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WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Will US military aid to Israel jeopardize Biden's help to Ukraine?

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to bolster military support for Israel following an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants that has killed more than 1,000 Israelis and prompted an intense retaliation against the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip.

His promise raised questions about whether Washington can ramp up defense aid to Israel without jeopardizing aid for Ukraine, especially given Republican lawmakers' ouster of House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy and failure so far to name a replacement.

Biden administration officials insist Washington can absolutely do both, but acknowledge there will be challenges.

WHY DOES IT MATTER THAT THERE IS NO HOUSE SPEAKER?

The U.S. Congress controls spending, so Biden must convince the Senate and House to pass legislation authorizing additional funding. These spending bills generally originate in the House, where the Speaker - the elected leader of the majority party - controls what legislation is put to a vote.

Republicans hold a narrow 221-212 majority in the House, which made it possible for just a handful of their members to oust McCarthy last week, the first time in U.S. history this has happened.

Because McCarthy's ouster was unprecedented, it is not clear whether Representative Patrick McHenry, who is serving as temporary speaker, can legally call a vote on any aid legislation.

Further complicating the issue, many of the hard-right members who ousted McCarthy oppose aid to Ukraine, including Representative Jim Jordan, a frontrunner in the Speaker's race. House Republicans refused to include aid to Ukraine in a last-minute spending bill passed last month to avert a government shutdown.

Support for Israel is far stronger, with Republicans closely tied to conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Biden administration is considering tying a request for assistance to Ukraine to more money for Israel.

HOW MUCH DO ISRAEL AND UKRAINE'S NEEDS OVERLAP?

Israel is a major long-term recipient of U.S. military assistance and enjoys a steady stream of U.S. aid. The two countries agreed in 2016 on a 10-year deal with $38 billion covering annual grants to buy military equipment and a $5 billion missile defense appropriation.

In the current phase of the conflict, Israel's major need is for small arms for its infantry and air defense interceptors to protect its civilian infrastructure and military command and control centers.

It is unlikely Israel has burned through its small arms ammunition this early in the conflict.

On the missile defense side, Israel uses the Iron Dome system, developed with U.S. backing to provide air defenses. Iron Dome is not designed to fire the same interceptor used by the U.S.-made Patriot system and other missile defense units deployed in Ukraine.

Ukraine's major needs are ammunition, missile defense systems and ground vehicles as it fights to take back territory from Russian invaders who launched an offensive in February 2022.

The United States has sent $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion started, asking Congress for several tranches of assistance, the last one approved in December 2022.

The two countries - and other recipients of weapons aid like Taiwan - would benefit if Congress approves funding to boost the permanent manufacturing capacity of U.S. defense contractors. This would also ease concerns that shipments of U.S. weapons overseas is depleting U.S. stocks at the potential risk to national security.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Biden on Tuesday said his administration had already begun sending Israel additional military assistance including interceptors to replenish the Iron Dome. He said that when Congress returns, the administration will ask lawmakers to take "urgent action to the national security requirements of our critical partners."

There are a few ways that additional aid for Ukraine - and Israel - could become law.

Congress could consider a standalone spending bill combining the two, along the lines of a spending request Biden made in August combining Ukraine, disaster relief and border security money.

Funding for both also could be included in a larger spending bill, which Congress must pass later this year to keep the federal government open when the stopgap spending measure expires next month.

** UK-led coalition to give Ukraine 100 mln pound mine-clearing support package

A British-led group of European countries will provide Ukraine with a 100 million pound ($122.70 million) package to support its armed forces including equipment to clear minefields.

Britain's defence ministry on Wednesday said Ukraine was "now the most mined country on earth," which had become an obstacle in its counter-offensive this year, and that mine clearing capabilities were essential to help it push forward.

The package will be provided using money from the International Fund for Ukraine - a group of countries including Britain, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

Defence minister Grant Shapps will announce the package alongside allies and attend his first NATO-Ukraine Council, where he is expected to discuss the Israel-Gaza crisis and reported damage to undersea infrastructurebetween Finland and Estonia.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Russia reiterates warning over black market Ukrainian weapons

The unchecked delivery of Western weapons to Ukraine has resulted in a large amount of these arms ending up in the hands of organized criminal groups and extremists around the world, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has again claimed. 

On Tuesday, the diplomat published a compilation of excerpts from briefings over the past 18 months in which Moscow consistently raised concerns and provided evidence testifying to the unchecked spread of weapons supplied to Kiev. 

Zakharova suggested that the reason for this phenomenon was rampant corruption in Ukraine as well as corrupt ties between Washington and Kiev. Despite Moscow repeatedly calling for international media to highlight the issue, major Western news outlets have refused to conduct investigations or assess the data, the spokeswoman added. 

Below is a collection of briefings conducted by the Russian Foreign Ministry since March 24, 2022, in which it warned the international community on the issue.

** Zelensky fears that West will pay less attention to Ukraine amid Middle East crisis

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky fears that the West may pay less attention to the conflict in Ukraine amid the recent attack on Israel by Palestine’s radical movement HAMAS.

"The global community may become less attentive to Ukraine," Zelensky said in an interview to France 2.

At the same time, he "hopes for continued US support."

The Ukrainian president also claimed that "if the aid to Kiev ceases, time will be on Russia’s side."

On October 7, after Israel came under shelling from the Gaza Strip, a group of Hamas militants infiltrated the Jewish state. Hamas calls its attack a response to Israeli actions against the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel has announced it was ready for war, started Operation Iron Swords and ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip. Clashes erupted in the West Bank and there was an exchange of artillery fire on the border with Lebanon.

 

Reuters/RT/Tass

President Bola Tinubu’s alleged certificate forgery is a tip of the iceberg in the political governance of Nigeria. In fact, on 20 February 2023, eighteen Nigerian nurses were charged to court for certificate forgery. On 13 March 2023, The Vanguard newspaper (Lagos, Nigeria) reported another case of 43 Nigerian nurses charged for certificate forgery. They were accused of engaging in a scheme to sell false and fraudulent nursing certificates. And perhaps more disturbingly, the Texas Board of Nursing has also charged more than 75 Nigerian nurses to court for engagement in falsification of certificates. This situation shows clearly that Tinubu’s case is not really a big deal at the Nigerian domestic level, but more than a big deal in terms of foreign policy implications. Certificate forgery is now both for educational and political survival. It is now very rampant. But why?

