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World Monthly Headline News December 2019 Page 1


Trump warns Iranian supreme leader who called him a 'clown' to be 'very careful with his words'

By Michael Collins, Kim Hjelmgaard, David Jackson - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump fired back Friday evening at Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who earlier had mocked him as a "clown" – then in a subsequent tweet Trump said Iran's leaders "should abandon terror and Make Iran Great Again!" “The so-called ‘Supreme Leader' of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!” Trump tweeted hours after Khamenei called him a "clown" who will "push a poisonous dagger" into Iran's back. In a rare public address as he led Friday prayers in Tehran, Khamenei also defended Iran's military after it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane.

The United States' main allies are abandoning Trump as his threats to world leaders backfire

By Adam Bienkov

President Donald Trump's decision to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has exposed a growing rift between the US and its historically closest allies in Europe. The attack was met with a remarkable level of criticism by European leaders. The UK threatened to cut back on its long-standing defense alliance with Trump, and Germany suggested openly that the importance of its relationship with the US was declining. Trump responded by threatening European leaders with a new trade war if they remained committed to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Yet rather than bring US allies into line, Trump's threats merely highlighted the declining importance that many European leaders now place in the transatlantic alliance. Here's how Trump's international allies are increasingly abandoning the president as his administration alienates them.

UK threatens to cut defense ties

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was endorsed by Trump when he entered office and has previously been keen to stay close to the Trump administration. Trump's order to kill Soleimani, however, has triggered a remarkable turnaround in the UK prime minister's approach to the US. In the immediate aftermath of Soleimani's assassination in a drone strike in Iraq, an operation the US did not warn the UK would take place, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that the conflict was "in none of our interests," adding that the only winners of an Iranian war would be the Islamic State terrorist group. Johnson also spoke out against the US policy, urging Trump to "dial this down" and warning that targeting Iranian cultural sites, as Trump threatened, would be a war crime.

Pentagon now says U.S. troops were injured in Iran missile attack

CBS This Morning

The U.S. military now says several Americans were injured when Iran fired missiles at troops at an Iraqi air base in retaliation for killing its most powerful general. This most recent statement comes after the Pentagon reported that no Americans were harmed in the attack. David Martin is at the Pentagon to break down the shifting accounts.

Trump Administration’s Shifting Statements on Soleimani’s Death

By Eugene Kiely

Since announcing on Jan. 2 that a U.S. operation had killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration has offered various accounts of the intelligence assessments that President Donald Trump relied on to make his decision. Initially, Trump administration officials said Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack” against U.S. service members and diplomats without providing any evidence or offering any details. “We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where — but it was real,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Jan. 9 interview.

Over the course of two days, Jan. 9 and Jan. 10, the president escalated the imminent threats posed by Soleimani with new details — but no evidence — that even members of Congress were not given in their classified briefings. On Jan. 9, Trump told reporters Soleimani was threatening to “blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and later told his supporters at a political rally that Soleimani “was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad.” A day later, Trump told Fox News, “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”

But, in the Fox News interview, Trump hedged his revelations with the words “I believe” and “I think.” He went on in that interview to say, “I think it would have been four embassy, could have been military bases, could have been a lot of other things too.” Two days later, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he “didn’t see” any intelligence that indicated the Iranians would attack four embassies. He also said the president was merely expressing his belief that there “could have been attacks against additional embassies.”

The Iranian government is turning on its military after it lied about the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane

By Rosie Perper

Iran's leadership has turned on its military its response to last week's downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in the country's capital, Tehran, which killed all 176 people on board. Iran initially insisted that the plane crashed because of technical issues, but days later it said its Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down the Boeing 737-800 by mistake. Iran has promised to prosecute those involved, and senior officials have been quick to accept responsibility for the jet's downing.

Amirali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guard's head of aerospace, on Saturday said in a video posted online by Iranian state television that the Iranian military branch accepted full responsibility for the disaster. "I wish I could die and not witness such an accident," Hajizadeh said, according to Reuters.

Ukraine opens criminal probe into possible surveillance of ex-US ambassador

By Devan Cole, Jennifer Hansler and Mary Ilyushina, CNN

Washington (CNN) Police in Ukraine are investigating the possible surveillance of former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the country's Interior Ministry announced Thursday. The criminal investigation into possible spying on Yovanovitch is in response to the US House Intelligence Committee's publication of notes suggesting she was illegally spied on in Ukraine, the ministry said.

Texts released earlier this week by House Democrats that were turned over to them by indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas show Connecticut Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde berating Yovanovitch and suggest he was monitoring her while she was in Kiev and relaying her movements to Parnas. Hyde declined to comment to CNN when asked if he had surveilled Yovanovitch, who served as a key witness in the House impeachment probe into President Donald Trump.

