Baghdad Strike: US Orders Citizens To Leave Iraq

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C), US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US army general Mark A. Milley (R) speak on stage during a briefing on the past 72 hours events in Mar a Lago, Palm Beach, Florida on December 29, 2019.  AFP

 

The State Department on Friday told US citizens to leave Iraq “immediately,” after an American strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge US citizens to depart Iraq immediately,” the State Department tweeted.

“Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy.”

Tensions in Iraq were already running high after pro-Iranian protesters laid siege the US embassy earlier this week.

The US announced earlier Friday that it had killed the commander of the Iranian Quds Force in a strike on Baghdad’s international airport, which also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

AFP

Soleimani’s Killing: US ‘Committed To De-Escalation’, Says Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a statement during a press conference at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2019. JIM WATSON / AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the US was “committed to de-escalation” after the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in an American strike.

Pompeo tweeted that he had spoken with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi about the killing.

“Thankful that our allies recognize the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force,” he wrote. “The US remains committed to de-escalation.”

The United States announced earlier that it had killed the commander of the Islamic republic’s Quds Force in a strike on Baghdad’s international airport.

AFP

Iraqis ‘Dancing In The Street’ After Soleimani Death – Pompeo

Qasem Soleimani, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General and commander of the Quds Force, speaking during an interview with members of the Iranian leader’s bureau in Tehran.   AFP

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a video on Twitter Thursday he said showed Iraqis “dancing in the street” after the United States killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

“Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more,” Pompeo wrote, alongside footage of scores of people running along a road and waving what appeared to be Iraqi flags and other banners.

President Donald Trump ordered the killing of the Iran Revolutionary Guards commander, who died Friday “in a decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad,” the Pentagon said.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

Pompeo did not provide a source for the video or offer any details about where the images were filmed.

The strike at Baghdad’s international airport also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

A pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy following deadly American air strikes on a hardline Hashed faction.

The US had called the strikes in response to a rocket attack days earlier that killed an American contractor working in Iraq.

The Pentagon said Soleimani had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past months, including on December 27, the day the contractor was killed.

“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” it said.

AFP

CAN Praises US For Placing Nigeria On Special Watch List

 

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has welcomed the idea of the United States government placing Nigeria on a special watch list for having “engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom”.

The Special Assistant (Media &Communications) to the CAN President, Adebayo Oladeji, disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday.

According to the statement, although the group is not displeased with the fact that Nigeria is being listed for such, it is glad that the global community is not unaware of such realities.

“We are not happy that our country is being listed among the nations where religious intolerance is one of their hallmarks but it gladdens our hearts that, at least, the global community is not unaware of the fact that Nigerian Christians are becoming endangered species in their Fatherland,” the statement read in part.

The list, according to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, contains countries like Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Read Also: US Adds Nigeria To ‘Special Watch List’ Of Countries Violating Religious Freedom

Mr. Pompeo explained that the protection of religious freedom is a top priority for the Trump administration foreign policy and that it will work diligently to promote religious freedom and combat abuses.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram and eight other terrorists group have been described as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.

CAN believes that the reasons given by the US for including Nigeria on the list are too glaring to be disputed. Adding, “is it not true that “the Nigerian Federal Government Failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” as noted by the US government?

Read the full statement below.

RELIGIOUS AND ETHNIC INTOLERANCE: US IS STANDING ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH FOR PLACING NIGERIA ON SPECIAL WATCH LIST

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) welcomes the placing of the country on a special watch list by the US government despite the fact that we were not contacted before the decision was taken. We are not happy that our country is being listed among the nations where religious intolerance is one of their hallmarks but it gladdens our hearts that, at least, the global community is not unaware of the fact that Nigerian Christians are becoming endangered species in their Fatherland.

The reasons given by the United States are too glaring to be disputed. The US, like every other country, has an embassy here that monitors and reports back what the country is going through and the approach being adopted by the government to addressing the situation. Is it not true that “The Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” as noted by the US government?

