Mexico Angry Over New U.S. Immigration, Deportation Rules
By FELICIA SCHWARTZ, Robbie Whelan and JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Feb. 23, 2017 3:08 p.m. ET
MEXICO CITY—U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Thursday the U.S. wouldn’t use military force in immigration operations, even though President Donald Trump earlier in the day described U.S. efforts to enforce immigration laws as “a military operation.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kelly: No use of US military to enforce immigration
By Josh Lederman The Associated Press
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly pledged Thursday that America won’t enlist its military to enforce immigration laws and that there will be “no mass deportations.”
The declarations came as senior Trump administration officials sought to temper Latin American concerns about a new U.S. immigration crackdown.
Kelly, speaking in Mexico City after he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with their Mexican counterparts, said all deportations will honor human rights and the U.S. legal system. That includes multiple appeals offered to those facing deportation. Kelly said the U.S. approach will involve “close coordination” with Mexico’s government.
“There will be no use of military forces in immigration,” Kelly said. “There will be no — repeat, no — mass deportations.”
Only hours earlier, President Donald Trump suggested the opposite. He said the U.S. is “getting really bad dudes out of this country at a rate nobody has ever seen before.”
“It’s a military operation,” Trump said Thursday at the White House during a meeting with manufacturing CEOs. “Because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.”
Mexico and other Latin American nations have been on edge over Trump’s plan to target millions of people in the U.S. illegally for potential deportation — including many Mexicans.
Trump spoke during the presidential campaign about using a “deportation force,” and his Homeland Security Department at one point considered using the National Guard to help with deportations, although the White House has said that idea has been ruled out.
Kelly, Tillerson and their Mexican counterparts spoke before the two Americans planned to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, an outspoken opponent of Trump’s immigration plans, which include making Mexico pay for a border wall along the border.
Tillerson acknowledged the disputes that have damaged U.S.-Mexico relations in recent weeks. But he said the two countries were committed to working through their disagreements.
“In a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences,” Tillerson said. “We listened closely and carefully to each other as we respectfully and patiently raised our respective concerns.”
Mr Kelly’s comments came as the President termed new efforts to arrest and deport more illegal immigrants “a military operation”.
“We’re getting drug lords out,” he said at a White House meeting with business executives. “We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before.”
There are around 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, according to the Pew Research Centre. More than half of those living in America illegally are from Mexico, found the organisation in a recent report.
Donald Trump’s Mexico wall: At what cost, and how long?
According to US government estimates, there are 1.9 million “removeable criminal aliens”, or non-US citizens who have committed crimes and are eligible for deportation, in the country.
But this figure is not limited to illegal immigrants, and includes people from other countries living in the US legally – green card holders, for instance – who could still be sent home for breaking the law.
However, the President appears to have taken a somewhat liberal approach to these estimates.
Police powers under Trump’s new immigration rules are shocking
In his first interview after his election victory, Mr Trump told CBS News he was going to “get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers.”
“A lot of these people, probably two million – it could be even three million – we are getting them out of the country or we are going to incarcerate,” he said.
Mr Kelly and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met their Mexican counterparts in the capital. He said actions will occur in close coordination with Mexico’s government.
Mr Trump is also expected to issue a new travel ban, replacing the directive suspending access to the US to citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries, next week.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has called the revised order a “more streamlined version” of the original travel ban, which sparked widespread confusion and mass protests.
Pyongyang appears to have lashed out at Beijing in unusually pointed rhetoric
Footage captured from North Korea’s central television station purportedly showing the test launch of a Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile earlier this month. PHOTO: YONHAP NEWS/ZUMA PRESS
By JONATHAN CHENG in Seoul and CHUN HAN WONG in Beijing
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Feb. 23, 2017 8:43 a.m. ET
North Korea appeared to lash out at Beijing in a state-media commentary published on Thursday, in unusually pointed rhetoric from Pyongyang toward a powerful neighbor that it has long relied on for economic support.
The commentary, published by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency, didn’t name China, but left little doubt about its target: “a neighboring country, which often claims itself to be a ‘friendly neighbor’.”
According to the KCNA report, the unnamed country “has unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps such as totally blocking foreign trade related to the improvement of people’s living standard under the plea of the U.N. ‘resolutions on sanctions’ devoid of legal ground.”
While an early round of U.N. sanctions restricted coal imports from North Korea, China is widely believed to have used a so-called humanitarian exception to exceed that cap. That loophole was removed in last November’s U.N. resolution, and North Korea’s protest against China suggests that Beijing has made clear it intends to adhere to the new rule, said Adam Cathcart, a scholar who focuses on China-North Korea relations at the University of Leeds in the U.K.
“I would take this editorial as hard evidence that China has told North Korea it is narrowing the definition of coal exports for ‘humanitarian purposes,’” Mr. Cathcart said, adding that it was exceedingly rare for North Korea to criticize China so directly.
Mr. Cathcart called the KCNA editorial “a frontal assault on China’s position on the U.N. sanctions issue,” a shift from the oblique critiques of China that North Korea usually turns to when it expresses its displeasure.
