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Foreign Affairs

‘Dotard’ vs. ‘Rocket Man’: Will the war of sanctions and words turn real?

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President Trump took a concrete step to contain North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM ambitions Thursday, signing an executive order targeting the North’s trading partners.

“It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime,” the president said, adding, “Foreign banks will face a clear choice. Do business with the United States, or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin directed his department to suspend U.S. account access for foreign banks that cooperate with North Korea and facilitate significant transactions with it.

“Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both,” he said.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, whom Trump dubbed as “Rocket Man” in his UN speech Tuesday, responded angrily.

As a man representing the DPRK and on behalf of the dignity and honor of my state and people and on my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the DPRK.

I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.

The U.S. has recently stepped up flights near the North Korean border using advanced stealth and 5th generation fighters.


Further reading…

North Korea: Probing for weaknesses? By Benjamin Wilhelm

http://noqreport.com/2017/09/20/north-korea-probing-weaknesses/It is likely that the US military and our allies are taking the necessary steps to be prepared on the intelligence front should military action in North Korea become unavoidable. This is especially prudent in light of tough talk at the UN by both President Trump and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Both of them have recently delivered excellent and stern admonitions that may need to be backed up with actions. Read more…


Perspectives

Russia on North Korea: “We’re witnessing a very dangerous confrontation spiral” | CNN

At the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia foreign minister, said his country condemns North Korea’s “nuclear missile adventures.”

However, “military hysteria is not just an impasse, it’s a disaster,” he said during his speech to the UN.

“We’re witnessing a very dangerous confrontation spiral around [North Korea],” Lavrov said.

5 things to know about Trump’s new North Korea sanctions | TheHill

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/351820-5-things-to-know-about-trumps-new-north-korea-sanctionsPresident Trump signed an executive order Thursday slapping new travel and economic sanctions on North Korea, as the administration seeks to pressure Kim Jong Un in a showdown over the North Korean leader’s nuclear program. Trump signed the order at the United Nations, where he expressed frustration that the international coalition had not done enough to stand up to Kim’s provocations. Earlier this week, the president vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continued along the nuclear path. Here are five things to know about the new sanctions: Sanctions seek to cut off North Korean cash In an effort to cut off the North Korean leaders’ money, the new sanctions aim to give financial institutions a choice: Do business with the United States or do business with North Korea.

Reactions

Final thoughts

We’ve never had a president in the modern era with Trump’s flair for public coarse language, name-calling, and blunt speaking. We’ve never had a U.S. president successfully stand up to North Korea in their quest for weapons of mass destruction. Whether Trump will prevail is still an open question. The stakes are still very high, with 11 million people in Seoul living under a daily threat of annihilation (they barely notice).

North Korea would like nothing more than a military response from the United States, so they can escalate at will and have China on their side. The U.S. needs physical restraint, although if North Korea makes a strong enough move that results in deaths, this could quickly escalate into a military skirmish or worse.

I suspect that it will come to some kind of military action, though keeping the Chinese out of it and limiting the scope will be a difficult diplomatic task, one that must be dealt with before a single shot is fired.

Foreign Affairs

Robert Wood Johnson on the failed Iran deal

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Robert Wood Johnson on the failed Iran deal

As ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Wood Johnson understands the situation in Iran. He’s acutely aware that sanctions against Iran are the only thing short of military intervention that can prevent them from producing nuclear weapons in the near future. The Iran deal, the alleged hallmark of President Obama’s and Secretary of State Kerry’s legacy, has been clearly demonstrated as an utter failure.

Iran has not backed down. They’ve only placated the world when absolutely necessary with lies on top of lies. The United States is fighting back by pulling out of the deal and laying sanctions on Iran, but they need more to join the fight. Johnson is calling on his host nation to follow suit.

“Far from becoming a more responsible member of the international community, as we had all hoped, Iran grew bolder.”

Source: The Hill

US ambassador urges UK to pull out of Iran nuclear deal

http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/401458-us-ambassador-urges-uk-to-pull-out-of-iran-nuclear-deal“It is clear that the danger from Iran did not diminish in the wake of the [2015 Iran] deal,” Johnson wrote. “Far from becoming a more responsible member of the international community, as we had all hoped, Iran grew bolder.”

“It is time to move on from the flawed 2015 deal,” he continued. “We are asking global Britain to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort toward a genuinely comprehensive agreement.”

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Economy

Tariffs on Turkey: Bad for the economy but damaging to a dangerous dictator

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Tariffs on Turkey Bad for the economy but damaging to a dangerous dictator

Say what you will about President Trump’s foreign and economic policies. Whether you support them or not, it’s hard to deny that they’ve made things much more interesting.

The latest move by the President to impose stiff tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum may seem in line with how he’s been treating the national and world economies recently, but more is at stake with this move than previous ones.

There are two factors at play that make this move different from previous tariffs. First, it is not purely economic but is a response to Turkey continuing to hold pastor Andrew Brunson for allegedly supporting the coup attempt of 2016. Second, the tariffs come at a time when Turkey’s currency, the lira, is in free fall.

It was already starting to show signs of failure when leaders from both countries pushed it even further down. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added more challenges for the lira when he asked his people to convert their foreign currency and gold, a sign of trouble that will likely have the opposite effect.

