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World Monthly Headline News September 2019 Page 3

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM — After a decade of mesmerizing world leaders, subduing his rivals and eking out dramatic election victories, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political future is suddenly in doubt. With near-final results from Israel’s election on Tuesday, he has been left well short of the parliamentary majority he had sought — not only to continue in power but also to fend off a looming corruption indictment. With over 90% of the votes counted late Wednesday, challenger Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party captured 33 seats in the 120-seat parliament, to 32 seats for Netanyahu’s conservative Likud. That leaves neither party poised to control a majority coalition with their smaller allies, leaving maverick politician Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, as the key power broker. Lieberman has called for a broad unity government with the two major parties. “Judging by the present situation assessment, Netanyahu is no longer capable of winning an election in Israel. This story is over,” said Yossi Verter, political commentator for the Haaretz daily. Such forecasts might be seen by some as premature. But it appears that Netanyahu’s political instincts, once deemed impeccable, led to some questionable decisions that came back to hurt him in the latest campaign. Netanyahu, who turns 70 next month, has traditionally relied on a stable majority of ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious and hard-line nationalist parties. That alliance fell apart following elections in April when Lieberman, a longtime ally turned rival, refused to join a new coalition with religious partners. Lieberman, a hawk like Netanyahu on security issues but also fiercely secular, said ultra-Orthodox parties had gained too much influence. Just short of a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu was forced to take the unprecedented step of holding a second election in a year. Looming over the campaign were Netanyahu’s legal woes. Israel’s attorney general has recommended indicting him on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges in a series of corruption scandals, pending a hearing scheduled in early October. Netanyahu had hoped to capture a narrow coalition of hard-line parties that would grant him immunity from prosecution. He embarked on a campaign of stunts and promises aimed at shoring up his base. Borrowing tactics from the political playbook of his friend, President Donald Trump, he lashed out at the media, police, judiciary and election commission, alleging a vast conspiracy against him. He vowed to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank and threatened to unleash a war on Gaza militants. more...   

With nearly all of the votes counted in Israel's parliamentary elections, Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger appear tied on Wednesday. Netanyahu campaigned on his close relationship with President Trump and the United States, touting policy wins like the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem.  Netanyahu has been a close ally to Mr. Trump, and it wasn't clear how the election results might complicate, or further delay, the unveiling of the White House's much-touted plan for Middle East peace. The Israeli incumbent has put his close relationship with Mr. Trump — and the vital U.S.-Israel security alliance — front and center in his re-election campaign, appealing to Israeli citizens' nerves amid fast-escalating tension with Iran and persistent threats from that adversary's proxy groups in the region. Exit polls showed Netanyahu's Likud party falling short of winning a parliamentary majority on its own. Results from Israel's three major TV stations showed challenger Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party slightly ahead of Likud. But as CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports, exit polls are often imprecise, and the final tally, expected later Wednesday, could shift in Netanyahu's favor. Voting is just the first stage; now Doane says the back-room deal making will begin. Neither party will control a parliamentary majority without backing from Avigdor Lieberman, who could bring his midsize Yisrael Beitenu party into a coalition. more...   

By Yun Li
Oil prices retreated on Wednesday, extending the decline in the previous session after President Donald Trump said he ordered the Treasury Department to “substantially increase” sanctions on Iran. Trump’s announcement follows attacks on the world’s largest crude-processing plant and oil field in Saudi Arabia that had forced the kingdom to cut its production in half. Oil prices jumped the most in history on Monday due to the disruption. Brent crude oil futures were down 36 cents, or 0.56%, at $64.21 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 64 cents, or 1.11%, at $58.68. The latest comment from the president marks a softening in his rhetoric as he had warned on Sunday that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond to the Saudi incident. Oil tumbled as much as 7% on Tuesday after the Saudi energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said oil production capabilities were fully restored and that oil output will be back to pre-attack levels by the end of September. Fifty percent of the oil production loss from the attack has been restored in the past two days, bin Salman said, adding that production capacity would reach 10 million barrels of crude per day (bpd) by the end of this month and 12 million bpd by the end of November. Trump said Monday he’s in no rush to respond to the coordinated attack. When asked if Iran was behind it, Trump said “It’s certainly looking that way at this point.” more...  

By Natasha Turak
DUBAI — Drone and missile debris recovered by investigators at the Saudi Aramco attack site is proof of Iranian culpability, a Saudi defense ministry representative said Wednesday. Twenty-five drones and missiles were used in Saturday’s predawn attack that forced the Saudis to shut down half of the country’s oil production, Saudi coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said during a press briefing in Riyadh. The briefing focused on projectile debris laid out on tables as well as aerial and close-up photos of Aramco’s damaged facilities. Al-Maliki said the drones used in the attacks — which had been claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels — were Iranian delta-wing unmanned aerial vehicles, and that they came from the north to the south, before rolling surveillance camera footage of what he said was a drone’s approach to the Abqaiq oil facility. NBC News has not verified the Saudi claims that the items displayed are remnants from Saturday’s strike. Speaking on behalf of the defense ministry, al-Maliki pointed to Shiite-dominated Iran — a longtime adversary of the Sunni monarchy — and “the destabilizing role Iran and its proxies play in the region.” “We have witnessed distinct growth in Iranian aggression,” the spokesman said. “This attack wasn’t against Saudi Aramco or Saudi Arabia, it was an attack against the international community, the whole world economy, and global trade.” Tehran has denied involvement in the attacks, calling the accusations from Saudi and U.S. officials “meaningless” and “pointless.” Asked directly and repeatedly by a reporter whether the attacker was Iran, al-Maliki didn’t answer, saying only, “I am controlling the conference,” before moving onto another question. Responding to another reporter on the topic of how Saudi Arabia would respond to the attacks, the spokesman said, “We are just a military tool... that is a decision for the (kingdom’s) political authorities.” more...  

