Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’

Secretary Tillerson Urges Pakistan Crackdown on Militant Havens

October 25, 2017

Islamabad pledges commitment to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in war against terror

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, shaking hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Tuesday in Islamabad.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, shaking hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Tuesday in Islamabad.PHOTO: ALEX BRANDON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The U.S. pressed Pakistan for the elimination of havens for militants within its territory, according to American and Pakistani officials, in a meeting Tuesday between Pakistani leadership and the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

However, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi insisted to Mr. Tillerson that there are no terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, according to Pakistani officials, and Mr. Abbasi pledged to cooperate with the U.S. to stabilize Afghanistan.

The secretary of state is the most senior U.S. official to make a trip to Pakistan since President Donald Trump outlined a new Afghanistan policy in August. That policy depends on ending havens for Afghan militants in Pakistan, the U.S. said.

“The Secretary reiterated President Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” according to a statement from the U.S. embassy.

“We are committed in the war against terror. We have produced results,” Mr. Abbasi told Mr. Tillerson during a televised photo opportunity ahead of their meeting. “The U.S. can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror.”

The meeting was positive, not confrontational, according to Pakistani officials, with the U.S. seeking Islamabad’s assistance in bringing to an end its longest-running war, in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. believes the Taliban has a haven in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan while the allied Haqqani network is present in northwest Pakistan. Both areas are close to the Afghan border.

The meeting followed the recovery by Pakistani forces this month of an American-Canadian family that had been held captive by the Haqqani network for five years. That rescue won praise from Mr. Trump for Pakistan. U.S. officials say that the family was kept in Pakistan for much of that time, while Pakistan says that they were brought across the border from Afghanistan just before the rescue.

In an interview with The Toronto Star on Monday, Caitlan Coleman, the American wife, said that they had been moved between Pakistan and Afghanistan several times, and they were kept in Pakistan for a year before being freed—pointing to a continued haven for Haqqani network fighters in Pakistan.

On Monday, in Kabul, Mr. Tillerson had said: “Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan.”

Washington wants Pakistan to eliminate militant sanctuaries and help bring the Taliban into peace negotiations. U.S. officials have indicated that the talks can’t happen until the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan breaks what they call a stalemate on the battlefield, showing the Taliban that they can’t win. Islamabad believes the talks should happen now.

Islamabad says that it is already stretched fighting militants that target Pakistan and it can’t start a war on any Afghan insurgents on its soil, but it is prepared to push them across the border into Afghanistan. Islamabad says, however, that with some 40% of Afghan territory in Taliban control, the insurgents don’t need havens in Pakistan. Islamabad also thinks the U.S. is blaming Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has carried out extensive counterterrorism operations over the last three years, including in the North Waziristan tribal area, previously the headquarters of the Haqqani network, which Islamabad says has ended militant infrastructure in the country.

However, the U.S. believes that many Haqqani network fighters relocated to other parts of Pakistan, including the Kurram tribal area. Last week, Kurram was subject to drone strikes against Haqqani operatives, according to local residents. Pakistan denied the strikes took place. The American-Canadian couple were recovered in or around Kurram.

Mr. Tillerson’s multistop trip will next take him to India.

Write to Saeed Shah at

Appeared in the October 25, 2017, print edition as ‘U.S. Presses Pakistan on Terror Havens.’



Tillerson vows Taliban ‘will never win,’ urges Pakistan to meet US ‘conditions’ for support

October 24, 2017


24 Oct, 2017 07:59

Tillerson vows Taliban ‘will never win,’ urges Pakistan to meet US ‘conditions’ for support

Related image
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Kevin Lamarque | REUTERS
In a secretive trip to Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doubted Pakistan’s ability to fight the Taliban. But he also denied the Taliban has any path to victory, despite the Pentagon chief saying they were “surging.”
Tillerson arrived at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on Monday, following an earlier trip in the day to the Qatari capital, Doha.
FILE PHOTO. A Pakistani soldier in South Waziristan. © Faisal MahmoodPakistan’s key intelligence ‘connected to terrorists’ – US top general
Discussing US strategy in the region, Tillerson said the Taliban, and others, “will never win” a military victory against the US.
But earlier this year, Defense Secretary James Mattis addressed the US’s involvement in the country’s longest running conflict. He said the US was engaged in “a strategy-free time”in Afghanistan, and US forces were not winning the war.“I think the Taliban had a good year last year,” Mattis said. “Right now, I believe the enemy is surging.”

Tillerson’s unannounced arrival in Afghanistan follows an assassination attempt on Mattis’s life last month, when rockets landed in and around his plane as he arrived in Kabul.

The top US diplomat’s concerns on stability in the region extended not only to Afghanistan, but ostensible US ally Pakistan as well. Tillerson said terrorist organizations find safe havens in both countries. He added that the US’s relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan is rooted in a “conditions-based approach.”

Earlier this month, Mattis railed against Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which serves as Pakistan’s main intelligence agency.

“They have lost probably more troops than any other single country in the fight against terrorism – at the same time we’ve seen havens left to the terrorists’ own devices,” he said. “We’ve seen the government of Pakistan come down on terrorists, when the ISI appears to run its own policy.”

