The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad pounded Idlib province, the last rebel-held stronghold. Scores of civilians have died in the bombardment, which began last month. Some 300,000 have fled.
Donald Trump declared a national emergency over tensions with Iran in order to push through the sale of $8bn-worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival. By declaring the emergency, Mr Trump was able to bypass Congress, which has criticised Saudi Arabia’s conduct of the war in Yemen. Mr Trump said he is not seeking regime change in Iran—unlike his national-security adviser, John Bolton.
Cyril Ramaphosa named a new, smaller cabinet following his re-election as South Africa’s president. Half the appointments were women and the new intake was generally taken as a sign that Mr Ramaphosa is serious about cracking down on corruption. They will all have to sign performance agreements.
The end of Mueller’s time
Robert Mueller, who led the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election of 2016, gave a rare public statement. He explained that because the department works for the president, indicting Donald Trump was “unconstitutional” and “not an option we could consider”. He also suggested that he has nothing to say beyond what is already in his report.
America’s Supreme Court rejected a law in Indiana that would have banned abortions sought because of the fetus’s sex or disability. However, it upheld Indiana’s requirement that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated. Louisiana passed a bill banning abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected. The Democratic governor has said he will sign it. Both pro-life and pro-choice activists expect a big battle over abortion during next year’s presidential campaign.
America laid fresh charges against Julian Assange, this time for being “complicit with” Chelsea Manning in leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents, starting in 2009. Mr Assange, who is in a British prison for jumping bail and is too ill to attend court, has already been accused by the Americans of abetting the hacking of a government computer.
On a state visit to Japan, Donald Trump met the new emperor and attended a sumo-wrestling tournament, where he presented a trophy. He startled his hosts by saying that North Korea’s recent missile tests did not bother him and didn’t violate UN resolutions. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, called the missile tests “extremely regrettable”.
After weeks of political tumult, Peter O’Neill bowed to pressure and resigned as prime minister of Papua New Guinea. He was replaced by James Marape, a former ally who recently stepped down as finance minister. Mr O’Neill had faced mounting opposition to energy deals with foreign companies, including Total and ExxonMobil. Many locals complained that they had been overlooked in the process.