"Ukraine's position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published records contain the fact of possible violation of the legislation of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat in the territory of another country," a ministry statement said. "Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on its territory. After analyzing these materials, the National Police of Ukraine upon their publication started criminal proceedings," the statement said.

Days before Europeans warned Iran of nuclear deal violations, Trump secretly threatened to impose 25% tariff on European autos if they didn’t

By John Hudson and Souad Mekhennet

A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries. If they refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles, the Trump officials warned, according to European officials familiar with the conversations.

Within days, the three countries would formally accuse Iran of violating the deal, triggering a recourse provision that could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran and unravel the last remaining vestiges of the Obama-era agreement. The U.S. effort to coerce European foreign policy through tariffs, a move one European official equated to “extortion,” represents a new level of hardball tactics with the United States’ oldest allies, underscoring the extraordinary tumult in the transatlantic relationship. President Trump has previously used the threat of a 25 percent tariff on automobiles to win more-favorable terms in the country’s trade relationship with the Europeans, but not to dictate the continent’s foreign policy.

“The tariff threat is a mafia-like tactic, and it’s not how relations  between allies typically work,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the research  director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Russian government resigns after Putin proposes reforms that would weaken his successor

By Mary Ilyushina

Moscow, Russia (CNN) The entire Russian government is resigning, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday, after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping reforms that would weaken his successor. Putin thanked members of the government for their work but added that "not everything worked out." Putin added that in the near future he would meet with each member of the cabinet. The mass resignation includes Medvedev.

The surprise announcement came after Putin proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the powers of the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the presidency. Handing parliament more power at the expense of presidential authority could signal a power shift that has been long speculated about in Russia. Putin's critics have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain his grip on control after 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers. Similarly, in 2008 Putin swapped places with the prime minister to circumvent the constitutional provision banning the same person from serving two consecutive terms.

In his statement, Medvedev indicated that the government was resigning to clear the way for Putin's proposed reforms.
Putin "outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution, significant changes not only to a number of articles of the constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole," Medvedev said in his statement, which was aired on Russian state television.

World War 3 fears intensify as US army base in Iraq targeted by multiple rockets

US forces at the Camp Taji base north of Baghdad have been targeted by multiple rockets on Tuesday evening.
By Brian McGleenon

The number of American casualties from the strike still unknown The strike on the US Army base has reignited fears of conflict in the region. At least one rocket is believed to have landed close to gates of the base, which is home to coalition forces near Baghdad. Reports say at least one member of security forces has been injured.

Freelance Journalist based in the Middle East Danny Makki tweeted, “the injured security member is reportedly Iraqi". He added: “One of the Katyusha rockets landed near one of the gates, with a member of security forces apparently wounded. “2 katyusha rockets have reportedly hit Camp Taji.” Mr Makki has described reports suggesting “the attack was apparently ‘huge’” “The attack has been described as ‘fierce’ and ‘violent’.”

Arrests made in Iran after Ukrainian plane shot down l ABC News

ABC News
Iran confirmed some arrests have been made related to the accidental shooting down of a passenger plane.






















‘Four embassies’: The anatomy of Trump’s unfounded claim about Iran

By Philip Rucker, John Hudson, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey

The theory was born last Thursday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where President Trump stood before men in hard hats and orange construction vests for an environmental announcement and offered a fresh rationale for his controversial order to kill a top Iranian general. “They were looking to blow up our embassy,” Trump said, referring to the heavily secured Baghdad facility that had become a magnet for protesters. Later that night, at a raucous campaign rally in Ohio, Trump added to his story. The Iranians, he claimed, were planning to attack not only the U.S. Embassy in Iraq but also an undisclosed number of embassies in other countries.

And then Trump fleshed out his claim even further. “I can reveal I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” he said in an interview Friday with Fox News Channel. Based on what is known so far, Trump’s statement was at best an unfounded theory and at worst a falsehood. At each turn in the commander in chief’s rapidly evolving narrative of why he authorized the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the machinery of government scrambled to adapt and respond.

The result is a credibility crisis for an administration that has long struggled to communicate factual information to the public. At a perilous moment for the nation’s security, with the United States at the brink of war with Iran, Trump is unable to rely on trustworthiness to justify his decision to take out Soleimani, both because of his lengthy record of exaggerations and lies and because of his ever-shifting rationales.

Trump authorized Soleimani's killing 7 months ago, with conditions

The timing raises new questions about the Trump administration's stated justification for taking out the top Iranian general.
By Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran's increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials. The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final signoff on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump two weeks ago for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq, in which a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. service members were wounded, the officials said. The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration's stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.

