- 24 April 2019
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
The New York Times
President Trump at a rally in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday, during which he said Washington was still “subsidizing” the Saudi military.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon — At a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday, President Trump tore into Saudi Arabia, an important Middle Eastern ally, as yet another country giving the United States a bad deal.
He said that although the kingdom had spent $450 billion in the United States, Washington was still “subsidizing” the Saudi military. Mr. Trump said during the rally that he had complained about that to the Saudi monarch, King Salman, in a phone call.
“King!” Mr. Trump said he told the monarch. Using an expletive, he said, he griped that the United States was losing its shirt defending Saudi Arabia, “and you have a lot of money.”
It is highly unlikely that the call took place as Mr. Trump described, but in any case, the president appears to have mischaracterized the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
We fact-checked Mr. Trump’s claims.
The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has long rested on a simple equation: The United States buys Saudi oil, and Saudi Arabia buys American weaponry, with the understanding that America would help protect the kingdom in case of a foreign attack.
Portraits of President Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia were projected onto the Ritz Hotel during the president’s visit to the kingdom in 2017.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times
During his visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, the first foreign trip of his presidency, Mr. Trump said he had concluded a $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom.
But Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst now with the Brookings Institution, wrote an analysis saying that was false.
The alleged deal, according to Mr. Riedel, was actually a conglomeration of nonbinding letters of intent for future business and previous deals initiated during the Obama administration, when the kingdom bought $112 billion in weapons.
Nearly two years after Mr. Trump’s announcement, only one new major arms deal has gone through. This month, the Pentagon awarded a $2.4 billion contract to Lockheed Martin for missile defense technology. The Saudi government was expected to pay $1.5 billion for its part of the deal, Reuters reported.
The Saudi government has continued to pay the United States for munitions, maintenance and training of its forces under previous contracts.
Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and terminal in Saudi Arabia. The United States buys Saudi oil, and Saudi Arabia buys American weaponry.CreditAhmed Jadallah/Reuters
As for subsidies, the kingdom receives about $10,000 per year in American military assistance, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Receiving this aid qualifies the kingdom for a discount on American training — which the kingdom also pays for.
Saudi Arabia has strong economic ties to the United States and is Washington’s largest trading partner in the Middle East.
The kingdom has the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves, after Venezuela, and is a top oil exporter, making it a major player in global energy markets.
Despite the robust trade, there is no publicly available information to back up Mr. Trump’s claim of $450 billion in Saudi spending in the United States. The White House has not detailed how Mr. Trump arrived at that number.
Total exports of goods and services to Saudi Arabia from the United States in 2018 were about $22.3 billion, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was down from about $25.4 billion in 2017.
Muslim pilgrims praying at the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca in 2018. Saudi Arabia, as the protector of Islam’s holiest sites — including Mecca — is often a valuable diplomatic partner.CreditDar Yasin/Associated Press
In the long run, the rise in American oil production will probably undermine the foundations of the trade relationship with Saudi Arabia. The more oil that the United States produces, the less it needs to buy from Saudi Arabia. And the kingdom produces little else that the United States wants to buy.
The United States receives other advantages from its strong relationship with the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, with its clout in the Muslim world as the protector of Islam’s holiest sites — including Mecca, in western Saudi Arabia — is often a valuable diplomatic partner.
The two countries’ intelligence services work together closely, sharing information about terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and other threats.
Saudi Arabia also often participates in American initiatives in the Middle East, such as the United States-led coalition against the Islamic State. In October, the kingdom gave $100 million to the United States to help stabilize parts of Syria liberated from the militants.
But even with security cooperation, the kingdom usually picks up the bill.
American advisers work in important security, industrial, energy and cyber security offices inside the Saudi government, their jobs paid for by the Saudis, according to the Congressional Research Service.
“U.S. training and security support to Saudi Arabia remains overwhelmingly Saudi-funded via foreign military sales and other contracts,” the service said.
Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter: @NYTBen.