In late September, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told RT that US actions in Afghanistan dating back to the 1980s have left the region less secure. She also said that Pakistan supporting the US in the fight against terrorism following 9/11 was a “mistake.”

READ MORE: Assisting US in Afghanistan was wrong choice – Pakistani FM to RT

On Monday, Tillerson noted that Afghanistan has come a long way in terms of creating a “much more vibrant government” and a “larger economy” in the last few years. He also said there are opportunities to strengthen the foundation of a “prosperous Afghanistan society.”

However, Tillerson also reminded Afghan officials of when President Donald Trump said “we are here to stay” in the country until the US can “secure a process of reconciliation and peace.”

The secretary of state was scheduled to travel to Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad on Tuesday to meet with the country’s civil and military leadership, according to the Express Tribune.

On October 30, both Tillerson and Mattis are scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


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Tillerson heads to Pakistan as US warns over Taliban havens


© POOL/AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Pakistan on Tuesday following a trip to Afghanistan, where the US top diplomat reiterated America’s commitment to the country

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was to arrive in Islamabad Tuesday as Washington turns up the heat on Pakistan for allegedy providing “safe havens” for Taliban militants.

Tillerson’s visit, his first to Pakistan since becoming secretary of state, comes weeks after US President Donald Trump angrily accused the nuclear-armed country of harbouring “agents of chaos” who can attack NATO-led forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

It follows on the heels of an unannounced stop in Afghanistan, where the US top diplomat reiterated America’s commitment to the country and warned Washington has made “very specific requests” of Pakistan seeking to “undermine the support that the Taliban receives”.

Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of supporting militant groups including the Taliban, believed to have links to Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment who aim to use them as a regional bulwark against arch-nemesis India.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the charge, insisting it maintains contacts only with the militants as it seeks to bring them to the table for peace talks.

During his brief trip to Bagram air base Monday, Tillerson told reporters Pakistan needs to “take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organisations that find safe haven inside” the country.

His visit to Islamabad, where he will meet with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the powerful military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, marks the first by a member of the administration.

US and Pakistani sources say he will be followed later in the year by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as Trump seeks to send a tough message to the wayward ally.

The US-Pakistan relationship has waxed and waned dramatically since Trump took office in January.

Pakistan said the President had praised its then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif as “terrific” in an effusive phone call when Trump took office in January.

But Trump’s blistering speech in August accusing Pakistan of harbouring militants saw Islamabad angrily hit back at the claims, insisting they discount the thousands of lives lost and billions spent in fighting extremism.

Following the speech Tillerson cautioned Pakistan that it could lose its status as a privileged military ally if it continued providing support to Afghan militant groups.

As one of 16 “Non-NATO Major Allies”, Pakistan benefits from billions of dollars in aid and has access to advanced US military technology banned from other countries.

Earlier this month Pakistani forces acting on American intelligence rescued a US-Canadian family that had been in Taliban captivity for five years, sparking hopes that ties were on the mend.

The rescue was followed by a series of drone strikes on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border targeting long-time foes to both Washington and Islamabad.

The US has vowed to send more than 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, on top of the 11,000 already deployed there, to train and advise Afghan security forces as part of a new strategy outlined by the administration.

Fact check: Philippine President Duterte’s claims on US and Chinese aid to military (Sounds like fentanyl talking)

October 23, 2017
One of the military first battalions to be deployed in the besieged southern city of Marawi board a military truck as they arrive to a hero’s welcome at Villamor Air Base Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The military has begun to scale down their forces in Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte declared its liberation following the killings of the militant leaders after five months of military offensive. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — Last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte thanked the US, China and Israel for providing military assistance for the clearing operations in Marawi City.

In his speech before the 43rd Philippine Business Conference and Expo concluding ceremony, Duterte revealed that the sniper rifle that killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was made in China.

Duterte said that the bulk of four planeloads of rifles that government troops used in war-torn Marawi came from China.

“It was only China who gave it on time and plenty,” Duterte said.

The president, meanwhile, said that the equipment provided by the US was only borrowed and were already returned.

“So I said, the countries helped us. China. We needed it badly, you gave it to us. Thank you very much and President Xi Jinping. And of course the Americans just provided the — we just borrowed it, we have returned it already,” the president said.

“They are not willing to give it to us unlike China,” he added.

At least P2.84 billion in US assistance

Despite Duterte’s claims that Washington was not willing to give arms to the country, the US provided a major grant of arms and munitions worth at least P250 million last May, about the same time the conflict in Marawi started.

“In May 2017, a major grant of 200 Glock pistols, 300 M4 carbines, 100 grenade launchers, four mini-guns and individual operator gear worth P250 million was delivered,” US Embassy press attache Molly Koscina told

Koscina also noted that the unmanned aerial vehicle system that the US delivered earlier this year was used in Marawi.

“In January 2017, the U.S. delivered a Raven tactical UAV system worth P60 million which was first tested by the AFP during Balikatan and then used in Marawi,” she said.

Aside from these, the US also provided 25 combat rubber raiding craft and 30 outboard motors worth P250 million to support the Philippine Marine Corps in its counter-terror efforts.

