Australia cancels Quad meeting in Sydney after Biden postponement

Australia cancels Quad meeting in Sydney after Biden postponement
From left: Quad leaders Anthony Albanese of Australia, Joe Biden of the US, Narendra Modi of India and Fumio Kishida of Japan before their summit at Kantei Palace in Tokyo on May 24, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 17 May 2023
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Australia cancels Quad meeting in Sydney after Biden postponement

Australia cancels Quad meeting in Sydney after Biden postponement
  • The Quad is an informal group that promotes an open Indo-Pacific
  • But Beijing sees it as an attempt to push back against its growing influence in the region

SYDNEY: Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said on Wednesday a Quad summit would not go ahead in Sydney next week without US president Joe Biden, who postponed his trip due to debt ceiling negotiations in Washington.

Albanese said the leaders of Australia, the United States, India and Japan would instead meet at the G7 in Japan this weekend, after Biden canceled a trip to Sydney on the second leg of his upcoming Asia trip, which was also to have included a visit to Papua New Guinea.

“The Quad leaders meeting will not be going ahead in Sydney next week. We, though will be having that discussion between Quad leaders in Japan,” Albanese told a news conference.

A bilateral program in Sydney with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi could still go ahead next week, Albanese said.

Albanese did not comment on whether Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida would still visit Sydney next week. Nikkei reported on Wednesday he would not be traveling.

The Quad is an informal group that promotes an open Indo-Pacific. Beijing sees it as an attempt to push back against its growing influence in the region.

Asia Society Policy Institute senior fellow Richard Maude said the cancelation of Biden’s visit to Papua New Guinea, which would have been the first visit by an American president to an independent Pacific islands nation, could set back Washington’s battle for influence with Beijing in the region.

“The mantra in the region is all about turning up. Turning up is half the battle. China turns up all the time, and so the optics aren’t great,” Maude, a former Australian intelligence chief, told a panel discussion on the Quad on Wednesday.

India and Australia are not part of the G7 group of seven rich nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — but have been invited to attend the summit in Japan.


Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’

Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’
Updated 19 sec ago
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Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’

Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’
  • Up to 3m people were killed in US-supported Pakistani crackdown in Bangladesh
  • Kissinger ‘turned a blind eye’ to it, former Bangladeshi foreign secretary says

DHAKA: Most obituaries that on Nov. 29 bid farewell to Henry Kissinger have omitted reference to his role in the war of independence of Bangladesh, where the prominent US secretary of state will remain seen as an enabler of massacres of civilians.
In 1971, Kissinger advised then President Richard Nixon to side with the Pakistani military dictator Gen. Yahya Khan in his war with Bangladesh, then East Pakistan.
According to the Bangladesh government, the war that eventually led to the nation’s independence came at a cost of 3 million lives, most of them civilians, including intellectuals, whom historians say were deliberately targeted.
The nine-month war also displaced 10 million people, a seventh of Bangladesh’s population at the time, forcing them to flee to neighboring India.
“Bangladesh will remember him as an accomplice and, to some extent, an instigator of the genocide that was committed against Bangladesh in 1971. He was an enemy of Bangladesh,” Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, told Arab News.
Kissinger and the US administration turned a “blind eye to the genocide going on in Bangladesh. It was largely influenced by Kissinger,” Hossain added.
At the time, the state of Pakistan existed as a two-winged artificial entity — West Pakistan, which is today’s Pakistan, and East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh — split in between by India.
After the 1970 elections yielded a democratic victory for ethnic Bengalis in East Pakistan and their leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was expected to become the prime minister of the whole country, the army generals ruling West Pakistan launched a military crackdown that turned into a mass slaughter of his supporters and of Bengali civilians.
The American support for Pakistan came because of Islamabad’s role as a mediator in the normalization of relations between the US and China.
“They could have done it without supporting the genocide,” Hossain said.
“It’s said that since Pakistan was trying to mediate the US-China relations during that period against the Soviet Union, that’s why from a geopolitical consideration, he turned a blind eye to the other things and went all for Pakistan.”
Kissinger and Nixon repeatedly ignored reports from Archer Blood, the US consul in Dhaka, as Pakistani forces, using US-made weapons, massacred thousands of people in the city.
“Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, both of them were complicit,” Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told Arab News.
“Blood sent the information about the ongoing genocide here. But he (Kissinger) didn’t pay much attention to that … Their point was not to disturb Yahya Khan as Khan was involved in his negotiating and bringing China into the global arena.”
Bangladesh has yet to hear an apology from the US over the role it played in enabling the killing of its civilians. Ahmed hoped that it would finally at least recognize the historical facts.
“The US didn’t recognize the genocide till today, as Kissinger was alive. Now, that he is no longer there, I think it opens up the possibility of the US recognizing the 1971 genocide as genocide,” he said.
“Kissinger played a complicit role in the genocide that took place in Bangladesh in 1971. There is no doubt about this.”


