Saudi Arabia reopens borders with Yemen, EU sanctions Venezuela

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Curated top stories

  • Voting has begun in Somaliland in its first presidential election since 2010, in a bid to strengthen the case for independence from Somalia. The northern territory broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has been striving to gain international recognition for independence ever since. Social media has been blocked in order to limit hate speech and “fake news”.
  • The European Union approved sanctions on Venezuela, including banning arm sales and travel restriction on some Venezuelan officials in an effort to pressurise President Nicolas Maduro, whose country is under political and economic crisis. Earlier this year, the United States also imposed sanctions.
  • Saudi Arabia said it will reopen airports and seaports in Yemen, days after closing them over a ballistic missile attack in Riyadh. The reversal came after intense international criticisms from the UN and aid groups saying that millions of people are closer to “starvation and death.”
  • Former top U.S. intelligence officials say Russian President Vladi­mir Putin is manipulating U.S President Donald Trump with flattery.  During his multi-day trip of Asia, Trump said he believed Putin when he said there had been no Russian interference in the 2016 general election, despite U.S intelligence agencies all confirming that there had been. Former CIA director John Brennan told CNN that Trump was “giving Putin a pass” in accepting the Russian leader’s word. “I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.” In response, Trump referred to Brennan and former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper as “political hacks.”
  • A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the border region between Iran and Iraq, killing at least 61 people and injuring 300 in Iran. Four more people were reported dead in Iraq. The U.S. Geological Survey said the Sunday’s earthquake was centered close to the Iraqi city of Halabja. Iran sits on major fault lines. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake near the city of Bam, killed more than 20,000 people.

  • Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri says he will return home to formally submit his resignation despite his cabinet allies saying he is being held captive in Saudi Arabia. Hariri spoke to Future TV from Riyadh, his first public remarks since he announced he was stepping down last week. The Washington Post says the interview was full of “odd moments.”  Hariri has blamed the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement for his resignation. Hariri, a Sunni leader and businessman, was nominated to form Lebanon’s government in November 2016. This summary by WikiTribune launch editor Peter Bale helps makes sense of what is going on in the region.

What we’re reading

  • South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has been accused of allowing members of the Indian-born Gupta family to wield undue influence. The country is the continent’s most important economy but as this Bloomberg Businessweek piece shows, it increasingly appears to function for the benefit of one powerful family. — Charles Anderson
  • The NSA, and to a lesser extent, the CIA, has been profoundly affected by a series of hacks that have exposed many of their top-secret cyber weapons. The full extent of the damage isn’t known – leaks are still being drop-fed to the public and the hackers still taunt both agencies. Many of these weapons, experts fear, have been turned against Western institutions and businesses. The very purpose of the NSA – to collect intelligence undetected – has been rocked. — George Engels

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