Friday, January 20, 2017

As caliphate crumbles, Islamic State lashes out in Iraq

Wed Jan 18, 2017 | 8:51am EST


By John Davison | BAGHDAD
Two days after Iraqi forces launched a new push against Islamic State in Mosul, bomb blasts ripped through a marketplace in central Baghdad - the start of a spate of attacks that appear to signal a shift in tactics by the Islamist group.

The Sunni jihadists have targeted Shi'ite Muslim civilians. Raids on police and army posts in other cities, also claimed by Islamic State, have accompanied the bombings.

The attacks show that even if Islamic State loses the Iraqi side of its self-styled caliphate, the threat from the group may not subside.

China’s 6.7% Growth Fueled by Soaring Real Estate and Consumer Spending


The New York Times

BEIJING — China’s economy grew 6.7 percent last year and even accelerated slightly to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the government announced on Friday morning, while dismissing concerns about the enormous lending that was needed to achieve that growth.

The strong results came after a weak start last year, when China’s currency and stock market were tumbling and many foreign investors fretted that the country’s three decades of robust economic expansion might be ending.

Draghi Urges German Patience on Inflation as Euro Area Heals

by Piotr Skolimowski
19 January 2017

Mario Draghi called on Germany to be calm as the European Central Bank keeps pumping stimulus into the euro area, saying rising inflation will eventually bring higher interest rates for savers.

“As the recovery will firm up, rates will go up as well,” the ECB president told reporters in Frankfurt on Thursday after the Governing Council reaffirmed its intention to keep its bond-buying program going until at least the end of the year. Asked about German criticism of the strategy, he said “the honest answer would be: Just be patient.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Greece sells state-owned railway operator to Italian firm

By Associated Press January 18 at 6:42 AM

The Washinghton Post

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s privatization agency has signed a deal to sell the country’s state-owned Trainose railway operator to Italian state’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane for 45 million euros ($48 million).

The agency says the sale of its 100 percent stake to the Italian railway company is subject to approval by European Union authorities.

Captured suspect in nightclub attack is Uzbek with Islamic State ties, Turkey says

The Washington Post

By Erin Cunningham and Kareem Fahim January 17 at 10:37 AM
ISTANBUL — Turkish officials on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of a suspect accused of fatally shooting 39 people at a New Year’s Eve party in an Istanbul nightclub, saying he is an Uzbek national who is linked to the Islamic State militant group and who had received training in Afghanistan.

Officials said the suspect, Abdulkadir Masharipov, was arrested late Monday in Istanbul’s high-rise Esenyurt district and detained along with four other people. He was the focus of a nationwide manhunt in several cities and had eluded police for weeks. He was shown bruised and bloody in pictures that were apparently taken after he was in custody and that local news outlets distributed.

“The perpetrator of this vile attack has been captured,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Ankara, the Turkish capital. “The powers behind this will be revealed,” he added, without elaborating.

Vasip Sahin, Istanbul’s governor, said that fingerprint evidence linked Masharipov to the killings and that the suspect had “accepted his crime.”

The attack on the waterfront Reina nightclub was among the worst mass killings in recent memory in Turkey, which has been shaken by an onslaught of attacks from militants as well as Kurdish separatists.

The details and surveillance footage from the brazen assault shocked the country, with the gunman blasting his way through the front entrance of the club, one of Turkey’s most famous venues, as people fell around him.

The victims included more than two dozen foreigners, mostly from countries across the Middle East, as well as a Turkish security guard who, just weeks before, survived another terrorist attack in the city.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility, framing the carnage as retaliation for Turkey’s military involvement in Syria’s civil war. There, Turkish forces have battled Islamic State fighters in strongholds along the border. Turkey has also carried out air and artillery strikes on the Islamist militants.

Hundreds of Uzbek militants have flocked to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, according to researchers tracking the group’s foreign fighters. Uzbek Islamic militants have been featured in the group’s propaganda videos and have carried out suicide attacks on Iraqi troops.

Turkish authorities did not say Tuesday whether Masharipov had spent significant time in Iraq or Syria. But his alleged training in Afghanistan raises questions about the potential role of the Islamic State affiliate there.

The affiliate, known as Khorasan Province, has struggled to establish a foothold and is not known to have ordered or participated in an attack outside Afghanistan.

But Uzbek militants have long fought in Afghanistan, where they were allied with the Taliban, and they have launched attacks on U.S. and NATO troops. In 2015, a faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has a strong presence in Afghanistan, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Sahin, the Istanbul governor, said Tuesday that Masharipov speaks four languages and was “well trained.” He was born in 1983, Sahin said.

Authorities think he arrived in Turkey last year. Turkey is home to a number of residents from Central Asian countries, with which it shares linguistic and historical ties.

After the attack, the hunt for Masharipov involved about 2,000 officers searching dozens of locations, Sahin said.

The authorities found nearly $200,000 in cash at the apartment where Masharipov was captured.

