Reuters blog archive
Iraq is going up in flames and there appears to be no question of the West putting boots back on the ground in contrast to 2003 when the United States and Britain invaded to topple Saddam Hussein and set in train a decade of chaos that has now exploded again.
Iraq's most senior Shi'ite Muslim cleric has urged his followers to take up arms against a full-blown Sunni militant insurgency to topple Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The chances of ISIL militants taking heavily armed Baghdad are slim but that doesn’t mean conflict will not continue and, with Iraqi Kurdish forces seizing control the oil hub of Kirkuk just outside their autonomous enclave in the north, the prospect of the country splitting along sectarian lines is real.
Over the weekend, ISIL’s advance on Baghdad slowed but spread northwest, with Sunni militants seizing Tal Afar, a town close to the Syrian border.
President Barack Obama said he was reviewing military options, short of sending combat troops. Unusually, the United States may have common cause with Iran in shoring up Maliki’s administration. Iranian president Rouhani said Tehran could cooperate with Washington to restore security and a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration was mulling possible discussions with Iran over the mounting crisis in Iraq.
from Bethany McLean:
Corrects story issued February 18 in third-to-last paragraph regarding efforts to contact Ralph Nader.
“It is time for [government-sponsored enterprises] to give up ties to the federal government that have made them poster children for corporate welfare. Most of all, Congress needs to look more to the protection of the taxpayers and less to the hyperbole of the GSE lobbyists. –Ralph Nader, testimony before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, June 15, 2000
Day one in Davos showed the masters of the universe fretting about Sino-Japanese military tensions, the treacherous investment territory in some emerging markets and the risk of a lurch to the right in Europe at May’s parliamentary elections which could make reform of the bloc even harder.
Today, the focus will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (and his main detractor, Israel’s Netanyahu). Presumably he’s there to woo the world of commerce now sanctions are to be relaxed in return for Tehran suspending enrichment of uranium beyond a certain level. Anything he says about Syria’s peace talks, which have so far been more hostile than conciliatory, will instantly be headline news.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew moves on to Berlin then Lisbon after spending yesterday in Paris. There, he urged Europe to do more to build up its bank backstops and capital, a fairly clear indication that Washington is underwhelmed by the German model of banking union which has prevailed.
Lew may also press for more German steps to boost domestic demand, after indirectly criticising Berlin for its policies during his last visit in April. If he does, he can expect a robust response from Schaeuble, at least in private.
Euro zone inflation, or deflation, is the focus of the moment.
Germany’s HICP rate fell to 1.2 percent last month, Italy’s hit 0.6 percent and Spain’s just 0.3 in December (not to mention Greece’s -2.9 percent). Today we get the figure for the euro zone as a whole. Forecasts for it to hold at 0.9 percent may now look a little toppy.
It’s too early for any dramatic moves but the European Central Bank, which has a policy meeting on Thursday, may well be pushed into easing policy if inflation refuses to pick up and/or the banks clam up ahead of this year’s health tests.
The surveys are likely to show the currency bloc ended the year on a reasonably robust note with Germany leading the way as always, Italy and Spain showing signs of life and France looking worryingly weak.
Here are comments from a U.S. Treasury official on Secretary Jack Lew’s meeting with incoming Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel this morning, following a scandal of political targeting that cost the previous acting commissioner his job. Treasury officials knew about the problem as early as last June, according to this report in the Wall Street Journal:
Secretary Lew met with incoming Acting IRS Commissioner Werfel this morning and directed him to conduct a thorough review of the organization in an effort to restore public confidence in the IRS and ensure the organization is providing excellent and unbiased service to the taxpayer. Secretary Lew also requested that he take actions immediately as appropriate, and that within the next 30 days, Werfel report back to the President and him about progress made in three areas: 1) ensuring staff that acted inappropriately are held accountable 2) examine and correct any failures in the system that allowed this behavior to happen and 3) take a forward-looking systemic view at the agency’s organization.
from Tales from the Trail:
Here's something that Republicans might want to hear: the White House is promising that its budget will include serious deficit control.
"The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction," White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew said in an interview with Reuters' White House correspondents Alister Bull and Jeff Mason.
from Tales from the Trail:
After Spain's victory in the World Cup, LeBron James' move to the Miami Heat and his own golf outing on Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama clearly has sports on the brain.
As he introduced Jacob Lew as his nominee to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, Obama sprinkled his remarks with allusions to sports.
from Tales from the Trail:
Tensions, what tensions?
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew arrived back from Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday, touting the performance of several ministers in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.
His visit came at a particularly tense time in U.S.-Afghan relations after Karzai made some corrosive statements in recent weeks against his donors, blaming the West for much of the corruption in his country and drawing critical comments from the White House.