Pompeo Alleges Iran New ‘Home Base’ Of Al-Qaeda

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

 

Outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged Tuesday that arch-enemy Iran has become a new “home base” for Al-Qaeda, surpassing Afghanistan or Pakistan, an assertion mocked by Tehran and questioned by experts.

Barely a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes over, Pompeo confirmed a New York Times report that Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed last year in Tehran, although he did not comment on the paper’s reporting that Israel carried out the ambush.

“Al-Qaeda has a new home base. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a speech at the National Press Club.

“I would say Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan –- as the key geographic hub for Al-Qaeda — but it’s actually worse.

“Unlike in Afghanistan, when Al-Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, Al-Qaeda today is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”

Pompeo — who has championed sweeping sanctions on Iran and an attack that last year killed its leading general — urged more international pressure, calling the alleged alliance a “massive force for evil all over the world.”

President Donald Trump’s top diplomat stopped short of urging military action, saying: “If we did have that option, if we chose to do that, there’s a much greater risk in executing it.”

But he announced sanctions on several individuals and a $7 million reward for information on an Al-Qaeda member he said was believed to be in Iran identified both as Muhammad Abbatay or Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi.

– ‘No one is fooled’ –
Iran, a Shiite clerical state, is ideologically opposed both to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, extreme Sunni movements that are predominantly Arab, and has fought on fronts abroad against both.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Pompeo “is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies.”

“No one is fooled,” Zarif wrote, noting that hijackers from the September 11, 2001 attacks came from Pompeo’s “favorite” countries rather than Iran. Fifteen of the 19 assailants were Saudis.

Pompeo acknowledged that late Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden himself considered members inside Iran to be “hostages” and that there was no evidence Iran backed the September 11 attacks.

But Pompeo, a former CIA chief, said Iran in recent years has let Al-Qaeda centralize leadership in Tehran by issuing travel documents and allowing unimpeded fund-raising and communications.

Many experts believe that Tehran has allowed Al-Qaeda operatives to stay on its soil — comparatively safe from the US military — as leverage to prevent attacks on Iran.

Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said that most Middle Eastern nations had reached tactical arrangements with militants and there was little to suggest an Iranian alliance with Al-Qaeda.

“You can take a small bit that is not in itself incorrect and turn it into a completely different conclusion than what the facts lend themselves to,” he said.

“If this were true, why is he revealing it nine days before he’s about to leave?” Parsi said, adding that Pompeo could have then used the Al-Qaeda case to justify Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.

“To reveal it now gives me the impression that a more plausible explanation is that he’s doing this because he is desperate to try to prevent a Biden administration from undoing the damage,” he said.

Pompeo did not address the Islamic State extremist group, which has surpassed Al-Qaeda in much of the world as a major threat and carried out two attacks in Tehran in 2017.

– Last-minute push –
Biden is expected to seek a return to diplomacy and has tapped Bill Burns, a respected retired diplomat who has led secret negotiations with Iran, as CIA director.

Pompeo in his final days has pushed through a slew of hawkish policies as Trump faces impeachment for inciting a mob to attack the US Capitol.

He has branded Yemen’s Iran-linked Huthi rebels as terrorists, defying warnings from aid workers of grave humanitarian consequences.

On Monday, a Politico reporter spotted Pompeo dining with the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency at Cafe Milano, a swank Georgetown restaurant described as “Washington’s ultimate place to see and be seen” in an article highlighted on its website.

The New York Times last year said that Israeli operatives were believed to be behind the killing in Tehran of Al-Qaeda’s number two, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, who was wanted by Washington over the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

US Redesignating Cuba As State Sponsor Of Terrorism – Pompeo

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday he was placing Cuba back on a blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, a last-minute roadblock to expected efforts by President-elect Joe Biden to ease tensions.

The terror designation severely hampers investment by foreigners who will now risk US prosecution and can only be removed after a formal review by the Biden administration, meaning it may be in force for months.

With nine days left in office, President Donald Trump’s administration pointed to Cuba’s ties with Colombian rebels and Venezuela’s leftist government and its welcome to several US fugitives.

READ ALSO: England Opens Mass Vaccination Sites As COVID-19 Spike Fears Spread

“With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice,” Pompeo said in a statement, referring to former leaders Fidel and Raul Castro.

