Proposed sale of F-35 jets to UAE prompts fears in Israel

JERUSALEM (The Washington Post) — The proposed sale of advanced U.S. fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates is raising concerns among some security experts in Israel that the Middle East could be on the verge of an arms race even as those two countries are expected to sign a peace deal Tuesday at the White House.

Senior U.S. and UAE officials say the peace agreement is smoothing the way for the Trump administration to proceed with the sale of long-sought F-35 stealth fighter jets and other sophisticated weaponry to the Persian Gulf state. That prospect is increasing the likelihood that Israel and other Middle East countries will in turn seek more advanced arms.

In Israel, the proposed sale is tainting the otherwise great enthusiasm here for the agreements brokered by the White House to normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

Putin throws $1.5B lifeline to Belarus leader

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russian President Vladimir Putin bestowed a $1.5 billion loan on Belarus on Monday in a gesture of support for its leader Alexander Lukashenko, who flew to entreat his patron for help after five weeks of mass protests demanding his resignation.

A day after more than 100,000 protesters took to the streets of Minsk with chants of "You're a rat", Lukashenko met Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in urgent need of help to maintain his 26-year grip on power.

"First of all, I want to thank you ... personally thank you and all Russians, all those, and I will not list them, who were involved in supporting us during this post-election time," Lukashenko said.

The Kremlin said some of the new money would be used to refinance earlier loans.

Putin backed plans Lukashenko has previously announced for constitutional reform, which the opposition has dismissed as a stunt to retain power after a disputed Aug. 9 presidential election.

But his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would stand down a reserve of law enforcement officers and national guards that Putin had placed near the border late last month, ready to intervene in case the situation got out of control.

US ambassador to China to retire, leave Beijing

BEIJING (Los Angeles Times) — U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad announced Monday that he will retire from his position and return to the United States by early October, a departure that comes amid extreme political and diplomatic tension between the U.S. and China.

He confirmed the decision to President Donald Trump by phone last week, according to a statement from the embassy in Beijing, and will return to Iowa, where he previously served six terms as governor. No successor has been announced.

The reason for Branstad's departure was not immediately clear. However, Trump said in a phone call shared via Twitter on Sept. 12 to Joni Ernst, a Republican senator for Iowa who is currently running for reelection, that Branstad was returning to the U.S. to campaign. The move seemed to come as a surprise to China's foreign ministry, which told the Associated Press on Monday afternoon that it had not heard the ambassador was leaving.

Last week, Branstad submitted an op-ed to the Communist Party's official newspaper People's Daily in which he argued that U.S. companies, journalists, diplomats and civil society are blocked from the same access to China that the United States provides to their Chinese counterparts.


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