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Tom Arms’ World Review: Cheney and Trump – Round One to the Cult of Trump v. the traditional Republican Party

The ousting of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the number three spot in the Republican ranks appears to be a victory for Trumpists and supporters of the stolen election “Big Lie.” Or is it? It is true that 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump won the election despite the fact that every court and election official (including Trump’s own appointees) rejected the former president’s claim. It is also true that Republican Party grandees such as Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz are four square behind the Big Lie. But, by alienating Liz Cheney, the forever Trumpers have created a formidable opponent who has dedicated herself to the maintenance of the rule of law, the US constitution and ensuring that Donald J. Trump or his ilk never occupies the White House again. And she is one tough lady with impeccable traditional party credentials.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 9th May

The success of Brexit depends on a willingness to succeed and the desire to place the shared requirement for European stability before narrow political interests. This week’s Anglo-French dispute over English Channel fishing rights indicates that it ain’t gonna happen. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has again demonstrated his disdain for international law by slipping in additional restrictions related to the licensing of French fishing boats and the French over-reacted by threatening to block electricity to the British Channel Island dependency of Jersey. President Emmanuel Macron then added fuel by giving his blessing to a French fishermen’s blockade of Jersey and Boris went over the top by dispatching Royal Navy ships to the scene. The reason for this diplomatic comedy of errors (although no one is laughing) is the fishing clauses in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Both the British and French fishing industries demanded that their negotiators secure a win-lose agreement in their favour. Or, at the very least, the semblance of a win-win deal. Instead, both constituencies have suffered what they regard as a lose-lose deal. British fishing communities were a rich source of pro-Brexit and conservative votes. Now they feel cheated and are turning on their former hero Boris Johnson. His dispatch of the Royal Navy is meant to demonstrate his willingness to fight the fishermen’s corner. President Macron faces elections in 12 months. Jean-Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally, is edging ahead in the latest polls. She has a strong base of support in the French fishing community. Macron needs to erode that if he is stay in the Elysee Palace.  Both Boris and Macron backed down almost immediately as wiser heads in Brussels and Whitehall prevailed, but if their shoot-from-the hip reaction is a harbinger of things to come than expect a rocky road in post-Brexit Anglo-French and Anglo-EU relations.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 25 April

Liverpool’s famous football manager Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I can assure you, it is much, much more important than that.” The quote is for many a truism which sums up why world headlines have been dominated by the attempt to form a European football Super League. 100,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border; global pandemic deaths soared past the three million mark; America may have reached a turning point in race relations and the starting gun has effectively been fired in German federal elections. Football has become the world’s number one sporting institution. It has become an international cultural treasure, spreading in less than a 100 years from a league game played between a handful of British public schools to every corner of the globe. To escape civilisation I once paddled 12 miles up the Gambian River and trekked through three miles of jungle to stumble across a mud hut where a lone bookie armed with a mobile phone was taking bets on that day’s English Premier League matches. The row also underscores another issue: stewardship. To whom do the clubs belong? The fans? The players? The directors? Bill Shankly had something to say about that as well: “At a football club, there’s a holy trinity–the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors…are only there to sign the cheques.” They are at best stewards of national and international cultural phenomenon. They are only allowed the financial rewards and a degree of self-satisfaction awe and respect. Those rewards are for ensuring the success of a sporting institution for the widest possible audience.

Sixteen years of Merkel rule is drawing to a close in Germany. “Mutti” (mother in German as she is called by her legion of fans, will not be standing for re-election as Chancellor. Almost an entire generation of Germans have known no other leader. The East German pastor’s daughter has played a vital role in continuing the reunification of Germany and inching Europe towards a federal state with a good dose of common sense and quiet diplomacy. That is on the good side of the political ledger. On the bad side is her partial responsibility for the Brexit debacle; an immigration policy which fuelled racism in Germany and beyond and her government’s management of the pandemic. But perhaps Angela Merkel’s greatest deficiency has been her failure to groom a successor for leadership of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union. One finally emerged this week: 60-year-old Armin Lascher. He is a solid if somewhat pedestrian figure. Lascher is by profession a mining engineer whose strong links to North Rhine Westphalia’s coal mining industry undermine his green credentials. But he is resolutely pro-EU, has strong links with the Turkish community and backed Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to admit a million refugees. If the latest opinion polls are an accurate pointer, The CDU and their Bavarian partners the CSU (Christian Social Union) are expected to win the most seats in the September elections. Currently they stand at 28 percent. The Greens are five points ahead and are likely to be in a coalition government. The SPD (Social Democratic Party) has slipped to 15 percent. The FDP (centrist Liberal Democrats) are more or less tied with the anti-immigrant and anti-EU AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland). The latter have damaged their prospects with internal divisions and an anti-lockdown position. Whomever succeeds “Mutti” will need to move quickly and decisively to fill her shoes and stamp their authority on German, European and international politics.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 18th April