“The United States will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire for a democratic government and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion, expression and association,” he said in a statement.

This screen grab from a video released courtesy of The Obama Foundation shows MBK (My Brother’s Keeper) Alliance Virtual Town Hall with President Obama on “Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence” live streamed on June 3, 2020. THE OBAMA FOUNDATION / AFP

 

Then-president Barack Obama in 2015 delisted Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism as he moved to normalize relations and declared the half-century US effort to isolate the island to be a failure.

Trump has reversed many of Obama’s overtures to Cuba and also imposed sanctions on its leftist ally Venezuela, a stance that helped win support among immigrant communities in Florida, a crucial state in US elections.

Biden has indicated he wants to return at least to some engagement started under Obama and blocked by Trump, including allowing Cuban-Americans to visit family and send money.

To remove Cuba from the terror list, Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, would have to initiate a review that shows that Havana did not engage in terrorism over the past six months.

The move is the latest in a blitz of major decisions by Pompeo in his final days in office, with most of Washington focused on whether to remove Trump for inciting a deadly riot at the US Capitol on January 6 of supporters who sought to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden’s victory.

Since Saturday, Pompeo has also designated Yemen’s Huthi rebels as a terrorist group, defying warnings from aid groups, and relaxed rules on US engagement with Taiwan.

Only three other countries are on the blacklist — US nemeses Iran, North Korea and Syria. Trump late last year removed Sudan after its democratic transition, compensation for past attacks and agreement to recognize Israel.

AFP

Pompeo Quarantining After Contact With COVID-Positive Person

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP

 

America’s top diplomat Mike Pompeo was in quarantine Wednesday after being exposed to a person who has tested positive for Covid-19, the State Department said.

The 56-year-old Secretary of State “has been tested and is negative,” it said in a statement.

“In accordance with CDC guidelines, he will be in quarantine,” the State Department said. “He is being closely monitored by the Department’s medical team.”

The State Department said that for privacy reasons it was not identifying the person Pompeo came into contact with.

The US Secretary of State is fourth in the line of succession after the president following the vice president, speaker of the House of Representatives and president pro tempore of the Senate.

President Donald Trump was hospitalized for three days in October after contracting Covid-19. His wife, Melania, and son Barron, also caught the disease.

While Trump frequently appeared in public without a facemask, Pompeo generally wore one during his foreign trips.

Pompeo and his wife, Susan, hosted a holiday party on Tuesday for the families of US diplomats serving overseas.

According to The Washington Post, Pompeo had been scheduled to speak at the event but canceled his speech.

The newspaper said more than 900 invitations had been sent out for the reception but less than 70 people showed up for the indoor event.

US health authorities have discouraged large indoor gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic which has left more than 300,000 people dead in the United States.

READ ALSOWHO Urges Use Of Masks During Christmas Celebration

The CNN television network reported meanwhile that Pompeo had been scheduled to meet sometime in the next few days with Antony Blinken, who has been nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next secretary of state.

Pompeo is one of Trump’s most loyal supporters and a meeting with Blinken is seen as potentially problematic for the secretary of state since the president has still refused to acknowledge he lost the November 3 election.

AFP

Pompeo First US Top Diplomat To Visit West Bank Settlement, Golan

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) following a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, near Merom Golan on the border with Syria, on November 19, 2020.  Patrick Semansky / POOL / AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first top American diplomat to visit a West Bank Jewish settlement and the disputed Golan Heights, cementing Donald Trump’s strongly pro-Israel legacy.

On a farewell tour of the Middle East, Pompeo also said exports from the settlements could now be labelled as “Made in Israel” and called a boycott movement against the Jewish state a “cancer”.

Pompeo held no meetings with Palestinians, who protested his actions and dismissed them as the latest sign of the outgoing Trump administration’s strong bias against them.

Accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Pompeo travelled aboard a Blackhawk helicopter to the Golan Heights, a strategic territory the Jewish state seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“You can’t stand here and stare out at what’s across the border and deny the central thing that President Donald Trump recognised… This is a part of Israel,” Pompeo said.