In Thursday’s piece, North Korea even adopted a mocking tone, saying that the country is “styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S.”
The KCNA statement also vowed that cutting its exports wouldn’t deter North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal.
“It is utterly childish to think that the DPRK would not manufacture nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic rockets if a few penny of money is cut off,” the statement said.
China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
North Korea and China, which were founded as communist-bloc states within a year of one another after World War II, have long enjoyed a close relationship, frequently described as that of “lips and teeth.”
Beijing has been an economic and political benefactor for Pyongyang since the two countries fought alongside each other in the Korean War of the early 1950s, but bilateral ties have become increasingly strained, as China opened up its economy through market-style reforms while North Korea grew more isolated and pursued a nuclear-weapons program that antagonized its neighbors.
North Korea’s apparent anger at the Chinese comes as Pyongyang has escalated a diplomatic row with another friendly nation in Asia, Malaysia, after authorities in Kuala Lumpur identified a North Korean embassy official and a state-owned airline employee among seven suspects still at large in the killing of dictator Kim Jong Un’s half brother.
North Korea has denied its involvement in last week’s public slaying of Kim Jong Nam. Malaysian authorities have refused to turn over the corpse to North Korea, as the embassy there has demanded, instead conducting its own autopsies—a move decried by North Korea as part of a broader conspiracy engineered by South Korea and the U.S.
Just hours before its broadside against China, KCNA published a report blaming Malaysia for an “undisguised encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the acronym for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” KCNA reported, quoting a group called the Korean Jurists Committee.
North Korea’s state-run news agency issued a tough critique of China on Thursday, suggesting Beijing’s criticism of the North’s recent missile test and suspension of imports of North Korean coal are tantamount to the actions of an enemy state “dancing to the tune of the U.S.”
The article took a tone normally reserved for North Korea’s overt enemies — Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.
Without directly using China’s name, but referring to it as “a neighboring country, which often claims itself to be a ‘friendly neighbor,'” the Korean Central News Agency report accused Beijing of essentially abandoning North Korea in favor of the United States by cutting off imports of coal in compliance with United Nations sanctions.
“This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S. while defending its mean behavior with such excuses that it (the suspension of coal imports) was meant not to have a negative impact on the living of the people in the DPRK but to check its nuclear program,” it said. DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It added that China has “unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps” to comply with U.N. sanctions.
The article, uncharacteristically for the news agency, carried a byline, Jong Phil.
China on Sunday began a suspension of all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year as it increases pressure on it in line with U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed in November in response to the North’s fifth nuclear test two months earlier.
China had already banned coal imports from North Korea in April last year, but those restrictions allowed some imports for civilian use. China is North Korea’s largest source of trade and aid and the suspension will deprive the North of an important source of foreign currency.
North Korean coal exports to China totaled $1.2 billion last year, according to Chinese customs statistics. U.S. officials say that represents about one third of North Korea’s total export income.
Beijing has come under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to lean harder on North Korea, but says its influence is limited.
Pyongyang issued a rare reproach of Beijing, its main diplomatic backer, for halting imports of its coal (file picture)
It has, however, also grown increasingly frustrated with North Korea’s defiance of U.N. demands it end missile tests and development of nuclear weapons.
Fear of clashes with U.S. over trade, currency policy fuel uncertainty about market
China’s stock market is experiencing its strongest rally in years.PHOTO: STR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
By CAROLYN CUI
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Feb. 21, 2017 6:43 p.m. ET
Many global investors are missing out on China’s strongest stock-market rally in years, the latest sign that a potential clash with the U.S. over trade and currency policy looms over the world’s most populous nation.
As of Tuesday’s close, the MSCI China index is up 11.6% this year, making it the fourth-best performer among the 23 countries tracked by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. That index is up 9.8% through Tuesday’s close. China’s early gains put the market on pace for its best year since 2012, when its stock index rose 19%.
Yet many foreign investors say they are waiting to add to Chinese investments, citing concerns about capital flight, mounting debt and slowing economic growth.
China-focused stock funds have had outflows of $815 million in 2017 through Feb. 16, according to EPFR Global. That compares with $7.6 billion that flowed into emerging-markets funds that include China.
Should rising global tensions over trade and currency policies spill over into financial markets, Chinese investments could be hit hard, many investors say.
A confrontation with the U.S. isn’t necessarily the most likely outcome, many analysts say. But the risk of a clash between two of the world’s leading economies remains one of the most significant sources of uncertainty when the global order is being recast by political upsets such as the Brexit vote in the U.K. and Mr. Trump’s election in the U.S.
“China is the most likely source of global economic shocks over the next two to three years,” said Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, chief investment officer of Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management Group.
Ms. Mossavar-Rahmani’s primary concern about China is the country’s rapid debt buildup. China’s reading on its total social financing, a broad measure that includes bank loans and shadow lending, surged to a record $545 billion in January, more than double the previous month despite government efforts to rein in lending.
Heading into last year, Ms. Mossavar-Rahmani said she didn’t expect China to have a hard landing in 2016 or 2017. Now her assessment is that China is unlikely to avoid a financial crisis over the next three years.
