Iraq urges billions for reconstruction amid donor fatigue

Iraq needs close to $90 billion to rebuild after a 3-year war with the “Islamic State” group, a donor conference has heard. Having spent billions on the conflict, Washington is unlikely to pledge any new funds.

Kuwait conference for Iraq reconstruction (picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Gambrell)

The Iraqi government needs $88.2 billion (€71.92 billion) for reconstruction efforts after its victory against the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group, Iraqi Planning Minister Salman al-Jumaili said at the opening of an international conference on the issue in Kuwait on Monday.

He said the figure was based on a study by Iraqi and international experts, who assessed the impact of the conflict that left large swathes of the country destroyed and approximately 2.5 million people displaced.

Global responsibility

“Rebuilding Iraq is restoring hope to Iraq, and restoring the stability of Iraq is stabilizing the states of the region and the world,” al-Jumaili told delegates, adding that the reconstruction was therefore partly the international community’s responsibility.

Read more: Iraq to resume oil reparations to Kuwait for Gulf War devastation, says UN

Watch video01:38

PetroChina seeks role in Iraqi oil industry recovery

His words are likely to fall on deaf ears in Washington and elsewhere in the West, partly due to donor fatigue amid several conflicts and refugee crises globally, and US President Donald Trump’s more protectionist stance.

US officials have already said there will be no new pledges of assistance for Iraq’s reconstruction drive, after Washington pumped some $60 billion into rebuilding the country following the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Private sector involvement

Although US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend the donor conference on Tuesday, he will instead call for multinational companies and banks to boost their activities in the war-torn country. Thousands of private sector delegates, including representatives from more than 100 American firms are expected to attend.

Iraqi man next to remains of house (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Martins)Iraq’s leaders say construction of new housing is a major priority after thousands of homes were destroyed during the war with IS

Analysts said Iraqi leaders are expected to pressure Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states to step up to the plate.

Read more: Saudi minister makes first trip to Baghdad since 1990, promises new ambassdor

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also vowed his country’s support during a visit to Iraq on Monday, without giving a specific figure.

“I have come to tell you of France’s support to accompany you. We will always be there. We were there to participate in the coalition (against IS). We will also be there in the reconstruction phase,” he said.

About $22 billion is required in the short term and another $66 billion in the medium term, the director-general of the country’s planning ministry, Qusay Adulfattah, told the conference, which lasts until Wednesday.

New housing needed

Housing is one of the most urgent priorities, delegates heard, after some 140,000 homes were destroyed during the conflict against the jihadist group.

Mahdi al-Alaq, the Secretary-General of Iraq’s Council of Ministers, said the Baghdad government had been given preliminary indications that some states were prepared to act as guarantors with lenders, allowing Iraq to take out soft loans to fund infrastructure projects,

Read more: Iraq’s political landscape in disarray

Oil-rich Iraq’s economy was weakened by years of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein’s regime.  The years of insurgency, sectarian violence and ethnic tensions that followed his overthrow in 2003 helped fuel the emergence of IS, a little more than a decade later.

Iraq declared victory over the jihadists in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015.

mm/uhe (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Israel military targets Iranian drone and strikes Syria, F-16 crashes

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will protect itself from “any threat or any attempt to harm its sovereignty” after its military downed an Iranian drone that infiltrated the region.

“Israel is seeking for peace, but we will continue to defend ourselves against any attack against us, and against any attempt by Iran to establish military bases in Syria or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said Saturday after meeting with top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

He said had spoken with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the recent involvement.

Israel’s military launched a “large-scale attack” after shooting down the infiltrating drone and struck Iranian targets deep in Syrian before one of its own jets was downed.

The raids hit at least 12 targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets that were part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria. The offensive marks Israel’s most substantial involvement in Syria to date.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of a jet is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The wreckage of the jet is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.  (AP)

Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon.

Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling.

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

Israeli security stands around the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel, near kibbutz of Harduf, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone it said infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, in its most significant engagement since the fighting in neighboring Syria began in 2011. Responding anti-aircraft fire led to the downing of an Israeli fighter plane. (AP Photo/Rami Slush) ***ISRAEL OUT***

Investigators inspect the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel.  (AP)

Israel would not confirm whether the aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.

According to Syrian state TV, which quoted a military official, Syrian air defenses struck more than one Israeli plane, and called the Israeli raids that hit a base a “new Israeli aggression.”

Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the drone was “on a military mission sent and operated by Iranian military forces” and that Iran was “responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

The drone was in Israel’s possession, the military said.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of a jet is seen near Harduf, northern Israel, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.  (AP)

Although Israel has shot down several drones from Syria that have infiltrated the country’s territory in the past, the attack on an Iranian site in response to Saturday’s incident signals an escalation in the Israeli retaliation.

