The Hill Talk’s Glance at the Globe

Le Pen, Macron advance to round two of French elections:  Following ballots cast in round one of the French presidential election on Sunday, April 23, Right Front National candidate, Marine Le Pen and En Marche (On the Move) candidate, Emmanuel Macron, won the right to face one another in the May 7 election.

Overcoming challengers Nathan Fillon and Jean-Luc Melenchon, Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen earned 23.75 and 21.53 percent of the vote to qualify for the second round of the election.

Already positioning herself to appeal to centrist Les Republicans, Le Pen announced Saturday her intent to name defeated presidential candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, the Debout la France candidate.

As of Saturday, Mr. Macron leads Ms. Le Pen in opinion polls by as many as 18 percentage points.

Its caliphate crumbling, Islamic State abandons capital:  Under siege from American-led coalition aerial bombardment and harassed by Syrian, Kurdish SDF and U.S. troops on the ground, the Islamic State (ISIS) has reportedly abandoned its de-facto Syrian capital, Raqqa.

Western news outlets have reported in addition to coalition advances massive losses in men and material have forced the terror group to evacuate the city, which it has occupied since 2013, in favor of Deir-ez-Zor, some 90 miles to the south east of Raqqa.

Anticipating the city’s fall, ISIS leadership reportedly fled for Deir-ez-Zor in early March, leaving Western experts to speculate that as few as 3,000 ISIS militants and civil servants remained in the city.

Taliban launches spring offensive:  Less than a week after a successful suicide raid on an Afghani military outpost which killed over 100 Afghani troops, the Taliban has announced its expected spring offensive.

Taliban officials have designated the new campaign Operation Mansouri, after Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2016.

Afghanistan war map control taliban

Although no action has been taken since the suicide attack last week, Taliban officials announced the ambition of the operation was to drive foreign troops from the country and destroy the Afghan military’s ability to wage war against the group.

China bans Muslim baby names:  In a step taken to clamp down on extremism, Chinese officials in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have banned dozens of traditional names for newborn Muslim children.

Although an incomplete list, Islam, Quran, Jihad, Hajj, Mecca, and Medina are among the names forbidden for newborn children on the list provided by the state.

Penalties assessed for children bearing banned names are:  Denial of social services, healthcare, and enrollment in Chinese schools.

The move follows China recently prohibiting beards and burkas, and restricting home prayer, religious education, and fasting during Ramadan season.

Half of China’s Muslim population live in the northwest territory of Xinjiang Uyghur.

Friction over U.S.-Canada trade:  Weeks after issuing an executive order on trade, President Trump levied a tariff on Canadian lumber earlier this week and agreed to negotiate with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) after speaking to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Pena Nieto.

Trump had initially announced his intent to withdraw from NAFTA altogether.

Trump told a gathering of conservative media members at a White House briefing Canada is “taking advantage” of the U.S. through NAFTA.  Trump is targeting the Canadian softwood lumber and dairy industries for tariffs.

Experts believe the targeting of the Canadian softwood lumber and dairy sectors, neither of which fall under NAFTA, are in Trump’s cross hairs to strengthen the U.S. position for NAFTA’s renegotiation.

South Korea rejects request to pay for THAAD deployment:  The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea has a cost President Trump said last week, a cost which should be shouldered by the South Korean government. Seoul says “no.”

In the midst of rising tension on the Korean peninsula, the deployment of the anti-ballistic missile system, which the U.S. is currently near completing, comes at a cost of $1 billion.  Trump suggested payment for the deployment in an interview in which he also mentioned trade agreements with Seoul.

Responding to Trump’s comments over the instillation of the weapon system, the South Korean Defense Ministry said it provides land for U.S. troops and equipment and in return the U.S. should incur cost for additional equipment.

The Associated Press reported late Sunday evening local time South Korea’s government now says Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, has indicated no reimbursement will be sought for THAAD’s installation.

 

[The Telegraph] [The Duran] [BBC] [TheNewArab] [RT America] [Financial Post]