Ladies and Gentlemen…the President of the United States…
Donald Trump made his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night. At 80 minutes it was long, But then again it was mostly a greatest hits album. He opened with ‘America First’ then moved on to his version of the Beatles ‘Come Together’ which only seemed to appeal to about half of the audience.
Most State of the Unions are split 50-50 between how brilliant the President was the previous year and how brilliant they are going to be in the coming year… but this was more like an 80/20 split. Among the few proposals for the future was calling for a massive increase in spending on infrastructure and a pledge to keep the Guantanamo prison open.
On Foreign Policy? Not a great deal, but there were some great theatrics including inviting a defector from North Korea to be among the guests. All in all – Teleprompter Trump showed up and stayed on message. Soon after though Twitter Trump appeared and tweeted that the TV ratings for the event were the highest ever, highest ever, …. which wasn’t actually true.
In Syria the Turkish invasion into Kurdish held areas made slow progress amid fierce resistance from Kurdish fighters. Casualties are mounting. Russian news agencies report that civilian casulaties are in the hundreds in the Afrin district. In response, Kurdish militants are said to have shelled villages on the Turkish side of the border.
Ankara’s target became clear when it called on the US to withdraw its special forces from the town of Manbij. Seeing the possibility of one NATO member inadvertently inflicting casualties on another an alarmed French President Emanuele Macron called on Turkey’s President Erdogan to ‘coordinate the country’s activities in Syria within the framework of its allies.
In an interview with Le Figaro he said “If it turns out that this operation takes a turn other than to fight a potential terrorist threat to the Turkish border and becomes an invasion operation, (then) this becomes a real problem for us,” ‘In other words, please call the Americans, find out where they are, and don’t fire anything near them.
The Afghan capital, Kabul, was again hit by violence. On Monday militants attacked a military academy, killing 11 soldiers, the fourth major attack in just 9 days. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack which came 2 days after an ambulance bomb killed more than 100 people probably carried out by the Taliban.
In Kenya there was an inauguration, but it wasn’t of a President.
Raila Odinga does not accept he lost last year’s election and so decided he would have an unofficial inauguration crowning him the ‘People’s President’. The government said this was treason and took several TV stations covering the event off the air. Thousands of supporters showed up – he’s still not President.
A difficult week for the Gaza based group Hamas. On Wednesday the USA designated its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh as a ‘specially designated global terrorist’. The State Department said Mr Haniyeh has close links with the military wing of Hamas and was a proponent of armed struggle including against civilians. It lso accused Hamas of being ‘responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks’. The move is likely to harm the efforts of Hamas to raise funds.
And finally….Auntie May met Uncle Xi for a cup of tea which is a great way of bringing two great tea drinking nations together. Beijing rolled out the red flag for the UK’s Theresa May on a 3-day visit.
State TV informed her that members of the public were calling her Auntie May – almost as if she were a member of the family. The Prime Minister was so taken with this she said thank you three times…. It’s certainly better than her nickname in Poland which is ‘Madam Brexit’, or indeed in the UK where she’s known as the ‘Maybot’.