At the domestic level, there was the first case of Evan or Evans Enwerem who had the same problem as Tinubu today. Enwerem was elected to represent the Imo-East Senatorial Zone in the Fourth Senate of the Fourth Republic inaugurated in May 1999. He was elected with the active support of President Olusegun Obasanjo to the detriment of the more popularly- supported Chuba Okadigbo. Enwerem won with 66 votes while Okadigbo scored 45 votes. Enwerem was ousted from power on November 18, 1999, that is, five months after his inauguration as Senate President. He was impeached due to his first name identity arising from falsification of his documents which had his first name as Evans, and not as Evan. Documentary name is different from name in usage.

An August edition of The Tell Magazine claimed that the first Senate President had falsified his name which prompted the establishment by the National Assembly of an investigation committee. Enwerem simply argued that it was a typographical error which was not accepted. Okadigbo’s  supporters posited that he feigned his age and name ‘for a dubious gain.’ He was also accused of corruption and was removed when he followed the presidential entourage to the airport to see off Obasanjo. Khairat Abdulrasaq (PDP, representing the FCT) led some other Senators to mobilise signatures for Enwerem’s removal. Okadigbo expectedly succeeded him.

More notably in this case is the fact that Enwerem was deposed. It is more interesting in terms of intellectual enquiry. Enwerem remained a Senate floor member until the end of his tenure in 2003 while Okadigbo was impeached in 2000 similarly on corruption charges.

In essence, was Evans Ekwerem the same person as Evan Ekwerem? Is the problem a typographical error? Whatever is the case, there is no disputing the fact that several political leaders have a political lifestyle that is fraught with chicanery, conscious dishonesty of purpose, attitudinal bigotry, and romance with political dishonesty. These are the people that have always found their way to leadership positions in Nigeria and who the security agencies have always cleared for election purposes.

Unlike Enwerem, Tinubu’s  alleged certificate forgery is more interesting in terms of intellectual posterity. Tinubu’s case is not the first of certificate forgeries. What makes it very interesting is that nothing has been done institutionally to nip in the bud the commissioning of fresh potential crimes of certificate forgery. It also raises three main problems: extent of importance of a name identity, constitutional eligibility in a presidential election, Tinubu’s changing narration of the presumed truths, and foreign policy implications.

As regards name identity, it should first be noted that Tinubu is not the first person to be confronted with queries about his true identity. Besides, he also has the problem of age in addition to identity problem like Enwerem. So a name is not simply for identification. It is also a reflection of personality and character. A name must never be taken for granted, including order of arrangement and presentation of the names. If there was a serious problem with Evans and Evan, why should anyone be talking about a typographical error as an excuse?

Tinubu’s true age has been subject of public debate. His origin has also been subject of query: Lagos or Iragbiji? Again, is the name Bola Tinubu that of a male or female?  Apparently, there might have been a male Bola Tinubu and a female Bola Tinubu. The male Tinubu was born in 1952 while the female Tinubu was born in 1954 and she is said to be alive. Questions are also being raised as to why the female Tinubu has not come out to speak on the alleged forged certificate reportedly carrying the status of a female? Wole Soyinka is also being publicly queried for keeping silent on Tinubu’s alleged forged certificate, considering that the Nobel Laureat had always been seen to be completely detribalised in his attitudinal orientation. He is always arguing on the basis of objectivity of purpose. He also strongly believes that Tinubu won the 2023 presidential elections.

On constitutional eligibility for presidential election, Section 137 (1) (J) of the 1999 Constitution as amended in 2010 provides that ‘a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.’ As noted by the Registrar of the Chicago State University (CSU), the certificate of Tinubu (PBAT) was dated June 22, 1979 and tendered to the INEC on June 17, 2022 but the certificate was not issued by the school.

More important, the registrar noted further in his oral deposition at the US Court that on the certificates tendered in the documents given to Atiku Abubakar, ‘the University only has Diplomas that students didn’t pick up in its possession. The University does not typically keep Diplomas. I have the Diploma that was made available to Mr. Enahoro-Ebah in our possession because Mr. Tinubu did not pick it up. I do not have the Diploma that was submitted to INEC in our possession because he had picked it up.’

The issue to address by Nigerians in the CSU registrar’s deposition is not whether Tinubu truly attended the Chicago State University but whether he forged any certificate or document to enter the Chicago State University. If he did forge a document, was the forged document presented to the INEC for electoral purposes? This question is quite relevant here because Tinubu was involved in a similar certificate and identity controversy in 1999. He succeeded to manage the crisis and he escaped retribution. The 2023 renewal of the problem is generating a more heated debate and seriously threatening national cohesion.

In fact, Tinubu has been given different names: a drug pusher, a certificate forger, etc. But why is he so referred to? Is he more terrible than other politicians in spite of what his many controversies and his personality have been generating? Our simple answer is that the politico-administrative system, and particularly the conduct and management of public affairs, is largely driven by attitudinal magouilles, a French word for ‘jìbìtì’ in Yoruba language and malpractice in English language.’

Concerning the changing narratives of the truth, Tinubu’s lawyers first posited that former Vice President Abubakar Atiku was only going on a fishing expedition by going to the United States court. When the US court confirmed the studentship of Tinubu, it is argued that there was no mention of forgery and fake certificate in the deposition before and by the court. Currently it is argued that the issue of forged certificate is not before the Supreme Court of Nigeria on which Tinubu’s men now heavily rely. This is a situation of shifting the goal post as convenient.

But without any shadow of doubt, the Supreme Court can only admit consideration of the new discovery in the event of a fresh evidence. Even though PBAT made a mistake that he obtained a BSc degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and his associate, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, later said it was a mistake and that the degree was from the Chicago State University, the problematic to address still remains whether there is a case of perjury or forgery.

As there is still a case of controversial forgery, the implications cannot be far-fetched. For instance, on the arrival of a KLM airline from Lagos in Amsterdam, the chief hostess announced that all Nigerians in the aircraft should be seated until all other passengers have left the plane. After, every Nigerian on the plane had his or her passport re-checked. This is one major implication of Tinubu’s certificate forgery saga.