Last year, Trump’s administration controversially recognised Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, and Pompeo on Thursday condemned what he described as calls from “the salons in Europe and in the elite institutions in America” for Israel to return the Golan to Syria.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L) speaks alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following a security briefing on Mount Bental in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, near Merom Golan on the border with Syria, on November 19, 2020.  Patrick Semansky / POOL / AFP

 

“Imagine with (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad in control of this place, the risk of the harm to the West and to Israel,” Pompeo said.

Syria’s foreign ministry called Pompeo’s visit a “provocative step”, warning that “such criminal visits encourage (Israel) to continue its dangerous hostile approach.”

– Anti-Semitic ‘cancer’ –
Pompeo also said that Washington would designate as “anti-Semitic” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which calls for a wide-ranging embargo against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

“We will immediately take steps to identify organisations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups,” he said after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We want to stand with all other nations that recognise the BDS movement for the cancer that it is.”

Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and has long accused it of anti-Semitism, and a law passed in 2017 allows it to ban foreigners with links to the movement.

Activists strongly deny the charge, comparing it to the economic isolation that helped bring down apartheid in South Africa.

Condemning Pompeo’s announcement, Human Rights Watch said “the Trump administration has no business trying to tar groups because they back boycotts”, which it said had been used to advance social justice throughout American history.

Amnesty International called BDS a “form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected”.

– West Bank visit –
Pompeo — who has so far backed Trump in refusing to concede defeat to President-elect Joe Biden — is on what was likely his final major Europe and Middle East tour in the post.

Netanyahu, who has congratulated Biden, thanked Pompeo for his “unwavering support” of Israel, first as CIA director and later secretary of state.

On Thursday, Pompeo also became the first US top diplomat to visit a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, where the Psagot winery has named one of its red blends after him.

Winemaker Yaakov Berg, creator of the “Pompeo” wine, told AFP that the secretary of state’s support will ensure he is remembered by Jews “100 years from now”.

On the way there, Pompeo stopped at Qasr el-Yahud, revered as the site of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan Valley.

Pompeo said a year ago that the US no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be contrary to international law.

– Made in Israel’ –
He took a further step Thursday, announcing that the US would now consider exports from much of the West Bank as “Made in Israel”.

The new guidelines, he said, apply especially to Area C, the large part of the West Bank where Israel retains full civil and military control and where much of the settler population lives.

Area C also includes the strategic Jordan Valley and many Palestinian communities, areas that Israel considers to be disputed.

Pompeo’s announcement seemed to imply that even Palestinian exports from Area C should be tagged as Israeli products — as should the wine he sampled at Psagot.

Regarding products from areas under Palestinian control, they must now be marked as coming from the West Bank or Gaza, the coastal enclave controlled by the Hamas Islamist group.

That decision effectively means that, at least through Trump’s remaining days in office, the US will not recognise exports as coming from the Palestinian Territories.

The decision on labelling “blatantly violates international law,” said Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, dismissing it as yet another biased move by Trump’s administration.

AFP

Pompeo Affirms Support For Georgia As Russian Influence Grows

 

 


COSTAS BALTAS / POOL / AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday sought to reassure Georgia of Washington’s commitment to strengthening ties during a visit to the region where Russia is asserting its influence.

Pompeo’s meetings with leaders of Georgia came a week after Moscow brokered a peace deal between neighbours Azerbaijan and Armenia that sees 2,000 Russian peacekeepers stationed in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Anti-government demonstrators blocked the main street through the capital Tbilisi during the visit to voice anger over recent parliamentary elections the opposition said were rigged.

“We’ve been great friends almost 30 years on for your democracy,” Pompeo said during a meeting with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

Pompeo vowed support for Georgia’s democratic development and said the United States recognised “the pain and difficulty connected to the occupation of your country,” referring to Russian troops stationed in two breakaway regions.

“Know that we want to do everything we can to support your democratic process…  with free and fair elections,” he added.

Russia’s deployment of peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabkh last week unsettled Georgia, which in 2008 lost a brief war with Moscow over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia recognised the breakaway provinces and stationed military bases in the regions, derailing Tbilisi’s bid to join NATO, a long-time aspiration backed by the US but angrily opposed by Russia.

Pompeo made the visit to Georiga as part of a tour of seven US allies and he held talks with President Salome Zurabishvili and later with Gakharia and Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani.