By Kevin Liptak and Nicole Gaouette, CNN
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said Wednesday he's ordered new sanctions on Iran, the latest escalation in tensions between the two countries and one that follows the attack over the weekend on Saudi oil facilities that US officials have pinned on Iran. "I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" Trump tweeted. The President made the announcement as some Republican lawmakers have called for military strikes against Iran and Vice President Mike Pence has suggested a military response is possible. But Trump, who campaigned on getting the US out of foreign entanglements, faces a battle for reelection that would be complicated by a new war. The sanctions announcement may signal his desire to avoid military conflict, analysts said. "This is important because it appears to be Trump's effort to respond to the Iranian attack by sanctions measures and not by military steps," Henry Rome, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, said about Trump's Tuesday tweet. "The way I look at it, this is the substitute for a military response, not the prelude to it." 'Fairly marginal' It wasn't immediately clear to whom or which sectors the new sanctions would apply. The US has ratcheted up sanctions on the country after withdrawing last year from a multi-nation nuclear deal that constrained Iran's nuclear activity in return for an easing of economic sanctions. The US "maximum pressure" policy has undermined the nuclear deal, creating tensions with European allies who are trying to keep the nuclear deal afloat. The Trump administration has sanctioned all key Iranian economic sectors, including aviation and shipping. And in May, it hit the lifeblood of Tehran's economy, sanctioning its energy exports. The Trump administration has ratcheted sanctions up to the point that, Rome said, "at this point the US is scraping the bottom of the barrel with sanctions. After the decision to sanction Iranian oil in May, everything else is fairly marginal. When you look at effectiveness or impact, you're really out of significant sanction tools at this point." Iran, unable to gain the economic benefits promised under the nuclear pact, has begun to violate certain aspects of the agreement. more...   

Netanyahu was slated to speak at the U.N. next Thursday, just three slots behind Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the schedule.
By Daniel Arkin
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday canceled a visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week amid political uncertainty in Israel, where he appeared to fall short of a government majority in national elections. With more than 90 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu's decade-long grip on power appeared to be slipping. His center-right Likud party was expected to win 31 seats, while its main rival, the centrist Blue and White party, was pulling ahead with 32 seats, according to the Central Election Committee. That could give his rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the first chance to form a new government, if he can put together a coalition with other parties. But it's not clear whether Gantz will join with the Likud party if Netanyahu continues to be its leader. Both parties appeared set to fall short of the 61 seats needed to form a governing coalition in the 120-seat Parliament, known as the Knesset. Netanyahu, a close ally of President Donald Trump, has participated in the U.N. General Assembly's main debate every year, except one, since he rose to power in 2009, according to The Jerusalem Post. Amid reports Wednesday afternoon that Netanyahu had canceled his trip to the General Assembly, an Israeli government official told NBC News: "Due to political circumstances, the prime minister is not traveling to UNGA." more...

By Andrew Carey and Sheena McKenzie, CNN
Jerusalem (CNN)Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's grip on power was hanging in the balance Wednesday after local TV channels projected him trailing his centrist rival Benny Gantz by just one seat, following a re-run general election. Both Netanyahu and Gantz have vowed they can form a government, even though projected results give neither man a majority in the new Parliament. Israeli politics now appears all-but-deadlocked and destined for complex negotiations between the two main parties and the smaller parties over possible coalition arrangements. Addressing his Blue and White party supporters in Tel Aviv a few hours after the polls closed, Gantz struck a tone of measured optimism, saying that an era of "polarization and antagonism" now lay in the past with "unity and reconciliation" being the way forward. Gantz said contacts with other parties to build what he described as a "broad unity government" had already started. "I intend to talk to everybody, starting tonight," he said. Netanyahu meanwhile, was hoarse as he addressed his Likud Party supporters, neither claiming victory nor conceding defeat. "Israel needs a strong, stable, Zionist government committed to Israel as a national state for the Jewish people," he said. By Wednesday, all three of Israel's three main TV news channels were projecting Gantz's Blue and White winning 32 seats, to 31 seats for Netanyahu's Likud, in the 120-seat Parliament. By midday Wednesday well over half the votes had been counted, though official, certified, results are not expected for a few days. more...