Western investors continued to pull back from China last year as outflows persisted. China equity funds had $9 billion in redemptions last year, while investors pulled $21.2 billion out of those funds in 2015. By contrast, broader emerging-market stock funds took in $20 billion in 2016, buoyed by an improving growth and earnings outlook in much of the developing world.
China also continues to suffer outflows, albeit at a slower pace since it tightened capital controls on corporations and individuals late last year. In January, China’s foreign-exchange reserves dropped below $3 trillion as authorities sought to stem the currency’s decline.
Many investors are unnerved by the Trump administration’s aggressive stance toward China.
“It’s a known unknown,” said David Semple, portfolio manager at the $1.1 billion VanEck Emerging Markets Fund. “It’s not just the actual impact of what occurs at the end of the day; it’s the fact that there’ll be headlines and tweets that will make people concerned.”
As a result, foreigners are light on Chinese stocks. Just 18% of the 120 biggest global emerging-market funds held more Chinese stocks than the benchmark emerging-markets index at the end of January, according to Copley Fund Research.
Investors also worry that China’s problems could reverberate broadly across the developing world. China is integral to the global supply chain, with many components made and assembled there before being shipped to other countries.
“Clearly, any sort of trade protectionist policies emanating from the new U.S. administration would have a negative impact on overall global trade,” said Prakriti Sofat, an emerging-market portfolio manager at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which has an underweight bias toward China.
Any further slowdown in Chinese growth would also hurt commodity-exporting economies such as Brazil, Russia and South Africa, said Paul McNamara, an investment director at GAM.
Still, some on Wall Street are starting to think the worst may soon be over. In a report titled “Why We Are Bullish On China,” Morgan Stanley said the country’s stocks could outperform the rest of emerging markets in the next decade.
“China will be able to avoid a financial shock,” the report said. It cited China’s high savings rate, current-account surplus and its still high level of reserves.
Calamos Evolving World Growth fund bought Chinese industrial and financial stocks during the fourth quarter last year. Nick Niziolek, co-chief investment officer at Calamos Investments, has raised his fund’s allocation to China to 25.6% from 20.4% since the end of last year.
Mr. Niziolek said that China bears are overlooking the attractive valuations and some of the more encouraging economic indicators, like stronger manufacturing and inflation data.
“Where there is risk, there’s where the opportunities are,” he said.
China, in an early test of U.S. President Donald Trump, has nearly finished building almost two dozen structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that appear designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, two U.S. officials told Reuters.
The development is likely to raise questions about whether and how the United States will respond, given its vows to take a tough line on China in the South China Sea.
China claims almost all the waters, which carry a third of the world’s maritime traffic. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. Trump’s administration has called China’s island building in the South China Sea illegal.
Building the concrete structures with retractable roofs on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs, part of the Spratly Islands chain where China already has built military-length airstrips, could be considered a military escalation, the U.S. officials said in recent days, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It is not like the Chinese to build anything in the South China Sea just to build it, and these structures resemble others that house SAM batteries, so the logical conclusion is that’s what they are for,” said a U.S. intelligence official, referring to surface-to-air missiles.
Another official said the structures appeared to be 20 meters (66 feet) long and 10 meters (33 feet) high.
A Pentagon spokesman said the United States remained committed to “non-militarization in the South China Sea” and urged all claimants to take actions consistent with international law.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday he was aware of the report, though did not say if China was planning on placing missiles on the reefs.
“China carrying out normal construction activities on its own territory, including deploying necessary and appropriate territorial defense facilities, is a normal right under international law for sovereign nations,” he told reporters.
In his Senate confirmation hearing last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised China’s ire when he said Beijing should be denied access to the islands it is building in the South China Sea.
Tillerson subsequently softened his language, and Trump further reduced tensions by pledging to honor the long-standing U.S. “one China” policy in a Feb. 10 telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a December report that China apparently had installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the islands it has built in the South China Sea.
The officials said the new structures were likely to house surface-to-air missiles that would expand China’s air defense umbrella over the islands. They did not give a time line on when they believed China would deploy missiles on the islands.
“It certainly raises the tension,” Poling said. “The Chinese have gotten good at these steady increases in their capabilities.”
On Tuesday, the Philippines said Southeast Asian countries saw China’s installation of weapons in the South China Sea as “very unsettling” and have urged dialogue to stop an escalation of “recent developments.”
Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay did not say what provoked the concern but said the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, hoped China and the United States would ensure peace and stability.
The U.S. intelligence official said the structures did not pose a significant military threat to U.S. forces in the region, given their visibility and vulnerability.
Building them appeared to be more of a political test of how the Trump administration would respond, he said.
“The logical response would also be political – something that should not lead to military escalation in a vital strategic area,” the official said.
Chas Freeman, a China expert and former assistant secretary of defense, said he was inclined to view such installations as serving a military purpose – bolstering China’s claims against those of other nations – rather than a political signal to the United States.
