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Posts tagged ‘Imperial Land of Impeda’

New king cheese crowned world champion in Wisconsin

March 09, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new king cheese has been crowned in Wisconsin. The winner of the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest is a hard sheep’s milk cheese called Esquirrou. The announcement was made Thursday night in Madison.

Esquirrou is made in France at Mauleon Fromagerie by Michel Touyarou and imported by Savencia Cheese USA of New Holland, Pennsylvania. Twenty cheeses out of a record 3,402 entries were finalists for the top prize. The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, which hosts the contest , said five of those cheeses were from Wisconsin.

The contest began Tuesday. Judges had to sniff, taste and inspect 121 classes of dairy products, with entries from 26 nations. Two years ago a smear-ripened hard cheese called Grand Cru Surchoix made by Fitchburg, Wisconsin-based Emmi Roth USA won the biennial contest. The cheese is made in Monroe, Wisconsin. The company is a subsidiary of Switzerland-based Emmi Group.


California Democrats reject anti-BDS legislation

March 1, 2018

California Democrats have rejected proposed legislation targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in a further sign of a growing partisan divide in the US over Israel.

The developments were welcomed in a 28 February press release by the Progressive, Arab American and Veterans Caucuses of the California Democratic Party.

On 25 February, at their annual convention in San Diego, California Democrats approved a set of positions on pending legislation that includes opposition to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, “a federal bill that would impose draconian penalties for boycotts regarding Israel under certain circumstances”.

California Democrats also backed a platform that excised a section from an earlier draft that would have had them “join the national Democratic Party in opposing any effort to delegitimise Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement”.

“We hope and believe that…the tide is starting to turn against this concerted effort to stigmatize and suppress a form of nonviolent protest against Israeli government policies that is taking hold around the country,” said Iyad Alfalqa, chair of the Arab American Caucus.

The party also approved a recommendation from the Legislation Committee to support the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., “that would prevent the use of US tax dollars for the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children”.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


US plans May opening for embassy in Jerusalem

February 24, 2018

The US plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May, the State Department said on Friday. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” said State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “The embassy will be gradually expanded in existing consular facilities in the Arnona neighborhood, while the search for a permanent site has already begun for a longer-term undertaking.”

Nauert added that the interim embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff. An annex on the Arnona compound will be opened by the end of next year.

Trump administration officials said that Congress has been notified of the impending move. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.

According to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, though, the US move shows a “determination to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe.”

Izzat Al-Reshiq of the Hamas Political Bureau said that this move “needs an urgent and strong Palestinian, Arab and Islamic response.” He called upon the PLO and Arab and Islamic states which recognize Israel “to withdraw their recognition immediately.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Syria’s Kurds push US to stop Turkish assault on key enclave

February 01, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s Kurdish militia is growing frustrated with its patron, the United States, and is pressing it to do more to stop Turkey’s assault on a key stronghold in Syria. The issue reflects a deeper concern among the Kurds over their alliance with the Americans, which proved vital to defeating the Islamic State group in Syria. The Kurds fear that ultimately they and their dream of self-rule will be the losers in the big powers’ play over influence in Syria. Already the U.S. is in a tough spot, juggling between the interests of the Kurds, its only ally in war-torn Syria, and its relations with Turkey, a key NATO ally.

The Kurdish militia views defending the Kurdish enclave of Afrin as an existential fight to preserve their territory. Afrin has major significance — it’s one of the first Kurdish areas to rise up against President Bashar Assad and back self-rule, a base for senior fighters who pioneered the alliance with the Americans and a key link in their efforts to form a contiguous entity along Turkey’s border. The offensive, which began Jan. 20, has so far killed more than 60 civilians and dozens of fighters on both sides, and displaced thousands.

“How can they stand by and watch?” Aldar Khalil, a senior Kurdish politician said of the U.S.-led coalition against IS. “They should meet their obligations toward this force that participated with them (in the fight against terrorism.) We consider their unclear and indecisive positions as a source of concern.”

Khalil, one of the architects of the Kurds’ self-administration, and three other senior Kurdish officials told The Associated Press that they have conveyed their frustration over what they consider a lack of decisive action to stop the Afrin assault to U.S. and other Western officials. They said U.S. officials have made confusing statements in public. One of the officials who agreed to discuss private meetings on condition of anonymity said some U.S. comments even amounted to tacit support for the assault.

