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Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani to step down

Masoud Barzani claims he will resign on the 1st of November but it is still unclear what this “resignation” would amount to.

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In the wake of Iraq reestablishing its legal control over areas of northern Iraq formerly occupied by Kurdish militants and with the Kurdish secession referendum of 25 September, succeeding only in uniting all major regional and global powers (except Israel) against Kurdish ethno-nationalists, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani will resign from his leadership position on the 1st of November.

However, it is not entirely clear what a “resignation” would constitute in the case of Barzani.  According to Reuters who carried one of the first international reports on the situation,

“A plan to divide up the president’s powers was outlined in a letter Barzani sent to the Kurdish parliament on Saturday, the official told Reuters. The plan asks parliament to distribute the president’s powers among the government, parliament and judiciary.

Barzani’s current term was set to expire in four days, the same date that presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held. However, those elections were delayed indefinitely last week, amidst an escalating regional crisis”.

Reuters further reports,

“Barzani’s letter will be discussed by parliament on Sunday, though the government official said it was unclear whether ministers would need to vote the plan into action during the session”.

Thus, the matter of a “resignation” isn’t as simple in Barzani’s case as conventional interpretations of such announcements would indicate. Indeed, Barzani’s legal mandate expired in 2015, but he remains in power to this day, nevertheless.

If he does indeed relinquish power on the 1st, it is still not clear if this will mean a formal exit from his office or whether he will continue to hold an interim leadership position in autonomous Kurdish regions of Iraq, until a new power structure is devised. Because devising a new power structure could take a considerable about of time, given the fact that recent events have thrown the power balance among Iraqi Kurdish factions into flux, while exposing fractious political disagreements, Barzani could for all intents and purposes, still hold power for the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, because it would appear that Barzani and his compatriots seeks to restructure the leadership base of autonomous Kurdish regions in Iraq, he may be leaving open the possibility of returning to a leadership role, perhaps as a kind of supreme leader figure who would preside over the de-centralised new structure.

As I wrote recently, Barzani’s rise and current fall is typical of many strongmen who have ruled Iraq or parts of the country. The only question remaining is: how will he ultimately fall?

Another Iraqi strongman is about to fall: Barzani’s days are officially numbered

“With the exception of the moderate Ba’athist President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (1963, 1968-1979), every major strongman or strongly positioned Iraqi leader has met a gruesome end.

From Faisal II who was deposed and executed during the 14 July Revolution of 1958 to his republican successor Abd al-Karim Qasim who was killed during the pro-Ba’athist Ramadan revolution in 1963 and more recently, the violent execution of Saddam Hussein in 2006: being a powerful leader in Iraq, has in modern history, usually correlated with a cataclysmic demise.

Today’s government in Baghdad is surprisingly collective, some would say to a fault. Rather than a single strong leader, there are several key individuals each whom answer to various political bases. But this does not mean Iraq itself is free of strongman rule.

Ironically, the place in Iraq that western mainstream media often paints as the most ‘democratic’ part of Iraq, is in reality, the most dictatorial. This is the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.

Ever since the fall of the short lived Soviet ally Republic of Mahabad, a Kurdish state established in post-war Iran in 1946, the Barzani family have been the leading rulers of Iraqi Kurds. Masoud Barzani, the current ruler of Iraqi Kurds whose formal decree expired in 2015, is the son of Mustafa Barzani who was the de-facto leader of Iraqi Kurds from 1946 up to to his death in 1979.

While Mustafa returned to Iraq from exile in the USSR in 1958, he again fled in 1974, this time to pre-revolutionary Iran, after rejecting Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr’s proposed Kurdish autonomy agreement. After Mustafa’s death, the current Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani took charge of his father’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

However, beginning in 1975, a more left-leaning Kurdish faction, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan became a leading force of Kurdish agitation in Iraq. One of the primary figures in the (PUK) was Jalal Talabani, who became Iraq’s President in 2005. His Presidency ended in 2015, while his death took place in early October of 2017.

In spite of the PUK’s increased success over the years, after the 1990 Gulf War, Masoud Barzani returned from Iran to Iraq. While Barzani had good relations with both Pahlavi Iran and early Islamic Revolutionary Iran, this arrangement was merely one of convenience. Barzani’s Kurdish militants sided with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, in the hopes of weakening Saddam Hussein’s Presidency of Iraq.

During the 1990s, the Barzani clan strengthened its control over Kurdish regions of northern Iraq. It was at this time that Kurdish regions in northern Iraq gained considerable autonomy even during the last full decade of Saddam Hussein’s Presidency in Baghdad. Since the illegal US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, an autonomous Kurdish region was formally established according to Iraq’s 2005 constitution, a document largely written by the US with input from mostly Shi’a Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds, including the PUK’s Jalal Talabani.

While most figures in post-2003 Baghdad, de-facto accepted the primacy of the Barzani clan in post-Ba’athist Iraqi politics (in respect of Kurdish regions), many have grown increasingly unhappy with Barzani’s autocratic rule which PUK figures have criticised as heavy-handed and dictatorial, dating back to the 1970s.

With both Baghdad and Kurdish spokesmen calling for de-escalation after Iraq’s bloodless re-establishment of authority in Kurdish occupied Kirkuk, the one sore point in the situation is the figure of Barzani himself.