Netanyahu wanted to annex Palestinian land, neuter the Supreme Court and put himself above the law. This week’s election means those things won’t happen.
By Daniel Gordis
It’s tempting to say about an election in any country that this is the election that really matters, that this time, the results will determine the fabric of society for generations to come. In Israel, on the day after the second election of 2019, that’s not bombast. Had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu achieved the solid victory that he sought when he had the Knesset dissolve itself almost immediately after a hair-thin victory in April, Israel could have become a different country. He had promised to annex portions of the West Bank — first the Jordan River valley, which would remain under Israeli control under any prime minister, but other places as well — which would erode any hope of an accommodation with Palestinians. He’s likely to be indicted for corruption, and had thus pledged to have the Knesset give him immunity from prosecution. Since it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court would invalidate such an action, he and his colleagues were openly discussing making the court subservient to the Knesset, essentially ending judicial review in Israel. To bolster the number of votes his right-leaning bloc would receive, Netanyahu also essentially endorsed a racist party that draws from the intellectual legacy of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whom the Supreme Court ruled in 1988 was too dangerous to be allowed to run for office. Netanyahu, in short, was willing to shred Israel’s democracy to stay in power and out of jail. Netanyahu, though, is a charismatic personality and political genius, and he has long had a spellbinding hold on the Israeli electorate. Most Israelis understood at least some of the dangers he represented, but they also knew that though he is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, he has almost never taken his country to war. He has kept them and their children safe. He has managed belligerents like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with Syria and Iran. He’s bonded with U.S. President Donald Trump, who moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, and tore up the Iranian nuclear agreement, which Netanyahu despised. Many Israelis, Netanyahu was sure, would hold their noses and vote for him again, because Israelis vote security first and economics second. more...   

CNN - The chances of a global pandemic are growing -- and we are all dangerously under prepared, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In a report published on Wednesday by a panel of international health experts and officials, they pointed to the 1918 influenza pandemic as an example of a global catastrophe. That killed as many as 50 million people -- if a similar contagion happened today, it could kill up to 80 million people and wipe out 5% of the global economy. "The world is not prepared," the WHO report warned. "For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides. It is well past time to act." Between 2011 and 2018, WHO tracked 1,483 epidemics worldwide, including Ebola and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the report said. These epidemics and pandemics devastated many of their host countries -- the West Africa Ebola outbreak resulted in a loss of $53 billion in economic and social cost. These huge economic costs translate to severe real-life consequences -- lost jobs, forced displacement, inaccessible healthcare, and greater mortality. While disease, epidemics, and pandemics have always existed, greater population density and the ability to travel anywhere in the world within 36 hours means disease can spread rapidly through a country and then go worldwide. Climate change is also having an effect. Global warming means mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and dengue could spread to Europe, the United States, and Canada -- placing a billion more people at risk, a study found earlier this year. Poorer countries, especially those without basic primary health care or health infrastructure, are hit the hardest by disease outbreaks. In these places, the problem is often compounded by armed conflict or a deep distrust in health services, as seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has been ravaged by an Ebola outbreak for more than a year. Community mistrust has led to violent, sometimes fatal attacks on heath care workers. Scientific and technological advancements have helped fight these diseases -- but the WHO report warns they can also provide the laboratory environments for new disease-causing microorganisms to be created, increasing the risk of a future global pandemic. "All parts of society and the international community have made progress in preparing to face health emergencies, but current efforts remain grossly insufficient," the report said. It highlighted several persistent problems, including a "lack of continued political will" -- meaning national leaders aren't devoting enough energy and resources to disaster preparation. more...   

It all points to the growing frustration in Brussels with the British prime minister and his Brexit antics.
By Jen Kirby
Boris Johnson is having a rough few weeks. Since becoming UK prime minister in July, Johnson has lost his Conservative majority, got defeated in Parliament many times, had his brother quit on him, and is now facing legal challenges for his decision to suspend Parliament. And today, he got dunked on by the tiny European country of Luxembourg. Johnson went to Luxembourg to discuss Brexit with European leaders including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Afterward, Johnson was supposed to appear at an outdoor press conference with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel — but a loud group of anti-Brexit protesters apparently scared Johnson off from attending. So Bettel went on without him, addressing the media with an empty podium beside him. And without Johnson there to object or defend himself, Bettel went for it, criticizing Brexit, which he called a “nightmare,” and Johnson’s handling of it both at home and abroad. He accused Johnson of not putting forward any new, workable plans for a Brexit agreement with the European Union since becoming prime minister and laid the blame for the entire Brexit mess squarely at the feet of Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers in the UK. “Our people need to know what is going to happen to them in six weeks’ time,” Bettel said. “They need clarity, they need certainty, and they need stability. You can’t hold a future hostage for party political gains.” Bettel continued, gesturing to the empty podium: “So now it’s on Mr. Johnson, he holds the future of all UK citizens and every EU citizen living in the UK in his hands. It’s his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you. But the clock is ticking, use your time wisely.” more...   

The Taliban have told the BBC that their "doors are open" should US President Donald Trump want to resume peace talks in the future. Chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai insisted negotiation remained "the only way for peace in Afghanistan" during an exclusive interview. Mr Stanikzai's words came a week after Mr Trump declared the talks "dead". Earlier this month, the two sides had appeared close to a deal to end the 18-year conflict. Mr Trump had even invited senior Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to meet at Camp David on 8 September. But a Taliban attack in the Afghan capital Kabul on 6 September, which killed a US soldier and 11 others, prompted Mr Trump to pull out, saying the group "probably don't have the power to negotiate" if they were unable to agree to a ceasefire during talks. Late on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement condemning recent Taliban attacks, saying the group "must begin to demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace". Mr Stanikzai dismissed American concerns, telling the BBC the Taliban had done nothing wrong. "They killed thousands of Talibans according to them," he told the BBC's chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet. "But in the meantime, if one [US] soldier has been killed that doesn't mean they should show that reaction because there is no ceasefire from both sides." "From our side, our doors are open for negotiations," he added. "So we hope the other side also rethink their decision regarding the negotiation." more...  

