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

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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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Avidity of World Leaders for Oil Export Brings Forth Libyan Ceasefire

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Libyan ceasefire

As the situations in Libya grew intense, the world leaders from nearly 11 countries united in Germany, on Sunday, to reach an agreement. Pushing for Libyan ceasefire, while simultaneously enforcing the arms embargo on the warring parties, became a major goal of the meeting.

The Berlin summit became a means to discuss over the increased violence in Libya, a result of the power struggle between the political parties. In addition, Libyan territory and oil became the two major factors that over the time have played an important role in the rival conflicts.

As known, the initial Libyan conflict started with the death of the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was captured by National Transitional Council forces in 2011 and killed afterwards. The forces claimed that he died from the injuries sustained in a firefight when loyalist forces attempted to free him, but a graphic video of his last moments portrayed a different scenario.

Gaddafi’s death led to a political crisis in Libya, which was followed by the power struggle between the House of Representatives government also known as the Tobruk government, elected in 2014, and the rival General National Congress government based in the capital Tripoli. Even with the influx of foreign arms and fighters, the crisis is yet not resolved.

The government headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj in Tripoli is highly recognized by the UN and backed by Turkey, Qatar and Italy, while the eastern government run by Gen. Khalifa Haftar is recognized by Russia, Egypt, France and the United Arab Emirates. The fact that different countries are supporting different governments has only given way to additional tensions in Libya.

On Friday, several tribal groups loyal to Haftar seized large oil export terminals along Libya’s eastern coast as well as southern oil fields, challenging the Tripoli government. The move reflects the severity of the situations in Libya. It together called upon the need of the world leaders to unite in the Berlin summit, bringing in the negotiations to end the conflict.  

In the four-hour discussion, the world countries consisting of US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued upon the ways to alleviate the Libyan conflict.

The leaders together decided to respect the arms embargo by strongly controlling it. Ceasing the operations by halting support to the warring side was altogether a step towards bringing in the Libyan ceasefire deal.

Voicing the success of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “We had to succeed in getting all the parties that connected in any way with the Libya conflict to speak with one voice… We achieved this result here.”

Meanwhile, both the disputed Libyan leaders have named five military representatives for committee talks on a permanent cease-fire to be held in Geneva. Though the present agreement did not cite specific punishments for the ones violating the Libyan ceasefire, it would definitely put pressure on the parties to reach a full ceasefire deal.  

Johnson called Libyan crisis a huge “disgrace” at the Berlin Summit. He added that the UK could send peacekeepers if a real ceasefire emerges. He even asked the Russian and Turkish Presidents to stop the practice of backing different governments and instead together support the process of attaining Libyan ceasefire.

Since, oil is one of the major factors in Libya, most of the conflicts have generally arisen through the rivals seizing oil export terminals. In the same manner, lack of oil export is another factor that has bounded the world countries to resolve the ongoing civil war in Libya. Had it not been for the oil exports that could be suppressed due to the ongoing Libyan conflicts, the world countries would have stuck around and carefully watched the entire scenario, rather than actively pushing for the Libyan ceasefire.

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Al-Shabab Claims Deadly Suicide Car Bombing in Somalia

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Al-Shabab Claims Deadly Suicide Car Bombing in Somalia

In a matter of 20 days, the country in East Africa witnessed another attack that took lives of civilians and wounded several others. According to authorities, the suicide car bombing in Somalia wounded 15 others, on Saturday. Local police officer Abdirahman Adan informed that at least four people were killed.

“A speeding suicide car bomb rammed into a place where the Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch,” stated another police officer Nur Ali.

“So far, we know three Turkish engineers and their translator were injured,” he said. “Two other policemen were injured in the blast.”

Officials confirmed that people injured in the Somalia bombing near the town of Afgoye in southwest of Mogadishu, included Somali nationals and Turkish engineers working on a road in the area.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca stated that six Turkish employees of a construction firm and nine Somali citizens were wounded. Two of the wounded Turkish citizens were in critical condition and undergoing surgery at the Mogadishu Recep Tayyip Erdogan hospital. “Four of the nine Somali wounded are in a serious condition. We are in contact with our embassy,” he added.

Residents described that it was a massive explosion followed by “clouds of smoke”. A witness stated that “several Turkish engineers and well-armed convoy of Somali police” were present at the scene before the blast.

Another said, “The blast was huge, it destroyed a container used by the Turkish engineers who work on the Afgoye road construction.”

The Turkish Ministry of National Defense decried the Somalia bombing attack, and wrote on Twitter, “We curse and condemn in the strongest terms the bomb terror attack which targeted innocent civilians in Somalia.”

