Posts Tagged ‘Nikki Haley’

European Diplomats Aim to Curb Iran Actions, Save Nuclear Deal

February 18, 2018

Talks intended to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal

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MUNICH—European diplomats met with a senior Iranian official Saturday in a bid to curtail Iran’s regional muscle-flexing and meet a key Trump administration demand.

The push by the European diplomats to check Iranian meddling in Yemen, Syria and other parts of the Middle East is aimed at persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and show the U.S. that there are other ways to check Iranian aggression.

Mr. Trump has threatened to kill the Iranian nuclear deal in May, when he must decide whether to keep in place sanctions waivers required under the 2015 agreement. He has made Iran’s regional actions a focus of his foreign policy, committing the U.S. to pushing back Tehran’s regional role.

Saturday’s meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference is a new channel of discussions intended to address Iran’s activity.

Chaired by the European Union, it brings together senior diplomats from Italy, Germany, Britain and France—the E4—and Iran, represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. The focus of Saturday’s discussions was the conflict in Yemen.

The meeting comes as concerns rise about Iran’s role in southern Syria and the possibility of direct conflict there between Iran and Israel.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Iran is building a network of proxy forces, like Hezbollah, throughout the region and arming them with increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

“So the time is now…to act against Iran,” Gen. McMaster said.

H. R. McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)

European governments, who have strongly supported the Iranian nuclear agreement, have pledged to work with Washington to address nonnuclear concerns, such as Iran’s missile program and its regional activities. The U.K., France, Germany and the U.S. set up working groups last month to discuss this although people close to the talks say work is at a very early stage.

At the same time, the Europeans agreed in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that they would open a channel for discussion of regional issues. Saturday’s meeting was the first one.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

According to officials, European governments are looking to broaden the talks over coming months to cover the conflict in Syria, where Iranian forces and proxies have helped give the Assad regime the upper hand.

Those discussions could include the situation in southern Syria, one of the officials said.

Last weekend, Israel launched attacks on Syrian air defenses and Iranian fighters in Syria after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone fired from Syria. An Israeli jet was shot down during the attacks.

Iran Recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to Fight in Syria

Israel has warned repeatedly it won’t accept an Iranian presence close to its border in southern Syria and said it would strike Iranian built precision missile factories for Hezbollah and other military infrastructure.

On Saturday morning, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that while the EU would maintain its support for the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe was ready to work with the U.S. against “the destabilizing influence of Iranian policies in the region and to push them back.”

A senior German diplomat said Berlin had warned Tehran after last weekend’s events in southern Syria that Europe could step up pressure if Iran seeks to entrench its presence there.

Most European sanctions against Iran were lifted after the nuclear deal was concluded. France has said Iranian firms or people could be targeted with sanctions over Iran’s missile program.

Iran has refused to enter discussions on ballistic missiles, saying it won’t compromise on its national defense. Iranian officials have said Tehran can’t rein in its missile program when the U.S. is selling arms to regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Trump has also pressed European countries to agree to a follow-up agreement to the nuclear deal that would threaten action if Tehran ramps up its nuclear activities once the original limits start to expire. Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program under the deal.

European governments have said they won’t renegotiate the nuclear deal. Officials warn that they want firm commitments from Washington that if they address their concerns, Mr. Trump will stand by the deal. There is still uncertainty among European governments about precisely what commitments Washington is demanding to stand by the deal.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Washington was seeking “a commitment that we can credibly show to the president (that) we’re making progress to address” flaws in the nuclear deal and to counter Iran’s nonnuclear activities.

He said that could eventually lead to direct talks between the U.S. and Iran but “there will need to be significant progress” in Iranian discussions with Europe first.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/european-diplomats-aim-to-curb-iran-actions-save-nuclear-deal-1518899767

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (AP-Hussein Malla)
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US wants UN action over report showing Iranian missiles used to attack Saudi Arabia from Yemen

February 16, 2018

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of Iranian “Qiam” ballistic missile provided by Pentagon at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. (Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS: US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday that it was “time for the Security Council to act” following the release of a report by UN experts concluding that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen.

