Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. Vice President Mike Pence, Other Trump Admin. Members, Refuse To Cooperate With House Impeachment Inquiry Against Pres. Trump
Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on October 15 that they would not cooperate with the House of Representative’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump, prompting a leading Democrat to say that would strengthen the case against the President. The Defense Department also said it would not comply with lawmakers’ request for documents related to Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, further illustrating Trump’s determination to stonewall the Democratic-led impeachment effort, which threatens to consume his Presidency. “The evidence of obstruction of Congress continues to build,” Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the leaders of the impeachment effort, said at a news conference.
Other US government officials have not been as reluctant to cooperate with turning over documents to the House of Representatives regarding the investigation into President Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine, however. A senior US diplomat, George Kent, said in closed-door testimony that he had been alarmed by efforts by Giuliani and others to pressure Ukraine, according to one lawmaker who heard his testimony. “He was pretty detailed in talking about some of the shady characters Giuliani was dependent on for misinformation,” Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly told reporters. Kent, who has spent much of his career fighting corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere, is the second career diplomat to testify as part of the probe after being subpoenaed. The Trump Administration and State Department had ordered them not to appear. His testimony backed up accounts from other US government insiders who have said they were unnerved by Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine.
In their impeachment inquiry, House Democrats are focusing on President Donald Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to look into unsubstantiated allegations about Joe Biden, the former Vice President and the front runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. If the Democratic-controlled House votes to approve articles of impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate would then hold a trial on whether to remove President Trump from office. In the Senate, however, the impeachment and removal of President Trump is far from certain. Even though there are three Republican Senators who would likely vote to impeach President Donald Trump (Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Corey Gardner), there are two Republican Senators who are undecided (Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins) and one Democratic member of the Senate, Joe Manchin of West Virginia will likely vote against impeachment due to the fact that he agrees with Trump on a vast majority of policy issues. Assuming that Senators Murkowski, Collins, and Manchin all vote against impeachment, the Senate will likely acquit President Trump and allow him to remain in office. Despite the Senate’s reluctance to vote to impeach President Trump, recent polling by Reuters/Ipsos shows that a plurality (43%) of US adults surveyed favor impeachment.
2. Turkish Invasion of Northern Syria Widens As Syrian Government Reenters Northern Syria, Launches Counterassualt Against Turkey
Syrian government troops moved into a series of towns and villages in Northern Syria on October 14, setting up a potential clash with Turkish-led forces in the area, as US troops began their anticipated withdraw. The Syrian army’s deployment near the Turkish border came hours after Syrian Kurdish forces previously allied with the US said they reached a deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s government to help fend off Turkey’s invasion, now going into its seventh day. The announcement of a deal between Syria’s Kurds and its government is a major shift in alliances that came after President Donald Trump ordered all US troops to leave Northern Syria amid the rapidly spreading chaos.
The shift in alliances sets up a potential clash between Turkey and Syria and increases the chances for the heavily weakened ISIS to regain strength as the US relinquishes any remaining influence in Northern Syria to Syrian President Assad and his chief backers, Russia and Iran. The fighting also seems likely to endanger, if not altogether crush, the brief experiment in self-rule set up by Syria’s Kurds since the war began. “We are going back to our normal positions that are at the border,” said a Syrian officer, as embattled Kurdish authorities invited the government to retake towns and villages in the north.
Syrian troops arrived on October 14 in the Northern province of Raqqa aboard buses and pickup trucks with mounted heavy machineguns. Turkey has pressed on with its invasion of Northern Syria, warning its NATO allies in Europe and the United States not to stand in its way. Turkish troops and Syrian proxy forces have steadily pushed their way south of the border, clashing with the Kurdish fighters over a stretch of 125 miles. The offensive has displaced at least 130,000 people. “We are about to implement our decision on Manbij,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters. He added that Turkey’s aim would be to return the city to Arab populations whom he said where its rightful owners. Erdogan has already said Turkey will not negotiate with the Syrian Kurdish fighters, which it considers “terrorists” for links to a long-running Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.
3. Iranian President Rouhani Agrees To Have Pakistan Mediate Between Iran and Saudi Arabia To Settle Both Countries Longstanding Disputes
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani have held talks in the Iranian capital of Tehran on October 13 as part of a Pakistani initiative to defuse rising tensions in the Gulf and mediate between regional foes, Iran and Saudi Arabia. “The reason for this trip is that we do not want a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” Khan told reporters as he stood alongside President Rouhani. Emphasizing the visit to the two countries were Pakistan’s “initiative”, he said: “We recognize that it’s a complex issue … but we feel that this can be resolved through dialogue. But what should never happen, is war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia increased following a September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities. The US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates blamed Iran for the assault on the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities, a claim Iran denied. Then, on October 11, an Iranian-flagged oil tanker was damaged by two separate explosions off the Saudi port of Jeddah, raising fears of a further escalation. Iran said it was conducting an investigation and Saudi Arabia said it was not behind the suspected strike. The Sabiti was the first Iranian vessel to be hit since a series of attacks targeting oil tankers in the Gulf waters in June and July of 2019.
All of this comes against the backdrop of a bitter standoff between the US and Iran over the Iranian nuclear program. The two countries’ already poor relationship has declined greatly since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) in May of 2018, and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran in late 2018. Imran Khan told reporters that US President Donald Trump had approached him to “facilitate some sort of dialogue between Iran and the US.” But Hassan Rouhani repeated Iran’s official stance that the US must return to the nuclear deal and lift sanctions before any talks can take place. “Any goodwill gesture and good words will be reciprocated with a goodwill gesture and good words,” he said, stressing on the need for political dialogue to resolve the region’s conflicts.