Senate votes to limit Trump’s freedom to attack Iran
Financial Times, BBC News, Reuters reports that US President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war on Iran without congressional approval has been limited in a Senate bill passed by his fellow Republicans, as the Iran war powers resolution was approved by a vote of 55-45.
The Independent and The Telegraph reports that Syrian rebels may have used surface-to-air missiles to bring down a government helicopter this week, a development that could alter the balance of power in the country’s north.
Reuters reports that families fleeing air strikes and advancing troops in Syria’s Idlib province are sleeping rough in streets and olive groves, and burning toxic bundles of rubbish to stay warm in the biting winter weather, aid workers say.
The Times reports that Sudan has agreed to compensate the families of American sailors killed by al-Qaeda jihadists who bombed a US warship 20 years ago. The deal is one of a series of concessions by Khartoum’s new government to try to end the country’s pariah status and normalise international relations.
Reuters reports that the US prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.
Reuters reports that US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he thinks there is a “good chance” the United States would reach an agreement with the Taliban by the end of February on a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Independent reports that Israel’s foreign minister has said the country will cut ties with the United Nations’ human rights commissioner after her office published a list of 112 companies with business links to settlements in the West Bank.
In The Guardian, Martin Chulov writes that the deadly clash between US forces and pro-government militias in Syria is a ‘vivid reminder of US troops’ ill-defined mission’ in the country, as the US’ presence in Syria’s north east continues to be stuck in a quagmire since Trump terminated ties with the Kurds.
In the Financial Times, Scheherazde Daneshkhu argues Iranians are ‘naïve’ to assume that they can rely on ‘fair-weather friends’ in the region, asserting Iran must rely on its own resources if it wants to have any chance of controlling its destiny.
In the New Statesman, Quentin Sommerville analyses the young Iraqis fighting for a modern nation, showing Iraq’s younger generation are tired of being brutalised by ‘dictatorship, war, corruption and unemployment’.
In The Times, Richard Spencer assesses when the Gulf ‘will go bust’, as slackening demand for oil and a green aversion to fossil fuels are forcing Arab states to understand that the ‘decades-long, gushing flows of cash and spectacular consumption’ may be drawing to a close.
The Economist asks why the UN cannot end wars in the Arab world, asserting it is by no means due to a ‘lack of trying’ but the lack of any ability to comprehensively implement resolutions.
In The Associated Press, Zeina Karam identifies why Syria’s M5 is Assad’s ‘highway to victory’, demonstrating the M5′s seizure goes a long way to re-connect government-controlled areas, after they had been severed from each other for years.
The Israeli media report that Hamas passed a message to Israel that it has decided to stop launching explosive balloons and firing rockets at Israel. Kan Radio reports that if there is quiet this weekend, Israel will expand the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles and restore the 500 suspended entry permits for Gazan businessmen. An Israeli security official told media that Israel was sceptical and the IDF and police sent reinforcements to the Gaza border.
Kan radio reports that Israel launched air strikes in Syria to destroy a weapons shipment from Iran. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Israel attacked arms depots in the Damascus area last night, including a warehouse in the international airport used by Iran. The Assad regime confirmed that missiles were fired towards Syrian territory from the direction of the Golan Heights but said air defence systems intercepted several of them. Iran warned two days ago that it would retaliate with overwhelming force for any Israeli aggression against Iranian interests in Syria and elsewhere in the region. Haaretz reports that seven military personnel were killed in the attack overnight and 23 personnel, mostly Syrian soldiers and three Iranians, were killed last week.
In election news, Benjamin Netanyahu writes in Israel Hayom that: “President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” offers the Israeli government a historic opportunity that will never return: to protect our state, to set our borders, to secure our future. We must do everything possible to seize the opportunity and not miss it.” Writing in Haaretz, senior political analyst Yossi Verter notes: “The Israeli public is starting to view a general election as a chronic illness. You just live with it, despite the discomfort. No one is rattled by the arrival of yet another postcard with details of their polling place in the mailbox; certainly no one is prompted to take to the streets or city square in protest. The possibility, now being mooted, of a fourth election, produces a generic shrug.” Army Radio interviewed Avigdor Lieberman who said he would not rule out joining a government with Labour-Gesher-Meretz. All the Israeli media report Netanyahu’s announcement last night that MK Nir Barkat, the former Mayor of Jerusalem, will be his candidate for finance minister in the next government, if the Likud wins the election.