Erin Cunningham is an Istanbul-based correspondent for The Post. She previously covered conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan for the Christian Science Monitor, GlobalPost and The National.  Follow @erinmcunningham

World leaders find hope for globalization in Davos amid populist revolt

By Max Ehrenfreund January 17 at 6:30 PM

The Washington Post

DAVOS, Switzerland — Amid growing doubts about the future of free trade and international economic cooperation, proponents of globalization found reasons for optimism as the World Economic Forum opened Tuesday.

The specters of President-elect Donald Trump’s protectionist rhetoric and the British exit from the European Union loomed over the annual event that attracts world leaders and dignitaries to this mountain resort town to discuss the state of the global economy.

Veteran Times Reporter Denied Entry to Turkey


The New York Times

Border officials in Turkey detained a veteran New York Times correspondent as he arrived at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Tuesday, then forced him to take a flight back to London without explaining why he had been refused entry to the country.

The action against the correspondent, Rod Nordland, who has reported from more than 150 countries, including from Turkey last month, appeared to be part of a broader government crackdown against the domestic and foreign news media.

In ‘Brexit’ Speech, Theresa May Outlines Clean Break for U.K.

The New York Times

LONDON — “Get on with it.”

With those words in a major speech on Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May charted Britain’s course toward a clean break with the European Union and expressed her fondest hope: that the time for “division and discord” is over.

Her much-anticipated speech outlined what promised to be a hugely complex, drawn-out negotiation, and it defined the broad objectives, but not the details, of British withdrawal. “The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, and my job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do,” she said.

Greece sees progress on Cyprus, says Turkey should drop 'aggressive' talk

Wed Jan 18, 2017 | 4:47am EST


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday progress had been made in ending a decades-old stalemate over the division of Cyprus, but urged Turkey to drop 'aggressive rhetoric' to reach a deal.

"We are optimistic but with prudence and responsibility, as this situation merits, we will continue to work hard...and hope that we have positive results in the near future," Tsipras said in a speech in the Greek parliament.

"A precondition to that is that the other side... particularly Turkey, come to negotiations in similar spirit, putting aside aggressive rhetoric, and work seriously and responsibly."

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The conflict is a key source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are fiercely defensive of their respective ethnic kin on the east Mediterranean island.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused Greece of "fleeing" efforts to reunite Cyprus and said Turkey will retain troops there for ever to protect minority ethnic Turks.

Talks in Geneva last week failed to produce a breakthrough over the former British colony, though Britain, Greece and Turkey - its 'guarantor powers' under a 1960 independence treaty - agreed to continue consultations on security arrangements which could govern Cyprus after a settlement.

Officials from the three countries were due to meet at a Swiss resort later on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

At issue is a dispute primarily between the Turkish and the Greek sides on whether the system of guarantee should stay in place, allowing Greek and Turkish forces to remain stationed on the island, and the right of intervention in the event of a breakdown of constitutional order.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas, editing by Renee Maltezou and Mark Trevelyan)

Monday, January 16, 2017

A complex relationship with China could temper Trump’s tough talk on jobs, trade

THE HANDOFF | The foreign policy challenges President-elect Donald Trump will inherit and how he might approach them.

By Anne Gearan January 14 at 3:43 PM
Donald Trump talked tough on China during his presidential run, blaming the country for the loss of American jobs, lobbing accusations of unfair currency manipulation or hostile trade practices, and suggesting that the United States levy enormous tariffs on Chinese goods.

“Look at what China is doing to our country,” Trump said in September, during a presidential debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“They’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China,” he added. “We have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Desperate Eurozone to borrow BILLIONS to fund Greece rescue amid fears of crash

THE eurozone's bailout fund is borrowing tens of billions so it can fund a rescue plan for Greece, amid fears the country's debt crisis could once again send shockwaves through the bloc.

PUBLISHED: 13:53, Tue, Jan 10, 2017 | UPDATED: 17:48, Tue, Jan 10, 2017


The Luxembourg agency responsible for doling out rescue money - the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - is turning to markets to raise the extra cash needed for the Greek debt relief programme.

The ESM is now issuing €57billion (£49.5bn) in long-term bonds - up 14 per cent from original plans - to cover the bail-out programme.

Greece wants to sell smaller stake in gas grid operator - paper

Wed Jan 11, 2017 | 2:47am EST

Jan 11 Greece wants to keep a majority stake in its gas grid operator DESFA and sell only a small holding to investors after a previous plan to sell a 66 percent stake collapsed, a Greek newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Under its privatisation programme, a key part of its international bailout, Greece and its biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum had agreed to sell the DESFA stake to Azerbaijan's SOCAR for 400 million euros ($422 million).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Mersch Says ECB Policy Shift Premature as Economy Shows Strength

by Carolynn Look  and Fabio Benedetti Valentini
January 6, 2017, 12:00 PM GMT+2


Improving euro-area economic numbers and a faster-than-forecast inflation pickup aren’t enough to warrant an immediate shift in the European Central Bank’s policy, according to Executive Board member Yves Mersch.