The military confirmed the Syrian target of the drone’s launch components were destroyed.

Iran denied Israel’s shooting down of a drone, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem calling the account “ridiculous,” while the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies insisted the drone had not violated Israeli airspace and was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Iranian involvement along Israel’s border in Syria and Lebanon has been a growing concern as it fears Iran could use the region to position attacks or develop a land route from the country to Lebanon in an effort to deliver weapons to Hezbollah more efficiently.

But Israel has refrained from striking Iranian sites directly. Syria has also repeatedly said it will respond to Israeli airstrikes but has rarely returned fire. Both of those trends came to an abrupt end Saturday as a rapid escalation played out in the early morning hours.

Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.

netanyahu

Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Gadi Eizenkot, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman meet.  (Yonat Friling)

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” he said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

However, the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies denied the drone violated Israeli airspace, saying it was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Russia, which backs Assad and maintains a large military presence in the country, called for restraint and appeared to criticize Israel’s actions.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Fox News’ Yonat Friling and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Courtesy: Fox News

Russia welcomes US pledge to drop preconditions on North Korea talks

Moscow has called US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments “constructive.” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had appeared to reverse US North Korea policy.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watching the launch of a Hwasong missile

Russia on Wednesday welcomed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s offer to start negotiations with North Korea over its disputed nuclear and missile weapons programs “without preconditions.”

“We can state that such constructive statements impress us far more than the confrontational rhetoric that we have heard up to now. Undoubtedly this can be welcomed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov said the remarks aligned with Russia’s repeated calls for dialogue in the standoff. “It was Putin who regularly and consistently called for all the parties involved to do all they would to set up channels for dialogue. Therefore, such statements (as Tillerson’s) of course do give us satisfaction.”

Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Pyongyang was keen on entering talks with the US.

Washington Atlantic Council Rex Tillerson (Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan)Tillerson appeared to reverse US policy toward North Korea on Tuesday

Tillerson drops preconditions

Tillerson dropped preconditions on talks with Pyongyang during a speech on Tuesday in what appeared to be a reversal of US policy toward North Korea’s nuclear and missile weapons programs.

“We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. And we are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions,” Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

The US’ previous position was that North Korea would have to come to the negotiating table ready to give up on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Dmitri Peskow (picture-alliance/M.Metzel)The Russian President’s spokesperson Dmitri Peskow welcomed Rex Tillerson’s apparent turn-about

America’s chief diplomat, whose recent disagreements with President Donald Trump over North Korea have cast doubt on his future in office, said the North would need to stop nuclear weapon and missile testing before the start of any negotiations.

But he said both sides could “at least sit down and see each other face to face and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards.”

Military exercises

Russia and China have attempted to strike a middle ground between North Korea and the US in recent months.

They have supported UN sanctions against the North, with both voting in September to pass the most far-reaching sanctions ever placed on North Korea.

But Moscow and Beijing have also criticized the Trump administration’s fiery rhetoric and military exercises near the North Korean border.

Both countries support a “suspension-for-suspension” approach to the crisis. Under the proposal, Pyongyang would agree to stop tests in exchange for an end to US and South Korean military exercises.

amp/rg (Interfax, AFP)

COURTESY:DW

McMaster speaks to Trump’s tweets, North Korea and Middle East peace

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says neither the American people nor U.S. allies should question the stability of the Trump administration amid his predecessor Michael Flynn’s guilty plea and rumors Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is stepping down.

“No, I don’t think our allies need any reassurance,” McMaster told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “In fact, what we’re doing is continuing to work with them on all the key challenges we face today — from North Korea, to the defeat of ISIS across the Greater Middle East — the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, too.”

McMaster reiterated that President Trump’s main priority is to protect American interests at home and abroad.

Tillerson will continue to be a part of that effort, McMaster said.

“I’m not aware of any plan at all” for Tillerson to resign, he said.

Wallace also asked McMaster about the president’s recent retweets of online posts linked to “Britain First,” a far-right group in the United Kingdom.

Last week, Trump retweeted a video that purported to show Muslim immigrants committing acts of violence. Those depicted in the footage reportedly were European-born.

Wallace noted that many British leaders – including Prime Minister Theresa May – voiced outrage at Trump, saying the president had “got it wrong” and risked needlessly stirring racial and ethnic discord.

“General, why did President Trump send out those videos?” Wallace asked.

