Vice President Mike Pence departed for the Middle East this week, proceeding with visits to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel despite the government shutdown. The trip was labeled a national security measure, the White House told Politico, to avoid shutdown-related cancellation.
In Cairo on Saturday, Pence met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who expressed displeasure with President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year. Pence described the conversation as "disagreement between friends," saying he "heard el-Sisi out."
On Sunday, Pence spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who said after the Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. must "rebuild trust and confidence" in the possibility of a two-state solution. The vice president assured him the United States is "committed to continue to respect Jordan's role as the custodian of holy sites, [and] that we take no position on boundaries and final status" in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Bonnie Kristian
Foreign ministers from 22 Arab League nations issued a statement Sunday saying President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel this past week is a "dangerous development that places the United States at a position of bias in favor of the occupation [of Palestine] and the violation of international law and resolutions."
The statement asks Trump to make a retraction. Failing that, signatory states will petition the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution denouncing the decision, which critics say will impede the Israel-Palestine peace process.
Trump argued his announcement is "nothing more or less than a recognition of reality," as Israel's government is based in Jerusalem. Read The Week's Noah Millman on why he may be right. Bonnie Kristian
The State Department said Friday it will demand the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) outpost in Washington unless the group agrees to peace talks with Israel. The agency said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas triggered a provision in U.S. law that allows the secretary of state to shut down the PLO office if Palestine acts against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Abbas called for an ICC investigation of Israeli settlements in a September speech at the United Nations.
The PLO said Saturday it would not be blackmailed and expressed surprise at the strong-arm tactic after amicable meetings between Abbas and President Trump. An Abbas representative, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said the talks were "characterized by full understanding of the steps needed to create a climate for resumption of the peace process." Bonnie Kristian
Beijing said in state media reports Saturday that "the traditional friendly relations between China and North Korea was founded and cultivated by both countries' former old leaders, and is valuable wealth for the two peoples." The comments come after meetings in Pyongyang between representatives of both governments Friday.
The timing of the talks so soon after President Trump's conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump's tour of Asia has led to speculation that Beijing may have conveyed a message from Washington. Pyongyang said Friday that nuclear diplomacy will not proceed unless the U.S. and South Korea stop conducting joint military exercises. Bonnie Kristian
Recent polls have his approval rating at a dismal 3 percent, but Brazil's president was able to survive a vote Wednesday night on whether he should be tried on corruption charges.
Of the 513 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies, 251 voted in support of President Michel Temer, 233 were against him, and the rest either abstained or were absent; he needed 171 votes in his favor in order to avoid being suspended and tried on charges of leading a criminal organization and obstruction of justice, The Associated Press reports. Temer was vice president under President Dilma Rousseff, but after she was impeached and removed from office last year, he took over.
What started as an investigation into money laundering turned into a massive corruption probe. Prosecutors say that political parties sold favors and appointments to some of the country's most powerful businessmen, and that since Temer rose to power, his party has received $190 million in bribes; Temer denies the claims. His term is over on Dec. 31, 2018, and in next year's elections, all 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies are up for grabs. Many of Brazil's television stations aired Wednesday's vote live, letting people at home watch as they voted for or against the deeply unpopular president. Catherine Garcia
The United States and South Korea are preparing for several days of joint military drills on the Korean Peninsula beginning Monday, an occasion that prompted North Korea on Sunday to label President Trump a "war merchant and strangler of peace" who has pushed "the situation on the peninsula to the brink of war." Trump is due to visit Asia, including South Korea, in early November.
South Korean media outlets report North Korea may also conduct another weapons test during the drills, as missile transporters reportedly "kept appearing and disappearing" near Pyongyang and elsewhere in North Korea. On Friday, Pyongyang again threatened to launch missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam. Bonnie Kristian
The United States announced its intention Thursday to withdraw from UNESCO, citing concerns about the organization's "continuing anti-Israel bias." The U.S. helped found the organization, which promotes education, culture, and science worldwide, after World War II. America will stay on as a UNESCO observer, a State Department announcement said:
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) October 12, 2017
It is not the first time the U.S. has withdrawn. "The Reagan administration decided to withdraw from the organization in 1984, at the height of the Cold War, citing corruption and what it considered an ideological tilt towards the Soviet Union against the West," Foreign Policy writes. "President George W. Bush rejoined the organization in 2002, claiming it had gotten its books in order and expunged some of its most virulent anti-Western and anti-Israel biases."
In 2011, the Obama administration cut $80 million a year from its UNESCO budget in response to the organization's inclusion of Palestine as a member. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson additionally wants to save money with the withdrawal, avoiding the $500 million owed to the agency due to American funding cuts.
"For us, it is important to have the United States on board, including at UNESCO at this critical juncture," said France's U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, prior to America's announcement. "We consider the U.S. must stay committed to world affairs." Read more about the decision at Foreign Policy. Jeva Lange
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote Saturday afternoon on punitive sanctions against North Korea in response to Pyongyang's two tests of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology that could potentially execute a nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland. If approved, the sanctions package will cut North Korean export incomes — currently about $3 billion annually — by one third.
The sanctions target North Korean exports of commodities including coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood. The measure would "also prohibit countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean laborers working abroad, ban new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures," Reuters reports.
North Korean allies Russia and China are expected to support the vote, which makes passage highly likely. The measure condemns Pyongyang's nuclear program "in the strongest terms" and demands it be ended "in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner."