Iranian foreign minister says Trump admits stealing Syrian oil

Tehran, February 27 (RHC)-- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has underscored a confession by U.S. President Donald Trump that the Islamic Republic hates the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, and that the presence of American forces in Syria was for plundering the Arab country's oil resources.  

Zarif made the remarks in a tweet accompanied by a video clip that showed Trump making a confession about the U.S. troops withdrawal after they "have taken the oil" in Syria.  Trump has on several occasions publicly pointed to stealing Syria’s oil reserves.

In October last year, after ordering the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, Trump said he wanted the U.S. firm ExxonMobil to go to the Arab country to tap its oil.   The U.S. president also boasted in the footage about his country's purported fight against the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group and urged Tehran to fight the Takfiri outfit as "Iran hates ISIS."

In a post on his Twitter account, Zarif said: "Trump just admitted what we all knew: U.S. troops in Syria to "have the oil”" adding that, "Russia, Syria, & Iran can fight ISIS, confessing, “Iran hates ISIS.”"

Denouncing the U.S. assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad last month, the top Iranian diplomat censured the so-called US counterterrorism efforts, and said Washington, instead of fighting against Daesh, "cowardly murdered" the terrorist group's number-one enemy.

On January 3, a drone strike, conducted by direct order of Trump, martyred Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known as Hashed al-Sha’abi in Arabic, and their companions outside Baghdad International Airport.

Soon after General Soleimani’s assassination, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Washington was to face a “harsh revenge” for the atrocity.   On January 8, the IRGC unleashed volleys of ballistic missiles at the American military airbase of Ain al-Assad in Iraq’s Anbar Province, which housed US forces. The Leader later described the retaliatory strikes as “only a slap.”

The U.S. assassination of the top Iranian commander sent shock waves across the world while, at the same time, forging greater unity in the region against Washington's interventionism.

Iraqi lawmakers also took action by unanimously approving a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Edited by Ed Newman
  • Published in World

Serbian parliamentarians and Cuban ambassador meet

Cuba is determined to develop all its spheres and improve its society, despite the blockade imposed by the United States and the tightening of that policy by the Donald Trump administration.

Cuban Ambassador to Serbia Gustavo Trista del Todo expressed his people's determination on Thursday at a meeting with members of the Cuba Friendship Parliamentary Group of the Serbian National Assembly, made up of lawmakers from several political forces.

He explained the latest actions taken by the US Government to prevent Cuba's access to hard currencies, including the ban on cruise ships from docking in Cuba, the elimination of flights to Cuban provinces and other measures that affect the tourism industry.

Trista del Todo also referred to the repeated efforts to block the arrival of oil and other fuels in Cuba, a criminal action against the Cuban people.

The ambassador explained to his interlocutors the meaning of the full enforcement of the Helms-Burton Act, after the coming into force of Titles III and IV, which no US president had so far implemented, due to their marked extraterritorial nature and the obstacles to foreign investment.

Trista del Todo thanked the lawmakers for their visit to the Cuban Embassy and called to hold these kinds of meetings more often to exchange information about the situation in the two parliaments and countries, and further strengthen friendship and cooperation.

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Reports say Trump administration wants to purge disloyal staffers

Washington, February 25 (RHC)-- In the U.S. capital, President Donald Trump’s new personnel chief, John McEntee, is reportedly directing agency heads to identify and purge anti-Trump staffers.  Trump has tasked his former body man to rid agencies of the “bad people” and “Deep State.”

Trump also reportedly referred to anti-Trump employees as “snakes.”  Twenty-nine-year-old John McEntee was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly because he was under investigation by Homeland Security for financial crimes, but he was recently rehired to head the personnel office.

Meanwhile, Axios is reporting the Trump White House has been gathering lists of disloyal government officials that they plan to kick out and replace with Trump loyalists.  A network of Trump allies, including Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was reportedly charged with creating the lists.

One of those targeted is former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, whom Trump withdrew from consideration for a top Treasury role earlier this month.  Liu’s memo reportedly mentions her signing the sentencing filing requesting jail time for Michael Flynn, as well as holding a leadership role in a women’s lawyers’ group that is “pro-choice and anti-Alito.”

Edited by Ed Newman
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Russia Meddling In US Election To Boost Trump Campaign: US Intelligence

Washington: Russia is interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Donald Trump re-elected, US intelligence officials have warned lawmakers in a briefing that infuriated the president, who then replaced his intelligence chief, US media reported.

Trump erupted in anger at acting director of national intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire when he learned of the February 13 session with the House Intelligence Committee, The Washington Post and New York Times said Thursday.