The fight for Afrin puts Washington in a bind with few good options. The Americans have little leverage and no troops in Afrin, which is located in a pocket of Kurdish control at the western edge of Syria’s border with Turkey and is cut off from the rest of Kurdish-held territory by a Turkish-held enclave. The area is also crowded with other players. Russian troops were based there to prevent friction with Turkey until they withdrew ahead of the offensive, and the area — home to more than 300,000 civilians — is surrounded by territory held by Syrian government forces or al-Qaida-linked militants.

The Americans’ priority for the YPG — the main Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of forces allied to the U.S. — is for them to govern the large swath of territory wrested from the Islamic State group in northern and eastern Syria, including the city of Raqqa. Washington wants to prevent IS from resurging and keep Damascus’ ally, Iran, out of the area.

Afrin is not central to those American goals and U.S. officials say it will distract from the war on IS. The U.S-led coalition has distanced itself from the Kurdish forces in Afrin, saying they have not received American training and were not part of the war against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria. But it also implicitly criticized the Turkish assault as unhelpful.

“Increased violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria. Furthermore, it distracts from efforts to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh and could be exploited by Daesh for resupply and safe haven,” the coalition said in an emailed statement to the AP, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

For its part, Turkey views the YPG as an extension of its own Kurdish insurgent groups and has vowed to “purge” them from its borders. While the U.S. may distance itself from the fighting in Afrin, it can’t sit by silently if Turkey goes ahead with its threat to expand the fight to Manbij, a Syrian town to the east where American troops are deployed alongside Kurdish forces that took the town from IS in 2016.

One option is a proposal by the Kurds to persuade Assad to deploy his troops as a buffer between the Kurds and Turks in Afrin. Nobohar Mustafa, a Kurdish envoy to Washington, said the Americans appear open to that proposal. However, so far Assad’s government has refused; they want full control of the area.

Another option could be to seek a compromise with Turkey by withdrawing U.S. and Kurdish forces from Manbij, said Elizabeth Teoman, a Turkey specialist with the Institute for the Study of War. “The Turks may accept that as an intermediate step, but the U.S. will consistently face threats of escalation from Turkey as long as we maintain our partnership with the Syrian Kurdish YPG,” Teoman said.

U.S. officials have reportedly said recently that they have no intention of pulling out of Manbij. Kurdish officials say they don’t expect the Americans to go to war with Turkey or send troops to fight with them in Afrin.

But “this doesn’t mean the U.S. doesn’t have a role in stopping the war on Afrin,” said Mustafa, the Kurdish envoy to Washington. She said Kurdish officials weren’t surprised the Americans have distanced themselves from the Afrin dispute “but we didn’t expect their stance to be that low.”

She and Khalil have lobbied Washington and Europe for a more aggressive stance against Turkey’s advances. Other than the proposal to allow Syrian border guards to deploy, they have suggested international observers along a narrow buffer zone. Mustafa said the U.S. could argue that the YPG presence in northwestern Syria, where al-Qaida-linked militants have their stronghold, is necessary to fight terrorism. Khalil said he has pressed other NATO members to urge Turkey to stop airstrikes.

Meanwhile, a heated media campaign has been launched to “Save Afrin,” while Kurdish supporters in Europe have staged regular protests and a senior YPG official wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. In Washington, U.S. officials rejected the notion that the United States hasn’t tried hard enough to rein in Turkey. In addition to publicly urging Turkey to limit its operation and avoid expanding further east, they noted that President Donald Trump spoke about it directly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The White House said that Trump used that call to urge Turkey to “deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees.”

They say that since Turkey has proceeded, the U.S. has been left with only bad options. Although the U.S. doesn’t want to see Assad’s government return to the area between Afrin and Turkey, it may be the “least worst situation,” said a U.S. official involved in Syria policy.

The United States has less ability to influence negotiations about how to secure the border than Russia, whose forces have long had a strong presence in the area, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private diplomatic discussions.

The Trump administration has also quietly acknowledged that ultimately, the Kurds may be disappointed if they are expecting loyalty even on matters where U.S. and Kurdish interests diverge. Turkey, after all, is a NATO ally. Asked recently if Washington had a moral obligation to stick with the Kurds, senior Trump administration officials said Trump’s “America first” doctrine dictated that the U.S. must always prioritize its own interests.

From the Kurdish perspective, “the Americans are missing the whole point. If Erdogan is not stopped at Afrin, he will turn eastward and will not stop until he has destroyed the entire edifice” built by the Kurds in eastern Syria, said Nicholas Heras, of the Center for a New American Security.

