Iran threatens Saudi Arabia after Iran parade attack

MIDDLE EAST

Tehran has blamed Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US for acting from the shadows in the terror attack on a military parade in Ahvaz. Will Iran retaliate with military action as threatened— or is it just posturing?

    
Military and civilians prepare coffins of the victims of the Ahvaz attack (picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Noroozi)

Iran’s relations with its Gulf neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with the United States, are tense after a terrorist attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on Sunday left at least 25 people dead.  Both the “Islamic State” (IS) and Arab separatists groups in Iran have claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Iranian government pointed fingers at its regional rivals, the Saudis and the UAE, as well as at the US for backing the attackers. “Based on reports, this cowardly act was done by the people who are rescued by the Americans when they are in trouble in Syria and Iraq, and are paid by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Monday on his official website. The same day the deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned the US and Israel, a close American ally and Iran’s perpetual enemy, on Monday that they should expect a “devastating response” from the Islamic Republic.

So far Saudis have responded to Iran’s announcement with silence while the UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, tweeted “formal incitement against the UAE from within Iran is unfortunate, and has escalated after the Ahvaz attack.” “Tehran’s allegations are baseless,” he added. The US responded by saying that Iran “should look in the mirror.” 

military members carry a bleeding individual (ISNA/S.H. Najaf)Members of Iran’s military were among those injured in the terror attack in Ahvaz

Terrorist attack on a national holiday

Holly Dagres, an Iran expert and nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, told DW that the terrorist attack on the military parade was a “big deal” for the Iranians, as the celebration marked the start of the bloody Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 through 1988.

“This was essentially Iran’s Memorial Day, with parades happening all around the country,” she said. “In Ahvaz, the parade wasn’t just attended by members of the army and the Iranian Revolutonary Guard, but also by veterans of the war, as well as families with young children.”

Dagres said that Iran’s threats made against its Gulf neighbors and the US seem to be a case of saber rattling. “Tehran isn’t in a position to make good on its threats in lieu of the pressure resulting from the United States reimposing sanctions,” she said, adding that the goal is to show that “the Iranian government is in a position of strength after the Ahvaz terrorist attacks.”

Iran says Saudi Arabia, UAE support Arab separatists

In Iran, there is a growing consensus that Arab separatist groups were likely behind the attack. Iranian Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi told the state news agency IRNA Monday that the “the terrorists have undergone training in two countries in the Persian Gulf” and that they were not from IS.

Arab separatists in Iran allege that Iran’s ethnic Persian majority discriminates against them. They are seeking independence for Khuzestan, a province bordering Iraq where Ahvaz is also located. The Iranian Foreign Ministry also believes that the UAE and its Gulf neighbors are harboring members of these movements.

Karte Iran Tehran Ahvaz Khuzestan ENArab separatists are currently pushing for the province of Khuzestan to split from Iran

Although there is no concrete evidence that Arab separatist groups in Iran receive support from Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations such as the UAE, Dagres said that it could be possible. “Separatist movements, whether they be in Ahvaz or Sistan [region in eastern Iran and souther Afghanistan] and Balochistan [Pakistan], would gain a lot from the backing of a state such as Saudi Arabia,” she noted. “State backing could provide them not just with funding and moral support, but legitimacy.”

Military conflict not on the horizon, experts say  

Saudi Arabia and Iran maintain a fraught relationship; The two countries  cut ties in January 2016. In the past, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made threats towards Iran, warning of consequences should the Islamic Republic take military action or endanger the kingdom’s national security. In a 2017 interview the Saudi prince went further, saying, “We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

Although experts say the attack in Ahvaz will ratchet up tension between the two nations, they view a consequent military conflict as unlikely.  “I don’t think that this will lead to a direct military conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” Jens Heibach, a Saudi Arabia expert and research fellow at the GIGA Institute of Middle East Studies in Hamburg, told DW.  “Saudi Arabia is already engaged in a costly military conflict, such as the war in Yemen. Plus the Saudi army would not be in a position to conventionally challenge Iran’s military.”

Dagres also agreed with the notion that escalation between Tehran and Riyadh was unlikely, also pointing out that “any direct conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two regional powers, would draw in the world powers like the United States.”

Read more: Saudi Arabia vs. Iran: From ‘twin pillars’ to proxy wars   

Iran could respond by “heating up” proxy wars in the region, Dagres said. It could use proxy groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or Syria to direct more attacks towards Israel, a close American ally. Iran could also provide more military support to the Houthis in Yemen, who have in the past shot rockets at Saudi Arabia. “Iran would most likely not directly retaliate against Saudi Arabia but rather depend on its [Iran’s] proxies in the region to send a message,” she said.

US seeking to isolate Iran

Any such retaliatory action by Iran would draw the ire of the United States, which under the Trump administration is pushing to isolate Iran in international community and to lessen Iranian influence in the region. “The tension is likely to escalate,” Emad Abdul Hadi, a political analyst in Washington, DC, told DW. “The United States will not accept less than Iran’s withdrawal from Arab countries in the region, such as Syria and Iraq.”

Diplomatic animosity between the US and Iran will be on display this week as President Trump attempts to convince the United Nations that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism in the region and justify America’s decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

What China could do to counter US tariffs

BUSINESS

Amid intensifying trade friction between Washington and Beijing, a new round of US tariffs took effect on Monday, raising the stakes for both sides. China seems to have several tools up its sleeve to counter US tariffs.

    
Symbolbild Handelskrieg USA und China mit Dollar- und Yuan-Geldschein (picture-alliance/chromorange/C. Ohde)

Escalating trade tensions between the world’s two most powerful economies have cast a dark shadow over the global economic climate. On Monday, the United States and China imposed fresh tariffs on each other’s goods, with the US levying import taxes on $200 billion (€169.64 billion) worth of Chinese goods and Beijing retaliating with tariffs on $60 billion worth of US products.

Donald Trump has already hinted at the possibility of slapping tariffs on all US imports from China.

Read more: WTO: Weary Trade Organization?

Trump’s latest tariffs come in addition to those he has imposed on over $100 billion of imports already, including on steel, aluminum, solar panels, washing machines, and the initial volley of $50 billion on products from China.

China has asserted that it won’t back down and will retaliate against Trump’s tariffs by matching them dollar for dollar with its own. But Chinese exports to the US are nearly four times the amount of US exports to China.

In 2017, goods and services traded between the two giants totaled an estimated $710.4 billion, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. While exports from the US to China were worth about $187.5 billion, imports to the US from China were as high as $522.9 billion and resulted in a massive trade deficit amounting to some $335.4 billion.

Watch video02:05

No sign of resolution in US-China trade war

Given the deficit, the Trump administration’s thinking seems to be that Beijing might not be able to engage in a tit-for-tat escalation on tariffs as it would eventually “run out” of products to target with tariffs long before the United States does.

But some observers believe that China has other options to impose pain on the US.

Regulatory harassment

Experts like Nicholas Lardy of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, for instance, point out that Beijing could target American businesses operating in China and harass them with regulatory hurdles. This might take the form of delays issuing clearances for US products at Chinese ports, lengthy customs and safety inspections as well as visa rejections.

Read more: Opinion: Let’s just call it by its name — a winnable trade war

The Chinese government could also promote consumer boycotts of US goods as has happened with Japanese and South Korean products in previous geopolitical disputes.

Such a move could prove devastating to some American firms that have large exposure to the Chinese market. “Apple’s $40 billion market in China for iPhones, the largest in the world, could quickly collapse,” Lardy wrote in a research note in June. “Similarly, General Motors sells more cars in China than in the United States, sales that could easily be disrupted by the Chinese government.”

Another way China could hurt US interests is by withholding regulatory approvals that are critical for ensuring the commercial future of American firms.

US tech multinational Qualcomm offers a case in point. The company was recently forced to call off its $44 billion effort to buy NXP Semiconductors, a Dutch chip maker, after Chinese regulators withheld approval of the transaction.

Renminbi and US bonds

Beijing could also allow the renminbi, the Chinese currency, to depreciate further against the US dollar, making Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and partly offsetting the tariffs.