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The report found that Tehran had failed to block supplies to Yemen’s Houthi rebels of ballistic missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia.
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“This report highlights what we’ve been saying for months: Iran has been illegally transferring weapons in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions,” Haley said in a statement.
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The ambassador added that “the world cannot continue to allow these blatant violations to go unanswered” and that Tehran must face “consequences.”
“It’s time for the Security Council to act.”

U.S. “Sold” Pre-Emptive War with Iraq in 2003 — Now Iran is In The Crosshairs

February 6, 2018

Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, made a case for military action against Iraq to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. CreditJames Estrin/The New York Times

Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, spoke at the United Nations to sell pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint a clear picture that war was the only choice, that when “we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.”

Following Mr. Powell’s presentation on that cold day, I considered what we had done. At the moment, I thought all our work was for naught — and despite his efforts we did not gain substantial international buy-in. But polls later that day and week demonstrated he did convince many Americans. I knew that was why he was chosen to make the presentation in the first place: his standing with the American people was more solid than that of any other member of the Bush administration.

President George W. Bush would have ordered the war even without the United Nations presentation, or if Secretary Powell had failed miserably in giving it. But the secretary’s gravitas was a significant part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.

That effort led to a war of choice with Iraq — one that resulted in catastrophic losses for the region and the United States-led coalition, and that destabilized the entire Middle East.

This should not be forgotten, since the Trump administration is using much the same playbook to create a false impression that war is the only way to address the threats posed by Iran.

Just over a month ago, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that Iran was not complying with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen. Just like Mr. Powell, Ms. Haley showed satellite images and other physical evidence available only to the United States intelligence community to prove her case. But the evidence fell significantly short.

It’s astonishing how similar that moment was to Mr. Powell’s 2003 presentation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction — and how the Trump administration’s methods overall match those of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. As I watched Ms. Haley at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I wanted to play the video of Mr. Powell on the wall behind her, so that Americans could recognize instantly how they were being driven down the same path as in 2003 — ultimately to war. Only this war with Iran, a country of almost 80 million people whose vast strategic depth and difficult terrain make it a far greater challenge than Iraq, would be 10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs.

If we want a slightly more official statement of the Trump administration’s plans for Iran, we need only look at the recently released National Security Strategy, which says, “The longer we ignore threats from countries determined to proliferate and develop weapons of mass destruction, the worse such threats become, and the fewer defensive options we have.” The Bush-Cheney team could not have said it better as it contemplated invading Iraq.

The strategy positions Iran as one of the greatest threats America faces, much the same way President Bush framed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. With China, Russia and North Korea all presenting vastly more formidable challenges to America and its allies than Iran, one has to wonder where the Trump team gets its ideas.

Though Ms. Haley’s presentation missed the mark, and no one other than the national security elite will even read the strategy, it won’t matter. We’ve seen this before: a campaign built on the politicization of intelligence and shortsighted policy decisions to make the case for war. And the American people have apparently become so accustomed to executive branch warmongering — approved almost unanimously by the Congress — that such actions are not significantly contested.

So far, news organizations have largely failed to refute false narratives coming out of the Trump White House on Iran. In early November, news outlets latched onto claims by unnamed American officials that newly released documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound represented “evidence of Iran’s support of Al Qaeda’s war with the United States.”

It’s a vivid reminder of Vice President Cheney’s desperate attempts in 2002-03 to conjure up evidence of Saddam Hussein’s relationship with Al Qaeda from detainees at Guantánamo Bay. It harks back to the C.I.A. director George Tenet’s assurances to Mr. Powell that the connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was ironclad in the lead-up to his United Nations presentation. Today, we know how terribly wrong Mr. Tenet was.

Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran.

It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut. More than ever the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.