“Well, President Trump is the best judge of why he did that,” McMaster said. “I know it was his intention to highlight the importance of creating safe and secure environments for our citizens — to make sure that we have the right laws in place, enforcement mechanisms in place.”

Wallace then suggested that between the Britain First retweets and Trump’s support for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the president might be tossing away any hope of achieving Middle East peace during his presidency.

“No, the president’s not giving up on the Mideast peace agreement at all,” McMaster said.

“There are options involving the move of an embassy at some point in the future, which I think, you know, could be used to gain momentum toward a — toward a peace agreement, and a solution that works both for Israelis and for Palestinians,” McMaster added.

McMaster also addressed North Korea.

Last week, North Korea launched its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile – a provocation to which President Trump replied, “I will only tell you that we will take care of it.”

How exactly would the president “take care of it” given China and Russia’s complicity in propping up the regime, Wallace asked.

“Well, the president’s going to take care of it by, if we have to, doing more ourselves,” McMaster said. “But what we want to do is convince others it is in their interest to do more.

“China, as you know, has taken some unprecedented actions.  And what we’re asking China to do is, not do us or anybody else a favor, but to act in China’s interest.

“There’s a real grave danger to China, to Russia, to all nations, by — you know, from a North Korea that’s armed with nuclear weapons. And of course, you have that direct threat, but you also have the threat of — the potential of Japan, South Korea, others, arming themselves, possibly even with nuclear weapons. That is not in China’s interest; it’s not in Russia’s interest.

“And so, what the president’s saying is, we all need to take care of it. If necessary, the president and the United States will have to take care of it, because he has said he’s not going to allow this murderous, rogue regime to threaten the United States with the most destructive weapons on the planet.”

Courtesy: Fox News

‘Laughable’: Tillerson dismisses report that Trump will fire him from State Dept

‘Laughable’: Tillerson dismisses report that Trump will fire him from State Dept
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson brushed off reports that President Donald Trump is planning to replace him with CIA director Mike Pompeo. The administration has repeatedly rejected the report as false.

“It’s laughable. It’s laughable,” Tillerson said on Friday, when asked by reporters if Trump is planning to replace him with Pompeo. The rumor was first reported by the New York Times on Thursday, citing an anonymous sources in the White House.

Tillerson’s comment came during an appearance at the State Department with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Al-Sarraj’s visit to Washington includes meetings with President Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Mattis also denied the reports about Tillerson on Thursday, saying, “I make nothing of it, there’s nothing to it.”

While greeting Libyan Prime Minister, Secretary Tillerson is asked about rumors he would soon be fired by President Trump. He responds: “It’s laughable,”

Trump himself denounced the report as “fake news” in a tweet on Friday afternoon.

“He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” the president said.

The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://instagram.com/p/BcLCXDYgQed/ 

The White House already denied the press reports on Thursday, though not quite as forcefully. When asked about it during a meeting with the Bahraini crown prince, Trump responded, “He’s here. Rex is here.”

“When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “The president was here today with the secretary of state. They engaged in a foreign leader visit and are continuing to work together to close out what we’ve seen to be an incredible year.”

In Washington, Tillerson is seen as a moderate in comparison to neoconservatives who aim to upend the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran. Pompeo has long opposed the Iran deal, dating back to his time in Congress.

The US media have already “fired” Tillerson once before. In early October, NBC News reported that Vice President Mike Pence had to talk the secretary of state out of resigning, after Tillerson insulted Trump’s intelligence during a midsummer meeting.

Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil executive, dismissed the NBC report as “petty nonsense” and said he never considered resigning.

Trump said at the time he had “full confidence” in Tillerson and branded the NBC report “fake news, totally phony.”

 

Courtesy: RT

Will Saudi’s gamble in Lebanon with Hariri lead to war between Israel and Hezbollah?

Martin Jay
Martin Jay is an award winning British journalist now based in Beirut who works on a freelance basis for a number of respected British newspapers as well as previously Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle TV. Before Lebanon, he has worked in Africa and Europe for CNN, Euronews, CNBC, BBC, Sunday Times and Reuters. Follow him on Twitter @MartinRJay
Will Saudi’s gamble in Lebanon with Hariri lead to war between Israel and Hezbollah?
The Hariri ‘kidnapping’ by Riyadh is generating more fake news and is only succeeding in boosting his popularity in Lebanon. But did a Saudi prince and Trump’s son intend on making him a bedroom poster icon in their quest to vex Hezbollah?