In July, the US officially turned over two C-208 Cessna aircraft worth P1.6 billion to the Philippine Air Force. The surveillance aircraft were used to help in fighting against ISIS-inspired militants in Marawi City.

In August, Washington transferred a radar system to the Philippine Navy, which would enhance its maritime surveillance capabilities.

All of the above mentioned were major grants of the US to the Philippines, disputing Duterte’s remarks that the equipment were only borrowed.

China admitting own aid to Philippine military ‘not that big’

In late June, China turned over P370 million ($7.3 million) worth of military assistance to the Philippines in a ceremony led by President Duterte, whose antipathy toward the Philippines’ traditional ally, the United States, is well known.

Duterte, who has pushed for a policy of rapprochement with China, presided over a turnover of 3,000 rifles and 6 million pieces of ammunition.

While significant on its own given the previous administration’s less cordial approach toward Beijing—Manila’s rival claimant over the South China Sea—it was also aware that the amount of assistance it provided was relatively small.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippine Zhao Jianhua was quoted as saying the amount was “not that big.”

In comparison, the US provided an average of P3 billion (around $60 million) in grant funding to the Philippine military in the previous five years. The amount included weapons, upgrades and training assistance.

On October 5, meanwhile, China turned over a second batch of military equipment composed of 3,000 units of rifles, 30 sniper cones and 3 million rounds of ammunition.

Assistance to Marawi rehabilitation

As for its support for Task Force Bangon Marawi, the US government made available $14.3 million or about P730 million to directly assist with ongoing emergency relief operations and the longer term recovery of Marawi and surrounding areas.

“With $3 million in Humanitarian Assistance, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is working with humanitarian organizations on the ground to deliver critical relief supplies such as safe drinking water, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, shelter materials to improve the conditions in evacuation centers and in host families, and programs to protect displaced women and children,” the US Embassy said.

At the same time, approximately $11.3 million will be used to support the early recovery, stabilization and rehabilitation of Marawi and the surrounding areas.

This includes restoration of basic public services such as health care, water and electricity, jumpstart livelihoods, revitalize the economy, and promote community reconciliation and alternatives to violent extremism.

Image result for USAID, humanitarian, photos, philippines

FILE photo

Aside from the financial grant, the USAID has delivered 12,00 water containers and nearly 100,000 chlorine tablets for safe drinking water to families in evacuation centers. These were delivered upon requests from the Departments of Education and Health.

The USAID had also provided 6,500 desks for temporary schools and psycho-social support for affected teachers and students, according to the US Embassy.

The Philippine government is now shifting its focus to the rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi as the fighting in the war-torn city has ended.

“There are no more militants in Marawi City,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

RELATED: How other countries helped regain Marawi


Go home, Tillerson tells Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

October 22, 2017

RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday it was time for Iranian-backed militias and their Iranian advisers who helped Iraq defeat Islamic State to “go home” after a rare joint meeting with the leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The United States is concerned that Iran, a Shi‘ite regional rival, will take advantage of gains against IS there and in Syria to expand the influence it gained after the U.S. invasion in 2003, something Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia also oppose.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday. (Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty Images)

“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis heeded a call to arms in 2014 after IS seized a third of the country’s territory, forming the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which receive funding and training from Tehran and have been declared part of the Iraqi security apparatus.

A senior U.S. official said Tillerson had been referring to the PMF and the Quds Force, the foreign paramilitary and espionage arm of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Iraq’s military, armed by the United States but supported by the PMF, ejected the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim militant group from Mosul and other cities in northern Iraq this year. Several thousand U.S. troops are still in the country, mostly for training but also to carry out raids against IS.

The campaign to uproot the militants left whole cities in ruins and has hit Iraq’s economy.

A new joint body between Iraq and Saudi Arabia convened an inaugural meeting earlier on Sunday to coordinate their fight against IS and on rebuilding Iraqi territory wrested from the group.

Jubeir emphasized historic ties between the two neighbors, which share a border, vast oil resources and many of the same tribes.

“The natural tendency of the two counties and people is to be very close to each other as they have been for centuries. It was interrupted for a number of decades. We’re trying now to make up for lost ground,” he said.

The rare senior meeting, signaling a thaw between states that have been at loggerheads for decades, was also attended by Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“We have launched a program for the future of the region based on development and security rather than the differences and wars that we have suffered,” Abadi said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 22, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS


Tillerson said the council would contribute to reforms to build Iraq’s private sector and encourage foreign investment.

“This will be critical to winning the peace that has been earned through the hard-fought military gains,” he said.

State media said the council had expressed satisfaction with global oil markets’ recovery orientation as a result of a deal with other countries to boost prices by limiting production.

The council also agreed to reopen a Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) office in Iraq and grant Saudi agriculture company SALIC an investment license.

A second meeting will be held in Baghdad but no date was mentioned.

Tillerson and Jubeir also discussed Washington’s hawkish new policy towards Iran, including a possible withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and new sanctions on the IRGC.

“Both our countries believe those who conduct business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, any of their entities, European companies or other companies around the world really do so at great risk,” said Tillerson.

Relations between Riyadh and Baghdad have been cut since the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, is wooing Baghdad now in an effort to halt the growing regional influence of arch-foe Iran.

