Trump Calls Boeing A ‘Big Disappointment’

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticised Boeing as a “very disappointing company” because of the aerospace giant’s recent problems after the grounding of the 737 MAX plane, which he said had a knock-on effect for the US economy.

“This is one of the great companies of the world, let’s say as of a year ago, and then all of a sudden things happen,” Trump said in an interview on CNBC from the Davos economic forum in Switzerland.

This “had a tremendous impact. You know, when you talk about growth, it’s so big that some people say it’s more than a half a point of GDP. So Boeing — big, big disappointment to me,” he said.

Boeing had Tuesday officially pushed back the time frame for the 737 MAX to return to the skies, sending shares plunging and overshadowing an earlier announcement of a first flight of the delayed 777X plane.

The 737 MAX was grounded worldwide on March 13, 2019, after two crashes claimed the lives of 346 people.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday he believed that issues including the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX plane had shaved some 0.5 to 0.7 of a percentage point off the US growth rate.

AFP

Trump Lawyers Present Defense For ‘Dangerous’ Impeachment

 

President Donald Trump’s legal team presented Saturday its line of defense for his upcoming impeachment trial, a process they dismissed as unconstitutional and “dangerous.”

It was the first time the team presented its arguments, modeled on those put forward since December by Trump and his fellow Republicans.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone will be lead lawyer, backed by Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow. They will be joined by Ken Starr, who was at the center of Bill Clinton’s impeachment in the 1990s, and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

In an initial response to the president being charged, written by Cipollone and Sekulow, the defense said that the articles of impeachment — passed by the majority-Democrat House of Representatives — “are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

READ ALSO: Britain’s Prince Harry And Meghan To Give Up Royal Titles

“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election,” the team said in a statement.

Trump has been impeached on charges that he abused his office to try and force Ukraine into digging up dirt on leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by withholding $400 million in military aid and a White House meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He was also impeached for allegedly obstructing Congress.

“The articles of impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face. They fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever,” the defense team said.

In a call with reporters earlier Saturday, a source close to Trump’s legal team said the articles violate the Constitution because they are “the product of invalid proceedings that flagrantly denied the president any due process rights.”

The impeachment process risks doing “lasting damage to our structure of government,” the source said.

The sources added that Trump had met with Zelensky at the UN in September and that the military aid had been released, proving there was no quid pro quo with Kiev — although by that point, a whistle-blower within the administration had already triggered the impeachment proceedings.

The House managers, or prosecutors in the impeachment trial, filed their official brief on Saturday, in which they said that Trump’s conduct “is the Framers’ worst nightmare,” referring to the authors of the US Constitution.

“The case against the President of the United States is simple, the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming,” the managers said in a joint statement after filing the brief.

“President Trump abused the power of his office to solicit foreign interference in our elections for his own personal political gain, thereby jeopardizing our national security, the integrity of our elections, and our democracy.”

AFP

US Senate Prepares To Set Trump Trial In Motion

 

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 15: The seven House impeachment managers, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) leave the Senate chamber of the U.S. Capitol.

 

Articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress will be formally read to the Senate Thursday, setting in motion a historic trial that threatens the US leader with removal from office.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will then be sworn in to preside over the trial and senators sworn in as jurors, as preparations get underway for an impeachment trial that will open on Tuesday, January 21.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said that the articles would be formally read to the chamber at noon (1700 GMT), in an announcement following their delivery to the Senate Wednesday.

“This is a difficult time for our country, but this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate,” McConnell said, referring to the authors of the US Constitution.

“I’m confident that this body can rise above short-termism and factional fever and serve the long-term best interests of our nation. We can do this, and we must.”

The two articles of impeachment — one for abuse of power and the other for obstructing the House investigation — were delivered in blue folders in a solemn procession by the newly appointed House managers, seven Democrats who will prosecute the case against the president.

“So sad, so tragic for our country, that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, has taken us to this place,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as she signed the articles.

“This president will be held accountable,” she said. “No one is above the law.”