New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security

New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago
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New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security

New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security
  • Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy — repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin from overtaking Ukraine
  • The new Republican proposal dug in on policy changes that had led Democrats to step back from the negotiations

WASHINGTON: A deal to provide further US assistance to Ukraine by year-end appears to be increasingly out of reach for President Joe Biden.
The impasse is deepening in Congress despite dire warnings from the White House about the consequences of inaction as Republicans insist on pairing the aid with changes to America’s immigration and border policies.
After the Democratic president said this past week he was willing to “make significant compromises on the border,” Republicans quickly revived demands that they had earlier set aside, hardening their positions and attempting to shift the negotiations to the right, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to publicly discuss them and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The latest proposal, from the lead GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, came during a meeting with a core group of senators before they left Washington on Thursday afternoon. It could force the White House to consider ideas that many Democrats will seriously oppose, throwing new obstacles in the difficult negotiations.
Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy — repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin from overtaking Ukraine — crumbling as US support for funding the war wanes, especially among Republicans. The White House says a failure to approve more aid by year’s end could have catastrophic consequences for Ukraine and its ability to fight.
To preserve US backing, the Biden administration has quietly engaged in Senate talks on border policy in recent weeks, providing assistance to the small group of senators trying to reach a deal and communicating what policy changes it would find acceptable.
The president is trying to satisfy GOP demands to reduce the historic number of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border while alleviating Democrats’ fears that legal immigration will be choked off with drastic measures.
As talks sputtered to a restart this past week, Democrats warned Republicans that time for a deal was running short. Congress is scheduled to depart Washington in mid-December for a holiday break.
“Republicans need to show they are serious about reaching a compromise, not just throwing on the floor basically Donald Trump’s border policies,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday before Republicans made their counteroffer.
But the new Republican proposal dug in on policy changes that had led Democrats to step back from the negotiations, according to the person familiar with the talks. The GOP offer calls for ending the humanitarian parole program that’s now in place for existing classes of migrants — Ukrainians, Afghans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. That idea had been all but dashed before.
Additionally, those groups of migrants would not be allowed to be paroled again if the terms of their stay expire before their cases are adjudicated in immigration proceedings.
GOP senators proposed monitoring systems such as ankle bracelets for people, including children, who are detained at the border and are awaiting parole. Republicans want to ban people from applying for asylum if they have transited through a different country where they could have sought asylum instead. GOP lawmakers also want to revive executive powers that would allow a president to shut down entries for wide-ranging reasons.
Further, after migrant encounters at the border recently hit historic numbers, the GOP proposal would set new guidelines requiring the border to be essentially shut down if illegal crossings reach a certain limit.
Lankford declined to discuss specifics after the Thursday meeting, but said he was trying to “negotiate in good faith.” He said the historic number of migrants at the border could not be ignored. The sheer number of people arriving at the border has swamped the asylum system, he said, making it impossible for authorities to adequately screen the people they allow in.
“Do you want large numbers of undocumented individuals and unscreened individuals without work permits, without access to the rest of the economy?” Lankford said.
The lead Democratic negotiator, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, did not quickly respond to the GOP proposal.
Senators had made some progress in the talks before Thursday, finding general agreement on raising the initial standard for migrants to enter the asylum system — part of what’s called the credible fear system. The administration has communicated that it is amenable to that change and that it could agree to expand expedited removal to deport immigrants before they have a hearing with an immigration judge, according to two people briefed on the private negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Immigration advocates and progressives in Congress have been alarmed by the direction of the talks, especially because they have not featured changes aimed at expanding legal immigration.
Robyn Barnard, director of refugee advocacy with Human Rights First, called the current state of negotiations an “absolute crisis moment.” She warned that broadening the fast-track deportation authority could lead to a mass rounding up of immigrants around the country and compared it to the situation during the Trump administration. “Communities across the country would be living in fear,” she said.
But Republican senators, sensing that Biden, who is campaigning for a second term, wants to address the historic number of people coming to the border, have taken an aggressive stance and tried to draw the president directly into negotiations.
“The White House is going to have to engage particularly if Senate Democrats are unwilling to do what we are suggesting be done,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., at a news conference Thursday.
The White House has so far declined to take a leading role in negotiations. “Democrats have said that they want to compromise. Have that conversation,” said White House press secretary Karine-Jean Pierre.
After every GOP senator this past week voted not to move ahead with legislation that would provide tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance for Ukraine, many in the chamber were left in a dour mood. Even those who held out hope for a deal acknowledged it would be difficult to push a package through the Senate at this late stage.
Even if senators reach a deal, the obstacles to passage in the House are considerable. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, has signaled he will fight for sweeping changes to immigration policy that go beyond what is being discussed in the Senate. Also, broad support from House Democrats is far from guaranteed, as progressives and Hispanic lawmakers have raised alarm at curtailing access to asylum.
“Trading Ukrainian lives for the lives of asylum seekers is morally bankrupt and irresponsible,” Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Illinois, posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, as part of a coordinated campaign by Hispanic Democrats.
The unwieldy nature of the issue left even Lankford, who was one of the few senators optimistic that a deal could be reached this year, acknowledging the difficulty of finding an agreement in the coming days.
“There’s just a whole lot of politics that have been bound up in this,” he said as he departed the Capitol for the week. “Thirty years it hasn’t been resolved because it’s incredibly complicated.”


Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak

Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak
Updated 09 December 2023
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Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak

Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak
  • Ex-FBI agent: ‘Having a foreign country’s security services aligned with the beat cop on American streets is concerning’
  • Leak raises questions about treatment of pro-Palestinian activists, fails to show training or consultation from Muslim groups

LONDON: Pro-Israel pressure groups are influencing law enforcement agencies in the US through training and consultancy programs, leaked police documents show.

The BlueLeaks collection of data, hacked from US law enforcement agencies in 2020, contains files showing that police received training from Israel Defense Forces programs on dealing with Islamist extremism, The Guardian reported.

And the Anti-Defamation League, a US-based Jewish advocacy group, enjoys a close relationship with law enforcement agencies, with the organization hosting training sessions for officers on the “evolving nature of Islamic extremists.”

BlueLeaks shows intelligence that was distributed by federal law enforcement programs, including fusion centers, which share information between local, state and federal agencies.

ADL staff members are revealed by BlueLeaks to have attended fusion center events as registered visitors, advising law enforcement that “we facilitate workshops … on extremism, hate crime and (in Washington D.C. and Israel) counterterrorism.”

The leak has raised questions about the influence of pro-Israel organizations in US law enforcement, and how those ties have affected the treatment of pro-Palestinian activists.

Former FBI undercover agent Mike German told The Guardian that the relationship is damaging the ability of officers to carry out good law enforcement.