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has made this known to President Muhammadu Buhari in all our meetings with him to see the whole country as his constituency and to avoid nepotism as much as possible; but instead of correcting the imbalance, one of his aides is fond of abusing and insulting the Association using every unprintable words.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, few days ago, called for amendment to the Constitution with a view to adding more Sharia contents. Since the Chief Justice has not denied the story and the government has failed to call him to order, it is crystal clear that the US government has more facts than the government thinks. If the government is sensitive to our yearnings and aspirations, how come no Christian is heading any of the three arms of government in the present dispensation? This is unprecedented in the history of this country since Independence. Is that one of the reasons why no Christian worthy of occupying any of those sensitive positions?

Another slap on our face is the composition of the National Security Council of the country. We learnt that 98 per cent of its members come from one part of the country and people of same faith. Let the government unmask its members including their religions and states of origin. The government is telling us that Christians are not worthy for those key appointments but to play the second fiddle.

So, another thing that could be responsible for the action of the US government is the lopsided appointments in the polity which confirms popular fear and perception that the government is against the Christians. We have made it abundantly clear to President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly that the lopsided appointments of his government in favour of one religion and a section of the country is unconstitutional, violates Nigeria’s Federal Character Principle and so it is unacceptable. But the action of the President is strong enough to convince us that he is not ready to correct the imbalance of his appointments forgetting that the country belongs to all Nigerians irrespective of their religious, tribal and political beliefs. The recent appointments in the Police is a good evidence to the critical posture of CAN.

There are enough evidences to prove that the subtle Islamisation agenda and nepotism are real. All the key appointments that are being made since the second term of the President began follow same blueprint. These are facts and they are violations of some portions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). These include but not limited to Sections 10, 13 (3-4), 15 (2) (d) and (4).

It is widely believed that no country survives two civil wars. We, therefore, call on the government to correct the imbalances and not to be insensitive to the new development but instead address all the factors that are responsible. The government can deny all these facts to the governed but the US government cannot act on mere make-up stories. Of the three arms of the government, none is being headed by a Christian? Why?

Is the US government not aware of the untold hardship Christians are going through in the country, especially in states such as Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba where Christians are being slaughtered like rams by the Boko Haram terrorists and killer herdsmen while the security agencies appear powerless, complacent and it seems as if the government of the day lacks political will to deal with the criminals? Although we are not unaware of the fact that some Muslims living in those states are also affected but since these states are predominantly Christian, the primary targets of violence, barbaric killings and destruction of properties are Christians.

It is a fact that not fewer than 95 per cent of those who are being detained by the terrorists are Christians and the government has been paying lips service towards securing their freedoms. Leah Sharibu is a case study and the only reason why the government that secured the release of her colleagues has not freed her is because of her religion. We wonder why the government has not done the needful to liberate this innocent girl who happens to be a daughter of a Police officer.

It is disheartening and disappointing to note that even the ongoing anti-graft war of the government is not an exemption. While CAN is not encouraging corrupt practices but we are against selective approach to the fight against corruption. From the position of this government, it is only few Christians holding key appointments in this dispensation that are corrupt. This is a fallacious position.

CAN urges the Federal Government to let its policies be implemented according to the dictates of the Constitution. The bitter truth is Christians are yet to be given any sense of belonging since this government came on board. Our prayers include wisdom and the courage for President Muhammadu Buhari to give all citizens a sense of belonging, irrespective of their religious, tribal and political affiliations. He should govern the country as the Father of the nation. We commend the United States for standing on the side of the oppressed and the truth.

Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant (Media &Communications) to the CAN President, His Eminence, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle.

22 December 2019.

US Adds Nigeria To ‘Special Watch List’ Of Countries Violating Religious Freedom

 

 

Nigeria has been added to a United States ‘special watch list’ of countries that had engaged in or tolerated the severe violation of religious freedom.

The list, according to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, contains countries like Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

“The Department renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list.”

READ ALSO: Terrorism Is Greatest Challenge Facing ECOWAS, Says Buhari

Mr. Pompeo explained that the protection of religious freedom is a top priority for the Trump administration foreign policy and will work diligently to promote religious freedom and combat abuses.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram and eight other terrorists group have been described as ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.