The Trump administration’s case for war with Iran ranges much wider than Ms. Haley’s work. We should include the president’s decertification ultimatum in January that Congress must “fix” the Iran nuclear deal, despite the reality of Iran’s compliance; the White House’s pressure on the intelligence community to cook up evidence of Iran’s noncompliance; and the administration’s choosing to view the recent protests in Iran as the beginning of regime change. Like the Bush administration before, these seemingly disconnected events serve to create a narrative in which war with Iran is the only viable policy.

As I look back at our lock-step march toward war with Iraq, I realize that it didn’t seem to matter to us that we used shoddy or cherry-picked intelligence; that it was unrealistic to argue that the war would “pay for itself,” rather than cost trillions of dollars; that we might be hopelessly naïve in thinking that the war would lead to democracy instead of pushing the region into a downward spiral.

The sole purpose of our actions was to sell the American people on the case for war with Iraq. Polls show that we did. Mr. Trump and his team are trying to do it again. If we’re not careful, they’ll succeed.

Correction: February 5, 2018 
An earlier version of this article included outdated information about the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Sheldon Adelson is no longer a donor to the organization.

Assad slammed at UN for gas attacks on Syrians

February 5, 2018

Five people were treated for ‘suffocation’ after Syrian regime air strikes on the northwestern town of Saraqeb, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (AFP)
JEDDAH: The Assad regime was accused on Monday of new chemical gas barrel bomb attacks on civilians in Idlib province in northern Syria and the Eastern Ghouta enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.
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In New York, Russia blocked UN Security Council condemnation of the gas attacks, despite what US Ambassador Nikki Haley described as “obvious evidence from dozens of victims.”
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“We have reports that the Assad regime has used chlorine gas against its people multiple times in recent weeks, including just yesterday,” Haley said.
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The US has proposed a draft statement condemning the use of chemicals as a weapon. “Russia has delayed the adoption of this statement — a simple condemnation of Syrian children being suffocated by chlorine gas,” Haley said.
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Two barrels containing chemical gas were dropped from helicopters in Idlib on Sunday night, said Radi Saad of the White Helmets civil defense group. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a charity that supports hospitals in Syria, said its doctors in Idlib reported 11 patients with symptoms indicating the use of chlorine gas.
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“The Assad regime has launched an unrestricted spree of chemical warfare attacks against civilians across Syria in recent days,” Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, told Arab News.
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“The footage of victims who have been hit by Assad’s chlorine gas attacks is horrific and should raise alarm bells in the world’s capitals. The fact that Moscow in November vetoed efforts by the UN to send inspectors into Syria is further encouraging Assad to launch more chemical attacks.
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“The UN is woefully deadlocked. The real question now is whether the US will take action.”
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Syrian opposition leaders condemned the latest attacks. “The bloody campaign launched against Idlib and its countryside proves yet again that the regime and the Iranian axis are insisting on the continuation of the military solution, impeding any efforts to reach a political solution,” the Syrian Negotiations Commission (SNC) said.
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The Assad regime, protected by Russia, had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, the SNC said. “We demand urgent intervention and immediate action by the Security Council to … hold accountable the perpetrators of such crimes, and all other crimes, against the great Syrian people.”
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The target for the chemical gas attacks in Idlib was the town of Saraqeb, near where militants shot down a Russian warplane on Saturday and killed its pilot.
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A hospital in Kafranbel, another town in Idlib province, was also bombed on Monday morning. Another hospital, in Maaret Al-Numan, was struck three times on Sunday night and put out of service. An apartment building in the city of Idlib, the provincial capital, was destroyed. “It’s just punishment,” said Wissam Zarqa, an activist in Idlib. “When you are targeting hospitals, targeting Idlib city, it’s just to say ‘I am here, and I can hurt you’.”
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In Eastern Ghouta, the opposition-held suburb of Damascus that has been designated a de-escalation zone, at least 28 civilians died in dozens of regime air strikes on Monday. The deadliest raids hit a market in the town of Beit Sawa, killing 10 civilians, two of them children.
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According to news agencies, another nine civilians, two of them children and one a local rescue worker, were killed in Arbin. Nine more civilians died in strikes across the rest of the besieged region, and dozens more were wounded.
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In Arbin, the lifeless bodies of young children were laid out on the floor of a hospital, said AFP. One of the dead was a member of a volunteer rescue force in the town, and a group of his colleagues wept over his body. Outside, a man sat sobbing silently on top of a pile of rubble after having lost two of his family in the raids.

