Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA and oil

One of the world’s riskiest situations is developing in one of the most volatile regions of the world, the Middle East, after oil production facilities were bombed by drones. The US has blamed Iran. The US has close ties with Saudi Arabia.

Oil production has been affected, with prices surging following the attack (but settling back a bit since).

MSN: Saudis face lengthy oil halt with few options to fill gap

The oil market is facing a prolonged disruption to Saudi Arabia’s oil production with few options for replacing such huge output losses.

The weekend attacks on the kingdom eliminated about 5% of global oil supply — and raised the risk of more conflict in the region — propelling Brent crude to a record surge on Monday. Officials at state oil company Saudi Aramco have become less optimistic on the pace of output recovery, telling a senior foreign diplomat they face a “severe” disruption measured in weeks and months and informing some customers that October shipments will be delayed.

The historic price gain underscores the unprecedented nature of the disruption caused by the drone attack on the Abqaiq crude processing plant. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been the oil market’s great stabilizer, maintaining a large cushion of spare production capacity that can be tapped in emergencies, such as the 2011 war in Libya.

The halt of 5.7 million barrels day of the kingdom’s production — the worst sudden supply loss in history — exposes the inadequacy of the rest of the world’s supply buffer.

Petrol prices have already risen in New Zealand. I don’t know why that has happened so quickly, petrol in tanks here should be the same price as it was last week. Is there any other market that changes prices based on possible future cost rises?

ABC News:  U.S. intel shows cruise missiles fired at Saudi oil facility came from Iran, officials say

The attack on a major Saudi oil facility originated geographically from Iranian territory, with a series of low-altitude cruise missiles fired from at least one location in the western region of the country, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the latest intelligence.

The intelligence assessment draws a more clear link between the attack and Iran, and it could worsen tensions between Washington and Tehran.

U.S. officials are considering possible multilateral sanctions with allies against Iran as part of the response to the attacks…

The Department of Defense has advocated for restraint. But it has provided a briefing on military options to President Donald Trump, who over the weekend tweeted that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” and ready to respond, once it officially determined who was behind the attack.

Three U.S. officials previously told NBC News there was extremely compelling evidence showing the origination point of the strikes, and one official with direct knowledge described that evidence as imagery.

That’s image based imagery, not imaginary.

A Saudi military spokesman says initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the attack.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday no talks would take place between Iran and the U.S. “on any level…

Reuters: U.S. lawmakers blast Iran, wary of war, after Saudi oil attack

Members of the U.S. Congress blasted Iran after the attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but expressed wariness about U.S. military action, especially before they have a clearer picture of who was behind it.

President Donald Trump said the United States was “locked and loaded” to hit back after Saturday’s attack, which knocked out more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant.

Iran denied U.S. accusations it was to blame and said it was ready for “full-fledged war.”

U.S. lawmakers, especially Trump’s fellow Republicans, were quick to blame Tehran.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican majority leader, called it “a brazen attack” with significant implications for the global energy market and said he welcomed Trump’s preparation to potentially release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stabilize markets if necessary.

Many lawmakers stressed that Congress, not the president, has the right to declare war and warned against any quick military action.

Trump may not be able to initiate quick military action on his own, but he is capable of escalating tensions and the prospects of war via Twitter.

Military action would likely put oil production and supply at even more risk.

Congress, with backing from both Republicans and Democrats, has passed – but Trump has vetoed – four bills seeking to push back against Trump’s strong support for the Saudi government, despite its human rights record and steep civilian casualties in the war in Yemen.

Trump and the US say nothing against Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemeni war – and supply the Saudis with arms.

Wikipedia:  2017 United States–Saudi Arabia arms deal

On May 20, 2017, U.S. President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the United States totaling US$110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years. The intended purchases include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, as well as radar, communications and cybersecurity technology. The transfer was widely seen as a counterbalance against the influence of Iran in the region and a “significant” and “historic” expansion of United States relations with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Between 2011 and 2015, Saudi Arabia was the destination for nearly 10% of all U.S. arms exports

The 2017 deal was partially created with the help of Jared Kushner, son-in-law of and senior advisor to President Trump

So the attack on the Saudi oil production facilities raises tensions significantly between the US and Iran. The risks may temper responses, but I think it likely that there will be some sort of retaliation.  Economic sanctions are already in place against Iran, so that must be a limited option. If Iran is indeed responsible for the attack it may in part be an attempt to enhance the value of their own oil to compensate for sanctions.