“These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protecting those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief.  We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience.”

He stressed that the US government will “continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions.

“Our actions have been, and will continue to be, consistent with our position on religious freedom.  No country, entity, or individual should be able to persecute people of faith without accountability.  We have acted, and we will continue to do so.”

US Places Nigeria On ‘Religious Persecution’ Watchlist

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a statement during a press conference at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2019.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

The United States has put Nigeria on its Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

Nigeria joins Russia, Cuba, Sudan, and Uzbekistan on the list.

According to a statement signed and released by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo on Friday, it appears Nigeria is on the list due to Boko Haram activities in the north-east.

Pompeo said Boko Haram was designated as “Entities of Particular Concern.”

“These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief,” Pompeo added.

READ ALSO: EU Opposes US Sanctions On Russia Gas Pipeline

“We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience.

“We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions.”

China ‘Can’t Hide’ Its Human Rights Violations – US Backs Mesut Ozil

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes remarks to members of the media at the press briefing room of the State Department December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC.

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday denounced China for its heavy-handed actions against Arsenal over footballer Mesut Ozil’s support for incarcerated Uighurs, saying Beijing could not hide reality.

Arsenal distanced itself from Ozil but Beijing dropped state television broadcasts of the English Premier League club’s Sunday match — a move that could have major commercial ramifications in the lucrative Chinese market.

“China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor @MesutOzil1088 and @Arsenal’s games all season long, but the truth will prevail,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

“The CCP can’t hide its gross #HumanRights violations perpetrated against Uighurs and other religious faiths from the world,” he said.

The row comes shortly after China moved to punish the NBA’s Houston Rockets after its general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

Ozil, a German national of Turkish origin, tweeted that the Muslim world has been silent on the plight of the Uighurs in a message on the flag of “East Turkestan,” which Uighur separatists call the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.

“Korans are being burnt… Mosques are being shut down… Muslim schools are being banned… Religious scholars are being killed one by one… Brothers are forcefully being sent to camps,” Ozil tweeted in Turkish.

China has faced growing international condemnation for setting up a vast network of camps in Xinjiang, which critics say are aimed at homogenizing the Uighur population to reflect China’s majority Han culture.

Rights groups and experts say more than one million Uighurs and people of other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been sent to the camps in the tightly controlled region.

Turkey, which shares linguistic and ethnic ties with the Uighurs, has been outspoken on the issue but most Muslim-majority countries have been muted, likely mindful of China’s commercial and diplomatic power.

But a senior US official who recently met with members of Organization of the Islamic Conference voiced hope that Muslim-majority countries would join the United States and Turkey in doing more.

“Every single one of them saw the problem,” the official said on condition of anonymity

 

AFP

Netanyahu To Press Pompeo For More Pressure On ‘Tottering’ Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on December 1, 2019. Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Portugal Wednesday to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and call for increased pressure on the “tottering” Iranian government.

The two men will meet on Wednesday night in Lisbon, the US State Department announced.

Speaking before setting off, Netanyahu said US President Donald Trump’s sanctions against Iran were paying dividends and he would be urging Pompeo to take further steps.

“I think President Trump has placed tremendous pressures and sanctions on Iran,” he said.

“We’re seeing the Iranian empire totter. We see demonstrations in Tehran, demonstrations in Baghdad, demonstrations in Beirut. It’s important to increase this pressure against Iranian aggression.”

Israel, which has the Middle East’s sole but undeclared nuclear arsenal, has for years accused Iran of seeking to obtain nuclear weapons and strongly opposed a 2015 agreement designed to address the concerns of major powers.

Trump, a strong Netanyahu ally, unilaterally pulled the United States out of the deal in May last year and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life after an indictment on graft charges, has hailed the Trump sanctions.

Israel believes they have squeezed the Iranian economy, prompting the government to raise fuel prices — sparking nationwide protests.

Lebanon and Iraq, both countries where Iran has significant influence, have also seen major demonstrations.

