Dec 24: Washington’s troubling week, May delays Brexit vote, and Yemenis agree port ceasefire

North America

  • Twitter has warned of “unusual activity” from China and Saudi Arabia related to a bug in a help form. The bug – discovered on 15 November and fixed the day after – could have revealed the country code of users’ phone numbers or if their account was locked, the company said.
  • US President Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation has agreed to close down amid allegations that he and others illegally misused its funds. The move was announced by the Attorney General of New York State, Barbara Underwood, who has accused Mr Trump and his three eldest children of using it for private and political gain.
  • The Trump administration has banned the use of bump stocks, devices that let rifles fire like machine guns, after promising to do so earlier this year. The push to ban bump stocks followed the deadly mass shootings in Las Vegas in October 2017 and Parkland, Florida in February.
  • President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria has been met with strong criticism. Mr Trump made the announcement on Wednesday, asserting that the Islamic State (IS) group had been defeated. But major allies, including senior Republicans and foreign powers, have disputed the claim and say the move could lead to a resurgence of IS.
  • The Trump administration is planning to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, US media say. Reports, citing unnamed officials, say about 7,000 troops – roughly half the remaining US military presence in the country – could go home within months. The reports come a day after the president announced the country’s military withdrawal from Syria.
  • Washington DC’s top prosecutor is suing Facebook in the first significant US move to punish the firm for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine accused Facebook of allowing the wholesale scraping of personal data on tens of millions of users.
  • US Defence Secretary James Mattis is resigning, the latest in a string of senior US officials to do so. His announcement came a day after President Trump said he was withdrawing troops from Syria – a decision General Mattis is understood to oppose. In his resignation letter, Gen Mattis strongly hinted at policy differences with Mr Trump.
  • A top US official in the fight against so-called Islamic State group has quit over President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria. Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, brought his departure forward from February. Mr Trump described Mr McGurk’s resignation as a “nothing event”.
  • The US justice department has indicted two Chinese men accused of hacking into the computer networks of companies and government agencies in Western countries. The pair are allegedly part of a “hacking group” known as Advanced Persistent Threat 10, affiliated with China’s main intelligence service.
  • Supporters of US President Donald Trump have turned on him after he was yet again denied funding for a border wall. Two years on, Mr Trump has been unable to deliver on the central campaign pledge that electrified his rallies. Members of the ultra-conservative House of Representatives Freedom Caucus were up in arms over the apparent retreat.
  • A partial US government shutdown has taken effect after US lawmakers failed to break a budget impasse. President Donald Trump, who has to sign off on any deal, is insisting at least $5bn (£4bn) be included for his long-promised wall along the Mexican border. In the absence of a deal, funding for about a quarter of US federal agencies lapsed at Saturday midnight.
  • US stocks suffered one of the worst weekly falls in a decade as trade tensions with China, interest rate rises and a possible government shutdown rattled markets. All three indexes closed lower, with the technology-focused Nasdaq down 20% since its peak, placing it in so-called “bear market” territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its biggest weekly drop in percentage terms since 2008.

South America

  • A Supreme Court judge in Brazil issued a ruling that might have released former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from jail – only to see it overturned by the court’s president. Justice Marco Aurélio Mello had ruled that a convicted criminal with a court appeal pending should be freed until the legal process has been exhausted. But the chief judge intervened.
  • Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is to go on trial for corruption, a federal court has ruled. She is accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes over a 12-year period in what has become known as the “corruption notebooks” scandal. Ms Fernández, who is now a senator, denies any wrongdoing and claims the charges are politically motivated. She has immunity from imprisonment, but not prosecution.


  • Malaysia has filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs and two former employees in connection with a corruption and money laundering probe at the country’s investment fund, 1MDB. The US bank has been under scrutiny for its role in helping to raise funds for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed that his country will not develop at the expense of other nations, in a speech marking 40 years since China introduced major economic reforms. However, he also said that the global superpower would not be told what to do by anyone.
  • Chinese officials have confirmed a third Canadian was being held for “unlawfully working in China”. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that Sarah McIver’s case is different from that of two other recently detained Canadians.