The trending perception today is that Tinubu forged his certificate of entry into the Chicago State University (CSU), based on the submission of the CSU and on the attitudinal disposition of Tinubu, who has vehemently opposed the release of his academic credentials to the public, fearing that such a release might permanently damage his political career and taint his personality. Another implication is that every Nigerian in various educational institutions will be suspected henceforth. Tinubu cannot earn any international respect anymore without reservation. His international image has been damaged beyond repair. Domestically, we contend here that Tinubu’s personality is not and cannot be damaged in Nigeria because, a friend sleeping with the wife of another friend, engaging in public embezzlements, whose lifestyle is corruption- and indiscipline-driven, and whose behaviour is irrational are generally always celebrated regardless of government’s anti-corruption agencies which are fighting crimes, societal corruption and indiscipline selectively. The handling of whether President Muhammadu Buhari has a West African School Certificate is a mute question. People not found guilty of corruption and crimes in Nigeria are tried, convicted, as well as sentenced to imprisonment abroad. Why is Nigeria’s polity built on dishonest infrastructures? Why should anyone not happy with the situation told to go to the court in which people do not have much trust? After all, Salisu Buhari was pardoned. Is it not a life of magouilles in Nigeria which goes beyond the diplomacy of certificate forgery?

A job interview has multiple components. Interviewers will likely take some time upfront to discuss your work history and do a general assessment of your fit for the role and company. And oftentimes they’ll leave 10 to 15 minutes at the end for you to ask some questions of your own.

You’ll want to fill that time by asking about the role, company and people who are interviewing you — so make sure to do your homework on all three before you come in. But according to former Google recruiter Nolan Church, there’s also one question every job candidate should ask:

‘What’s the No. 1 problem I can solve in the first 30 days?’

To begin with, asking your interviewers about their most critical problems gives you a chance to see if, on the ground, this is really a job you want to do.

It gives you the chance to think about, “do you actually want to solve those types of problems?” says Church, now the CEO of talent marketplace Continuum. “And then how does the team respond to your approach? Are they open to new ideas? Or are they kind of stuck in their ways?”

Ultimately, it’s a way to feel out, “are you aligned” with them, he says.

‘How do we get quick wins’

The other benefit of asking this question is, if you decide you are interested in pursuing this opportunity, it can start setting you up for success.

“We wouldn’t open up a new role unless there were more problems to solve,” says Church. By assessing what the most critical problem for the team is even during the job interview, you can start orienting yourself toward the job and thinking about how to solve those problems. That way, when you do get hired, you can hit the ground running on day one.

You want to get that job offer, of course, says Church. “But the next piece is how do we get quick wins” that will make your new team’s life better right away.

 

CNBC

“For the past three months now, I haven’t fueled my car,” Fabian Dike, who runs a retail outlet selling wine and other alcoholic beverages, tells TheCable in Owerri, the Imo state capital. He says his car has been parked because he can no longer afford to maintain it. In the past, he filled his tank with N15,000, but today, almost N50,000 will be needed to do the same.

He is not alone, millions of citizens nationwide are making lifestyle changes to survive in the “new” Nigeria. From Ibadan to Yola, from Lokoja to Cross River, from Port Harcourt to Lagos, Nigerians are making hard decisions to survive increased economic hardship as a result of what they call the “twin demons” of subsidy removal and exchange rate instability.

TheCable visited numerous states across the federation to see how the cost of living is affecting people in rural and urban centres. The story is the same across the country — it is double trouble. 

IN OYO, IT IS BODMAS FOR BEEF

In her 50s, Sadiyat Tajudeen, who sells baby items at Eleyele Market, says she tactically divides each piece of beef from the original market size, cutting it into two or three more pieces so the protein can last longer for her family.

“I reserve three or four pieces in the original size for the head of the house while I divide others into two or three pieces,” she narrated, stating that her family now finishes a pot of soup after eating just two or three times. 

Bashir, who sells grains on a wheelbarrow at another section of the market, said he used to buy three or four bags of rice at N32,000 or N33,000 each in January 2023, but now, he buys the same at N40,000.

“I can only afford to buy two bags at a time,” he told TheCable.

“It’s not that my money is reducing, it is the cost of the products going so high so that we can no longer buy as much as we used to.”

The signature sight of bright red tomatoes and pepper at every corner of Sasa Market is gradually disappearing.

When TheCable visited, there were fewer sellers, but even fewer buyers, which may lead to the death of many small businesses in the market.

Mrs Olarenwaju, who sells carbonated drinks and water alongside her husband, said her family does not make enough sales to renew their rent in the market when it expires. 

“We rented this place in July for N100,000. People are not taking up the stalls,” she said pointing to empty stalls. “We that are here, there is no market. Sometimes, we don’t sell up to N1,000 a day. After our rent expires, we’ll pack out and go elsewhere”.

While the Olanrewajus are experiencing some financial strain in their marriage, many Nigerians seeking to get married are having second thoughts due to the economy.

IT IS NO MONEY, NO MARRIAGE IN NIGER

For James Kalu — a trader who was formerly into selling various food items before the economy hit hard — the new reality may mean delayed romance. 

He recently switched to selling Garri at Kure Market in Minna, Niger state. With this business, Kalu holds onto a thin thread of hope as he is uncertain if the business will support him enough to get married. 

“Early this year, a mudu of Garri was being sold for N250 to N300 but now it’s N600. There is not much profit compared to when it was sold for N250,” he said.

“I wonder how I will be able to gather money from this business to get married. I pray that our God will intervene in this situation.”

NO NEED FOR HEALTH INSURANCE

Ibrahim Gambo, a 33-year-old trader selling home items in Yola, is in the same shows as Kalu; both men believe finance has to come before romance. Gambo, who currently resides in his father’s house, said he initially planned to get married this year but is considering postponing due to the challenging economic situation in the country.

Worse still, he is making changes and deep cuts to his spending to reflect the country’s realities — he said he has already cut pay-TV bills, halted the use of his car, and will shut down health insurance payments for himself and his siblings.

“We hardly fall sick in my family, so no need for health insurance,” he told TheCable.

JAPA OVER SAPA IN PORT HARCOURT

Uche lost his job in 2020 during the pandemic, and has been struggling to take care of the people who call him “daddy”.

As a responsible man, he started a cab business to feed his family, with the hope that a new government would change his fortune, but he has been disappointed so far.

“Government is not doing anything. We are on our own,” the father of three said, adding that he has “to look for a way to fend for” his family.

“The taxi business isn’t as profitable as before, especially now that the fuel price has gone up”.