“Our strategic partnership is based first of all on values – freedom, democracy, and of course shared geostrategic interests,” Gakharia said during his meeting with Pompeo.

– ‘Political turmoil’

The US embassy said ahead of Pompeo’s meetings that he would discuss “the importance of free and fair elections” with Georgian officials.

Georgia has recently been destabilised by anger over parliamentary elections which the ruling Georgian Dream party won narrowly on October 31, but which the opposition has denounced as rigged.

Opposition parties have staged mass protests demanding snap polls and refused to enter the new parliament, in a boycott that has undermined the ruling party’s legitimacy.

Opposition leaders said they hoped Pompeo would push the Georgian Dream-led government towards compromise, an expectation echoed by demonstrators in Tbilisi Wednesday.

Thousands of opposition protesters formed a human chain in the capital’s main thoroughfare, waving US and Georgian flags and holding placards that read “rigged elections” and “we need your voice.”

But a US diplomat told journalists “we’re not going to have the Secretary of State get pulled into domestic political disputes and turmoil.”

The diplomat added that the message the US wanted to deliver was: “use the institutions, don’t just boycott them and achieve your gains that way”.

Yet the way electoral violations were addressed by Georgia’s election commission “added to the sense of suspicion about to whether the results were credible or not,” the diplomat conceded.

A staunch US ally, Georgia is one of the most pluralistic countries to emerge from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, although concerns have been growing that it is backsliding on democracy.

Critics accuse the ruling party’s billionaire leader Bidzina Ivanishvili — who is widely seen to be calling the shots in Georgia — of persecuting political opponents and creating a corrupt system where private interests permeate politics.

Before departing for Israel on Wednesday afternoon, Pompeo met with representatives of civil society and the influential head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.

AFP

Pompeo To Meet Australia, India, Japan FMs In Tokyo

 

Top diplomats from the United States, India, Australia and Japan will gather in Tokyo next week for rare face-to-face talks on tackling the coronavirus and strengthening co-operation, Japan said Tuesday.

The four nations have in recent years formed a strategic grouping — known as the “Quad” — meant to serve as a counterweight to China and promote their vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The meeting on October 6 will be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced he would host the four-way talks — the second such meeting after the first was held in New York last year.

“It is the right time for these like-minded foreign ministers to gather in Tokyo for face-to-face talks, to exchange views about how to deal with issues that have emerged from the spread of the coronavirus, along with regional affairs,” he told reporters at a regular briefing.

It will be the first ministerial-level international meeting hosted by Japan since the pandemic began, and also since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took power this month.

Japan is moving gradually to open its borders to more foreigners, particularly business travellers, as it prepares to hold the postponed Olympics next summer.

AFP

Pompeo Urges Greece, Turkey To Resolve Territorial Dispute

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP

 

The United States welcomed on Monday Greece’s willingness to look for a solution to a territorial dispute with Turkey, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Greek officials.

Rival claims to potentially resource-rich territory under the Mediterranean should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with international law”, said Pompeo and Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in a joint statement after holding talks in Thessaloniki.

The two NATO members have spent weeks at loggerheads after Ankara sent exploration vessels into disputed waters, roping in other European powers and raising concern about a wider escalation.

Turkey has also angered Greece by repeatedly casting doubt on postwar treaties setting out the status quo in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

But last week Athens and Ankara said they were ready to start talks.

“Let’s meet, let’s talk and let’s seek a mutually acceptable solution. Let’s give diplomacy a chance,” Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an address to the virtual UN General Assembly.

Pompeo, on a two-day visit to Greece, said in the joint statement that the US “welcomed Greece’s confirmed readiness to engage with other countries in the region to achieve maritime delimitation agreements”.

“The strength of our bilateral relationship is at an all-time high,” Pompeo tweeted earlier on Monday.

He will fly to the Greek island of Crete on Tuesday and tour the NATO naval base of Souda Bay.

Mitsotakis — who is hosting Pompeo at his family home on Crete — wants closer military ties with the US.

The secretary of state last October signed a defence agreement allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.

On Monday, both sides said they intended to “further enhance their strategic defence and security partnership” in talks in Washington next year.

A key element of the October deal was the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis, a Balkans and Black Sea gateway of strategic value to the US navy and NATO.