Read more: US growth revised up on investment and export spurt

The renminbi’s value against the US dollar has already declined by 8.5 percent since April, estimates Capital Economics. This depreciation “gives exporters leeway to lower dollar export prices to offset the tariffs’ impact (the new batch of tariffs will only be 10 percent initially),” Mark Williams, Chief China Economist at the London-based research consultancy, wrote in a report. “It should also help make exports more competitive globally.”

Watch video03:32

Trump’s trade war is a dangerous game

But currency depreciation is a double-edged sword. Experts say a weaker renminbi could make China’s imports more expensive, raise inflationary pressures and result in capital flight out of the country. Furthermore, any deliberate move to depreciate the renminbi is likely to draw an angry response from the Trump administration.

Analysts say China could also sell US assets, particularly Treasury bonds, in a bid to pressure Washington. Beijing holds over $1 trillion of US government bonds, but has been cutting back on its holdings over the past several years. China has slashed its Treasury holdings by 10.2 percent since late 2013.

But if China continues to reduce its holdings and abruptly sells US debt, it would not only hurt Washington but also Beijing as it would lead to a loss in value of an asset that China holds a lot of. If the US bonds sold by China are bought by other countries and private investors, then the impact of such a move by Beijing would be limited on Washington.

“Beijing wields considerable power as the United States’ biggest creditor and could decide to shed some of its US government bonds. Yet that’s an unlikely course of action given the risks to the Chinese currency and the entire financial system,” according to Max J. Zenglein, senior economist at the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS).

Watch video02:58

Europeans to profit from US-China tariff conflict?

Economic restructuring

Some argue that China’s best option for responding to a trade war is by focusing on reforming and reconfiguring its domestic economy.

“While the Chinese government may try to respond to American tariffs by depreciating its currency or using regulations to discriminate against US companies, those measures have little guarantee of success,” Michael Pettis, finance professor at Peking University and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, wrote in Barron’s. “The better approach would be to focus on raising the incomes of ordinary Chinese so they can spend more.”

MERICS expert Zenglein thinks that the new tariffs put extra pressure on the Chinese economy. “The Chinese government is currently trying to tackle problems such as rising debt, industrial overcapacities and environmental degradation. Thus the new tariffs come at a time when the government can ill afford economic growth to slow too quickly.”

COURTESY: DW

Sex abuse scandal in German Catholic Church sparks celibacy debate

GERMANY

German bishops have begun meeting in Fulda to discuss a study on widespread sex abuse by Catholic priests. Some are calling for celibacy to be overhauled, while others want the church to focus on victim compensation.

    
A priest holds his hands together in prayer (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel)

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx opened a widely-anticipated meeting of the Bishops’ Conference on Monday by saying that the issue of sexual abuse had reached an “important turning point for the Catholic Church” both in Germany and beyond.

“I feel we have reached a turning point about the issues such as prevention and the treatment of victims, but also about how the Church will deal with its own future,” Marx said in the German town of Fulda.

The bishops are due to discuss a large-scale study on sex abuse on Tuesday. The “Study on the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy,” commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2014, were published on September 11 in the German newspaper Die Zeit and the magazine Der Spiegel. The study has already prompted severe reactions in Germany.

On Monday, Cardinal Marx told the bishops: “We must do more: listen, understand and take appropriate measures.”

‘Shameful’

Many bishops have expressed their shock and described the numbers as “shameful.” Commenting on the revelations, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck wrote of a “great failure” by the church: “Above all, this includes the alarming indications that some concepts and aspects of our Catholic sexual morality, as well as some power and hierarchical structures have facilitated and are still facilitating sexual abuse.”

Overbeck, the Bishop of Essen, has given the most forthright description yet of the impact unleashed by a report into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Over 70 members of the Bishops Conference are due to make an official comment after discussing the study in Fulda.

According to reports currently available, the investigation covers the period from 1946 to 2014 in Germany, and for the first time specific numbers are given: 3,677 victims of sexual assaults by at least 1,670 accused, the overwhelming majority of them priests. The total number of assaults is presumably exponentially greater. It’s also impossible to say how many cases went unreported. The investigation didn’t even look into all the Catholic Church’s institutions: Religious orders, along with all the schools and children’s homes they run, were not included.