For him, leaving Nigeria (Japa) is the solution to financial difficulties now colloquially referred to as “sapa”— serious absence of purchasing ability.

“I really do not have anything to say about the new government but if I see any opportunity to leave this country, I will leave.”

WAREHOUSES ARE WEARING THIN

In Lokoja, the hike in the price of commodities has made many middlemen close down their warehouses. Godwin Grace, a petty trader buying from the warehouses, said fast-moving consumer goods companies like Nestle, Golden Penny have increased prices to reflect recent realities. 

“Within the period the subsidy was removed and now, one carton of Bama is N4,500 higher. Golden Penny added N400 to all their products. We got another email that they will jack up the price again. With that, all the warehouses in this market have shut their doors,” she said. 

“Take Nestle for instance,  they have increased the prices of their products twice after subsidy removal. We used to buy Maggi Star for N13,800, it went to N14,300 in August, and now, it is N14,700.” 

“Kings Oil 25litres was N30,000 before the Tinubu came in, but now, it’s N34,000. The manufacturer has sent us an email that they will effect a price increase on the 1-litre version of the oil too.”

“This is Lokoja international market. By international, if it was to be before, everywhere is always filled with buyers. Now, the sellers are not around because no money to restock and transport themselves and the buyers too are not coming because of lack of money.”

THE STARVING GIANT OF AFRICA

Lagos is the biggest sub-national economy in Nigeria by numerous metrics —  there are over 20 million Nigerians living in the city, and a good number of them are feeling the crunch.

Chinyere Okafor, an oil seller at the Mile 12 International Market in Lagos, says she can no longer afford the luxury of buying a full bag of rice monthly to feed herself and her children – instead, she buys in smaller portions barely sufficient for a couple of days.

With a mix of exasperation and anger, she voiced her grievances, pointing fingers at the government for what she sees as its failure to address the rising cost of living and skyrocketing prices of food items.

Amid the foodstuff market’s hustle and bustle, Okafor’s voice cut through the noise and captured the rapt attention of vendors and shoppers alike.

Her sentiments struck a chord with the crowd, drawing resounding applause and murmurs of agreement from fellow market traders who have also been grappling with the financial strain caused by escalating prices and low sales.

HIGHER PRICES, LOWER PROFITS

For David Umoren, who sells palm oil in bulk at the popular Watt market, Calabar, “things have really changed”. In the past, he made N1,000 on N6,000 worth of palm oil, but now he makes between N500 and N1,000 on N20,000 worth of palm oil. 

N20,000 worth of palm oil, which would have landed him N3,000 in profit, now fetches just N1,000. For him, “higher prices not bringing in higher profits”.

Across the country, many of the traders we spoke to responded like Mama Dupe Akanni, a trader in Calabar, who said they could only speak to us because there are little to no sales.

“As you are seated here, I would have stood up ten times to attend to customers. But now, in a whole day, I hardly take N1000 home,” she said.

For many Nigerians, it is no longer about profit, it has simply become about cash flow.

“Sometimes when you get goods from a company like 10,000 and you hope to say like 10,100 or 10,200, before you finish selling the product, the company will say they have an increment of up to 15,000 of the same product, where will you get extra money to add to get the same product?” Obinna asked TheCable in Enugu. 

BABA GO FAST HAS GONE TOO FAST?

President Bola Tinubu ran for president with the promise to make life better for Nigerians. He kicked against policies by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), calling interest rates “anti-people, anti-business”.

Upon assumption of office, he removed Nigeria’s unending fuel subsidy and instructed the CBN to drive the unification of foreign exchange rates. Some Nigerians and a lot of the international community immediately lauded him.

The policies were praised so much that Reuters asked if he was Baba Go Fast, the opposite of the nickname handed to former president Muhammadu Buhari for his snail speed policy implementation.

However, less than three months after these policies took effect, Nigerians are worse off. From Yola to Oyo, the song rings true — food prices are getting too high in so short a time.

Obinna, the 35-year-old businessman from Enugu, believes that the Buhari administration was better for Nigeria than the Tinubu administration. 

Since the beginning of the year, things have been a little bit hard and we were thinking that if you have a new president things will be fine or get better because before now, we have been hearing about Tinubu and that he can refine Nigeria to a better place. But after everything, the next thing we saw was hardship more than what we expected,” he said.

“I will say it’s better we go back to the last regime because what we expected from this administration is not what we are getting. The last regime was tough but even as it was tough it was a little better.”

Palliatives to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal are not changing local experiences; while some Nigerians are calling on God, others are calling on the government, but Uche in Port Harcourt is finding solace in his faith, which warns of the end times.

For him, the economic crisis in Nigeria “is the fulfilment of God’s prophecy”.

“The system is fulfilling scriptures. Things are not going to get better. It will only grow from bad to worse. We thought Buhari was bad and Tinubu came in, but it is basically going to be the same thing when Tinubu leaves,” he said.

Here is the government’s chance to convince him — and millions of Nigerians.

 

The Cable

London-based Financial Times publication says there are signs of President Bola Tinubu’s economic reforms not going as planned.

In an editorial, the publication noted that although Tinubu started well by removing fuel subsidy and moving towards a market-driven exchange, events in the past four months show that more work has to be done.

“In removing a costly fuel subsidy and in shifting towards a market-driven exchange rate, which has sharply weakened a previously overvalued currency, he has gone some way towards persuading investors he is serious about reform. But four months into his presidency, there are signs of things going awry,” it said.

The report noted that the removal of Godwin Emefiele, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), raised eyebrows due to its unconventional nature, giving the impression of political reprisal.

“The removal of Godwin Emefiele, the previous governor, was overdue. But its manner, initially via a charge of firearms possession, was odd and smacked of political revenge. More substantively, the new exchange rate regime has yet to be properly explained,” the report said.

“On how the new CBN management can stabilize the financial system, the report said the new CBN leadership will most likely increase the interest rates to curb inflation.

“Markets consider Cardoso, a former Citibank Nigeria chair, to be a sound appointment. (The same cannot be said of all of Tinubu’s picks.) The incoming governor will probably need to raise rates at the next policy meeting to establish his inflation-busting credentials. Tinubu must restore institutional independence by leaving the bank to get on with its job. In other areas, the president needs to be more active – and more articulate,” the report said.

It said in other areas, Tinubu needs to be more active and more articulate.