Erdogan calls on Turks to convert hard currency, gold into lira

https://www.reuters.com/article/turkey-economy-currency-erdogan/erdogan-calls-on-turks-to-convert-hard-currency-gold-into-lira-idUSA4N1TM024Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called on citizens to convert their hard currency and gold into lira, after the local currency tumbled to a record low this week, reflecting investor concern about a widening diplomatic rift with the United States.

Erdogan, in a speech in Ankara, also said Turkey was diverting to the Chinese market to overcome what he said were “subjective evaluations” from ratings agencies. Erdogan has repeatedly railed against credit raters, saying their downgrades of Turkey’s sovereign debt to “junk” status were politically motivated.

Seizing on the free fall, President Trump made matters worse for for the lira with the sanctions:

Trump authorizes doubling of metals tariffs on Turkey

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/10/trump.html“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” Trump wrote.

Losses in the the Turkish lira deepened on Trump’s tweet, falling as much as 20 percent vs. the U.S. dollar in Friday trading.

Erdogan is now calling this an economic war with the United States and claims he will not back down. Meanwhile, the Euro and other currencies are also feeling the heat:

Euro tumbles as investors fear bank exposures to Turkey

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-global-forex/euro-whacked-on-turkey-turmoil-as-investors-scramble-for-safety-idUSKBN1KV07M“You’ve had a fairly sharp move lower in the euro and it’s broken through key technical levels as well,” said Richard Franulovich, head of FX strategy at Westpac Banking Corp in New York.

The euro dropped below technical support at $1.15 to $1.1421, down 0.91 percent on the day and the lowest since July 2017. Against the yen, the euro slid 1 percent to 126.79 yen, a two-month low.

Now, the criticism and praise of President Trump’s moves will be debated for days, maybe weeks.

My Take

As I’ve stated on many occasions, I’m not a fan of tariffs. They are misunderstood by most, particularly the President, and no longer yield the results they did in previous centuries. From an economic perspective, I oppose this move.

The bigger picture is how this is being used as a pressure tactic against Turkey. Currently, I like it a lot. That opinion could change based on how things go, but moves like these that apply pressure against a dangerous dictator of the false ally that Turkey has become are welcome. It isn’t just about securing Brunson’s release, though that’s extremely important. Turkey is a rising power on every spectrum that is increasingly turning to Russia and China for help instead of their “friends” in NATO.

The strategic importance of Turkey as a hub that connects Europe, west Asia, and the Middle East cannot be understated. In an ideal situation, Turkey would still be a good ally as they once were. Erdogan has taken advantage of two past U.S. Presidents and seemed poised last year to start taking advantage of President Trump. That doesn’t seem to be happening anymore.

Is this the right way to handle Erdogan? Probably not. Whether it is or not will be revealed in coming weeks. One thing is certain: we’re seeing things being done from the White House that we’ve never seen before and may never see again. It’s troubling, but at least it’s entertaining.

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Foreign Affairs

Yes, Trudeau made a tactical error with Saudi Arabia. And it was the right move.

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Yes Trudeau made a tactical error with Saudi Arabia And it was the right move

I am no fan of the far-left Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His worldview is flawed and his actions are based solely on maintaining left-wing power over Canada. Last week, he made a huge tactical error by going after Saudi Arabia for human rights violations using Twitter. It has hurt Canada and achieved nothing.

And I fully support it.

It’s the first and probably last time I knowingly support an action by Trudeau, but it’s an important one.

Here’s the background:

Trudeau made a glaring tactical error that’s getting Canada hammered by Saudi Arabia

https://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Trudeau-made-a-glaring-tactical-error-that-s-13143619.phpOn Friday, Canada’s foreign-affairs Twitter handle urged the “immediate release” from imprisonment of the Saudi women’s-rights activist Samar Badawi and others detained for similar activities in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia issued a blistering response, quickly and sometimes harshly turning its state-run media to bash Canada.

In less than a week, Saudi Arabia then expelled its Canadian ambassador, froze all new investment, canceled all flights to Toronto, pulled thousands of students from Canadian institutions, barred its citizens from getting medical treatment in Canadian hospitals, and reportedly sold off all its Canadian assets.

This oddly Trumpian move was likely done in an attempt to score political points. I won’t give him so much credit as to herald him as brave. However, the way in which this was handled is, in my unpopular opinion, the right way to go.

Saudi Arabia has been one of the worst opponents to human rights for decades. The Kingdom has been protected by America and other nations because of their petroleum influence as well as the vast wealth they throw around the globe. While many have heralded their recent shift away from traditional human rights offenses that have been their hallmark, these moves are far from being adequate.

In other words, this is still a backwards nation that holds way too much sway while getting away with pretty much everything they do.

Critics of Trudeau say his tactical error has hurt Canada. They are right. But it’s a temporary pain that they’ll feel. Critics will also point out that this does nothing to advance the cause of coaxing Saudi Arabia to act more civilized, more modern. On this criticism, I completely disagree.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ambitions that go well beyond ruling the Kingdom. He wants to be a world leader, one that controls the Middle East and influences every nation across the globe. To do this, he will need to be universally revered. That means detractors and critics must be hushed.

If we put aside the notion that Trudeau’s actions were self-serving, we can see some benefit in it. Whether or not other world leaders are willing to do the same or continue to cower in fear to the Crown Prince remains to be seen.

What Trudeau has done is speak out against an oppressive regime in a way that most, including the U.S. President, would never dare to do. Is it a tactical mistake to do so? Of course. Was it the right thing to do? I believe it was.

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