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih visited Iraq on Saturday to call for increased economic cooperation and praise existing coordination to boost crude oil prices, the first Saudi official to make a public speech in Baghdad for decades.

A commercial Saudi airplane landed in Baghdad last week for the first time in 27 years, and in August the two countries opened a border crossing for trade which had been closed just as long.

Tillerson’s six-day trip will also take him to Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland.

Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by David Goodman and David Evans


The Washington Post
October 22 at 12:28 PM
 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday urged Iranian-backed militias in Iraq to “go home,” and warned European companies doing business with the Revolutionary Guard in Iran that they could face “great risk” from sanctions.Shiite militias mostly composed of Iraqi citizens but backed by Iran were instrumental in helping the Iraqi army drive the Islamic State from Mosul and other strongholds in Iraq. There have been reports of Iranian advisers among them. Tillerson said they have no business being on the battlefield now that the Islamic State has been routed.

“Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said at a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, using other common acronyms for the Islamic State. “Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home, and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors.”

A senior U.S. official indicated Tillerson was referring to the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces and the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The position of the Iraqi government and the position of our government is that there should be a single Iraqi security force answerable to the Iraqi state,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to a pool reporter in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The ideal, he added, is that the militia fighters either “go home or they integrate into the Iraqi security forces.”

Iran’s broad and growing influence in the region dominated Tillerson’s public comments Sunday, though he covered a wide range of issues in his talks with Saudi officials. He hailed the budding new relationship between Baghdad and Riyadh, saying he hopes closer ties between the two countries pave the way for a stronger Iraq that can counter Iranian influence.

“We do seek to support, as does the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a whole of Iraq, that is secure and stable and has the ability to stand on its own,” he said. “We believe this will in some ways counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside Iraq.”

In other remarks designed to send a message to Tehran, Tillerson also advised European businesses that they should avoid investing in businesses linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is involved in many parts of Iran’s economy.

“Those who conduct business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or any of their entities, European companies or other companies around the globe, really do so at great risk,” Tillerson said.

The threat of more sanctions is one of the most potent weapons for undercutting Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal. The potential for Iran to rejoin the world economy and improve its fortunes was the main reason Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in the landmark agreement with six world powers, including the United States. But the Trump administration is taking a more aggressive stance toward a country it considers a malign actor in the region, largely because of actions not addressed in the nuclear deal.

In Riyadh, Tillerson attended the inauguration of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the council an “important step toward enhancing relations.”

“We are facing in our region serious challenges in the form of extremism, terrorism as well as attempts to destabilize our countries,” said Saudi King Salman. “These attempts require our full attention.”

Tillerson praised other small milestones in the improving relations, such as the recent opening of a border crossing and direct flights between Riyadh and Baghdad. He said the new council can boost cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State and help with the rebuilding of infrastructure in areas liberated from the militants.

“Your growing relationship between the Kingdom and Iraq is vital to bolstering our collective security and prosperity, and we take great interest in it, ” Tillerson said before the agreement establishing the council was signed.

Tillerson also talked with Saudi officials about the ongoing war in Yemen, where Saudi-led airstrikes have killed thousands of people over the past three years. The vast majority have been civilians.

Tillerson also is trying to revive hopes of ending an economic embargo that four Arab countries have imposed on Qatar since June. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt contend Qatar finances terrorism, interferes in their domestic affairs and is too friendly with Iran. Doha denies the allegations and has accused Saudi Arabia of violating Qatari sovereignty and attempting to engineer a change of power.

Tillerson came to the region in June in an unsuccessful attempt to end the diplomatic row, which the United States believes could imperil the fight against the Islamic State. Qatar is home to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, with 11,000 troops stationed there.

Last month, after publicly showing sympathy for Saudi Arabia’s stance, President Trump offered to mediate the dispute, predicting “you’d have a deal worked out very quickly.” But with the prolonged squabble at a stalemate, Tillerson has chided the Saudi-led bloc of countries, saying they are unwilling to sit down and negotiate as Qatar has offered to do. Tillerson has expressed pessimism that a breakthrough could be imminent.

Trump’s New Iran Strategy Could Keep the ‘Worst Deal Ever’ Intact

October 8, 2017


By Nick Wadhams and Steven T. Dennis

  • President has until Oct. 15 to certify Iran’s compliance
  • Proposal would ask Congress to toughen law related to the deal

President Donald Trump is weighing a new strategy to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions that would leave a 2015 agreement intact for now but ask Congress to toughen a law overseeing the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the accord, according to three administration officials.

The goal behind the strategy, which Trump is expected to announce next week, would be to present a unified front from the administration and Congress to European allies, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing an issue on which the president hasn’t announced a final decision. The officials declined to say if Trump would also “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the deal, a decision he has to make every 90 days under U.S. law.

Trump meets with senior military leaders on Oct. 5.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Trump has railed against the accord, which was brokered during the Obama administration, as the “worst deal ever” and an “embarrassment to the United States.”

Asked in an interview broadcast on Saturday if he would pull the U.S. out of the Iranian nuclear deal, Trump said, “I won’t say that.”

“A few days from now, almost a week and a half to be exact, you’ll see,” Trump said in an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The segment was taped Friday at the White House. Trump repeated his view that the 2015 deal with Iran was “terrible.”