“He should spell out his policies to a skeptical public. He should also refrain from announcing plans — including the restoration of democracy in Niger — without any real idea of how to implement them. Execution is key. Only four months into his presidency, what started out with a bang risks becoming a whimper. Tinubu needs to regain the momentum,” it said.

 

Daily Trust

Seyi Tinubu, the son of President Bola Tinubu, was on Sunday flown to Kano in a presidential jet to watch the finals of this year’s edition of the Kano International Polo Tournament.

Witnesses say the presidential jet conveying Seyi Tinubu and his friends landed in Kano around midday on Sunday. He was said to have been received at the airport by some officials of the presidency, the Kano State government and the Kano Polo Club.

He was thereafter chauffeured to the Usman Dantata Polo Ground amidst tight security provided by gun-wielding detachments of the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service.

After the final matches of the two-week tournament were played and awards handed to winners, the waiting presidential jet then transported Seyi Tinubu and his party back to Abuja, the nation’s capital, where he currently lives.

The president’s son attended the event simply to watch a sport he loves. He is a polo enthusiast and is the patron of the STL Polo Team in Lagos. He was part of the players that represented the club at last year’s Lagos Polo Tournament.

His use of the presidential plane for a private event to satisfy his personal passion immediately triggered a firestorm of criticism by some Nigerians. Jaafar Jaafar, a London-based Nigerian journalist, brimmed with anger on X (formerly Twitter), saying, “Here’s Tinubu’s golden child, Seyi, travelling in a presidential jet to watch polo in Kano… Even if our laws are vague on this, one thing is clear: this is an offence to the moral code of leadership.”

Reacting to the journalist’s comment, another user of the micro-blogging platform, who identified himself as Aliyu, said, “The use of presidential jets for personal or non-official purposes by public officials can raise concerns about transparency and accountability. It’s essential for leaders to uphold ethical standards and set a good example for the public. Transparency and adherence to rules can help combat corruption and ensure that government resources are used responsibly.”

“What about the misuse of a special forces unit as his bodyguards? another X user, Bello Anka, said. “See them in the pictures. The other day, he went skateboarding in Abuja with them running by his side. This is just a continuation of the culture of impunity from the previous government, perhaps on an even grander scale this time.”

But even before Sunday’s Kano trip, the younger Tinubu is known for travelling regularly and extensively with the presidential jet either in the company of his father or in those of his associates, a behaviour that has continued to irritate not a few taxpayers who lament inappropriate deployment and abuse of a key national asset.

In July this year, he was photographed as he made to board a presidential jet. His destination and those he was travelling with remained unknown.

The controversy over the inappropriate use of the planes in the presidential air fleet first emerged on January 9, 2020, when Hanan, the youngest daughter of then-President Muhammadu Buhari, flew to Bauchi, Northeast Nigeria, on a presidential jet, in what was clearly a private trip.

She and the presidency were roundly condemned over the matter, with Farooq Kperogi, an American-based Nigerian professor, describing the act as an “unprecedented abuse of presidential powers.”

Recalling what happened during the Buhari era vis-avis Seyi Tinubu’s Sunday pleasure trip to Kano on the presidential jet, another X user, Bashar, said, “Buhari merely sought the title of ‘President’ without understanding or respecting the sanctity of the office. The audacity to let his daughter, Hanan, use a presidential jet for a mere photo tour in Bauchi was the beginning of this mockery.

“Now we see Tinubu’s protege, Seyi, hopping on the same jet for a polo match in Kano. It’s not just about the laws, it’s about ethics, morals, and respect for the position. Our leaders must do more than just occupy an office; they must uphold its dignity.”

Something has gone badly wrong in Africa. Sudan has collapsed into carnage, as two grasping warlords battle for control. Genocide has returned to Darfur: fighters loyal to one of those warlords are murdering every male they can find from one ethnic group, even shooting baby boys strapped to their mothers’ backs, as we report. In Ethiopia one civil war has barely ended and a new one is brewing. Across the Sahel, jihadists are terrorising millions and soldiers are seizing power, promising to restore calm but not actually doing so. You can now walk across nearly the widest part of Africa, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, passing only through countries that have suffered coups in the past three years. But it would be unwise—you might well be kidnapped.

One reason coups have grown more common is that many Africans have lost faith in democracy. Afrobarometer, a pollster, found that the share who prefer democracy to any other form of government has fallen from 75% in 2012 to 66%. That may sound like a solid majority, but it includes many waverers. An alarming 53% said a coup would be legitimate if civilian leaders abuse their power, which they often do. In South Africa, which has one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, 72% say that if a non-elected leader could cut crime and boost housing and jobs, they would be willing to forgo elections.

There are as many reasons for this growing disillusion as there are medals on a coup-leader’s chest. One is that incumbent regimes, most of which claim to be democratic, have brought neither prosperity nor security. Real GDP per person in sub-Saharan Africa was lower last year than it had been ten years earlier. More people are dying in small conflicts than at any point since at least 1989. In Nigeria whole schools have been abducted. When people lose hope that their lives will improve, they become impatient for change and the risk of coups and civil wars increases sharply.

Another problem is that many so-called democracies in Africa are phoney. Most African countries adopted the trappings of multiparty democracy after the end of the cold war. And in some countries, such as Kenya and Zambia, power changes hands more or less peacefully at voters’ behest. In many others, though, rulers allow the opposition to participate in elections but take a thousand precautions to ensure they cannot win, from tampering with the voters’ roll to throttling the media. No fewer than nine African leaders have been in power for more than 20 years. It is hard to expect people to support democracy if all they have experienced is a masquerade of it.

Meanwhile, geopolitics has grown friendlier to autocrats. If the West withholds arms or loans from African juntas, China and Russia are happy to step in. So, too, are unsqueamish middling powers such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Western governments have sometimes acted shabbily, turning a blind eye to a coup in Chad and electoral theft in Congo. Their hypocrisy undermines the democratic values they espouse.

Africa is not the only part of the world where democratic disillusion is spreading. A whopping 62% of Americans and 56% of French told a Pew poll last year that they were not satisfied with democracy in their countries. Among young Americans, nearly a fifth think a dictatorship would be preferable. The big difference is that rich, mature democracies have solid institutions that make a coup virtually impossible. In much of Africa the army and its cronies are all too ready to seize control.