“There is a tendency here in Washington to imagine that it’s all about us, but we are not a claimant in the South China Sea,” Freeman said. “We are not going to challenge China’s possession of any of these land features in my judgment. If that’s going to happen, it’s going to be done by the Vietnamese, or … the Filipinos … or the Malaysians, who are the three counter-claimants of note.”
He said it was an “unfortunate, but not (an) unpredictable development.”
Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month that China’s building of islands and putting military assets on them was “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea” from Ukraine.
In his written responses to follow-up questions, he softened his language, saying that in the event of an unspecified “contingency,” the United States and its allies “must be capable of limiting China’s access to and use of” those islands to pose a threat.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed Arshad, David Brunnstrom and John Walcott, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by John Walcott, Peter Cooney and Nick Macfie)
BAGHDAD — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday the United States does not intend to seize Iraqi oil, shifting away from an idea proposed by President Donald Trump that has rattled Iraq’s leaders.
Mattis’ arrived on an unannounced visit in Iraq as the battle to oust Islamic State militants from western Mosul moved into its second day, and as the Pentagon considers ways to accelerate the campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria.
Those efforts could be complicated by Trump’s oil threat and his inclusion of Iraq in the administration’s travel ban — twin blows that have roiled the nation and spurred local lawmakers to pressure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reduce cooperation with Washington.
“I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I’m sure that we will continue to do that in the future,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”
His comments may provide some reassurance to the Iraqis. But the tensions come at a critical point in the war against IS, with two key battles in the works: the fight to take control of west Mosul, and the start of a campaign in Syria to oust IS from Raqqa, the capital of its self-declared caliphate.
Al-Abadi has taken a measured approach, but the issues can roil already difficult internal politics.
Under the president’s deadline, Mattis has just a week to send Trump a strategy to accelerate the fight and defeat the Islamic State group. And any plan is likely to depend on U.S. and coalition troops working with and through the local forces in both countries.
“We’re going to make certain that we’ve got good situational awareness of what we face as we work together and fight alongside each other,” Mattis said.
His key goal during the visit is to speak about the military operations with political leaders and commanders on the ground, including his top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend.
Asked about the tensions, Mattis said he has been assured that the travel ban — it has been stalled by a legal challenge — would not affect Iraqis who have fought alongside U.S. forces.
The oil issue, however, may be more difficult. Trump brought it up during the campaign, and he mentioned it again late last month during a visit to the CIA.
“To the victor belong the spoils,” Trump told members of the intelligence community. He said he first argued this case for “economic reasons,” but added it made sense as a counterterrorism approach to defeating IS “because that’s where they made their money in the first place.”
“So we should have kept the oil,” he said. “But, OK, maybe you’ll have another chance.”
Trump, however, has also been clear that defeating IS is a top priority. In his inauguration address, he pledged to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism “completely from the face of the Earth.” And he talked during the campaign about greatly increasing the number of U.S. troops in order to “knock out” IS.
He signed an order Jan. 28 that gives Mattis and senior military leaders 30 days to come up with a new plan to beef up the fight.
Mattis would not discuss specifics, saying he wants to gather information first. But he has been talking with military leaders about the possible options, and has largely supported the U.S. strategy of fighting IS with and through local forces.
The military options range from putting more troops in Iraq and Syria to boosting military aid to Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S.-led coalition.
More specifically, officials have talked about expanding efforts to train, advise and enable local Iraqi and Syrian forces, increasing intelligence and surveillance, and allowing U.S. troops to move forward more frequently with Iraqi soldiers nearer the front lines.
The Pentagon also would like more freedom to make daily decisions about how it fights the enemy. Former and current U.S. officials discussed the likely options on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly.
In Syria, a possible option would be sending more U.S. forces, including combat troops, there as the Raqqa fight heats up.
Another move would be to provide heavy weapons and vehicles to the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds, known as the YPG, and boost training. They have been the most effective force against IS in northern and eastern Syria, but the proposal is sensitive. Turkey, a key U.S. and NATO ally, considers the group a terrorist organization.
There are more than 5,100 U.S. forces in Iraq, and up to about 500 in Syria.
Jim Mattis to Baghdad: ‘We’re Not in Iraq to Seize Anybody’s Oil’
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, with Col. Terry L. Anderson, the military attaché, in Munich on Thursday. Credit Sven Hoppe/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Baghdad on Monday, promising that, despite what President Trump said last month, the administration would not try to seize Iraq’s oil.
Nor, he said, would the administration repay Iraqis who have worked and fought side by side with American troops by excluding them from the United States — as Mr. Trump initially did with an executive order shutting the door to citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries, including Iraq. That order has been stayed by the courts and is expected to be replaced soon.
“I have not seen the new executive order,” Mr. Mattis said on Sunday. “But right now, I’m assured that we will take steps to allow those who have fought alongside us to be allowed into the United States.”
As for Mr. Trump’s remarks during a visit to C.I.A. headquarters last month that the United States should have “kept” Iraq’s oil after the American-led invasion, and might still have a chance to do so, Mr. Mattis said that Americans were accustomed to paying for their fuel.