Thousands of Iranian protesters hit streets condemning leaders over downed plane

By Sheena McKenzie, Madeline Holcombe and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

(CNN) Apologies from Iranian leaders over the downing of an airliner last week have done little to quell mass anti-government protests spreading across the country. Thousands of demonstrators hit the streets this weekend condemning Iranian authorities for shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane and killing all 176 people on board. The airliner disaster came hours after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US troops. That was retaliation for a drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

Amid rising tensions in the region, eight Katyusha rockets hit Iraq's Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad, on Sunday, wounding four Iraqi air force officers, the Iraqi military said in a statement. No American or coalition forces were at the base when the rockets struck, a US military official told CNN. In Iran, demonstrators are calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted. "Khamenei have shame. Leave the country," chanted protesters in the capital, Tehran, in footage posted on social media. Khamenei has been in office for three decades, and there is no limit to his term.

Pentagon Chief: I “Didn’t See” Intelligence Showing Iran Planned to Attack 4 U.S. Embassies

By Daniel Politi

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday that he did not see any specific evidence that showed Iran planned to attack four U.S. embassies as President Donald Trump had claimed. The Pentagon chief later appeared to try to row back what he had said, insisting he shared the same assessment as the commander in chief but refused to detail whether there was any actual intelligence that would back up the claim.

“I didn’t see one, with regard to four embassies,” Esper said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “What I’m saying is that I shared the president’s view that probably—my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country.”

The UK is abandoning its alliance with Trump as the United States 'withdraws from its leadership around the world'

By Adam Bienkov

Donald Trump's decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani has triggered a major rupture between the United States and its historically closest ally in the United Kingdom. In remarkably outspoken comments, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Sunday that Trump's isolationist foreign policy stance meant the UK was now looking for alternative allies around the world. "I worry if the United States withdraws from its leadership around the world," he told the Sunday Times. He added: "The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a US coalition is really just not where we are going to be." The comments came after Boris Johnson's government distanced itself from the attack last week, with the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab labelling it a "dangerous escalation," which risked a conflict in which "terrorists would be the only winners."

Iranian protesters take to streets after Tehran admits Ukrainian plane was shot down unintentionally in fear of US aggression

By Madeline Holcombe, Artemis Moshtaghian and Ray Sanchez, CNN

(CNN) Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Iran Saturday after Tehran admitted that it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people. Thousands gathered outside the gates of Amir Kabir University, near the former American embassy in Tehran, to denounce the plane crash the government blamed on human error and "US adventurism." Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 crashed Wednesday after takeoff from Tehran's airport. The crash came hours after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing US troops in retaliation for a drone strike at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
In video posted on social media, protesters on Saturday chanted for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted. "Death to the dictator," some chanted.

A mass vigil commemorating the victims of the doomed flight escalated into an angry demonstration following the government admission, according to Iran's semi-official FARS News Agency. University graduates migrating to Canada were among those who perished in the crash. Their anger was fueled in large part by the nation's armed forces claim that it targeted the passenger plane unintentionally. It attributed the crash to radar activity and fear of US action. "The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said. After the missile operation in Iraq, US military flights around Iranian borders increased and Iranian military officials reported seeing aerial targets coming toward strategic centers, according to a statement by Iranian armed forces headquarters.

State Department tells Iraq it will not discuss US troop withdrawal

By Amanda Macias

WASHINGTON — The State Department said in a statement Friday that the U.S. will not hold discussions with Iraq regarding American troop withdrawal from the country. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “There does, however, need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership. We want to be a friend and partner to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq,” Ortagus added, writing that “America is a force for good in the Middle East.” The latest revelation from the State Department further deepens confusion over plans for U.S. troops in the region.

Russia's Vladimir Putin oversees hypersonic missile test near Crimea

By Darya Tarasova, Zahra Ullah and Jack Guy, CNN

(CNN) Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw military exercises off the coast of Crimea on Thursday that included the launching of a hypersonic missile system. Russia's Black Sea and Northern Fleets held joint drills in the Black Sea during which they practiced the launch of the Kalibr cruise missiles and the hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile Kinzhal, according to Russian state news agency TASS. More than 30 ships, 40 aircraft and one submarine were involved in the exercises, TASS reported. "The drills have been held successfully," Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, reported to Putin.

Two MIG-31K fighters practiced target-firing using the Kinzhal ballistic missile and crews of the Admiral Grigorovich frigate, small missile ship Orekhovo-Zuyevo and submarine Kolpino tested the launch of the Kalibr missiles. Putin watched the launches from aboard the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser. Hypersonic is generally defined as a speed of Mach 5, or over 3,836 mph. The missiles fly into space after launch, but then come down and fly at high speeds on a flight path similar to that of an airplane. Their lower trajectory make them more difficult for US missile defense satellites and radars to detect.

Video Shows Ukrainian Plane Being Hit Over Iran

The New York Times has obtained video that shows the moment a Ukrainian airliner was hit minutes after takeoff from Tehran.
By Christiaan Triebert, Malachy Browne, Sarah Kerr and Ainara Tiefenthäler

Video verified by The New York Times appears to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane above Parand, near Tehran’s airport, the area where a Ukrainian airliner stopped transmitting its signal before it crashed on Wednesday.

