UK Lawmakers Reject Brexit Deal, Theresa May To Face No Confidence Vote

Britain’s parliament on Tuesday resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, triggering a no-confidence vote in her government and plunging its plans to leave the EU into further disarray.

MPs voted 432 to 202 against May’s plan for taking Britain out of the European Union, the biggest parliamentary defeat for a government in modern British political history.

The EU immediately warned that it heightened the risk of a “no deal” Brexit — an outcome that could disrupt trade, slow down the UK economy, and wreak havoc on the financial markets, where London is a global player.

The government of Ireland — the only EU member state with a land border with Britain — said it would now intensify preparations to cope with a “disorderly Brexit”.

Moments after the outcome in parliament, which was met with huge cheers by hundreds of anti-Brexit campaigners who watched the vote on big screens, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted a motion of no-confidence in May’s government, calling her defeat “catastrophic”.

May sought to strike a conciliatory tone, telling MPs they had the right to challenge her leadership and promising to hold more talks to salvage a workable deal by the rapidly approaching March 29 Brexit deadline.

She promised to hold discussions with MPs from across parliament to identify ideas “that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House”.

Most lawmakers opposed Brexit, as did May herself and leading members of her government, ahead of the June 2016 referendum on EU membership, which has caused bitter divisions across the island nation.

Now, nearly three years after the fateful referendum and with just over two months to go, Britain still cannot decide what to do.

With their nation’s fate hanging in the balance, noisy supporters and opponents of Brexit, some banging drums and others driving floats with huge dolls mocking top UK politicians, rallied outside the ancient parliament building in London.

The withdrawal agreement includes plans for a post-Brexit transition period until a new relationship is drawn up, in return for continued budget contributions from London.

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Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary, Resigns in Rebuke of Trump’s Worldview

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose experience and stability was widely seen as a balance to an unpredictable president, resigned in protest of President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria and his rejection of international alliances.

Mr Mattis had repeatedly told friends and aides over recent months that he viewed his responsibility to protect the United States’ 1.3 million active-duty troops as worth the concessions necessary as defence secretary to a mercurial president. But on Thursday, in an extraordinary rebuke of the president, he decided that Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw roughly 2,000 American troops from Syria was a step too far.

What is the Syrian Crisis?

Syria is a west Asian Country bordering Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. The civil war in Syria is regarded as the most brutal conflict in the world which started off in 2011 and is still on. The primary reasons for the unrest in Syria can be summarized as below.

The conflict between Shia Islam and Sunni Islam

The root of this conflict can be traced to sectarian conflicts in the region existing there for centuries. Shia Islam and Sunni Islam are the two major denominations of Islam Religion. With Saudi Arabia regarding itself as the leader of Sunni Muslims and Iran as the protector of Shia Muslims, the West Asian region is divided under these two leaders. Saudi and Iran started playing an important role in the geopolitical conflicts in the region.

The absence of an accountable government       

Along with this, the absence of an accountable and democratic Government. In most of the west Asian Countries created discontent among the citizens. A democratic movement against the authoritarian Government started in Tunisia in 2011 popularly known as ‘Arab Spring’ or ‘The Jasmine revolution’. This inspired other countries in the region to raise their voice against their Governments.

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Yemen: ceasefire agreed for port city of Hodeidah

Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to an immediate ceasefire in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, the UN secretary general has said, in a potential breakthrough at the end of a week of peace talks in Sweden.

The agreement includes the future deployment of UN-supervised neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. Troops from both sides will withdraw from the entire Hodeidah area within a maximum of 21 days in a process overseen by a UN-chaired committee.

A political framework for Yemen will be discussed in the next round of meetings, scheduled for late January. If implemented on the ground, the deal would represent a breakthrough because the port is the gateway for the bulk of humanitarian aid coming into the country, and has been the subject of intense fighting. Ceasefires have also been agreed at two other ports, Salif and Ras Issa.

The ceasefire between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in the port city of Hodeida came into existence on December 18. The agreement was reached in UN-mediated talks held in Stockholm earlier this month. At the time of the negotiations, the city was almost in the hands of the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition had blockaded the port, the main conduit for humanitarian aid to enter Yemen, for months, and the fighters, mostly UAE soldiers, were battling the rebels.

But Saudi Arabia came under increased global pressure to stop fighting in Yemen after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside its consulate in Istanbul triggered a global outcry. The spotlight on Yemen and its deteriorating humanitarian situation has been so strong after the Khashoggi affair that even the U.S., which supports Riyadh in the war, cut down its involvement by ending refuelling of coalition aircraft. With the UN also pushing for talks, the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia gave the green light for talks.