America lost. It has joined other imperial powers—mainly Britain and the Soviet Union—in filling thousands of graves in the mountains, hills and plains of Afghanistan. More than 4,400 NATO troops of which 2,488 were American have died in the past 20 years. In addition, an estimated 43,000 civilians and 70,000 Taliban fighters have lost their lives. America’s longest war is estimated to have cost the US Treasury $2 trillion, and its NATO allies $525 billion. Afghanistan has been a melting pot, trade route and gateway to the riches of India for centuries. The Mughals conquered northern India through Afghanistan and the British fought three Afghan Wars to keep the Russians out of India. After the third Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah Khan moved to modernise Afghanistan. Inspired by Ataturk he secularised the strongly Islamic laws to allow co-education and other rights for women and introduced limited political rights. This never right down with the Mullahs who continued to hold sway in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush which covers three quarters of Afghanistan. The final straw for the fundamentalists came in April 1978 when the Marxist People’s Democratic Party grabbed power and started a major crackdown on fundamentalists. Civil war broke out and in December 1979 Moscow invaded in support of their communist clients. Their defeat after ten years was a major factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the fundamentalist-inspired Taliban who were nurtured in Pakistan’s Madrassas. With the help of Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia they fought their way to power in 1998 and introduced a medieval form of Sharia Law. They also provided a base for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeeda whom they refused to relinquish after the 2001 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. The result was an Anglo-American invasion which toppled the Taliban from Kabul in just two months. But the Taliban did not disappear. It regrouped in bases in Pakistan and fought back. It now controls roughly 90 percent of Afghanistan and will no doubt soon topple US-supported President Ashraf Ghani. But will they again become a base for international Islamic terrorism? Will their brutal suppression of women’s rights be too much for the West to bear? Will the 14 ethnic groups with three main languages collapse into civil war in the absence of a common foreign enemy? It is clear, as both Trump and Biden, has said that there is no military solution to the problem of Afghanistan. But is there even an acceptable political solution, or is Afghanistan like a chronic cancer—manageable, treatable but incurable and gets you in the end.

Minneapolis used to be best known for Lake Itasca, source of the mighty Mississippi. Then there is juicy Lucy, a delicious cheeseburger with the cheese inside the meat. And, of course, the famous Mall of America is only a stone’s throw away. Now, it is infamous for the police killing of George Floyd, the subsequent Black Lives Matter riots and the trial of his alleged killer Derek Chauvin And this week for the “accidental “shooting of 20-year-old African-American Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Centre. On the face of it, Minneapolis is not your typical racial hotspot. African-Americans comprise only 20 percent of the population (Detroit is 79 percent Black). Mayor Joseph Frey has well-established liberal credentials and Police Chief Medana Arradondo is African-American. But that is not the whole story. Blacks may be 20 percent of the population but 60 percent of all police shootings are of African-Americans, and in his days as a young police lieutenant, Chief Arradondo sued his own force for racism. The problem appears to lie with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis and, in particular, its Trump-supporting leader Bob Kroll who has fought hard to keep the 800-stong force predominantly White. Kroll himself has been involved in three police shootings and 20 internal affairs investigations. He called George Floyd a “violent criminal” and branded protesters “terrorists.” The good news is that he has finally been forced out of office.

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Tom Arms World Review – 4 April

Georgia’s Republicans may have shot themselves in the foot. The White-dominated local party dominates the state legislature and were shocked by Trump’s loss of George and the Senate victory of two Black Democrats. Something had to be done. So they passed legislation to vote by post; gives the legislation greater control over the conduct of elections; bans the provision of food and water to those standing in long queues to cast their ballots; reduces the number of drop-off ballot boxes and demands strict ID requirements for all voters. All of these are aimed at making it harder for African-American voters who vote overwhelming for liberal Democrats. But have they gone too far? The measures are clearly designed to reduce the Black vote. Could it instead galvanise it? The 2020 elections were a record turnout—67.7 percent of registered voters cast their ballots, the highest figure in more than 100 years. The reason was – still is—divided and politicised like never before. The liberal Democrats hated Trump and the conservative Republicans responded in equal measure in their feelings with Joe Biden and co. Attempts to restrict the Democratic vote could very well have the effect of encouraging Democratic activists to try harder at the mid-term elections in 2022 and the presidential vote in 2024. We proved in 2020 that we could break the Republican lock, the activists can argue. We have them on the run. Sort out your ideas and bring thermos flasks and sandwiches to the voting queues.