Watch video01:53

Church abuse highlighted in German media leak

‘Radical self-criticism’

Overbeck intends to take the experts’ recommendations extremely seriously on behalf of his diocese. He says the church must “truly take a new path,” for the sake of the victims. The Bishop of Passau, Stefan Oster, has also called for a “radical form of self-criticism with regard to the institutions.”

Read more: Opinion: Pope Francis and the Catholic Church’s moral bankruptcy

The church will also need to face up to the discussion about topics like changes in sexual morality, or the abolition of celibacy. It’s not clear what concrete steps the German bishops meeting in Fulda will decide to take: Whether, for example, they will also propose reconsidering the way priests are trained, the issue of celibacy, or the current practice according to which priests generally live alone in a parsonage.

For a long time now there has been argument within the church in Germany about the obligation for priests to remain unmarried. The sexual abuse scandal has reignited the discussion. A celibacy debate could tear the Catholic Church apart. But perhaps the impetus for reflection about the obligation to remain celibate is not in fact coming from academic reflection or long conferences of German bishops, but from the other side of the ecclesiastical world.

Read more: Australian archbishop sentenced for sex abuse cover-up

Initiative from the Amazon

The Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes recently gave an interview to DW in which he talked about the ministry among the indigenous people of the Amazon. The Catholic Church has only 38 bishoprics in the whole of the vast region of Brazil, meaning that there are limits to how the church is able to work there. “We need a different model of clergy,” said the 84-year-old, who for a long time was the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in the Vatican. “In this context, we must also consider the obligation to remain celibate.”

Claudio Hummes (AFP/Getty Images)Cardinal Hummes has called for priest celibacy to be reconsidered

Matthias Katsch, the founder and spokesperson of the survivors’ association Square Table Foundation (“Eckiger Tisch”) takes a critical view of this. He himself was the victim of sexual violence at the Canisius-Kolleg, a Jesuit school in Berlin, and for several years now he has been active in calling for the abuse issue to be properly addressed. “Catholics from both the right and left of the spectrum have been debating these questions of the church’s structure for what feels like half a century,” he told DW. This, he said, was “right and important,” but not, as far as he is concerned, the main issue.

“In my view, what is important is that those affected should now be offered help quickly, and that there should finally be compensation that feels like compensation, commensurate with the damage that was done.” The crucial thing, he says, is “that the focus is now on the victims.” Katsch himself, incidentally, believes that the key issue with abuse is not celibacy but the distribution of power within the church.

Matthias Katsch stands outside a Jesuit school building in Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/Stephanie Pilick)Matthias Katsch outside a Jesuit school building in Berlin

From Fulda to Rome

Rome could take this as a signal. A few days ago, it became clear that Pope Francis intends to discuss the subject of abuse in February with the heads of all the Bishops’ Conferences worldwide. Australia, Chile, France, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Germany — more and more countries are reporting a stream of cases of sexual violence perpetrated by men of the church.

Matthias Katsch, the survivors’ spokesman, has very specific expectations of the meeting in February. The pope, he says, should invite not only the heads of the Bishops’ Conferences but the victims as well. “There is hardly a single country in which the Catholic Church is active where there has not been sexual violence by clerics against children and young people,” he says. “It would therefore send the right signal — that the church is finally prepared to listen, and not always to have answers to the questions already.”

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Russia to supply Syria with S-300 defense systems

NEWS

Moscow will boost Syria’s armaments by sending them powerful S-300 missile defense systems, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said. Moscow claims Israeli jets caused Syrians to shoot down a Russian spy plane.

    
An S-300 system deployed in Syria (picture alliance/Russian Look/V. Savitsky)

Syrian regime troops will receive S-300 missile defense systems from Russia within the next two weeks, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

The modernized version of the Soviet-era system “is capable of intercepting aerial attacks at the distance of over 250 kilometers and simultaneously countering several targets,” the minister said.

The move comes after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing the destruction of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane last week. The incident claimed the lives of 15 Russian soldiers.

