News Wrap


In their annual report for 2018-19 financial year, electoral bonds account for nearly two-thirds of their funds, received by seven Indian political parties, that have reported accepting money through this route. These seven, namely the BJP, Trinamul, BJD, Congress, YSR Congress, JDS and the TRS, received Rs 3696.62 crore from various sources of funding in 2018-19. Of this, the opaque electoral bonds, introduced in 2017-18 budget, account for 65.51%. Declared corporate donations now make up only 1.45%. The seven political parties individually received 55% to 88% of their funds through electoral bonds. Via electoral bonds, the highest proportion of donations was received by the BJD (87.91%) and JDS (82.20%). Of all its funding through electoral bonds, the Congress received 69.49%, while the BJP received 61.63%. The BJP's overall funding from donations and contributions was about 2354 crore. Of this, electoral bonds contributed about Rs 1450 crore. The Congress received about Rs 383.86 crore through electoral bonds, and about Rs 551.56 crore overall via donations and contributions. For Trinamul, these bonds made up 68.73% of the Rs 141.51 crore in donations and contributions. Between March 2018 and October 2019, the money donated by corporate houses through electoral bonds (91.77%), were in the Rs 1 crore category. Of the Rs 6128 crore generated through electoral bonds, only 47 were in the Rs 1000 category, amounting for Rs 5624 crore, of the Rs 6128 crore generated through electoral bonds.

Middle East
A mob of Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran, had surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad on 31 December 2019, in an outrage over air strikes that killed 25 fighters from the network's hard line Kataaeb Hezbollah faction. Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was kilted in a US air strike on Baghdad's international airport on 03 January 2020, when a volley of US missiles struck a convoy belonging to Hashed al-Shaabi. Solemani, aged 62, was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind Ayatolla Ali Khanaini. His Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iran Revolutionary Guards reported directly to the Ayatollah, and he was hailed as a heroic national figure. The Hashed has confirmed both Soleimani and his Deputy Chief Abu al-Muhandis, were killed in the US strike. Officially incorporated into Iraq's state security forces, the Hashed is a network of mostly Shiite armed units, many of whom have close ties to Teheran. Heading the Quds Force, Soleimani also served as Iran's, pointsman on Iraq. Solemani and Muhandis were sanctioned by the United States. Solemani and officials were leaving Baghdad airport in two cars, when they were hit by the US strike, near a cargo area. He had reportedly flown in from Lebanon or Syria. The US Pentagon claims that Solemani had been "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region".

The Trump administration has made a priority of bringing home hostages held abroad. The prospect of a resolution for the handful of captives in Iran seems to have dimmed, with USA and Iran dangerously close to conflict and warning of retaliatory strikes and continued agitation. President Donald Trump of USA, warned on 04 January 2020, that America was targeting 52 sites "important to Iran, and Iranian culture", and would hit them "very fast and very hard", if Iran attacks American personnel or assets. Iraq's parliament on 05 January 2020, has voted to expel the US military from Iraq.

While Iran recently faced nationwide protests over government—set gasoline prices that killed over 300 people. Soleimani's mass grief procession has seen politicians and leaders across the Islamic Republic's political spectrum take part, temporarily silencing that anger. At least 35 people have been killed, and 48 injured, during a stampede that erupted on 07 January 2020, at a funerary procession for Qassem Soleimani, near Azadi Square in Kerman. His death has galvanised his support in places like Iraq, but also Iran, Gaza and Lebanon, where he backed mostly Shia armed groups.

On 07 January 2020, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces, in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil, and at Ain al-Asad in, western Iraq. Assessment of casualties and damages is being done. Some 5000 US solders are in Iraq, as part of the international coalition against the Islamic state terror group.

President Recep Tayyip Erdegan of Turkey and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, on 08 January 2020 in Istanbul, inaugurated a new gas pipeline linking their-countries. The Turk stream pipelines will deliver Russian gas to Turkey and Europe, via the Black Sea. Turk stream and the Nord stream pipelines, under the Baltic, allow Russia to increase gas supplies to Europe, without having to rely on Ukraine. Moscow's increasing domination of European energy markets has worried the United States, which in December 2019 sanctioned firms working on Turk Stream and Nord stream 2, Beginning 2020, Turkey sent its first troops to help defend the UN-backed Tripoli government, which is under siege from strongman Khalifa Haftar. Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have ramped up bombardment of the last rebel strong holds in Idlib province in recent weeks.

A Ukranian airliner, carrying 176 passengers crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on 08 January 2020. According to the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation, the flight went down in the desk, just minutes, after takeoff, with no radio message from the pilot to indicate distress. It was carrying 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukranians, 10 Swedes, 4 Afghans, 3 Germans and 3 Britons. The plane was bound for the Ukranian capital Kiev. A strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system is among the main theories as information has surfaced or the internet, about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash. All 176 passengers on board were killed. The plain appears to have been hit by a TOR Surface to Air (SAM) missile, which may have been unintentional. Iran's revolutionary guard on 11 Jan 2020, acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian Jetliner. A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a "hostile target".

On 12 January 2020, eight Katyusha rockets had been fired on the Salad airbase, about 80 km south of capital, Baghdad. The airbase houses US personnel. Four Iraqi soldiers were wounded, including two officers. Seven mortar bombs had hit the base's runaway. There was no word of any US casualties.

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Vol. 52, No. 39, Mar 29 - April 4, 2020