 

The US State Department regularly produces country reports for Congress. This is because Congress decides whether a state should be given Most Favoured Nation trading status, have sanctions slapped on them, or something in between. The country report  makes recommendation and Congress usually follows them. This week—in response to Beijing’s Hong Kong crackdown– the State Department advised Congress finish the job started by Donald Trump and end Hong Kong’s preferential trading status. Not good news for Hong Kong and China. For a start the Hong Kong dollar is tied to the US dollar. That is likely to end. Hong Kong also has its own visa arrangements with the US (and other countries) which makes it easier for Chinese to travel to and from America for study and business. That is expected to cease. Tariffs on Hong Kong goods will go up, especially those re-exported from Mainland China. Controls on technology exports to China will be extended to Hong Kong. University contacts will be reduced. However, there will be a beneficiary. Singapore has for decades offered itself as an alternative Far Eastern base. It is looking even more attractive.

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Tom Arms World Review: 28 March 2021

In this week’s review, our regular correspondent Tom Arms looks at yet more mass shootings in America and the struggle for stronger gun control. He turns his attention to events in Israel and the failed Sino-American summit in Alaska. Europe has been at times teetering on the edge of vaccine wars and it is the 50th anniversary of the seventh fastest growing economy in the world, Bangladesh.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 21 March 2021

The primary responsibility of every government is the protection of its citizens.

The wannabe federalists of Europe have dismally failed at fulfilling this obligation with their handling of the coronavirus vaccine programme. And to compound their errors they have tried to cast Brexit Britain in the role of scapegoat at a time when they should be trying to develop a positive relationship with the UK.

Instead Brussels has unfairly claimed that the Johnson government is behind Astra Zeneca’s failure to manufacture and deliver sufficient vaccine doses in a timely fashion. To compound the mistake they attempted to tarnish the vaccine with attacks on its safety. This, of course, is backfiring because it provides grist to the growing anti-vax brigade–costing tens of thousands of more lives.

On top of that, the commission is talking about blocking exports of the PfizerBnTech vaccine (largely produced in Belgium) to third countries, which is Brussels shorthand for Britain.

In the meantime both the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency have declared Astra Zeneca safe; forcing European countries to put the vaccine back on the metaphorical shelf. But the poorly-managed vaccine programme has meant that Europe is enduring a third and deadly coronavirus wave.

A year ago, Eastern Europe was patting itself on the back for avoiding the worst effects of the first wave. Now their health services are on their knees. According to the WHO the Czech Republic leads the world in new Covid 19 cases per 100,000—over 1,600 a day this past week. Poland has plunged into a national lockdown this week as has Italy, Paris and the French Riviera. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering a month-long extension to the German lockdown.

But the hotspot tourist countries of Spain, Greece, Italy, and Malta are still planning to open their borders to tourists in May.

Biden is in a serious muddle with his immigration policy.

Donald Trump was rightly attacked for his inhumanity. But that does not mean that the vast majority of Americans want to open the immigration floodgates. Biden’s actions are still a long way from a social tsunami, but they are close enough for Republicans to be calling it that and finding listeners.

Between the end of October and the beginning of March 400,000 illegal immigrants attempted to cross US-Mexican border—a 15-year high. This is partly result of a pent-up demand created by the Trump Era and partly by the Biden Administration’s decision to end the “Remain in Mexico” for processing policy. Biden now allows migrants across the border to be processed in US-based centres.

The other major issue is unaccompanied children. Under the provision of Trump’s Title 42 hundreds of children were forcibly separated from their parents. Many families are still to be reunited. Biden is now allowing unaccompanied minors across the border. Parents are sending their children northwards because they believe that by pleading the politically significant issue of reunification their chances of joining the young ones will be significantly improved.

