Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Americans vote in mid-term polls seen as referendum on Trump

WASHINGTON: Americans voted on Tuesday in an election that is seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first two years of a four-year term. At stake are all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Voters will also elect 36 governors and hundreds of state and local government representatives.

As millions of voters turned out to vote, Democrats claimed that they were 100 per cent sure of reclaiming the House from Mr Trump’s Republicans. However, Republicans are hoping that this “over-emphasis on the Trump factor” can bring out the president’s supporters and give them yet another surprise win, as in 2016 when Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

“Some are calling (this) the biggest referendum on a president in recent memory,” commented CNN in a report on the last-minute campaigns to persuade undecided voters.

“Trump is the dividing force in this election,” noted the USA Today newspaper. “While he isn’t on the ballot, he is at the centre of both the conflict and its consequences.”

President Trump also endorsed this impression, telling voters in a campaign rally that “your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” when they elected him. “That’s why we will be campaigning for every last vote in every part of our great country,” he said.

Former US president Barack Obama, who campaigned across the country for Democrats, warned Americans that in his first two years in office President Trump has de-shaped America. “The character of our country is on the ballot,” Mr Obama said at a rally in Miami.

Most US media reports and straw polls suggested that Democrats had an edge in early voting. Reports from some states showed high turnouts of women and young voters in some states, particularly on the East Coast. This is a good sign for Democrats as both groups tend to vote for them. Another group that came out in large numbers on Tuesday was that of immigrants, who also mostly favour the Democrats.

The most likely scenario, according to The Washington Post, is: “Democrats win the House, while Republicans hold the Senate.”

Since all such predictions were proven wrong in 2016, when Mr Trump won against all odds, no media outlet or opinion survey ruled out a surprise Republican win.

And, as The New York Times pointed out, Mr Trump is counting on his negative campaigning to bring out his supporters.

“Where are the police? Where are the military? Where are ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement? Where are the Border Patrol?” he declared at a rally in a clear attempt to stir anti-immigrant sentiments.

Some political pundits say that the midterm could also decide whether Mr Trump will be a one or two-term president. Although an outsider in 2016, Mr Trump now leads the ultra-right conservatives in the Republican Party.

His victory in 2016 encouraged conservatives across the globe, bringing wins for them in several European countries as well. Liberals hope that a Republican defeat in the midterm could halt this trend.

In the past two years, Mr Trump has enforced several key points of his conservative agenda — scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, a ban on Muslim visitors, undoing health reforms, appointing conservative judges — also because Republicans control both the House and the Senate. He promised to do the rest — taking away the birthright to citizenship, building the Mexico wall — in the remaining two years of his four-year term.

Democrats believe that if they win back Congress on Nov 6, they can prevent Mr Trump from completing his agenda and winning a second term.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2018

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - November 7, 2018 at 4:25 am

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US vows ‘relentless’ sanctions as Iran pledges to stand up to ‘bullying’ by Washington

The United States vowed on Monday to be “relentless” in countering Iran as sweeping sanctions took effect, but the Islamic republic defiantly promised to stand up to the “bullying” by Washington.

President Donald Trump’s administration nonetheless issued eight exemptions from its demand on all countries to stop buying Iranian oil, the country’s largest export, amid bitter international opposition to the unilateral US sanctions.

Six months after Trump pulled out of an international agreement on ending Tehran’s nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the ultimate US goal was for Iran to make a “180-degree turn” and abandon its “revolutionary course.”

While stopping short of urging regime change, he reiterated demands for Iran to end policies rooted in the 1979 Islamic revolution including its support for regional proxies such as the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and its development of missiles.

“We hope a new agreement with Iran is possible, but until Iran makes changes in the 12 ways I listed in May, we will be relentless in exerting pressure on the regime,” Pompeo said.

He said the sanctions — which took effect on the 39th anniversary of Iranian zealots’ seizure of the US embassy following the ouster of the pro-US shah — intended to “starve the Iranian regime of the funds it uses to fund violent activity throughout the Middle East and around the world.” UN inspectors say Iran is abiding by an agreement reached with Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama to draw down its nuclear program. That deal was backed by European powers, Russia and China and sealed by a UN Security Council resolution.

“I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it’s against international regulations,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech as the sanctions took effect.

“We are in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power. I don’t think that in the history of America, someone has entered the White House who is so against law and international conventions,” he added.
In one of Tehran’s bazaars, there was anxiety over the future.

“The shadow of the sanctions has already affected the economy in a disastrous way, people’s purchasing power has plunged,” said Ehsan Attar in his herbal remedy shop.

‘Act on your commitments’

Rouhani said four countries had approached him during his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly in September, offering to mediate with the US but he turned them down.

“There is no need for mediation. There is no need for all these messages. Act on your commitments, and we will sit and talk,” he said.

But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an interview published on Monday with USA Today, said Iran would consider fresh diplomacy if there were a “different approach” by Washington.

The latest tranche of US sanctions aims to significantly cut Iran’s oil exports — which have already fallen by up to one million barrels a day since May — and cut off its banks from international finance.

The Belgian-based SWIFT banking network, the backbone for international monetary transfers, said Monday it had suspended several Iranian banks from its service.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that US sanctions will cause Iran’s economy to contract 1.5 per cent this year and 3.6 per cent next year — pain that Trump has boasted about as he touts his record ahead of Tuesday’s congressional elections.

Iran’s economy was already suffering major structural problems — including widespread corruption, weak investment and a banking sector laden with toxic assets — before Trump walked out of the deal.

Rouhani’s plan since his election in 2013 was to boost the economy by rebuilding ties with the world and attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment — a strategy that now looks in tatters.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - November 5, 2018 at 7:25 pm

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Putin warns Trump over ‘dangerous’ plan to quit N-deal

MOSCOW: Russia on Sunday warned US President Donald Trump that his plan to ditch a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty with Moscow was a dangerous step.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said this “would be a very dangerous step” and accused the US of risking international condemnation in a bid for “total supremacy” in the military sphere.

He insisted that Moscow observed “in the strictest way” the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF, while accusing Washington of “flagrant violations”. The treaty was signed in 1987 by the then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

INF treaty was signed in 1987 by Reagan and Gorbachev

But Trump on Saturday blamed Russia for violating it.

“We’re the ones who have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honoured the agreement, so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” he told reporters.

“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years. I don’t know why president (Barack) Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we’re not allowed to.”

Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was set to arrive in Moscow on Sunday evening and meet next week with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

That comes ahead of what is expected to be a second summit between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin this year.

Bolton was also set to meet Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Putin aide Yuri Ushakov. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a “possible meeting” was being arranged between Putin and Bolton.