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Trump administration trying to depose the Palestinian leadership in a “coup” — Saeb Erekat

February 4, 2018

Top PLO official rails against the Trump administration for criticisms of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, but insists Palestinians are not looking for confrontation with US

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Saturday accused the Trump administration of trying depose the Palestinian leadership in a “coup” and told the “impudent” US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley she should “shut up” with her criticism of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Erekat, who has led the Palestinian peace negotiations and is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, singled out Haley, who slammed Abbas for a recent speech that was full of anti-Semitic tropes.

Erekat said that Haley’s “impudence” has gone as far as calling for removing Abbas from power.

“She called for overthrowing the democratically elected Palestinian president,” Erekat complained in an interview with the Palestinian Al-Watan Voice news website.

“This is the president who led the peace process and promoted the principle of the two-state solution,” Erekat said, referring to Abbas. “Now this [US] ambassador is accusing him of lacking courage, and is calling for replacing him.”

Only the Palestinian people have that right, he said. “The Palestinian people are loyal to their martyrs, prisoners, wounded, struggles, steadfastness, and heroism. This is the reality. The Palestinians are the only ones who are entitled to hold their leaders accountable.”

Erekat was reacting to a speech given by Haley to the UN on January 25.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East on December 18, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP Photo/Kena Betancur)

“President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo Peace Accords dead. He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American President. He called for suspending recognition of Israel. He invoked an ugly and fictional past, reaching back to the 17th century to paint Israel as a colonialist project engineered by European powers,” Haley said.

“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” she said.

“I ask here today, where is the Palestinian King Hussein? Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat,” she said, referring to the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders who made peace with Israel. “If President Abbas demonstrates he can be that type of leader, we would welcome it. His recent actions demonstrate the total opposite.”

Erekat insisted that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, together with Haley’s remarks, amounted to an attempt to stage a “coup” against the “Palestinian political system.”

“Nikki Haley needs to shut up and realize that the Palestinian leadership is not the problem,” the top PLO official added. “Instead, the problem is the Israeli occupation and the policies it continues to pursue. I’m not saying that we don’t make mistakes; every society and every government makes mistakes.”

Erekat said the goal of Israel and the US was to “undermine the Palestinian national project.”

“US and Israeli officials are saying that any Palestinian leader who insists on East Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine and is committed to the right of return, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194, should be removed from power and replaced,” he said.

The US and Israel are searching for Palestinian leaders who will accept the “liquidation of the Palestinian national project,”  Erekat said.

“The Palestinian leadership has told the Americans and Israelis that, even after 1,000 years, they will not find any Palestinian who will collaborate with their scheme,” Erekat said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Abbas Momani)

The Palestinians, Erekat stressed, are determined to pursue diplomatic efforts at the UN Security Council and other international forums in response to the policies of the Trump administration.

“We will take Trump’s decision [to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel] to the International Court of Justice and we will seek membership in more international agencies,” he said.

In the wake of the recognition, formally declared by President Donald Trump on December 6, the Palestinians have said the US cannot be an honest broker in the peace talks and have refused to meet with US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the region last month.

Nevertheless, Erekat insisted that the Palestinians were not looking for a fight with the US.

“We don’t seek a confrontation or a fight with the US administration,” Erekat said. “On the contrary — they are the ones taking several steps. The US administration is itself saying that it’s not an honest broker in the peace process. Therefore, we are seeking, together with international parties, to convene an international conference for peace.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/erekat-slams-us-for-pushing-palestinian-coup-tells-nikki-haley-to-shut-up/

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Russia casts doubt over evidence of Iran-made missiles to Yemen — Russian propaganda?