The solemn formalities underscored the grimness of the occasion, Trump becoming only the third US president in history to be placed on trial in the Senate.

“We feel we are carrying out the will of the framers of our constitution, and that’s a pretty serious load,” said Adam Schiff, the Democratic lawmaker tapped to lead the prosecution team.

– ‘Two weeks’ –

Trump is accused of secretly holding up $391 million in aid to Ukraine between July and September to pressure Kiev to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner in this year’s White House race.

The president is also charged with obstruction for holding back witnesses and documents from the House impeachment investigation in defiance of Congressional subpoenas.

He was formally impeached on December 18.

But Pelosi held back on delivering the articles to the Senate as she pressured McConnell to agree to subpoena the witnesses and documents that the White House blocked from the House probe.

McConnell has refused to commit, saying the issue will only be decided after the trial’s opening arguments and questioning, which could take two weeks.

A Trump administration official told reporters Wednesday that they expect the trial to last no longer than two weeks, suggesting McConnell could use his 53-47 Republican majority in the Senate to stifle calls for witnesses and quickly take the charges to a vote.

“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely it will be going beyond two weeks,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

With impeachment rules requiring a two-thirds super-majority to convict and remove a president, Trump’s acquittal is widely expected.

Earlier Wednesday Trump ridiculed the investigation and trial, as he has for months.

“Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats,” he wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday Democrats released newly acquired files that showed Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani working with Ukrainian-born American Lev Parnas early last year to pressure Kiev to investigate Biden.

They also showed the two, working with Ukrainian officials, trying to force out the US ambassador to the country, Marie Yovanovitch, eventually removed by Trump.

In a televised interview that aired Wednesday, Parnas told MSNBC that “President Trump knew exactly what was going on.”

“He was aware of all of my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.”

– Grave task –

Underscoring the high level of politics surrounding the trial, Pelosi was immediately attacked over the ceremony to sign the articles, in which she used multiple pens to distribute to key lawmakers as souvenirs of the occasion.

House Republican Liz Cheney attacked Pelosi and Democrats for being “giddy with excitement” about the signing and “making a mockery of their duty to the Constitution.”

Aside from Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, the prosecution team will include Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler; House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries; Zoe Lofgren, a veteran of two previous impeachment investigations; and three others.

Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig said the lawmakers chosen stood out for their backgrounds in the US legal system, several of them being former federal attorneys.

The Democrats “signal they intend to do this like a criminal trial and not like a political show,” Honig said.

AFP

US Democrats Lock Horns Over War, Gender In Last Debate

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) and former Vice President Joe Biden (L) listen as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) makes a point during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. 
SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Leftist Bernie Sanders attacked frontrunner Joe Biden on foreign policy Tuesday but found himself fighting accusations of sexism in the final presidential debate before Democrats begin choosing who challenges incumbent Donald Trump in November’s election.

With no candidate yet to carve out a clear lead less than three weeks to go before the first votes in the nominations battle, the stakes were high for the six presidential hopefuls on stage in Iowa.

The largely civilized showdown defied earlier expectations of fireworks, with tensions largely held in check during the two-hour debate.

But a rift between Sanders and fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared to widen afterward when Warren declined to shake hands with her long-time friend and fellow progressive.

The candidates tangled over everything from troop deployments and foreign policy to health care, international trade, climate change and a woman’s chance of winning the White House.

Sanders, 78, assailed former vice president Biden, 77, over his vote in support of the 2003 Iraq war as the modern-day tensions in the Middle East dominated the opening exchanges.

READ ALSO: Senate Likely To Begin Trump’s Impeachment Trial Next Tuesday

With Washington’s conflict with Iran as the backdrop, non-interventionist Sanders drew a sharp contrast, saying that while he opposed an Iraq war that was “based on lies,” former vice president Biden trumpeted the effort.

“I thought they were lying,” Sanders said of the Bush administration’s justifications for war in 2002. “I didn’t believe them for a moment. Joe saw it differently.”

