Washington always turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia, says ex-CIA officer on Khashoggi case

The White House is far more interested in ensuing Saudi Arabia’s stability than punishing it for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, former CIA officer Bob Baer said.

We’ve always turned a blind eye to what’s going on in Saudi Arabia – right from the very beginning,” Baer told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday. He stressed that the close ties between the nations make Washington reluctant to attack the kingdom not only with regards to the Khashoggi case but also on the issues of human rights abuses and the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.

 
© Global Look Press/ Aurelien Morissard

Dissident journalist and The Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi disappeared in early October after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia claims that he was killed during a spontaneous “fistfight,” and has pledged to investigate his death. Turkish officials, meanwhile, insist that the Saudis dispatched a ‘death squad’ to assassinate the journalist. His body still hasn’t been located.

Khashoggi’s murder sparked international outrage. US President Donald Trump warned that the kingdom will face a “severe punishment” if it had indeed put out a hit on the journalist. The US, however, chose to keep the existing arms deals with the Saudis and said it didn’t believe the nation’s leadership was behind the dissident’s demise.

Washington is more interested in maintaining Saudi Arabia’s stability than searching for the truth and criticizing Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, Bob Baer argued. The kingdom remains among the prime buyers of US-made arms and Washington’s strategic ally in the region.

“Saudi Arabia is a volcano right now. We don’t have players there on our side [other than MBS],” Baer, who is now an author and commentator, said. “What worries the White House is that this country could pop.”

According to the recent New York Times report, the audio recording of Khashoggi’s murder, given to the CIA by Turkey, reveals how a member of the ‘kill team’ instructed a superior to “tell your boss” about the mission’s success. The US intelligence officers believe that “boss” in question is MBS, the paper reported.

At the same time, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, who himself didn’t listen to the tape, strongly suggested that it was “not the conclusion” the officers have made.

Bob Baer found it hard to agree with Bolton and noted that the Crown Prince “is in control” of all Saudi security services. “The Saudis don’t have rogue operations – ever. It has never occurred.”

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Rouhani to Trump: 'We Will Defeat You'

The United States' reimposed sanctions on Iran will not be tolerated, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who says, "The Americans will definitely be defeated in this path. The path they have chosen is wrong and incorrect."

The United States has chosen the wrong path in reimposing sanctions on Iran and will be defeated, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

RELATED: US Reimposes Iran sanctions, Tehran Slams Trump's 'Bullying'

Washington reinstated sanctions targeting Iran's oil industry on Nov. 5 as it seeks to force the Islamic Republic to accept tougher curbs on its nuclear program, halt its development of ballistic missiles as well as its support for proxy forces in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

"The Americans will definitely be defeated in this path. The path they have chosen is wrong and incorrect," Rouhani said. "If they are being honest and they are looking for regional security, this is not the path. If they are being honest and respect the Iranian people, this is not the path."

He added, "They have made themselves more infamous in the world and in front of our people. It's clear for everyone that the incorrect and cruel sanctions of America will harm the dear and honorable people of our country."

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that Washington intends to step up enforcement of sanctions on Iran and "squeeze them very hard."

President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions after he withdrew the United States from world powers' 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached before he took office.

The other signatories - Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China remain committed to the deal. Iran has said it will stay in it only if the other powers preserve its economic benefits against U.S. pressure.

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CNN Sues White House Over Barring Of Reporter Jim Acosta

"The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta's First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process," the news network said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

Washington: CNN sued Donald Trump's administration Tuesday, alleging the White House violated journalist Jim Acosta's rights under the constitution by revoking his press credentials following a heated exchange with the US president.

"The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta's First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process," the news network said in a statement announcing the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington.

"We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process," CNN said. "If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials."

The White House had suspended Acosta's hard pass after he sparred at a news conference with the president, who demanded that the reporter yield the microphone and called him a "rude, terrible person" when he did not immediately comply.

Acosta persisted with questions and a White House intern tried to take the microphone from the CNN journalist -- an incident the Trump administration characterize as misconduct against the female aide.

Acosta banishment from the White House marked an escalation in tensions between the president and his chief media antagonist.

The White House Correspondents' Assocation welcomed CNN's lawsuit, saying "revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events."

"We continue to urge the administration to reverse course and fully reinstate CNN's correspondent," WHCA president Olivier Knox said in a statement.

"The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him."

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US sanctions hit Iranian cancer patients struggling to get life-saving meds

US sanctions are driving up the cost of cancer treatment in Iran, patients and doctors say – as restrictions reimposed on Tehran by Washington make it harder to buy life-saving medication and equipment.

Ali Shokri, a Tehran resident battling cancer, had his second round of chemotherapy after the US sanctions kicked in. The cost of each session jumped from 10 million Rial ($240) to 20 million ($475), Ali told Ruptly video agency on Monday, adding that the price hike isn’t the only problem cancer patients now face.

“The drugs can’t be found easily like before, and we have to look for them several times in different pharmacies.”

Marjan Shirazi, whose husband suffers from cancer, said that the drugs that used to be available before sanctions have now become “more expensive and rarer.”