An estimated 30,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the US from Mexico so far this year. They are however, being kept in the same detention centres used by the Trump Administration. No one knows the exact conditions in these centres because journalists have so far been banned entry. This has led to attacks on Biden’s immigration policy from the left-wing of the Democratic Party. What a muddle.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 28 February 2021

President Joe Biden must have mixed feelings about the public’s continued fascination with the Donald Trump story. On the one hand it is a distraction from his own agenda. And on the other, it allows him to move forward quickly and efficiently while attention is largely engaged elsewhere. He is doing the latter. This weekend Biden will celebrate 50 million covid-19 vaccinations, putting his administration well ahead of the target 100 million jabs in 100 days. He is also expected to shortly push through Congress a third major pandemic spending package. This one is worth $1.9 trillion and will focus on the poor minorities and women. The only part of the deal which has won Republican approval is $110 billion for business support. Meanwhile, Trump’s problems continue to make headlines. The biggest is that the US Supreme Court has refused the ex-president’s appeal to block a subpoena to obtain Trump’s tax records for the past ten years. Cyrus Vance Jr., the South Manhattan District Attorney leading the charge, believes that the records will reveal massive fraud involving taxes, bank dealings and insurance. Trump has denounced the investigation as part of the continuing “deep state” “witch hunt” and is keeping the Republican spotlight shining on him with a keynote speech this Sunday at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) In Orlando, Florida. His strongest Senate supporter, Lindsey Graham, said Trump “is going to dominate the Republican Party for years to come.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson must have mixed feelings about the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100,000 deaths, a locked-down economy and a crippling debt is bad news. But at least it is deflecting public attention away from his disastrous Brexit deal. The biggest problems this week have been predicted and predictable—fishing and Northern Ireland. The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy which made British waters part of a larger European lake open to all EU fishermen was one of the main reasons for Brexit. The problem is that the deal Boris Johnson has struck with Brussels has possibly worsened the plight of the British fishermen. At the root of the issue is the fact that the fish that are caught in British waters appeal to European palates and those netted in European seas appeal to hungry Brits. And because of various quota and hygiene regulations now in place it is becoming difficult to impossible to land fish in each other’s ports. Then there is Northern Ireland with the new trading border in the Irish Sea. This is to keep open the border between the northern and southern halves of the island of Ireland and, hopefully, avoid a return to “The Troubles” of the last quarter of the 20th century. But this means import and export controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain. The British government has responded by proposing that the uncontrolled period of trade between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain be extended to 2023. That is unacceptable to Dublin and Brussels. Any restrictions in trade links between Northern Ireland and the British mainland are unacceptable to the protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who want the current Northern Ireland Protocol jettisoned and a hard border drawn between Eire and Northern Ireland. This, of course, would torpedo the Good Friday Agreement and re-open the prospect of a return to intercommunal fighting.

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Tom Arms’ World Review 14 February 2021

One of the current international ironies is that Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are on trial at the same time. The two men have one of the closest personal relationships on the world stage—dating back to the 1980s when Netanyahu was in New York as Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Now he is on trial at the same time as his American buddy for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In true Trumpian style, Netanyahu claims that the trial is a “coup to oust a sitting Israeli Prime Minister.” The trial takes place in the middle of Israel’s fourth general election campaign in four years and is expected to be in full swing when voters troop to the polls on 23 March. It will have an impact. But possibly a more important factor will be the role of Israel’s Orthodox Jewish parties who have been a mainstay of successive Netanyahu coalitions. Orthodox Jews are making themselves unpopular by defying the government’s lockdown restrictions. Many are also refusing to participate in Israel’s world beating vaccination programme. This is creating a backlash against Orthodox Jewish parties. Coupled with his trial, this could bring an end to Netanyahu’s long stranglehold on Israel’s premiership at the same time as his American friend’s career is heading towards the toilet bowl.

Joe Biden also has a long and generally friendly connection with Netanyahu. The difference is that it is linked to his years as a senator and vice-president and is based more on national interests than personal ties. Those national interests are likely to mean that the US embassy remains in Jerusalem and that the US continues to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Biden will also build on the diplomatic recognition of Israel by key Arab states. However, there will be differences. Israel was a prime mover behind Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Accord. Biden is trying to revive it. Trump cut off US aid to the Palestinians. Biden restored it. Biden has said he supports the “two-state solution”. The Kushner Plan attempted to kill it. On top of that, President Biden has served notice on Saudi Arabia that it will take a closer look at its human rights policies and withdraw support for its genocidal wall against the Yemeni Houthis. Saudi Arabia is Israel’s closest secret ally in the Arab world. However, there may be military-oriented economic constraints on Biden’s human rights-focused policy towards the Saudis. The US is the world’s largest exporter of weapons with sales totalling $47.2 billion in 2020. Their biggest customer by far is Saudi Arabia. Despite overwhelming evidence, Trump refused to accept that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi because, he said, it would jeopardise arms sales to Riyadh.