“The challenge for the YPG is that it has power only so long as it continues to act as the key, local proxy for the U.S. mission in Syria,” Heras said.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

US Soccer reboots, elects Carlos Cordeiro president

February 11, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Carlos Cordeiro insists he’s the right choice to lead the U.S. Soccer Federation, which must chart a new course after its men’s national team failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

The 61-year-old business executive won the governing body’s presidential election Saturday. He succeeds Sunil Gulati, who led the organization since 2006. Cordeiro was Gulati’s right-hand man the past two years. Now, he’s charged, among other things, with running the U.S. end of a bid with Mexico and Canada for the right to host the 2026 World Cup.

Other priorities include the hiring of a general manager for the men’s team, a position Cordeiro said must be filled before launching a coaching search. He reiterated the ultimate goal is to help soccer realize its vast potential in the United States.

“I think we have an opportunity to really transform it into a No. 1 sport. I think the demographics favor that,” Cordeiro said. “There’s a reason why the millennials identify with soccer, so I think that’s very much in our favor. We have to do a number of things ourselves to make it happen, and make it happen more rapidly.”

Cordeiro, a former Goldman Sachs partner, was elected on the third ballot with 68.6 percent of the vote. The field initially featured eight candidates. Cordeiro pulled away from Kathy Carter, who is on leave as president of Major League Soccer’s marketing arm.

Carter had the backing of MLS Commissioner Don Garber and narrowly trailed Cordeiro on the first ballot. MLS, as well as the National Women’s Soccer League and United Soccer League, shifted their support to Cordeiro after the second ballot.

The other candidates were: former men’s national team players Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda, lawyers Steve Gans and Michael Winograd and former U.S. women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo. All the challengers to Cordeiro and Carter — both with close ties to Gulati — campaigned for change within the organization. All eight were given five minutes to address delegates before voting began.

“The two establishment candidates, Carlos Cordeiro and Kathy Carter, haven’t just been part of the system, they have created and shaped into what it is today,'” Solo said. “A vote for either one of them is a vote for the status quo.”

Cordeiro, however, said he was the only candidate with the experience and plan to “hit the ground running on day one and deliver the change we need.” “We have made progress, but we need to make more. Today, the status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “U.S. Soccer needs to change, transformational change. This vote comes down to one simple question: Who can actually deliver that change?”

Cordeiro immediately takes over for Gulati, who decided against seeking a fourth four-year term after the U.S. was unable to make the 32-team World Cup field in Russia. Gulati will retain a role as a member of the USSF board and the FIFA executive council, and as chairman of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

Carter’s support among delegates attending USSF’s annual general meeting slipped each round — from 34.6 percent to 33.3 on the second ballot, to 10.6 on the third, when the field had shrunk to five. Cordeiro’s percentage increased each round of the body’s first contested election in nearly two decades, rising from 36.3 to 41.8 on the second ballot.

To win election, Cordeiro needed a majority of the weighted vote. Under U.S. law, 20 percent of the vote is from the athletes’ council while the professional, adult and youth councils have 25.8 percent each.

The remaining 2.6 percent represents other constituents, such as board members, life members and fan representatives. Caligiuri withdrew after receiving less than 1 percent on the first ballot. Winograd and Gans bowed out after the second ballot, leaving Wynalda (10.8), Martino (10.2) and Solo (1.5) in the race with Cordeiro and Carter. Martino drew 10.6 percent on the final ballot, while Wynalda and Solo received 8.9 and 1.4, respectively.

“I said winning this election is going to be about building a coalition,” Cordeiro said. “It’s not about any one council. It was the youth, the adult, the athletes and the professionals. No one council has enough votes to get you across the line. You need really a coalition of support. I think my numbers speak to that.”

US issues ‘Putin list’ of Russian politicians, oligarchs

January 30, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration late Monday released a long-awaited list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 “oligarchs” who have flourished during the reign of President Vladimir Putin, fulfilling a demand by Congress that the U.S. punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.

Yet the administration paired that move with a surprising announcement that it had decided not to punish anybody — for now — under new sanctions retaliating for the election-meddling. Some U.S. lawmakers accused President Donald Trump of giving Russia a free pass, fueling further questions about whether the president is unwilling to confront America’s Cold War foe.