The US has been granted priority status to the port after paying roughly $2.3 million (2 million euros) to remove a sunken dredging barge that had blocked part of the harbour since 2010.

At the time, Greek officials said the Pentagon was expected to invest over $14 million on the Greek airbase of Larissa and around six million euros at Marathi, part of the Souda base.

– Pressure on Huawei –

The visit to Thessaloniki is also intended as a sign to the Balkans on American willingness to invest in the region, the State Department said.

Pompeo signed a bilateral science and technology agreement, and hosted an energy sector gathering of business leaders.

Pompeo’s tour later in the week also includes stops in Italy, the Vatican and Croatia.

In Rome, the secretary of state will discuss efforts by the Trump administration to deter its European allies from using equipment by Chinese manufacturer Huawei in developing their 5G networks.

The US accuses Huawei of being a tool for Chinese espionage.

Pompeo is also scheduled to attend a meeting at the Vatican on religious freedom, his human rights priority. There, too, he will warn of China’s actions against minorities, including Muslims.

AFP

US To ‘Impose Consequences’ If UN Fails To Implement Iran Sanctions – Pompeo

 

Mike-Pompeo
File photo: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing at the State Department on February 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Secretary Pompeo spoke on several topics including the coronavirus and the recent truce with the Taliban. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP.

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that UN sanctions against Iran were “back in effect” and said the US would “impose consequences” if the international body’s member states did not implement them.

But the US is isolated on the matter, with other major powers, especially its European allies, assuring on the contrary that the sanctions are not back and the American procedure is without legal effect.

“If UN Member States fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity,” Pompeo said.

AFP

Pompeo To Tour Region After UAE-Israel Deal

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 9, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference with Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC. - The United States said July 9, 2020 it would refuse visas for three top Chinese officials and their families over the "horrific and systematic abuses" against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the officials who would be refused entry include Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary for the Xinjiang region who is considered an architect of Beijing's hardline policies on minorities. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 9, 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference with Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due in Jerusalem on Monday to start a tour focused on Israel’s normalising of ties with the UAE and pushing other Arab states to follow suit.

After meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he is set to visit senior figures in Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said Sunday.

Israel had previously only signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, two neighbours with which it had technically been at war, unlike the United Arab Emirates.

Following the US-sponsored deal announced on August 13, the new partners say they want to promote trade, especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the Emirates, as well as boosting tourism by establishing direct air links.

Key to that plan would be persuading Saudi Arabia to open its airspace, between Israel and the Gulf, to Israeli commercial airlines.

During his visit, Pompeo will “discuss regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence (and) establishing and deepening Israel’s relationships in the region,” the State Department said in a statement.

President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, announced in January, saw cooperation between Israel and those Arab countries who, like Israel, see Iran as their main foe.

It also gave the Jewish state a green light to annex parts of the West Bank — something Israel committed to “suspending” under the UAE deal, without saying for how long.

The Palestinians have slammed the UAE’s move as a “stab in the back” while their own conflict with the Jewish state remains unresolved.

But the UAE ambassador to Washington, writing on the front page of Israel’s top-selling daily, said closer ties would benefit everybody.

“They will help move the region beyond the ugly legacy of hostility and conflicts, towards a destiny of hope, peace and prosperity,” he wrote in Yediot Aharonot’s weekend edition.

– F-35 in the crosshairs –

Tel Aviv daily Israel Hayom, a staunch backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote Sunday that direct talks between the sides on the wording of the deal were close to starting and “a full agreement could be reached within a month.”

 

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

 

A signing ceremony is set to be held at the White House within that timeframe, the paper wrote.

Reports that the agreement hinges on the sale of US F-35 Stealth jets to the Emirates have been vigorously denied by Netanyahu, who says he opposes the move as it could reduce Israel’s regional strategic edge.

“The Emiratis are saying there was a promise there, the Israelis are saying no,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, professor in the department of Middle Eastern studies at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv.

Historically, Israel (which has F-35s) has opposed the sale of advanced weaponry to other Middle East states, even Jordan and Egypt with which it has peace treaties.

But Teitelbaum said that in the past such objections have been finessed, citing the US sale to Israel and Saudi Arabia of F-15 fighters.

“From what I understand arrangements are made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” he told AFP.

“Israel is allowed to put certain modifications in the software that allow it to maintain its edge.”