Deputy foreign minister Ryabkov said he hoped that Trump’s national security adviser would explain the US plans “more substantively and clearly”. The US administration has complained of Moscow’s deployment of 9M729 missiles, which Washington says can travel more than 500 kilometres, and thus violate the INF treaty.

The treaty, which banned missiles that could travel between 500 and 5472 kilometres, resolved a crisis that had begun in the 1980s with the deployment of Soviet SS-20 nuclear-tipped, intermediate-range ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.

A Russian foreign ministry official earlier accused Washington of implementing policy “toward dismantling the nuclear deal”.

Washington “has approached this step over the course of many years by deliberately and step by step destroying the basis for the agreement”, said the unnamed official, quoted by Russia’s three main news agencies.

The official accused the US of backing out of international agreements that put it on an equal footing with other countries because it wanted to protect American “exceptionalism”.

Russian senator Alexei Pushkov wrote on Twitter that the move was “the second powerful blow against the whole system of strategic stability in the world” after Washington’s 2001 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

“And again, the initiator of the dissolution of the agreement is the US,” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2018

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - October 22, 2018 at 3:25 am

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Heatwaves can become yearly affair if global climate not controlled, warns UN report

The landmark United Nations (UN) report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was released in South Korea on Monday after a week-long meeting of the 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

More than 90 scientists wrote the report, which is based on more than 6,000 peer reviews.

A “Summary for Policymakers” of the 400-page tome underscores how quickly global warming has outstripped humanity’s attempts to tame it, and outlines stark options — all requiring a makeover of the world economy — for avoiding the worst ravages of climate change.

“Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now,” Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, told AFP.

Before the Paris Agreement was inked in 2015, nearly a decade of scientific research rested on the assumption that 2C was the guardrail for a climate-safe world.

The IPCC report, however, shows that global warming impacts have come sooner and hit harder than predicted.

1.5C vs. 2C

A raft of recent research shows that 2C is not the guardrail it was previously assumed to be.

“Climate impacts are exponentially more dramatic when we go from 1.5C to 2C,” said Henri Waisman, a scientist at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, and a coordinating lead author of the IPCC report.

What used to be once-a-century heatwaves in the northern hemisphere, for example, will become 50 per cent more likely in many regions with an extra half-degree of warming.

Some tropical fisheries are likely to collapse somewhere between the 1.5C and 2C benchmark. Staple food crops will decline in yield and nutritional value by an extra 10-15pc. Coral reefs will mostly perish. The rate of species loss will accelerate “substantially”.

Most worrying of all, perhaps, are temperature thresholds between 1.5C and 2C that could push Arctic sea ice, methane-laden permafrost, and melting polar ice sheets with enough frozen water to lift oceans by a dozen metres, past a point of no return.

The stakes are especially high for small island states, developing nations in the tropics, and countries with densely-populated delta regions already suffering from rising seas.

Read: ,Climate change a ‘threat multiplier’ for Pakistan, says researcher,

Meeting the tougher-to-reach goal “could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heat waves, and about 65 million fewer people being exposed to exceptional heat waves,” the report says.

The deadly heat waves that hit India and Pakistan in 2015 will become practically yearly events if the world reaches the hotter of the two goals.

“We have only the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it,” said Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator at the UN climate talks for the Alliance of Small Island States.

“We have done our job, we have now passed on the message,” Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy and an IPCC co-chair, said at a press conference. “Now it is over to governments, it’s their responsibility to act on it.”

Here are some key findings.

‘Unprecedented changes’

Capping global warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, the IPCC said.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already gone up 1C — enough to unleash a crescendo of deadly extreme weather — and is on track to rise another 2-3C in the absence of a sharp and sustained reduction in carbon pollution.

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, we could pass the 1.5C marker as early as 2030, and no later than mid-century, the report finds with “high confidence”.

To have at least a 50-50 chance of staying under 1.5C without overshooting the mark, the world must, by 2050, become “carbon neutral”.

“That means every tonne of CO2 we put into the atmosphere will have to be balanced by a tonne of CO2 taken out,” said lead coordinating author Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford’s Climate Research Programme.

Emissions of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — should peak no later than 2020 and curve sharply downward from there, according to scenarios in the report.

Easier said than done: humanity dumped a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere last year.

A contrasting “pay later” scenario compensates for a high-consumption lifestyles and continued use of fossil fuels with a temporary breaching of the 1.5C ceiling.

It depends heavily on the use of bio-fuels. But the scheme would need to plant an area twice the size of India in biofuel crops, and assumes that some 1,200 billion tonnes of CO2 — 30 years’ worth of emissions at current rates — can be safely locked away underground.

“Is it fair for the next generation to pay to take the CO2 out of the atmosphere that we are now putting into it?”, asked Allen. “We have to start having that debate.”

The steep cost of inaction

The 30-page executive summary also details humanity’s “carbon budget”, i.e., the amount of CO2 we can emit and still stay under the 1.5C ceiling.

For a two-thirds chance of success, that is about 420 billion tonnes, an allowance that would — according to current trends — be used up in a decade.

The share of electricity generated by renewables — mainly hydro, solar and wind — would have to jump by mid-century from about 20 to 70 per cent. The share of coal, meanwhile, would need to drop from 40 per cent to low single digits.

Limiting global warming to 1.5C will require investing about $2.4 trillion in the global energy system every year between 2016 and 2035, or about 2.5 per cent of world GDP.

This price tag, however, must be weighed against the even steeper cost of inaction, the report says.

Pathways

IPCC authors say the 1.5C goal is technically and economically feasible, but depends on political leadership to become reality.

The report lays out four 1.5C scenarios that shadow current and future policy debates on the best way to ramp up the fight against climate change.

One pathway, for example, relies heavily on a deep reduction in energy demand, while another assumes major changes in consumption habits, such as eating less meat and abandoning cars with internal combustion engines.

Two others depend on sucking massive amounts of CO2 out of the air, either though large-scale reforestation, use of bio-fuels, or direct carbon capture.

“Radical change”

Special Representative on Water Affairs for the Netherlands, Henk Ovink, while talking to reporters in Hague about the alarming UN report, stressed that countries must work urgently to solve water issues caused by climate change.

“We need a radical change,” said Ovink.

“There is this urgent need to change, the IPCC report is right, we are not heading in the right direction,” he told a small group of international journalists.

The UN’s IPCC said in a landmark report on Monday that warming is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise and avoiding global chaos will require a major transformation.

Ovink — who travels the world spreading the know-how gleaned by the low-lying Netherlands in its millennium-long battle against the seas and is billed as the world’s only “water ambassador”— said the report shows “we all need to do more”.

Recent events such as the disastrous flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in the United States, Japanese typhoons and the Indonesian tsunami showed that “the world isn’t ready for these challenges, and is responding after these crises, not before”.