“We are convinced that these measures will cool down the ‘hot heads’ and keep them from ill-conceived actions threatening out troops,” Shoigu said in his televised address.

Read moreRussia encroaches on US war industry in Middle East

Israel denies responsibility

Russia’s spy plane was shot down over Syria last Monday. Both Russia and its allies from the Syrian regime acknowledge the missiles were fired by the Syrian military, but say the troops had targeted Israeli jets flying sorties in the area.

Moscow has blamed Israel for the loss of life, claiming that Israeli jets used the spy plane as a cover to avoid Syrian fire. Israel admitted bombing targets in Syria before the plane was shot down on Monday. However, they denied any connection with the incident.

Supplying Syrian army with advanced anti-aircraft capabilities is likely to raise the stakes in the volatile region, where Israel and several other countries often conduct bombing attacks.

S-300 delivery ‘not directed’ against Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially sought to deflate tensions with Israel, saying that “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances” caused the Russian plane to be destroyed. On Monday, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the deployment of S-300 was “not directed at any third country.”

At the same time, however, Peskov pointed the finger at Israel when speaking about the destruction of the Russian plane.

“According to the information provided by our military experts, the reasons for this tragedy are premediated actions of Israeli pilots, and that cannot but harm our ties” with Israel, Peskov said.

Time for an upgrade

Syrian military used the outdated S-200 missiles to respond to the Israeli attack. The systems, originally developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, have no capability to distinguish between friendly and hostile forces. Russian bases in Syria are already protected by the latest, S-400 systems, as well as S-300 also operated by Russian troops.

Watch video25:59

Battle for Idlib: Endgame in Syria?

By delivering a revamped version of the more modern S-300 defense system, Russia seeks to reduce the risk of a similar friendly-fire incident. Moscow will also equip Syria’s anti-aircraft command centers with high-tech systems to improve coordination and monitoring. According to Shoigu, hostile aircraft will also face electronic interference above parts of the Mediterranean in Syrian airspace.

Israel did not immediately comment on the Russian move. Earlier this year, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman speculated that giving advanced weapons to Damascus could trigger a response.

“For us, it is important that defensive weaponry which Russia is supplying to Syria, is not used against us,” he told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, according to the Russian translation provided by the Interfax news agency.

“If they are, we will take action against them.”

dj/kms (AP, Reuters, Interfax, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

Outcry as Italy’s Salvini submits draft anti-migrant decree

NEWS

A decree to hasten expulsions has been adopted by Italy’s populist Cabinet. The bill next goes to parliament for 60 days of debate. Italian bishops have slammed it as a bid to criminalize asylum-seekers.

    
Italien Innenminister Matteo Salvini (picture-alliance/dpaA. Medichini)

Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, asserted Monday that his bill was a “big step forward” in what he termed the “fight” against migrant arrivals, including greater police powers to “make Italy safer.”

Salvini told the broadcaster La7 his intended decree against “excessive immigration” would save billions of euros, once debated in parliament and signed into law by President Sergio Mattarella.

At a press conference in Rome, he said future asylum bids could be voided if the applicant was declared “socially dangerous.”

Those convicted in the first instance of crimes such as drug dealing or shoplifting would be rejected. “Terrorists” would be stripped of Italian citizenship.

A lower level of residency – humanitarian protection – would be awarded only on six strict criteria, including whether an applicant had survived a natural disaster.

Two weeks ago, UN refugee agency head Filippo Grandi, while visiting Salvini, had urged Italy not to abolish such permits.

Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of Italy’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, described Salvini’s bill as a “bad sign” because an immigrant could in the future be prejudged as a public menace irrespective of how he or she behaved.

Italy's Nunzio Galantino (picture-alliance/dpa/EIDON/F. Frustaci )The secretary-general of Italy’s Bishops’ Conference has criticized the proposal for linking crime to refugees

Another flaw was that the bill dealt with both security issues and treatment of migrants, Galantino said.

Criticism had already come from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which since June has governed with Salvini’s far-right Liga Nord [Northern League].

