Six In The Morning Monday 5 February 2024

Blinken in Middle East as UK parliament debates Houthi strikes


  1. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has landed in Saudi Arabia on his fifth trip to the Middle East since 7 October
  2. His visit comes after the US said it

What we learned from UK defence secretary

  • We just heard UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps say the latest joint strikes with the US had achieved a “significant effect on degrading Houthi capabilities” in the Red Sea
  • But he said the group’s abilities had “not been fully diminished”
  • He said the UK would not hesitate to act again – reiterating that the aim was to protect vessels using the critical shipping route that links Europe and Asia
  • Shapps said the Houthis believed themselves to be “the region’s Robin Hood”, though “the only people they are robbing are innocent Yemenis, whose food and aid arrives via the Red Sea”
  • The UK’s main opposition party Labour said it supported the latest military action – as well as the government’s diplomatic efforts to pressurise the Houthis to stop their attacks

Comments on Weibo giraffe post bemoan state of Chinese economy

Social media users get around government crackdown on negativity via US embassy conservation update

A social media post about giraffe conservation has become the latest place for people in China who are unhappy about the economy to vent their frustration, as the Chinese government increasingly cracks down on negative commentary.

On 2 February, the US embassy in China posted an update on its Weibo account about tracking giraffes in Namibia using GPS technology. As of Monday afternoon local time, the post had received approximately 166,000 comments, many of them about China’s economic pains.

“Who can help me? I’ve been unemployed for a long time,” wrote one commenter. “I’ve seen a few comments about stocks, will they be deleted?” wrote another.

Senegal restricts mobile internet amid opposition protests

The Communication Ministry said it cut internet because of the spread of “hateful and subversive messages.” Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside parliament, where a bill that could extend Macky Sall’s term was debated.

Protesters gathered on Monday outside Senegal’s parliament in Dakar to decry the presidential election’s postponement, after authorities restricted mobile internet access on Sunday evening ahead of the demos.

President Macky Sall announced on Saturday that the vote would be postponed to an unspecified date amid a row over the candidate list, prompting angry protests. The vote had been scheduled for February 25, campaigning was about to begin.

Lawmakers are investigating two judges on the country’s Constitutional Court, whose integrity in the election process has been questioned.

Visit to Iran by US porn star angers exiles

An American porn actor on Monday faced accusations of promoting propaganda for Iran’s government after boasting on social media about a trip to the Islamic republic from where she posted pictures at sites including the shut-down US embassy.

The Iranian authorities have denied being behind the visit by Whitney Wright, saying she was issued a visa like any other foreign citizen and they had not been aware of her “obscene” profession.

The posts by Wright, who is known for her vehement criticism of Iran’s arch-enemy Israel, have particularly angered Iranian exiles as she showed herself carefully observing the strict Islamic dress code for women in the wake of the 2022 nationwide protests against the obligatory hijab.

Those protests erupted after the September 2022 police custody death of Mahsa Amini who was arrested for allegedly flouting the dress rules.

Classified Japanese diplomatic info leaked after Chinese cyberattacks in 2020

Classified Japanese diplomatic information was leaked following Chinese cyberattacks on the Foreign Ministry in 2020, a government source said Monday, exposing the nation’s digital vulnerability.

Japan detected the large-scale attack and release of diplomatic telegrams during a period of government under then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the source said, but the nature of the leaked information is still publically unknown.

Tokyo and Washington discussed countermeasures in the wake of the leak of the diplomatic telegrams, which are highly confidential documents exchanged daily between the ministry and diplomatic missions abroad, the source said.

Israel’s ‘chilling disregard’ for life in occupied West Bank: Amnesty

During its war in Gaza, Israel has unleashed unlawful lethal force against Palestinians in the West Bank, rights group says.

Israel has unleashed unlawful lethal force against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, carrying out unlawful killings and displaying “a chilling disregard for Palestinian lives”, Amnesty International says.

The human rights organisation said in a report released on Monday that Israel’s actions in the territory have intensified during its war on Gaza and its military and other bodies are committing numerous illegal acts of violence that amount to clear violations of international law.

The world’s eyes are mostly on the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, since the start of the war on October 7. But Israeli forces are also carrying out unlawful killings in occupied Palestinian territories, Amnesty said in the report.