“It’s frustrating that we’ve developed this national law enforcement intelligence-sharing network that basically takes disinformation straight from the right-wing social media fever swamps and puts it out under the imprimatur of law enforcement intelligence, so it becomes an amplifier of disinformation rather than a corrective to that disinformation,” he said.

“At a time where there’s much more public sensitivity to foreign influence in domestic affairs, having a foreign country’s security services aligned with the beat cop on the streets of American neighborhoods is concerning.”

Another group that has advised law enforcement, according to the leaks, is LA Clear, which provided “analytical and case support” to drug investigations in California.

However, the group’s BlueLeaks files show that it recorded information relating to conflicts in the Gaza Strip sourced from the IDF.

One such document is a recreation of an IDF PowerPoint presentation titled “Escalation in the Gaza Strip,” bearing the insignia and name of Israel’s Strategic Division.

The Dado Center, a military studies department of the IDF, authored another presentation that was used by LA Clear.

It offers an analysis of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the 22-day invasion of Gaza in 2008, and highlights challenges including “legitimacy (external & internal, strategic narrative)” and “media coverage (a controlled information environment).”

Cast Lead resulted in the IDF targeting civilians and carrying out “indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects,” Amnesty International said in a 2009 report.

BlueLeaks also shows LA Clear’s use of a 2011 report issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli research group founded and staffed by former IDF intelligence personnel.

The intelligence documents related to Israel lack any links to LA Clear’s stated mission of targeting US drug networks, raising questions about the presence of IDF-linked intelligence networks in American policing.

The documents fail to show US law enforcement seeking training or consulting from other community groups, including Muslim organizations.


India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient

India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient
Updated 09 December 2023
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India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient

India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient
  • Syrups made by three Indian firms have been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon in over a year 
  • Drugmakers have denied allegations their products were responsible for the deaths, which have cast a shadow over quality of Indian exports 

NEW DELHI: India’s drugs regulator has ordered that the source and quality of an ingredient used to make cough syrups be checked and verified as a “top priority,” in the wake of the deaths of at least 141 children globally. 

In one of the world’s worst such waves of poisoning, cough syrups made by three Indian manufacturers have been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon since the middle of last year. 

The drugmakers have denied allegations that their products were responsible for the deaths, which have cast a shadow over the quality of exports from India, often dubbed the “world’s pharmacy” due to its supply of life-saving drugs at low prices. 

In a letter this week, India’s Drug Controller General Rajeev Singh Raghuvanshi directed state and regional authorities to carry out inspections and verify the source and quality of propylene glycol (PG) either produced domestically or imported by cough syrup makers. 

He also directed drugs inspectors to submit a supply chain verification report for PG manufacturers and importers 

The direction was issued to rule out “possible quality issues” related to toxins diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG) in cough syrups and the diversion of industrial grade PG, Raghuvanshi said in a letter dated Dec. 6 and seen by Reuters. 

PG is a colorless, viscous liquid that does not react with other substances, making it an ideal solvent for syrupy medicines. Reuters has reported that some Indian drugmakers were buying key ingredients from suppliers who were not licensed to sell pharmaceutical-grade products. 

DEG and EG are used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents and can be fatal when consumed even in small amounts. 

The syrups linked to the deaths of the children were found to contain high levels of DEG or EG in tests done by the World Health Organization and other authorities. 

Raghuvanshi has requested details including the number of cough syrup batches manufactured across India in 2023, the PG used and whether it was tested before use. 

Raghuvanshi also issued an advisory on Dec. 5 asking all drugmakers to purchase and use only pharmaceutical grade ingredients in their products. 

India has introduced mandatory testing for cough syrup exports since June and stepped up scrutiny of drugmakers, finding a string of deficiencies in recent inspections including poor documentation and a lack of self-assessment. 


