The barrage of missiles fired by America, Britain and France at facilities inside Syria “significantly crippled” the ability of the regime of Bashar al-Assad to produce chemical weapons, the Pentagon claimed. No casualties were reported as a result of the raid, which was a response to the regime’s suspected use of chlorine and sarin on civilians in the town of Douma, killing dozens of people. A security team doing reconnaissance for UN inspectors was fired upon when visiting the town. See article.
The White House said that Donald Trump was not considering a new round of sanctions against Russia. That contradicted Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the UN, who had announced that new penalties would be imposed on Russian firms helping Syria with chemical weapons. The White House said that Mr Trump stepped back from punishing Russia further because he wants to maintain good relations, and that Ms Haley had experienced “momentary confusion”. “I don’t get confused”, responded Ms Haley.
Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary, according to the Hebrew calendar, with an elaborate ceremony in Jerusalem, during which Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, called the country a “rising world power”.
A screening of the superhero movie “Black Panther” marked the end of a decades-old ban on cinemas in Saudi Arabia. Muhammad bin Salman, the young crown prince, is trying to modernise the conservative Muslim kingdom.
Seeking another mandate
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced that parliamentary and presidential elections will be held in June, 17 months ahead of schedule. He said the early polls were needed because of unrest in Syria, and in order to help move the country to an executive presidential system, a shift approved in a referendum last year which will give Mr Erdogan even more power.
German public-sector workers won a pay rise of more than 3% for each of the next two years. It is the largest increase in government salaries in years, and comes after metalworkers received a pay bump of 4.3% in February.
The European Commission recommended that Albania and Macedonia be allowed to start talks on joining the EU. Their western neighbours in the Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro, are already in negotiations. They would be the first new countries to enter accession talks in five years.
Italy’s president asked Elisabetta Casellati, a member of the Forza Italia party founded by Silvio Berlusconi, a former prime minister, to try to broker a coalition deal including the left-leaning populist Five Star Movement and right-wing Northern League parties. Italy has been without a government since an election on March 4th.
Fidel’s younger brother
Raúl Castro prepared to step down as president of Cuba, ending nearly six decades of rule by the Castro family. His successor is Miguel Díaz-Canel, though Mr Castro will remain secretary of the Communist Party until 2021.
Two Ecuadorean journalists and their driver were murdered by breakaway FARC guerrillas, after being kidnapped last month near the Colombian border. The Oliver Sinisterra Front has refused to demobilise since a peace deal with the FARC guerrillas was signed by the Colombian government in 2016. This week the group kidnapped two more people.
A judge in Trinidad and Tobago ruled that “buggery laws”, which prohibit gay sex, are unconstitutional. A final decision about striking down the law is set for July.
Donald Trump confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA (who has been nominated to be secretary of state) met Kim Jong Un in North Korea recently for preparatory talks about a summit between the American president and the North Korean dictator. Mr Trump said Mr Pompeo’s visit had gone well. Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, is expected to meet Mr Kim next week. Officials have been in discussions about negotiating a formal end to the Korean war, for which no peace treaty has been signed, even though hostilities ended 65 years ago. See article.
India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, assured markets that the country was not running out of money, after cash machines in some parts of the country ran out. The amount of cash in circulation has returned to normal levels since the government abruptly voided most banknotes in 2016, but there has been a spike in demand for cash in the past few months.
China conducted live-fire naval drills in the Taiwan Strait, the first such sabre-rattling in the sensitive waters in three years. The state broadcaster said the military drills were meant to send a message to pro-independence politicians in Taiwan.
The National Guard Bureau, which oversees America’s armed-force reserves, said that 965 guardsmen have been deployed to the Mexican border, considerably fewer than the up to 4,000 that Donald Trump wants to patrol the area. The troops are not involved in detaining illegal migrants.
Puerto Rico endured another islandwide blackout, this time because of an industrial accident. The beleaguered electricity company had only just restored power to almost all Puerto Rico’s residents, seven months after Hurricane Maria tore a trail of destruction through the territory.
Mr Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, who was convicted in 2007 of perjury. A key witness against him had recanted her testimony, and conservatives had long argued that the conviction was a miscarriage of justice. The man at the Justice Department who had ordered the probe into Mr Libby was one James Comey.
Now sacked as head of the FBI and with a book to promote, Mr Comey pilloried Mr Trump in a TV interview, saying he was “morally unfit” to be president. Mr Comey also revealed that Mr Trump never laughs. There wasn’t much humour in Mr Trump’s Twitter response; he described Mr Comey as a “slimeball” and “slippery”. Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian shenanigans may determine who has the last chuckle. See article.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”