He said one important area was fostering “collaboration” — within and between countries, agencies and the UN — citing the example of the Netherlands where “water democracy is nearly 1,000 years old”.

But while United States President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate pact caused international dismay, Ovink said that there was no need to be unduly pessimistic.

“I don’t despair only because of Trump,” said Ovink, who previously served on a task force on hurricane rebuilding created by Trump’s predecessor, president Barack Obama.

“The world is not dependent on one nation. It wasn’t easy before Trump. “

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - October 9, 2018 at 5:25 am

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US has failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan: survey

WASHINGTON: More Americans are now saying that despite 17 years of war, the United States has failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan, says a survey released on Saturday.

The Pew Research Centre, Washington, which conducted the survey from Sept 18-24, found that about half of American adults (49 per cent) believe the United States has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan. About a third (35pc) say Washington has mostly while another 16pc say they do not know if the US has succeeded or failed.

Between 2009 and 2011, when asked whether the US will succeed or fail to achieve its goals, majority said the US would be successful. But in 2014 and 2015, opinions about the mission were similarly more negative than positive.

In this month’s survey, Republicans appear more optimistic than Democrats that the US mission in Afghanistan has succeeded in achieving its goals, according to the new survey. About half of Republicans and Republican-lean­ing independents (48pc) say the US has succeeded, compared with about three-in-ten Democrats and Demo­cratic-leaning independents (28pc).

According to Pew Research Centre, American public has become more divided on whether the 2001 invasion was right or wrong decision

Three years ago, during the presidency of Barack Obama, partisan opinions were nearly the reverse: 42pc of Democrats said the US had succeeded, compared with 29pc of Republicans.

As Afghanistan becomes America’s longest-ever military engagement, the American public has become more divided on whether the 2001 invasion was the right or the wrong decision. Today, 45pc say the US made the right decision in using military force and 39pc say it was the wrong decision.

The share of Americans saying the initial decision was right declined over time. In 2006, 69pc said it was the right decision and 20pc said it was the wrong decision. In early 2002, a few months after the start of the war, 83pc of Americans said they approved of the US-led military campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Republicans have consistently expressed more support than Democrats for the decision to use force in Afghanistan, though support has fallen in both parties over the past decade.

About two-thirds of Republicans and Republican sympathisers (66pc) now say it was the right decision to use force in Afghanistan.

Only about a third of Democrats and Democratic sympathisers (31pc) say the same. About half of Democrats (53pc) say it was a wrong decision, compared with 21pc of Republicans.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2018

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - October 7, 2018 at 3:25 am

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Saudi king wouldn’t last 2 weeks without US support, says Trump

United States (US) President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s king “might not be there for two weeks” without US military support, further increasing his pressure on one of America’s closest Mideast allies over rising oil prices.

As crude oil prices reach a four-year high, Trump repeatedly has demanded OPEC and Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, push prices down.

Read more: ,Shireen Mazari calls out Trump’s ignorance on US role in destabilising ME,

However, analysts are warning prices could go up to $100 a barrel as the world’s production is already stretched and Trump’s sanctions on Iran’s oil industry take effect in early November.

Criticising America’s longstanding military relationships with allies has been a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign and his time in office.

Trump returned to that theme Tuesday night in Southaven, Mississippi, mentioning both Japan and South Korea. However, Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia implied the kingdom’s Al Saud monarchy, which oversees the holiest sites in Islam, would collapse without American military support.

“We protect Saudi Arabia, would you say they’re rich?” Trump asked the cheering crowd.

“And I love the king, King Salman, but I said, ‘King we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military, you have to pay.’”

Trump didn’t elaborate on when he made the comments to Saud Arabia’s 82-year-old monarch.

Trump and King Salman last shared ,a reported telephone call, on Saturday, in which they discussed “efforts to maintain supplies to ensure the stability of the oil market and ensure the growth of the global economy,” according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

There was no immediate reaction Wednesday in Saudi Arabia to Trump’s remarks. Riyadh has worked to cultivate warm relations with Trump after having rocky moments with former president Barack Obama.

Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump for his first overseas trip as president. Trump’s administration, particularly his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has sought a close relationship with King Salman’s son Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s crown price and next in line to the throne.

But oil prices seem to be getting in the way, especially as benchmark Brent crude oil is near $85 a barrel a four-year high.

Trump in July tweeted without evidence that Saudi Arabia would increase its production “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels” a day.

Saudi Arabia currently produces some 10 million barrels of crude oil a day. Its record is 10.72m barrels a day.

Meanwhile, US gasoline prices are up ahead of November midterm elections in which Trump already faces political headwinds.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the US is $2.88, up from $2.55 a year ago, according to AAA.

Trump criticised oil producers in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week.

“OPEC and OPEC nations are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it. Nobody should like it,” he said.

“We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good. We want them to stop raising prices. We want them to start lowering prices and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on.”

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - October 3, 2018 at 6:26 pm

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Will discuss the $300m US ‘payment’ matter with Pompeo: Foreign Minister Qureshi

After the US military moved to scrap a $300 million aid to Pakistan for what it claimed was Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi contended the labeling of the payment as “aid” and vowed to discuss the matter with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defense Department in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.

The US defence department “is awaiting a congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied”, Faulkner said.

Take a look: ,US cuts military training programme for Pakistan,

Responding to the development, Qureshi, the newly appointed foreign minister of Pakistan, clarified that the payment, which the US is now considering scrapping, is in fact the support coalition fund.

“This is not an aid of any kind that can be suspended,” he said. “This is actually the payment of expenses incurred by us during the war against terrorism.”

The foreign minister said that to “rid the region and the world from terrorism is a joint effort, for which Pakistan has done a lot. The Pakistan Army and people have sacrificed a lot, which is why the positive thinking should be that all the measures that are for our joint goals should continue as is.”

Qureshi said that the matter will be discussed with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo when he ,visits Pakistan on Wednesday,.

“We will sit with him, present our point of view and exchange ideas,” he said. “We have several combined interest … we will take our mutual respect for each other into consideration and move forward.”

Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups and has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.

But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The White House believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.

US frustration boils over

President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama authorised drone strikes on Pakistani soil and sent US commandos to kill Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout.

But Trump’s aggressive language has especially angered Pakistani officials. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump wrote on Twitter at the beginning of the year.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Pakistani leaders disputed the $33b figure, insisting that around half of the money relates to reimbursements, and the prime minister’s office accused Trump of ignoring the great sacrifices the country has made to fight extremism.

In March, a senior US official said that Pakistan has “done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests,” and concerns over a lack of action by Islamabad against militant groups still persist.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner had said.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 3, 2018 at 8:25 am

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Will discuss the $300m US ‘payment’ matter with Pompeo: Foreign Minister Qureshi

After the US military moved to scrap a $300 million aid to Pakistan for what it claimed was Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi contended the labeling of the payment as “aid” and vowed to discuss the matter with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defense Department in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.

