Russia preparing action against U.S. seizure of Russian diplomatic compounds
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman had said that Moscow was preparing retaliatory measures to Washington's decision to seize two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States in 2016, on Wednesday. In December, the U.S. seized two Russian diplomatic compounds as then President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking to interfere in the U.S. presidential election campaign. Moscow, which denied the allegations, did not retaliate immediately, saying it would wait to see if relations improved under President Donald Trump. "Retaliatory measures are being prepared. As you understand, such a decision on the issue won't be made only by the foreign ministry," Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Speaking on state-run Rossiya 1 channel, Zakharova said Washington realised that Moscow would retaliate. The Russian Kommersant newspaper had reported in June that Russia might seize U.S. diplomatic property in Moscow and complicate life for an Anglo-American school unless Washington handed back the two diplomatic compounds in the United States before July.
Mossad in the market for new spy techniques
Israel's Mossad intelligence agency had set up an investment fund to help development of new cloak-and-dagger know-how and was offering grants of up to 2 million shekels (about $570,000) per project to bring in new ideas. A government statement said Mossad was seeking technologies in various fields, including robotics, miniaturisation and encryption as well as new automated methods of gleaning information from documents and new ways of carrying out operations more stealthily. A statement by the new fund, called Libertad, said it would be willing to give grants of up to 2 million shekels per project in exchange for non-exclusive rights to the technology. Developers would retain the rights to their product and could sell them. Libertad explained in a document that "The Mossad wants to encourage innovation and creation of groundbreaking technology ... the technology developed will be implemented by us, in cooperation between the parties," . It advised potential applicants to "closely observe" areas of interest on its website and said that calls for proposals would be posted publicly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had posted a short video clip on Twitter showing possible futuristic technology and wrote: "Mossad will continue to be sophisticated, daring and ground-breaking in its paramount task of ensuring Israel's security." Libertad's document said "anyone" could apply, suggesting that the offer was open to foreign companies though it did not give details. It added that an approved programme could be made only with an incorporated company.
Saudi Arabia adamant
Top Gulf diplomats were in Washington as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to help resolve the Qatar crisis, amid concerns that Saudi Arabia's unyielding stance could foil the effort. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who was in Washington, was adamant over the three-week-old squabble, and said on Twitter “Our demands on Qatar are non-negotiable. It's now up to Qatar to end its support for extremism and terrorism,”. US Secretary of State Tillerson had held talks with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Kuwait's Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah, whose country had taken on the official role of mediator. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, had offered to help resolve the row. While initially stepping back from what it viewed as a regional spat that would sort itself out, Washington had accepted that it would have to take an active role in resolving what has the makings of a foreign policy disaster for the government of President Donald Trump. Meanwhile Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri, Chairman of Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission had said his group would employ Swiss lawyers to seek compensation for those impacted by the decision of Gulf countries to cut ties with the emirate. “We’ll be coordinating to start legal action with those affected by these sanctions,” Marri told a news conference. “The three countries are responsible to compensate those affected,” he said, adding many Qataris qualified for compensation.“Some cases will be filed in courts in those three countries and in some courts that have international jurisdictions, like in Europe, related to compensation.”
Attempted coup in Venezuela?
A Venezuelan police helicopter was reported to have strafed the Supreme Court and a government ministry in Venezuela on Tuesday, escalating the OPEC nation's political crisis in what President Nicolas Maduro called an attack by "terrorists" seeking a coup. The aircraft fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry, where scores of people were at a social event, and dropped four grenades on the court, where judges were meeting. There were no reports of injuries. Maduro said "Sooner rather than later, we are going to capture the helicopter and those behind this armed terrorist attack against the institutions of the country,". The 54-year-old socialist leader had faced three months of protests from opposition leaders who decried him as a dictator who had wrecked a once-prosperous economy. There had been growing dissent too from within government and the security forces. At least 75 people had died, and hundreds more been injured and arrested, in the anti-government unrest since April. Demonstrators had been demanding general elections, measures to alleviate a brutal economic crisis, freedom for hundreds of jailed opposition activists, and independence for the opposition-controlled National Assembly legislature. Maduro said they were seeking a coup against him with the encouragement of a U.S. government eager to gain control of Venezuela's oil reserves, the largest in the world. Venezuela's government said in a communique the helicopter was stolen by an investigative police pilot called Oscar Perez, who declared himself in rebellion against Maduro. A video posted on Perez' Instagram account around the same time showed him standing in front of several hooded armed men, saying an operation was underway to restore democracy. Perez said in the video he represented a coalition of military, police and civilian officials opposed to the "criminal" government, urged Maduro's resignation and called for general elections. "This fight is ... against the vile government. Against tyranny," he said. Opposition leaders had long been calling on Venezuela's security forces to stop obeying Maduro. Opposition to Maduro had come not just from Venezuelan opposition parties but also from the chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega and one-time government heavyweights such as former intelligence service boss Miguel Rodriguez. Rodriguez criticized Maduro for not holding a referendum before the Constituent Assembly election, as his predecessor Chavez had done in 1999. The government said pilot Perez was linked to Rodriguez.