World News Brief, Thursday May 7

Obama to push for regional defense system in Gulf; China to impose harsher punishments for pollution; Japan and Philippines hold anti-piracy exercises in waters off Manila Bay; France expands spy powers; ferry between Florida and Cuba approved; and more


Obama to Push for Gulf Regional Defense System

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to push for U.S. support for the creation of a regional defense system (Reuters) in the Gulf to guard against potential Iranian missile strikes.  The move is seen as a bid to assuage concerns about a deal with Tehran on its nuclear program. Obama is set to host (WSJ) leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. at the White House and Camp David next week. Meanwhile, regional tensions remain high, as Saudi-led air strikes continue in Yemen. An attack (Al Jazeera) on the southern Saudi city of Najran Tuesday by mortars fired from Yemen killed at least two civilians. Separately, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that he will discuss a humanitarian pause (AP) to Saudi-led operations in Yemen when he arrives in Riyadh for talks with Saudi leaders on Wednesday and Thursday. 


"Even if the US security 'umbrella' is enhanced, most of the threats to the region are from destabilisation and chaos, not interstate wars. It is to tackle these threats to stability and security that the pan-Arab force is being created and for the same reason that Saudi Arabia and the GCC were swift to intervene in Yemen. The stability and prosperity of the GCC have been hard-fought and hard-won. A new security environment is needed to maintain that prize," writes the National.

"Concrete action speaks louder than words when it comes to resetting strategic relations between the two sides. There have been encouraging statements and deeds lately from the Obama administration, like challenging Iran and beefing up US naval presence to thwart Iran’s bullying in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden. This is a good sign of standing up to Iran. But this has to be part of a comprehensive strategy, not a short-lived tactic," writes Abdullah Al Shayji in Gulf News.

"Affording all Yemenis, including the Houthis, the space to weigh in on the future of Yemen in partnership with their fellow Gulf citizens is the one crucial weapon at the disposal of the Saudis and their allies to gain the support of the millions of Yemenis silenced by the hard choices of this war," writes Sultan Barakat of the Brookings Institution. 


China to Toughen Punishments for Pollution

The Chinese State Council said it will impose (SCMP) harsher punishments on officials whose policies are found to cause ecological damage. Local governments will be expected to ensure no further deterioration to air, water, and soil quality in their respective regions. Meanwhile Shanghai’s party chief announced new anti-corruption measures that limit (WSJ) local business activity by the spouses and children of high-ranking local officials.   

PHILIPPINES: Coast guards of Japan and the Philippines held (Reuters) joint anti-piracy exercises in waters off Manila Bay on Tuesday. The drill is the first since Japan and the Philippines signed a strategic partnership in 2012. Both countries are in maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

This CFR InfoGuide provides analysis and insight into China's maritime disputes.  


France expands spy powers

Ferry between Florida and Cuba approved

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