Here is today's foreign policy mandate: The US Senate British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet to discuss whether to block arms sales to the UAE last Brexit talksand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan goes to Azerbaijan.
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Senate votes on whether to block arms sales in the UAE
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on whether to block a $ 23 billion sale of arms and ammunition to the United Arab Emirates. This is yet another sign of the strained relationship between the US Congress and US allies in the Middle East.
The vote was boosted after the White House informed Congress in November of the sale, which includes 50 F-35 fighter jets. The deal follows the White House brokered Abraham Accords, in which the UAE and Israel normalized relations.
In response to a December 3 tweet from Senator Chris Murphy, U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Yousef Al Otaiba summed up why he felt the sale was necessary. "In the world's most dangerous neighborhood, this is vital to our protection and to our common interests and values with the United States," he wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made his views clear. "It is a little confusing to suggest that a gesture of protest with no chance of a veto-proof majority is a valuable use of the Senate's time," he said, adding that "the strategic realities dictate that Congress should do so." do not stand in the way of this sale. "
In the face of a Senate revolt, the White House has reportedly launched late-stage lobbying to persuade lawmakers to oppose the resolution. A Democratic adviser told CNN, "The fact that the White House is running such press in court suggests they are nervous about the number of votes. "
Mattis as a lobbyist? And in a week in which former generals and their influence on U.S. defense policy are in the spotlight after President-elect Joe Biden appoints retired General Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense, another former Pentagon chief and military officer weighs in. The Huffington Post reports that President Donald Trump's first secretary of defense, James Mattis, was drafted by the UAE ambassador to allay Senators' concerns about the deal.
External criticism. Outside of Congress, the deal was criticized by two parties. Daniel Larison wrote in the American Conservative and described the sale as "outrageous". He accused the UAE of being "ruthless and destructive in its regional behavior".
“A vote for the F-35 in the UAE is a vote for an endless war for a very simple reason: The UAE doesn't need an F-35 to protect itself – they have to oblige the US to defend and maintain the UAE its military rule over the Middle East, "said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, in a statement.
Regional questions. The vote also comes at an inopportune time for the UAE and its relationship with the US defense company. A report by the Pentagon's General Inspector on Counter-Terrorism in Africa published in late November said the UAE appears to be funding Russian mercenaries in Libya. Amy Mackinnon and Jack Detsch from FP reported on the claim, which Amb. Otaiba described as "vague and unfounded".
What's next? If the House and Senate don't approve the arms sale, Trump can always use his veto to revive him. Whether the Senate has the votes to override this veto will become clearer after today's vote. Similar measures to block support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE failed in 2019 after Congress failed to override a presidential veto.
What we are following today
Last supper. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described the likelihood of an agreement between his government and the European Union as "very, very difficult" ahead of a meeting today in Brussels with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The prime minister's trip comes when EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a closed-door meeting of bloc ministers that the UK was now more likely to end the Brexit transition without a trade deal.
The UK government has shown signs of wanting to compromise after removing controversial clauses in legislation that would have violated the original Brexit terms. "Hopefully this is a signal that the UK government is in a good mood," said Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney.
Erdogan in Azerbaijan. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is traveling to Azerbaijan on a two-day visit, starting with a victory parade in the capital Baku. The solemn atmosphere in Azerbaijan following its successful Nagorno-Karabka campaign contrasts with the scene in Armenia, where hundreds filled the streets of the capital Yerevan on Tuesday, continuing to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Opposition parties advised Pashinyan to step down or face widespread unrest by Tuesday noon, a deadline Pashinyan has ignored.
Eritrean troops in Ethiopia? Eritrean forces crossed the border into Ethiopia to support Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's war against the Tigray People's Liberation Front, according to a Reuters report. In the report, citing unnamed regional diplomats, it was stated that Eritrean forces invaded Ethiopia through three border towns in mid-November. The alleged incursion would support the justification used by the TPLF in launching rocket strikes against the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in November. The Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed dismissed the report as "propaganda".
Keep an eye out
Paying the price of a pandemic. A policy proposal that could become attractive to governments in affluent countries has emerged in the UK as a group of tax experts and economists, and has a one-off wealth tax on households worth more than £ 1 million (around $ 1.3 million ) called for the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to be offset. The group, brought together by the London School of Economics and Warwick University, is calling for a 1 percent levy on assets over £ 1 million which could raise £ 260 billion over five years. The gap between rich and poor during the pandemic was seen in some buying trends. For example, sales of luxury jewelry has increased over the course of the pandemic.
Hackers target cyber companies. FireEye, one of the world's leading cybersecurity companies, has been hacked by a so-called "nation with first-class offensive skills". Hackers have reportedly gained access to cyber tools that the company can use to identify vulnerabilities in their customers' networks. The company was hired by companies like Sony and Equifax after extensive security breaches and had consulted with the US government after interventions by Russian hackers in 2015. FireEye did not disclose which country might be responsible for the hack, but the New York Times reports that the case was referred to Russian specialists at the FBI
Netanyahu rival leaves Likud. Gideon Saar, a former party rival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has stepped down from Likud to create his own political party. He may become a spoiler if Israel decides to hold elections in the New Year. When announcing the move, Saar equated support for Netanyahu among Likud supporters as a “personality cult”. A Likud statement said Saar's departure was due to his poor performance in a leadership preselection last December when Netanyahu defeated Saar by 42 percent.
bits and pieces
While it's not quite as bad as Austin, Texas mayor advising residents on coronavirus safety at a beach resort in Mexico, it appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin has embraced the freedom to work remotely as well – with a twist . A report by Russian outlet Proyekt Media said that Putin spent time in the Black Sea resort of Sochi without attracting public attention by working in an office identical to his in Moscow. Proyekt analyzed flight tracking data and compared images of the alleged twin offices to assert the claim. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has dismissed the report and called it "stupidity".
That's it for today.
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Photo credit: Sarah Silbiger / Pool / Bloomberg