Somalia bombing on Saturday was claimed by the Somali insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, on their media outlet Radio Andalus. “We are behind the martyrdom of the suicide car bomb in Afgoye,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for the group. “We targeted the Turkish men and the Somali forces with them. There are casualties of death and injuries.”

Al-Shabab has been battling for supremacy in the Horn of Africa country for years. Saturday’s car bombing attack in Somalia is the latest in a string of attacks by the armed group, which in recent weeks has increased activity in Somalia and neighboring Kenya.

On December 28, al-Shabab’s massive car bombing attack killed at least 78 people and wounded 149 more at a checkpoint in Mogadishu. In another attack on January 5, the group stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region and killed three Americans.

Last week, the al-Shabab group also warned that Kenya will “never be safe”, threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests. Both Kenya and the US forces have been assisting the Somali government in its fight against al-Shabab.

With al-Shabab’s activity speeding up in the two countries, no relief is in sight to the civilian deaths.

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Russian President Putin Talks About Political Affairs amid Flaring War Tensions

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Besides playing an important role in global policies, Russian government has some of its internal ambitions that it could never avoid perceiving in a long run. Occupying an unusual position on the world stage, while maintaining an internal balance, portraying its capabilities has also brought global attention to Russia’s day-to-day doings.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed some constitutional changes, which would give him a scope to extend his grip on power after leaving the presidency in 2024. The ruling government of Russia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, resigned to fulfil this purpose.

As known, Vladimir Putin has the status of the most powerful leader in Russia. It has been 20 years since; Putin has been ruling in the country, either being at the presidential or the prime ministerial posts. But the problem here is that, the Russian president will have to step down when his term expires in 2024.

So, to avoid such situations, a reform of powers of parliament and the cabinet were proposed by Putin that would allow him to remain in power even after his current term. The 67-year-old Russian president even thanked his counterpart and close ally for contributing in his bigger motives. Putin even asked the prime minister and his cabinet to keep working until a new one is formed.

Once a new prime minister is elected, Dmitry Medvedev will be appointed as Deputy Head of the Presidential Security Council. Meanwhile, the sources have claimed that Tax Chief Mikhail Mishustin was nominated as the new Prime Minister of Russia by Putin.

It appears that Vladimir is playing a mind-game here by nominating Mishustin. Since, the latter lacks any political weight, it is obvious that he would not play an independent role and Putin and his regime will have an upper hand on the policies and conflicts.

Ensuring that the government officials were not allowed to have a foreign citizenship or residence permit was another area which needed changes, according to the Russian president.

Putin also spoke upon the need to boost Russia’s birth rate and proposed payments for low-income families with small children, allowances for first-time mothers, higher payments for families with more children and the creation of extra nursery places.

The further amendments in the constitution would also allow the politicians to name prime ministers and cabinet members, a right that at present belongs only to the president. By bringing such vast changes, the Russian president has demonstrated how the constitution and politics in the country is influenced by his massive role and growing power.

While suggesting to diminish the powers of the presidency and beefing up those of the prime minister, Putin also argued that the president should also hold the right to dismiss the PM and their cabinet ministers – along with the power to name top defence and security officials.

Likewise, he even stated that the constitutional changes must be put to a national vote.

As known, the presidents are only limited to serving two consecutive terms, but if Putin switched his role with the prime minister like he did earlier in 2008, it would once again give way to him to return to the presidential power. If that is not possible, he would consecutively opt for the prime ministerial post.

The critics have argued that the Russian president even after the end of his presidency plans to influence the entire country through his goals, while staying on the top job forever. At a time, when the world countries are at potential risks of war due to flaring tensions in the Middle East, Russia is more focussed upon dealing with its internal political affairs, while maintaining strong defences through its unique weaponries.  

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Iran Nuclear Deal: European Countries Join Hands to Form Dispute Mechanism

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Iran Nuclear Deal

Lately, Iran nuclear deal of 2015 has attracted much attention from the global leaders, many of whom have been favouring Iran for the same aspect, while others are actively triggering a dispute mechanism to confront the country.

Not only that, the confirmation of the countering move initiated by Britain, France, and Germany on Tuesday, has brought in the collapsing concerns of the deal. The decision from three countries being the European signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, came hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a new “Trump deal” if the JCPOA no longer worked.

For a long time, Iran nuclear deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has disputed Iran’s relations with many first world countries, with top involvement from the US. The US President, Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran, was although ignored by the three European countries.

While negotiating the nuclear deal alongside the US, China, and Russia, the aim of the three European countries has long been to halt Iran’s growing nuclear programme without pressurising and pushing the country towards sanctions.

JCPOA, thereby was one good setup framed to limit Iran’s quantity and degree to enrich uranium. However, the sanctions on Iran that the European countries tried to disburden, have always remained, weakening its economy.  