Known informally as the “Putin list,” the seven-page unclassified document is a who’s who of politically connected Russians in the country’s elite class. The idea, as envisioned by Congress, is to name-and-shame those believed to be benefiting from Putin’s tenure just as the United States works to isolate his government diplomatically and economically.

Being on the list doesn’t trigger any U.S. sanctions on the individuals, although more than a dozen are already targeted under earlier sanctions. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is among the 114 senior political figures in Russia’s government who made the list, along with 42 of Putin’s aides, Cabinet ministers such as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and top officials in Russia’s leading spy agencies, the FSB and GRU. The CEOs of major state-owned companies, including energy giant Rosneft and Sberbank, are also on the list.

So are 96 wealthy Russians deemed “oligarchs” by the Treasury Department, which said each is believed to have assets totaling $1 billion or more. Some are the most famous of wealthy Russians, among them tycoons Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Prokhorov, who challenged Putin in the 2012 election. Aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a figure in the Russia investigation over his ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is included.

The Trump administration had until Monday to issue the list under a law passed last year. After declining to answer questions about it throughout the day Monday, the Treasury Department released it with little fanfare 12 minutes before midnight.

Even more names, including those of less-senior politicians or businesspeople worth less than $1 billion, are on a classified version of the list being provided to Congress, officials said. Drawing on U.S. intelligence, Treasury also finalized a list of at least partially state-owned companies in Russia, but that list, too, was classified and sent only to Congress.

There was no immediate comment early Tuesday from the Kremlin or the Russian Embassy in Washington. In the works for months, the list has induced fear among rich Russians who are concerned that it could lead to U.S. sanctions or to being informally blacklisted in the global financial system. It triggered a fierce lobbying campaign, with Russia hawks in Congress pushing the administration to include certain names and lobbyists hired by Russian businessmen urging the administration to keep their clients off.

The list’s release was likely to at least partially diffuse the disappointment from some lawmakers that Trump’s administration opted against targeting anyone with new Russia sanctions that took effect Monday.

Under the same law that authorized the “Putin list,” the government was required to slap sanctions on anyone doing “significant” business with people linked to Russia’s defense and intelligence agencies, using a blacklist the U.S. released in October. But the administration decided it didn’t need to penalize anyone, even though several countries have had multibillion-dollar arms deals with Russia in the works.

State Department officials said the threat of sanctions had been deterrent enough, and that “sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed.” “We estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. She did not provide evidence or cite any examples.

Companies or foreign governments that had been doing business with blacklisted Russian entities had been given a three-month grace period to extricate themselves from transactions, starting in October when the blacklist was published and ending Monday. But only those engaged in “significant transactions” are to be punished, and the United States has never defined that term or given a dollar figure. That ambiguity has made it impossible for the public to know exactly what is and isn’t permissible.

Late last year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said one reason the U.S. was proceeding cautiously was that major U.S. allies have much at stake. Turkey, a NATO ally, has a deal to buy the S-400, Russia’s most advanced air defense missile system. And key security partner Saudi Arabia recently struck an array of deals with Moscow, including contracts for weapons. It was unclear whether either country had since abandoned those deals to avoid running afoul of the U.S. sanctions.

New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lambasted the move to punish no one, saying he was “fed up” and that Trump’s administration had chosen to “let Russia off the hook yet again.” He dismissed the State Department’s claim that “the mere threat of sanctions” would stop Moscow from further meddling in America’s elections.

“How do you deter an attack that happened two years ago, and another that’s already underway?” Engel said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Thorny global issues abound a year into Trump presidency

January 19, 2018

With a sharp departure from years and sometimes decades of U.S. foreign policy, President Donald Trump has made a seismic global impact during his first year in office. It has been delivered with his own brand of bombast and occasional threats.

Contentious issues have always existed, especially in conflict-ridden or volatile countries, but has he improved or worsened matters? Twelve months into his presidency, Associated Press correspondents take stock:


Trump repeatedly declared in his campaign that he would improve relations with Russia but was never specific. A year into his presidency, it’s no clearer. Moscow and Washington are at odds over issues ranging from North Korea to Ukraine, despite Trump’s open admiration of President Vladimir Putin.

Russian officials had high hopes that Trump would move to abandon or reduce the sanctions that the United States imposed over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Instead, Trump approved selling lethal weapons to Ukraine for the fight against the rebels, he appointed a Russia hawk as Washington’s envoy for Ukraine’s peace process, and his U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, declared that the Crimea sanctions wouldn’t be lifted unless the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.