The recent news that Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state has urged Lebanon’s prime minister to return to Lebanon is baffling, in a story which is surely heading toward Hollywood scriptwriters any day now. On the same day as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (‘MbS’) began his purge of just about anyone who could question his leadership – or bankroll a campaign to topple him once he takes the throne – Saad Hariri’s jet touched down in Riyadh, and he was swiftly surrounded by Saudi police who took all the phones off him and his entourage. In the following days, no one knows his true fate after he read a script announcing his immediate resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister, citing implausible reasons such as attempts to assassinate him.

READ MORE: Lebanese president says situation surrounding al-Hariri ‘mysterious,’ asks Riyadh to clarify

In one week, regional journalists, mainly aligned to Saudi Arabian interests, have had a field day speculating on what is going on. No one really knows, not even European heads of state or least of all Rex Tillerson, who is under the allusion that Hariri is in control of his own fate.

Analysts are divided into two camps over what the forced resignation is really about, which followed a knee-jerk reaction from those in Lebanon who believed it was all a theatrical ploy to get Hezbollah to agree to Hariri’s proposed cabinet of ministers. As time passed, the two camps’ theories evolved into the move being orchestrated by MbS to show Iran that it is still powerful, using the Hariri resignation as a tool to re-balance the Saudi-Iran pendulum of geopolitical spoils. The second theory is more about Saudi Arabia itself and what the new crown prince is doing there. Many believe the Hariri resignation – which came on the same day as the round up of 11 princes, four ministers, and billionaire Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, is part of the crackdown, as Hariri himself is suspected of links to many of the businessmen targeted. Some speculate the crown prince is investigating him and is considering charging him – and therefore needs him to lose his immunity from prosecution, which he held as Lebanon’s PM. The theory, analysts tell me, is that Hariri needs to be kept on a short leash until he can be entirely cleared and also needs to prove his undying loyalty to MbS and his father.

Yet if the plan by MbS is to use Hariri to extract some token payment from Iran, the plan is already back-firing on a grand scale and like many of Riyadh’s schemes – Syria, Yemen, and Qatar – is comically ill-fated. In one week of Hariri being in Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese PM has achieved more in unifying the Lebanese than he could ever have hoped for in a lifetime of politics. Surely the Saudi’s ruse did not intend for Hariri to gain cross-party popularity in a country so sternly and insidiously divided by confessional lines? In just a week, Lebanon’s leading figures have quickly reached a consensus that they need Hariri back, a point echoed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who is looking increasingly statesmanlike as the days pass and whose calm, measured speeches are now being watched by the entire country – thanks to Riyadh’s cunning plan.

Could it really have been the Saudi Crown prince’s plan to boost Hariri’s popularity and make the Hezbollah chief’s speeches unmissable?

Kushner, a Saudi prince and low hanging fruit

One has to wonder who or what is really behind this plan. Many pundits are troubled by how aloof Tillerson is to the reality of what’s happening. It’s as though the US really isn’t on the same page. And there’s a reason for this. It’s my belief that Trump has almost entirely outsourced the Middle East to his son-in-law who is behind this latest gambit in Lebanon. Just a few weeks before Jared Kushner was in Riyadh to spend time with MbS.  The Hariri plot is part of a whole new relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel, who are both working hand-in-hand on a new strategy to destabilize Iran. Lebanon is a cheap shot for that. Low hanging fruit. After failing in both Syria and Yemen, where else could an easy spoil be gleaned, by taking a swipe at Iran’s feared proxy Hezbollah? But the stunt comes with a very high price to pay when – not if – it fails. If the Lebanon shenanigan goes awry and it makes Hezbollah even more popular there, does that dampen the ambitions of MbS and Kushner to hit the Shiite group or merely guide them like moths veering closer to the alluring flame?

Perhaps the answer can be found with Trump. For us to understand truly what is going in the head of the Saudi prince, we should wrestle with two points. First, his rapid rise to the seat of the crown prince is entirely due to him presenting himself to both the Israelis and the Americans as a new type of Saudi leader who could recognize the state of Israel if he was made king, which explains this new partnership unraveling so quickly. Secondly, one of the reasons why Trump likes MbS much is that the Saudi prince can be so easily understood by Trump. MbS is the Trump of Saudi Arabia. Like the US president, the crown prince is insecure, obsessed with control and seems determined to be on the front pages of newspapers – regardless of the consequences. Like Trump, he also has no regard for the media and is deluded about himself and his own abilities, particularly beyond the borders of his own country.

Falling on your sword

In a country known for being an irony-free zone, it’s also interesting to observe how the obsession with hitting Iran is a vicious circle or a sword which the Saudis have slowly lowered themselves onto; Saudi Arabia’s meddling in the region has only made Iran and Hezbollah stronger in the last five years. Understandably, Riyadh now looks to Israel as a partner in settling old scores, but it all adds up to sour grapes and now apparently both Saudi Arabia and Israel have one chief and self-defining objective: to claw back self-respect and reinstall the pride lost, through defeats with Iran and its proxies.