By WESLEY MORGAN
The United States and Saudi Arabia lack virtually any allies as they consider how to respond to this weekend's attacks on Saudi oil refineries, raising doubts about whether the Trump administration could build any coalition for military action in the region. The attacks have crippled Saudi oil production, creating one of the largest oil disruptions in decades. But while Defense Secretary Mark Esper tweeted that the U.S. is working with "our partners to address this unprecedented attack,” President Donald Trump has alienated key allies by unilaterally pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposing sanctions. It has already been unable to enlist allies to protect shipping in the region from Iranian attacks. “In a normal administration, we should be able to get 40 or 50 countries on board for something like this but we can’t because nobody trusts the Trump administration and everybody thinks they’re going to take them into war," said Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration national security official who worked on Iran policy at the Pentagon, referring to the maritime security initiative — which he called "pathetic.” “There is no offensive coalition against Iran, not there or anywhere else in the world right now,” added Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies Iranian military activity in the Middle East. Even leading Republicans in Congress called on Trump to take action only with the help of allies. "The best way to counter Iran is by working by, with and through regional partners — including making sure they have what they need to defend themselves and our shared interests," Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said in a statement late Monday. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said earlier that “I hope our international partners will join us in imposing consequences on Iran for this reckless destabilizing attack.” Successive U.S. administrations have used coalitions to bolster the legitimacy of military actions and to relieve some of the pressure on heavily used U.S. military forces — from the 1991 Gulf War and the Clinton administration’s actions in the Balkans to the much-maligned “coalition of the willing” that the George W. Bush administration recruited for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. more...   

By Natasha Turak
Saudi oil production will be fully back online by the end of September, the kingdom’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told media during a press conference in Jeddah on Tuesday, sending oil prices down by nearly 6% just a day after their biggest jump in history. The world’s largest crude oil processing facility and heartbeat of Saudi Arabia’s energy industry was targeted in drone and missile attacks early Saturday morning that knocked out half of the OPEC kingpin’s production capacity. Fifty percent of the crude production cut from the attack has been restored in the past two days, bin Salman said, adding that production capacity would reach 11 million barrels of crude per day (bpd) by the end of September and 12 million bpd by the end of November. The kingdom’s crude exports won’t decrease, rather, inventory stocks will be drawn down in order to meet export commitments, the minister said. “We are in the process to bring back oil refining to full capacity,” bin Salman said. “The company will honor all of its commitments to its customers this month by drawing from its reserves of crude oil and further modified some of its oil until the production capacity of the country is up to 11 million barrels a day by the end of September and up to 12 million barrels in November.” Preparations for Saudi state oil giant Aramco’s highly anticipated initial public offering (IPO) will also continue apace, Aramco chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan said, sitting beside the energy minister. “The IPO is a commitment by the shareholder, the government of Saudi Arabia, and we think the IPO will continue as is, we are not going to stop anything,” al-Rumayyan said. “This would make us even be firm when it comes to taking the company public, so I think anytime in the coming 12 months we’ll be ready as per the market opportunity.” more...  

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said talks are part of Tehran's 'comprehensive consultations' with all Afghan parties.
Iran hosted four members of a Taliban delegation for discussions, its foreign minister said, a week after peace talks between the United States and the armed group collapsed. Peace talks between the US and the Taliban began last October in Qatar with the aim of ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan. After nine rounds of negotiations in Doha, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said a peace agreement was finalised "in principle". However, all that changed last week when President Donald Trump said he cancelled a secret meeting at the Camp David presidential retreat with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders, following a car bomb attack in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. "In the framework of Iran's comprehensive consultations with all parties in Afghanistan, a Taliban political delegation visited our country recently to discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by local media on Tuesday. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the meeting took place on September 9. The talks included updates on the "recent developments in the peace process, the progress and security of Iran's economic project in the country and on the ways of a sustainable peace", Shaheen said on Twitter. more...    

By Bill Chappell
Amid the finger-pointing over an attack on Saudi oil sites, Iran's supreme leader says his country "will hold no talks at any level with the U.S.," blaming the Trump administration for requiring too many conditions. U.S.-Iran talks had been mentioned as a possibility during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remark comes as U.S. officials have accused Iran of playing a key role in Saturday's strike on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia — an attack for which Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility. The U.S. administration has pursued a campaign of "maximum pressure" against Iran to force it to abandon its nuclear program and make other changes. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, Khamenei says it's vital for Iran to prove that this strategy "has absolutely no value." If the current U.S. campaign succeeds, Khamenei says, Iran could then expect to face more "maximum pressure" policies from the international community. Even after Trump took a threatening tone toward Iran over the attack in Saudi Arabia, advisers to President Trump said over the weekend that a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was still possible. Iran's leader has now ruled that out, saying Iran would only speak to the Americans if the U.S. "backs off and repents, and implements the nuclear deal from which they have withdrawn." The attack knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia's oil exporting capability and rocked financial markets. It has also created a pressure-packed situation in the Middle East, where a proxy war in Yemen between Iran and its Saudi rivals now threatens to escalate into a regional conflict. Seeking to portray the conflict in Yemen in terms of human costs rather than a contest between two bitter rivals, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif criticized the U.S. on Tuesday for speaking out forcefully when the oil supply was threatened, but not when civilians were killed in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Shortly afterwards, the Saudi Press Agency published a report saying that a coalition group has blamed Houthi shelling for nearly 4,000 civilian deaths through December of 2018. more...   

