US withdraws more than half of its UNRWA aid for Palestinians

The US has announced that it will withhold more than half of its funds to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) that supports the Palestinian refugees. This decision comes only two weeks after US president, Donald Trump’s tweet saying that America receives no “appreciation or respect” from the Palestinians in return for its aid of “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

However, the state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that this decision was not aimed at punishing anyone and added that it was directed at bringing about reforms within the agency. She refused to give any details about the nature of the reforms that the US was looking for.

Of the scheduled $125m, the US will provide only $60m to UNRWA. Making it the single largest donor nation, last year the US contributed $370m to the agency that runs various health, social and educational projects for the refugees. The money withheld was part of this year’s first instalment.

Jan Egeland, the former UN humanitarian chief who now serves as its humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said that the withdrawal of funds could have a devastating effect on Palestinian refugees, especially affecting the thousands of refugee children whose education is funded by the UNRWA.

Israel who is embroiled in a conflict with Palestine over the status of Jerusalem is in favour of the decision and accused the agency of misusing humanitarian aid and supporting “anti-Israel propaganda”. A month ago Trump had recognised the city as the capital of Israel drawing severe criticism from the Palestinians. The declaration was later voted null and void by the UN member nations at the General Assembly.

Sources – CNN, BBC

Trump continues to give Iran sanction waiver; wants changes in agreement

US President Donald Trump has announced that he will continue with extending key sanctions to Iran under the Iran nuclear deal formed in 2015. This will keep refrain from jeopardizing the accord. However, Trump is expected to give a deadline to the European allies to make marked improvements to the deal, barring which the US will withdraw from the agreement.

Trump was on the fence about whether he would approve the sanctions or not. His disapproval to offer sanctions would have effectively ended the deal. The deal is between Iran and six powerful nations to limit Iran’s nuclear powers. However, he will possibly form a fresh set of sanctions for other Iranian companies or groups of people.
The current President, a Republican has always been vocally critical of the agreement which had been entered into by his predecessor Barack Obama. In the past, Obama had been widely appreciated for having preventing Iran from realizing its nuclear programme fully. Other members of this deal are China, Russia, France, Germany, the UK and the European Union.
Despite the International Atomic Energy Agency stating that Tehran is keeping in line with the deal, Trump is the opinion that the US has been handed a raw end. In the end, he succumbed due to facing a huge amount of pressure from Europe to comply.
Sources – Reuters, BBC

Trump’s move to revoke DACA program deterred by US Judge

A US judge has stopped US president Donald Trump from ending an Obama administration program which conferred legal status upon children of illegal immigrants

.District judge William Asulp ruled on January 10, 2018, in San Francisco that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should be reinstated by the government until a final judgement is passed in the matter. In the 49 page ruling, it was stated that the government is “HEREBY ORDERED AND ENJOINED, pending final judgment herein or other order, to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis on the same terms and conditions as were in effect before the rescission.”

 The DACA program authorised by President Barack Obama in 2012 assured protection from deportation to the children who had entered the country as illegal immigrants. The program permitted nearly 80,000 individuals to work and seek education in the US. In September 2017, the Trump administration had decided to revoke the program thus putting at risk thousands of young immigrants who were known as “dreamers”.

Trump and the congressional leaders are currently embroiled in a tense discussion to decide the fate of the so-called Dreamers. He has indicated that he is open to more comprehensive reforms regarding the illegal immigrants if the Democrats were willing to consider the border security matter, including the construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

Sources – TOI, The Guardian

US Untroubled by growing Pakistan and China relationships

The suspension of security aid to Pakistan by the US would push Islamabad closer to China. The US has appeared untroubled with the ties and insisted that the two relationships are different.

The source quoted “ Pakistan do want to build strong relations with both countries. But what they get from China is not necessarily going to be the same thing to get from the US and vice versa.”

The Us government official said the government doesn’t have the authority to direct state banks and companies to invest in Pakistan, at the same time, China does not have the capacity either to supply the highest quality military equipment in the world.

The official also added that America does not have any problem with growing relation of Pakistan and China. They believe, China has invested a significant amount and has plans to invest more. Pakistan at current situation needs economic development and economic growth. In so, China’s ability to invest will contribute to Pakistan’s economic well-being, security, and stability.

Noting the fact that Pakistan and China have had a longstanding and very strong relationship, the official proclaimed that the relationship has never arisen at the expense of US-Pak ties.

“I think Pakistan needs to understand our relationship and what we offer to the table internationally is different than China. And it’s not necessary to choose relationships between China and the United States and they do want to build strong relations with both countries,” the state department official said.

Sources – NDTV, NewsOlive

Trump,South Korea say no to military trials during Winter Olympics

The Pentagon has released a statement saying that the US President, Donald Trump has reached a decision to delay the joint military trials that were to be held, until after the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics are to begin in Pyeongchang on the 9th of February.
According to the Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Rob Manning, Trump consulted with South Korean President Moon Jae-In to arrive at this decision as concerns over North Korea escalated.
The set of military exercises Foal Eagle are held during the months of February and April, especially to test the skill and preparation of armies of both countries.
The step was taken in light of claims made by Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, that North Korea was testing nuclear weapons again. This is a direct violation of the UN commendations. The South Korean President, Mr. Moon had promised a more open policy with North Korea since his election campaign last year. His aim had been to broker peace using economic cooperation.
The UN spokesperson, Ms. Haley has announced explicitly that the US will not entertain any conversation with North Korea unless they put a ban on all nuclear testing.
Sources – Reuters, The Hindu

US strangling pollution ridden India by exporting dirty fuel

Dirty fuel waste that the US refineries are unable to sell elsewhere is being to the already pollution ridden India. The main dirty fuel that comes to India from the US is the Petroleum coke, more popularly referred to as the pet coke. It is basically a leftover of the already refined Canadian tar sands and various other heavy oils. Pet coke contains 17 times more sulphur than common coal and also emits more earth-warming carbon. This is very dangerous to the environment as also to the living beings and that forms the main reason why American industries are denying to use it.

India being power hungry and finding this pet coke cheap, are consuming it more and more. And this pet coke is acting as a catalyst to the already degraded environmental condition of this country. As reported by The Times of India, US had send more that eight million metric tons of pet coke to India in 2016.

Health and environment experts are saying that, by exporting harmful fuel to India, US is only exporting a crucial environmental problem from one country to another, instead of curbing it.  According to the Gulf News “We should not become the dust bin of the rest of the world. We certainly can’t afford it, we are choking to death already”, said Sunita Narain, a member of the pollution control authority and is also the head of the Delhi based Center for Science and Environment.

Sources- Times of India, Gulf News

US fuel stock rises unexpectedly

US saw an unexpected rise in fuel stock, despite the oil prices witnessing a sharp decline on November 29 and the cut in trading crude oil. On November 28, a report from the American Petroleum Institute claimed that US crude inventories rose from 1.8 million barrels to 457.3 million barrels within a week in November.

UAE and Russia have confirmed that the output scenario will remain constant throughout 2018. Various economists had different opinion regarding this policy of the oil-rich nation.

According to some experts, an extension should be given which is much needed before shutting down output, mainly to keep the demand-supply balance proportionate. On the contrary, there are a handful of experts who completely disagreed to this. Their claim being, this policy will do no good to the economy.

Nevertheless, the overall opinion as seen by majority of the experts, is that the decision is great indeed for the oil market as well as for a healthy global economy, as reported by Reuters.

Sources:

Moneycontrol, Hindu Business Line