Trudeau says Canada has intelligence Iran shot down Ukrainian airliner

By Jim Sciutto, Pamela Brown, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday his country has intelligence from their own sources and allies that suggests a Ukrainian airliner was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. "This may have been unintentional," he said at a press conference in Ottawa. Trudeau has called for a thorough investigation into what caused the crash but would not provide additional details about the evidence and intelligence he cited. CNN reported earlier Thursday that the US increasingly believes Iran mistakenly shot down the airliner, according to multiple US officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence. A US official familiar with the intelligence said the plane was shot down by two Russian made SA-15 surface to air missiles. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner, before it was shot down.

Satellite Photos Reveal Extent Of Damage From Iranian Strike On Air Base In Iraq

By Geoff Brumfiel

Satellite photos taken Wednesday show that an Iranian missile strike has caused extensive damage at the Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq, which hosts U.S. and coalition troops. The photos, taken by the commercial company Planet and shared with NPR via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, show hangars and buildings hit hard by a barrage of Iranian missiles that were fired early Wednesday morning local time.

At least five structures were damaged in the attack on the base in Anbar province, which apparently was precise enough to hit individual buildings. "Some of the locations struck look like the missiles hit dead center," says David Schmerler, an analyst with the Middlebury Institute. Iran's attack targeted at least two military bases in Iraq. The extent of the damage to the second base, in Irbil, was unclear.

Trump says 'Iran appears to be standing down' following its retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops

By Nicole Gaouette, Hamdi Alkhshali, Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr and Tamara Qiblawi, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump, facing the gravest test of his presidency, signaled a de-escalation of tensions with Iran Wednesday in the wake of Iran's retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops. "Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said, striking a somber tone during his White House statement.

An early warning system worked well and no American or Iraqi lives were lost, Trump said. The President also outlined new sanctions on Iran and reiterated his vow that "Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon." "The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said during an address to the nation from the White House, noting his administration is continuing to review other options to respond to the Iranian missile strike on Tuesday.

Much Of The World Doesn't Trust President Trump, Pew Survey Finds

By Scott Neuman

A clear majority of people living outside the U.S. do not trust President Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, with fewer than one-third expressing confidence in him — an opinion also reflected in attitudes toward America generally, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. However, the metrics have improved somewhat for the president since a similar survey two years ago, increasing to 29% expressing confidence from 22%.

The survey published Wednesday was conducted in 33 countries from the spring to early autumn of last year, after relations between the U.S. and North Korea had thawed somewhat but just as tensions were ratcheting up between Washington and Tehran. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that the percentage of those surveyed who expressed "no confidence" in Trump (64%) was a mirror image of the 64% who expressed confidence in President Barack Obama in a survey published in June 2017. In the earlier survey, favorable views of the United States dropped from 64% at the end of the Obama presidency to 49% when Trump became president. That "favorable" opinion of the U.S. had edged up to 54% in the report published Wednesday.

Trump last among five leaders

The Pew study also sought to gauge respondents' opinions on other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Over 1 billion animals feared dead in Australian wildfires

By Sophie Lewis

Last week, an ecologist at the University of Sydney estimated that nearly half a billion animals had been wiped out since Australia's devastating wildfires started spreading in September. Now, he says that number has soared to over 800 million in New South Wales and over 1 billion nationally.  "I think there's nothing quite to compare with the devastation that's going on over such a large area so quickly," University of Sydney professor Chris Dickman told CBS News on Tuesday. "It's a monstrous event in terms of geography and the number of individual animals affected." The figure includes mammals (excluding bats), birds and reptiles. It does not include frogs, insects or other invertebrates.

Analysis by Nick Paton Walsh, International Security Editor, CNN

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN) It is perhaps the most brazen attack Iran has launched against the United States in four decades of simmering covert and overt conflict. The timing. The target. The threats of heavy retaliation already "locked and loaded," as President Trump would have had it. Yet Wednesday morning's missile strikes against al-Asad airbase and Erbil airport -- both of which play host to US troops -- were clearly not an act designed to kill the most Americans possible.

Iran will have known that the troops are normally asleep in the early hours of the morning. Choosing to attack then likely minimized the number of personnel roaming around the base who could be killed or injured. It will also have known the US has a strong air defense system that would have been on high alert. Tehran should have a grasp of how well its missiles would fare against such technology. The missile attacks don't make sense if Tehran's goal was to really hurt US troops in large numbers -- as some had been pledging to do.

