US embassy to Jerusalem by 2019; Turkey 'captures Kurdish villages'

  1. Turkish forces in third day of clashes with Syrian Kurds
  2. Pence gives speech to Israeli parliament
  3. Rohingya repatriation delayed over safety fears

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Curated top stories

  • Turkey takes territory in Afrin – Turkish ground forces have captured a number of villages in northern Syria, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu. Troops clashed with Kurdish militia in an attempt to drive them out of Afrin, an area under control of U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). Turkey considers the Kurdish elements of the SDF to be terrorists, but they have been receiving training and assistance from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria. (Read our explainer on the situation in northern Syria).
  • The U.S. government is close to reopening – After a three-day partial shutdown, a temporary spending package was passed that reopens the federal government until February 8. The bill awaits the signature of President Donald J. Trump.
    • Disagreements over immigration, including the future of undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” were not addressed in the short-term fix measure. The majority of Senate Democrats supported the bill after majority leader Mitch McConnell promised “to bring DACA legislation to the floor” of the Senate next month (Slate). Several key Democratic lawmakers are skeptical that McConnell will keep his promise. (Read more about how the government shutdown ended, for now). 
  • IMF optimistic on global growth – The International Monetary Fund released its World Economic Outlook for 2018, raising forecasts after growth outstripped predictions for 2017. “Global growth has been accelerating since 2016 and all signs point to a continuous strengthening of that growth, this year in 2018 and next year in 2019,” Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, told a news conference in Davos.
  • U.S. vice president gives deadline for Israeli embassy move – The U.S. embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, according to Vice President Mike Pence, who was speaking in the Israeli parliament. President Donald Trump broke with decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, and promised to move the U.S. embassy there. The policy shift was met with concern by the international community, whose consensus is that Jerusalem’s status should be negotiated as part of any two-state solution between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Pence’s speech was interrupted by Arab members of parliament, and a spokesperson for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the United States should respect international resolutions on Jerusalem’s status.

Earlier

  • Rohingya Muslims repatriation delayed – An initial two-year plan between Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate more than 680,000 Rohingya refugees has been delayed due to concerns that some may be forced to return. Rohingya Muslims from Buddhist-dominated Myanmar began flooding neighboring Bangladesh in August 2017 after violence broke out in Rakhine state, which included burned villages, killings, and rapes. (Read WikiTribune‘s extensive coverage on the Rohingya crisis here.)
  • Vietnamese Communist Party crackdown – A former high-ranking Communist Party official was sentenced to 13 years in jail in Vietnam after being found guilty of economic mismanagement over losses in state oil firm PetroVietnam. The trial of former Politburo member Dinh La Thang is part of a corruption crackdown involving high-profile executives. Another executive from PetroVietnam, Trinh Xuan Thanh, was sentenced to life. His case came to international attention last year, when the German foreign ministry accused Vietnam of illegally kidnapping him from Berlin, where he was seeking asylum. The trial is seen by some as a showcase of the Communist Party’s fight against corruption. However, BBC correspondents say it is also seen as a purge of opponents of leading party officials.

What we’re reading

  • Donald Trump has always made much of his business experience as an asset for his presidency. But the clash between his former and current life raises some tricky questions. Here, AP analyzes the fortunes of the Trump empire since its leader’s inauguration one year ago. Just one example is the benefit to Trump hotels of foreign delegations staying there. Ethics lawyer Kathleen Clark of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis said: “My overall ethics grade for the Trump administration is an F.” – Angela Long
  • The shutdown of the U.S. government isn’t complicated. It’s about one thing, “Who Gets to be an American,” contends Benjamin Wallace-Wells of The New Yorker. Wallace-Wells looks at the impasse through a historical lens and how the future of young immigrants known as Dreamers is, at its heart, a question of identity: who counts as an American and under what terms. The recent debate may have given Republican and Democratic lawmakers a better sense of the dividing lines, but it hasn’t resolved the central dispute or suggested a compromise. – Jodie DeJonge
  • Shakil Afridi was the Pakistani doctor who used a vaccination scam in an attempt to identify Osama bin Laden’s home. The ruse aided U.S. Navy Seals who tracked and killed the al-Qaida leader. However, Afridi has languished in jail since 2011. This piece in the Associated Press outlines the saga as a “metaphor for U.S-Pakistan relations” – a growing tangle of mistrust and miscommunication that threatens to jeopardize key efforts against terrorism. – Charles Anderson

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