There can also be cost advantages as a sweetener, he said.

“The Israeli F-15s and the Saudi F-15s were made in the same factory” in the US, he went on.

“The fact that Israel gave its wink to the Saudi F-15s allowed the actual price to be lowered for the Israelis, because it allowed the assembly line to run (longer) at that factory.”

– Bahrain, Oman, Sudan? –

The surprise announcement of the Israel-Emirati pact sparked huge speculation on who might be next, with frequent mentions of Bahrain and Sudan, which is turning its back on the Omar al-Bashir era.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hardline Islamist forces.

Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman was fired last week after he made allegedly unauthorised comments indicating contact had been made with Israel regarding normalising ties.

But the State Department said Pompeo would meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his tour, to “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship”,

He will also meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa before meeting UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to discuss the Israel deal, it said.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by the majority of Arab states, has said it will not follow the UAE’s example until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians.

AFP

US Offers $15m Reward For Arrest Of Venezuela’s President Maduro

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2019 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks after meeting Chilean High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas. The US Treasury Department on June 27, 2019 indicted two former influential figures in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government on money laundering and corruption charges. YURI CORTEZ / AFP

 

The United States will offer $15 million for information leading to the arrest of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on drug-trafficking charges, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

Pompeo announced the reward as the Justice Department unveiled charges against Maduro, describing him like a common criminal rather than a head of state as Washington tries to help opposition leader Juan Guaido take power.

“The Venezuelan people deserve a transparent, responsible, representative government that serves the needs of the people — and that does not betray the trust of the people by condoning or employing public officials that engage in illicit narcotics trafficking,” Pompeo said in a statement.

AFP

‘The West Is Winning’ – Pompeo Defends US Global Role

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the podium at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 15, 2020. Christof STACHE / AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the podium at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 15, 2020. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday rejected European pessimism about Washington’s retreat from the global stage, saying the death of the transatlantic bond is “grossly overexaggerated”.

“The West is winning and we’re winning together,” Pompeo said at the Munich Security Conference.

The annual gathering of world leaders, generals and diplomats to discuss security challenges has been dominated by fears of diminishing Western influence in the face of a more assertive China and Russia.

Pompeo spoke a day after German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested the United States rejected “even the idea of an international community” and was acting “at the expense of neighbours and partners”.

“Those statements don’t reflect reality. I’m happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly over-exaggerated,” Pompeo said, paraphrasing a famous Mark Twain quote.

He said Washington played a key role in keeping Europe safe by reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank on the border with Russia, and had led a multinational effort to defeat the Islamic State jihadist group.

“Is this an America that ‘rejects the international community’?” he asked.

“The free West has a brighter future than illiberal alternatives.”

He also warned of the threats posed by Russia’s territorial ambitions, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and Iran’s “campaigns of terror” through proxy conflicts in the Middle East.

In a nod to concerns about European reliance on Russian natural gas, Pompeo also announced that the US would finance energy projects in eastern EU countries.

“The United States –- through our International Development Finance Corporation, and with the support of the US Congress -– intends to provide up to $1 billion in financing to the Central and Eastern European countries of the Three Seas Initiative,” Pompeo told the conference.

“Our aim is to galvanise private sector investment in their energy sectors.”

The pledge comes amid fierce US opposition to Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double the country’s gas shipments to Germany.

Washington believes the pipeline will give Russia too much influence over security and economic issues in western Europe.

 

AFP

Pompeo Sees ‘Real Likelihood’ Iran Will Try To Hit US Troops

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran will probably try to attack American troops after a US strike killed a top Iranian commander.

“We think there is a real likelihood Iran will make a mistake and make a decision to go after some of our forces, military forces in Iraq or soldiers in northeast Syria,” he told Fox News in remarks aired Sunday.

His comments came as the military advisor to Iran’s supreme leader said there would be a “military” response “against military sites” by Tehran after the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of its Revolutionary Guards.

“It would be a big mistake for Iran to go after them,” Pompeo told Fox.

The US has about 60,000 troops in the region, including around 5,200 in Iraq. Washington ordered thousands more soldiers to the region on Friday after Soleimani’s killing.

“We’re preparing for all kinds of various responses,” including cyber attacks, Pompeo told Fox.