US forces on high alert for possible Iranian drone attacks, and intelligence shows Iran moving military equipment

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent

Washington (CNN) US forces and air-defense missile batteries across the Middle East were placed on high alert overnight Monday to possibly shoot down Iranian drones as intelligence mounted about a threat of an imminent attack against US targets, two US officials tell CNN. The alert reflects the heightened tensions between the US and Iran in the wake of last week's US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani. US officials have claimed the strike against the general was carried out to prevent an "imminent" attack in the region that would have put American lives at risk, but have so far declined to provide details about the intelligence.

US intelligence also has observed Iran moving military equipment, including drones and ballistic missiles, over the last several days. US officials said the movement may be an Iranian effort to secure its weapons from a potential US strike, or put them in positions to launch their own attacks. "There were indications that we needed to monitor the threats" even more closely than is already being done, one of the US officials said, referring to Monday night's state of heightened alert. The second official described it as "all Patriot batteries and forces in the area on high alert" against an "imminent attack threat." Iran has put missiles on its drones that have been used in other attacks, including a significant attack on Saudi oil installations last year. While forces have already been on high alert for several days, they were even more vigilant Monday night, both officials said.

By John Fritze USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threatened to impose deep sanctions on Iraq if it moves to expel U.S. troops and said Sunday he would not withdraw entirely unless the military is compensated for the "extraordinarily expensive air base" there.

Trump's remarks came on the same day that Iraq's Parliament voted to support expelling the U.S. military from its country over mounting anger about a drone strike the president ordered last week that killed Iran's Qasem Soleimani and earlier U.S. airstrikes in the country. The vote was nonbinding.

"We've spent a lot of money in Iraq," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned to Washington after spending the holidays at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. "We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. ... We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it."

The president threatened Iran over potential retaliation for the death of a top general, and Iraq over the potential expulsion of United States troops.
By Maggie Haberman

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday evening doubled down on his claim that he would target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the targeted killing of one of its top generals, and threatened “very big sanctions” on Iraq if American troops are forced to leave the country.

Aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida, Mr. Trump reiterated to reporters the spirit of a Twitter post on Saturday, when he said the United States government had identified 52 sites for retaliation against Iran if there were a response to Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s death. Some, he tweeted, were of “cultural” significance.

Such a move could be considered a war crime under international laws, but Mr. Trump said Sunday that he was undeterred. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” the president said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

U.S. service member and 2 contractors killed in terrorist attack on military base in Kenya


A U.S. service member and two Defense Department contractors were killed Sunday in an attack by an al Qaeda-linked group on a military base in Kenya used by American forces, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed. Witnesses told BBC News they heard gunfire and saw plumes of black smoke emerge from Camp Simba in the Lamu region of Kenya. The U.S. Africa Command blamed al Shabaab, al Qaeda's outpost in Africa, for the attack. The names of the dead are being withheld pending family notification.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today," said U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, in a statement. "As we honor their sacrifice, let's also harden our resolve. Alongside our African and international partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack and al Shabaab who seeks to harm Americans and U.S. interests. We remain committed to preventing al Shabaab from maintaining a safe haven to plan deadly attacks against the U.S. homeland, East African, and international partners."

Huge crowds flood Tehran streets for Soleimani's funeral, calling for revenge and retaliation

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

(CNN) Tehran's streets were packed with black-clad mourners Monday as a sea of people turned out to pay their respects to Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad last week. The mourners carried photographs of Soleimani, a revered and powerful figure who headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps elite Quds Force and led Iran's overseas operations. Many of those on the streets of the Iranian capital were visibly upset and angry; others shouted "down with the USA" and "death to the USA." Iranian state television said millions attended, although this was yet to be verified.

Iran Abandons Nuclear Deal as Killing Fallout Widens

By Abeer Abu Omar, Layan Odeh, Dana Khraiche, and Josh Wingrove

Fallout widened from last week’s killing of a top Iranian military commander by a U.S. drone in Baghdad, as Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from the country and Iran said it would no longer abide by any limits on its enrichment of uranium.

Iran no longer considers itself bound by the 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated with the U.S. and other world powers, its government said on Sunday, according to the semi-official Fars news organization. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact in 2018.

Iraq’s parliament, which denounced the drone strike early Friday as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty, asked the government to revoke its 2014 request for foreign military intervention to beat back Islamic State, which had conquered large chunks of the country.

The developments led Trump to double down late Sunday on his tactics. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump repeated a threat to strike Iranian cultural sites if U.S. citizens or sites are struck in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. He also sent a warning to Iraq, saying that U.S. troops won’t leave the nation without billions in payment for a base there -- or, they’d leave and Trump would apply sanctions to the country, which is an ally.

By Zachary Cohen, Vicky Ward and Pamela Brown, CNN

Washington (CNN)The Trump administration has warned members of Congress that Iran is expected to retaliate against the US "within weeks" for the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani even as they failed to convince some that the operation was merited due to an imminent threat against American lives. There are also intense discussions taking place inside US military and intelligence agencies to assess whether Iran might be preparing some type of retaliatory strikes in the next few days or wait for some time, according to a US official with direct knowledge of the situation. "There are conflicting views" on whether Iran will quickly retaliate or wait, but US military defenses are ready, the official said. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley publicly addressed the issue of potential retaliation from Iran Friday. When asked whether there is now a risk to US safety in the region, Milley bluntly said, "Damn right there is risk."