Netanyahu criticised European governments that have signed up to a barter system that would allow Iran to trade without fear of US sanctions.

AFP

US No Longer Consider Israeli Settlements ‘Illegal’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a statement during a press conference at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2019.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

The United States no longer considers Israeli settlements to be “inconsistent with international law,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday, in a shift in American foreign policy.

“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees… (the) establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.

READ ALSO: UN Court To Hear Myanmar Genocide Case Next Month

Until now, US policy was based, at least in theory, on a legal opinion issued by the State Department in 1978, which said that establishing of settlements in the Palestinian territories went against international law.

The US shift could be interpreted as a boost for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to stay in power after failing to form a coalition government.

AFP

Pompeo Warns Against China, Russia On Eve Of Berlin Wall Anniversary

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday issued a stark warning against China and Russia on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“Western, free nations have a responsibility to deter threats to our people” from governments like China, Russia and Iran, Pompeo said, speaking just a few metres (yards) away from where the Wall ran past the German capital’s world-famous Brandenburg Gate.

The US and its allies should “defend what was so hard-won… in 1989” and “recognise we are in a competition of values with unfree nations,” he added.

Picking at sore spots in Washington’s relationship with Berlin, Pompeo said the under-construction Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would mean “Europe’s energy supplies… depend on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s whims”.

READ ALSO: Trump Will Not Impose Tariffs On EU Cars – Juncker

Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said the pipeline is a purely private business concern.

And he warned of “Chinese companies’ intent to build 5G networks”, after the German government failed to exclude tech giant Huawei from the bidding process for the next-generation mobile network infrastructure.

Pompeo is on a whirlwind two-day tour of Germany where he has revisited the site of his Cold War military service on the former Iron Curtain border and is slated to meet leaders including Merkel.

While in Europe, he has looked to shore up transatlantic relations eroded by trade conflicts and discord over geopolitical crises and military spending.

Spurred by the US leaving the way open to Turkish and Russian military action in northern Syria, France’s President Emmanuel Macron told The Economist this week that the NATO alliance — of which Ankara is also a member — was suffering a “brain death” of lack of coordination between Europe and Washington.

Recalling past “challenges between partners” within NATO, including France’s 1960s departure from the alliance’s command structure, Pompeo on Friday dismissed the debate around Macron’s comments as a “kerfuffle”.

Other leaders including Merkel, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have also firmly rejected Macron’s assessment.

US Restricts Visas To China Officials Over Uighur ‘Repression’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a speech at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens on October 5, 2019.  COSTAS BALTAS / POOL / AFP

 

The United States said Tuesday it would curb visas for Chinese officials over “repression” of Uighurs and other Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, a day after imposing commercial restrictions.

“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo Accuses Congress Of Harassment Over Impeachment Probe

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a speech at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens on October 5, 2019.  COSTAS BALTAS / POOL / AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused members of Congress of harassing his department to obtain documents linked to an impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump.

“There have been congressional inquiries that have harassed and abused State Department employees by contacting them directly and seeking to have them provide documents… that belong to the State Department, that are official US government records” he said during a visit in Greece.

“That’s harassment. And I’m never going to let that happen to my team.”

The US congressional committees leading the impeachment probe cranked up the heat on the White House this week.

Evidence is mounting evidence that Trump may have illicitly used his office to try to enlist Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s help to damage the bid of 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden in exchange for military aid.

After dodging questions for days, Pompeo finally confirmed Wednesday that he had been on the telephone call when Trump pressed Ukraine for damaging information on Biden.

Pompeo’s Democratic critics say he is now a “witness” caught in a conflict of interest that should rule him out of decisions on how the State Department deals with the investigation.

He has been accused of “stonewalling” the investigation and trying to limit what his staff could discuss if they testify.

Speaking in Athens Saturday Pompeo, who has been subpoenaed in the probe, told reporters: “We all, obviously, do all the things we are required to do by law.”

His department would provide “all the documents required by the law”.

The US top official was in Greece to reinforce cooperation with its NATO ally, signing an amendment to a mutual defence agreement.

AFP