Kabul — Two suicide bombings killed almost 50 people in Afghanistan on Tuesday. The attacks came hours after yet another U.S. service member was killed in action in the country — the first since President Trump canceled peace talks with the Taliban last week. CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports from Kabul that the attacks are a tragic, every day reality in Afghanistan. But the two bombings early on Tuesday were significant for where they happened. The first one, in Parwan province north of the capital, saw a suicide bomber on a motorcycle drive up to a large crowd near an election rally held by President Ashraf Ghani and blow himself up. At least 26 people, including four members of Afghanistan's security forces, were killed and 42 others wounded, according to the Interior Ministry. Women and children were among the victims. Ghani's spokesman told CBS News the president and his entourage were unharmed, and the rally went on after the attack. The second bomb blast was in Kabul, only about 200 yards from the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy at a congested intersection near U.S. and NATO compounds. The interior ministry said 22 people were killed in that attack, and at least 38 more wounded. D'Agata said he and his team pass through the junction all the time. U.S. officials confirm, meanwhile, that a Green Beret was killed in action on Monday. That brings the U.S. military's combat death toll in Afghanistan to 17 for this year — already the highest since 2014. The U.S. Department of Defense identified the slain soldier later on Tuesday as Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, from Greenbrier, Tennessee. more...   

By Tom McKay
An explosion at Russia’s State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology (Vector) resulted in a fire, glass blown out throughout the building, and one worker suffering third degree burns on Monday, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Vector is one of the only two places in the world where live smallpox virus samples are officially stored, as well as retains stocks of other deadly pathogens including the Ebola virus and anthrax spores. According to the state-run TASS news agency, Koltsovo city head administrator Nikolai Krasnikov said that the blast occurred during scheduled repair work, blowing out glass in the building and starting a 30 square meter fire. Various reports have indicated the incident started with a gas explosion. However, Krasnikov emphasized that no biohazardous materials were stored where the explosion and blaze occurred, and that there is no threat to the general population. The Vector building in question did not suffer structural damage, Krasnikov added, while the worker is in “intensive” condition. RT, another state-run media outlet, reported that the fire was upgraded to a “major incident” and that the Emergencies Ministry dispatched 13 fire trucks and 38 firefighters. The Vector facility is actually huge. After its founding in 1975, it steadily expanded to employ thousands of researchers and cover dozens of acres, and in recent years has been upgraded with significant security measures, according to Slate. So while news part of it exploded is alarming, the odds seem pretty good said explosion wasn’t directly on top of the smallpox room. more...  

By Barbara Kollmeyer
Investors are keeping a wary eye on oil after weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia crude facilities triggered the largest one-day gain for the commodity since 2008, and plenty of risk-off action all over. The cautious tone looks here to stay as attention turns to the two-day Federal Reserve meeting starting on Tuesday. Some are doubting we’ll even see that much anticipated interest-rate cut (see chart of the day). Not that it matters, says our call of the day, from Binky Chadha, Deutsche Bank’s chief global strategist and head of asset allocation, in an interview with MarketWatch. He warns a U.S. recession is on the doorstep, the Fed can’t help and the S&P 500 SPX, -0.06%  is ignoring all of the warning signs. “We are cautious on stocks. We would argue you want to be defensively positioned [and] we would argue that the U.S. equity market has run way, way ahead of growth,” says Chadha. more...   

It all points to the growing frustration in Brussels with the British prime minister and his Brexit antics.
By Jen Kirby
Boris Johnson is having a rough few weeks. Since becoming UK prime minister in July, Johnson has lost his Conservative majority, got defeated in Parliament many times, had his brother quit on him, and is now facing legal challenges for his decision to suspend Parliament. And today, he got dunked on by the tiny European country of Luxembourg. Johnson went to Luxembourg to discuss Brexit with European leaders including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Afterward, Johnson was supposed to appear at an outdoor press conference with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel — but a loud group of anti-Brexit protesters apparently scared Johnson off from attending. So Bettel went on without him, addressing the media with an empty podium beside him. And without Johnson there to object or defend himself, Bettel went for it, criticizing Brexit, which he called a “nightmare,” and Johnson’s handling of it both at home and abroad. He accused Johnson of not putting forward any new, workable plans for a Brexit agreement with the European Union since becoming prime minister and laid the blame for the entire Brexit mess squarely at the feet of Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers in the UK. “Our people need to know what is going to happen to them in six weeks’ time,” Bettel said. “They need clarity, they need certainty, and they need stability. You can’t hold a future hostage for party political gains.”  Bettel continued, gesturing to the empty podium: “So now it’s on Mr. Johnson, he holds the future of all UK citizens and every EU citizen living in the UK in his hands. It’s his responsibility. Your people, our people, count on you. But the clock is ticking, use your time wisely.” more...