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US President Donald Trump has reiterated his support for Saudi Arabia at a "Make America Great Again" (MAGA) rally where he also described a negotiation tactic he used to get more money from the kingdom for the United States' military support.
During a rally with his supporters in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Trump indicated that he would remain a steadfast supporter of the Saudi government, largely due to Riyadh's purchases from US companies.
"They have nothing but cash, right?" he told the crowd. "They buy a lot from us, $450 billion they bought.""You had people wanting to cut off Saudi Arabia ... I don't want to lose them," he said.
rated the claim as "Pants on Fire".
Trump then described a recent phone call with Saudi King Salman in which he demanded more money from the oil-rich nation in exchange for the defence the US provides.
"We lose $4.5 billion on a country to defend them, and they're rich," Trump said.
"So I called them. I said: listen, no good. They were in a state of shock because they've never got a call like this in 25 years, right," he said as the crowd cheered.
Trump went on: "I said we're losing $4.5 billion every year, we can't do this anymore. This is crazy. He [King Salman] got very upset, angry, said this is not fair. I said, of course, this is fair. He said we'll give you $500 million more ... I said I want more. We argued. So they paid us more than $500 million for one phone call, it took me one call."
He said the king then asked him why he was calling, because "nobody had made such a call".
"That's because they were stupid!" Trump said.
Increased scrutinyUS-Saudi ties have faced increased criticism since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS), was killed and his body dismembered by a Saudi team, Turkey has alleged.
The murder prompted a global outcry, with several countries imposing an arms embargo on the kingdom in light of the controversy.
But Trump stood with the Saudi leadership.
At the time of the murder, Trump said: "If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries, and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business.
"It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States."
In November, the CIA concluded that MBS, the de facto ruler and heir to the Saudi throne, ordered the assassination.
Saudi authorities have strongly denied the claim, and in private conversations with Western officials have instead criticised Turkish authorities for failing to stop the murder.
"Their intelligence knew that a (Saudi) hit squad was coming. They could have stopped them!" one of them quoted a Saudi official as saying.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News
Monday, April 29, 2019
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Saturday, April 27, 2019
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
A 250kg (550lb) World War Two bomb caused damage in a German city when it exploded on Wednesday under controlled circumstances.
The bomb could not be transported or defused, experts found. So they instead evacuated some 4,500 people in a 1.5km (one mile) radius.
Despite the planned explosion, nearby buildings were damaged in the blast, their windows shattering.
Unexploded bombs from the war are not uncommon in Germany, which was heavily bombed by Britain and, later, the US.
Regional newspaper Mittelbayerische Zeitung reported that the Regensburg bomb was equipped with a particularly complicated detonator.
It also presented a genuine threat, investigators decided - rather than being considered a dud - and had to be detonated on the spot as soon as possible.
Police then began a safety check of the area before allowing residents to return to their homes. A full inspection of the damage caused will be carried out on Wednesday.
The bomb has not been identified - but British and US forces bombed the city multiple times during World War Two, dropping hundreds of bombs, many of which did not explode.
A US-made bomb was discovered in the city in January, which was defused after a lengthy operation that resulted in the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.
In June 2017, a similar discovery made headlines when more than 100 prisoners had to be evacuated when a bomb was found near a jail - along with 1,500 residents.
Across Germany, evacuations for old bombs sometimes involve entire populations. About 18,500 people were evacuated from Ludwigshafen in August last year,while Frankfurt evacuated some 70,000 over the threat from a 1.4 tonne British "blockbuster" bomb in 2017.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Monday, April 22, 2019
- Reuters 23rd Apr 2019 00:05:00 GMT +0300
The two Gulf Arab countries will deposit Sh50 billion ($500 million) with the Sudanese Central Bank and send the rest in the form of food, medicine and petroleum products, their state news agencies said in parallel statements. The aid comes amid wrangling between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and protesters and opposition groups who are demanding that civilians lead a two-year transitional period. The protesters who have kept up a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry since Bashir was removed on April 11.