January 31, 2018

 

US President Donald Trump, flanked by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaks during lunch with members of the United Nations Security Council in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
UNITED NATIONS: Russia on Wednesday dismissed evidence presented by the United States and UN experts that Iran had supplied missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels as inconclusive, signaling it would oppose a bid to slap sanctions on Tehran.
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Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said it was unclear whether missiles and weaponry used by the rebels were Iranian-made or whether they were shipped before the arms embargo on Yemen was imposed in 2015, casting doubt over the findings of a UN panel of experts.
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“Iran is vehemently denying it is supplying anything to Yemen,” Nebenzia told two reporters.
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shake hands prior to the Syria meeting in Sochi, Russia on 22 November 2017 [Kayhan Özer/Anadolu Agency]
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“Yemen hosts a pile of weapons from the old days. Many countries were competing to supply weapons to Yemen during the time of president Saleh, so I cannot give you anything conclusive,” he said.
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Ali Abdullah Saleh was Yemen’s leader 1990-2012. He was killed in December by his erstwhile Houthi rebel allies.
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Asked whether the case had been made for action against Iran, the ambassador answered “no.”
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Nebenzia joined UN Security Council ambassadors on a visit to Washington this week to inspect debris from missiles that the United States says were supplied by Iran to the Houthis.
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The ambassadors had lunch with President Donald Trump, who urged the council to take steps to counter “Iran’s destabilizing activities” in the Middle East.
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A recent report by the panel of experts bolstered the US claims when it concluded that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen by failing to block supplies of missiles to the rebels.
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The Trump administration has said it will seek action at the Security Council against Iran, although it has yet to specify what those measures might be.
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“If there is something we will see. How can we pass judgment prematurely before we know what it is about,” Nebenzia said.
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Russia has the power to block sanctions by resorting to its veto power as one of the five permanent Security Council members along with Britain, France, China and the United States.
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US Ambassador Nikki Haley last month presented the missile fragments as “undeniable” evidence that a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels at Saudi Arabia in November was Iranian-made.
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The new Iranian long range missile Khoramshahr (front) is displayed during the annual military parade on September 22, 2017 in Tehran. (AFP)
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Above: Iranian foreign minister Zarif shares some fun with his co-equal from Russia Mr. Lavrov.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley points to previously classified missile segments she says prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms, during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington, DC, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley points to previously classified missile segments she says prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms, during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington, DC, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of Iranian “Qiam” ballistic missile provided by Pentagon at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. (Reuters)

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US still aims to push Taliban into Afghan peace talks

January 30, 2018

Afghan security personnel arrive at a site after a car bomb exploded near the old Ministry of Interior building in Kabul on January 27, 2018, killing at least 17 people and wounding 110 others, in an attack claimed by the Taliban. (AFP)
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KABUL/PESHAWAR: The United States aims to press the Taliban on the battlefield to convince them that they will have to negotiate peace, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump rejected talks following a series of attacks.
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Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump condemned the Taliban for recent carnage in the Afghan capital Kabul, and said the United States was not prepared to talk now. He pledged to “finish what we have to finish.”
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Trump’s comments suggested he sees a military victory over the Taliban, an outcome that US military and diplomatic officials say cannot be achieved with the resources and manpower he has authorized.
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But US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told a news conference in Kabul there was no change in the US policy of forcing the Taliban through military pressure into talks.
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Trump’s comments were a reflection of the violence over recent days which indicated “at least some members of the Taliban are not interested in having a discussion about a peaceful future,” Sullivan said.
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“That doesn’t change the long-range strategy of our policy which it to be firm militarily to convince the Taliban, or significant elements of the Taliban, that there isn’t a military solution to the security situation here, that ultimately peace and security of Afghanistan will be determined by peace talks.”
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Trump last year ordered an increase in US troops, air strikes and other assistance to Afghan forces.
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The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said this month the strategy was working and pushing the insurgents closer to talks.
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That was before a suicide bomber penetrated the highly guarded center of Kabul on Saturday and detonated an ambulance laden with explosives, killing more than 100 people and wounding at least 235.
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That attack followed a brazen Taliban assault on the city’s Intercontinental Hotel on Jan. 20, in which more than 20 people, including four Americans, were killed.
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The Taliban said the attacks were a message to Trump that his policy of aggression would not work.
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’WAR-MONGERING’
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Earlier, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had crossed a “red line” with attacks in Kabul and lost the chance for peace, and had to be defeated.
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“We have to look for peace on the battlefield,” said the spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi.
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The surge of violence has also raised new questions about US relations with Pakistan, weeks after Trump denounced it for what he said was its failure to crack down on Taliban safe havens on its soil, and ordered big cuts in security aid.
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Pakistan denies accusations that it fosters the Afghan war, and has condemned the recent attacks in Afghanistan.
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A spokesman for the Taliban, fighting to oust foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government, said earlier they never wanted to talk to the United States anyway.
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“Their main strategy is to continue war and occupation,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
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“Donald Trump and his war-mongering supporters must understand that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you insist upon war, our mujahideen will not welcome you with roses,” he said.
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The United States believes the Haqqani network, a faction within the Taliban, was behind Saturday’s bomb blast in Kabul.
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It and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, and the Haqqani network in particular, as assets to be used in its bid to limit the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.
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Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment on Trump’s rejection of peace talks but its embassy in Kabul cited Pakistani clerics as declaring suicide attacks unIslamic. (Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Gareth Jones)