Maguire aide Shelby Pierson reportedly told lawmakers Russia was once again meddling in the US election on Trump's behalf.

Trump complained that the Democrats would use the information against him, the reports said.

The president was also annoyed by the presence of Adam Schiff, the Democratic head of the investigation that led to Trump being impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, according to the New York Times.

Maguire had been a favorite to be nominated for the permanent DNI post but Trump soured on the official, The Washington Post said, when he heard about the classified election security briefing.

The president berated Maguire in an Oval Office showdown last week for the "disloyalty" of his staff, the Post reported, effectively thwarting his chances of becoming a permanent hire.

Trump announced on Wednesday he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, 53, the ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist.

The president was impeached in December over accusations that he tried to coerce ally Ukraine into helping him win the 2020 election, withholding military aid considered vital to the former Soviet republic in its war with Russia.

Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson said that by firing Maguire over the briefing "the president is not only refusing to defend against foreign interference, he's inviting it."

Schiff tweeted late Thursday that if Trump was interfering in the sharing of intelligence information with Congress, it appeared that he was "again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling."

US intelligence concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, especially through manipulation of social media, to support Trump.

The real estate tycoon-turned-president has however repeatedly called it a "Russia hoax" and has instead promoted a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine intervened instead.

Trump defender

Trump has been at odds with much of the national security establishment since he took office and claims, without providing evidence, that a "deep state" is working against him.

Since he was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate, an emboldened Trump has been purging the Justice Department, National Security Council and Pentagon of staff he considers disloyal.

Casualties have included NSC staffer Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland -- both key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry -- Vindman's twin brother, an NSC lawyer who wasn't involved, and Pentagon policy chief John Rood.

Democrats have voiced outrage over the appointment of Grenell, who has no relevant background or top-level management experience for the post in which he will supervise 17 agencies, including the CIA.

"He is committed to a non-political, non-partisan approach as head of the Intelligence Community, on which our safety and security depend," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Thursday.

Grenell said on Twitter he would not serve permanently and that Trump would "soon" select someone else.

'Unquestioning obedience'

Trump has declined to hire a permanent replacement for Dan Coats, who stepped down as DNI in August after standing firm on the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in 2016 to back Trump over Hillary Clinton.

Grenell has previously cast doubt on the extent of Russia's efforts, saying that Moscow's activities were nothing new.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, accused Trump of prioritizing "unquestioning obedience over the safety of the American people."

Grenell has cheered on the rise of right-wing populists in Europe, including hailing Austria's ultra-conservative chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, as a "rock star."

He has been unusually outspoken for an ambassador in criticizing the country where he serves, including warning German companies over Twitter to comply with Trump's orders not to do business in Iran.

Ned Price, a former aide to president Barack Obama, said Trump "has dropped the charade that he has any use for intelligence."

"He has just named the most political -- and abrasive -- US ambassador to what it supposed to be the least political -- and undoubtedly delicate -- role," he wrote on Twitter.

  • Published in World

Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to 40 months in prison

Washington, February 21 (RHC)-- Donald Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison as part of a case that has roiled the Justice Department and drawn the U.S. president's anger.

Stone was convicted on charges including lying to a congressional panel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.   U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down the sentence after Stone's lawyer asked that the veteran Republican operative receive no prison time.

Stone's belligerence and lies represent "a threat to our democracy," the judge said in a stern lecture during the hours-long sentencing hearing.  "He was not prosecuted -- as some have complained-- for standing up for the president.  He was prosecuted for covering up for the president," Jackson said.

"There was nothing unfair, phoney or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution," Jackson added, citing words that Trump has used.  The judge also said Stone "knew exactly what he was doing" when he posted an image on social media last year that positioned a gun's cross-hairs over her head.

"The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating conduct toward the court," Jackson said.  "This is intolerable to the administration of justice," she added.

The initial sentencing memo by the original prosecutors in the case that called for seven to nine years in prison -- later reversed by the Justice Department after Trump complained publicly -- was thorough and well researched, the judge said, but added that such a sentence would be "unnecessary" for Stone.

Roger Stone, who still has a sealed pending motion requesting a new trial, declined to speak at his sentencing hearing.  Stone's lawyer, Seth Ginsberg, said Stone's career as a self-described "dirty trickster" overshadowed other aspects of a spiritual man with no prior criminal record who has served as a mentor, loves animals and is devoted to his family.