The US defence department “is awaiting a congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied”, Faulkner said.

Take a look: ,US cuts military training programme for Pakistan,

Responding to the development, Qureshi, the newly appointed foreign minister of Pakistan, clarified that the payment, which the US is now considering scrapping, is in fact the support coalition fund.

“This is not an aid of any kind that can be suspended,” he said. “This is actually the payment of expenses incurred by us during the war against terrorism.”

The foreign minister said that to “rid the region and the world from terrorism is a joint effort, for which Pakistan has done a lot. The Pakistan Army and people have sacrificed a lot, which is why the positive thinking should be that all the measures that are for our joint goals should continue as is.”

Qureshi said that the matter will be discussed with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo when he ,visits Pakistan on Wednesday,.

“We will sit with him, present our point of view and exchange ideas,” he said. “We have several combined interest … we will take our mutual respect for each other into consideration and move forward.”

Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups and has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.

But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The White House believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.

US frustration boils over

President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama authorised drone strikes on Pakistani soil and sent US commandos to kill Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout.

But Trump’s aggressive language has especially angered Pakistani officials. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump wrote on Twitter at the beginning of the year.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Pakistani leaders disputed the $33b figure, insisting that around half of the money relates to reimbursements, and the prime minister’s office accused Trump of ignoring the great sacrifices the country has made to fight extremism.

In March, a senior US official said that Pakistan has “done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests,” and concerns over a lack of action by Islamabad against militant groups still persist.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner had said.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 2, 2018 at 10:25 pm

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Pentagon moves to scrap $300m aid to Pakistan

The US military is seeking to reallocate $300 million in aid to Pakistan due to Islamabad’s lack of “decisive actions” in support of regional American strategy, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

The US has been pushing Pakistan to crack down on alleged militant safe havens in the country — Islamabad denies any safe havens on its soil — and announced a freeze on aid at the beginning of the year that an official said could be worth almost $2 billion.

“Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m (actually $323.6m to include non-Pakistan funds) was reprogrammed by the Defense Department in the June/July 2018 time frame for other urgent priorities,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said in an email to AFP.

Take a look: ,US cuts military training programme for Pakistan,

The US defence department “is awaiting a congressional determination on whether this reprogramming request will be approved or denied”, Faulkner said. The move comes ahead of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Joseph F. Dunford’s visit to Islamabad next week.

They are also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In their talks with Pakistani officials, the delegation will “make very clear what we have to do, all of our nations, in meeting our common foe, the terrorists,” ,US Defence Secretary James Mattis had said earlier,. “And make that a primary part of the discussion.”

Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against homegrown militant groups and says it has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.

But US officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups that attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The White House believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.

US frustration boils over before

President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama authorised drone strikes on Pakistani soil and sent US commandos to kill Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout.

But Trump’s aggressive language has especially angered Pakistani officials. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump wrote on Twitter at the beginning of the year.

“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Pakistani leaders disputed the $33b figure, insisting that around half of the money relates to reimbursements, and the prime minister’s office accused Trump of ignoring the great sacrifices the country has made to fight extremism.

In March, a senior US official said that Pakistan has “done the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests,” and concerns over a lack of action by Islamabad against militant groups still persist.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Faulkner had said.

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John McCain, war hero and political maverick, dead at 81

John McCain, a war hero and ,towering figure in American politics,, known for reaching across the aisle in an increasingly divided nation, died on Saturday following a battle with brain cancer. He was 81.

The senator’s passing marked the end of a storied, 35-year political career that brought the independent-minded Republican within reach of the White House as his party’s presidential nominee.

“It’s been quite a ride,” McCain, who was tortured during five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, wrote in a memoir published earlier this year.

“I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war and helped make peace. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”

McCain, who had been receiving treatment in his home state of Arizona, was surrounded by his wife Cindy and his family during his final hours.

“He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth,” said Meghan McCain, one of the late senator’s seven children — three of them from a previous marriage.

Near the driveway to his ranch in a rural part of Sedona, Arizona, a sign read “Sen McCain, thank you for your service.”

A police escort accompanied the hearse that carried his body, as a fiery sunset cast its last light over the rustic countryside McCain loved dearly, and local residents came bearing flowers for the late political titan.

A steady stream of friends and colleagues had come to bid him farewell at his Arizona ranch in the months since his cancer diagnosis, in July 2017.

US President Donald Trump, who once mocked McCain’s war record, said he sent his “deepest sympathies and respect.” McCain had been a rare and outspoken Republican critic of Trump, accusing him of “naivete,” “egotism” and of sympathizing with autocrats.

He made a decisive vote last year that killed Republican attempts to repeal Barack Obama’s health care reforms, and Trump never forgave him.

Pakistan also offered its condolences over McCain’s death, saying he will be “greatly missed.”

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a statement that McCain had “always stood for strong Pakistan-US relations and a cooperative approach for promoting peace and building stability in the region.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country salutes McCain as a “great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel.” Netanyahu said he was deeply saddened by McCain’s passing and will always treasure his friendship. McCain’s “support for Israel never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom,” Netanyahu added.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Senator McCain “stood for an America that is a reliable and close partner. An America that takes responsibility for others out of strength, and stands by its values and principles even in difficult moments and bases its claim to leadership on that.” He added that “we will remember his voice.”

‘All in his debt’

The sharp-tongued McCain had disagreements with many fellow politicians — including inside his own camp — but the Republican stalwart was widely recognised for his deep integrity, and condolences came swift from the highest reaches of American politics.

“We are all in his debt,” said former president Obama, the Democrat to whom McCain lost the presidency in 2008.

“We shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed.”

Democrat Bill Clinton hailed McCain for having “frequently put partisanship aside,” while his former vice president Al Gore said he always admired how the senator “would work to find common ground, no matter how hard.”

“John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order,” said former president George W. Bush, whom McCain sought and failed to defeat in 2000 and succeed in 2008.

On Capitol Hill, McCain became close friends with Senator Lindsey Graham and former senator Joe Lieberman — a trio dubbed the “Three Amigos”.

Now that the trio is missing its driving force, Graham wrote that “America and Freedom have lost one of her greatest champions… And I’ve lost one of my dearest friends and mentor.”

Hailing him as a “truth-teller” with “unsurpassed” dedication to the US and its military, the top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said he would seek to rename a Senate building in his honor.

McCain stopped receiving cancer treatment earlier this week, his family saying “the progress of the disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict.” He had spent more than three decades in the Senate, looming large in debates over war and peace and the moral direction of the nation. Before joining the upper chamber, he served as a US representative from 1983 to 1987.