US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program

US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program
Updated 09 December 2023
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US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program

US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lately been accelerating the expansion of his nuclear and missile program
  • US and its Asian allies have responded by increasing the visibility of their trilateral security cooperation in the region

SEOUL, South Korea: The national security advisers of the United States, South Korea and Japan called on Saturday for a stronger international push to suppress North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles and its military cooperation with other countries amid concerns about its alleged arms transfers to Russia.
The meeting in Seoul came as tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest in years, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accelerating the expansion of his nuclear and missile program and flaunting an escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorizes the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.
The United States and its Asian allies have responded by increasing the visibility of their trilateral security cooperation in the region and strengthening their combined military exercises, which Kim condemns as invasion rehearsals.
In a joint news conference after the meeting, Cho said the three security advisers reaffirmed North Korea’s obligations under multiple UN Security Council resolutions that call for its denuclearization and bans any weapons trade with other countries.
“We agreed to strengthen a coordination among the three countries to secure the international community’s strict implementation” of the UN Security Council resolutions, Cho said.
Cho said the three also highly praised South Korea, the US, Japan and Australia announcing their own sanctions on North Korea over its spy satellite launch last month. North Korea argues it the right to launch spy satellites to monitor US and South Korean military activities and enhance the threat of its nuclear-capable missiles.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have also expressed concerns about a potential arms alignment between North Korea and Russia. They worry Kim is providing badly needed munitions to help Russian President Vladimir Putin wage war in Ukraine in exchange for Russian technology assistance to upgrade his nuclear-armed military.
Following the meeting, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington is working with Seoul and Tokyo to strengthen defense cooperation. He said they also seek to improve response to North Korean missile testing and space launch activities, including a real-time information sharing arrangement on North Korean missile launches that the countries plan to start in December.
Sullivan said the countries will also respond to North Korean cybercrimes, cryptocurrency money laundering and other efforts to bypass US-led international sanctions aimed at choking off funds going to its nuclear weapons and missile program.
“When it comes to the DPRK, we are keeping our eye on the ball, because it continues to represent a threat to international peace and security and regional peace and security,” Sullivan said, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Sullivan held separate bilateral talks Friday with South Korea’s national security office director, Cho Tae-yong, and Japan’s national security secretariat secretary general, Takeo Akiba.
Sullivan also met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
At a dinner reception for Sullivan and Akiba on Friday, Yoon said it is critical the three countries continue to build on his August summit with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Camp David, where they vowed to deepen security and economic cooperation.
South Korea’s presidential office said Sullivan expressed support for the South’s recent decision to partially suspend a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement on reducing border tensions, which had established border buffers and no-fly zones, to strengthen front-line surveillance of the North.
At their one-on-one meeting Friday, Cho and Akiba discussed building broader “international solidarity” in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. They said it poses a threat “not only to the Korean Peninsula, but also to the regional and international community as a whole,” Seoul said.
The US, South Korean and Japanese national security advisers last held a trilateral meeting in June in Tokyo.
The discussions between the national security advisers in Seoul came after the US, South Korean and Japanese nuclear envoys met in Tokyo for separate talks on North Korea.
The nuclear envoys shared their assessments about North Korea’s recent satellite launch and weapons development and discussed ways to more effectively respond to North Korea’s cyber theft activities and other illicit efforts to evade US-led international sanctions and finance its weapons program, the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministries said.
South Korean intelligence officials have said the Russians likely provided technology support for North Korea’s successful satellite launch in November, which followed two failed launches.
North Korea has said its spy satellite transmitted imagery with space views of key sites in the US and South Korea, including the White House and the Pentagon. But it hasn’t released any of those satellite photos. Many outside experts question whether the North’s satellite is sophisticated enough to send militarily useful high-resolution imagery.
Kim has vowed to launch more satellites, saying his military needs to acquire space-based reconnaissance capabilities.
South Korean intelligence and military officials have said North Korea may have shipped more than a million artillery shells to Russia beginning in August, weeks before Kim traveled to Russia’s Far East for a rare summit with Putin that sparked international concerns about a potential arms deal. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied US and South Korean claims about the alleged arms transfers.