Who was Qassem Soleimani?

CBS This Morning

The loss of Qassem Soleimani is a heavy blow to Iran. He was a war hero and the commander of Iran's feared Quds Force, responsible for secretive foreign operations. He wasn’t well-known in the U.S., but he was one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East, sometimes even touted as a possible future leader of Iran. Holly Williams reports from Iraq on what Soleimani's death means for the tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Live Updates: Iran Vows ‘Forceful Revenge’ After U.S. Kills General

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised retaliation against those who killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in Baghdad. The U.S. moved to send more troops to the Middle East.
New York Times

U.S. prepares to send additional troops to the Middle East. Around the time that an overnight airstrike killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a deployment of the elite Army Rangers based in the United States boarded transport aircraft bound for the Middle East on Thursday night, a Pentagon official said. This week, the Defense Department readied 4,000 paratroopers based at Fort Bragg, N.C., for a similar security mission to Kuwait, 750 of which have already deployed.

General Suleimani, a powerful strategist who represented Iran’s influence across the region, was killed by an American drone at Baghdad’s airport, in an attack that had been authorized by President Trump and that ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran. Iran’s leaders quickly promised retaliation for the general’s killing. Iraq’s Parliament planned to hold an emergency session over the weekend to address the airstrike, which Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called “a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a blatant attack on the nation’s dignity.” The strike, regarded by analysts as perhaps the riskiest American move in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, threatened to tip hostilities with the United States and its partners across the region into a new war.

Iran promises revenge, as Trump defends strike.

Iranian leaders issued strident calls on Friday for revenge against the United States after the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in an overnight airstrike at the Baghdad airport.

US airstrikes LIVE: Updates as fears of World War 3 erupt after Trump orders brutal attack

FEARS of a looming World War 3 are growing after the US killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and architect of Iran's spreading military influence in the Middle East, in an air strike on Baghdad airport ordered by Donald Trump.
By Simon Osborne

Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Gen Soleimani, was also killed in the attack that was authorised by US President Donald Trump. Their convoy was destroyed in a pinpoint attack by US forces as it drove towards the airport. Get Soleimani's killing marks a dramatic escalation in the regional "shadow war" between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could quickly ratchet up tit-for-tat attacks. The attack is expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation against Israel and American interests after its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed harsh revenge.

CNN

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the US airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Forces,  is a "dangerous and foolish escalation." Soleimani -- the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force unit -- and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis -- the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) -- were among those killed in the attack early Friday morning local time, according to a statement from the PMF, which said the pair "were martyred by an American strike." The killing of Soleimani, one of the most powerful men in Iran and the wider region, is is an audacious and unexpected move that marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran that can be traced back to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Taiwan's top military official dies in helicopter crash which kills eight

The Telegraph

Taiwan's top military official was among eight people killed after the helicopter carrying them made a forced landing in a mountainous area near the capital Taipei, the defence ministry said. The main portion of the helicopter lay in a northern forest wreathed in mist, with its blades shattered into pieces, as dozens of rescuers combed the wreck for survivors, pictures released by emergency authorities showed.

Interpol Sends Lebanon Notice About Fugitive Auto Exec Carlos Ghosn

By David Welna

A wanted notice was delivered to Lebanese authorities on Thursday by Interpol for Carlos Ghosn, three days after the former head of Nissan jumped bail in Japan and surreptitiously fled to Beirut via Turkey. In addition, seven people suspected of being accomplices in Ghosn's escape to Lebanon have been detained in Turkey.

Interpol's Red Notice, as its notification to Beirut is known, is not an international arrest warrant for Ghosn, who is facing financial misconduct charges. It is simply, according to the agency, "a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action." Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan says Ghosn may be called in for questioning, according to Lebanon's state-owned National News Agency. It quotes Serhan as saying, "The prosecution received the warrant, and it will endeavor to take the required measures related, including the interrogation of [Ghosn]."

Because Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan, Serhan indicated that Lebanon would "follow its internal laws" in the case. In an interview with The Associated Press, Lebanon's justice minister says his nation's prosecutors plan to summon Ghosn and hear his side of the story. "I can confirm that the Lebanese state will implement the law," he added. "The prosecution will not stay cross-armed regarding this Red Notice."