Once the men with guns are in charge, they are hard to dislodge. They postpone elections indefinitely and remove even the threadbare checks on executive power that once existed. They govern terribly, but if the joyful crowds that greet some coups change their minds about their new rulers, there is little they can do about it. Equatorial Guinea’s president seized power in 1979. He is still in office, and his luxury-loving son may succeed him. Autocracy lacks the built-in correction mechanism of true democracy: the promise that, if governments are no good, voters can sack them. And because many African countries have festering ethnic tensions and territorial disputes, coups and dictatorships often lead to war, as has happened in Sudan.

Reversing Africa’s turn away from democracy will not be easy. It is a task, first and foremost, for Africans themselves. The African Union, a regional body, should once again take seriously its old “no-coup” policy, and ostracise putschists. More important, African governments that claim to be democratic will have to govern better, by curbing corruption, fostering growth and resisting the temptation to hogtie the opposition. For example, the World Bank reckons that implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area could raise incomes by 9% by 2035 by removing obstacles to trade. Yet its members are dragging their feet.

Rich countries can help. They ought to press ahead with restructuring unsustainable debts and make good on a long-standing, unkept promise to spend $100bn a year to help poor countries with climate change. The World Bank and IMF could help crowd in investment, especially if their capital were topped up. The West would do well to welcome more African migrants to study and work; some will return home with useful skills and others will send back money to educate nieces or bankroll new businesses.

To help improve African security, America, which is more popular than former colonial powers such as Britain and France, could keep training and arming legitimate forces battling jihadists and other insurgents. The European Union must not cut funding for African-led peacekeeping missions, such as the one in Somalia that is now being wound down.

From cradle of humanity to centre of gravity

The main reason to wish for progress in Africa is to benefit Africans. But the rest of the world has a stake, too. Africa is the only continent where population growth is fast. By 2030 nearly one in three people entering working age will live there. Many of humanity’s big challenges, from climate change to pandemics, will be harder to tackle if Africa is dysfunctional. There is no guarantee a more democratic Africa will be prosperous and peaceful, but one ruled by autocrats and generals will surely not be.

Nigeria's national oil firm NNPC Ltd has again become the sole importer of petrol because local private firms are unable to obtain foreign currency, its chief executive said on Monday, four months after imports were opened up to private players.

Mele Kyari also said the government had not reintroduced a decades-old petrol subsidy scrapped at the end of May, despite concerns from investors of a de facto return as pump prices have not moved since July, despite a more than 30% rise in oil prices.

Africa's largest oil exporter, Nigeria, imports nearly all its fuel as it does not refine nearly enough to meet the demand of its 200 million citizens. In recent years, it has swapped crude for fuel, depriving it of a source of U.S. dollars.

Opening up petrol imports to the private sector was part of reforms by President Bola Tinubu to wean the country off fuel subsidies.

Some fuel companies began imports in July but Kyari told an energy conference that they were now struggling to get foreign currencies to import petrol, known as premium motor spirit (PMS).

"We are the only company importing PMS into the country," he said.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Tinubu, Kyari dismissed the concerns that a partial fuel subsidy had been restored.

"We are recovering our full cost from the products that we import. No subsidy whatsoever," he said.

Petrol is widely used by households and small businesses to power generators because millions of Nigerians are not connected to the national electricity grid.

Nigeria is in the grips of foreign currency shortages, which have seen the naira weaken to record lows on the parallel market. The new central bank governor has said that policymakers faced a nearly $7 billion backlog in foreign exchange demand.

 

Reuters

Ibironke Harrison of a Lagos State High Court has sentenced a trigger happy Assistant Superintendent of Police, Drambi Vandi, to death by hanging for killing a pregnant Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs. Omobolanle Raheem.

Lagos State government had arraigned Vandi before the court for allegedly shooting the 41-year-old pregnant lawyer to death at the Ajah under-bridge checkpoint on December 25, 2022.

The incident sparked outrage, especially on social media and the police officer was suspended.

The convict was initially charged with murder, but the court found him guilty of manslaughter as a result of a lack of intention on his part.

During the trial, the prosecution called eleven witnesses including 8 police officers and tenders 27 exhibits in evidence, while the convict solely testified in his defence.

The defendant however pleaded not guilty to the one-count charge of murder contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Delivering judgment at Tafa Balewa Square in Lagos on Monday, the judge found the killer cop guilty of murder.

She held that the prosecution established sufficient oral and documentary evidence linking the defendant to the crime.

 

Daily Trust

Gazans say nowhere to go as they prepare for Israeli assault after Hamas raid

Palestinians in Gaza are preparing for an Israeli offensive of unprecedented scale after Saturday's deadly Hamas raid, with more than 130,000 fleeing their homes and stockpiling supplies as air strikes pound the crowded enclave with 560 already dead.

Amid an intensified Israeli siege cutting off water, food and power, and a sudden new assault, conditions look worse than at any point since Palestinian refugees flocked there during the 1948 fighting when Israel was founded.

Israeli military phone messages have warned people to leave some areas, indicating a new ground attack that could eclipse previous bouts of destructive warfare in the dense concrete townships that grew up in Gaza's original tented refugee camps.

"Where should we go? Where should we go?" asked 55-year-old Mohammad Brais.

He had fled his home near a possible front line to shelter at his shop - only for that to get hit in one of the hundreds of air and artillery strikes already pounding Gaza.

The surprise Hamas attack on Saturday caused Israel its bloodiest day, as fighters smashed through border defences and marauded through towns, killing more than 800 people and dragging more than 100 into captivity in Gaza.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned that the price Gaza would pay "will change reality for generations" and Israel was imposing a total blockade with a ban on food and fuel imports as part of a battle against "human animals".

At the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, men clambered on a pancaked building to pull an infant's tiny body from the rubble, carrying it down through the crowd below amid still-smouldering remains of bombed buildings. That air strike left dozens killed and injured, according to the territory's health ministry.

As ambulances arrived at a hospital, workers ran out to haul in stretchers bearing the injured. Inside, a man lay next to the shrouded body of his nephew, hysterical with grief, alternately striking the floor and embracing the corpse as he screamed.

Funeral processions wound down Gaza streets. In Rafah, in the south, men strode behind a body being carried on a bier, Palestinian and Hamas flags raised behind.

At the cemetery a family buried Saad Lubbad, a small boy killed in air strikes. His body, wrapped in white, was passed down to be laid on a patterned cloth before burial.

