Defying the US CongressTrump declares national emergency to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, UAE

This has to be somewhat concerning.

A few days ago from Reuters – Trump administration may use Iran threat to sell bombs to Saudis without Congress’ approval: senator

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to use a loophole and rising tensions with Iran to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, even though Congress blocked such sales for months over concerns about civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphy said on Wednesday.

“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that would prevent Congress from objecting. Could happen this week,” the Democratic senator warned on Twitter.

Congressional aides said there are provisions of the Arms Control Act, which sets rules for international arms transactions, that would allow a president to approve a sale without congressional review in case of a national emergency.

In this case, they said the Republican president would cite rising tensions with Iran as a reason to provide more military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which he sees as an important U.S. partner in the region. Trump has touted arms sales to the Saudis as a way to generate U.S. jobs.

Trump previously declared an influx of immigrants a national emergency to bypass Congress and get $6 billion to build his wall along the Mexican border. Both Democrats and his fellow Republicans voted to block the move, forcing Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.

Now from Reuters: Defying Congress, Trump sets $8 billion-plus in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

U.S. President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, swept aside objections from Congress on Friday to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

Representative Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the administration’s action was “unfortunate” and likely to damage future White House interactions with Congress.

“I would have strongly preferred for the administration to utilize the long-established and codified arms sale review process,” McCaul said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that U.S. partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”

In his memorandum justifying the emergency declaration, Pompeo listed years of actions by Iran. “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote, and cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran.

Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, which it described as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran against what it sees as a threat of potential attack.

Members of Congress from both parties have worried that Trump is pushing toward war with Iran.

War with Congress, war with Iran – is there nothing that Trump can’t do?

 

 

UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites

U.S. intelligence officials have alleged that the UAE at least orchestrated hacking of Qatari Government websites to post false quotes that were then used to justify major sanctions against Qatar.

Washington Post: UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done. The false reports said that the emir, among other things, had called Iran an “Islamic power” and praised Hamas.

The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after President Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified.

Citing the emir’s reported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt immediately banned all Qatari media. They then broke relations with Qatar and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott, sending the region into a political and diplomatic tailspin that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned could undermine U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State.

In a statement released in Washington by its ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE said the Post article was “false.”

“The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” the statement said. “What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors.”

The US were in a difficult position. They have their main Middle East military base in Qatar.

The conflict has also exposed sharp differences between Trump — who has clearly taken the Saudi and UAE side in a series of tweets and statements — and Tillerson, who has urged compromise and spent most of last week in shuttle diplomacy among the regional capitals that has been unsuccessful so far.

“We don’t expect any near-term resolution,” Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond said Saturday.

The claim of UAE orchestrated hacking probably won’t help achieve a resolution.

$53m for World Expo pavilion

The Government has announced they will commit to spending $53.3m on a pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai in 2020.

It’s probably a good investment for the country and for New Zealand businesses.


New Zealand to participate in Expo 2020 in Dubai

Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges and Trade Minister Todd McClay have announced that New Zealand will participate in World Expo 2020, to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The announcement was made during Mr Bridges’ visit to Dubai.

“Through Budget 2017, the Government is committing $53.3 million to construct a New Zealand Pavilion that will allow Kiwi businesses to highlight their innovative products and services and open doors to new export markets,” says Mr Bridges.

“Showcasing New Zealand to the world is a crucial part of boosting economic growth. Expo 2020 will provide a springboard to promote us as an innovative, solution-focused economy to the 25 million visitors expected to attend from across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

“It will also allow us to build on our strong economic and transport links to the UAE which acts as a global air and sea logistics hub, providing access for New Zealand exporters to a much wider region. We’re already well connected with five direct daily Emirates flights, contributing $700 million to the economy,” says Mr Bridges.

“It makes clear economic sense for New Zealand to participate in this global event,” says Mr Bridges.

The Expo will take place from October 2020 to April 2021 with Mr McClay saying it will attract high-value visitors from all corners of the world.

“Expo 2020 is a vital opportunity to increase New Zealand’s profile amongst new trading partners as well as grow our trade with existing partners,” says Mr McClay.

We have a strong trade and economic relationship with the UAE and $3.8 billion of two-way trade with the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” says Mr McClay.

“The Gulf States also importantly provide an entry point into the wider region for many New Zealand companies and a base from which to better access the wider Middle East and beyond,” says Mr McClay.

New Zealand is close to completing a free trade agreement with the GCC, which comprises of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The UAE alone is New Zealand’s twelfth largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade exceeding $1.9 billion in 2016.

About Expo 2020

Expo 2020 has the theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. The Expo site will be around 2sq/km in size and will contain three thematic areas: opportunity, sustainability and mobility.

These three pavilions will showcase ideas and innovations, and countries that attend will have their specific pavilions spread around the thematic areas. New Zealand has been invited to participate in the sustainability precinct.

The organisers expect around 180 nations to participate. New Zealand is among the first 20 to formally confirm attendance.

More information on the Expo see http://expo2020dubai.ae

New Zealand Pavilion

The Government is about to launch an RFP process within the creative sector of New Zealand to select the best team and ideas for the design and content.