Read moreRescue ship to loose Panama registration

Larger reception centers

Under the proposed decree, most asylum applicants would be kept in bigger so-called SRAR receptions centers.

Only unaccompanied minors and recognized refugees would be distributed across Italy, ostensibly to ease their integration, Salvini said, adding that streamlining would bring Italy into line with other EU countries.

The Interior Minister’s office said migrants due for repatriation could be held for 180 days in government detention centers.

Migrant checked after disembarking boat (Reuters/A. Parrinello)Just over 72,000 migrants reached Italy by sea between January and July, according to the UNHCR

The decree would let police be equipped with Taser stun guns and squatters would be more easily evicted by removing a provisional housing obligation for the most vulnerable.

Salvini on Facebook said Italy would emerge “stronger in the fight against the mafia and [people] smugglers.”

Law would ‘drive refugees underground’

Expanding reception centers would hinder integration and lead instead to more frustration and violence, said Fabiana Musicco, the founder and president of Refugees Welcome Italy.

If parliament passed Salvini’s draft it would be an “alarming step backwards,” she said.

It would drive numerous asylum-seekers underground, said Salvatore Casale, the director of a current reception center at Avvelino, inland from Naples.

The migration research center Fondazione ISMU says Italy examined 23,000 asylum requests in the first quarter of 2018.

More than 61 percent of such applications were rejected; 21 percent of applicants were granted humanitarian protection. Only six percent were given refugee status.

ipj/kms (KNA, dpa, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

France orders last private migrant ship to ‘nearest safe port’

Operators of the Aquarius 2 has announced it is bringing 58 migrants to the French port of Marseilles. The rescue ship has been repeatedly turned away by Italy and forced to stop in Malta and Spain in recent months.

    
French NGO SOS Mediterranee chiefs Sophie Beau and Francis Vallat (Reuters/C. Hartmann)

The French government wants the ship Aquarius 2 to take the migrants picked up off the coast of Libya to “the nearest safe port” rather than continue its journey to the southern French port of Marseilles.

The ship — run by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF) — has 58 migrants on board. Currently near the Libyan coast, it is the last private rescue vessel operating along the trafficking route in the central Mediterranean.

France has repeatedly said that under international law, rescue ships saving people at sea must dock at the closest port. The United Nations says Libya — where armed militias have fought for influence and control since 2011, when an uprising evolved into a civil war — does not qualify as a safe place for rescued migrants.

European solution

France’s government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, tweeted that the solution will come from “cooperation with our European partners.”

Benjamin Griveaux

@BGriveaux

L’humanité, c’est de faire accoster le navire dans le port le plus proche et le plus sûr. C’est par la coopération avec nos partenaires européens que nous apporterons une solution. Ne tombons pas dans le piège que certains nous tendent. @canalplus

SOS Mediterranee said on Monday its “only option” was to head to Marseilles where the NGO is headquartered.

“We alerted other countries but we find it hard to imagine that France would refuse, given the humanitarian situation,” said the NGO’s head of French operations, Francis Vallat.

“For the past two years, European leaders have claimed that people should not die at sea, but at the same time they have pursued dangerous and ill-informed policies that have brought the humanitarian crisis in the Central Mediterranean and in Libya to new lows,” said MSF’s head of emergencies, Karline Kleijer, in a statement.

This year, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at least 1,730 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to reach Europe.

Read more: Aquarius migrant ship has registration revoked 

Troubled waters

The future of the Aquarius rescue mission is uncertain after Panama said on Saturday it had begun procedures to remove the ship’s registration after Italy complained that the vessel’s captain failed to follow orders.

“We never did anything which was not authorized by Italian authorities,” Vallet told reporters during a news conference on Monday. He asked European countries to “find a solution, whatever it is. We can’t stop. We don’t want to stop. We will only yield to force and constraint.”

In June the Aquarius was forced to sail a further 700 nautical miles (1,296 kilometers) through the Mediterranean with more than 600 migrants on board to the Spanish port city of Valencia after it was denied a safe harbor by Italy and Malta.

Italy’s populist interior minister Matteo Salvini, who campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform, accuses the Aquarius of offering a “taxi service” to Europe for migrants in Libya.