FOOD AND FUEL

The densely populated enclave's 2.3 million residents have endured repeated bouts of war and air strikes before.

They expect this one to be worse.

"It doesn't need much thinking about. Israel suffered the biggest loss in its history so you can imagine what it is going to do," said a resident of Beit Hanoun on Gaza's northeastern border with Israel.

"I took my family out at sunrise and dozens of other families did the same. Many of us got phone calls, audio messages from Israeli security officers telling us to leave because they will operate there," he said.

Families began stockpiling food as soon as Saturday's attack began but fear that despite Hamas assurances supplies will run low.

With Israel cutting off electricity supplies into Gaza, a looming fuel shortage means private generators as well as the enclave's own power station, which is still providing about four hours of energy a day, will struggle to function.

Electricity shortages mean residents cannot recharge phones, so are cut off from news of each other and from events, and are unable to pump water into rooftop tanks.

At night the enclave is plunged into total darkness, punctuated by the blasts of air strikes.

Gaza health ministry officials said hospitals were expected to run out of fuel, needed to power lifesaving equipment, in two weeks. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said 137,000 people were sheltering in U.N. schools and other facilities.

At one in Gaza City, 13-year-old Israa al-Qishawi pointed to the corner of a classroom where she lays her mattress each night alongside 30 other people.

Fear makes her want the toilet every few minutes, she said, but there is no water.

"It is disgusting," she said.

Dressed in green and playing with a hula hoop, she said: "The war came suddenly and we are afraid of it".

BOMBARDMENT

Air strikes have damaged and blocked streets, making it harder for ambulances and rescue vehicles to reach bomb sites, according to residents and medics. The civil defence said it could not cope with so many bomb sites, and asked for foreign rescue teams to help it save survivors trapped under rubble.

The Beit Hanoun resident said the bombardment of streets seemed like preparation for another Israeli ground offensive, like ones he watched rolling into Gaza from the roof of his house in 2008 and 2014.

Recorded phone messages and social media posts issued by Israel's military warning residents to quit some Gaza areas added to residents' fears.

Despite the danger, the 45-year-old was pleased by Hamas' raid into Israel, he said, requesting anonymity for fear of Israeli reprisals.

"We are afraid but still we are proud like never before," he said, adding: "Hamas wiped out entire Israeli army battalions. It crushed them like biscuits".

Standing outside his ruined shop, near wrecked houses where three entire families were killed, Brais said he just hoped for an end to Gaza's endless cycle of destruction.

"Enough. We had enough. I am 55-years-old and I spent those years going from one war into another. My house has been destroyed twice," said Brais. "Everything is gone," he said, looking at the wreckage of his shop.

** Hamas threatens to kill captives if Israel strikes civilians

The Islamist militant Hamas movement threatened to execute an Israeli captive every time Israel bombs a Palestinian home without warning, as Israel called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, raising fears it planned a ground assault.

The violence, which has claimed more than 1,500 lives, prompted international declarations of support for Israel after a devastating weekend attack by Hamas, and appeals for an end to the fighting and protection of civilians.

Israeli TV channels said the death toll from the Hamas attack had climbed to 900 Israelis, with at least 2,600 injured, and dozens taken captive. Among the Israeli dead were 260 mostly young people gunned down at a desert music festival, where some of the hostages were abducted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed revenge in a fiery speech accusing Iran-backed Hamas of executing tied-up children and other atrocities. "This vile enemy wanted war and it will get war," he said.

Gaza's Health Ministry said at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave since Saturday. Apartment blocks, a mosque and hospitals were among the sites attacked, and the strikes destroyed some roads and houses, according to media reports and eyewitnesses.

Israel also bombed the headquarters of the private Palestinian Telecommunication Co., which could affect landline telephone, internet and mobile phone services.

The strikes continued into the night on Monday. The Israeli military said it hit targets in the Gaza Strip from the sea and air, including a weapons depot it said belonged to Islamic Jihad and Hamas targets along Gaza's coast line.

Hamas spokesperson Abu Ubaida issued the threat on Monday to kill Israelis among the dozens held captive after the surprise attack on Saturday morning. He said Hamas would execute an Israeli captive for every Israeli bombing of a civilian house without warning, and broadcast the execution.

There was no immediate response from the Israeli military to that threat. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said more than 100 people had been taken captive by Hamas during the deadly cross-border incursion over the weekend.

FORCED FROM HOME

Palestinians reported receiving calls and mobile phone audio messages from Israeli security officers telling them to leave areas mainly in the northern and eastern territories of Gaza, and warning that the army would operate there.

Dozens of people in Gaza City's Remal neighbourhood fled their homes.

"We took ourselves, children and grandchildren and daughters-in-law and we ran away. I can say that we became refugees. We don't have safety or security. What's this life? This is not a life," resident Salah Hanouneh, 73, said.

In Israel's south, scene of the Hamas attack, Israel's chief military spokesperson said troops had re-established control of communities inside Israel that had been overrun, but isolated clashes continued as some gunmen remained active.

Sirens warning of incoming rocket fire blared in Israeli communities near the Gaza border overnight.

The announcement that 300,000 reservists had been activated in just two days added to speculation that Israel could be contemplating a ground assault of Gaza, a territory it abandoned nearly two decades ago.

"We have never drafted so many reservists on such a scale," chief military spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari said. "We are going on the offensive."

Washington - which provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military assistance each year - said it was sending in fresh supplies of air defenses, munitions and other security assistance to Israel.

The United States' top general warned Iran not to get involved in the crisis and said he did not want the conflict to the broaden. Iran makes no secret of its backing for Hamas and has applauded the weekend attack while denying any involvement.

"We want to send a pretty strong message. We do not want this to broaden and the idea is for Iran to get that message loud and clear," General Charles Q. Brown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him to Brussels.

Governments including Italy, Thailand and Ukraine reported that their citizens had perished in the Hamas attacks. In Washington, President Joe Biden announced that at least 11 Americans had been killed and it was likely U.S. citizens were among those held hostage.

"I have directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on every aspect of the hostage crisis, including sharing intelligence and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts on hostage recovery efforts," Biden said in a statement.

As Israel conducted intense retaliatory strikes on Gaza, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant drew international condemnation by announcing a tightened blockade to prevent food and fuel from reaching the strip, home to 2.3 million people.

"Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Hamas-affiliated media said at least 20 people had been killed in Israeli strikes on houses in the Gaza Strip late on Monday. Palestinian media also reported that an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City had killed two Palestinian journalists and seriously wounded a third.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the reports. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

As it rained, explosions and lightning lit the skies, and the sound of bombings mixed with thunder.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said some 137,000 people were taking shelter with UNRWA, the U.N. agency that provides essential services to Palestinians.

The British, French, German, Italian and U.S. governments issued a joint statement recognising the "legitimate aspirations" of the Palestinian people, and supporting equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

They also said they would remain "united and coordinated" to ensure Israel can defend itself.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan called on Hamas and Israel to immediately end violence and protect civilians, the Egyptian presidency said.

Qatari mediators held urgent calls to try to negotiate freedom for Israeli women and children seized by Hamas in exchange for the release of 36 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.

The prospect that fighting could spread alarmed the region and world.

Lebanese armed group Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel in response to at least three of its members being killed in Israeli shelling of Lebanon. Israel said one of its deputy commanders was killed in an earlier cross-border raid from Lebanon.

Fears of a widening conflict meant more volatility for investors. Oil prices jumped more than 4%, gold gained and the U.S. dollar edged up against the euro. Major international air carriers suspended or reined in service to or from Tel Aviv.

The shocking images of the bodies of hundreds of Israelis sprawled across the streets of towns, gunned down at the outdoor dance party and abducted from their homes were like nothing seen before in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I have never felt so close to death, this time I really felt like it was the end," said Zohar Maariv, 24, who survived the attack on the music festival.

** Israel-Hamas war forces Biden and Netanyahu into uneasy partnership

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, uncomfortable allies in the best of times, will put their uneasy relationship to a further test with Israel preparing a possible ground assault on the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

After months of strain over the path forward in the Middle East, the two leaders, who have known each other for decades, have been thrust into a wartime partnership following a deadly, multipronged attack by Hamas militants from Gaza into Israel.

U.S. relations with Israel, Washington’s main Middle East ally, have frayed in recent months with the White House echoing Israeli critics who have organized protests opposing the far-right Netanyahu government’s plan to curb Supreme Court powers.

But the two leaders' differences go much deeper.

As president, Biden has frequently stressed support for independent Israeli and Palestinian states. Administration officials say he has raised it in every conversation with Netanyahu, while asking him to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Having returned to office in late December, Netanyahu opposes Palestinian statehood anytime soon and has approved thousands of new housing unitsfor West Bank settlers.

Their often fraught history includes Biden's time as vice president during Barack Obama’s presidency, when Netanyahu tried unsuccessfully to derail a 2015 U.S.-backed Iran nuclear deal.

Hamas is backed by Iran, Israel's regional arch-foe.

By contrast, Netanyahu had a meeting of minds with Biden's Republican predecessor and potential 2024 opponent, Donald Trump, whose ideological embrace of the right-wing prime minister was accompanied by staunch pro-Israel policies.

Netanyahu has nonetheless hedged and avoided taking sides in the U.S. presidential campaign.

After the weekend Hamas assault - the deadliest incursion since attacks by Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago - Biden set aside differences in multiple phone calls with Netanyahu, saying his team was to give Israel "everything it needs" to fight the militant group, said a senior administration official.

Biden assured Netanyahu of "rock solid" U.S. support, scrambled to bolster Israel's military arsenal and dispatched a carrier strike group closer to Israel in a major show of support.

In his public statements Biden has yet to say Israel should show restraint in its military response or expressed U.S. concern for the Palestinian people, often part of White House reactions during previous crises.

"The president emphasized that there is no justification whatsoever for terrorism, and all countries must stand united in the face of such brutal atrocities," the White House said of Biden’s second call to Netanyahu on Sunday.

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WIDER WAR CONCERNS

Biden has directed his team to reach out to counterparts in the Gulf and neighboring countries to try to prevent a spiral into a wider war, especially focused on keeping the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah from opening a second front on Israel's northern border, administration officials said.

While Biden appears to have given Netanyahu a free hand for now, the policy differences remain and he could change course if the Gaza death toll rises further and the fighting drags on, foreign policy experts predict.

Israeli TV channels said the country's death toll from the Hamas attack had climbed to 900.

In Hamas-controlled Gaza, Israel pressed on with its most intensive retaliatory strikes ever, which have killed more than 500 people since Saturday.

"Eventually, if a conflict drags on for weeks or months, a number of U.S. allies are going to lose patience and publicly call for it to end. At that point, you may see the U.S. back channel to Israel to try and convince Jerusalem to bring the fight to an end," said Jonathan Panikoff, the U.S. government’s former deputy national intelligence officer for the Middle East who is now at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Biden also faces the potential challenge of securing the release of an unknown number of missing Americans who may be held by Hamas as hostages.

At home, Biden faces pressure on his right and his left, with Republican hardliners in Congress accusing him of emboldening Iran with a recent prisoner swap deal, something the president's aides strongly deny.

"If President Biden can stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes, I hope President Biden can stand with Israel for as long as it takes," said Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a foreign policy hawk, on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures."

Some fellow Democrats, before the attacks, were asking Biden to scrutinize whether Israel merits the multibillion-dollar military aid package it receives each year, and calling for him to do more for the Palestinians.

The powerful pro-Israel lobby, headed by AIPAC, is a major force in U.S. politics, often backs Netanyahu and is expected to play a role in the 2024 election.

NOT IN LOVE WITH 'BIBI'

Biden, 80, has called himself a "Zionist," and he and Netanyahu, 73, have both spoken of having a long friendship.

But Biden went months without talking to Netanyahu this year. The Israeli leader was unhappy that he did not get a face-to-face meeting with Biden until Sept. 20 and it was not at the White House but in a New York hotel on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

There, Biden expressed worries about the need for stability in the West Bank and settler violence that increased tensions with Palestinians, a senior administration official said.

They appeared to find some common ground on a U.S. push to broker a landmark agreement to open diplomatic relations between longtime foes Israel and Saudi Arabia. But the Hamas attack delivered a severe blow to that effort, leaving its future uncertain.

Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that despite Biden's problems with Netanyahu, "the people of Israel and security of Israel are deeply ingrained in Biden's DNA."

"Biden is not in love with Bibi Netanyahu," he said, using the prime minister's nickname. "But he is in love with the state of Israel, the people of Israel and he'll do everything he can to protect the people of Israel."

 

Reuters


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