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Saudi Arabia Intimidates US for Action in Yemen: Halts Oil Trade Via Red Sea



Saudi Arabia Yemen

Last updated on September 24th, 2018

The Houthi militants recently attacked two of Saudi Arabia’s oil cargo carrying ships. The assault led to the KSA government halting further shipments from traveling via the attacked Red Sea route of Bab al-Mandeb strait. However, the restriction has strained relationship between Saudi Arabia and its Western ally, the United States, which has been supporting it in the Yemen war. If the halt continues, the US would be barred from around 4.8 million barrels of refined petroleum products and crude oil that it receives from the KSA.

Analysts, on the other hand, also suggest that the decision of halting oil shipments could be Saudi Arabia’s way of intimidating its Western allies to be more serious about the Houthi-led attack. They claim that the KSA might be trying to push the US to become more aggressive in the war against Houthis, who are trying to pose threat to the gulf nation.

A possibility of the claims being true emerges from the fact that even though the US expressed concern for Saudi Arabia on the attack led by Houthi militants on their oil shipments, it did not indicate any kind of support in securing the gulf nation.

A majority of Saudi Arabia’s decisions concerning external affairs, including its role in Yemen war that received massive a backlash, have been influenced by its gulf ally, UAE and supported by US’ arms trade. Being the larger bloc in the gulf, Saudi Arabia seems to have become a scapegoat of its own neighbor, in fulfilling its foreign policy decisions. Technically, the UAE piggybacked on the KSA and shot off from its shoulders, for its influence would be relatively larger in the West than that of the Emirates.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition in the Yemen war, fighting for the elimination of Houthi militants from the war-inflicted country. However, in the recent developments, it has been observed that the militants managed to gain an upper hand on the Saudi-led coalition supported by neighboring ally, UAE. Meanwhile, with the U.S. maintaining silence over the matter, it seems that the Saudi’s Western ally has given up on it, amidst pressure from rights groups protesting against its arms support to the gulf coalition.


Australia Joins US in Protecting Freedom of Navigation in Strait of Hormuz



Strait of Hormuz

The Australian forces will join the US’ efforts in protecting the shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Due to severing tensions with Iran, several US troops, planes and warships have been making efforts to guard the Middle Eastern strait as of now.

The US’ continuous efforts to keep a close check on Iranian attacking crafts in the strait have been manipulated by many leaders as an interference, which they believe could lead to an “act of aggression” in the Gulf region. Similarly, many critics have warned that the increased involvement could become a means of breaching the existing international law.

Fascinated by the US-led safeguarding mission in the Strait of Hormuz, which was later joined by the UK and Bahrain, the Australian government has decided to send troops, planes and warships to help guard shipping. The aim of the entire mission has largely been to protect the freedom of navigation in the Gulf region.

On Wednesday, the Australian Prime Minister expressed his support over rising calls of “destabilising behaviour” in the Gulf region, calling it a huge threat to the Australian interests. He said, “The government has been concerned over incidents involving shipping in the Strait of Hormuz over the past few months,” adding that the decision to send forces would become a step forward in stabilising peace.

“This destabilising behaviour is a threat to our interests in the region, particularly our enduring interest in the security of global sea lanes.

“The government has decided it’s in Australia’s national interests to work with our international partners to contribute to an international maritime security mission … in the Middle East.”

The Strait of Hormuz has a huge relevance for Australia as the country receives about 15 percent of crude oil and 30 percent of refined oil through the strait. The instability in the Gulf region could also bring economic slowdown in the country, which could affect the Australians in a long run.

Morrison while backing his decision of calling the navigation through international waters, a fundamental right of all states under international law said, “All states have a right to expect safe passage of their maritime trade consistent with international law.”

In regards to its commitment in guarding the Strait of Hormuz as part of the US-led mission known as the international maritime security construct (IMSC), the Australian officials have decided to send a frigate for six months from January, a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and patrol aircraft to the Middle East region for one month.