Salvini has made good on an election promise by forbidding NGO ships carrying refugees to dock in Italy’s ports. Malta says it can’t handle large numbers of migrants.

Read more: Outcry as Italy’s Salvini submits draft anti-migrant decree

kw/kms (AP, AFP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

China strikes back by going after America’s energy companies

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The United States has an abundance of natural gas that pollution-riddled China badly needs to wean itself off coal.

Eying China’s voracious demand, Cheniere Energy, ExxonMobil (XOM) and other American energy companies are racing to build more than two dozen expensive facilities to export liquefied natural gas, which is super-cooled natural gas that can be transported by ship.

China even marked President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last fall by agreeing to invest as much as $43 billion into an LNG project in Alaska.

But this pairing of an able buyer and well-supplied seller no longer looks like a slam dunk. As part of the escalating trade warChina on Tuesday said it will impose a 10% tariff on $60 billion of US products — including LNG.

The trade tensions could make it more difficult for the next wave of LNG export facilities to get the financing needed to get off the ground.

“It’s obviously very concerning. The potential for some projects to get delayed is very real,” said Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade group that represents Exxon, Chevron (CVX) and other energy companies.

The shale boom created an excess of natural gas in the United States. In a bid to get rid of the glut, the United States began exporting LNG in 2016 when Houston-based Cheniere (LNG)opened the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. Earlier this year, Dominion Energy (D) opened Cove Point in Maryland, the nation’s second export facility .

China is the big elephant in the room. China’s appetite for LNG is growing rapidly. And it’s on the verge of overtaking Japan as the biggest buyer of LNG in the world.

That’s one major reason why the United States is planning to quadruple its export capacity by building at least 25 new facilities. LNG is a centerpiece of Trump’s energy dominance agenda.

china lng tariffs chart

In the 12 months leading up until June 2018, China was the second-largest buyer of US LNG, according to energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. Shell, the US subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), was the largest seller.

However, China has dialed back its US LNG purchases in recent months as trade tensions have ratcheted up, according to ClipperData. Beijing is instead turning more to LNG powerhouses Qatar, Australia and Russia.

“China has been able to find willing sellers closer to its own backyard,” said Matt Smith, ClipperData’s director of commodity research.

Tariffs less than feared

Now, the tariffs will likely price US LNG out of the Chinese market, according to S&P Global Platts.

“There are other suppliers around the world that would gladly supply China — and they don’t have a 10% tariff,” said Riedl.

Kyle Isakower, vice president for economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement that the trade situation “works against US energy sector growth and counter to the administration’s stated goal of ‘energy dominance.'”

The good news is that China had threatened an even bigger tariff — 25% — on US LNG. Cheniere’s share price rallied 2% on Tuesday in response to the lower-than-feared rate.

In any case, analysts don’t believe that overall US LNG exports will be dramatically hurt in the short run. There are plenty of other buyers, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Latin America. And Washington has been pushing Europe to break its addiction to natural gas from Russia.

“If China buys less, someone else will buy more,” said Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst at Raymond James. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Chinese buyer, a European buyer or a Latin American buyer. Revenue is revenue.”

lng tanker

Will projects get shelved?

The real fallout of the US-China trade war could be felt in that next wave of LNG projects that’s in the works.

Due to the enormous cost to build each facility, financing hinges on the ability to sign a long-term buyer to a contract. And the obvious buyer had been China. Until now, that is.

For instance, Cheniere announced plans in May to expand its Corpus Christi export terminal in Texas. The expansion was backstopped in part by a contract with PetroChina (PTR).

Cheniere did not respond to a request for comment on the impact of the tariffs from China.

In August, Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco told analysts that threatened tariffs from China may slow down talks with counterparts in China about future growth.

However, Fusco said that the tariffs won’t impact existing contracts. And he emphasized that the US-China energy relationship has been beneficial to both sides, including by creating thousands of direct and indirect American jobs.

“China is an important growth market for Cheniere,” Fusco said. “We expect to sell meaningful amounts of LNG into China over the long term.”

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