They both now look at Hezbollah in Lebanon and see a war which could hurt the Shiite group could be a major victory to re-write the history books.

Another irony about the Hariri story is that it is due to the collapse of the Saudi economy, which hurled Hariri back into politics in Lebanon after the Saudis couldn’t pay Hariri’s construction company the $9 billion it was owed.  And MbS is credited as being the “architect to Saudi Arabia’s oil policy which reveled in the over-production of oil, leading to rock bottom prices today as it was his idea to counter US fracking companies. Another bullet. Another foot. Another spasm of delusion and denial.

Sex it up

Of course, it’s not only Saudi aligned journalists who are sexing the whole Lebanon story up beyond its true significance. US mainstream media, like the New York Times, just can’t help itself on indulging in using the word “war” in many of its misleading headlines, raising an obvious question: is there now a new dynamic which could speed up the inevitable war between Israel and Hezbollah?

The answer is probably not in the short term. While Lebanese academics like Dr Jamal Wakim stake their reputations on saying that Israel will invade Lebanon in the next 12 months, the Saudis believe an economic blockade of Lebanon would have much more effective results on destabilizing the country and causing chaos which could then weaken Hezbollah internally, thus providing the perfect moment for Israel to strike, if Hezbollah is forced to take control of Lebanon. It’s a hell of a gamble though. And already looking like it can’t work as, historically, the Lebanese have always supported Hezbollah when the country is threatened. They are not stupid and can already see that imposing a financial crisis – by trying to starve the economy of trade and remittances from outside – is an act of war in itself. But the Middle East is a region consumed by fake news and checkbook journalists and those in the West who only give the crisis a cursory look might be fooled in believing the planted narrative that “Hezbollah has declared war on Saudi Arabia,” which many newspapers dutifully and shamefully published. Hezbollah’s mere presence, let alone military strength is enough to spook the Saudis. This is clear. The smartest thing MbS and Kushner could do now is to deflate the balloon on Hariri becoming an iconic bedroom poster like Che Guevara before it’s too late and send him back to Lebanon to negotiate a deal, as surely he will achieve much more in Beirut than he can ever in Riyadh. But Tillerson also needs to intervene, rather than merely warn against the Saudis creating a proxy war in Lebanon before it’s too late, and the Saudis pull the entire region into a new war which can never be won, and Saudi Arabia and its new ally certainly can’t afford to lose. Who knows? One day we may start even believing the click bait masterpieces of the New York Times. But don’t hold your breath.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Chinese, US ‘unequivocal’ on rejecting nuke-armed North Korea: Tillerson

DEVIN DWYER and JORDYN PHELPS
Good Morning America

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks here between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping forged an “unequivocal” agreement between both countries that North Korea cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

“There is no disagreement on North Korea. We were pretty pleased by the fact that the Chinese have been really clear and unequivocal that they will not accept a North Korea with nuclear weapons,” Tillerson told ABC News’ Cecilia Vega in a briefing at the conclusion of the summit.

“Our efforts are complementary -– not in any way contradictory -– to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table about how they will denuclearize their country,” he said.

While the comments highlighted a key area of common ground, officials gave no indication of new steps China would take to help resolve the standoff with North Korea or a clear timeline for other possible moves in the future.

Tillerson acknowledged that Trump and Xi differ in timing, tactics and approach to pressuring the Kim Jong Un regime. He said China believes the sanctions currently in place need time to have maximum effect.

“We’ve had some tremendous discussions on that today and I think things will happen, I believe things will happen,” Trump said during the meeting with Xi.

White House aides have said Trump believes Xi uniquely holds the key to resolving the crisis in North Korea. China is the Kim regime’s largest financial benefactor and has multiple points of leverage — from cross-border trade, to bank accounts and oil exports.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Beijing. (The Associated Press)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Beijing. (The Associated Press)
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Tillerson suggested Trump showered Xi with flattery in their meetings to try to drive home that point.

“President Trump has been very clear with President Xi -– that you are a very powerful neighbor of theirs, you account for 90-plus percent of their economic activity, you’re a very strong man and you can solve this for me,” Tillerson said.

At a joint press conference by Trump and Xi, both men expressed optimism for a solution short of war.

“As long as we stand together, with others if necessary, against those who threaten our civilization that threat will never happen. It doesn’t even have a chance,” Trump said.

Courtesy: abc

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