UN chief calls for Syria referral to International Court — “Grave crimes in Syria” — Use of Chemical Weapons

January 27, 2018

 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. (AFP)
UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is again calling on the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, pointing to “serious violations” including blocking aid deliveries and medical care to millions.
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The U.N. chief also called on all combatants, U.N. member states and civil society to cooperate with an independent panel established by the General Assembly in December 2016 to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria.
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Guterres said in a report to the council circulated Friday on the humanitarian situation in Syria in December that “accountability for serious violations is a requirement under international law and central to achieving sustainable peace.”
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During December, he said, no aid was delivered to over 417,000 people in nine “besieged” locations, and only 60,000 of the nearly 2.5 million Syrians living in “hard-to-reach” areas received humanitarian help. He said 95 percent of the besieged population is besieged by Syrian government forces.
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Guterres said “access for the United Nations and its partners to those people living in besieged and hard-to-reach locations remained a critical concern.”
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He said deliveries of food and other aid remained “extremely challenging” in many areas last month “as a result of active conflict, shifting conflict lines, administrative impediments and deliberate restrictions imposed on the movement of people and goods by the parties to the conflict.”
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The secretary-general singled out the deteriorating humanitarian situation for the estimated 393,000 people living in eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held pocket besieged by Syrian forces. Prices for basic goods there are some 30 times higher than in neighboring Damascus city, “far beyond the purchasing power of most residents,” he said.
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Guterres noted that between Dec. 26-28, 29 urgent medical cases were evacuated from eastern Ghouta. But he said “an additional 600 people remain in need of urgent medical evacuation” and “18 have already died while waiting to be evacuated.”
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The U.N. chief called on all countries with influence over the Syrian government and opposition fighters “to do their utmost” to facilitate medical evacuations and humanitarian aid into eastern Ghouta.
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Syrian authorities also continued rejecting or removing “life-saving and life-sustaining medical items” from convoys last month, he said. In addition, 16 health care facilities and personnel were attacked in December.
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While Guterres again urged that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court, the search for justice has proven to be exceedingly difficult, especially at the United Nations.
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A Security Council resolution backed by more than 60 countries to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC was vetoed by both Russia and China in May 2014.
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A new attempt at the council to refer Syria to the ICC would almost certainly face a similar fate.
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But following the double veto, several countries, including Sweden, Germany, France and Finland, said they were investigating or prosecuting alleged perpetrators of grave crimes in Syria.
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In November, Russia also vetoed renewal of the expert body from the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that was determining responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
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The Joint Investigative Mechanism or JIM had blamed Russia’s close ally, President Bashar Assad, for using chlorine gas in two attacks and the nerve agent sarin in one — accusations that Moscow strongly criticized. By contrast, Russia supported the JIM’s findings that the Islamic State extremist group used mustard gas twice.
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On Tuesday, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called a Security Council meeting and circulated a draft resolution that would replace the JIM.
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The council session coincided with a meeting in Paris where the U.S., France and 22 other countries launched a new organization aimed at identifying and punishing anyone who uses chemical weapons.
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U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the Security Council meeting a distraction, saying the U.S. is ready to re-establish the JIM “with its original independent and impartial mandate, right now. But anything less is unacceptable.”