A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by Farsnews on March 9, 2016. REUTERS/farsnews.com/Handout via Reuters
U.S. Republican senators plan to introduce legislation to impose further sanction on Iran, accusing it of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions by testing ballistic missiles and acting to “destabilize” the Middle East, a U.S. senator said Sunday.
“I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Munich Security Conference.
Graham said he and other Republicans would introduce measures to hold Iran accountable for its actions.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since a Iranian ballistic missile test which prompted U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on individuals and entities linked to the country’s Revolutionary Guards.
“Iran is a bad actor in the greatest sense of the word when it comes to the region. To Iran, I say, if you want us to treat you differently then stop building missiles, test-firing them in defiance of U.N. resolution and writing ‘Death to Israel’ on the missile. That’s a mixed message,” Graham said.
Senator Christopher Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the same panel there was nothing preventing Congress from imposing sanctions beyond those that were lifted as a result of the 2016 nuclear agreement with Iran.
Murphy, a Democrat, told the panel that he had backed the nuclear deal in the explicit understanding that it would not prevent Congress from taking actions against Iran outside the nuclear issue.
“There’s going to be a conversation about what the proportional response is,” Murphy said, referring to Iran’s missile test. “But I don’t necessarily think there’s going to be partisan division over whether or not we have the ability as a Congress to speak on issues outside of the nuclear agreement.”
Murphy said the United States needed to decide whether it wanted to take a broader role in the regional conflict.
Kerry’s outline included Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu claimed he couldn’t get his coalition to back it.
By Barak Ravid
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a secret summit in Aqaba a year ago where then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented a plan for a regional peace initiative including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a renewal of talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh sit aboard a Royal Jordanian Air Force transport plane on February 21, 2016. Photo Credit U.S. State Department
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi were also present at the meeting in the Jordanian city.
Netanyahu did not accept Kerry’s proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition. Still, the Aqaba summit was the basis for the talks that began two weeks later between Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on establishing a unity government.
Details about the summit and the plan emerged from conversations between Haaretz and former senior officials in the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous. The Prime Minister’s Bureau refused to comment.
It was Kerry who initiated the conference. In April 2014, the peace initiative he had led collapsed, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians entered a deep freeze and U.S. President Barack Obama declared a time-out in U.S. attempts to restart the peace process. Over the next 18 months Kerry focused on attaining an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program; an agreement was reached in July 2015 and ratified by Congress in mid-September.
In October that year, Kerry renewed his work on the Israeli-Palestinian process following an escalation of tensions over the Temple Mount and a wave of violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
At the end of October, Kerry was able to achieve understandings confirming the status quo on the Temple Mount by Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan. As part of these understandings, Israel and Jordan launched talks over the placement of closed-circuit cameras on the Temple Mount, an idea that was never implemented.
Two weeks later, Netanyahu came to Washington for his first meeting with Obama in more than a year – a period when the two leaders badly clashed over the nuclear deal with Iran.
During his meeting with Obama in the Oval Office on November 10, Netanyahu said he had new ideas for renewing talks with the Palestinians. Obama, who no longer believed that Netanyahu had serious intentions, asked him to discuss the matter with Kerry.
The following day Netanyahu met with Kerry and proposed a series of significant gestures to the Palestinians in the West Bank, including permits for massive construction by Palestinians in Area C, the area of the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control. Netanyahu asked that in exchange Washington recognize that Israel could build in the large Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, but did not make clear whether this meant construction outside the blocs would cease.
Two weeks later, Netanyahu held two long meetings with the security cabinet in which he tried to drum up support for the steps he planned for the West Bank. But a number of terror attacks at that time, along with staunch opposition by his coalition partners on his right – Habayit Hayehudi ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked – cooled Netanyahu’s enthusiasm.
When Kerry came to Israel on November 24, Netanyahu informed him that the proposals he had presented just two weeks before were no longer on the table. Kerry, who was shocked at Netanyahu’s backtrack, met with Herzog the same day to explore whether the possibility of Zionist Union joining the government was a realistic one. Herzog’s reply did nothing to improve Kerry’s mood.
“There are zero signs of a change in Netanyahu’s policy or approach,” Herzog told Kerry. Under those circumstances, Herzog said there was neither a chance nor a reason for Zionist Union to join the coalition.
Kerry left the region frustrated and angry. In a speech to the Saban Forum in Washington a week later, he was severely critical of Netanyahu, saying the policy of Netanyahu’s government would lead to a binational state.
After the failure of Kerry’s mission, the Palestinians reverted to their steps against Israel in the United Nations, including a draft resolution at the Security Council on the settlements. In Israel, the security cabinet began discussing the possibility of the fall of the Palestinian Authority. In Europe, France began to prepare for a meeting of dozens of foreign ministers on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Despite the dead end, Kerry did not intend to give up. With his advisers in December and January, he crafted a document that included principles for the renewal of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the framework of a regional peace initiative with the participation of the Arab countries. The plan he formulated in early 2016 was identical to the one he presented at the end of that year – three weeks before Donald Trump entered the White House. The following are the six principles:
* International secure and recognized borders between Israel and a sustainable and contiguous Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed-on exchanges of territory.
