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Curated top stories
- U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that he expects the White House to impose new sanctions on Iran before a key deadline on Friday. The Iran nuclear deal, forged under the Obama administration, will be terminated if the U.S. applies new economic sanctions on the potential nuclear power.
- The Iran nuclear deal is a multi-lateral agreement, including the European Union which is working to preserve the diplomatic pact. EU leaders showed a united front to endorse the deal. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hosted a meeting between the foreign ministers of France, the UK, Germany, and Iran in Brussels. In a statement, Mogherini said that “the unity of the international community is essential to preserve a deal that is working.” The meeting was intended as a show of unity on the eve of Trump’s decision on whether to re-enforce oil sanctions that were lifted as a result of the pact. (Read more of our coverage of Iran here.)
- Iran’s nuclear deal was struck in 2015 under the Obama administration, along with world powers including China, Russia and the UK. In return for the lifting of economic sanctions, Tehran would limit its nuclear energy program. (Read more about how the Iran nuclear deal has developed under Trump).
- The U.S. House of Representatives extended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but with an amendment that protects those in the United States. FISA allows security services to collect intelligence on targets without a warrant, this includes people based in the U.S. and abroad. The version passed by the House, however, would force the FBI to obtain a warrant before they could access the communications in America.
- Trump said he would sign off on the new surveillance bill. On Thursday morning, he tweeted that he believes that the Obama administration spied on his campaign through powers granted by FISA. He provided no evidence for these claims.
- According to Reuters, which cites unnamed sources, some Democrats are trying to stop the vote, citing a tweet by Trump this morning in which he criticized the Act. He later tweeted in support of the version under consideration.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to stop cooperating with U.S. extradition requests if Washington does not hand over an exiled cleric who Turkey blames for orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016. Erdogan told a conference in Ankara that his government has handed 12 suspected terrorists over to the U.S. but received only excuses in response to demands for Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania.
- It is the latest in a series of rows between Ankara and Washington. On January 5, Erdogan said bilateral accords between the two countries are being undermined after a court found an executive from Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank guilty of conspiring to evade sanctions against Iran. In October, their respective embassies suspended reciprocal visa services after Turkey arrested a U.S. consulate employee over alleged links to Gülen.
- In other news on Turkey: Turkey Constitutional Court, the top judicial authority, ruled that two Turkish journalists must be released after spending over a year in prison on accusations of attempting to overthrow the government. Turkey has imprisoned 160 journalists since a failed coup attempt in 2016. Supporters of press freedom are hopeful that this ruling will lead to the release of other journalists detained under Erdogan’s government.
- A penal court has since ordered that the journalists remain in custody. The case will likely be reviewed later to decide whether they are eligible for release.
- Violent protests continued across Tunisia over government-imposed price hikes on fuel and other staple goods amid ongoing economic hardships. The Interior Ministry said more than 230 people accused of looting, thefts, and arson had been arrested. As the first country to see demonstrations which led to the Arab Spring, Tunisia is widely perceived as the only democratic success story from the 2011 wave of uprisings (Eurasia Group/Time). Discontent has grown since the government hiked prices at the beginning of the year in an effort to appease foreign lenders and manage its deficit.
- Myanmar’s military has admitted that its soldiers helped villagers kill 10 Rohingya Muslims found buried in a mass grave in Rakhine state, where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing. An army report said four members of its security forces were involved in the September 2 massacre in Inn Din village, describing it as a revenge attack against “Bengali terrorists,” a phrase used to identify Rohingya militants. “This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists,” military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing wrote on a Facebook page. “The army will take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement.” The admission of wrongdoing was the first of its kind in Myanmar regarding the violence in Rakhine (Washington Post), from which more than 650,000 Rohingyas fled last year into neighboring Bangladesh. (Read more WikiTribune coverage on this here.)
- Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters journalists investigating violence against Muslims in Rakhine state. The two, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were charged on January 10 with violating the Official Secrets Act for receiving documents from police who worked in Rakhine. If convicted, they face 14 years in prison. The case has been widely condemned by international human rights and media groups (New York Times).
What we’re reading
- “He can’t write properly, has no professional integrity, and is a sociophobic mud-slinger and myth-maker.” So begins a bellicose column from former media tycoon turned convicted fraudster Conrad Black on journalist Michael Wolff. In the piece for the National Review, Black argues that far from the bumbling fool Wolff makes Trump out to be in the book Fire and Fury, Trump is actually one of the most successful people in American history. Trump, Black argues, he has had the most successful first year of any president since Nixon “if not Eisenhower.” Soon the phenomenon of “Trumpophobia” will be over, says Black. – Charles Anderson
What the WikiTribune community’s up to
- “Me Too” is becoming “Pas Moi,” or “Not Me,” in France, after notable actor Catherine Deneuve and 99 other women published an open letter rejecting a feminism that expresses a “hatred of men.” The group warned of a new “puritanism” that it said overprotected women and denied them their sexual power. We encourage the WikiTribune community to build a definitive picture of this developing story.
- Trump’s personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, filed a defamation lawsuit against Fusion GPS, the research firm behind a controversial dossier prepared by a former British spy. The dossier suggested Russia had potentially compromising information on Trump and which alluded to possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow. Help contribute more information here.