More signs of recession. After a turbulent week, U.S. and European equity markets are set for their worst week and year, respectively, since the 2008 recession. U.S. markets are on track for their biggest December decline since the Great Depression. The causes are many – poor manufacturing sales figures in Germany, lower-than-expected third-quarter growth and increased rates in the U.S. are just a few of the culprits. Over the weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the heads of several banks, then issued a statement saying there is definitely, 100 percent, nothing wrong. President Donald Trump subsequently resumed his criticism of the Federal Reserve. Unconfirmed reports from Bloomberg suggest he is considering firing its chairman, Jerome Powell. Ultimately the story here is that the world is entering the end of an expansionary period. Markets are beginning to respond, and politicians are beginning to manage the social, financial and political fallout of economic contraction.
Preparing for an offensive in northern Syria? The Turkish military has yet to launch a ground offensive there, but reports suggest one may soon be underway. Yeni Safak, a pro-government Turkish newspaper, reported Tuesday that 13,000 fighters from the Free Syrian Army have been mobilized at the front of a force of 8,000 Turkish soldiers to march on Manbij. Kurdish media claim that pro-Turkish rebel groups continue to shell Kurdish positions in the city too. It’s unclear if or when Turkey will move on the city, but the operation would be complication by the presence of the Syrian military, which has already begun to deploy assets to a city some 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Manbij, according to the Daily Sabah, another pro-government news agency. That means the Turkish military would have to fight the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government concurrently, even as it deals with Syrian allies Russia and Iran. It’s worth noting that Turkey’s foreign minister said the presence of the Syrian military wouldn’t stop Ankara from pursuing its mission in the north.
Airstrikes in southern Syria. Israel reportedly carried out another airstrike in southern Syria against either Iranian or Hezbollah positions near Damascus. The Syrian Arab News Agency and Lebanon’s National News Agency both claimed that Israeli jets carried out the strike from Lebanese airspace. According to Syria TV, three Syrian soldiers were injured in an attack on weapons warehouses. The strike also reportedly targeted jets operated by Iranian cargo airline Fars Air Qeshm, which is believed to be supplying arms from Tehran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Two planes owned and operated by the company took off from Damascus either just before or during the strikes. In response, Damascus fired an anti-aircraft missile at the jets carrying out the airstrikes, though Israel said it intercepted the missile. There’s no evidence that the S-300s Syria recently received from Russia were involved in the counterattack.
- ExxonMobil said its offshore operations near Guyana will continue. The Venezuelan navy blocked seismic acquisition vessels in disputed waters on Saturday, a move criticized by the U.S., the U.K. and Caricom, a 15-nation Caribbean organization.
- Protests that began in Sudan last week over rising bread costs have escalated. Demonstrators are now calling for the removal of President Omar al-Bashir. As many as 40 of them have been killed.
- Explosions heard in western Galilee are believed to be a sign that Israel Defense Forces have begun to destroy Hezbollah’s underground tunnels from Lebanon into Israel. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Israeli military said Iran’s missile factories in Lebanon are no longer active.
- India has opened a rail line along its border with China in Assam, near the city of Dibrugarh, so that it can more quickly reinforce soldiers stationed in the northeast. The rail line took almost two decades to construct.
- Russia added 245 Ukrainian individuals and seven companies to its blacklist.
- Russia’s parliament is considering a constitutional change that would allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power after his term expires.
- Germany’s foreign minister has condemned the U.S. nuclear-armed intermediate-range ballistic missiles that would probably be deployed to Europe if Washington withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
- China will cut tariffs on more 700 imports on Jan. 1 as part of its efforts to open its economy.