By Tim Lister and Nic Robertson, CNN
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (CNN)Saudi and US investigators have determined "with very high probability" that the weekend attack on the Saudi oil industry was launched from an Iranian base in Iran close to the border with Iraq, according to a source familiar with the investigation. The attack involved cruise missiles -- along with drones -- flying at low altitude, the source said, and their trajectory was from the north of the Abqaiq oil plant, which was struck by more than a dozen projectiles in the early hours of Saturday morning. The missiles, according to the investigators' current assessment, flew over southern Iraq and through Kuwaiti airspace before reaching their targets. Kuwait on Monday announced it had launched an investigation into reports of sightings of drones or missiles shortly before the Saudi targets were hit. The Pentagon declined to comment and Iran has not responded yet to CNN's request. CNN's source said the missiles would have avoided traveling over the Persian Gulf where US and Saudi radar systems are strongest. The kingdom's air defense systems are focused on the Gulf. On Monday, a US official told CNN that the US had assessed that the attack originated from inside Iran. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. One regional diplomat told CNN on Monday that while the US has told its allies it has intelligence showing the launch "likely" came from staging grounds in Iran, it has not yet shared the information. "It is one thing to tell us, it is another thing to show us," the diplomat said. Shortly after the attack, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of carrying it out, tweeting Saturday that "Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world's energy supply." Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi responded that "such blind accusations and inappropriate comments in a diplomatic context are incomprehensible and meaningless." Neither Saudi Arabia nor the US has so far published evidence on the origin of the weekend attack. However, both governments have said publicly that the projectiles did not come from Yemeni territory, as the Houthi rebels claimed soon after the attacks occurred. The source reiterated there is "absolutely no indication that the missiles came from the south and especially not one as far as Yemen." The source told CNN that US weapons system investigators are in Saudi Arabia to assist in the investigation, and to establish how many missiles struck the two complexes -- Abqaiq and the Khurais oilfield -- as well as the design of the missiles. This would help determine the origin of the technology involved and which country possesses it. That task may be made easier because some of the missiles failed to reach their targets, the source said, and wreckage was recovered from the desert. "Some are in a good enough state to determine their origins," the source added. Another source who has spoken with Saudi government officials has told CNN that based on images of the wreckage that fell in the desert, at least some of the missiles used are known as the Quds 1. The Houthi rebels unveiled the Quds 1 at a weapons exhibition in July under the slogan "The Coming Period of Surprises." Some weapons experts believe a Quds 1 was used in the attack on the airport terminal at Abha in southern Saudi Arabia in June, in which 26 people were injured. In that instance, the Houthis said they had launched a "strategic guided cruise missile." more...    

By Jessie Yeung, CNN
(CNN) - Bomb-sniffing dogs sent from the United States to its Middle Eastern ally Jordan are falling ill and dying due to poor treatment and negligence, a federal investigation has found. A year-long evaluation by inspectors at the State Department found that at least 10 such dogs in Jordan died between 2008 and 2016 from medical problems. Even those who survive are suffering from "unhealthy conditions," such as inadequate kennels, poor sanitation, and overwork. Photos in the report, published last week, show emaciated dogs with ribs protruding from their sides. Their nails are overgrown, and their ears are home to ticks so engorged they have likely been feasting on the dogs for days. In some facilities, there weren't any dog bowls -- the handlers fed the dogs by simply throwing food on the floor. For more than 20 years, the US has sent bomb-sniffing and specially trained dogs to partner nations under an anti terrorism assistance program. Despite spending "millions of dollars" training and dispatching the dogs, State Department officials failed to ensure their health and welfare, said the report, which was launched after a hotline complaint about the dogs' treatment. According to the report, the State Department's loose regulation and lack of concrete policies were a big factor in the dogs' mistreatment. The State Department couldn't provide investigators detailed information for the dogs in other partner countries besides Jordan, and there often aren't any written agreements with the countries outlining how to care for the dogs. This has led to persistent health problems in Jordan, the largest recipient in the program with 61 active bomb-sniffer dogs. Other countries with fewer dogs include Thailand, Morocco, Indonesia, Bahrain. A Jordanian official told CNN that an investigation into the dogs' welfare was underway, and included "external assessors." "Jordan takes the welfare of its security working dogs very seriously," the official added. more...

Al Jazeera English - Iranian president says a meeting with his Russian and Iranian counterparts in Ankara was successful and follows Astana process.
Hassan Rouhani says only Syrians should decide their future and others should not interfere.
The leaders agreed the path must be paved for return of security to Syria. more...

CBS News - The Trump administration is blaming Iran for the drone attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia over the weekend. CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang joined CBSN AM with more on how the president is responding. more...

By Richard Pérez-Peña and David D. Kirkpatrick
Saudi Arabia said Monday that Iranian weapons were used in aerial strikes over the weekend that interrupted much of the kingdom’s oil production. But the Saudis refrained from calling for retaliation amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States that have raised fears of a wider armed conflict. The Saudis also said that the strikes had not been launched from Yemen, home of the Houthi rebel faction that has claimed responsibility for them. The statement, made without offering supporting evidence, appeared to move the kingdom closer to directly blaming Iran, a chief ally of the Houthis, for the attacks on Saturday, which were the most audacious and damaging blow to Saudi Arabia in the four and a half years of civil war in Yemen. The Houthis have claimed that they carried out the attacks, and Iran has denied any involvement. But Trump administration officials have previously said that the Iranians should be held responsible for the actions of forces in the region that they support, including the Yemeni rebels. An investigation into the strikes is still underway, but “the initial results show that they are Iranian weapons,” Col. Turki al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, said at a news conference in Riyadh. “The terrorist attack was not from Yemeni territory, as the Houthi militias claimed,” he said, adding that the Saudis were still “working to determine the launch point.” more...   