Biden said he had long acknowledged the war was “a mistake” but refrained from sparring with Sanders over Iraq.

Instead, Biden appealed for unity in preventing Trump from winning a second term.

“The American character is on the ballot,” Biden said. “Not what Donald Trump is spewing out — the hate, the xenophobia, the racism. That’s not what we are as a nation.”

Each candidate is desperate for a breakout moment that could give them the vital momentum heading into the Iowa caucuses on February 3 which begins the presidential primary season.

The four candidates in the top tier — Biden, Sanders, Warren and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg — are bunched together in polling. Senator Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer rounded out the debate participants in Iowa’s capital Des Moines.

For months, Sanders and Warren have battled peacefully for the right to wave the campaign’s progressive flag. But their non-aggression pact unraveled in recent days, with Warren endorsing a report that Sanders privately told her he believed a woman could not defeat Trump.

“I didn’t say it,” Sanders insisted at the debate, stressing it was absurd for anyone to think a woman could not win the White House.

Warren said he did, before insisting that she was “not here to try to fight with Bernie.”

She then proceeded to highlight the electability of women, noting that the men on stage collectively lost 10 elections, prompting laughter from the audience.

But when the debate concluded, signs of lingering animosity remained: viral video shows Warren refusing to shake Sanders’s outstretched hand and instead of speaking briefly to the senator.

Progressive feud

While lacking the effervescence of earlier debates, the candidates dutifully debated trade (Sanders said he opposes the new US Mexico Canada trade pact), climate change (Steyer, if elected, would declare a climate “state of emergency”) and taxing the rich (Warren pushed her wealth tax).

Sanders, who suffered a heart attack in November but has enjoyed a mini-surge in the polls in recent weeks, made Biden his number one target.

“I just don’t think that Biden’s record is going to bring forth the energy that we need to defeat Trump,” Sanders tweeted as he released a damning three-minute anti-Biden video just before the debate.

The president meanwhile sought to thrust himself into the spotlight, accusing Sanders of being “nasty” and mocking Biden for occasional memory issues as he addressed supporters in Wisconsin.

“They haven’t been doing great on the debates, I have to tell you,” Trump said.

The debate risks being overshadowed by a historic political drama: Trump’s looming impeachment trial in the Senate next week which is likely to force four presidential candidates to stay in Washington serving as jurors in the proceedings instead of winning over undecided Iowa voters.

There were no disagreements among Democrats that a Senate impeachment trial ought to proceed, with Warren saying “it is my responsibility” to sit as a juror.

Polling is tight in Iowa, with Biden at 20.7 percent support and Sanders, Buttigieg, and Warren all less than five percentage points back, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.

Klobuchar, credited with a crisp performance in the previous debate, was well behind, at seven percent. Steyer is at 2.7 percent.

But the race remains fluid, with a recent Des Moines Register poll saying six in 10 voters could still be persuaded.

AFP

Trump Announces Sweeping Changes To Key Environmental Law

 

 

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday sweeping changes to an environmental law that critics said guts oversight requirements in the construction of highways, airports and pipelines and allows the government to ignore their impact on climate change.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970, all major infrastructure projects must be subject to environmental impact assessment by federal agencies.

NEPA was the US’s first major environmental law and designed “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.” It has proved an obstacle to Trump’s efforts to accelerate fossil fuel extraction.

The Environment Protection Agency raised an objection to the Keystone XL pipeline, planned to bring oil from Canada to the US, during a NEPA review under the Obama administration, with the former president canceling the project as a result — only for it to be revived under Trump.

The executive branch doesn’t have the power to change the act of Congress, but, as it has previously done for the Endangered Species Act, it can change rules about how it is applied — and it was these proposed changes that were announced Thursday.

Trump told reporters that he was acting because projects were being “tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,” adding he would not stop until “gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again.”

Raises threshold for assessment

The proposals, which are subject to a 60-day review period for public comments before taking effect at a later date, would raise the threshold for what types of projects require an environmental impact assessment.

It would exclude projects financed in whole or in large part by the private sector, as is the case for a number of oil pipelines.