Trump warns Turkey's Erdogan against military intervention in Libya

By CAITLIN OPRYSKO

President Donald Trump on Thursday warned his Turkish counterpart against sending troops to fight in Libya hours after the Turkish Parliament voted to authorize such a move. Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed several “bilateral and regional issues,” according to a readout of the call released by the White House, as well as simmering tensions and ongoing instability in Libya that have been condemned by the top United Nations official there. In Libya, where a rival regime in the nation's east has attempted a coup to oust the Tripoli-based government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, "foreign interference is complicating the situation,” Trump said, according to the White House.

'What the hell were you thinking?': Trump berated White House staff for not telling him Putin was trying to call him

By David Cho

President Donald Trump berated his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and other senior staff members for holding off on arranging a phone call with the Russian president soon after taking office, according to a new book on the Trump administration's contentious relationship with the Pentagon.

In "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos," the national security reporter Peter Bergen recounted the tenuous conversation between the US president and his staffers, one of many intimate talks whose details were sourced from dozens of interviews with current and former White House officials and military officers.

On January 27, 2017, weeks after winning the presidency, Trump had his first official visit from a foreign leader at the White House, with British Prime Minister Theresa May. During lunch, May asked Trump if he had talked to Putin, according to Bergen.

U.S. sees signs Iran or proxies may be planning more attacks: Pentagon chief

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday there were indications Iran or forces it backs may be planning additional attacks, warning that the “game has changed” and it was possible the United States might have to take preemptive action to protect American lives. “There are some indications out there that they may be planning additional attacks, that is nothing new ... we’ve seen this for two or three months now,” Esper told reporters, without providing evidence or details about the U.S. assessment.

“If that happens then we will act and by the way, if we get word of attacks or some type indication, we will take preemptive action as well to protect American forces to protect American lives.” Iranian-backed demonstrators hurled rocks at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during two days of protests, then withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops.

Iraq: Anti-government protesters denounce pro-Iran crowds

Anti-gov't protesters in Baghdad accuse authorities of double standard for not cracking down on pro-Iran demonstrators.

Anti-government rallies continued in Iraq's capital in the aftermath of a separate day-long protest outside the United States embassy. Protesters have for months occupied Baghdad's iconic Tahrir Square, just across the Tigris River from the Green Zone, home to government offices, the United Nations headquarters and foreign embassies. The youth-led demonstrations have rocked Iraq since early October, demanding the removal of a governing class seen as corrupt, inept and beholden to Iran.

Israel's Netanyahu seeks immunity from prosecution in corruption cases

By Oren Liebermann and Amir Tal, CNN

(CNN) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has requested immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases in which he faces indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu submitted the request to the Knesset late Wednesday night, saying he plans on leading the country "for many years to come." "What is being done to me is a field court-martial by misleading the public," Netanyahu said in a televised statement Wednesday evening in Jerusalem. "The immunity law is intended to protect elected officials from fabricated legal proceedings -- from political indictment intended to damage the will of the people. This law intends to ensure that those elected can serve the people according to the will of the people, not the will of the law clerks." Charges against Netanyahu were unveiled in November. He's maintained his innocence throughout the ongoing criminal proceedings, calling them an "attempted coup" led by the left and the media.

Political rival slams request

Rival Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party, blasted Netanyahu's request, saying voters will have two choices in the upcoming elections in March. " ... the interests of Netanyahu will win or the national interest will win. Or there will be an extreme immunity government or there will be broad unity government. Or the kingdom of Netanyahu or the State of Israel," said Gantz shortly after Netanyahu spoke. "Blue and White led by me will do everything according to the law." Members of Knesset, including the Prime Minister, are entitled by law to request parliamentary immunity from prosecution. The request is considered by the Knesset's House Committee. If the request is approved in the committee, it is then passed on to a vote in the full 120-member Knesset.

Why North Korea's Kim Jong Un May Be Leaving The Door Open To Nuclear Talks

By Anthony Kuhn

After keeping the world waiting and watching, first for a "Christmas present" to the U.S., and then for a New Year's shift to a harder line on nuclear negotiations, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered neither. Some analysts believe a key reason behind his calculations may be President Trump's prospects for surviving an impeachment process and possibly winning a second term in the White House.

"Donald Trump happens to be the first sitting U.S. president to view North Korea as a source of political victory, for domestic purposes," says Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow and expert on North Korea at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank. Pyongyang has said it has no intention of handing President Trump any victories on denuclearization, but officials see Trump's eagerness to tout achievements to his domestic audience as a source of leverage.

In remarks carried by state media, Kim on Tuesday had plenty of tough words for the U.S. as he addressed a plenum of the ruling Workers Party Central Committee. He acknowledged the countries' current stalemate on nuclear talks, but insisted he would not passively wait for things to improve. "We should never dream that the U.S. and the hostile forces would leave us alone to live in peace, but we should make [a] frontal breakthrough with the might of self-reliance," he told the plenum as it wrapped up four days of meetings. He also asserted that North Korea is no longer constrained by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and long-range missile testing.