Whatever, it’s complex and it’s a high risk game being played in the Middle East that could significantly impact on the world.

 

 

The Great Hack – democracy at risk of serious damage

If you value information privacy, online integrity and democratic processes, and you have access to Netflix, then I recommend you watch The Great Hack.

It is a documentary movie that shows how the acquisition of online data, in particular from Facebook, has been used to manipulate opinions and elections. The now bankrupt UK based company Cambridge Analytica is one of the main focuses, with close links to the Brexit referendum in June 2016 and the Donald Trump nomination and election as US president. Russian influence in elections is also a part of the story.

 

From a review by Odie Henderson (robertebert.com):

“The Great Hack” concerns itself with the United States Presidential election of 2016 and, to a lesser extent, the Brexit vote and other international political campaigns. The common factor in all these events is a now-defunct firm called Cambridge Analytica, represented throughout the film by several former employees. At the height of its powers, the company held up to 5,000 data points about each of the people contained in its databases.

This information was used for a variety of purposes meant to manipulate a certain cross-section of people. The master manipulators didn’t go after people whose minds had been made up; they went after on-the-fence folks referred to as “the persuadables.” Using the collected data, Cambridge Analytica set out to create fear and/or apathy to achieve the results of the political parties that hired them. Carroll’s lawsuit is an attempt to retrieve the data collected on him.

And how did the thousands of points of data wind up in those databases? Well, you willingly gave it to them, dear readers. Remember those seemingly innocent Facebook quizzes that you took to determine what Disney villain you were, or whether you were an introvert or any other goofy question you couldn’t wait to have answered so you could share it with friends online? Those little diversions asked specific questions that were used to harvest data.

Based on this and other information gleaned from Facebook posts and the friends with whom you associated on that platform, the data analysis tools used artificial intelligence and evaluations to create a startlingly accurate profile of you. Carroll asks his class if they ever think their phone is listening in on them because the ads they see seem perfectly tailored for them. Everyone says yes. Carroll tells them that this manufactured profile is why.

This is sure to be a controversial documentary, not just because it sees Brexit and the GOP Presidential campaign involvement with Cambridge Analytica as a sinister, almost military-grade level of psychological warfare against an unsuspecting public, but because it also highlights how large groups of people can easily be led to vote against their own interests.

There’s a too-brief section focusing on the “Do So” campaign in Trinidad and Tobago, where social media was flooded with catchy graphics and slogans designed to foster apathy in folks who would vote for the side not allegedly in cahoots with Cambridge. The Do So campaign made it seem cool not to vote at all, so many young people did not. As with the American campaign, the bombardment of ads and demonizing and false news stories was relentless.

The movie named a number of countries in which similar Cambridge Analytica had experimented, and also showed a map of the spread around the world. New Zealand appears to have avoided being targeted – so far. But I think that it’s likely that similar targeted ‘psychological warfare’ is likely to be tried here, if it hasn’t been already.

Breitbart News is also connected in The Great Hack.  Here in New Zealand the now far right Whale Oil website has championed Breitbart and modeled themselves on them, including the use of ‘fake news’ targeting political and ethnic/religious groups. ‘Whaleoil staff’ put up such a post yesterday.

Some of those who like the result of the Brexit referendum and the last US presidential election may see no problem here, but unless solutions are found then democracy around the world may well be heading for destruction.

Indeed, that is the aim of some of those who are trying to manipulate minds online, and swing elections – they believe that a breakdown of the current political systems is necessary to impose their own power structures on countries.

One thing in our  favour here may be that New Zealand has been relatively insignificant in the  the whole scheme of world politics and power.

But – if the international populism of Jacinda Ardern is seen as a threat to those using online data and online forums to brainwash people who are susceptible to being influenced then I don’t think we can rule out significant foreign interference in a future election here.