Trump even signed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia — unwillingly, but effectively forced to by the measure’s near-unanimous Senate approval. Publicly, the Kremlin contends Trump is hogtied by suspicions of Russia held over from the Barack Obama era and by hysteria over allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election and that Trump and Russia had colluded.

Trump himself has criticized Russia, saying Moscow “seeks to challenge American values, influence and wealth,” and complaining he is not satisfied with Russia’s role in easing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Russia contends the U.S. wants to undermine the deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program and that Washington clandestinely supports Islamic fighters in Syria. Although Trump has a taste for defying conventional political wisdom, his potential moves toward Russia appear constricted until the investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia concludes and leaves him untarnished. While the probe continues, the Kremlin is edging from quiet disappointment into needling suggestions of U.S. weakness.

“Will they show good will? Will they gather courage, exercise common sense?” Putin said.


Asia was one of Trump’s punching bags during his election campaign. Chinese and Japanese exports were destroying U.S. jobs. South Korea and Japan weren’t paying enough for U.S. troops defending their countries.

Then came Kim Jong Un. Two weeks before Trump took office, the leader of North Korea declared in a New Year’s address that preparations for an intercontinental ballistic missile were in “the final stage.” Trump tweeted in response: “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”

Both sides traded threats and insults, and North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test and three ICBM launches that demonstrated at least a theoretical ability to reach the U.S. Seeking China’s help on isolating North Korea through economic sanctions, Trump backed off a threat to label China a currency manipulator. He was off-and-on conciliatory on trade during an extended visit to Asia in November, and China said it would lift restrictions on foreign investment in its banks and other financial institutions.

As his second year in office dawns, however, Trump appears to be moving steadily toward raising tariffs or restricting imports to try to force China to take steps to narrow its trade surplus with the United States.

Kim began the year with his own conciliatory note: sending a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. But he also said in a Jan. 1 speech that North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have achieved a powerful deterrent that “nothing can reverse.”


Trump can claim credit for the virtual defeat of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria on his watch. He largely continued Obama’s anti-IS strategy and intensified it. U.S. troop levels were increased in both countries, coalition commanders got more authority to call airstrikes and operations focused on killing more militants rather than allowing their escape, according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The biggest victory was retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul, launched under Obama. Iraqi forces later retook nearly all the territory held by IS and the government declared victory over the group in December.

In Syria, Kurdish forces with stepped-up backing from U.S. forces retook the de facto IS capital of Raqqa. Since then, they and Syrian forces have been pushing IS out of most of its remaining territory.

In dealing with Syria’s civil war, Trump made it clear his fight was not against President Bashar Assad, who has presided over killings on a massive scale in order to retain power. Trump has largely continued Obama’s mostly hands-off policy, effectively allowing Russia to take the reins militarily and politically, along with Iran, both Assad allies.

Trump halted a covert CIA program to arm and train moderate rebels fighting Assad. The U.S. has not played any role in the political effort to end the war and is conspicuously absent from U.N.-led talks. Russia has taken the lead, brokering agreements with Turkey and Iran and spearheading a separate political track that has led to four de-escalation zones meant in theory to reduce violence.

In April, the U.S. struck a Syrian air base after a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians that the U.S. blamed on Assad. It marked the first deliberate U.S. military action against Assad’s forces, but it was not followed up by any other action and was largely seen as muscle flexing rather than part of a coherent policy.

The Trump administration has not spelled out post-IS policies for Iraq and Syria. It said it won’t finance a program to rebuild the destruction from the Iraq war. It also hasn’t made clear how it sees the future of those parts of eastern and northern Syria held by the Kurds.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced U.S. plans to form a 30,000-member Kurdish-led border security force in Syria, vowing to “drown this terror force before it is born.”


Trump promised to pursue “the ultimate deal” — an agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A year later, he has made little headway and his hoped-for peace push appears to be in tatters. In December, he upended decades of policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move, seen as siding with Israel, set off weeks of unrest and prompted the Palestinians to declare Trump unfit to mediate peace.

Trump earlier distanced himself from the two-state solution favored by the global community, saying he would support it only if both sides agreed, effectively giving Israel veto power. The U.S. has said little about Israeli settlement construction, stayed silent over a Likud Party vote in favor of annexing parts of the West Bank and blamed the Palestinians for the impasse in peace efforts.

