just be duplicating the work of the armed forces.“It is a real problem in having this churn in leadership”, says Miller, adding that it stops the agency being able to move forward effectively.Stckings also sees an issue with the way the issues of space infrastructure is dealt with politically. “One of the problems is that the understanding of space is still worryingly low,” she says. “The number of policy makers that can understand the importance of space is very limited.“I think people are starting to see that they need to get involved now … that we need to protect those orbits and the sustainability of those orbits because if not we risk losing everything that we have up there.”Rumbaugh says that all sides in the US and nations around the world need to make sure the conversations are clear. “We are living through a very important time and these questions are not going away.”Stickings says the US and the world “can’t afford to wait” but that the difficult questions need to be asked and decisions need to be thought through carefully to ensure the correct ones are being made.“We need to do it now,” she says. “But if you don’t get how you are organising your military operations right, you are going to have a problem as space enables so much of the military.”


  • The Air Force Has Sent Stealth F-22 Raptors to Qatar to Deter Iran

    The Air Force Has Sent Stealth F-22 Raptors to Qatar to Deter IranSince becoming operational in 2005, the F-22 has achieved roughly a 50-percent readiness rate, on average -- one of the lowest rates of all U.S. fighter types. The Raptor's complex systems and delicate, radar-absorbing coating require intensive maintenance.The U.S. Air Force on June 27, 2019 deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters for the first time to Qatar as part of a build-up of forces ahead of a possible clash with Iran.The Air Force did not specify how many F-22s traveled to Qatar. Photographers spotted 12 of the radar-evading jets with “FF” tailcodes indicating they belong to the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.The F-22s could fly alongside stealthy F-35s that the Air Force deployed to the United Arab Emirates in April 2019.(This first appeared in June 2019.)Raptors previously flew from the UAE for missions over the Persian Gulf, Syria and Iraq. But a readiness crisis in March 2019 compelled the Air Force to return the F-22s to the United States.Since becoming operational in 2005, the F-22 has achieved roughly a 50-percent readiness rate, on average -- one of the lowest rates of all U.S. fighter types. The Raptor's complex systems and delicate, radar-absorbing coating require intensive maintenance.Hurricane Michael didn't help. The October 2018 storm devastated Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida's panhandle region. Tyndall at the time housed two squadrons together flying 55 F-22s.  the 43rd Fighter Squadron is a training unit. The 95th Fighter Squadron is a combat unit.