The US held its most contentious midterm elections

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The Trump administration reimposed the full panoply of sanctions against Iran that were waived under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, a key plank of the platform on which Donald Trump waged his insurgent election campaign in 2016. The sanctions that are being re-imposed are the most damaging to the Iranian economy - targeting its oil sales, its wider energy industry, shipping, banking, insurance and so on. In large part these are what is known in the trade as "secondary sanctions", in that they are intended to apply pressure on other countries to prevent them trading with Tehran.

The idea is to dissuade them from purchasing Iranian oil, which brings in a huge proportion of Iran's revenue. However 8 ‘jurisdictions’, including India, SOuth Korea, Turkey and China secured waivers in this regard. In addition, sanctions will be imposed upon hundreds of named entities and individuals.

 

The US held its most contentious midterm elections (so-called because they coincide with the halfway point of the presidency when they are held every 4 years) in living memory, with the stakes ratcheted up by highly divisive campaigns that laid bare the tribal instincts that have come to the fore in the era of Donald Trump.

Turnout was expected to be high, with more than 34 million Americans already having voted prior to Election Day availing the early voting option. The opposition Democrats were hoping to retake control of the House of Representatives (the lower house of the US parliament, or Congress), while Republicans sought to tighten their grip on the Senate. Although historically the midterms tend to go against the president’s party, that was by no means a certainty this time around as the president’s hold on his base - seemingly unshakable - threatened to undermine expectations of a “blue” (Democrat) wave. Voting closed as Dhaka Courier went to press this week.

 

The Pakistan government was brought to its knees by hardline protesters agitated by the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010. The court's decision to overturn the verdict led to violent protests throughout Pakistan by angry mobs calling for the judges in the case to be killed. Saiful Malook, the defence lawyer, fled to the Netherlands following the outbreak of violence.

Despite her acquittal, Asia Bibi remains in prison (where she may well be safer). After initially standing strong against the protesters, with Prime Minister Imran Khan claiming they were doing no service to Islam, eventually his government was forced to cave in. In a compromise deal that has come in for equal criticism, it agreed to allow a review petition to be filed, and to bar Asia Bibi from leaving the country while the review process played out. The blasphemy law in Pakistan, expanded under the late General Zia ul Haq, carries a mandatory death penalty in some instances and many hardline religious groups are opposed to it being amended.

 

Saudi Arabia sent two experts to Istanbul with the specific aim of covering up evidence after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul, a Turkish official said this week. More than a month after the Saudi royal-insider-turned critic was killed inside the mission on October 2, Turkey has still yet to recover the remains amid claims that his body was dissolved in acid.

The killing of the 59-year-old has severely dented the kingdom's image in the West and put powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the defensive. After weeks of allegations in pro-government media, Turkey's chief prosecutor last week confirmed Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate and the body was dismembered. Meanwhile the sons of Khashoggi, Salah and Abdullah, told CNN they wanted Saudi Arabia to return the body so that he could be buried in Medina with the rest of his family.

  • DhakaCourier
  • Vol 35
  • World this week
  • Issue 18

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