Fortunately the firearms reforms here have had near unanimous support in Parliament, with no time for major interference from abroad, although the US NRA has been linked to some attempts to swing opinion here in support of unfettered access to weapons.

But upcoming referendums on cannabis law reform, and possibly in euthanasia could be at risk. The debates on these issues have already been subject to false claims and distortions by some groups intent on imposing their views on the wider population.

Democracy is at risk of serious damage, due to the quest for profits by huge online media companies, and the harvesting and use of private data in a new and insidious form of propaganda by interest groups and countries,

Our democracy has not been perfect, but it has been better than most if not all alternatives. It is at real risk of being munted by international money makers and power seekers.

Trump preparing for re-election campaign launch

Donald Trump is set to officially launch his re-election campaign next Tuesday – well over a year before the election in November 2020 but this is the US – although he has run campaign style public events for some time, including this week.

It’s hard to know whether this was deliberate or ignorant, or whether it will help or hurt his re-election chances – Trump: I Would Accept Information On My Opponent From Foreign Governments, “It’s Called Oppo Research”

President Donald Trump said he would accept information from a foreign government or foreign nationals that would help him in the 2020 presidential election and not notify the FBI in an Oval Office interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Your son, Don Jr., is up before the Senate Intelligence Committee today. And again, he was not charged with anything. In retrospect though-

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: By the way, not only wasn’t he charged, if you read it, with all of the horrible fake news- I mean, I was reading that my son was going to go too jail — this is a good young man — that he was going to go to jail. And then the report comes out, and they didn’t even say, they hardly even talked about him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that email?

TRUMP: OK. Let’s put yourself in a position. You’re a congressman, somebody comes up and says, “Hey, I have information on your opponent. Do you call the FBI? I don’t think-

STEPHANOPOULOS: If it’s coming from Russia, you do.

TRUMP: I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do-

STEPHANOPOULOS: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book. He called the FBI.

TRUMP: Well, that’s different, a stolen briefing book. This isn’t a stolen- This is somebody that said, “We have information on your opponent.” Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn’t work that way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The FBI director says that’s what should happen.

TRUMP: The FBI director is wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don’t- There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country — Norway — “We have information on your opponent.” Oh. I think I’d want to hear it.

A country like Norway is unlikely to try to interfere in a US election by helping one candidate with dirt on their opponent.

I doubt that China would try to help trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It’s not interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research. “Oh, let’s call the FBI.” The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.

So collusion is now renamed ‘oppo research’.

Axios: Trump’s re-election crisis

The state of play: His internal polls show it, national polls show it and even a poll in reliably conservative Texas shows it — all as Trump should be crushing it. Unemployment is at a near-historic low. The economy is growing. Peace and prosperity abound. But his numbers are sagging.

The warning signs:

  • The N.Y. Times reported“After being briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Mr. Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win. … Trump instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well.”
  • National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes that Trump is “in the weakest political shape of any sitting president since George H.W Bush”: “Trump hits 50 percent disapproval … in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa — all states he carried in 2016.”
  • Pay little attention to national polls in a race where states are what matters. But as a sign of voter mood, six Democrats (Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, Buttigieg and Booker) each beat Trump in the first 2o2o Quinnipiac University National Poll, released yesterday.

The other side … A Trump ally familiar with the campaign’s strategy said: “Trump has always under-polled. Until it’s actually a binary contest, though, these polls really don’t matter.”

  • “Educating voters on what Green New Deal and Medicare for All actually mean = an absolute disaster for Democrats.”
  • “When Trump gets a shot at defining someone one-on-one, they’re no longer going to be what they are now, which is for the most part a ‘generic Democrat.'”
  • “Historical data says that with the economy roaring like it is, the incumbent always wins.”

Be smart: Trump is betting polls will swing when it’s a choice between him and someone he can lampoon as a dumb socialist.

  • But, but, but: Even the self-avowed socialists are beating him — Bernie Sanders is up 12 in Michigan.

