FROM FOE TO FRIEND
US to lift sanctions on Sudan amid intelligence cooperation
The US will announce the permanent lifting of economic sanctions on Sudan today.
Africa’s third-largest country has spent two decades under sanction, freezing it out of the global financial system.The measures were initially imposed for harbouring Islamist extremists in the late 1990s—including Osama bin Laden—and later expanded over Khartoum’s role in the bloody Darfur conflict.
In January, President Obama temporarily suspended sanctions, citing a “sea change” in Sudan’s behaviour. A former Iranian ally, it’s little surprise that Sudan’s “sea change” coincided with warming ties with Saudi Arabia.
Khartoum has also begun extensive counter-terror cooperation with the US. In March, Sudan’s intelligence chief travelled Stateside for talks with his American counterparts. The CIA and FBI are now considering opening offices in the country, providing access to the hotspots of Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
While the Trump administration is expected to lift sanctions today, Sudan is still classed as a state sponsor of terror; expect this to be lifted in the near future, paving the way for closer intelligence cooperation.
Update: the US has announced it will postpone this decision for three months. Sudan will continue to benefit from the temporary sanctions reprieve offered by President Obama until that time.
Christopher Wray faces confirmation hearing for FBI director post
Christopher Wray, President Trump’s pick for the vacant FBI director post, faces his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. If all goes as expected, Wray will replace James Comey, whom Mr Trump fired two months ago.
Wray, who according to the president is “a man of impeccable credentials,” isn’t exactly an outsider. Between 2003 and 2005, he worked as assistant attorney general under then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, who now leads the Russia investigation, and then-Deputy Attorney-General James Comey.
He is said to have sided with the two during their 2004 showdown with the Bush administration, in which they opposed the NSA’s illegal terrorist surveillance program. Despite this, Wray may face some uncomfortable questions; he defended New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the infamous Bridgegate scandal and his former law firm has ties to Russian energy companies.
James Comey’s dismissal cast doubt over Trump’s ability to tolerate an independent FBI director. Wray now has the unenviable task of ensuring that it’s not just the president that thinks “he’s gonna be great.”
AVOIDING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Olympic Committee discusses hosts of 2024 and 2028 summer games
Today, the International Olympic Committee will decide whether to award the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics simultaneously for the first time.
While it’s no secret that Paris and Los Angeles will be awarded the Games, it’s uncertain which will be the host in 2024 and which in 2028. The official awarding ceremony will take place on September 13.
The fact that Los Angeles and Paris have no competition—hopefuls Boston and Hamburg backed out in 2015 due to public pressure—is evidence of growing disillusionment with hosting the games. Massive cost overruns have become synonymous with hosting large international events like the Olympics. The 2004 Athens Olympics cost more than twice as much as initially planned for and contributed to Greece sliding into financial crisis.
Amid this public sentiment, it’s understandable that IOC President Thomas Bach wants both Los Angeles and Paris to feel like winners, although this may not last.
Top EU officials will be in Kiev today for a high-profile summit. The talks come just 24 hours after the EU approved Ukraine’s Association Agreement, which upgrades economic ties, intensifies negotiations on visa-free travel and aims to converge economic legislation. The move is seen as a step towards Ukraine’s EU membership. The Agreement served as the trigger for mass protests in 2013, which led to the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent troubles in eastern Ukraine.
Canada’s central bank is expected to hike interest rates for the first time in almost seven years. This is in spite of relatively weak inflation, recorded at 1.3% in May—well within the 1-3% target band.
Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia will be in the UK to meet Queen Elizabeth.