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Trump Again Undercuts Foreign Policy Advisers With Saudi Tweets

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Donald Trump King Salman
  • Trump Again Undercuts Foreign Policy Advisers With Saudi Tweets

President Donald Trump again showed how quickly his tweets can outrun U.S. foreign policy planning, after he backed Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince over the arrests of dozens of officials before the State Department had completed its review of the moves.

While Trump had talked with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about Saudi Arabia as they toured Tokyo together Nov. 5 and 6, there was no formal consultation before he tweeted early Tuesday that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “know exactly what they are doing.”

A second tweet said “some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”

The tweets were only the latest time Trump has set U.S. foreign policy in 140 characters. It effectively gave the crown prince the full weight of the U.S. backing despite serious questions remaining about Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the rule of law and its ability to guarantee financial transactions.

“Having the United States in many ways supporting a position that is seen as quite controversial can be problematic for the region,” Raihan Ismail, an associate lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, said by phone. “Regional instability will continue to spook foreign investors. The Trump administration is seen as erratic.”

Eyeing the Throne

Trump was responding to King Salman’s order, announced on Nov. 4, to detain 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers and businessmen, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, as part of an anti-corruption drive led by the crown prince. The move reinforced speculation that he was clearing any remaining obstacles to his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s accession to the throne.

Trump’s tweeting once again threatens to roil a complex international situation and one of the U.S.’s most critical relationships, and may embolden the crown prince at a time when some administration officials fear he is moving too far too fast.

Until Trump’s tweet, the administration had largely withheld comment, with State Department spokespeople referring reporters to the Saudi government. With Tillerson and the rest of Trump’s national security team with him on the Asia tour, there has been little time to hammer out a response.

That slow reaction reflects the complexity of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the danger that comes with trying to interpret them.

For example, the U.S. is largely pleased with much of what the young crown prince has pushed for, such as his desire to move away from radical Islam, the move to allow women to drive and his Vision 2030 reform plan. At the same time, the administration is disquieted by other policies, such as the continued military campaign in Yemen, capped by the decision Nov. 6 to close Yemeni land, sea and air crossings to all but aid and rescue teams.

The Trump administration is also running out of patience with Saudi Arabia over the boycott that it’s led against the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, also a U.S. ally. That has pushed Qatar closer into the arms of U.S. and Saudi rival Iran and is seen as inimical to U.S. interests.

The Qatar crisis was another example of Trump getting out ahead of his foreign policy advisers. After Tillerson took a moderate approach, declining to take sides, Trump praised the Saudis for cracking down on terror financing.

But State Department officials have said Tillerson persuaded Trump to come around to his position that the crisis in Qatar had gone on long enough and it was time for the Saudi-led group to ease its blockade.

Policy Discrepancy

Yet another case is North Korea. Tillerson frequently says that lines of communication remain open and the U.S. would be willing to talk to Kim Jong Un’s regime. Yet Trump has tweeted repeatedly that talks would be useless.

Some outside experts were skeptical though that Trump’s tweet, for all the confusion it might cause, would really shape policy. James Dorsey, who studies Saudi Arabia as a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, cited past cases such as Qatar where Tillerson was allowed to pursue a different policy.

“There is repeatedly a discrepancy between his tweets on issues such as Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Qatar and the policies he allows his secretaries of defense and state to pursue,” Dorsey said. “Trump’s tweet certainly would have been welcomed by Mohammed bin Salman, but it remains to be seen what it means in practical terms and policy.”

“It strikes me that the past record shows that Trump’s tweets do not necessarily set policy,” he said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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