The bottom line: The 2018 elections were a wake-up call for Trump. Democrats had record turnout; his Midwest presidency-makers of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania reverted to their Democratic form; and conservative states, including Texas, showed the demographic dangers for the GOP.

Some will say that Trump defied and confounded the polls and pundits last tome and could do so again. He could do so.

But it will be different this time. Voters won’t be judging trump on his potential, they will be judging him on his actual performance this term. Some say he has been the best president since 1776 and that Trump’s declaration of his greatness is more historic than the Declaration of Independence, and others see him as a self obsessed narcissist boorish overrated buffoon.

Still, there’s a lot that can happen. The US economy is strong but if that trips up between now and the election it may work against Trump. Any number of international crises could strike.

And a key factor will be who the Democrats choose to stand. They stuffed up last time with Hillary Clinton. Picking someone who is leader-like and credible would be a good contrast to Trump and a good start. Trump is certain to ridicule and name call, but the novelty factor of his derogatory lying attack modus operandi has long worn off.

It will be a long campaign as usual, and could be ugly.

Al Jazeera “doing a sterling job covering the situation” in Sudan

We get little coverage in New Zealand of the ongoing civil war in Sudan. To follow what is happening you have to look overseas, and Al Jazeera provides some of the best coverage of what is happening in the Middle East.

Al Jazeera Arabic, which was kicked out of Sudan a couple of weeks ago, is still doing a sterling job covering the situation in Khartoum – no mean feat given that the military have all but shut down internet services in the country.

Smuggled footage taken from moving vehicles show largely deserted streets in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Al Jazeera Arabic broadcasts the footage while interviewing activists and analysts out of Khartoum on scratchy phone lines.

Sudan is yet another country which has shut down Al Jazeera Arabic’s offices, in addition to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. Al Jazeera also seems to be at least heavily restricted in Algeria, which is also in a state of unrest.

Some of the bans have to do with the ongoing split between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and given the Saudi financial backing of the military council in Sudan, it comes as no surprise that Al Jazeera has been banned there.

However, it’s more than that, and a glance at the Wikipedia page for AJA () gives a long list of countries in which Al Jazeera has been declared unwelcome at one point or another, including Israel, Iraq and even India.

As George Orwell said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” Twenty-three years after its launch, Al Jazeera continues to make itself unpopular with regimes throughout the Middle East. That’s a good thing.

Thanks to and the many other Al Jazeera Arabic presenters, journalists, producers, camera operators and others who continue to work in very trying conditions to show and tell us what is going on.

Media and journalism get a bad rap these days, not helped by frequent attacks by one of the most prominent world leaders, Donald Trump, who does his best to discredit what he doesn’t want printed or broadcast.

This isn’t as bad as countries in the Middle East, but his aims seem chillingly similar, to promote his own (often nonsense) narrative and turn people against media reporting things he doesn’t want broadcast.

Being dumped on and shunned by draconian governments is a sign that Al Jazeera is doing some very good work reporting on what is happening.

Al Jazeera website Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

“News, analysis from the Middle East & worldwide, multimedia & interactives, opinions, documentaries, podcasts, long reads and broadcast schedule.”

Sky TV in New Zealand broadcast Al Jazeera on channel 90.

“Never seen the Queen have a better time”

I realise this is just the way he talks, but…

Asked “did you or did you not fist pump with the Queen?”

I did not but I had a relationship. We had a really great time.

There are those who say they have never seen the Queen have a better time and more animated time.

We had a period where we were talking solid straight. I didn’t even know who the other people at the table were, never spoke to them.

We just had a great time together.

She’s a spectacular woman, an incredible woman.

On immigration from Mexico.

But we shouldn’t have anybody. they shouldn’t be able to walk through Mexico, and now I’ve told Mexico if you don’t stop this onslaught, this invasion, people get angry when I use the word invasion. People like Nancy Pelosi, honestly they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

I watch her, she was saying we have to protect Mexico, we have to take care of Mexico. Look. I’m dealing with Mexico now. They send in five hundred billion dollars worth of drugs. They kill a hundred thousand people. They ruin a million families every year. If you look at that that’s really an invasion without the guns.