The US assurance that the restrictions are meant to hurt the Iranian government is “an absolute lie” since the pressure from them “is directed on people as well,” she told Ruptly.

Doctors are stressing that punitive measures against Tehran make it harder – and in some cases completely impossible – to import supplies required for life-saving treatment. “When they impose sanctions on our banks, the money can’t be transferred easily to a foreign country to buy medications,” noted Ali Kazemian, who runs the Cancer Institute at the Imam Khomeini Medical Center. The doctor noted the US sanctions often block the imports of vital medical equipment.

Washington reinstated sanctions on the country after President Donald Trump had pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program – a move condemned by the EU, Russia and China, who are also signatories of the deal. The first round of restored sanctions was enacted in April, while the second lot came into force last week. The sanctions target Iran’s oil, banking and shipping industries.

READ MORE: Iranian central bank disconnected from SWIFT messaging – US treasury

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, said that the sanctions have “no impact” on the national economy. Officials in Tehran are pledging to continue oil production and foreign trade, as well to defend the country’s traditional shipping routes.

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Trump Allegedly Planning to Cut Relief Funding for Puerto Rico

CNN reports that Puerto Rico is being excluded from a spending bill intended for states damaged by this year's hurricanes.

U.S. President Donald Trump doesn’t want to deliver additional relief funding to Puerto Rico, White House officials told congressional appropriators Monday, CNN reports.

RELATED: FEMA Leaves Some 10 Million Bottles of Water to Spoil on Puerto Rican Tarmac

A White House aide told CNN that, although funding cuts have not been finalized, the U.S. territory has been excluded from a spending bill intended for states damaged by this year's hurricanes.

The aide reported that as Puerto Rican officials have not expired the relief funds, the White House has decided to forego any additional financial support “because they don’t need it and will most likely not be able to spend it.”

Last month, a tweet from the president clearly illustrated his position on the territories petitions for further assistance, saying: “The people of Puerto Rico are wonderful but the inept politicians are trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations. The U.S. will NOT bail out long outstanding & unpaid obligations with hurricane relief money!"

When the revised death toll announced in October revealed that nearly 3,000 residents had died in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Trump dismissed the report and accused Democrats of exploiting the figures as part of a smear campaign against his administration.

Eleven months after the deadly hurricane hit the island in September 2017, residents were still without power, thousands were displaced, and hundreds of homes destroyed.

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Neil Young criticises Trump after losing his home in California fires

The songwriter says state is vulnerable because of climate change and accuses US president of defying science.

Neil Young has criticised Donald Trump for his reluctance to act on climate change after California wildfires destroyed the songwriter’s home.

In a tweet posted on 10 November, the US president blamed California’s “gross mismanagement of the forests” for the damage caused by the wildfires in northern and southern California. He implied that federal funding would be withdrawn if the situation was not rectified.

In a post on his website, Young responded: “California is vulnerable – not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think. We are vulnerable because of climate change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it.”

On Sunday, Los Angeles fire chief Daryl Osby told the Guardian that climate change was undeniably a part of why the fires were more devastating and destructive than in years past. Osby said that environmental changes had expanded fire season across the state, putting a strain on resources.

Thirty-one people are known to have died in the wildfires with more than 200 people unaccounted for, according to the latest figures. The emergency now equals the 1933 Griffith Park disaster in Los Angeles as the deadliest California wildfire on record.

Young continued: “Imagine a leader who defies science, saying these solutions shouldn’t be part of his decision-making on our behalf. Imagine a leader who cares more for his own, convenient option than he does for the people he leads. Imagine an unfit leader. Now imagine a fit one.”

Young is among a number of stars known to have been affected by the wildfires. David Bowie’s long-term pianist Mike Garson tweeted on Saturday about losing his home and studio. Actor Gerard Butler posted a photograph of his charred home and thanked firefighters for their “courage, spirit and sacrifice”. Miley Cyrus said that she lost her home but escaped with her fiancé, the actor Liam Hemsworth, and their animals.

Gerard Butler @GerardButler

Returned to my house in Malibu after evacuating. Heartbreaking time across California. Inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters. Thank you @LAFD. If you can, support these brave men and women at http://SupportLAFD.org.

Lady Gaga tweeted that she had been evacuated from her residence. “I’m sitting here with many of you wondering if my home will burst into flames.”

Katy Perry and Rod Stewart also criticised Trump over his tweets. “This is an absolutely heartless response,” Perry tweeted. Stewart said: “California needs words of support & encouragement, not threats or finger pointing & accusations.”

 

 

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Trump fires back at European leaders after damp reception in France

President Trump lashed out at European leaders after French President Emmanuel Macron denounced his ‘America First’ brand of nationalism and called for the creation of a European army, independent from the US.

“Just returned from France where much was accomplished in my meetings with World Leaders,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Never easy bringing up the fact that the US must be treated fairly, which it hasn’t, on both Military and Trade. We pay for LARGE portions of other countries military protection, hundreds of billions of dollars, for the great privilege of losing hundreds of billions of dollars with these same countries on trade.”