* Implementation of the vision of UN Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan) for two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab – which recognize each other and give equal rights to their citizens.
* A just, agreed-on, fair and realistic solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees that conforms to a solution of two states for two peoples and will not influence the basic character of Israel.
* An agreed-on solution for Jerusalem as the capital of both countries, recognized by the international community and ensuring freedom of access to the holy sites in keeping with the status quo.
* A response to Israel’s security needs, ensuring Israel’s ability to protect itself effectively and ensuring Palestine’s ability to give security to its citizens in a sovereign, demilitarized state.
* The end of the conflict and of demands, which will allow a normalization of ties and increased regional security for all, in keeping with the vision of the Arab Peace Initiative.
On January 31, Kerry met with Netanyahu in the resort town of Davos, Switzerland. During the meeting, with only the two men present, Kerry presented the document of principles and the regional-peace initiative to Netanyahu along with a tempting idea – a first-of-its-kind summit with King Abdullah and Sissi to discuss ways to push the process forward.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with a Diplomatic Security Agent after they flew on a Royal Jordanian Air Force transport plane on February 21, 2016.U.S. State Department
On January 31, Kerry told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of his discussion with Netanyahu in Davos. After Netanyahu agreed to the meeting, Kerry and his people began to organize it.
In the lead was Kerry’s adviser and confidant Frank Lowenstein, the special envoy for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. After behind-the-scenes talks with the Israelis, Jordanians and Egyptians, it was decided that the summit would take place on February 21 in Aqaba. The summit would remain secret and no side would release details about it.
Abbas did not take part in the summit, but was aware that it took place. On the morning of February 21 he met with Kerry in Amman. From the statements released by both sides at the end of the meeting, not even a hint could be gleaned of what was to take place a few hours later.
Kerry ended his meeting with Abbas, and together with a few of his advisers and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, boarded a small Jordanian Air Force plane.
They landed in Aqaba 45 minutes later.
Before the four-way meeting, Kerry met separately with each of the leaders. A former senior U.S. official said Kerry asked during his meetings with Abdullah and Sissi to show support for his plan. He asked that they persuade additional Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support the plan as well, and take part in a regional diplomatic move that would include a renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Kerry sought to have Abdullah pressure Abbas to agree to renew the talks based on the American plan, and Sissi would do the same vis-a-vis the Israeli government. The former senior U.S. official noted that Abdullah and Sissi agreed to express support for the plan even though it included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Nevertheless, the official added, Sissi, who did not want a confrontation with Netanyahu, made clear to Kerry that he thought persuasion would be more effective than pressure and compulsion.
Former senior U.S. officials noted that at a meeting with Netanyahu in the context of the summit, the prime minister evaded a clear answer on the proposed plan. They said Netanyahu presented a series of reservations, arguing that the principles were too detailed and that he would have difficulty winning support for them in his coalition government.
The four-party meeting was highly dramatic. Even though the subject was the regional peace initiative, a substantial chunk of the discussions related to the situation in the overall region. Abdullah and Sissi took Kerry to task for the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East, both regarding Iran and Syria. Still, the two reacted positively to his proposal and tried to convince Netanyahu to accept it.
The former senior U.S. officials said Netanyahu was hesitant. Instead of relating exclusively to Kerry’s plan, they said he presented a plan of his own at the four-party meeting, which he called his five-point plan.
Through the plan, Netanyahu expressed a readiness to take the steps regarding the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that he had spoken with Kerry about in November 2015. He also said he would release a statement relating positively to the Arab Peace Initiative.
In return, Netanyahu asked that the negotiations with the Palestinians be resumed and that a regional peace summit be convened that would include attendance by senior representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni Muslim countries.
After several hours of talks, the leaders returned to their capitals agreeing to consider the various proposals. But the secret summit in Aqaba had an almost immediate effect on domestic Israeli politics. It provided the basis on which two or three weeks later Netanyahu and Herzog discussed a national unity government.
During the contacts, Netanyahu briefed Herzog on the summit in Aqaba. Herzog, who was skeptical, tried to clarify whether there was anything to it. He spoke by phone with Kerry, Abdullah and Sissi on the details.
The leaders of Egypt and Jordan were skeptical over Netanyahu’s ability to advance a genuine diplomatic process with his governing coalition. The two viewed the entry of Herzog or Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid into Netanyahu’s coalition as “earnest money” on the part of Netanyahu that would justify their pressing the Palestinians, or an effort to enlist the participation of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in a regional summit.
Yesterday, Herzog refused to confirm that the phone calls took place, or to provide details of any kind on the subject. Still, the information that Herzog received in March 2016 regarding the secret summit in Aqaba as well as the Kerry plan and the positions taken by Abdullah and Sissi are apparently what convinced him to enter intensive talks with Netanyahu and to publicly state on May 15 that a rare regional-diplomatic opportunity had been created that might not recur.
But just a few days after Herzog made his comments, the coalition negotiations ran aground. Netanyahu decided to abandon the talks with Herzog in favor of having Yisrael Beiteinu join the government, along with the appointment of the party’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, as defense minister.