And federal agencies will be asked to complete their analyses in two years, compared to the four and a half years they are currently given, said Mary Neumayr, who heads the Council on Environmental Quality.

“Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time-consuming for federal agencies, state, local, and tribal agencies, project applicants, and average Americans seeking permits or approvals from the federal government,” she said.

She added that the assessments for highway projects are taking more than seven years, and some studies stretch to longer than a decade.

Legal challenges expected

The administration also wants to remove requirements to examine the “cumulative” impacts of projects, something that would exclude the impact of climate change — even though the proposal does not exclude consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in NEPA analyses, said Neumayr.

The definition of environmental impacts would be reduced to those that are “reasonably foreseeable” and have a “reasonably close causal relationship,” while any changes must be “technically and economically feasible.”

Environmental groups slammed the move and vowed to respond with legal challenges.

“Today’s action is nothing more than an attempt to write Donald Trump’s climate denial into official government policy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, but rather than protect them, Trump is pulling out all the stops to silence their voices and further prop up his corporate polluter friends.”

Trump Pulls Back From War With Iran

 

 

President Donald Trump pulled back from the brink of war with Iran on Wednesday, saying that Tehran appeared to be “standing down” after firing missiles — without causing casualties — at US troops based in Iraq.

In a televised address to the nation from the White House, Trump emphasized there were “no Americans harmed” in the ballistic missile salvo aimed at two bases.

While he promised to immediately impose “punishing” new economic sanctions on Tehran, Trump welcomed signs the Islamic republic “appears to be standing down” in the tit-for-tat confrontation.

The comments cooled what threatened to become an uncontrolled boiling over of tensions after Trump ordered the killing last Friday of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

In New York, the Nasdaq stock market index surged to a record high of 9,129.24.

However, the US president, facing both an impeachment trial in Congress and tough reelection in November, defended his targeting of a man seen by many as Iran’s second most influential official.

Soleimani, a national hero at home, was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago,” Trump said.

And although Trump ended his remarks with a call for peace, he opened by stating that he would never allow Iran to procure a nuclear weapon.

It was Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from a multinational agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the reimposition of crippling economic sanctions against Tehran, which began an intensification of tensions between the two countries.

Missiles blast bases

Iran’s missiles targeted the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops from a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier promised “revenge” for Soleimani, called the missiles a “slap in the face” against the United States.

He indicated there was more to come.

“The question of revenge is another issue,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.

Iraq’s military said it also sustained no casualties. But the strike highlighted the difficult position of Iraq, caught in an ever-deepening conflict between Trump and Iran.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, dismissed suggestions that Iran did not mean to kill Americans with the missile barrage.

“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley told reporters.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh rejected Iraq being a “battlefield for warring sides.”

At the United Nations, Iran’s ambassador said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that despite the missile firing, Iran respects Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Iran has powerful militia allies in Iraq and they said they intended to take revenge for Friday’s US drone attack, in which top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis died alongside Soleimani.

Muhandis was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network incorporated into the Iraqi state whose factions are backed by Tehran.

Late Wednesday two rockets, fired by unidentified forces, landed in the supposedly high-security Green Zone, where US and other embassies are located, security sources said.

AFP correspondents heard two loud detonations.

Unusual brazenness

The brazenness of Iran’s ballistic missile strike was unusual.

But as the dust settled, it appeared that Iran’s attack — coming soon after the burial of Soleimani at a funeral in front of vast crowds — might have been more symbolic than anything.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated Iran was satisfied for now.

“Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” Zarif said on Twitter.

Reflecting deep concerns among Trump’s domestic opponents, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives scheduled a vote for Thursday on limiting the Republican president’s ability to wage war against Iran without congressional approval.

“The president has made clear that he does not have a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe, achieve de-escalation with Iran and ensure stability in the region,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

But US Defense Secretary Mark Esper insisted the United States has restored some deterrence against Iran in the wake of the Soleimani killing.

“But we will see. Time will tell,” Esper said.