@realDonaldTrump Just returned from France where much was accomplished in my meetings with World Leaders. Never easy bringing up the fact that the U.S. must be treated fairly, which it hasn’t, on both Military and Trade. We pay for LARGE portions of other countries military protection,........

@realDonaldTrump .....hundreds of billions of dollars, for the great privilege of losing hundreds of billions of dollars with these same countries on trade. I told them that this situation cannot continue - It is, and always has been, ridiculously unfair to the United States. Massive amounts.....

@realDonaldTrump .....of money spent on protecting other countries, and we get nothing but Trade Deficits and Losses. It is time that these very rich countries either pay the United States for its great military protection, or protect themselves...and Trade must be made FREE and FAIR!

Trump’s tirade came just one day after French President Emmanuel Macron – once regarded as a close confidant of the US president – rebuked Trump’s ‘America First’ brand of nationalism, comparing it to the forces that plunged Europe into conflict in the early 20th Century.

Speaking at an Armistice Day commemoration in Paris, Macron did not address Trump by name, but warned that "Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism...nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying our interests first, who cares about the others, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values."

At a recent campaign-style rally, Trump described himself as a “nationalist,” the first time he has done so since taking office. On Monday, the president’s beef with Maron and his European counterparts seemed to be driven more by financial concerns than ideological ones.

READ MORE: Umbrella troubles? Twitter mocks Trump as he bails on WWI commemoration over light rain

Trump has often criticized his European allies for failing to meet their defense spending targets, leaving the US to foot much of Europe’s security bill. At present, only five NATO member states – the US, UK, Greece, Estonia, and Poland – allocate two percent of their GDP to defense spending, a requirement for membership. In 2017, the US spent $686 billion on defense, over double the expenditure of all 28 other states combined.

However, European leaders as of late seem more interested in looking elsewhere for their defense needs. In a radio interview last week, Macron called for the establishment of an EU army that can defend the continent “without relying only on the United States.”

@realDonaldTrump President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!

Macron’s view was echoed by liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, a long-time proponent of a closer-knit, federal Europe. Tweeting on Saturday, Verhofstadt said that Europe cannot be “unprepared for the America First Policy.”

@guyverhofstadt Yes, @ischinger, we need to go to majority voting in the EU & yes @p61pavel we need an integrated defence capacity as a European pillar of NATO. We are stronger together, cannot afford 27 parallel defence budgets nor being unprepared for the America First Policy. https://twitter.com/p61pavel/status/1060976524978016268 

Petr Pavel @p61pavel
Replying to @ischinger

Great idea! Will this European Army be part of or parallel to NATO? And wasn’t NATO designed primarily to defend Europe?

With the commemorations marred by gray skies and constant-drizzle, Trump received the cold shoulder from activists and from the French media too. Ahead of his arrival, French comedian Yann Barthes switched to English on his primetime show, telling Trump to “go and f*** yourself. You’re not welcome in this country.”

As the president’s motorcade rolled down the Champs-Élysées, a topless feminist protester hopped the barricades and ran towards the president’s car with the words “fake peacemaker” scrawled on her chest. Police apprehended the woman, and feminist group FEMEN later released a statement attacking several of the world leaders present at the event, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bare-breasted FEMEN protester almost throws herself at Trump’s m...

“FEMEN believes that restoring world peace with those who are responsible for the ongoing wars is hypocritical,” the statement said.

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"What A Stupid Question": Trump Slaps Down Another Journalist

Washington: President Donald Trump instructed journalists Friday to show more respect in the "sacred" White House and moments later angrily refused to answer a reporter's question because it was "stupid."

The latest clash between the president and the press corps assigned to cover him followed a meltdown on Wednesday when Trump lashed out at a star CNN reporter as a "terrible person" and had him barred from the White House.

In Friday's incident, Abby Phillip, also from CNN, asked Trump whether he wanted his new attorney general to hold back an explosive probe into allegations that the president's 2016 election campaign colluded with Russian agents.

The topic has been one of the main headlines in Washington since Wednesday when Trump abruptly fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general and named Matthew Whitaker, who has strongly criticized the Russia probe, to replace him. Critics have accused Trump of placing an ally who will try to muzzle special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Trump, speaking just before leaving for an international gathering in Paris to commemorate World War I, refused to answer Phillip.

"What a stupid question that is, what a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions," he said, shaking a finger at the journalist, then walking away.

Moments earlier he'd defended his decision to bar CNN reporter Jim Acosta following their exchange at Wednesday's press conference, saying that Acosta "is a very unprofessional guy."

Asked how long Acosta will be denied the credential allowing him to work inside the White House, Trump said he hadn't decided and seemed to indicate that the extremely unusual sanction could be applied to more journalists.

"It could be others also," he said.

Trump went on to refer to another reporter, April Ryan, who works for American Urban Radio Networks and CNN, as "a loser" and "very nasty."

The president said that the bad blood between him and the media was the fault of journalists showing insufficient deference.

"When you're in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me. It's a very special place. You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect," he said.

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