  • MPs will vote on the UK’s Brexit deal in the week beginning 14 January, Theresa May has told Parliament. The vote was due to be held last week but was put on hold after Mrs May admitted she was set to lose.
  • Jeremy Corbyn has tabled a motion of no confidence in Theresa May, after she said MPs would not vote on her Brexit deal until the week of 14 January. Labour leader Mr Corbyn said on Monday it was unacceptable for MPs to wait a month to vote, adding the PM had led the UK into a “national crisis”.
  • Brexit may have to be delayed if the UK submits an “entirely new” proposal on its withdrawal from the EU, the Irish foreign affairs minister has said. Simon Coveney said the UK may have to rescind its Brexit notification “for the moment” if that happened. The EU has said that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will not be renegotiated.
  • The European Commission says it has started to implement its preparations for a no-deal Brexit – in case the UK leaves the EU without a plan.It has announced temporary measures to try to reduce the impact, but says it cannot counter all the problems it expects.
  • Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has offered his resignation just days after one of his main coalition partners quit in a row over migration. Mr Michel lost the backing of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) over his support for a UN migration deal signed in Marrakesh last week.
  • Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has accused the UK and US political classes of “disrespecting” the public by questioning the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election. He also warned that the world was becoming complacent about the risks of nuclear war. The president’s comments came at his year-end press conference in Moscow.
  • Irish President Michael D Higgins has signed the bill that legalises abortion in the Republic of Ireland. The new law allows for abortion services to be provided “on demand” up to the 12th week of a pregnancy.
  • Small demonstrations by “yellow-vest” protesters have been seen throughout France for a sixth consecutive Saturday, but not on the scale of the ones seen in recent weeks. About 2,000 people were demonstrating in Paris compared to about 4,000 last Saturday, police sources said.

Middle East

  • Saudi Arabia has reacted angrily after the US Senate voted to withdraw military aid for the war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia described the vote as “interference” based on “untrue allegations”. The Senate resolution was mostly symbolic and is unlikely to become law.
  • A Kurdish-led alliance in Syria says President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw US troops will allow the Islamic State (IS) group to recover. A statement from the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) warned of a military vacuum that would leave the alliance trapped between “hostile parties”.
  • The UN Security Council has agreed to deploy a team to the Yemeni port of Hudaydah to oversee a ceasefire there. The truce began last Tuesday after being agreed at UN-sponsored talks last week between delegations from the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. The UN team will be deployed for an initial 30 days to monitor and help implement the ceasefire deal.


  • Nigeria’s army has called for the closure of Amnesty International’s operations in the country. In a report last week, the human rights group said at least 3,641 people had died in clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria since 2016. The army has accused Amnesty of trying to destabilise the country with “fictitious” claims.
  • The US military says it has killed 62 fighters from the Islamist group al-Shabab in six air strikes in Somalia. Somalia has seen a sharp increase in the number of air strikes and casualties since President Donald Trump took office in the US in January 2017.
  • South African prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for Zimbabwe’s ex-first lady, Grace Mugabe, for allegedly assaulting a model in 2017, police say. The move comes after a court annulled her diplomatic immunity in July. South Africa’s government was criticised for letting Mrs Mugabe leave the country after the alleged assault.
  • Eight demonstrators have been killed in clashes with armed police in northern and eastern Sudan, officials say. Protests against bread and fuel price rises were also dispersed in the capital, Khartoum, and other towns.
  • The al-Shabab leadership has broadcast a 42-minute statement accusing Islamic State (IS) group fighters of “spoiling the ongoing jihad in Somalia”. Through their spokesperson, Ali Mohamud – alias Ali Rage, the group called on its fighters to carry out attacks to wipe out IS fighters. Mohamud said the IS fighters were “a deadly disease” and “a cancer”.
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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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