US headaches in Iraq

The apparent de-escalation in Iran did not remove pressure from approximately 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraq, where they face pro-Iranian Shiite militias and political opposition.

Paramilitary chief Qais al-Khazali — blacklisted as a “terrorist” by the US — said his side’s response to the United States “will be no less than the size of the Iranian response.”

But US Vice President Mike Pence told the CBS Evening News that “we’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians.”

Angered at the US drone strike, the Iraqi parliament has called for the expulsion of American troops, sparking embarrassing confusion at the Pentagon over how to respond.

– Airliner crash kills 176 –
Separately, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed just outside Tehran after taking off bound for Kiev, killing all 176 people on board shortly after Iran launched its missiles towards Iraq.

There was no immediate suggestion of any link with the strikes but carriers including Air France, Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa announced they were suspending flying through Iranian and Iraqi airspace as a precaution.

The US aviation regulator banned civil flights over Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf, citing the potential for “misidentification” of aircraft.

‘No American Was Harmed In Iran’s Missile Attack’ – Trump

 

United States President Donald Trump has announced that no American was harmed in missile attacks by Iran on a military base used by American troops in Iraq. 

The American President made this announcement in an address to the nation on the state of affairs with Iran.

“As long as I am the president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

“I am pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy, no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.

“We suffered no casualties; all of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases. Our great American forces are prepared for anything.

“Iran appears to be standing down which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a good thing for the world,” the President said.

READ ALSO: Iran Claims 80 Americans Killed By Missiles

According to Trump, no American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken.

He stressed that the dispersal of forces and an early warning system that worked very well was enough to see that no casualties were recorded.

“I salute the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform for far too long, all the way back to 1979 to be exact; nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behaviour in the middle east and beyond, those days are over.

“Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilised world, we will never let that happen,” Trump stressed.

Trump further stated that the US will immediately impose punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, adding that the powerful sanction will remain until Iran changes its behavior.

The Potus also said that he will ask NATO to become more involved in the Middle East process.

Trump Says ‘All Is Well’ After Iranian Missiles Target US Troops

 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that initial casualty assessments indicated “all is well” after Iranian missiles targeted two bases housing US troops in Iraq.

He tweeted that “assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

READ ALSO: Iran Fires Over A Dozen Missiles On Iraq Base Housing US Troops

Trump did not go on evening television to address the nation — something of an informal presidential tradition in times of foreign policy crisis — in the immediate hours following Iran’s missile strikes.

However, he said to expect a statement early Wednesday in Washington.

“I will be making a statement tomorrow morning,” he said.

AFP

White House Says Trump ‘Monitoring’ Reports Of Attack On Base In Iraq

 

The White House said Tuesday President Donald Trump was “monitoring” reports of a rocket attack on an airbase in western Iraq where US and coalition forces are based.

“We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The president has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

READ ALSO: 176 Killed As Ukrainian Jet Crash In Iran

At least nine rockets slammed into the Ain al-Asad airbase late Tuesday, security sources told AFP, after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to “respond” to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

Trump Says Zuckerberg Told Him He’s Facebook’s ‘Number One’

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 11, 2019 US President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives for a “Keep America Great” rally at Sudduth Coliseum at the Lake Charles Civic Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump boasted Monday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told him at dinner he is “number one” on the global social media platform.

“I had dinner with Mark Zuckerberg the other day and he said ‘I’d like to congratulate you… you are number one on Facebook,'” Trump said.

The president, speaking in a live interview with right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, did not specify when the dinner happened.

A spokesman for Facebook said the last such dinner took place in October.

The president noted the importance of social media to his messaging, which depends on bypassing much of the professional news media, which he accuses of bias against him.

READ ALSO: Indonesian Jailed For Life As UK’s ‘Most Prolific’ Rapist

Trump, who has nearly 70 million followers on Twitter, told Limbaugh that without the platform, “I think we’d be lost.”

“We wouldn’t be able to get the truth out,” he said.