It appears that Australia’s sole mission in the entire session is de-escalation of unwanted war-like situation. While the Australian officials rejoiced the government’s decision in promoting the rule of law in the Strait of Hormuz, certain leaders are stuck on the statements that Australian military’s involvement in the region is a clear violation of the international law.

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China Detains British Consulate Worker amid Rising Threats from HK Protestors



British Consulate Worker

Protests could really lead to huge disruptions and total chaos in a nation. Hong Kong protests is one such example, following which the Chinese prosecutors have become more alert in arresting the suspected people. Recently, a British consulate worker was detained at the Chinese border.

Before being caught by the Chinese officials on August 8, Simon Cheng was believed to be returning to his native Hong Kong from a business trip in South-east China’s Shenzhen via the Lo Wu immigration control point, when his girlfriend lost communication with him. The detention of a UK’s consulate for Hong Kong came amid China’s struggle to maintain its power in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The extradition bill introduced by Hong Kong government under China’s supervision and authority has led to a political crisis in the entire territory. Millions of Hong Kongers protested against the temporarily suspended bill, calling for its permanent withdrawal, which they thought would otherwise threaten Hong Kong’s autonomy. As per the rules, if the bill were to become a law, then every suspected criminal would be extradited to other countries including mainland China.

The UK Foreign Office remained concerned, while observing the tensed atmosphere between the anti-government protestors in Hong Kong and the way these protests impacted China, bringing in more challenges for them. They even expressed concerns over the unnecessary detention of the British consulate worker amid the entire chaotic situation.

Along with criticising the Chinese officials’ move, the office said that it was seeking further information from authorities in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. In the meantime, the British embassy in Beijing has been providing actual support to his family.

The media report suggested that Simon Cheng is a trade and investment officer at the Scottish Development International section of the consulate, whose officials called for the Foreign Office’s help in the detention case.

The analysts believe that the Chinese officials, through these acts are trying every possible way to curb the Hong Kong protestors. At the same time, they do not want the Hong Kongers to get connected to the Chinese people and have thereby heightened security measures for the travellers. People entering mainland China through any measures remain subjected to police checks for evidences related to protests. Detention of the British Consulate worker was the result of the same.

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Music Goes Silent as African Singer John De’Mathew Dies



De’Mathew, John De’Mathew

The African music industry and fans mourned on Monday, as the Kenya police announced death of John De’ Mathew. The musician reportedly died in a fatal car crash in Thika, a town that is just outside the capital Nairobi.

The singer, real name John Ng’ang’a, was alone in his car that he was driving on Sunday night. The Kenyam police stated that the car collided with a lorry, while De’Mathew was returning from a fundraiser, Harambee. He had attended the event earlier in support of fellow musician Peter Kigia.

According to local media reports, the musician was returning after performing at the event, when the accident took place. He was soon taken to the Thika Nursing Home, where he was later pronounced dead.
John De’Mathew was popular for singing in Kenya’s Kikuyu language and his music style known as Benga, a genre that features on fast-paced guitar tunes.

Kenyan Vice President William Ruto paid his accolade to the singer, describing him as a vivid performer, who was capable of tackling social problems through his lyrics. “De Mathew was a great composer of Kikuyu lyrics, which carried undertones of societal ills, including alcoholism and promoting peace and cohesion in society,” Ruto said in a post on Twitter.

Referring to one of De’Mathew’s songs, one fan said that, “Mbeú Njíthí was one great song addressing the alcoholism problem among the Kikuyu men (and especially young men).”

Identified by his signature look of white cowboy hat, De’Mathew produced more than 50 albums and sang more than 300 songs in his career of three decades.

Kenyan lawmaker and musician, Charles Njagua Kanyi said John De’Mathew’s songs inspired him to opt music. “While growing up, I listened a lot to John DeMathew. His music inspired me greatly to become the musician I am today. I am Deeply saddened by his untimely demise following a tragic road accident today.. May His soul rest well in eternal peace,” the lawmaker said.

On Sunday night, fans shared videos of his last performance on social media, expressing their sorrow and highlighting how Kenya lost a music giant. Many tweeted with the hashtag #RIPDeMathew to share their fond memories of the musician.