Before meeting with senior military leaders at the White House on Thursday evening, Trump told reporters, “We must put an end to Iran’s aggression and nuclear ambitions.” Saying that Iran hasn’t “lived up the spirit of the nuclear agreement,” Trump said “you’ll be hearing about Iran very shortly.”

Read More: A QuickTake Q&A on Whether the U.S. Will Blow Up the Iran Deal

But U.S. allies that are part of the accord, as well as China and Russia, say it’s been effective. They point to assessments by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is meeting requirements to curb its nuclear program.

That hasn’t persuaded Trump. Although the president has twice certified Iran’s compliance with the agreement, which lifted a range of economic sanctions in exchange for restrictions on the nuclear program, he signaled in a July interview with the Wall Street Journal that he wouldn’t do so again before an approaching Oct. 15 deadline.

‘Unified Team’

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders gave a hint about the new approach in a briefing with reporters Thursday, saying Trump will propose “a comprehensive strategy on how to deal with Iran” and will have “a unified team behind him supporting that effort.”

Sarah Sanders

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

Staying in the accord but decertifying Iran’s compliance would meet a standard set publicly this week by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He told congressional committees that it’s in the U.S. interest to stay in the Iran deal but that decertification is a “distinct” matter.

The approach the officials mapped out is similar to one proposed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton this week. Cotton, a longtime opponent of the accord, suggested Trump could “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the deal without leaving the agreement, citing the Islamic Republic’s continued ballistic missile tests and its meddling in countries from Syria to Yemen.

Cotton added that he wouldn’t immediately seek a “snapback” of sanctions eased by the deal. Doing so would be considered a breach of the agreement, allowing Iran to reconstitute its nuclear program.

“Congress and the president, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face,” Cotton, who’s close to Trump’s national security advisers, said in a speech Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Doubts on Congress

Specifically, the proposal hashed out by Trump’s national security team would ask Congress to amend the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, according to the officials. One possible change would be to require that Congress periodically certify that Iran remains at least a year away from developing a nuclear weapon.

Bob Corker

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, is currently working on legislation to amend the original law, according to one of the officials. Corker declined Thursday to discuss prospects for action on the Iran accord.

An outside expert familiar with the administration’s thinking, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private, said the proposal put forward by Trump’s advisers would offer a “third way” — decertify that the deal is in the U.S. interest, roll out a comprehensive pressure campaign against Iran and use that to build leverage for negotiations with European allies in the future.

It’s not clear, though, that Congress, where Republicans have only a narrow majority in the Senate, would be able to approve any changes to the law. Another concern is that Republicans will come under pressure from opponents of the deal to kill it before a “third way” proposal could be put together.

“The administration is going to face an uphill battle to convince Republicans, who only begrudgingly supported the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act in 2015, to now reinforce it instead of reimposing sanctions and killing the JCPOA,” said Jamie Fly, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, using an acronym for the Iran deal. “It’s also not clear whether Democrats will want to give the president a win on this issue.”

Oct. 15 Deadline

Trump will unveil his new strategy next week, ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline, according to the officials.

While Trump said last month that he’s made his decision — and much of the focus in recent days has been on whether he will certify Iranian compliance — administration officials say no final decision has been made. Even if Trump he doesn’t certify that the deal is in U.S. interests, the multinational accord will remain intact.

The administration’s approach may help assuage European allies, who have privately expressed a willingness to work on other ways to control Iran as long as the U.S. agrees to remain in the nuclear deal. But that’s where they draw the line.

U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, standing alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a press briefing in London last month, said “it’s important that we make it work and that we keep it alive.”

— With assistance by Justin Sink

Tillerson in China to talk North Korea

September 30, 2017


© POOL/AFP / by Dave Clark | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

BEIJING (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with China’s foreign minister in Beijing on Saturday to discuss efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and prepare President Donald Trump’s November visit.Tillerson, whose arrival was delayed due to technical problems with his plane in Tokyo, was greeted by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People at Tiananmen Square.

Tillerson told Wang that he looked forward to an exchange “on issues important to us and in particular to begin the important work to prepare for the upcoming visit of President Trump.”

He did not mention North Korea in his brief remarks before reporters were ushered out of the room. Tillerson was scheduled to meet later with President Xi Jinping after talks with top diplomat Yang Jiechi.

Tillerson had been due to arrive on Friday evening but his aircraft’s problems forced him to travel to China on a military transport plane on Saturday.

The visit comes as relations between the two superpowers appear to be improving after months of tensions over how to handle North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear provocations.

Trump has repeatedly urged Xi to exert more economic pressure on Pyongyang to convince the renegade regime to give up its nuclear ambitions.

China, North Korea’s main trade partner, has responded by backing a slew of new United Nations sanctions.

For its part, Beijing has insisted that the sanctions must be coupled with efforts to organise peace talks, but Trump and Kim have traded increasingly personal insults that have raised fears that the crisis could spark a conflict.

“There appear to be two trains of thought in the international community regarding denuclearization of the peninsula: Crush North Korea or talk to North Korea so as to increase its sense of security. China and Russia hold the latter view,” China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial.

