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U.S. tells commercial vessels to send Gulf transit plans in advance

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The United States maritime agency has told U.S.-flagged commercial vessels they should send transit plans in advance to American and British naval authorities if they intend to sail in Gulf waters following several incidents over tankers involving Iran.

The seizure of commercial vessels and attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz have unsettled shipping lanes that link Middle Eastern oil producers to global markets.

The U.S., which has increased its military forces in the region, has blamed Iran for blasts on several tankers near the Strait, a charge Tehran denies.

Britain said on Monday it was joining the U.S. in a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect vessels after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker.

“Heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels,’’ the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) said in an advisory on Wednesday.

“Associated with these threats is a potential for miscalculation or misidentification that could lead to aggressive actions,’’ it added.

Ships should also alert the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations in the event of any incident or suspicious activity.

It warned they could face interference to their global positioning systems (GPS).

MARAD said in at least two incidents involving commercial vessels and Iran since May 2019 ships had reported interference with their GPS and “spoofed” communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be the U.S. or other warships.

It advised crews to decline Iranian forces permission to board if the safety of the ship and crew would not be at risk but said they should not forcibly resist any boarding party.

Traffic through the Strait, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes, has become the focus for a standoff between Iran and the U.S. after President Donald Trump quit a 2015 nuclear pact and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

Iran says the responsibility of securing these waters lies with Tehran and other countries in the region.

“The maritime coalition that the U.S. is trying to form will create more instability and insecurity,’’ Iran’s Defence Minister, Amir Hatami, was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday during phone calls with his counterparts from Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.

Washington is lobbying other nations to join the coalition along with Britain, which has the largest naval presence in the area after the U.S.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

Foreign

Sheffield United beat Palace for first win of Premier League return

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Sheffield United beat Palace for first win of Premier League return

League

Lundstram fired home the rebound of Luke Freeman’s saved shot in the 48th minute as United gave the Bramall Lane fans plenty to cheer about.

The Blades, who last played in the top division in 2007, have taken four points from the first two games of their return.

Palace, meanwhile, has yet to score after playing out a goalless draw with Everton last weekend.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

White House says ‘no recession in sight’ despite market turmoil

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White House says ‘no recession in sight’ despite market turmoil

Recession

Washington, Aug. 18, 2019 White House officials pushed back on Sunday against concerns that economic growth may be faltering, saying they saw little risk of recession despite a volatile week on global bond markets, and insisting their trade war with China was doing no damage to the United States.

“There is no recession in sight,’’ White House Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Fox News Sunday.

“Consumers are working. Their wages are rising.

“They are spending and they are saving…I think we are in pretty good shape.’’

U.S. stock markets tanked last week on recession fears with all three major U.S. indexes closing down about three per cent on Wednesday only to pair their losses by Friday due to expectations the European Central Bank might cut rates.

For a brief time last week, bond investors also demanded a higher interest rate on two-year Treasury bonds than for 10-year Treasury bonds, often construed as a sign of lost faith in near-term economic growth.

However, Trade Adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday likewise dismissed last week’s warning signs, saying “good” economic dynamics were encouraging investors to move money to the U.S.

“We have the strongest economy in the world and money is coming here for our stock market.

“It’s also coming here to chase yield in our bond markets,’’ Navarro told ABC’s This Week.

That sort “flight to safety” is typically driven by concerns of global economic trouble – in this case, the possibility that the Trump administration’s tariff battle with China may dampen business investment and growth worldwide.

The tariffs on Chinese goods, Navarro said, “are not hurting anybody here’’.

The U.S. economy does continue to grow and add jobs each month.

Retail sales in July jumped a stronger-than-expected 0.7 per cent, the government reported last week, and Kudlow said that number showed that the main prop of the U.S. economy is intact.

But manufacturing growth has slowed and lagging business investment has also become a drag.

Globally, flagging global trade appears to have pushed the German economy toward recession and dampened growth in China.

A slowdown would be bad news for President Donald Trump, who is building his 2020 bid for a second term around the economy’s performance.

He told voters at a rally last week they had “no choice” but to vote for him in order to preserve their jobs and investments.

Despite talking up the economy, the president and his advisers have repeatedly accused the U.S. Federal Reserve of undermining the administration’s economic policies.

On Sunday, Kudlow again pointed the finger at the central bank, describing rate hikes through 2017 and 2018 as “very severe monetary restraint”.

The Fed hiked rates seven times over those two years as part of a plan to restore normal monetary policy, following the emergency steps taken to battle the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and recession.

Even with those steps, the Fed’s target interest rate has remained well below historic norms and policymakers have started cutting rates in response to growing global risks.

Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday joined the many economic analysts, who have said the administration’s sometimes erratic policies are to blame for increased uncertainty, disappointing business investment and market volatility.

“I’m afraid that this president is driving the global economy and our economy into recession,’’ Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Iran says U.S. move on north Syria safe zone is “provocative”

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Provocation

Dubai, Aug. 18, 2019 A U.S. agreement to set up a safe zone in northern Syria, a close ally of Iran, is “provocative and worrisome”, the Iranian Foreign Ministry was reported to have said by the semi-official Fars news agency.

The U.S. and Turkey last week agreed to set up a joint operations centre for a proposed zone along Syria’s northeast border.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Israeli military kills 3 Palestinians at Gaza border – reports

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Killing

The Israeli military said an attack helicopter and a tank fired at the “armed suspects adjacent to the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip’’.

Palestinian officials confirmed the casualties, according to the reports.

The incident came amid a recent escalation of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Egypt-brokered effort to reach a cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Islamic Hamas Movement.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Foreign

Romanian elite climber killed in Fagaras Mountains

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Mountains

The evacuation of the deceased climber in the area of Negoiu Peak was carried out by land and the body was transported to the Legal Medicine Service in Sibiu, as Adrian David, head of the Sibiu Mountain Rescue, was quoted as saying by official Agerpres news agency.

David believed that Zsolt died after a rock broke up with him, considering that the area in which he was, near the Negoiu Peak, is very unstable and rarely visited by climbers. He was alone on the mountain, in an area with no signal.

Zsolt’s disappearance had been reported on Saturday morning. Mountain rescue and gendarme teams, as well as a helicopter of the Interior Ministry, searched for him for several hours.

Zsolt, 45, was a highly seasoned climber, who led in 2013 the Romanian expedition to Pakistan’s 8,126m-high Nanga Parbat and summited in 2016 five Himalayan peaks.

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