 

“What could you do to unite the country in a time of great polarisation? What else could you do”

So I think success should unite the country, but I will tell you the more successful we’ve come the more angry people like Nancy Pelosi who don’t have what it takes. They don’t know what’s going on. They get angry.

They should, an example is Mexico. I said we’re going to put tariffs on because we want you to help us with, because they won’t pay us any legislation in congress.

And I have senators, and others, and Pelosi coming out and saying how horrible. What they’re doing is hurting a deal.

A deal to Trump is him saying what he wants and expecting to get it.

They should be saying they’re with the President, we’ll do whatever he wants to do, and Mexico will fold like an umbrella.

Now I have these people, and I’m saying there’s some Republicans too, they should be ashamed of themselves.

But we have Pelosi, we have crying Chuck Schumer who’s a disaster by the way, he’s a total political jerk.

The world’s best ever uniter speaking there.

But we have Schumer, we have all these people, they come out and they talk the tariffs, or this, they’re killing, you know they hurt my negotiation. Because I came into the room with the Mexicans asking for everything, and by the way if they don’t do it I’m putting the tariffs on, we’re going to make a fortune.

One thing with the tariffs, when those tariffs go on companies are going to start moving back once they know they’re going to stay on. Companies are going to move back to the United States. They took thirty two percent of our car industry. All, every single one of those plants will move back into the Unites States.

I thought the tariffs were to try to force Mexico into stopping the flood of people moving across into the US. It now sounds like that was just an excuse to move industry back to the US. Of course less jobs in Mexico and more jobs in the US will really address the problems that contribute to immigration.

If he talked to the Queen like he talked in that interview I’m sure she had the time of her life.

When Trump was in London he talked up the prospects of a trade deal with the UK. I wonder if that will work out like the deals he is doing with China and Mexico.

Ross Barkan, The Guardian:  Why Tariffs Could Be Trump’s Undoing

On Tuesday, Republican senators emerged enraged from a meeting with Trump, unwilling to stomach his threat to level tariffs as high as 25% on Mexican goods in retaliation for migrants crossing the border. Even Senator Ted Cruz, the former Trump punching-bag (“Lyin’ Ted”) who has since become a reliable Trump ally, railed against the proposed tariffs, calling them “new taxes” on Texas farmers, manufacturers and small businesses. Otherwise spineless Republican senators are having this change of heart because of an important political reality: tariffs will make goods more expensive in the states they need to capture in 2020.

Like Texas, Michigan would be hit hard by a trade war. Thanks to the automobile industry’s complex supply chains, it is the state most dependenton imports from Mexico – and, as Republicans know all too well, crucial to Trump’s re-election prospects.

Trump’s ongoing trade war with China has cost him political capital throughout the midwest, where farmers depend on imports and exports. His approval rating in Iowa has dropped a staggering 21 points since he took office. In Wisconsin, he’s lost 19 points, and in Ohio, 18.

Who pays the tariffs? The importing companies in the US, so the US consumers.

And imposing ad hoc tariffs to ‘fix’ immigration and move large industries back to the US are not going to have immediate results. It takes time to relocate large manufacturing plants to another country.

 

Majority of Americans think Trump will win next year’s election

It is 17 months until the next US election, and a lot could change in that time.

What has already changed is expectations of Trump’s chances for a second term. He defeated the odds and defied many pundits by first winning the Republican nomination, and then winning the 2016 presidential election.

Next year he is unlikely to be underestimated. He is likely to rate his own chances much more than last time.

But a poll this far out from the election, with a large number of potential opponents jostling for attention and support. Until the Trump’s Democrat opponent is known, and before they show how good a candidate they are (and before Trump works out his derogatory attack lines), the polled public won’t really have much idea what Trump’s actual chances are.

Trump continues to lag in ‘approval’ polls by around 10% give or take undramatic variations.

Blowing his own Trump

One of Donald Trump’s biggest fans:

As far as the protests, I have to tell you because I commented on it yesterday.

We left the Prime Minister, the Queen, the Royal Family, there were thousands of people on the streets cheering, and even coming over today there were thousands of people cheering.

And then I heard that there were protests. I said where are the protests, I don’t see and protests.

I did see a small protest when I came, very small.

So a lot of it is fake news I hate to say.

But you saw the people waving the American flag, waving your flag. It was tremendous spirit, and love, there was great love, there was an alliance.

And I didn’t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very very small group of people put in for political purposes, so it was fake news. Thank you.

CNN: Jim Sciutto fact-checks Trump’s ‘fake news’ claim

I think the protests were relatively low key and modest.

But it is clear that not everyone loves Trump as much as much as the President does.

Trump wants UK National Health Service included in trade negotiations

Donald Trump’s visit to the UK was always going to be controversial. He has strongly supported Brexit, something that is dividing the UK. But Trump has upped the ante – he says that when US-UK trade takes start after Brexit (if it ever happens) he wants the UK National Health Service to be opened up to US companies.

Fortune: There’s One Subject in the U.K. That’s as Toxic as Brexit. Trump Just Waded Into It

Once, advocates of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union argued that Brexit would mean more government funding for the country’s National Health Service, or NHS.

Now, President Donald Trump has confirmed the opposite: in trade talks between the U.S. and U.K., which will take place once Brexit has gone into effect, the U.S. wants the U.K. to open up the cherished British public health system to American companies.

“I think everything with a trade deal is on the table… NHS and anything else, a lot more than that,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday, on the second day of his state visit.

The president was responding to a question about whether he agreed with the U.S ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnson, who said Sunday that he assumed the NHS “would be on the table” in the imminent trade talks, as the negotiations would account for the entire British economy. And his response has already elicited fury among leading politicians from across the British political spectrum.

The public nature of the NHS, which has been free to use for seven decades, is practically seen as sacred in the U.K., and attempts to change that status are politically toxic. A degree of privatization has been taking place in recent years, but NHS bosses want to reverse the process by squeezing out local for-profit contractors such as Virgin Care and Care U.K.

Further opening up the NHS to American contractors would therefore be an explosive political development. The U.S. ambassador’s comment prompted British Health Secretary Matt Hancock—one of the contenders for May’s job, as she is about to step down—to defend the health service in unequivocal terms.

However it’s hard to see much progress being made on US-UK trade talks at this stage. Brexit looks to be far from resolved, and the Prime Minister who Trump is meeting with, Theresa May, is soon stepping down. The NHS is likely to now feature in the contest for leadership of the Conservative party and the country.

RNZ: Trump praises ‘extraordinary’ US-UK alliance on state visit

US President Donald Trump has said the US and UK have the “greatest alliance the world has ever known”.

That’s what you would expect when the current leaders of the US and UK are the greatest the world has ever known.

The US president met Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House. Mr Farage tweeted that it was a “good meeting” and Mr Trump “really believes in Brexit”.

Mr Trump also said he turned down a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, who addressed protesters in Westminster. Mr Trump said Mr Corbyn was a “negative force”. “I really don’t like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done,” he said.

Mrs May said the scope of trade talks had to be agreed by both countries.

Asked if the NHS would be included in post-Brexit trade talks, Mr Trump said “everything is on the table”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among several Conservative leadership candidates hoping to replace Theresa May who said they would not allow the NHS to become part of any trade talks. “Not on my watch,” he tweeted.

Perhaps the US will play a Trump card – impose tariffs on the UK unless they hand their health system over to US companies.

Trump’s insulting introduction to London

Plenty of publicity was assured for Donald Trump’s visit to London, as he and the Mayor of London traded insults. Trump also took aim at the mayor of new York. He tweeted as he arrived:

, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.

Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job – only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!

I’m not sure about the great friends thing, but this ensures he will keep plenty of bitter enemies. His feud with Khan goes back some time

Washington Post: The long and bitter feud between Trump and London Mayor Sadiq Khan

When presidents embark on prestigious state visits abroad, in the past they were expected to leave their political disputes at home and put on a friendly face for the nation hosting them.

But when President Trump arrived in London on Monday for a long-delayed state visit to Britain, he ignored both customs. Circling back to a long feud with Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor and a vocal critic of Trump, the president tweeted [as above].