By Sonam Sheth
The Russian government hacked into the FBI's communication system to stop the bureau from being able to track Russian spies working in the US, Yahoo News reported in a bombshell investigation published Monday. The US in 2012 became aware of "the full gravity" of Russia's ability to breach certain types of secure communications and track devices used by FBI surveillance teams, the report said. In addition to fearing that the Russians may have gained access to US intelligence channels, officials also believed that Russian spies could locate undercover FBI surveillance teams and the substance of FBI communications. That would have not only enabled the Russians to evade surveillance and communicate with human sources, but given them the opportunity to collect information about their pursuers, Yahoo News reported. It also prompted concerns among officials that there was a Russian asset lurking within the US intelligence community. The Russians first breached the FBI's communication systems in 2010, after the arrest and exposure of a group of Russian spies in the US, Yahoo News said. That year, the FBI began investigating Russia's efforts to recruit US assets; one of the foremost targets was Carter Page, who later served as a foreign-policy aide on President Donald Trump's campaign. The FBI informed Page in 2013 that the Russians were trying to cultivate him, but Page ignored their warnings and even publicly boasted about his connections to high-ranking Russian government officials. The Russians are also said to have breached the backup communication channels the FBI used, something one former senior counterintelligence official told Yahoo News the US "took extremely seriously." The investigation found that Russia's hack of the FBI's communication systems was a key reason the Obama administration kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic facilities in December 2016. President Barack Obama said the measures were in retaliation for Russia's interference in the 2016 election, but Yahoo News reported that the US also wanted to close those two compounds because they were critical to Russia's efforts to intercept FBI communications. more...   

By Sam Fossum, CNN
(CNN) - In the latest display of deepening cracks in the West's formerly unified economic campaign against Russia, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters Monday that "the time is right" for reconciliation in EU-Moscow relations.The latest French overture comes as US lawmakers returned to work this week and at least two sanctions bills against Russia are making their way through Congress. But policymakers and pundits question whether further unilateral sanctions are an effective response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's adventurism, amid concerns that they could also damage relationships with American trading partners and allies. The US and its allies first issued a package of economic sanctions in 2014, intended to punish Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting separatist militias in eastern Ukraine. Since then, Moscow's policymakers have built a monetary and fiscal fortress that prioritizes stability over growth and serves as a bulwark of Russian sovereignty, as well as helping the Kremlin weather economic sanctions better than many analysts expected. With the help of skilled technocrats like Elvira Nabiullina, the head of Russia's central bank, Putin has built a foundation designed to insulate the Kremlin from external pressures, such as sanctions, and bolster the Russian economy's ability to weather future economic storms -- whether they are falling oil prices or a global recession. "Essentially Putin's response to the sanctions has been: We invest less, we grow less, we consume less but we build up our reserves so I can continue my aggressive policy," said Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who specializes in Russian economic policy. more...   

IRAN is believed to have seized another oil tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
By Joey Millar
The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation is reporting another ship has been seized in the gulf. Correspondent Amochai Stein said on Twitter: “Iran has seized another oil vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's Revolutionary Guard arrests a vessel and 11 crew on 'diesel smuggling charges'." It comes after Iran said accusations it had a role in the attack on Saudi oil installations were "unacceptable" and "baseless", after a senior US official said the Islamic Republic was behind it. "These allegations are condemned as unacceptable and entirely baseless," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV. On Sunday, a senior US official told reporters that evidence from the attack, which hit the world's biggest oil-processing facility on Saturday, indicated Iran was behind it, instead of the Yemeni Houthi group that had claimed responsibility. more...  

By Zach Dorfman, Jenna McLaughlin and Sean D. NaylorReporters - Yahoo News
On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government. As the Russians burned papers and scrambled to pack their bags, the Kremlin protested the treatment of its diplomats, and denied that those compounds — sometimes known as the “dachas” — were anything more than vacation spots for their personnel. The Obama administration’s public rationale for the expulsions and closures — the harshest U.S. diplomatic reprisals taken against Russia in several decades — was to retaliate for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But there was another critical, and secret, reason why those locations and diplomats were targeted. Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community. more...   

By Associated Press
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday to annex “all the settlements” in the West Bank, including an enclave deep in the heart of the largest Palestinian city, in a last-ditch move that appeared aimed at shoring up nationalist support the day before a do-over election. Locked in a razor-tight race and with legal woes hanging over him, Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival. In the final weeks of his campaign he has been doling out hard-line promises meant to draw more voters to his Likud party and reelect him in Tuesday’s unprecedented repeat vote. “I intend to extend sovereignty on all the settlements and the [settlement] blocs,” including “sites that have security importance or are important to Israel’s heritage,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israeli Army Radio, part of an eleventh-hour media blitz. Asked if that included the hundreds of Jews who live under heavy military guard amid tens of thousands of Palestinians in the volatile city of Hebron, Netanyahu responded “of course.” Israelis head to the polls Tuesday in the second election this year, after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition following April’s vote, sparking the dissolution of parliament. more...