On May 31, minutes after Lieberman was sworn in at the Knesset, he and Netanyahu told the cameras that they supported a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. They added that the Arab Peace Initiative included positive components that could help revive the talks with the Palestinians.
In the nine months that have elapsed since, there has been no progress on the diplomatic front. Last Wednesday, at a White House press conference with Trump, Netanyahu again called for the advancement of a regional peace initiative.
“For the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally,” Netanyahu said. Addressing Trump directly, he added: “I believe that under your leadership, this change in our region creates an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen security and advance peace. Let us seize this moment together.”
Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Arab rulers last year to hear then US secretary of state John Kerry pitch a regional peace plan, an Israeli newspaper reported Sunday.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also attended the February 2016 talks hosted by King Abdullah II in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, Haaretz said, citing former senior officials in the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous.
It said Kerry wanted the sides to endorse six principles, which he laid out publicly in a December speech.
They included a call for Israel to vacate territory it occupied during the 1967 Six-Day War, subject to land swaps agreed between the two sides.
Since 1967, Israel has pulled out of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip but annexed east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
It continues to occupy the West Bank, where hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in settlements seen as illegal by the international community.
Kerry’s parameters envisioned a Palestinian state, with Palestinians recognising Israel as a “Jewish state”.
Both would share Jerusalem as the “internationally recognised capital of the two states”.
Israel claims the city as its “undivided” capital. Netanyahu’s coalition government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history, rejects talk of ceding any part of it to Palestinian sovereignty.
“Netanyahu did not accept Kerry’s proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition,” Haaretz wrote on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s spokesman and Jordanian officials refused to comment on the report.
Meeting on Wednesday at the White House, Netanyahu and President Donald Trump each spoke of prospects of a regional Middle East understanding to end the stalemated Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“For the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly as an ally,” Netanyahu told Trump.
“We think the larger issue today is how do we create the broader conditions for broad peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Arab countries,” Netanyahu said the following day on MSNBC.
Trump said Netanyahu’s proposal for a regional alliance was something that “hasn’t been discussed before”, adding that it would take in “many, many countries and it would cover a very large territory”.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states to have formal peace treaties with Israel.
Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar do not have diplomatic relations with the Jewish State, but they share informal links.
ZARIF TAKES APPARENT SHOT AT ISRAELI ‘AUDACITY,’ SAYS IRAN WILL NEVER DEVELOP NUKES
FEBRUARY 19, 2017 11:16
“The international community still owes us,” Zarif stated.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (photo credit:ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Sunday that Iran would never seek to build a nuclear weapon, taking an apparent shot at Israel for being the true nuclear-armed actor endangering the region.
Without naming Israel specifically, Zarif said at the Munich Security Council that there were certain non-members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty who were spreading accusations about the Iranian nuclear threat.
“They have the audacity” to talk about the Iranian nuclear threat when they are “the destabilizing force in the region,” Zarif said.
“We will never produce nuclear weapons, period,” Zarif said. The Iranian foreign minister added that Iran had committed to this in the nuclear deal signed with world powers, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but has yet to receive the reciprocal fulfilling of the deal from the other side. “The international community still owes us,” Zarif stated.
Zarif says Iran’s main challenge is ‘confronting extremist Zionist regime’
In apparent response to US President Donald Trump’s comments that he was putting Iran “on notice” over ballistic missile tests last month, Zarif stated that, “We do not respond well to threats.”
Zarif said that under so-called “crippling sanctions,” intended to curb Iran’s construction of centrifuges for enriching uranium, Iran had gone from having 200 centrifuges to having some 20,000 centrifuges.
“We don’t respond to threats, we respond to mutual respect,” Zarif said.
Republican US Senator Lindsay Graham, speaking on a panel at the conference immediately after Zarif, said that not a word the Iranian foreign minister was saying should be believed.
“They’ve been trying to build a nuclear weapon,” Graham said. “If they say they haven’t they’re lying.”
“You don’t build a secret nuclear facility if you don’t want to build a nuclear weapon,” he added.
Graham said that Iran was “a bad actor in the greatest sense of the word when it comes to the region,” calling Tehran out specifically for supporting Hezbollah and writing “Death to Israel” on its missiles.
MUNICH — Iran’s foreign minister is brushing aside new pressure from the United States, declaring that his country is “unmoved by threats” but responds well to respect.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers. His administration said Iran was “on notice” over a recent ballistic missile test, and imposed new sanctions on more than two dozen Iranian companies and individuals.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked “the concept of crippling sanctions” as he spoke Sunday at the Munich Security Conference.
He said: “Iran doesn’t respond well to threats. We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios.”
Netanyahu and Trump meet for first time in Washington at joint press conference at White House, February 15, 2017. (credit: REUTERS)
When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was with president Trump in the White House on Febuary 15, 2017, Mr. Netanyahu said:
“Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way, these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, “Israel must be destroyed.” The Palestinian — rather the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said, well, our ballistic missiles are not intended against any country. No. They write on the missile in Hebrew, “Israel must be destroyed.”