Behind-the-scenes report sheds light on Ukraine aid freeze at center of Trump’s impeachment

By Kevin Breuninger

A new report paints the most detailed picture yet of the internal strife surrounding the White House’s freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, which is at the center of President Donald Trump’s impeachment in Congress. The report from The New York Times, constructed from interviews with dozens of officials and previously unreleased documents, sheds new light on the key figures in the Trump administration’s dealings with Kyiv.

It also probes Trump’s own insistence that the congressionally mandated military aid package be withheld as he sought investigations into Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who worked on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father served under President Barack Obama. On Tuesday morning, Trump repeated his accusations against the Bidens and his criticism of the impeachment process.

The president’s latest tweet is sure to add some more fuel to the impeachment war: a clash between Republicans and Democrats over whether the rules of Trump’s eventual trial in the Senate should allow witnesses to be heard or questioned.

US sending additional forces to protect embassy threatened by protesters in Iraq

By Caroline Kelly and Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) The United States will send approximately 750 soldiers to the Middle East immediately, Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed in a written statement Tuesday, after attacks broke out in Baghdad among hundreds of protesters in response to airstrikes in Iraq and Syria conducted by US forces on Sunday. "At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division (in Fort Bragg, North Carolina) to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq," Esper said, adding that additional forces "are prepared to deploy over the next several days."

"This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world," Esper added. In a statement earlier Tuesday, Esper said the US would deploy "additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy" and that officials had "taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats" serving in Iraq. "As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so," Esper said.

400 protesters in Hong Kong arrested after thousands join New Year's Day rally

Several protesters were carrying American flags to show gratitude for backing of legislation supporting human rights in Hong Kong.
By Mark Roberts, Veta Chan and Yuliya Talmazan

HONG KONG — Around 400 protesters were arrested after a police-approved march attended by tens of thousands on New Year's Day escalated into violence, authorities said.

The arrests, which police said were for unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons, came after officers fired several rounds of tear gas, as anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous city continued into the new year.

Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK showed pepper spray and tear gas being deployed against demonstrators in the busy commercial district of Wan Chai Wednesday afternoon as protesters marched from the city’s Victoria Park and into the central business district.

John Bolton urges US to stop military exercises in South Korea after Kim Jong Un remark

By Mark Moore

Former national security adviser John Bolton said the US should cancel military exercises with South Korea and hold hearings to determine US troop readiness on the Korean peninsula following Kim Jong Un’s remarks that he no longer has to abide by a ban on testing nuclear weapons. “How to respond to Kim Jong Un’s threatening New Year’s remarks? The U.S. should fully resume all canceled or down-sized military exercises in South Korea,” Bolton, who’s been highly critical of President Trump’s handling of Kim’s nuclear ambitions, wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

“Hold Congressional hearings on whether US troops are truly ready to ‘fight tonight.'” he added, referring to the motto of the US military in South Korea. Kim, speaking at a Workers’ Party meeting, said North Korea is no longer bound by a self-imposed ban on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and announced that his regime would unveil a “new strategic weapon” soon.

He accused the US of making “gangster-like demands” and conducting a “hostile policy” by continuing to participate in joint operations with South Korea’s military. Trump, speaking Tuesday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, said he believes Kim will keep to the agreement the two leaders signed during the June 2018 summit in Singapore not to test weapons.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warns of ‘shocking’ action, new strategic weapon

By Amanda Macias

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Wednesday he will continue developing his country’s nuclear deterrent and introduce a new strategic weapon in the near future, according to the North’s state-run media KCNA. Kim’s remarks came after the United States missed a year-end deadline for a restart of denuclearization talks. The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped North Korea would “choose peace.” “So, seeing that reporting publicly, it remains the case that we hope that Chairman Kim will take a different course,” Pompeo told Fox News in an interview. “We’re hopeful that ... Chairman Kim will make the right decision - he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.” Kim convened a rare four-day meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s policy-making committee since Saturday as the United States had not responded to his repeated calls for concessions to reopen negotiations, dismissing the deadline as artificial.

Pope Francis apologizes after slapping woman's hand who grabbed him in St. Peter's Square

By N'dea Yancey-Bragg USA TODAY

Pope Francis apologized Wednesday for smacking the hand of a woman who yanked him toward her as he greeted a crowd in St. Peter's Square. Video from the New Year's Eve incident showed Francis, 83, smiling and clasping hands with a group of people behind a barrier as he made his way towards the Vatican's Nativity scene. A woman crosses herself as the pope approaches her, and when he begins to turn away, she grabs his hand and pulls him sharply toward her.

Francis shouts something, swats her hand to break free and turns away frowning as his security moves to intervene. The woman has not been identified, and it's unclear what she said to Francis in the video. During his New Year's wishes to the public at St. Peter's Square Wednesday, Francis apologized for losing his patience, the Associated Press reported.


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