– China applies sanctions –

The acting US assistant secretary for East Asia, Susan Thornton, told sceptical US lawmakers ahead of Tillerson’s trip that China appears to be on board with the plan to squeeze Pyongyang.

“We are working closely with China to execute this strategy and are clear-eyed in viewing the progress — growing, if uneven — that China has made on this front,” she said.

“We have recently seen Chinese authorities take additional actions,” she said, referring to new controls on the cross-border trade and finance that is North Korea’s economic lifeline.

On Thursday, China said it was ordering North Korean firms on its territory to close by January.

The announcement came days after China confirmed it will limit exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea from October 1 while banning imports of textiles from its neighbour.

The measures were in accordance with UN sanctions that were approved earlier in September after North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb — a test that triggered an earthquake felt across the border in China.

Trump’s November trip will be part of a tour that will also take in regional allies Japan and South Korea.

by Dave Clark

Tillerson on China Visit Focused on North Korea, Trade

September 30, 2017

BEIJING — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Beijing on Saturday for discussions focused on trade and North Korea, along with preparations for a visit by President Donald Trump in November.

Tillerson is making his second visit in office to the world’s No. 2 economy and chief American rival for influence in Asia, and increasingly, the world. He is scheduled to meet Saturday with top Chinese officials including senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and President Xi Jinping.

Relations between Beijing and Washington are seen as more crucial than ever with the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles entering a new, dangerous phase as its leader, Kim Jong Un, and Trump exchange personal insults and threats of war with no sign of a diplomatic solution.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, is escorted by officials as he arrives to a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool Reuters

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Friday said talks would center on “issues regarding the improvement of bilateral ties, President Trump’s visit to China within the year as invited by President Xi, and international and regional issues of common concerns.”

Trump has been pressing for tougher measures on Pyongyang from China, the North’s chief trading partner and source of aid and diplomatic support.

Although adamantly opposed to measures that could bring down Kim’s regime, Beijing appears increasingly willing to tighten the screws in agreeing to tough new United Nations sanctions that would substantially cut foreign revenue for the isolated North.

On Thursday, Beijing ordered North Korean-owned businesses and ventures with Chinese partners to close by early January, days after it said it would cut off gas and limit shipments of refined petroleum products, effective Jan. 1. It made no mention of crude oil, which makes up the bulk of Chinese energy supplies to North Korea and is not covered by the U.N. sanctions.

China has also banned imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ore, and seafood since early September.

Still, Washington hopes China will exert even greater pressure, even while Beijing says the impasse can’t be solved by sanctions alone and calls on Washington to cool its rhetoric and open dialogue with Pyongyang.

Other than North Korea, the U.S. and China have other security concerns to address. They remain at odds over Beijing’s military buildup and assertive claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Tillerson is also expected to restate concerns about China’s massive trade surplus with the U.S. — $347 billion last year — and what American companies say are unfair barriers to investment, including pressure to hand over their technology.

Washington wants Beijing to make good on its promise to let market forces have a bigger role in its economy, give equal treatment to foreign and Chinese companies and roll back state industry’s dominance.

Tillerson will also be laying the groundwork for Trump’s planned visit to China in November that will come just weeks after Xi is expected to receive a new five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party.

Despite his tough criticism of China’s trade practices, Trump has forged a personal connection with Xi over phone calls and while hosting him at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in April, where they agreed on four high-level dialogues to cover various aspects of relations. In a prelude to his trip to Beijing, Trump met Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who was attending the inaugural dialogue on people-to-people ties in Washington.

The November meeting of the two leaders will be grander and more choreographed than the informal talks in Florida that were most memorable for Trump’s ordering a missile strike on Syria and then informing Xi about it afterward as they ate chocolate cake.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross highlighted the US trade deficit with China when he met with Beijing officials this week. Photo: AFP

Tillerson, facing criticism at home for his muted impact as the top U.S. diplomat, may also be seeking to put his own stamp on the relationship. He surprised some observers during his first official visit to China in March when he employed China’s own words to characterize relations between the sides — language the Obama administration had largely rejected as an attempt by Beijing to establish a type of moral parity between the sides.

While Chinese state media hailed that as a breakthrough in relations, observers questioned whether the move had been intentional or whether Tillerson, who was traveling with only a small group of relatively inexperienced advisers, had simply been underprepared for his meetings.


Associated Press writers Joe McDonald in Beijing and Mathew Pennington in Washington contributed to this story.


U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Xinhua photo

US Urges China to Use Oil Leverage on North Korea

September 14, 2017

LONDON — The Latest on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to London (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging China to use its leverage as North Korea supplier of oil to get the North to “reconsider” its development of nuclear weapons.

The United States has sought an embargo on oil imports to North Korea at the U.N. Security Council in response to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test to date.

But the U.N. has agreed to weaker measures against the North — although the U.N. is banning ban textile exports, an important source of its revenue for the North.

Tillerson says it was going to be “very difficult” to get China to agree to an oil embargo. Still he’s urging China as a “great country and a world power” to use its leverage as the supplier of virtually all North Korea’s oil.


10:25 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is holding talks in London with British and French officials on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

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The U.S., Britain and France are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and the council this week approved new sanctions to punish North Korea’s latest nuclear test explosion.