McCain had been away from the Senate floor since last December, remaining at his Arizona home for treatment of glioblastoma — the same form of brain cancer that took the life of another Senate giant, Democrat Ted Kennedy, in 2009.

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Russia talks on Afghanistan ‘unlikely to yield progress’: US State Dept

The United States has rejected an invitation to join Russia-led talks on Afghanistan because they are unlikely to help bring peace, a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday, as the Trump administration prepared to appoint a diplomatic veteran as a new special envoy for the war-battered nation.

Russia said that the ,Taliban will be joining the Sept 4 talks in Moscow,, along with representatives of several neighbouring countries. It will be one of the insurgent group’s biggest diplomatic forays since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The State Department official said that as a matter of principle, the US supports Afghan-led efforts to advance a peace settlement. And, based on previous Russia-led meetings on Afghanistan, the Moscow talks are “unlikely to yield any progress toward that end.” The spokesman was not authorised to be quoted by name and requested anonymity.

That decision comes as the Taliban escalates attacks across Afghanistan. It has refused direct talks with Kabul, even as it seeks to raises its diplomatic profile in the region and calls for talks with the US which it views as the real power behind the Afghan government.

The insurgent group has yet to respond to President Ashraf Ghani’s offer earlier this week of a ,conditional cease-fire for the duration of the Eidul Azha religious holiday, that began on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to appoint a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, to a special envoy post that would deal with the Afghan-Taliban peace process and Afghanistan’s integration into the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, according to two US officials and a congressional aide briefed on the plan.

Khalilzad, who did not respond to queries about his potential new role, is expected to visit South Asia soon, according to the officials, who were not authorised to publicly discuss personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A native of Afghanistan who was educated at the American University in Beirut and the University of Chicago, Khalilzad is a diplomatic veteran in Republican foreign policy circles and has also served as US ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations.

He was considered for secretary of state by the Trump transition team, notably after introducing then-candidate Donald Trump at his first major foreign policy speech during the campaign.

Despite escalating violence in Afghanistan, the top US commander there said Wednesday that the US-led coalition sees hope in Taliban statements in recent months indicating interest in a negotiations to end the 17-year war, and Afghan public and religious clerics’ desire for peace. He contended that could lead to political reconciliation.

“We have an unprecedented window of opportunity for peace now,” Gen John Nicholson told Pentagon reporters from Kabul. His comments came just a day after rockets slammed into the heart of Kabul as Ghani delivered a speech for the Eid holiday, highlighting the precarious security even in the heavily protected capital.

Nicholson did not address the Russia talks. US-Russian ties are increasingly strained. Washington has eyed Russian engagement in Afghanistan and its links to the Taliban with suspicion. Moscow says it is encouraging the insurgents to abandon hostilities and engage in a dialogue with the Afghan government.

Nicholson, who is slated to turn over command of the war next month, said the Taliban launched major assaults to take control of two provincial centers this year, and after tough battles the Afghans regained control.

But he also acknowledged that the military campaign led by the Afghans and backed by the coalition is largely at a stalemate, and that the Afghan government has made little progress taking back additional population centers from Taliban control.

Nicholson took over the war effort in March 2016. In May of that year, 34 per cent of Afghanistan’s districts were contested or under militant control or influence, compared with 44 per cent as of May 2018, according to US military figures. He will leave as the longest-serving US commander of the coalition.

Nicholson’s time in charge included a key reversal in US policy on the war — stretching from the troop drawdown ordered in the final years of the Obama administration through President Donald Trump’s endorsement last summer of a new strategy to increase US and coalition presence, beef up the training and push for reconciliation.

Nicholson said that the Afghan Air Force and special operations units are growing in numbers and abilities, and that progress will have an increasing impact over the coming year.

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One year on, Trump still fuels racial divide

WASHINGTON: There has been no reset, no moment of national healing.

One year after ,blaming “both sides” for violent clashes, between white supremacists and counter-protesters, President Donald Trump still flirts with racially tinged rhetoric and feels little blowback from Republican leaders or Republican voters when he does. Black leaders and Democrats argue Trump’s tone and actions on race have gotten even worse in the months since the ,clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia,.

The result is a starkly segregated political landscape where there is scant punishment for racially loaded rhetoric and, at times, clear reward.

Democrats are pinning their hopes of flipping control of Congress on mobilising liberals and minorities, particularly black voters. And Republicans’ best chance of holding off a Democratic wave is strong turnout among the conservative white voters who helped sweep Trump into office and often cheer his willingness to dive into hot-button issues with racial overtones.

Trump has told associates that he believes at least one of those issues his criticism of black NFL players who kneel during the national anthem is a political winner because it energises his white base. He revived the matter on Friday, tweeting that the players are expressing outrage “at something that most of them are unable to define”. Players have said they are protesting police killings of black men, social injustice and racism.

‘Oldest strategies’

Trump’s rise to power can be traced through a series of statements that invoke racial stereotypes. In 1989, he called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, five black and Hispanic teenagers accused of raping and beating a white woman; they were later exonerated through DNA evidence, but Trump has suggested he still believes they’re guilty. For years, Trump promoted the lie that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Over the past year, from his perch in the White House, he’s repeatedly questioned the intelligence of prominent black figures, including Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat-California, basketball star LeBron James and CNN anchor Don Lemon, whom he called “the dumbest man on television”.

“One of the oldest strategies is to call into question the intellect of African-Americans,” said Mitch Landrieu, the former Democratic mayor of New Orleans. “It’s just sad and awful.” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the black community has “never seen this level of tone deafness or this total disregard” from a modern American president.

Even against that backdrop, Trump’s response to Charlottesville stood out.

In his initial remarks about the violent clashes that killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, the president said there were “very fine people on both sides”. Two days later, reading carefully from a written statement, he condemned the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Yet in an unscripted moment the next day, he again said there was “blame on both sides”. The episode prompted some Republican leaders to condemn him. Some business leaders abandoned White House advisory committees, and some West Wing aides let it be known that they contemplated quitting.

But, ultimately, the outrage from those corners subsided. Washington moved on. Republican leaders who harshly criticised the president at the time still largely back his agenda, well aware that polling shows there was no sustained damage to Trump’s popularity among the party’s voters after Charlottesville.

“If it did anything, it reinforced opinions,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “The intensity of opinions changed, both supportive and against. It confirmed what people thought about Trump. It didn’t change their views.”

According to a CBS News poll taken in the days after the Charlottesville clashes, a wide share of Democrats about 7 in 10 said Trump’s policies encouraged racial division in the country, little different from a poll conducted earlier in the year. By comparison, more than 8 in 10 Republicans said the president’s policies either had no effect on race relations or encouraged unity.