This week, the Trump administration cut $65 million in money for Palestinian refugees, saying the U.N. agency responsible for the programs must undertake a “fundamental re-examination.” While Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu is one of Trump’s biggest supporters, the Palestinians have virtually cut off ties and are trying to rally opposition to U.S. efforts.

Palestinian frustrations boiled over in a belligerent speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that ridiculed Trump and some of his closest advisers. Abbas pre-emptively rejected any peace plan Trump offers.

The U.S. peace team, led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, has yet to offer a proposal.


Trump and his tough talk on Iran were exactly what Saudi Arabia wanted to hear. Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman’s assertive young son, traveled to the U.S. to meet with Trump’s administration and became close to Kushner. Mohammed bin Salman was later elevated to crown prince, putting him next in line to the throne.

Trump’s first foreign trip as president was to Riyadh for a summit of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders. Saudi Arabia later joined three other Arab nations in boycotting Qatar, home to a U.S. military base. While American officials have tried to defuse the crisis, Trump offered comments seeming to back the boycotters.

Iran’s leaders have mocked and criticized Trump, whose refusal to re-certify the Iran nuclear deal has put the accord in question. Some analysts have suggested Trump’s refusals could doom the deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions allowing it to sell oil again on the world market.

Average Iranians also are angry at Trump for slights such as his travel bans. Yet he voiced support for protests in Iran at the end of the year, unlike Obama’s caution toward demonstrations in 2009 over its disputed presidential election.


Latin America also found Trump’s first year a time of uncertainty. Trump had made clear in his campaign that relations with Mexico — the neighbor he characterized as a source of drugs and rapists and a thief of jobs — would change. Trump has continued in that vein, saying as recently as this month that Mexico would pay for the border wall — just a day after asking Congress for $18 billion to build it.

His hardball renegotiation of the North American Trade Agreement has kept the Mexican peso dancing for months as he and his team regularly threaten to walk away if Mexico and Canada don’t submit to significant changes. He ended the Obama-era program that allowed young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally to stay and work — a decision recently suspended by a federal judge. His aggressive pursuit of immigrants had several Latin American countries preparing for a flood of deportees that has yet to arrive.

The ride has not been smoother in Central America or the Caribbean. Trump ended the temporary protective status of residents who fled natural disasters in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti. A decision on Honduras, a key U.S. ally in the drug war, was delayed. Shortly after Honduras voted against a U.N. resolution condemning Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Trump administration congratulated Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his disputed re-election victory.

But Haiti received the region’s final broadside in Trump’s first year. Last week, Trump labeled the island battered by earthquakes and hurricanes a “shithole,” along with unspecified African nations during an immigration meeting with lawmakers. He later said he didn’t say anything derogatory about the Caribbean country.


Trump’s approach to Africa has been one largely of neglect — and that insult. Concerns emerged about the administration’s proposed cuts to foreign aid and the shift from humanitarian assistance in Africa to one of counterterror operations. The approach was seen in Somalia, where the first U.S. ambassador to the chaotic Horn of Africa nation in 25 years raised eyebrows by handing its new president a hat emblazoned with the words “Make Somalia Great Again.”

An increase in U.S. drone strikes followed as Trump expanded military operations against the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab. Some humanitarian workers were appalled, with the country on the brink of a famine.

But it was the deaths of U.S. military service members in Africa that turned Americans’ attention to the continent. For the first time since 1993, a U.S. military member died in combat in Somalia. And in October, the killing of four U.S. soldiers in the West African nation of Niger raised questions about why the U.S. military was there at all.

As key ambassador posts in South Africa, Egypt, Congo and elsewhere stayed vacant, Trump’s rare mentions of Africa signaled a lack of interest or outright ignorance. He referred to a country called “Nambia,” which doesn’t exist. He reportedly mocked Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies, by saying its people wouldn’t return to their “huts” once they saw the U.S.

And there was anger and astonishment over Trump’s vulgar reference to African countries. As calls for apologies or boycotts followed, the relatively placid southern African nation of Botswana summoned the U.S. ambassador to clarify whether it, too, was held in such regard.

Many Africans expressed concern that Trump might drag America’s reputation down with him.

Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu in Tokyo, Joe McDonald in Beijing, Zeina Karam in Beirut, Susannah George in Baghdad, Joe Federman in Jerusalem, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Christopher Sherman in Mexico City, Jim Heintz in Moscow, and Cara Anna in Johannesburg.

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