Khan, his own supporters say, has managed to hit the president where it hurts most, by winning election in a liberal and diverse city on promises that go against Trump’s core policies, granting permission for a “Trump baby” balloon to fly over the skies of London during Trump’s work visit there last year and deploying his own biography to try to prove Trump wrong.

Khan has been provocative, and Trump is easily provoked.

Before Khan was elected mayor, he told The Washington Post’s Karla Adam that Trump was seeking “to divide communities rather than unite them.” Khan repeatedly said in jest that his Muslim faith could pose problems during future U.S. visits.

“I’ll need to rush to come to America before November, because if Trump wins, I’ll be banned from coming,” Khan told The Post.

After becoming mayor, Khan, a Hillary Clinton supporter, doubled down, telling the BBC, “Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe: It risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists.”

Khan comfortably won the London mayoral election in 2016. Initial vote:

  • Shadiq Khan (Labour) 1,148,716 (44.2%)
  • Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) 909.755 (35%)
  • Siân Berry (Greens) 150,637 (5.8%)

Nine other candidates failed to get the 5% required to make the next round. Khan won with 58.8% in the final head to head count with Goldsmith.

In a recent poll Khan was well in front, with 43% support overall and 64% in a head to head with his closest rival.

Trump has now arrived in London:

There are the inevitable tweets:

London part of trip is going really well. The Queen and the entire Royal family have been fantastic. The relationship with the United Kingdom is very strong. Tremendous crowds of well wishers and people that love our Country. Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them.

Great love all around. Also, big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk!

Trump has some support, but a lot more opposition.

Live by social media, truth by social media.

Independent: Trump fans in London defend ‘hero’ president as thousands prepare to protest

Amid the threat of major protests during his UK state visit, a handful of Donald Trump supporters gathered outside Buckingham Palace to welcome the US leader – calling him a “hero” whose presidency the next British prime minister should try to emulate.

Jerry and Lisa Foster, from Hallendale Beach in Florida, said they wanted to show their support for their president, who was the best since Ronald Reagan.

Those views were echoed by Russell, 48, from Shropshire, who, wearing a ‘make America great again’ hat declined to give his surname because of the animosity he said the cap attracted.

“The beloved Mr Trump is a hero,” he said.

“Those people who are calling for him to be banned from the UK are fascist. And don’t forget, not everyone in the UK is against him. We need a Trump-like figure in Downing Street.”

But: Mass protests planned for Trump’s state visit to the UK

Mass protests have been planned for President Donald Trump’s upcoming state visit to the U.K., just a year after the giant “Trump Baby” blimp sparked controversy in London.

Protest banners were unfurled over London’s Vauxhall bridge bearing the message: “Resist Trump. Resist Racism. Resist Cruelty. Resist Hate. Resist Sexism.”

Organizers of the protests from the “Together Against Trump” organization told ABC News that protests are planned at Buckingham Palace on Monday, when the president will be attending a state banquet with the Queen, and on Tuesday, when he will be visiting Prime Minister Theresa May.

The protest at Buckingham Palace is expected to be a small event, with only 66 people so far registered as “attending” on the Facebook event entitled: Protest at the Palace: Spoil Trump’s Banquet.

However, the protest on Tuesday, beginning in London’s historic Trafalgar Square at 11 a.m. local time, is expected to be a much more dramatic affair. Nearly 8,000 people are registered for the Facebook event, while another 33,000 social media users have said they are “interested” in it as of Sunday morning.

A spokesperson from the “Together Against Trump” group told ABC News that they expect protests to take place throughout the country, but that the event in Trafalgar Square is the main event.

A number of Facebook groups, including the “Stop Trump Coalition” and “Stand up to Trump,” have come together to organize the protests against his state visit, so that the “world will know that people here reject him and his toxic politics.”

Trump’s visit was always going to be controversial and opposed by some.

 

 

US trade moves

It’s hard to know what Trump is trying to do with trade.

This week he threatened Mexico with tariffs, and he is now ending trade privileges with India.

This probably won’t strengthen his hand with China.

China also talking tougher.