Jackson also said she would not discount tougher sentencing guidelines that apply to witness tampering and obstruction, which were among the seven criminal counts on which Stone was convicted in November.

The judge noted that Stone was not charged with or convicted of having any role in conspiring with Russia.  But the judge said Stone's effort to obstruct a congressional investigation into Russian election meddling "was deliberate, planned -- not one isolated incident."  The investigators were not some "secret anti-Trump cabal," the judge said, but members of Congress from both parties at the time when the committee was controlled by the president's fellow Republican.

A jury of nine women and three men convicted Stone on November 15th on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.  The charges stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation which detailed Russian meddling in the 2016 election to boost Trump's candidacy.  Stone was one of several Trump associates charged in Mueller's inquiry.

Prosecutors said Stone lied to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks, the website that released damaging emails about Trump's Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded were stolen by Russian hackers.

Trump, who on Tuesday granted clemency to prominent convicted white-collar criminals including financier Michael Milken and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, has sidestepped questions about whether he will pardon Stone.  "We're going to see what happens," Trump said earlier this week.

Trump, emboldened after his Senate acquittal in his impeachment trial, has attacked the prosecutors, jurors and judge in Stone's case.  After prosecutors last week recommended that the judge sentence Stone to serve seven to nine years in prison, Trump blasted them as "corrupt" and railed against this "miscarriage of justice."

Attorney General William Barr intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the sentencing recommendation, prompting the four prosecutors to resign from the case.  Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicising the criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.

Trump kept up his attacks even after Barr said in an ABC News interview that Trump's comments "make it impossible for me to do my job."  Barr has considered stepping down, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Stone, who has also labelled himself an "agent provocateur" and famously has the face of former President Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, was arrested in January 2019 in a pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home.

He repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson. He violated her orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and the judge accused him of "middle school" behaviour.  At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head, later apologising to the judge in court.

The sentencing caps a roller coaster of a case that featured references to the 1974 film The Godfather Part II, a Bernie Sanders impression and testimony from figures in Trump's political inner circle including former White House strategist Steve Bannon and former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates.

Edited by Ed Newman

  • Published in World

Trump to deploy heavily armed Border Patrol tactical units in sanctuary cities

Washington, February 17 (RHC)-- In a move that appears destined to escalate tension between the White House and opponents, President Donald Trump is reportedly deploying Customs and Border Protection tactical units across sanctuary cities in the U.S. to assist with arrests of undocumented people—despite warnings from critics and rights advocates.

The New York Times reported on the plan, citing an official who received an e-mail describing the weekend deployment who read the text to reporters over the phone.  CBP spokesman Lawrence Payne confirmed the details.
“These are the bad times,” data researcher Michael Caley tweeted of the report.

According to the Times, agents from the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) will spread across the country to cities like New York, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans, and Newark, N.J. to work alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to arrest people allegedly in the country illegally.

As the Times reported: With additional gear such as stun grenades and enhanced Special Forces-type training, including sniper certification, the officers typically conduct high-risk operations targeting individuals who are known to be violent, many of them with extensive criminal records.

The unit’s work often takes place in the most rugged and swelteringly hot areas of the border. It can involve breaking into stash houses maintained by smuggling operations that are known to be filled with drugs and weapons.

“I have read this article multiple times,” National Immigration Forum Ali Noorani said. “It is unbelievable how much this action will undermine public safety.  Unbelievable.”  The potential for violence is high, former CBP commissioner Gil Kerlikowske told the Times, calling the deployment “a significant mistake.”

“If you were a police chief and you were going to make an apprehension for a relatively minor offense, you don’t send the SWAT team,” said Kerlikowske.  “And BORTAC is the SWAT team.  They’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this.”

Trump has long railed against sanctuary cities for resisting his racist immigration policies and providing safe havens for the victims of ICE and CBP.  The president’s deployment of tactical units to the cities is the lastest move by the White House against his political adversaries, tweeted Cecilia Muñoz, vice president of the think tank New America.

“Officers trained in SWAT team tactics, sent to help with run-of-the-mill immigration arrests in major cities far from the border,” said Muñoz.  “Trump is using military-style tactics because he has a political beef with cities whose policies he doesn’t like.”

Progressives reacted with shock and alarm at the intensification of Trump’s already draconian immigration policies provided by the addition of the heavily armed BORTAC units.

“Straight up Nazi shit,” tweeted Indivisible director of democracy policy Meagan Hatcher-Mays. 

Edited by Ed Newman

  • Published in World

Afghanistan: How Many People Must Die For Trump To End The War

More than 2,000 people have died from combat during the U.S. 'reconstruction' of Afghanistan.

