TURKEY/GULF – Turkey’s President Erdogan has begun a visit to the Gulf region aimed at defusing the damaging and dangerous standoff around Qatar. First stop – Jeddah, then Kuwait. Today he’s in Qatar for his first face-to-face talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani since the crisis began.  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of backing extremism.  Turkey is setting up a military base in Qatar.

USA/N KOREA – The White House is planning to put a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea according to AP.  2 tour operators that send groups to North Korea have been informed of the move.  This follows the case of student Otto Warmbier who died last month after spending more than a year in a N Korean prison.

SYRIA/ISIS – Syrian government forces and allies have recaptured territory from the Islamic State in countryside southeast of Raqqa.  The area is close to territory controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. This further raises tensions beyween Washington and Moscow.

AFGHAN/TALIBAN – Taliban fighters  have overrun districts of Taywara previously controlled by the Government in the central province of Ghor and Kohistan. Ghor province shares borders with Farah in the northwest and Helmand in the south, both of which are Talib strongholds.

US/RUSSIA/CYBER – The US and Russia are discussing the creation of a joint cybersecurity working group.

IRAN/IRAQ – An Iranian soldier and 3 Iraqi gunmen have been killed in fighting along the border.   Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps described the gunmen as terrorists. Four of the militants were injured and crossed the border back into Iraq; one was captured. Clashes between the Guard Corp and Iranian Kurdish militant groups based in Iraq occur regularly along the border.

COMING UP

Every week the New York Times and CNN tell us that the walls are closing in on President Trump. If they are, they are moving slowly. This week may see the same pace, or, perhaps the pace will quicken. Donald Trump Jnr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner are both due to give evidence to the US Senate Intelligence Committee. They’ll be asked (on different days) about a meeting they had with Russians who said they had politically damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Russian “government sources.”

DIARY

Mon – 5 columnists and executives from the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet go on trial on Istanbul charged with ‘membership of an armed terrorist orginisation’. Among the accused is the former editor-in-chief of the paper – Can Dundar.

Mon – President Trump’s son, Donald Jnr, to give evidence at US Senate Intelligence Committee hearings re links with Russia.

Mon – Prince William and Prince Harry appear on UK TV to mark the anniversary of the death of their mother – Princess Diana.

Mon – Philippine’s President Duterte gives State of the Nation address and is expected to justify his support of extra judicial murders of drug dealers.

Weds – Australia’s most senior Roman Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell, appears in court charged with sex offences. Pell is Treasurer at the Vatican and the 3rd highest-ranking official at the Holy See.  He denies the allegations.

Weds – Jared Kushner anad former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to give evidence at Senate Intelligence Cmmte hearing.

Thurs – US Vice President Pence leaves Washington for a 4 day trip to Eastern Europe.  He will go to Georgia, Estonia and Montenegro.

Thurs – Anniversary of armistice that ended the Korean War. Both Koreas will mark the occasion, the North often uses the date to launch missiles or threaten to destroy Seoul in a ‘Sea of Fire’.

Thurs – 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence from Russia. President Putin to attend celebrations.

Sat – Venezuela’s President Maduro stages election for a constituent assembly. This would have the power to override parliament and the constitution. 

 

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