Trump’s job approval among blacks has shown little change, consistently stuck around 10 per cent in most surveys.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump has any regrets about his handling of the Charlottesville protests or other racial rhetoric.

Some of Trump’s black supporters argue that the criticism is overblown.

“Either people have a short memory or they’ve brushed it under the rug and they’re focused on what’s really important: their ability to take care of themselves economically,” said Michael Barnett, an African-American Trump ally who serves as chairman of the Palm Beach GOP and vice chairman of the Florida GOP.

Yet a year after Charlottesville, the president’s relationship with the black community remains deeply strained.

In a new memoir, former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman labels Trump a “racist” and claims she’s been told there are tapes of him using the N-word repeatedly while filming The Apprentice reality series. She’s scheduled to discuss the memoir on national television on Sunday (today), the anniversary of the Charlottesville violence.

A White House spokeswoman dismissed Manigault Newman as “a disgruntled” former employee.

Pollster Henry Fernandez of the African-American Research Collaborative reports that black women in particular feel “disrespected” by Trump, a fact that may mean Charlottesville will come back to hurt Trump after all.

Black women helped fuel Democratic victories in recent months in Alabama and Virginia. And black voters make up a small but motivated slice of the electorate this fall: at least seven per cent of the electorate in more than a third of the nation’s most competitive House districts, Fernandez noted.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat and one of just three African-Americans in the Senate, warned that the consequences for Trump’s tone and actions could extend well beyond political pain.

“The president’s demeaning and degrading and cruel attacks on minorities,” Booker said, “make people feel like they have licence to hate, make people feel like they have licence to hurt others.” Booker added: “These things are dangerous.”—AP

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018

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Anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with US: Trump

The ,first set of US sanctions against Iran, that had been eased under the landmark nuclear accord went back into effect early Tuesday under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, targeting financial transactions that involve US dollars, Iran’s automotive sector, the purchase of commercial planes and metals including gold.

More US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank are to be reimposed in early November.

In an early morning tweet, Trump said the re-imposition of sanctions mean, “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”

,,

“I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”

The stiff economic sanctions ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic despite statements of deep dismay from European allies, three months after ,Trump pulled the US out of the international accord, limiting Iran’s nuclear activities.

Read: ,Iran dismisses US talks offer as Trump reimposes sanctions,

Trump declared the landmark 2015 agreement had been “horrible”, leaving the Iranian government flush with cash to fuel conflict in the Middle East.

Iran accused the US of reneging on the nuclear agreement, signed by the Obama administration, and of causing recent Iranian economic unrest. European allies said they “deeply regret” the US action.

As the sanctions loomed on Monday, Trump said in a statement, “We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.”

Trump warned that those who don’t wind down their economic ties to Iran “risk severe consequences”.

The Europeans didn’t like any of it.

Despite Trump’s claims, the accord “is working and delivering on its goal” of limiting Iran’s nuclear program, said a statement by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The ministers said the Iran deal is “crucial for the security of Europe, the region and the entire world”, and the European Union issued a “blocking statute” on Monday to protect European businesses from the impact of the sanctions.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters under ground rules requiring anonymity, said the United States is “not particularly concerned” by EU efforts to protect European firms from the sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran still can rely on China and Russia to keep its oil and banking sectors afloat. Speaking in a television interview, he also demanded compensation for decades of American “intervention” in the Islamic Republic.

Months of uncertainty surrounding the sanctions have already further hurt Iran’s economy. The country’s rial currency has tanked, and the downturn has sparked protests across the nation.

The “Trump Administration wants the world to believe it’s concerned about the Iranian people,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a statement posted to Twitter. But, he said, the reimposed sanctions would endanger “ordinary Iranians.”

“US hypocrisy knows no bounds,” he said.

US officials insisted the American government stands with the people of Iran and supports many of their complaints against their own government.

National security adviser John Bolton said Iran’s leadership is on “very shaky ground”, but he insisted economic pressure from the Trump administration is not an attempt at “regime change”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said sanctions are an important pillar in US policy toward Iran and will remain in place until the Iranian government radically changes course.

“They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple,” said Pompeo, en route on Sunday from a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a firm foe of the Iranian government, said the sanctions symbolize “the determination to block Iran’s regional aggression as well as its continuous plans to arm itself with nuclear weapons”.

He called on the countries of Europe to join the US, saying, “The time has come to stop talking; the time has come to do.”

The US has long designated Iran as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Pompeo noted on Sunday, adding that the Islamic Republic cannot expect to be treated as an equal in the international community until it halts such activities.

He said that “there’s no evidence today of a change in their behavior”, and in the meantime “we’re going to enforce the sanctions”.

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US reimposes sanctions to levy economic pressure on Iran

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday reimposing many sanctions on Iran, three months after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, saying the US policy is to levy “maximum economic pressure” on the country.

In a statement, Trump said the 2015 international accord to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions was a “horrible, one-sided deal” and said it left the Iranian government flush with cash to use to fuel conflict in the Middle East.

“We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation,” Trump said.

Trump warned that those who don’t wind down their economic ties to Iranian “risk severe consequences” under the reimposed sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says renewed US sanctions on Iran will be rigorously enforced and remain in place until the Iranian government radically changes course.

Speaking to reporters en route from a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia, Pompeo said Monday’s re imposition of some sanctions is an important pillar in US policy toward Iran.

He said the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions but that would “require enormous change” from Tehran.

“We’re hopeful that we can find a way to move forward but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime,” he said Sunday. “They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”

European foreign ministers said Monday they “deeply regret” the re imposition of US sanctions.

A statement by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom insisted that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “is working and delivering on its goal” of limiting Iran’s nuclear program.

The ministers said the Iran deal is “crucial for the security of Europe, the region and the entire world.”

A senior administration official said the United States is “not particularly concerned” by EU efforts to protect European firms from the re imposition of sanctions.

The official was not authorised to discuss the matter by name and spoke Monday on condition of anonymity.

The European Union issued a “blocking statute” Monday to protect European businesses from the impact of the sanctions.

The official says the US will use the sanctions aggressively and cited Iran’s severe economic downturn this year as evidence the sanctions would prove to be effective despite opposition from the EU, China and Russia.

Pompeo called the Iranian leadership “bad actors” and said Trump is intent on getting them to “behave like a normal country.”

A first set of US sanctions that had been eased by the Obama administration under the terms of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal took effect on Monday, following Trump’s May decision to withdraw from the accord. Those sanctions target Iran’s automotive sector as well as gold and other metals.

A second batch of US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank will be reimposed in early November.

Pompeo noted that the US has long designated Iran as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism and said it cannot expect to be treated as an equal in the international community until it halts such activities.