SEE ALSO :New technology unveiled to fight workers exploitation
They have demonstrated in large numbers over the past three days, pressing for a rapid handover to civilian rule. TMC head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan told state TV that the formation of a joint military-civilian council - one of the activists’ demands - was being considered. “The issue has been put forward for discussion and a vision has yet to be reached,” he said. “The role of the military council complements the uprising and the blessed revolution,” said Burhan, adding that the TMC was committed to handing power over to the people. But a coalition of protesters and opposition groups said the TMC was not serious about handing over power to civilians, describing the council as an “extension of the old regime”. “We have decided to opt for escalation with the military council, not to recognise its legitimacy and to continue the sit-in and escalate the protests on the streets,” Mohamed al-Amin Abdel-Aziz, of the Sudanese Professional Association, told one of the largest crowds outside the defence ministry. SEE ALSO :Family seeks aid to bring kin stuck in Saudi
Burhan also confirmed for the first time that Bashir and a number of former officials, including presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie, acting party head Ahmed Haroun and former first vice president Ali Osman Taha, are being held at a high-security prison in Khartoum.
Read more: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2001322183/saudi-arabia-uae-to-send-sh300b-in-aid-to-sudan
- The Akashas were an easy target because they failed to bankroll politics and, therefore, fell out of favour with power brokers.
- Kenya wouldn’t have surrendered the Akashas to America had they been controlling political power.
- Kenya’s narco-industry is widespread, beyond the understanding of the common person.
- It’s deeply entrenched in national politics and governance and has thus become the first-choice playground for foreign networks.
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Instructively, the Akashas' case in the US has excited a public convinced it is definitive in Kenya’s fight against hard drugs. And this exhilaration is because American authorities earlier promised to swoop down on Akashas’ accomplices — judges, police officers, politicians, and many other public servants who aided or abetted the enterprise founded by Ibrahim Akasha, the poster boy of drug trafficking in Kenya.
Yet the possibility of Americans prosecuting the Akashas’ allies and accomplices — and other top local drug lords — is almost zero. Or to put it in another way, the chance that Kenyan drug kingpins and barons will be spirited to America is remote — unless there is a radical shift in politics in 2022. And if Americans attempt to come for the Akasha collaborators, it won’t be a walk in the park.
It will be extremely difficult for Kenya’s political establishment to relinquish its benefactors to Americans. There are explanations for this, apart from the fact that their international operations were linked to the US. The Akashas were an easy target because they failed to bankroll politics and, therefore, fell out of favour with power brokers. Kenya wouldn’t have surrendered the Akashas to America had they been controlling political power.
“After (the patriarch’s) death, the family continued to traffic drugs, but there was infighting, and (it) came under scrutiny as the face of Kenya’s heroin trade. As a result, they began to lose political protection, culminating in their extradition,” according to the report The Heroin Coast: A political Economy Along the Estern African Seaboard, published in June 2018 by Enhancing Africa’s Response to Transnational Organised Crime (ENACT) through funding by the European Union and considered groundbreaking research into the heroin economy on the East African coastline.
It’s instructive to note that during Mwai Kibaki’s presidency, the Akasha crime kinship went underground after it was overwhelmed by rival drug cartels controlled by five top politicians at the time.
To buttress its fortunes against rivals such as the Akashas, one of the cartels connected to elements at State House even imported the so-called Artur brothers as hatchet men.
Two, the newest drug lord is no longer the apolitical criminal or the political lobbyist but the top politician, and if you like, the government itself. The owners of the heroin and cocaine trade are those who now control regional and national politics and business — and by extension the two sets of government. They are firmly embedded in politics and governance. So, how do you extradite the government? Or, who will extradite the government?
During the Akasha trial, the head of Kenya’s anti-narcotics unit, Salim Massa, said in a sworn affidavit that the government “ordered the expulsions of the Akashas on its own volition”. Instructively, Kenya had arrested the Akasha brothers in 2014 yet, by the time they were extradited, they had not been charged with drug trafficking.
