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May 22, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Trump Continues Middle East Trip in Israel

U.S. President Donald J. Trump arrived in Tel Aviv for a two-day visit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, saying he hopes for an era of "harmony, prosperity and peace" (BBC). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel seeks "genuine" peace (Guardian) with all its neighbors, including Palestinians. President Trump will visit the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before meetings with Netanyahu on Monday and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday. While in Riyadh on Sunday, Trump accused Iran (NYT) of arming terrorists across the region. Trump's direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv (AP) is believed to be the first of its kind, as the two countries have no diplomatic relations. Palestinians are striking (AP) in solidarity with prisoners in Israeli jails who have been on a hunger strike for more than a month.


"The idea that Trump is willing and able to pull out all the stops in pursuit of 'the ultimate deal' between Israelis and Palestinians is now a pipe dream—if it was ever anything but. Some understandably hold the view Trump—seemingly unbeholden to anyone or anything—is able to pressure the Israelis in a way no calculating, vote-counting American politician would previously dare. That theory has fared poorly when applied to U.S. domestic politics, though," Andrew Leber writes for the New Arab.

"Saudi and its conservative Sunni allies will be hard-pressed to match Iran, even with their new arms purchased from the U.S. It is unlikely, too, that Mr. Trump will want to translate his anti-Iranian rhetoric into a full-fledged anti-Iranian policy, given what that would entail. All of which is to say there are no signs that the Saudi-Iranian relationship is about to take a turn for the better," CFR President Richard N. Haass writes for the Financial Times.

"It has become commonplace for the political and military leadership in the Gulf States from Muscat to Riyadh to rail against U.S. policy under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. In the view of many of these leaders, it led to the meteoric rise of Iran, their arch-nemesis, and exacerbated regional turmoil. Since Trump's election, the shift in attitudes across the region has been notable," Bilal Y. Saab writes for Foreign Affairs.


TPP Countries Agree to Resume Deal

Trade ministers from the eleven remaining countries in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed during a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that they would explore ways to pursue the trade deal without the United States (Reuters), though they said the country could still rejoin the pact (BBC).

INDONESIA: Police in Jakarta arrested 141 men (Guardian) at a party they allege was for gay men. A spokesman said they could be charged with violating anti-pornography laws (BBC).


Gunmen Attack NGO Guesthouse in Kabul

An Afghan guard and a German woman were killed after unidentified gunmen attacked a Kabul guesthouse used by Operation Mercy (VOA), a Swedish charity. In a separate incident, some twenty police officers were killed (BBC) in southern Afghanistan by Taliban militants.

INDIA: The commander of Kashmir's largest militant outfit issued statements over social media in recent weeks saying that the group's struggle is "exclusively for Islam," distancing himself from traditional separatist leaders (Guardian) in the region.


U.S. Ambassador Visits Syrian Refugee Camp

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, saying that the United States is "not going to stop funding" (AP) humanitarian efforts for the Syrian refugee crisis.

CFR's Steven A. Cook looks at what President Trump faces in Syria in Salon.

IRAN: Reformists aligned with President Hassan Rouhani won all twenty-one seats (BBC) on Tehran's municipal council. Rouhani was reelected to the presidency last week, winning 57 percent of votes (NYT).


Kidnapped Girls Reunite With Families in Nigeria

Some eighty-two girls who were kidnapped in 2014 by militant group Boko Haram were reunited with their families (DW) in Abuja. The women were freed during an exchange for captured militants (BBC).

SOUTH AFRICA: Hundreds of people protested in Pretoria against a rise in reports of violence against women (DW). The demonstration followed a recent high-profile case (Africa News) over the murder of a twenty-two-year-old woman by her boyfriend.


Erdogan Extends State of Emergency Indefinitely

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a state of emergency, which was declared after a failed coup attempt last July, will be extended until Turkey achieves "welfare and peace" (NYT). The emergency rule allows Erdogan's administration to issue decrees (VOA) without parliamentary approval or judicial review.

SWITZERLAND: Swiss voters backed a government proposal to ban the construction of new nuclear power plants (Reuters) following a similar move by Germany (FT).


Venezuelan Protesters Set Man on Fire

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro referred to anti-government protesters who surrounded a man during a demonstration and set him on fire as "fascist" (Reuters). An opposition protester was shot and killed on the same day, bringing the death toll in recent weeks to forty-eight (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's worsening economic and political crisis.

BRAZIL: Brazil's bar association voted overwhelmingly to back President Michel Temer's impeachment (FT). Temer said a recently released audio recording, which purports to show he endorsed hush money payments to a jailed politician, was "manipulated and tampered."

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses the likelihood that Temer will stay in office.


Shell CEO Warns Against Leaving Paris Climate Deal

Shell's chief executive said it would be "unhelpful on a number of fronts" (FT) if President Trump follows through on his vow to abandon the Paris Agreement on climate. The chief of General Electric also called on the administration to stay in the pact.