“Perhaps that will be the path the Iranians choose to go down,” he said. “But there’s no evidence today of a change in their behaviour.”

In the meantime, he said, “we’re going to enforce the sanctions.”

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You can’t win without electables and money: Imran

IN a reference to new entrants to PTI,  Imran Khan says that the newcomers would have to comply with the party’s policies and discipline, and that those who didn’t would be kicked out.—White Star

IN a reference to new entrants to PTI, Imran Khan says that the newcomers would have to comply with the party’s policies and discipline, and that those who didn’t would be kicked out.—White Star

FOR Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, the key to the Prime Minister House lies in understanding the country’s complex political realities.

In a conversation with Dawn during his ,election campaign in Karachi, on Wednesday, Mr Khan said that although he cannot vouch for each of the near 700 national and provincial-level candidates his party has fielded to contest the upcoming elections, he is playing with what exists in Pakistan’s political class.

“You contest elections to win. You don’t contest elections to be a good boy. I want to win. I am fighting elections in Pakistan, not Europe. I can’t import European politicians,” Mr Khan said.

He talked about the importance of manpower and financial resources for a successful election campaign.

PTI chief says Nawaz Sharif tried his best (to mend relations with India). “I will give him the credit. Nawaz Sharif tried everything, even personal [gestures] calling him [Modi] over to his house.”

“After 1997, I came to the conclusion that unless we took people in the party who know the art of winning election, we will not be able to succeed.

“This is not Europe, where all you need to do is tell people what you stand for and they will go out and vote for you. In Pakistan, you need money and thousands of trained polling agents who can bring out people on the day of election. If you do not have those workers, you cannot contest the election.”

Even as his critics question why he has awarded tickets to political turncoats instead of workers who have had a long association with the party, Mr Khan said: “The political class here doesn’t change that much. You can introduce new actors but you can’t change the political class wholesale. This is why I give the example of Mahathir Mohamad, who changed Malaysia with the same political class by giving them clean leadership.”

He denies that he has compromised his ideals by awarding tickets to ,electables,. “It would be a compromise if I did not stick to my objectives after coming into power, and if I did not run a clean government.”

Mr Khan said that the new faces would have to comply with PTI’s policies and discipline, and that those who didn’t would be kicked out.

When asked if his campaign slogan of ‘Naya Pakistan’ is only achievable with a ‘new PTI’, Mr Khan said there was no change in his strategy. “This is a joke going around that I have now gathered electables. I always sought out electables, but before this they were not willing to join us.

“Forget MPAs and MNAs, in the past we have even invited electables from union councils in other cities to join us. It is after the success of the 2011 rally at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore that people changed their minds and started to join us.”

Relations with India

While there is very little that the PTI chief would give Nawaz Sharif credit for, when it comes to the former prime minister’s efforts to improve relations with India, Mr Khan concedes that Nawaz tried his best.

“Nawaz Sharif tried his best [to mend relations with India],” said Mr Khan. “I will give him the credit.”

“Nawaz Sharif tried everything, even personal [gestures] calling him [Modi] over to his house. No one got in his way. But I think it is the policy of the Narendra Modi government to try and isolate Pakistan. They have a very aggressive anti-Pakistan posture because Modi wants to blame Pakistan for all the barbarism they are doing in Kashmir. What can one do in the face of this attitude?”

Civil-military relations

Asked how he would tackle the delicate relationship between the civil and military leadership if his party came to power, Mr Khan said good governance would be his strength.

“When you have democratic governments that perform and deliver, that is their strength. We have had military influence on politics in Pakistan because we have had the worst political governments. I am not saying it is justified but where there is a vacuum something will fill it.”

He added: “Under crooked and corrupt governments, people welcome the military with open arms. In 1999 when Musharraf’s martial law was declared, people were celebrating in Lahore – Nawaz’s political centre! – because governance had failed.”

He recalled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the strongest prime minister to come through electoral process who was totally in charge of the country’s affairs.

‘Military did not interfere in Bhutto’s govt’

“He [Bhutto] was the strongest prime minister. He dismissed many army officers. No one could say he was not in charge. When people talk about military interference, they should know that the military did not interfere in Bhutto’s government, because he was a powerful prime minister.”

When asked to comment on the military’s influence in setting Pakistan’s foreign policy, Mr Khan said: “The army will get involved where there are security situations. If you look at the US policy in Afghanistan, a lot of the US-Afghan policy was influenced by Pentagon. Even when Barack Obama didn’t want to continue the war in Afghanistan, he did it because he was convinced by Pentagon.”

Possibility of forming coalition

Although he is confident about his chances of making federal government with a simple majority, when asked about an alternative plan, Mr Khan said: “A coalition depends on the partner in question. If the coalition partner allows us to implement our manifesto, it’s fine.”

He added that his party had trouble with former coalition partner Qaumi Watan Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and that it had to kick out members who resisted their anti-corruption code. “If the head of a political party is corrupt, then it would be difficult to make a coalition with them.”

On eradicating militancy

Although it is a position he has been criticised for, Mr Khan remains adamant on engaging militants in dialogue.

“There has to be a dual policy: one is dialogue and the other is military action. I have been labelled ‘Taliban Khan’ just because I did not agree with this one-dimensional policy that Pakistan implemented under American pressure.”

He said the war in Afghanistan was a classic example of how military solutions alone did not work. “The US has been there for 15 years with a military option but has failed. If there is consensus among the American and Afghan governments and allies that they want unconditional peace talks with Taliban, it means the military option has failed.”

Confidence ahead of polls

“I am as confident as I’ve ever been and more prepared than before,” said Mr Khan.

Ahead of polls on July 25, surveys conducted by the Jang Media Group showed the PTI gaining ground.

A survey by Pulse Consultant showed the PTI ahead with the support of 30 per cent of respondents nationwide, compared to 27pc for the PML-N. The Pakistan Peoples Party was at 17pc.

A separate nationwide poll by Gallup Pakistan had the PML-N on top with 26pc, the PTI with 25pc and the PPP at 16pc.

According to Reuters, the new polls indicate a swing towards Mr Khan’s party compared to similar nationwide polls in 2017 that had put the PML-N 8-9 percentage points ahead of the PTI.

“I don’t know what will happen but I am more optimistic than I have been in my 22 years in politics,” Mr Khan said.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018

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In dramatic turnaround, Trump orders end to family separations

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump ordered an end to the separation of migrant children from their parents at the US border on Wednesday, reversing a tough policy under heavy pressure from his fellow Republicans, Democrats and the international community.

The spectacular about-face comes after more than 2,300 children were stripped from their parents and adult relatives after illegally crossing the border since May 5 and placed in tent camps and other facilities, with no way to contact their relatives.

