Trump Faces Sanction Bill Decision -- The US Senate passed a bill in June that would heighten sanctions on both Iran and Russia. The vote was 98-2. In May, the House passed a bill adding sanctions to North Korea by a vote of 419-1. It now appears that these bills are headed for the president's desk soon. Indeed, they might be merged into a single piece of legislation. Whether as a single bill or a pair, the increased sanctions provided for put President Trump in a difficult position. [25 July]
President of Poland Vetoes Judicial Changes -- Poland's President Andrzej Duda has just vetoed two laws that would have altered the country's judicial system, reducing the independence of the judiciary. He is allowing a third law of less significance enter into force. Analysts say that the street protests over the last day or two and public pressure made the difference, especially the statements from a communist-era dissident Zofia Romaszewska. She didn't want to go back to the days when the general prosecutor could do virtually anything. For now, she gets her way. [24 July]
Qatar Amending Anti-Terror Laws, Crisis Ending -- As forecast here Wednesday, the Qatar crisis is winding down with some face-saving moves on both sides of the issue. Yesterday, the Emir of Qatar issued a decree amending his country's anti-terrorism laws. Today, the United Arab Emirates (perhaps speaking for the other members of the anti-Qatar bloc, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt) welcomed the changes calling them "a positive step." The Qatari government's expulsion of the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats yesterday also helped. These cosmetic measures, though, mean little. Qatar faced down the others. [21 July]
US to Halt Arms Shipments to Syrian Rebels -- The US program of sending weapons to certain Syrian rebel groups is coming to an end. The Trump administration has already agreed to a cease-fire in the southwest part of the country where the Assad government is largely in control. Combined, they represent a clear attempt to remove obstacles from the path of improved US-Russian relations. However, it would appear that the Trump administration has simply given away the store. [20 July]
Saudi-Led Bloc Caves on Qatar Demands -- The Qatari crisis appears to be moving toward a resolution. Back in June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed ties and announced sanctions including a land blockade against Qatar to force the sultanate to accept 13 demands within 10 days. Qatar rejected them out of hand. The Saudi-led bloc withdrew their demands today replacing them with 6 broad principles. These should be relatively easy for Qatar to accept while maintaining that its policies have always been in alignment with the principles. Standing up to bullies does work. [19 July]
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