The officials also intend to discuss the response to Hurricane Irma, which struck the southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

And expect the situation in Libya to come up during talks with representatives from the U.N., Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

It’s Tillerson’s second visit to Britain since taking office in February.


UK’s May Stressed Importance of Iran Nuclear Deal to Tillerson — Trump Seems Ready To Keep Iran Nuclear Deal — But After North Korea, Will Iran Have Nuclear Weapons?

September 14, 2017

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May stressed the importance of a 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday during a brief meeting at her London office.

Tillerson is visiting Britain to discuss the relief effort following Hurricane Irma, North Korea’s nuclear test, and to meet foreign ministers from several different countries about breaking the political deadlock in Libya.

Although not officially on the agenda for the trip, the subject of Iran was raised at the meeting between Tillerson, May and Britain’s national security adviser.

“(They) touched on the Iran nuclear deal, the PM underlining its importance in preventing Iran from procuring nuclear weapons,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

U.S. President Donald Trump has previously expressed doubts about the Iran nuclear deal, which is designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most Western sanctions.

Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups.

Tillerson has publicly said he disagrees with Trump’s views on the nuclear deal, and that it could be used to advance the United States’ relationship with Iran.

“(Tillerson and May) also discussed North Korea and its continuing destabilizing activities,” May’s spokesman said. “They agreed on the importance of the international community continuing to work together to put pressure on the regime.”

North Korea carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test earlier this month.

Tillerson will meet British foreign minister Boris Johnson and a representative from the French government to discuss Hurricane Irma and North Korea.

The three will then be joined by foreign ministers from Italy, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates to discuss Libya with U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame.

Backed by Western governments, the United Nations is trying to heal a rift between Libya’s rival factions in order to stabilize the country and to tackle militant violence and people-smuggling from Libya’s northern coast.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Alison Williams)


US set to extend Iran sanctions relief under nuclear deal

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The Associated Press  In this Sept. 12, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration is poised to extend sanctions relief to Iran under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal even as the White House seeks ways to find the Islamic republic is not complying with the agreement. Administration officials say President Donald Trump is likely to extend sanctions waivers first issued by the Obama administration by a Sept. 14, deadline. However, they say Trump remains determined to “decertify” Iranian compliance by an October deadline. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Trump administration is poised to extend sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

But the move expected Thursday comes as the White House seeks ways to find that Tehran is not complying with the agreement. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal, but has yet to pull out of it.

Trump is working against a Thursday deadline to decide whether to extend the sanctions waivers, which were first issued by the Obama administration.

In exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear program, the U.S. and other world powers agreed to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions that had choked the Iranian economy.

Administration officials say Trump is ready to extend the waivers and that no serious alternatives have been presented. But they cautioned that Trump could still change his mind, and they said he remains determined to “decertify” Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal by a separate, mid-October deadline — a finding that would jeopardize further sanctions relief.

The officials were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Both the sanctions relief and the certification deadlines come amid a broader administration review of Iran policy that is likely to lead to the adoption of a harder line, including the imposition of significant new non-nuclear sanctions, when it is completed next month.

The extension of sanctions relief is expected to be accompanied by a strong statement outlining the administration’s oft-stated complaints that Iran is a destabilizing force in the region.

The statement will set the stage for discussions on the future of the agreement with European allies and others during next week’s United Nations General Assembly as well as the internal administration debate over whether Trump should report to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

The U.N. atomic watchdog said earlier this week that Iran continues to meet its obligations under the accord negotiated among Iran, the U.S., the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. But Iran deal opponents inside and outside the administration argue that Tehran’s full compliance, particularly on allowing inspections at military sites, has not been tested and is not yet proven. They also argue that at the very least Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement with destabilizing behavior such as ballistic missile tests that is not specifically covered by the terms of the nuclear deal.

Trump himself, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said he is inclined not to certify Iranian compliance after having twice found it compliant at earlier deadlines.

Supporters of the deal, including some nuclear experts and former Obama administration officials involved in negotiating the agreement, have made the case that decertification would be counter to U.S. national security interests because it would provide Iran with a pretext to claim Washington is in breach of the deal and undermine American credibility in future international negotiations.

Under U.S. law, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days whether Iran is meeting its commitments to the agreement. If the president does not certify compliance, Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions that were lifted under the agreement.

The next certification deadline is Oct. 15.

Officials familiar with the administration debate say Trump is weighing several options, only one of which would certify that Iran is abiding by the deal. The others call for decertification but differ on the next steps, ranging from walking away from the agreement and immediately re-imposing sanctions to remaining a party to the deal while trying to strengthen it through congressional action and supplemental accords.

The certification option, presented earlier this week by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, would find Iran to be in compliance in line with the IAEA conclusion. Yet it would also make clear that the deal is flawed and must be fixed if it is to be preserved, according to the officials.

It would maintain sanctions relief but say that if the flaws in the deal are not addressed by January, Iran should be decertified on the grounds that the accord is no longer in U.S. national security interests. The fixes, involving the extension of now time-limited restrictions on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, would be negotiated with the other parties to the agreement.