So challenging Iran on its violations of ballistic missiles, imposing sanctions on Hezbollah, preventing them, making them pay for the terrorism that they foment throughout the Middle East and beyond, well beyond — I think that’s a change that is clearly evident since President Trump took office. I welcome that. I think it’s — let me say this very openly: I think it’s long overdue, and I think that if we work together — and not just the United States and Israel, but so many others in the region who see eye to eye on the great magnitude and danger of the Iranian threat, then I think we can roll back Iran’s aggression and danger. And that’s something that is important for Israel, the Arab states, but I think it’s vitally important for America. These guys are developing ICBMs. They’re developing — they want to get to a nuclear arsenal, not a bomb, a hundred bombs. And they want to have the ability to launch them everywhere on Earth, and including, and especially, eventually, the United States.”
CLAREMONT (California) • The Cold War ended in December 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated. The post-Cold War era ended in November last year , when Mr Donald Trump won the United States presidency.
It is impossible to predict all of what the Trump era will bring, not least because of Mr Trump’s own capriciousness. But some consequences are already apparent. In just a couple of weeks, his presidency has upended the key assumptions underpinning China’s post-Cold War grand strategy.
The first assumption is ideological. The ostensible triumph of Western liberal democracy in 1989 imbued that system with a kind of dominance. It was, therefore, assumed to pose an existential threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In the economic realm, China expected continued Western leadership on economic globalisation. So China’s government developed close commercial relationships with the West – relationships that supported China’s economic growth and development, strengthening support for the CCP at home and bolstering the country’s influence abroad.
Regarding national security, China assumed that the US did not pose an imminent threat. Though the US and its allies enjoy overwhelming technological advantages – a reality that had long worried Chinese leaders – China took it almost as a given that the US would continue to place a high priority on conflict avoidance.
All in all, China’s leaders had come to terms with the dual nature of America’s hedging strategy, whereby the US engaged with China economically and diplomatically, while maintaining a robust security posture vis-a-vis China, to deter expansionism. And they had developed a strategy of their own that aimed to make the most of this relatively peaceful operating environment to pursue their main objective: rapid economic development.
A port in Lianyungang, China. De- globalisation now seems to be a given, which is profoundly worrying for China, the world’s largest exporter by volume, says the writer. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE
Now, however, that operating environment has changed; in fact, the foundations of the post-Cold War order were fraying long before Mr Trump arrived on the scene. Among other things, the 2008 global financial crisis and America’s strategic stumbles in the Middle East since the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001 substantially weakened the West’s capacity to maintain the international rules-based order and provide global public goods.
None of this is news to China, which has been pursuing incremental adjustments to its grand strategy, in order to seize the opportunities created by the West’s relative decline. For example, while the US was distracted by the Middle East’s protracted and fluid conflicts, China tested the country’s resolve by flexing its own muscles, most obviously in the South China Sea.
But, overall, the changes were marginal; the strategy’s fundamentals stayed the same. That is no longer an option. With Mr Trump in the White House, China’s grand strategy will have to be completely redrafted according to a new set of assumptions.
Ideologically, China can breathe a sigh of relief. The advent of the Trump era – together with the Brexit vote in Britain and the rise of right-wing populism in other European countries – seems to herald the precipitous decline of liberal democracy’s ideological attraction.
On the economic front, however, the new operating environment is likely to be difficult. De-globalisation now seems to be a given. That is profoundly worrying for China, the world’s largest exporter by volume and arguably globalisation’s greatest beneficiary.
Given China’s dependence on exports, even the best-case scenario is likely to lead to some decline in China’s potential growth. But what has China really worried are the worst-case scenarios. Economic interdependence between China and the US buffers their geopolitical and ideological rivalry. Should Mr Trump make good on his threat to tear up trade agreements and unilaterally impose punitive tariffs, the existing global trading regime will unravel, with China as one of the biggest casualties.
But the most acute danger may lie in the realm of national security. Mr Trump’s statements and actions since the election, together with his broader reputation as an impulsive bully and apparent belief that the world is a Hobbesian jungle, have convinced the Chinese leadership that he is itching for a fight.
Mr Trump has not only threatened to defy the “one China” policy, which has formed the foundation of US-China relations since 1972, but he has also vowed to build up US naval capabilities with the explicit goal of opposing China. His courting of Russian President Vladimir Putin has only exacerbated concerns among Chinese leaders that the US is preparing to challenge China.
These new assumptions provide some indication of the way forward for China, as it develops a new grand strategy. And yet plenty of unknowns remain. If, for example, Mr Trump decides to take on Iran and subsequently gets sucked even deeper into the Middle East quagmire, China might get some breathing room. But if he opts to confront China in the South China Sea or abandons the “one China” policy, US-China relations could be tipped into free fall, raising the frightening prospect of a direct military conflict.
Barring that, Mr Trump’s ascent to the presidency may usher in a new Cold War pitting the US against China. This may seem unthinkable to many. But so was Mr Trump’s victory – until it happened.
The writer is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and the author of China’s Crony Capitalism.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline ‘China needs a new grand strategy’.