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Hong Kong Protests: China asks ‘Foreign Forces’ Not to Interfere



Hong Kong Protests

It has been months since the onset of the Hong Kong Protests over the extradition bill, which was considered a threat to the democracy of the former British territory as it would transfer fugitives to Mainland China.

On Thursday, China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming reiterated on the fact that Hong Kong is a part of China and the foreign countries shouldn’t interfere in the territory’s affairs.

In a press conference at the Chinese Embassy in London, Liu said, “Some Western politicians and organizations have publicly or covertly given various types of support to the violent radicals, and tried to interfere in the judicial independence of Hong Kong and obstruct Hong Kong police from bringing the violent offenders to justice.”

“We urge those foreign forces to respect China’s sovereignty and security, immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop conniving in violent offence,” he added.

The Hong Kong protests, which began to oppose the extradition bill, have witnessed not only brutal violence against the protestors, but also vandalism at the Legislative council.

However, the demonstrators are now not only calling for the termination of the extradition bill, but also for the release of the protestors detained and independent elections in a democratic manner to elect the new Legislative Council Members and the Chief Executive.

Earlier on Wednesday, the satellite images revealed an envoy of armoured paramilitary police vehicles parked at a stadium in Shenzen, the Chinese city which also happens to be near the Hong Kong border.

Liu further issued the most direct threat till now to the protestors, saying, “We have enough solutions and enough power within the limits of basic law to quell any unrest swiftly. We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst.”

In regards with the violent ongoing Hong Kong protests, he added, “No country under the rule of law, no responsible government, would sit back and watch as such violence rages on”.

The Chinese ambassador’s statement came in response to the question about a plan to extend the UK citizenship rights to Hong Kong Chinese, which was suggested by the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman, Tom Tugendhat.

While the Hong Kong protests are beginning to impact the economy of the territory and marring its image, a stance leaning on ending the protests and working together might have ended the protests much earlier. With this statement it is evident that the Chinese government will resort to means that might further worsen the situation, instead of allowing an independent group to mediate and try to end the conflict.

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Gibraltar Rebuffs Release of Captured Iranian Oil Tanker Grace 1



Grace 1

The ongoing tanker standoff in the Middle East is now surrounded by different opinions over the release of the seized tankers. The Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, which British Royal Marines seized for illegally transporting 2.1 million barrels of oil to Syria, was speculated to be released soon.

The Iranian authorities said that Gibraltar, the British overseas territory, might release the tanker soon as some documents were exchanged in order to facilitate the release of the tanker.

Earlier, following the seizure of its oil tanker, the Iranian forces retaliated and seized the British-flagged Stena Impero and Liberian-flagged but British operated Mesdar on July 19. This further worsened the relations of Iran with major world powers as the US had already withdrawn itself from the international agreement and had begun to impose sanctions on Iran.

Jalil Eslami, deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation, said, “Britain is interested in releasing Iran’s oil tanker Grace 1. Following the exchange of some documents, we hope the release will take place soon.”

Last month, Supreme Court of Gibraltar passed the verdict to extend the detention of the tanker by 30 days. Now, a court in Gibraltar will discuss the future of the Iranian oil tanker on Thursday once the order for its custody expires – the Gibraltar government has the power to hold the seized tanker for only 60 more days, the time period which would expire in mid-October.

One of the top officials from the Gibraltar government on conditions of anonymity said, “I’ve seen that report, but we don’t have any information. We continue to seek to de-escalate issues arising since the lawful detention of Grace 1.”

Following the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker, there has been a continuous discussion on the manner in which the tanker was seized and if the seizure was in compliance with the international law.

While some claim that the seizure might be illegal as Iran was not subjected to the EU-enforced embargo, many experts said that as the port to which ship was bound, was sanctioned – hence, the seizure of the oil tanker is completely in accordance with the EU rules.

If the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 is released on Thursday, the decision will not just clear the air surrounding the nuclear deal prior to the G7 summit between the leading economic powers in Biarritz at the end of the month, but also ease out the strained peace stability in the Middle East.

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