While U.S. President Donald Trump claims that the end of the war in Afghanistan is near, without making any real decision to do so, a recent report shows that more than 2,000 people died from combat during the U.S. 'reconstruction' of the Asian nation.

RELATED: US Deceived Public on War in Afghanistan: Documents Reveal

The reconstruction and stabilization missions carried out by the United States on Afghan territory have caused more than 2,200 deaths and more than 2,900 injuries from 17 April 2002 to 31 December 2018, according to a report by the Special General Inspectorate for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR).

Also, of the total number of deaths, 1,578 were Afghans, 284 were U.S citizens, another 100 were military personnel from international coalition countries and 124 were third-country nationals.

According to SIGAR, another 1,182 people were kidnaped or are missing, most of whom are also Afghan nationals (1,004 people).

These figures are in addition to casualties in actual fighting with the Taliban and other militant groups, in re-supply missions or attacks on the Afghan government and military forces, and others not related to "reconstruction" activities.

In his triumphalist State of the Union speech on February 4, Trump spoke of ending the longest war in U.S. history and said that the U.S. military has made progress in Afghanistan and peace negotiations with the Taliban militant group are underway. But facts point to another direction.

The U.S. still has approximately 13,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and has not made any decision to return them to the U.S.

The U.S. pretext for starting a war against Afghanistan was to capture and kill the leader of the Islamist group al-Qaeda, responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, on September 11, 2001, where almost 3,000 people died.

However, although the terrorist Bin Laden was found in Pakistan and killed in the year 2011, U.S. troops and their NATO allies maintained the lost fight against the resurgence of the Taliban.

The U.S. President promised a withdrawal during the 2016 election campaign, only to give in publicly to pressure from the Washington establishment. And this time the empty words are repeated, in a clear attempt to get him re-elected next November.
Trump is the one who dictates the foreign policy of the United States. In one fell swoop, every American soldier now on Afghan soil can return home. How many more flag-wrapped coffins must return from Afghanistan before Trump stops delaying the inevitable?
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Trump Puts More Pressure on Cuba, Targets Cuban Doctors Program

The campaign against the doctors aims to strangle the revenue they bring in, much of which goes into Cuba’s health and social services, according to analysts.

Donald Trump’s administration is targeting the Cuban medical program that has helped some of the most impoverished communities worldwide, in a bid to exert more pressure on Cuba’s economy, according to a report published Tuesday by the Guardian.


Cuban Doctors Arrested, Harassed In Bolivia Return Home Safely

Washington is using a whole host of allegations to thwart the program. It has been accusing Havana of undermining democracy and interfering in the internal affairs of the countries where the doctors operate.

Among other allegations, the U.S. claims that the Cuban government is “exploiting” the medical staff deployed on the missions.

Officials in Cuba, backed by analysts who studied the work of the medical missions, retort that the U.S. is using this claim to enforce further its policy of asphyxiating Cuba’s economy in the hope of bringing down its regime.

The campaign against the doctors, which includes attempts to convince them to defect, is little more than an effort to strangle the amount of foreign revenue that they bring in, much of which put back into Cuba’s health and social services, the Guardian cited critics as saying.

“The [U.S. policy] is targeting the two main sources of external income for Cuba, first tourism and now medical services,” explained Pavel Vidal Alejandro, a Cuban-born academic at the Xavierian University in Colombia.


Bolivians in Poor Communities Suffer Lack of Healthcare

“Medical services represent around 60% of Cuba’s total foreign income. It’s the old policy of applying a high-pressure cooker strategy in the hope it will produce social protests. That didn’t happen in the past and is not happening now.”

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo is leading the campaign against the Cuban program. He has described the presence of Cuban doctors in countries from Venezuela to Brazil and Ecuador as a “sinister” interference in their affairs and praised countries like Bolivia that have expelled them.

Recent political changes in Latin America exacerbated Washington’s campaign against the Cuban doctors, leading to the withdrawal of the missions from several countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador, where far-right regimes aligned with Trump took over left-wing governments. The departure of Cuban doctors from these countries saw severe consequences for the most vulnerable populations.

USAID, the leading U.S. development agency, has also played an important role, offering to fund organizations to expose negative aspects of the Cuban scheme.

The program is known as “Cuban doctors” was founded more than 50 years ago after Fidel Castro’s revolution. It is currently active in over 60 countries.

It has provided healthcare across the globe, from indigenous Amazon peoples to impoverished areas in Africa to the victims of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

  • Published in Cuba
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