It was Barzani’s decision not to allow Kirkuk to be returned to Iraqi authorities after ISIS was largely defeated in northern Iraq. This is crucial as Kirkuk has never been part of any legally defined Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq.

Furthermore, in holding a secession referendum before the penultimate defeat of ISIS and doing so with the inclusion of Kirkuk on a map of a would-be Kurdish state, Barzani showed his dictatorial tendencies and Iraq felt both angered and betrayed.

Even under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurds enjoyed levels of autonomy that are globally unique among a self-defined nationalistic minority. This is especially unique when one considered that the origin of Kurds is that of nomads. Nowhere for example, are the Romani people (often called Gypsies) given such specific autonomy, let alone in an oil rich region.

Throughout all of this, Iraq has acted fully within the framework of national and international law. What’s more is that Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has issued multiple calls for calm, stating that Iraqi troops and volunteer Popular Mobilisation Forces, have no desire to fire on Kurdish Pershmerga militias. Al-Abadi even stated that he hoped Peshmerga would cooperate in helping Iraq to restore its legal authority in northern regions.

While the Battle of Kirkuk has revealed a unity among Iraqis that had not been seen in decades, with Sunni and Shi’a Arabs as well as Sunni Turkomen rallying behind the Iraqi flag, the same battle has exposed disunity among Kurdish groups. In Barzani’s capital of Erbil, fingers are being pointed internally, while Kurds have adopted the standard US-Israeli propaganda line which blames Iranfor any and all misery which befalls Iraq.

Slandering Shi’a Iraqi regulars as well as Shi’a Popular Mobilisation Forces as ‘Iranian’ is also a tactic that was used by ISIS in Iraq. Furthermore, in Syria, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the FSA referred to all of their secular, Shi’a, Druze and Christian opponents as “Iranians”.

I have previously written that the crisis in Iraq, caused by overzealous Kurdish leaders, Barzani in particular, has been an opening salvo in a US-Israeli proxy war against Iran. Because the US in particular, is well aware that a war on Iran in Iran would be a suicide mission, Washington has merely pivoted from a strategy of using Takfiri jihadists to attempt and undermine Iran’s position in Iraq and Syria, to one where the US is allying with Kurds to do so.

In respect of Syria, there is a very real possibility that the US will continue to illegally occupy Syria and will do so while working with local Kurds, in an attempt to achieve the next best thing (from the warped perspective of Washington and Tel Aviv) to regime change: the Balkanisation of Syria.

In Iraq, something similar has been attempted in respect of Israel’s public backing of Kurdish secession and Tel Aviv’s strong support for the Barzani regime. However, in both cases, the biggest stumbling bloc to this policy aimed and harming Arab territorial unity and Iran’s alliances in the Arab world, ironically comes from grudging NATO member Turkey.

Turkey has vowed to oppose any would-be Kurdish state wherever it may arise, including both Iraq and Syria. With both Turkey, Iran and Iraq vowing to physically and economically cut off a Kurdish statelet in Iraq, something that would amount to little more than a ‘Barzanistan’ having no source of revenue or even basic supplies, the US would ostensibly need to fight its technical Iraqi ally, its fledgling ally that is Turkey, as well as Iran, in order to establish a Kurdish state in Iraq. This, even by wily American standards, is a ‘mission impossible’.

While desperately trying to foment Kurdish unity in order to disrupt the burgeoning alliance between Iraq, Iran and Syria, with the added component of a separate alliance in the works between Iran, Turkey and Iraq, the United States has ultimately only strengthened both alliances many fold.

When Takfiri terrorists are decisively defeated in Syria, it is still not beyond the realm of the possible, that Damascus and Ankara too could put aside their enmity, in order to contain nationalistic Kurds and in doing so, fusing each of the aforementioned alliances. Here, the US could therefore find itself confronted by two insurmountable roadblocks in both Iraq and Syria.

In spite of public statements from the US calling for de-escalation between ‘two allies’, the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regime in northern Iraq, I personally have little doubt that actors in the US military, CIA and also of course, actors in Israel, have encouraged an intransigent attitude among the Barzani regime. However, in failing to realise the logistical difficulties facing the US and Israel in bolstering such a position, Barzani has undermined his own interests and instead destroyed the legitimacy of his own regime, even among many of his followers.

While the US has been tactful in calling for calm, Barzani took the bait without realising that there may be no light at the end of the tunnel. This is not the first time a leader in Iraq, took the Americans on their word without exploring the more nuanced realities on the ground. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein was strongly supported by the US during his war on Iran. Furthermore, it later emerged that April Gillespie, a diplomat in  the administration of George H.W. Bush, told Saddamthat the US would not militarily oppose Iraq’s intervention in Kuwait. The promise was just one of many US broken promises in respect of Iraq.

In this sense, Barzani found himself in a position of mistaking what many assume to be covert signs of US support, for a genuine promise of more meaningful action in favour of the Kurds. With Barzani’s star now in tatters, in spite of what his powerful propaganda machine tells the world, Barzani may be yet another strongman in Iraq to fall in what could be deeply grim circumstances. If Barzani has any ounce of self-preservation, he ought to simply resign, knowing that prolonging his leadership cannot have a happy ending at this point in time”.

In this sense, Barzani, in taking American statements at face value, failed to understand something about American policies in the Middle East that was once articulated by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser:

“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something”.

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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