Recently, Iran pulled away from its commitments under the deal and ignored all the attempts to bring it back. The European countries saw the move as a counter attack to the US’ withdrawal from the deal in 2018.

On many occasions, Iran has refused to return to the agreement, as the US promised to impose more sanctions to put an end to the future threats of nuclear war. With tensions continuing to escalate, the European countries are left with the only option of registering their concerns under the JCPOA norms so that the matter gets referred to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism.

The negotiating signatory countries will then have 15 days to resolve the triggering dispute of the Iran nuclear deal. If the proposed plan fails, then any of the participating country could refer the issue to the countries’ foreign affairs ministers, who would again have 15 days to discuss and find a resolution.

If the issue persists after the given 30 days, it will then be elevated to the JCPOA Advisory Board, which would have five days to negotiate. If not solved through this means, complaining signatory country can treat the issue as “grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part,” and/or refer it to the UN Security Council.

The US, Russia, China, Britain, and France will sit on the council to find a resolution within 30 days to continue with sanctions relief on Iran. If no resolution is adopted, then all previous sanctions on Iran would be re-imposed.

It appears that the attempts made to comply the Iranian government to follow the footprints and demands of the US have largely brought in the situations against them. The question is whether or not the signatory European countries would be able to rebuke the sanctions strategy, while limiting the nuclear programs of Iran.

If not, could the initiative of a constructive diplomatic dialogue amongst the signatories save the Iran nuclear deal. Amid the ongoing conflicts, Iran is now liable to choose one of the two paths, either it would take steps to de-escalate tensions and adhere to the basic rules of international law, or become politically and economically isolated.  

Considering the tensions, the Royal Navy also directed a nuclear-powered submarine in the international waters earlier, as a necessary precaution to strike Iran if needed.

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Two Years of WWE in Saudi Arabia and Growing Resistance of Superstars

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The World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE is going to Saudi Arabia for another international pay-per-view event, and the drama around it has sprung up already.

This year, the show is likely to take place on February 20— a stop gap between the Royal Rumble this month and the Elimination Chamber in March. However, The Observer stated that it could be on February 27, and that the information could have been kept low-key in wake of the issues of last event and the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

WWE and Saudi’s General Sports Authority sealed the controversial deal in 2018, where the Kingdom received opportunity to host the pay-per-views for 10 years on their soil. In last two years, the wrestling firm hosted the Greatest Royal Rumble, Super Showdown and a pair of Crown Jewel events in Riyadh.

There still remains eight years of the contract, but with only two years and more shows passing, an increasing number of the WWE stars are denied to fly to Saudi Arabia. Superstars John Cena, Kevin Owens and Daniel Bryan, refused to visit the Kingdom for previous shows in 2018, citing the country’s human rights issues.

Moreover, the last fall’s trip to Saudi further brought down the country’s reputation before the WWE superstars. In November, a number of superstars were stranded after “mechanical problems” with the plane that was bound to return to the United States, during the 2019 Crown Jewel. Besides, the country also refused to turn down its ultra-conservative laws, due to which the women wrestlers were seen battling in full-covered dress code of bodysuits and baggy t-shirts.

The failures of Saudi Arabia’s last event forced more wrestlers to put a red cross on the country. According to the reports, many informed the WWE that they are already planning to not attend the event in the Kingdom next month.

The WrestlingNews.co reported, “Now, with the heightened tensions in the Middle East, specifically the recent issues in Iran, there are more wrestlers questioning whether they should fly out for the next show. I was told that at least two more wrestlers have decided against going to the next Saudi Arabia show.”

It was estimated that WWE in Saudi Arabia possibly earns close to $50 million per year. The annual revenue from such deals explain the firm’s elongated contracts and its capability of handing out lucrative contracts even to the midcard players.

Besides, some of the recent events of the professional wrestling organizers have been “paid shows”, which are conducted on a deal where the host country pays for the show. This enabled the WWE to grace the overseas events with tons of star powers, despite them being not more that the glorified house shows.

Consequently, Saudi Arabia emerged a perfect example, where the pay-per-views have not just been a public relations misfortune for WWE, while the shows also didn’t receive laudable reviews from the viewers. Besides, the WWE-Saudi relationship has long been under the fire of criticism on several issues, where the Kingdom also prohibited superstars like Aleister Black and Sami Zayn from wrestling on the show for some absurd reasons.

Despite the cold fan reception, the WWE-Saudi relationship continue, as the Kingdom is one of the biggest moneymaking options for the wrestling firm. However, while the company is keeping the knot tied, a considerable majority of fans and now even more wrestlers decided to turn their faces to Saudi Arabia.

With still eight years remaining to the deal, it is to be seen if the growing resistance of players and fans towards Saudi Arabia will persuade WWE to break the contract or not.

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