 

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Above: Iranian foreign minister Zarif shares some fun with his co-equal from Russia Mr. Lavrov.

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia, on November 22, 2017

UN Security Council to see missile parts and lunch with Trump

January 26, 2018

The Associated Press

January 26 at 1:11 PM

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council is heading to Washington on Monday for lunch with President Donald Trump and to see missile remnants the U.S. says are proof that Iran is arming rebels in Yemen.

The U.S. Mission announced Friday that Ambassador Nikki Haley has organized the trip, which will also include a visit to the Holocaust Museum with national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

In November, Haley took journalists to an emptied-out hangar at a military base near Washington to see fragments recovered from missiles launched from Yemen.

Haley said the U.S. intelligence community concluded “unequivocally” the missiles were supplied by Iran.

The Trump administration is seeking to rally the world at the U.N. and elsewhere to punish Iran for funneling weapons to Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, which Tehran steadfastly denies.

Related:

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley points to previously classified missile segments she says prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms, during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington, DC, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley points to previously classified missile segments she says prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms, during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington, DC, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of Iranian “Qiam” ballistic missile provided by Pentagon at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. (Reuters)

UN Security Council to inspect ‘Iranian-made’ missile debris

January 26, 2018

AFP

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley points to previously classified missile segments she says prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms, during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington, DC, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley points to previously classified missile segments she says prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing the Houthi rebels in Yemen with arms, during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia in Washington, DC, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council will travel to Washington on Monday to inspect debris from missiles allegedly provided by Iran to Yemen’s Houthi rebels and hold meetings at the White House, diplomats said.

The ambassadors are expected to meet with President Donald Trump as the US administration seeks international action against Iran, diplomats said.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley last month presented the fragments as “undeniable” evidence that a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels at Saudi Arabia in November was Iranian-made.

That claim was bolstered when a UN panel of experts concluded in a recent report to the council that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen by failing to block supplies of missiles to the rebels.

Haley has invited her UN counterparts to see the missile debris stored in a warehouse at a Washington military base.

“The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had ‘Made in Iran’ stickers all over it,” Haley told a press conference last month.

Smoke rises above the Alhva camp, east of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on April 17, 2015, following an alleged air strike by the Saudi-led alliance on Shiite Houthi rebels camps. (photo credit: AFP/Mohammed Huwais)

The “evidence” stored in Washington includes other pieces of military material allegedly provided by Iran including fragments of an anti-tank missile and drones.

Iran has strongly denied arming the Houthis and last month accused Haley of presenting “fabricated” evidence that the November 4 missile fired at Riyadh airport was Iranian-made.

Haley is seeking to persuade the Security Council to take action against Iran, possibly by imposing sanctions, but will likely face opposition from Russia, which has friendly ties with Tehran.

A separate report last month said UN officials had examined the missile fragments and found that they were of “common origin” but they were unable to reach any firm conclusions about whether Iran was the source.

The US mission did not immediately respond to a request for information about the council visit to Washington.

It will be the second time that the top UN envoys meet with Trump, who sat down for a lunch meeting with the ambassadors in April last year.

Relations between the United Nations and the US administration have been strained over Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his threats to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and funding cuts.

The council voted 14-1 to reject Trump’s Jerusalem decision, prompting Haley to resort to the US veto to block the condemnation.

The General Assembly later approved by a vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, the same resolution.