President Biden’s foreign policy focus shifted to China this week with this first presidential phone call with Xi Jinping. He spent three hours haranguing the Chinese leader about Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea and the Uighurs in Xinjiang. His emphasis was on human rights violations. Xi was unhappy. The issue of human rights, he maintained, was an internal Chinese matter, and the US had no right to interfere in China’s domestic affairs. The plight of the Muslim Uighurs is receiving increasing international attention. Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party has called for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics because of what they call a genocide in Xinjiang. The Johnson government has so far rejected the proposal. But it might find more fertile ground in Washington. It would be ironic if it went ahead. The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics heralded the return of China to world affairs. A boycott in 2022 could mark the falling of a new bamboo curtain.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Move over Donald Trump. America’s conspiracy-driven ultra-right has a new darling. She is the photogenic 46-year-old freshman Congresswoman from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene. In less than a month in office, Ms Greene has infuriated Democrats, embarrassed the Republican leadership, made Trump look like a wet liberal, shot to media prominence, sparked a movement to force her expulsion from the House of Representatives, and won the hearts of White supremacists. Ms Greene hit the hallowed corridors of Congress running. The day after she was sworn in she filed articles for the impeachment of President Biden. But it is her record of conspiracy-laden Trumpism before officially taking office that has done Ms Greene the most damage (or help). Obama is a secret Muslim. Mass shootings were false-flag exercises designed to undermine gun rights. Bill Clinton murdered John F. Kennedy Jr. Hillary Clinton is a paedophile. Nancy Pelosi should be executed for treason…. Leading Democrats have called for her expulsion from Congress. They won’t succeed and that, but they have blocked her appointment to committees. However, the Democratic ire seems to only encourage the Republican grassroots to rally around Ms. Greene, especially after Trump declared: “I love her.” One thing is certain: The fate of Marjorie Taylor Greene is now tied to the future direction of America’s Republican Party.

Britain did not, on 1 January, fall off the economic cliff as some anti-Brexiteers predicted. But neither has the country’s formal departure from the European Union been an economic walk in the park. Red tape at borders has meant bureaucratic headaches, especially for anyone supplying perishable products such as fish, meat, vegetables and some medicines. Particularly hard hit has been Northern Ireland which now has an open border with Eire and a hard border with the rest of the United Kingdom. The border, however, can be closed by either the UK or EU if either party has reason to believe that the agreement causes “economic, societal or environmental difficulties.” The commission briefly closed the border to stop the export of coronavirus vaccines. It was a stupid move which was immediately rescinded. Now the pro-Unionist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is calling for the border to be closed and the UK/Northern Ireland border to be thrown open to alleviate the trade in fresh food from the UK to Northern Ireland. But closing the border between North and South Ireland would breach the Good Friday Agreement which is the foundation of the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. A predicted Brexit conundrum.

There is no doubt that Alexei Navalny is a brave man and a hero to thousands of Russians demonstrating for his release from prison. Navalny also receives a favourable press outside of Russia. But beware, he is not the cuddly politician one might think. He is an anti-immigration, xenophobic ethnic Russian nationalist. In 2013 he defended anti-immigration riots in Moscow. He supported Putin’s annexation of the Crimea and has campaigned for the political integration of Russia with Ukraine and Belarus. Navalny has also supported Russian secessionists in Georgia and Moldova and attacked the building of Moscow’s first mosque in 2015. The major difference between Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Putin is the former’s campaign against the oligarchical-controlled corruption that is dragging down the Russian state.

The good news is that this week the US and Russia signed a new five-year Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which cuts the nuclear arsenals of the two countries. The bad news is that Russia withdrew from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty which allowed the US, Europe and Russia to conduct aerial surveillance of each other’s military installations. The US withdrew in November. The treaty is dead. That is a concern. The Russians say they withdrew because of Donald Trump’s withdrawal. But it is not that simple. Trump withdrew because the Russians were blocking surveillance flights, especially over the heavily-armed Russian enclave of Kaliningrad which is sandwiched between the Baltic States and Poland. In making the announcement, President Vladimir Putin said the door was ajar for a renegotiated Open Skies Treaty. But this seems unlikely in the immediate future because President Trump scrapped the specially-equipped planes needed to enforce the treaty. The end of Open Skies is particularly worrying when considered in the context of the end of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty which regulated the nuclear weapons regime based in Europe. START lessens the danger of an intercontinental nuclear exchange. But the demise of the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Agreement increases the possibility of hostilities in Europe.

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