In Our Headlines …
The clock is racing on Capitol Hill as both the Senate and House of Representatives engage in bipartisan talks to reach an agreement over border security before Friday, Feb. 15. If negotiations are unsuccessful, the government will shut down once again. The 17 lawmakers set a deadline of Monday, Feb. 11 to reach a deal that would undergo vetting by both chambers of Congress and require the president’s approval. However, aides revealed a disagreement between the officials over Democratic efforts to shift ICE detainments from those on overstayed visas to migrants with criminal records. Donald Trump, in his customary manner, took to Twitter to blame Democrats for the lack of progress, writing, “The Border Committee Democrats are behaving, all of a sudden, irrationally. Not only are they unwilling to give dollars for the obviously needed Wall (they overrode recommendations of Border Patrol experts), but they don’t even want to take mu[r]derers into custody! What’s going on?”(Twitter, @realDonaldTrump, 02.10.2019). Similarly, there is little interest on behalf of the Democrats to allot more than $2 billion in border security. Trump has privately discussed invoking a national emergency to garner his desired amount of $5 billion (New York Times, “Talks Over Border Security Breaks Down, Imperiling Effort to Prevent Shutdown,” 02.10.2019).
Senior Democratic Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar announced her presidential bid in Minneapolis on Saturday, Feb. 9. She stated, “I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman … to announce my candidacy for president of the United States … I’m asking you to join us on this campaign.” She didn’t refute several jabs in an attempt to set herself apart from Washington officials, particularly from Donald Trump. Her campaign will be centered around the Midwest, including her native Minnesota, a region largely in favor of Trump and Republicans. Many Minnesotans cheered on her presidential aspirations, but her moderate voting record and allegations of her having abused staffers have dogged the fledgling campaign (CNN, “Sen. Amy Klobuchar enters presidential race,” 02.10.2019).
After the Trump administration’s controversial decision to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, a decision publically renounced by Congress and various generals, the U.S. has taken steps to support Kurdish forces in Syria. The current battle in eastern Syria, the final ISIS-controlled territory in the region, saw the Syrian Democratic forces successfully overtake the militant organization. 20,000 people along the Iraqi border were evacuated, though hundreds remain trapped in the enclave. Meanwhile, several hundred ISIS fighters are also hiding in the area. After the fall of two major cities in the territory previously controlled by ISIS, Raqqa and Mosul, the group has been in steady decline. Trump announced last week that he expects the territory to be taken within the next few days (NPR, “U.S.-Backed Kurdish Forces Launch ‘Final Push’ Against ISIS in Syria,” 02.10.2019).
Around the World …
Theresa May rushes to produce an agreement approved by both the EU and Parliament, setting aside debates with the intention of finalizing a deal by the March 29 deadline. Housing minister James Brokenshire said that further debates would take place if no pledge was given by Feb. 27 to a finalized agreement. The Labour Party policy chief stated that his party would work to prevent May from creating a last-minute deal, after months of secret negotiations that culminated in the overwhelming rejection of the formerly EU-approved Brexit deal in Parliament. May is currently working with EU officials to extend the Brexit deadline amid rumors that the question of the Northern Ireland border would no longer be negotiated. Britain currently faces great economic and political uncertainty as Labour officials push for a tighter U.K.-E.U. deal (Reuters, “May to promise new Brexit debate in push for more negotiating time,” 02.10.2019).
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, founded in 2005 with the purpose of divesting from Israeli businesses and economy, reverberates in the United States after the Senate passed a bill on Tuesday, Feb. 5 allowing states to punish those who take part in BDS. BDS is generalizing the political positions of Israelis—even the ones who are personally opposed to the occupation of the West Bank—to the point that left-wing Israeli entertainers are being targeted by BDS, paying the price for the Israeli government’s violation of human rights. Examples of those who withdrew from Israeli businesses include Lana Del Rey, Pink Floyd and AirBnB. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent at least $15 million over the past four years to fight the movement, which is modeled on divestments in the anti-apartheid struggle. Other Israeli officials consider the movement to be a Palestinian effort to destroy Israel (NBC News, “Israel fights boycott movement as pro-Palestine campaign gains global support,” 02.10.2019).
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered Taliban officials an office in any city they desired—whether it be in their stronghold of Nangarhar or the capital city of Kabul. In the same announcement, Ghani proclaimed, “We will bring a lasting and honorable peace to the country.” Taliban leaders rebuffed the proposal and continued to shut the Afghan government out of peace talks between the terror group’s leaders and United States officials. In Moscow, the importance of a formal office was stressed alongside the removal of Western sanctions, and spokesman Sohail Shahin told Reuters that the group is seeking international recognition of their site in Doha, Qatar. Negotiations are expected to resume with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Feb. 25 (Reuters, “Afghan president offers Taliban local office, but group wants Doha instead,” 02.10.2019).