Since the Saudi intervention in 2015, at least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, according to the WHO. The widespread damage caused to infrastructure by the coalition airstrikes and lack of supplies of food and medicines due to the blockade has pushed Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe. About 12 million people are at the risk of starvation if aid doesn’t reach them fast. The country has also seen a massive cholera outbreak. A child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable causes, says UNICEF.

Why is Saudi Arabia in Yemen?

Saudi Arabia interfered in Yemen after the Shia Houthi rebels captured Sana’a, the capital city, and the internationally recognised government of President Hadi moved to the country’s south. The Saudis accuse Iran of bankrolling the Houthis and “destabilising” the Arabian Peninsula.

The Saudi plan was to expel the Houthis from Sana’a and restore the authority of the government. But almost four years since they launched the attack, the Houthis still control Sana’a and much of the north of Yemen. They also fire short-range missiles across the border into Saudi Arabia, which has become a major security concern for Riyadh.

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Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Australia has become one of the few countries to formally recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but says it will not move its embassy from Tel Aviv until a peace settlement is reached.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the government will also recognise a future state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their Capital and this despite is not resolved yet.

The United States President Donald Trump’s administration had also announced the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017.

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in opposition to declare the US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”. India also supported the resolution, which was approved with a majority of 127-9 at the UN General Assembly calling for the US to withdraw its decision.

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U.N. approves $9 million in aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela

The United Nations on Monday announced $9.2 million in health and nutritional aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela, where hunger and preventable disease are soaring amid the collapse of the country’s socialist economic system.

The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will support projects to provide nutritional support to children under five years old, pregnant women and lactating mothers at risk, and emergency health care for the vulnerable.

Venezuela has been in an economic depression for at least half a decade, adding to hyperinflation and mass food shortages. Millions of citizens have left Venezuela to find more opportunity in other Latin American countries.

About the UN Central Emergency Response Fund:

It is a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 15, 2005, and launched in March 2006.

With CERF’s objectives to 1) promote early action and response to reduce the loss of life; 2) enhance response to time-critical requirements; and 3) strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises, CERF seeks to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to those affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts.

The fund is replenished annually through contributions from governments, the private sector, foundations, and individuals.

Allocations:

The CERF grant element is divided into two windows:

Rapid Responses (approximately two-thirds of the grant element)

The Rapid Response window provides funds intended to mitigate the unevenness and delays of the voluntary contribution system by providing seed money for life-saving, humanitarian activities in the initial days and weeks of a sudden onset crisis or a deterioration in an ongoing situation. The maximum amount applied to a crisis in a given year typically does not exceed $30 million, although higher allocations can be made in exceptional circumstances.

Underfunded Emergencies (approximately one-third of the grant element).

The Underfunded Emergencies window supports countries that are significantly challenged by “forgotten” emergencies.

Hyperinflation is the biggest problem faced by Venezuela. The inflation rate there is expected to reach a stunning one million percent this year, putting it on par with the crises of Zimbabwe in the 2000s and Germany in the 1920s, according to the International Monetary Fund. The government claims that the country is the victim of “economic war” and that the major issues are due to opposition “plots” and American sanctions.

What caused this increase?

The plummeting oil prices since 2014 is one of the main reasons why Venezuela’s currency has weakened sharply. The country, which has rich oil reserves largely depended on it for its revenue. But when the oil price dropped drastically in 2014, Venezuela which received 96 percent of its revenue from the oil exports, suffered a shortage of foreign currency. This made import of basic essentials like food and medicines difficult.

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South Korean Kim Jong-yang elected as Interpol president

Interpol has elected South Korean Kim Jong-yang as their new president, defeating a controversial Russian candidate with ties to the Kremlin.

Mr. Kim was elected for a two-year term at the annual General Assembly, which is being held in Dubai this year. He has been acting Interpol president since the arrest of his predecessor this year.

Mr. Kim won 60.5 percent of the vote, winning 98 votes to Russian candidate Alexander Prokopchuk’s 64 votes.

An Emirati police officer was also elected to the executive council of Interpol, thought to be the first appointment of its kind.

UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted his congratulations to the police officer, praising the country’s contribution to the international community.

A Russian official was expected to be elected as president, but concerns by some over the nominee’s closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin led to strong opposition to the nomination.

Mr. Prokopchuk, a general in the Russian interior ministry, was one of two nominees for the role.

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US exempts India from certain sanctions for development of strategic Chabahar Port in Iran

The United States has exempted India from imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the strategically-located Chabahar Port in Iran, along with the construction of the railway line connecting it with Afghanistan, a State Department spokesperson said. The decision by the Trump administration, which a day earlier imposed the toughest ever sanctions on Iran and is very restrictive in giving exemptions, is a seen as a recognition by Washington of India’s major role in the development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of immense strategic importance for the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.