The most well-known of the decertification options was presented publicly last week by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, which would declare Iran to be in violation of the deal, maintain sanctions relief, and leave it to Congress to determine the next steps. Haley also suggested that because Iran has continued its ballistic missile program in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear deal, it could be held in breach.

A third option would decertify Iran on national security grounds under U.S. legislation but not immediately walk away from the deal. It would instead have Trump issue a new executive order setting out a timeline for the agreement to be amended or supplemented with bans or further limitations on uranium enrichment and ballistic missile testing, according to the officials.

Another option being floated is to decertify Iran and threaten to restore nuclear sanctions on Iran at any point as well as so-called “secondary sanctions” that could cut off European and other banks and businesses that do business with Iran from the U.S. financial system.

Barcelona van attacker may still be alive, on the run: police

August 19, 2017

By Andrés GonzálezAngus Berwick and Carlos Ruano


The driver of the van that plowed into crowds in Barcelona, killing 13 people, may still be alive and at large, Spanish police said on Friday, denying earlier media reports that he had been shot dead in a Catalan seaside resort.

Josep Lluis Trapero, police chief in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, said he could not confirm the driver was one of five men killed.

A woman, center, holds a banner that reads “Today I sing for voices you dared to silence – We are not afraid” as people observe a minute of silence in memory of the terrorist attacks victims in Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, joined by King Felipe of Spain, second from right, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, third from right, and and Catalonia regional President Carles Puigdemont, right, on the front row. Spanish police on Friday shot and killed five people carrying bomb belts who were connected to the Barcelona van attack that killed at least 13, as the manhunt intensified for the perpetrators of Europe’s latest rampage claimed by the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

“It is still a possibility but, unlike four hours ago, it is losing weight,” he told regional TV.

The driver abandoned the van and fled on Thursday after speeding along a section of Las Ramblas, the most famous boulevard in Barcelona, leaving a trail of dead and injured among the crowds of tourists and local residents thronging the street.

(For a graphic on Barcelona crash, click

It was the latest of a string of attacks across Europe in the past 13 months in which militants have used vehicles as weapons – a crude but deadly tactic that is near-impossible to prevent and has now killed nearly 130 people in France, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Spain.

A man touches a newspaper displaying a photograph of the aftermath of the terror attack in Las Ramblas, in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. A white van jumped up onto a sidewalk and sped down a pedestrian zone Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, swerving from side to side as it plowed into tourists and residents. Police said 13 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in what they called a terror attack. Manu Fernandez AP Photo

Suspected jihadists have been behind the previous attacks. Islamic State said the perpetrators of the latest one had been responding to its call to target countries involved in a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.

Hours after the van rampage, police shot dead five people in the Catalan resort of Cambrils, 120 km (75 miles) down the coast from Barcelona, after they drove their car at pedestrians and police officers.

The five assailants had an ax and knives in their car and wore fake explosive belts, police said. A single police officer shot four of the men, Trapero said.

A Spanish woman was killed in the Cambrils incident, while several other civilians and a police officer were injured.

Trapero had earlier said the investigation was focusing on a house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, which was razed by an explosion shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Police believe the house was being used to plan one or several large-scale attacks in Barcelona, possibly using a large number of butane gas canisters stored there.

However, the apparently accidental explosion at the house forced the conspirators to scale down their plans and to hurriedly carry out more “rudimentary” attacks, Trapero said.


Police have arrested four people in connection with the attacks – three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, Trapero said. They were aged between 21 and 34, and none had a history of terrorism-related activities.

Another three people have been identified but are still at large. Spanish media said two of them may have been killed by the blast in Alcanar while one man of Moroccan origin was still sought by the police.

Police in France are looking for the driver of a white Renault Kangoo van that may have been used by people involved in the Barcelona attack, a French police source told Reuters.


It was the deadliest attack in Spain since March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people.

Of 126 people injured in Barcelona and Cambrils, 65 were still in hospital and 17 were in a critical condition. The dead and injured came from 34 countries, ranging from France and Germany to Pakistan and the Philippines.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said an American citizen was confirmed dead, and Spanish media said several children were killed.

As Spain began three days of mourning, people returned to Las Ramblas, laying flowers and lighting candles in memory of the victims. Rajoy and Spain’s King Felipe visited Barcelona’s main square nearby to observe a minute’s silence.

Defiant crowds later chanted “I am not afraid” in Catalan.

Foreign leaders voiced condemnation and sympathy, including French President Emmanuel Macron, whose nation has suffered some of Europe’s deadliest recent attacks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking after media reports that some Germans were among those killed, said Islamist terrorism “can never defeat us” and vowed to press ahead with campaigning for a general election in Germany in September.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco sent his condolences to Spain.

U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking by phone with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday, pledged the full support of the United States in investigating the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

In a message to the cardinal of Barcelona, Pope Francis said the attack was “an act of blind violence that is a grave offense to the Creator”.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the attack showed the European Union’s system of migrant relocation was wrong. “It is dangerous. Europe should wake up,” he said. “We are dealing here with a clash of civilisations.”

Additional reporting by Julien Toyer, Sarah White, Andres Gonzalez, Silvio Castellanos and Kylie MacLellan; Writing by Adrian Croft and Julien Toyer; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Lisa Shumaker