Trump seeks gains in foreign policy

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in an activity with schoolchildren as he visits the NLV Pharos, a lighthouse tender moored on the river Thames to mark London International Shipping Week in London on Thursday. - AFP

President Donald Trump has failed in his move for a peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan to withdraw more than 5,000 US troops from there, in a setback to his declared policy of bringing back US troops from abroad.

This situation also led to his removal of his National Security Advisor John Bolton, the most hawk eyed member of the Trump Cabinet - the third NSA to leave the Trump team since his term began in 2016, in moves for gains in his Foreign Policy and benefit in electoral politics.

The removal of Bolton follows his direct criticism of the President’s move to invite the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and a delegation of Taliban members to the Camp David in Washington to sign a peace agreement that had been reached in talks between the US and Taliban.

It was a largely secret meeting planned for September 11, the national commemoration day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda in the US 18 years ago. John Bolton opposed this move, as did many Republican and Democratic Congress members too. The rising opposition to this move led to President Trump to call off the meeting, and declare that the peace talks with the Taliban, held for nearly two years, were ‘dead’. Although he said the talks were called off because one US serviceman was killed in the latest suicide bomb attack by Taliban in Afghanistan, many US troops had been killed in such terror attacks by the Taliban in the past three weeks, when the talks between the US and Taliban were concluded and initialed.

John Bolton’s removal and the close of the US-Taliban peace talks at this stage, is seen as a political move forced on President Trump in the current re-election campaign for the Presidency, and his need for a major Foreign Policy achievement.

With Bolton gone, Trump will have an opportunity to carry on with his ‘dovish’ or non-war strategies, combined with big talk politics. The President is now able to continue with his diplomatic moves with North Korea (already calling for fresh talks) and in some negotiation moves with Iran.

Political analysts observe that despite Trump’s moves North Korea is not denuclearizing. That Iran is moving closer to building a nuclear bomb after Trump pulled out of the international nuclear deal, and that China is rising fast, while Russia is resurgent after interfering in US elections.

President Trump is in perilous political territory -- dipping to 39% approval in a new information poll. Only 36% of those asked said he deserved re-election, which requires quick and big media coverage for him.

In the current situation, Bolton’s departure represents a victory for North Korea, which had been trying for months through its official media to have new talks with Trump, and was critical of Bolton. He was also not supportive of Trump’s friendship moves with Russia in diplomacy. Bolton is also one who saw the US being brought to the brink of an armed clash with Iran after the recent shooting down of a US Drone over the Gulf of Oman. Iran has commented on Bolton’s removal that “US should avoid ‘war mongers’”.

Following the initial discussions at the recent G7 meeting in France, it is now possible in the absence of Bolton, for Trump will have greater leeway to pursue his reported hopes of organising a stunning meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

The declared end of the peace talks with Taliban, may not be permanent, as seen in Trump’s declaration to bring back all US troops in his election campaign for the presidency in 2016. Trump also has the benefit of not having Bolton who was active in the moves to replace the Venezuelan President Maduro during recent protests, and was strong in moves for the US to move away from the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran.

On the current US politics Donald Trump badly needs a Foreign Policy win. The break of peace talks with Taliban and the removal of John Bolton could be the moves for such success, as the electoral campaign for the 2020 presidency moves closer.

UK - Johnson in legal wrangles

Boris Johnson could be the most defeated prime minister in the first weeks in a UK parliament. He has already lost six votes in the House of Commons, and moved to his tactical move of prorogation – or suspension of the House of Commons, with MPs having a five week absence, till October 14, from any parliamentary business.

His government has now moved into a major legal confrontation on the prorogation issue which will be taken up by the Supreme Court next week, bringing Johnson into a legal and political wrangle of huge proportions.

This followed a combined majority of Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationalists, other opposition parties and those who have crossed over from the Conservatives, forming a clear majority in parliament, and passing legislation rejecting a “No Deal” exit from the European Union (EU), which Johnson had sought.

Johnson has lost two votes to call for fresh elections, which was his tactic to overcome opposition in the Commons, with prorogation too. He is now required by law to hold discussions with the EU and possibly call for an extension of the date for leaving the EU till January 31, 2020, from October 31, 2019. Johnson remains determined not to call for any such extension, but has to face a situation of violating the law.

The Prime Minister of discordant politics is now faced with a new judicial threat. Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, has found in favour of a cross-party group of politicians who challenged the prime minister’s move on prorogation, overturning an earlier ruling from another court which said that prorogation was not breaking the law.

The Court of Session judges were unanimous in finding that Johnson was motivated by the “improper purpose of stymieing Parliament”, and that he had effectively misled the Queen in advising her to suspend Parliament.

They added: “The Court will accordingly make an Order declaring that the prime minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect.”

The three judge bench disagreed with the earlier court ruling because this particular prorogation had been a “tactic to frustrate Parliament” rather than a legitimate use of the power.

One of the three judges further said: “It was to be inferred that the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no-deal Brexit without further Parliamentary interference”.

The judgement came following an appeal by more than 70 largely pro-Remain MPs and peers.

Prime Minister Johnson had insisted it was the normal practice for a new government to prorogue Parliament, and that it was “nonsense” to suggest he was attempting to undermine democracy.

The government’s appeal against this ruling will be heard in the Supreme Court in London next week. While Opposition parties called for the Commons to be immediately recalled in the wake of the court judgement, the Prime Minister’s office said this would not happen ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on the case.

The Supreme Court will also consider an appeal against a High Court judgement in London, that advice given by the prime minister to the Queen to suspend parliament is basically “political” and it is not a matter that the courts should be involved in.

British politics is in a chaotic line up of political and legal confrontation, with the lineup for a general election contested by sharply divided political groups and parties.

Netanyahu threatens Palestinian territories

Arab leaders have denounced Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex large swathes of the Palestinian territories, if he is re-elected next week, as an election stunt that would “kill all chances for peace”.

Netanyahu, facing a tough fight in the September 17 elections said he would permanently seize up to a third of the West Bank, a move considered an endgame scenario for Palestinians’ aspirations of statehood. “We haven’t had this kind of opportunity since the [1967] six-day war, and may not have it again for another 50 years,” Netanyahu said. His move involves vast areas of Jordan.

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo condemned the plan as “a dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law”…“The league regards these statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations,” the ministers said.

Moscow elections

Parties tied to the ruling pro-Putin United Russia have retained their majority in Moscow despite flagging support, in elections this week. They saw their support slashed after months of protests on the barring of opposition voices from the polls.

United Russia came with only 26 of the Moscow Duma’s 45 seats, a major drop from the 38 it held before. Some former United Russia members had branded themselves independents before the vote, as support for the party has plummeted amidst rising poverty across the country.

In mid-July, the Central Election Commission refused to register most opposition politicians as candidates, claiming that the signatures of support they had gathered in order to run were falsified. One such candidate was popular anti-corruption activist Alexi Navalny, who’s Russia of the Future party had been hoping to make gains against United Russia ahead of national elections in 2021. However, 20 candidates linked to his Smart Voting campaign to strengthen opposition voices now have seats in the Moscow Duma.

Canadian Polls

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a federal election for October 21.

Opinion polls indicate it will be a tough race for Trudeau, who is seeking a second term in office. The campaign is expected to focus on issues of affordability, the economy, climate and cost of living issues.

There are sharpened their attacks against Trudeau, for not living up to the expectations of Canadians, who will have to defend his record, including his handling this year of an ethics crisis that has proved politically costly.

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