“After extensive consideration, the Secretary (of State) has provided for an exception from imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, with respect to the development of Chabahar Port, construction of an associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as the country’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

The US imposed “the toughest ever” sanctions on a defiant Iran aimed at altering the Iranian regime’s “behaviour”. The sanctions cover Iran’s banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that eight countries — India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed “significant reduction” in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country.

To a question on the fate of Chabahar Port after the US reimposed all its sanctions on Iran, the spokesperson said, “This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief.” In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan inked a pact which entailed establishment of Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran, besides multi-modal transport of goods and passengers across the three nations.

The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nations southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar. The Chabahar Port is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries after Pakistan denied transit access to India. Pompeo’s decision to give India exemption from imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the port is driven by the South Asian strategy, which was announced by President Donald Trump in August.

Reacting to the Trump administration’s decision, US experts said it was a “right move”. “Trump administration made the right move by exempting India for the development of the Chabahar port,” Jeff Smith of the Heritage Foundation told PTI. India, Smith argued, “

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India gets US waiver for development of strategic Chabahar Port in Iran

In a relief for India, the United States has exempted New Delhi from the imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the strategically-located Chabahar Port in Iran as well as the construction of the railway line connecting it with Afghanistan.

The decision by the Trump administration is a seen as a recognition by Washington of India’s role in the development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of immense strategic importance for the development of war-torn Afghanistan.

The US has imposed “the toughest ever” sanctions on a defiant Iran aimed at altering the Iranian regime’s “behaviour”. The sanctions cover Iran’s banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports.

Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.

Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.

Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.

With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.

With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed the ban on Iran was lifted.

Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.

From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

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President wants to use executive order to end Birthright Citizenship

President Trump said he was preparing an executive order that would nullify the long-accepted constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship in the United States, his latest attention-grabbing maneuver days before midterm congressional elections as he has sought to activate his base by vowing to clamp down on immigrants and immigration.

To accomplish the idea, Mr. Trump would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War so that recently-freed slaves could become citizens.

The amendment reads, “all person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Birthright citizenship, or jus soli, a legal term that means “right of the soil,” is the right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, and upheld by the Supreme Court, that says anyone born on U.S soil is automatically a citizen.

Some conservatives have long made the argument that the 14th Amendment was meant to apply only to citizens and legal permanent residents, not immigrants who are present in the country without authorization. They say, birthright citizenship was based on a misreading of the amendment, and of an 1898 Supreme Court ruling that they argue pertained only to the children of legal residents.

The U.S. is one of more than 30 other countries that also grant citizenship to children born within their borders.

Citizenship policies vary around the world, somewhat based on geography. Countries in Europe or Asia don’t have similar policies, but countries further west, including Canada and most South American nations, do.

Aside from being unconstitutional, such an executive order would exacerbate racial tensions, exploit fears and drive further polarization across the country at a moment that calls for the promotion of unity and inclusion.

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US ready to impose sanctions against SWIFT if it neglects anti-Iran Sanctions

The head of the US Treasury Steven Mnuchin has announced that Washington wants the world-wide payment network to cut off its services to the entities that were affected by Iran sanctions and warned that otherwise SWIFT might be sanctioned as well.

The US will reintroduce sanctions against Tehran that were earlier lifted under the Iran nuclear deal, on November 5. These sanctions will affect the country’s energy, banking, and shipping sectors.

What is SWIFT?

The SWIFT is a global member-owned cooperative that is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It was founded in 1973 by a group of 239 banks from 15 countries which formed a co-operative utility to develop a secure electronic messaging service and common standards to facilitate cross-border payments. It carries an average of approximately 26 million financial messages each day. In order to use its messaging services, customers need to connect to the SWIFT environment.

SWIFT does not facilitate funds transfer: rather, it sends payment orders, which must be settled by correspondent accounts that the institutions have with each other.

The SWIFT is a secure financial message carrier — in other words, it transports messages from one bank to its intended bank recipient.

Its core role is to provide a secure transmission channel so that Bank A knows that its message to Bank B goes to Bank B and no one else. Bank B, in turn, knows that Bank A, and no one other than Bank A, sent, read or altered the message en route. Banks, of course, need to have checks in place before actually sending messages.

Significance of SWIFT:

Messages sent by SWIFT’s customers are authenticated using its specialised security and identification technology. Encryption is added as the messages leave the customer environment and enter the SWIFT Environment. Messages remain in the protected SWIFT environment, subject to all its confidentiality and integrity commitments, throughout the transmission process while they are transmitted to the operating centres (OPCs) where they are processed — until they are safely delivered to the receiver.

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