“It is absolutely premature today to claim victory over a weak economy,” Mersch, considered one of the more hawkish members of the ECB’s Governing Council said in Paris on Friday. “We have good results but it is absolutely premature to say: drop the guard.”

Greece Heads Into Another Economic Crisis: Time To Finally Exit The European Union?

JAN 5, 2017 @ 06:00 AM 15,499 VIEWS

Doug Bandow ,   CONTRIBUTOR
I write about international politics, economics, and development.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

ATHENS, GREECE—Constitution Square has been uncommonly quiet. When looking at the parliament building from my hotel window last month all I could see were cars and pedestrians. The crowds of demonstrators, so common in recent years as the Euro crisis enveloped one of Europe’s poorer states, were absent.

But maybe not for long. Athens and its creditors are at loggerheads again.

When I spoke with the Defense and Foreign Ministers in early December, the conversations focused on Turkey’s crisis, negotiations to reunify Cyprus, and security cooperation with America. The first was beyond Greece’s control. The second has been a political football for more than four decades. The third has been a positive constant for years, with the current left-wing Syriza Party government as friendly to the U.S. as any right-leaning administration.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In Blow to ‘Brexit’ Plans, Britain’s Top Envoy to E.U. Resigns


The New York Times

LONDON — Complicating his country’s already fraught preparations for exiting the European Union, Britain’s top diplomat in Brussels resigned unexpectedly on Tuesday, less than three months before withdrawal negotiations are scheduled to start.

The decision by the diplomat, Ivan Rogers, the permanent representative to the European Union, deprives Britain of one of its most knowledgeable officials as it tries to form a coherent strategy for untying more than four decades of European integration.

It also underscores some of the tensions at the highest level of government as Britain’s exit, known as Brexit, dominates the political agenda after last year’s referendum, in which voters opted to leave the bloc.

Turkey Extends State of Emergency in Wake of Attack Claimed by Islamic State

Ankara is contending with aftermath of New Year’s assault in Istanbul

The Wall Street Journal

Updated Jan. 4, 2017 4:26 a.m. ET

ISTANBUL—Turkey’s parliament voted to extend the government’s state-of-emergency powers following the deadly New Year’s attack claimed by Islamic State, as the country struggles to contain rising terrorist threats and law enforcement contends with depleted ranks in the wake of last year’s failed coup.

The gunman remains at large after the assault that killed at least 39 people, although Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said authorities had identified the man, without providing details, according to the Anadolu state news agency. There is little information about the gunman’s identity beyond photographs of a suspect released by authorities.

How Greece’s Troubled Economy Could Turn Around in 2017

Nicholas Economides
Updated: Jan 03, 2017 8:48 PM UTC

Violating the terms of its bailout program, the Greek government recently announced that it will distribute a sizeable “Christmas gift” to Greek pensioners even though this requires additional borrowing from the EU since the Greek budget is not balanced and Greece cannot borrow from money markets. The move has prompted the EU finance ministers to freeze implementation of debt restructuring. Greece is at the brink again.

Euro-Area Economy Ended Year With Fastest Growth Since 2011

by Carolynn Look
4 January 2017, 11:00 π.μ. EET


The euro-area economy finished 2016 with the strongest momentum in more than 5 1/2 years, bolstering the region as it heads into a year of political uncertainty.

A composite Purchasing Managers’ Index climbed to 54.4 in December from 53.9 in November, IHS Markit said on Wednesday. That’s the highest in 67 months and above a Dec. 15 estimate.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Record Capital Outflows Push Euro Toward Parity With Dollar

Higher interest rates in the U.S. are drawing money out of the eurozone

The Wall Street Journal

Updated Dec. 20, 2016 5:32 p.m. ET

More money has left eurozone financial markets this year than at any time in the bloc’s history, helping drive the euro toward parity with the dollar for the first time in 14 years.

The eurozone had its largest-ever net outflows in the 12 months to September, data from the European Central Bank showed Tuesday.

Eurozone investors bought €497.5 billion ($516.5 billion) of financial assets, such as stocks and bonds, outside the bloc in that period. Global investors, meanwhile, sold or let mature €31.3 billion of eurozone assets during the year. Together, that adds up to a net outflow of €528.8 billion, the most since the single currency was introduced in 1999.

Tunisian Migrant Investigated for Suspected Terror Ties Is Sought in Berlin Truck Attack

Revelation that authorities sought and failed to deport asylum seeker stokes criticism of Angela Merkel’s refugee policy

The Wall Street Journal

Updated Dec. 21, 2016 7:31 p.m. ET

BERLIN—Anis Amri, a Tunisian migrant whom authorities previously investigated for suspected terror ties and tried to deport, became Germany’s most wanted man as the new prime suspect in the capital’s deadly truck attack.

The revelation that the asylum seeker had been able to remain in Germany despite efforts to expel him stoked a furor over what many politicians called dangerous gaps in the country’s immigration policy and escalated the political crisis facing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.