While it’s politically viable to hand over to foreign legal jurisdictions fringe drug barons like the Akashas, it’s obviously imprudent to surrender the political franchise. “Franchise” meaning the barons who work for the benefit of the political establishment. According to ENACT, “for decades now, the political patronage system (in Kenya) has been influenced by money — cash that is needed to bribe, buy votes and manipulate the political process … Political slush funds come from those involved in transnational crime, including drug trafficking”.
The modern Ibrahim Akasha isn’t the original morsel drug lord of the 1990s who only dealt in the destructive merchandise because cleaning the ill-gotten wealth wasn’t a hustle nor illegitimate, for laws against money laundering were either absent or too lenient to deter the crime. The new drug kingpin is a dollar billionaire controlling a matrix of illicit business, not just drug trafficking.
What we have is a big-time politician or influential business person who handily combines drug trafficking with real estate, all forms of trans-border smuggling, counterfeiting, poaching, and manipulation of public procurement, and embracing it with legitimate business such as banking or money lending, civil construction, clearing and forwarding, and the service industry.
This is an influential person able to covertly conjoin crime and legitimate business, in an atmosphere of complacent and expedient politics whose philosophy is that money buys political authority. Real business merely facilitates illicit trade. Yet this diversification is not just to make it possible for the drug lords to stay afloat during a slump in any of their businesses. It is to circumvent the harsh banking regulations and to avoid a financial paper trail.
Drug trafficking is a hugely risky venture. But it is extremely profitable — in fact more handy than Kenya’s newest cash cow, tenderpreneurship. Unlike procurement manipulation, which often leaves a paper trail, the evidence in drug trafficking is always the mule who is often sworn to secrecy. The big fellow, the drug lord, will always survive as mules rot in jails.
“One of the notable evolutions in Kenya’s criminal economy is the increased integration of drug networks and political office. Money derived from heroin and cocaine has been used to fund multiple election campaigns, and drug traffickers themselves have campaigned for political power funded by drug money,” says the ENACT report — based on over 240 interviews in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. The report quotes a source who quips, “They (Kenya drug lords) are no longer seeking to compromise the political system … They are seeking to control the political system”.
The current Uhuru Kenyatta succession politics has exposed an urgent need by the political class to amass wealth to fund election campaigns. Thus there has emerged ferocious individuals ready to compromise public procurement to make political fortunes in a blatant mix of crime and political power.
Against this background, it becomes increasingly obvious that the government and/or controllers of politics will unlikely relinquish their benefactors to foreign lands like America. The goodwill will not be there. And this partly explains why all major heroin and cocaine seizures have been at the hand of external forces — in particular the Combined Marine Forces that patrol the Indian Ocean against Somali pirates — and not Kenyan authorities.
“In general, people we spoke to were extremely cynical about the prospect for any major change, including efforts towards dismantling Kenya’s illicit networks, as the structural features that allow for the current situation show no signs of changing.”
All told, Kenya’s narco-industry is widespread, beyond the understanding of the common person. It’s deeply entrenched in national politics and governance and has thus become the first-choice playground for foreign networks under the protection, or in the employ, of top Kenyans. That’s why the country is eagerly awaiting the Director of Public Prosecutions to furnish Parliament a list of Kenyan drug traffickers, as recently demanded by Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali.
As stated earlier, the Akashas may be the prototype drug enterprise. But the controllers of the trade are entrenched in the country’s governance system. As long as they provide the requisite balance in this highly ethnicised Kenyatta succession politics, the possibility that they will be prosecuted — within and without Kenya — is remote. If anything, there are Kenyans being sought by foreign or international legal jurisdictions but the government has conveniently declined to play ball, as it were.
The Akashas extradition may have been alluring to the then political power brokers eager to curry favour with the then just-elected President Donald Trump. A leadership weighed down by the International Criminal Court indictments and accused of benefiting from a stolen 2013 election was seeking international legitimacy. This is no longer tenable in Jubilee’s second and last term.