US social media platforms have come under criticism for enabling misinformation and fake news in the build-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Trump himself has repeatedly used Facebook and Twitter to push untrue statements and conspiracy theories.

Both those platforms have responded by saying they will not attempt to weed out lies from politicians because their statements fall under the category of “newsworthy” content.

Trump is number one on Facebook in terms of political ad spending, leading to accusations that the company is unduly influenced by the Republican.

At the October dinner at the White House, Trump and Zuckerberg were reportedly joined by Facebook board member Peter Thiel.

After, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren called for transparency over Facebook’s links to Trump.

“What did they talk about?” Warren tweeted.

AFP

Trump’s Threat To Target Iran Cultural Sites Sparks Backlash

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Sunday that any US military action against Iran would conform to international law after President Donald Trump was accused of threatening a war crime by declaring cultural sites as potential targets.

Tehran’s foreign minister drew parallels with the Islamic State group’s destruction of the Middle East’s cultural heritage following Trump’s tweets that sites which were “important to… Iranian culture” were on a list of 52 potential US targets.

And as Twitter was flooded with photos of revered Iranian landmarks in ancient cities such as Isfahan under the hashtag #IranianCulturalSites, leading US Democrats said the president would be in breach of international protocols if he made good on his threat.

“You are threatening to commit war crimes,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democrats hoping to challenge Trump in November’s election, wrote on Twitter.

“We are not at war with Iran. The American people do not want a war with Iran.”

“Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It’s a war crime,” added fellow Senator Chris Murphy.

In a flurry of interviews on the Sunday talk shows, Trump’s top diplomat said the US would not hesitate to hit back hard against Iran’s “kleptocratic regime” if it came under attack, but pledged that any action would be consistent with the rule of law.

“We’ll behave lawfully. We’ll behave inside the system. We always have and we always will,” Pompeo told the ABC network’s “This Week” program.

“The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed with a singular mission, of protecting and defending America,” he added.

His comments came after his opposite number in Tehran Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that “targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME”.

“A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage: Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries,” said Foreign Minister Zarif.

“Where are they now? We’re still here, & standing tall.”

Threat ‘Un-American’

Nicholas Burns, who served as US ambassador to NATO under president George W. Bush, said the Trump administration would be guilty of hypocrisy given it was part of international efforts to deter IS from destroying countless pre-Islamic artefacts, including in the Syrian UNESCO-listed site of Palmyra.

“Donald Trump’s threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites would be a war crime under UN Security Council resolution 2347 – supported by the Trump Administration itself in 2017 to warn ISIS+Al Qaeda of similar actions.

“His threat is immoral and Un-American,” said Burns who is now a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Others drew comparisons with the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan

Pompeo refused to give any details on the 52 potential targets which Trump said had been drawn up to represent each and every hostage held in the standoff at the US embassy in Tehran four decades ago.

But one former official expressed skepticism that military planners would agree to target cultural sites.

“For what it’s worth, I find it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites,” said Colin Kahl who was National Security Adviser to former vice president Joe Biden.

“Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD (Department of Defense) planners and lawyers do… and targeting cultural sites is war crime.”

US Lacks ‘Courage’ To Strike 52 Iranian sites – Army Chief

US President Donald Trump speaks during a ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Iran’s army chief said Sunday that Washington lacked the “courage” to initiate a conflict after US President Donald Trump threatened to hit dozens of targets inside the Islamic republic.

“I doubt they have the courage to initiate” a conflict in which the Americans threatened to strike 52 targets, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Trump warned Saturday night that the US would hit Iran harder than ever before if it retaliates over the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm.

READ ALSO: Saudi Says US Did ‘Not Consult’ Over Drone Strike That Killed Soleimani

Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike Friday near Baghdad international airport ordered by Trump, who accused the general of planning an imminent attack on American diplomats and troops in Iraq.

“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have… targeted 52 Iranian sites… some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” Trump tweeted.

The targets “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” he added.

But Iran’s army chief dismissed the threats as an attempt to distract the global opinion “from the heinous and unjustifiable act they have done”.

AFP