Take a look: ,Explainer: How the US has split up families throughout its history,

Pictures and accounts of the separations sparked outrage and a rebellion among Republicans in Trump’s own party, as well as international accusation that the US was committing human rights violations.

“What we have done today is we are keeping families together,” Trump said as he signed the executive order. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.” Trump said that even with the change, border enforcement will be “equally tough, if not tougher.” For weeks, Trump had insisted he was bound by the law to split the children from their parents and that only Congress could resolve the problem — before he radically shifted gears.

“We want security for our country,” Trump said. “And we will have that — at the same time, we have compassion, we want to keep families together.” The order says the Department of Homeland Security — and not the Justice and Health and Human Services Departments, as under previous policy — would have continuing responsibility for the families.

It also suggests the government intends to hold the families indefinitely by challenging an existing statute, the 1997 Flores Settlement, that places a 20-day limit on how long children, along or with their parents, can be detained.

That move could lead to new legal battles for the administration.

Trump said there was a need to remain tough to prevent crime.

“We still have to maintain toughness, or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don’t stand for and we don’t want,” he said.

Earlier, as countries marked World Refugee Day on Wednesday, world leaders assailed Trump for the separations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Council of Europe and Pope Francis all took issue with the “zero tolerance” policy.

May said images of migrant children kept in cage-like units were “deeply disturbing,” and the Council of Europe, a global human rights watchdog, said Trump had abdicated any claim to moral leadership in the world.

“A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity,” the pope said on Twitter.

Obama’s reaction

Former US President Barack Obama called for an end to the separation of migrant children from parents at the US-Mexico border, saying the “cruelty” of the practice was contrary to American ideals.

“To watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?” Obama said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“To find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant — to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time — is part of what makes us American,” said the former president, while acknowledging that Wednesday was World Refugee Day.

Michelle Obama said simply, “Sometimes truth transcends party,” while retweeting an excerpt of a newspaper op-ed by Laura Bush.

After a downturn last year, since October, the number of migrants seeking to cross the southwest US border from impoverished Guate­mala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as from Mexico, has surged.

From March to May this year, more than 50,000 people a month were apprehended for illegally crossing the border from Mexico. About 15 percent of those are arriving as families, and eight percent as unaccompanied children.

Nearly all of the families, and many others, have officially requested asylum, citing the incessant violence in their home countries.

The zero tolerance policy, with mandatory separation of children from adults, was announced on May 7 as a deterrent.

The issue struck an emotional chord, amid accounts of children screaming and crying in facilities prepared for them.

“We were outside, and you could hear voices of children that appeared to be playing or laughing,” pediatrician Marsha Griffin said in El Paso.

“But when they opened the door, we saw around 20 to 30 10-year-old boys in one of these chain-link enclosures, and they were crying and screaming and asking for their mothers.”

Trump did not say how the 2,300-plus children already taken from their families would be reunited. On Tuesday, a top official from the Department of Health and Human Services admitted they have no system in place to do so.

Celebrities open wallets

George Clooney and John Legend have sent hefty donations to charity and Bruce Springsteen interrupted his Broadway show to decry the border crisis as the entertainment world voiced outrage over the separation of migrant families at the US border.

Clooney and his lawyer wife Amal said that they were donating $100,000 to the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, an organisation based at the University of Chicago that provides legal counsel to unaccompanied children.

The Clooneys, whose foundation has funded eight schools in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children, said that while they could not change President Donald Trump’s policy, “we can help defend the victims of it,” the Clooneys said in a statement.

Pop singer Legend and his model wife Chrissy Teigen earlier said that they were donating $288,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union to support separated migrant children.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018

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US leaving UN’s Human Rights Council, cites anti-Israel bias

The United States (US) is leaving the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC), which Ambassador Nikki Haley called “an organisation that is not worthy of its name”.

It’s the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.

Haley said Tuesday the US had given the human rights body “opportunity after opportunity” to make changes. She lambasted the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights,” Haley said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a “noble vision. But today we need to be honest,” Pompeo said.

“The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”

The announcement came just a day after the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents.

But Haley cited longstanding US complaints that the 47-member council is biased against Israel. She had been threatening the pull-out since last year unless the council made changes advocated by the US.

“Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley said.

Still, she suggested the decision need not be permanent, adding that if the council did adopt reforms, “we would be happy to rejoin it.”

She said the withdrawal notwithstanding, the US would continue to defend human rights at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office called the US decision “courageous,”” calling it “an unequivocal statement that enough is enough”.

The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president’s “America First” policy.

Although numerous officials have said repeatedly that “America First does not mean America Alone”, the administration has retreated from multiple multilateral accords and consensuses since it took office.

Since January 2017, it has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the UN educational and cultural organisation and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Other contentious moves have included slapping tariffs on steel and aluminium against key trading partners, recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift.

A group of 12 organisations including Save the Children, Freedom House and the United Nations Association-USA said there were “legitimate concerns” about the council’s shortcomings but that none of them warranted a US exit.

“This decision is counterproductive to American national security and foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

Added Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: “All Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”

On Twitter, al-Hussein, the UN human rights chief, said it was “Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back.”

And the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump administration, defended the move, calling the council “notably incurious about the human rights situations in some of the world’s most oppressive countries.”

Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow, pointed out that Trump could have withdrawn immediately after taking office but instead gave the council 18 months to make changes.

Haley has been the driving force behind withdrawing from the human rights body, unprecedented in the 12-year history of the council. No country has ever dropped out voluntarily. Libya was kicked out seven years ago.

The move could reinforce the perception that the Trump administration is seeking to advance Israel’s agenda on the world stage, just as it prepares to unveil its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan despite Palestinian outrage over the embassy relocation.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is visiting the Middle East this week as the White House works to lay the groundwork for unveiling the plan.

Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7″ on the agenda. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed.

The United States’ current term on the council ends next year. Although the US could have remained a non-voting observer on the council, a US official said it was a “complete withdrawal” and that the US was resigning its seat “effective immediately”. The official wasn’t authorised to comment publicly and insisted on anonymity.

That means the council will be left without one of its traditional defenders of human rights. In recent months, the US has participated in attempts to pinpoint rights violations in places like South Sudan, Congo and Cambodia.

The US pullout was bound to have ripple effects for at least two countries at the council: China and Israel. The US, as at other UN organisations, is Israel’s biggest defender.

At the rights council, the US has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China whose growing economic and diplomatic clout has chastened some other would-be critics, rights advocates say.

There are 47 countries in the Human Rights Council, elected by the UN’s General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a row.

The US has opted to stay out of the Human Rights Council before: The George W. Bush administration opted against seeking membership when the council was created in 2006. The US joined the body only in 2009 under President Barack Obama.

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