By Tamara Qiblawi, CNN
(CNN) - Attacks on major oil plants in Saudi Arabia have shaken up global oil markets and complicated the already strained relations between the kingdom and its regional arch-rival Iran. Get up to speed fast here: What happened over the weekend? Coordinated strikes targeted key Saudi Arabian oil facilities early on Saturday morning, causing a dramatic escalation in tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Two crude processing facilities were hit: Abqaiq and Khurais. Abqaiq, operated by Saudi giant Aramco, is the world's largest processing plant. The attacks started a series of fires that took out nearly half of Saudi's oil production -- 5% of the global daily output. Two Saudi sources familiar with the kingdom's oil operations tell CNN that restoring production to its pre-attack levels "will take weeks, not days." "This is unprecedented in scale, and impact," according to both sources.
A senior official told CNN that 19 Saudi targets were struck in Saturday's attack, drawing on commercial satellite imagery shared with CNN. more...

By Zeke Miller & Jon Gambrell
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tensions are flaring in the Persian Gulf after President Donald Trump said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to respond to a weekend drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure that his aides blamed on Iran. The attack, which halved the kingdom’s oil production and sent crude prices spiking, led Trump to authorize the release of U.S. strategic reserves should they be necessary to stabilize markets. Trump said the U.S. had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack his secretary of state had blamed Iran the previous day and said his government was waiting to consult with the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and “under what terms we would proceed!” The tweets Sunday followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House and hours after U.S. officials offered what they said was proof that the attack was inconsistent with claims of responsibility by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and instead pointed the finger directly at Tehran. A U.S. official said all options, including a military response, were on the table, but added that no decisions had been made. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations. Iran called the U.S. claims “maximum lies” and threatened American forces in the region. The attack dimmed hopes for potential nuclear talks between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly this week. The U.S. government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south. Iraq denied that its territory was used for an attack on the kingdom. U.S. officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. The U.S. officials said additional devices, which apparently didn’t reach their targets, were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, did not address whether the drone could have been fired from Yemen, then taken a round-about path, but did not explicitly rule it out. The attacks and recriminations are increasing already heightened fears of an escalation in the region, after a prominent U.S. senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, and Iran warned of the potential of more violence. more...   

Analysis by Oren Liebermann, CNN
Jerusalem (CNN) - Just as the Sabbath was ending on Saturday night in Israel, US President Donald Trump made one more foray into Israeli politics from Washington, DC. Trump said on Twitter that he had spoken to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "to discuss the possibility of moving forward" with a defense pact between the two countries. Judging by his Twitter response, Netanyahu was giddy with excitement. He thanked Trump and said Israel had never had a better friend in the White House. Never mind that Trump's tweet was hedged with cautious wording. There was no announcement of a defense pact. They would discuss the possibility of a pact. There was no promise of action, merely a suggestion that it was something to talk about. And never mind that some of Israel's security experts have examined -- and rejected -- the idea of a mutual defense pact. Amos Yadlin, the director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, said the statement was "clearly about election propaganda." Yadlin, who piloted one of the planes that dropped bombs on Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981 and later served as the head of the Israel Defense Force's military intelligence unit, said a defense pact has benefits, but they are outweighed by the costs, limiting Israel's freedom of action in instances when it feels it needs to defend itself. Such a pact may also require Israel to fight in American wars that have little to do with Israel's security, Yadlin said. more...   

CBS News - Afghan forces backed by U.S. forces said Sunday that they killed 38 Taliban fighters, including two senior commanders. CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D'Agata speaks with Afghanistan Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid about the troops' coordinated efforts. more...    

By Paul Carsten
ABUJA/MAIDUGURI, Reuters (Reuters) - When Islamic State gunmen stormed the northeast Nigerian town of Magumeri on the night of August 21, they had free rein. Nigerian soldiers had left the town earlier that month under a new strategy of withdrawing to “super camps” that can be more easily defended against insurgents the army has been struggling to contain for a decade. Unchallenged, the Islamist militants torched a clinic in Magumeri, ransacked government buildings and looted shops before returning to another town they had raided that night called Gubio, residents said. The new military strategy announced by President Muhammadu Buhari in July to concentrate soldiers in big bases is designed to give troops a secure platform from which they can respond quickly to threats in the region and raid militant camps. People familiar with the military’s thinking and security officials, however, say the new tactic for fighting Islamic State’s West Africa branch and Boko Haram is mainly an attempt to stem casualties. The military did not respond to requests for more details about its strategy or the impact it will have on the region. “We strongly believe the days of BH (Boko Haram) moving freely and passing in between static defensive locations are over,” Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, who commands the anti-insurgency operation, told reporters last month. more...   

Letter from Kim Jong Un was passed to Trump in August and talked of his willingness to resume stalled nuclear talks.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited United States President Donald Trump to visit Pyongyang in a letter sent in August, a South Korean newspaper reported on Monday, citing diplomatic sources. The letter, the second Trump received from Kim last month amid stalled denuclearisation talks between the two countries, pre-dated North Korea's latest launch of short-range projectiles a week ago. In the second letter, which was passed to Trump in the third week of August, Kim spoke of his willingness to meet Trump for another summit, one source reportedly told the Joongang Ilbo newspaper. Neither the White House, the US State Department or the North Korean mission to the United Nations responded to Reuters' requests for comment. Trump and Kim have met three times since June last year to discuss ways to resolve a crisis over North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes, but substantive progress has been scant. more...   

Al Jazeera English - Palestinian citizens of Israel are being called on to vote in greater numbers in Tuesday’s national election. Just half of them turned out to vote in the previous polls in April. A leading Palestinian Israeli politician says it is time for Palestinians to engage more fully in the political system, perhaps even join a coalition government. It’s an unprecedented call and one that’s provoked strong responses, as Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett reports. more...   


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