Iran calls for unity to expel US from Middle East during visit by Syrian PM

UNTV News   •   January 14, 2020   •   327

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis delivers an address during the opening of the Damascus International Fair on Sept. 6, 2018, in Damascus, Syria. EPA-EFE FILE/Youssef Badawi

By Marina Villen

Tehran – Iranian authorities on Monday called on the region’s countries to unite to expel US troops from the Middle East during a visit to Tehran by a Syrian delegation headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis.

Khamis’s presence in Iran was significant because the Islamic Republic has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its war against the armed opposition and insurgent groups, support that mostly came via Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was recently killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.

“As long as US terrorist forces are present in West Asia, the region will not achieve peace or security,” Ali Shamkhani, an influential official who serves as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, told the Syrian prime minister.

To end this situation, Shamkhani said that “the withdrawal of the US will happen through the unity of the countries and governments of the region,” Iranian official state media reported.

“The presence and interference of the United States have caused instability, especially in Iraq and Syria,” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said.

The expulsion of US troops, therefore, is “the best revenge,” Jahangiri said.

Syria is part of the so-called Axis of Resistance against the United States and Israel led by Iran and comprised of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militia and the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Iran and some of these groups vowed revenge for the killing of Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“Without a doubt, the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani will make the Axis of Resistance more determined in its fight,” Shamkhani said.

The United States thought that Soleimani’s killing would lead to the “collapse of that front of the region,” Shamkhani said.

The Iranian general’s killing, however, led to “more cohesion and strengthening of the Axis of Resistance,” Shamkhani said.

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani expressed the same view during his meeting with Khamis.

As the head of the elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Soleimani had for years spread Iran’s influence across the wider Middle East, strengthening Shia militias from Lebanon to Iraq.

Khamis posthumously awarded Syria’s highest military medal to Soleimani, noting that the honor reflected “the deep affection” of al-Assad for the late Iranian general.

The Syrian official also thanked Iran for its support in eradicating terrorism in Syria and called for strengthening economic and trade relations at a time when Iranian companies are seeking huge contracts to rebuild the Arab country.

Soleimani’s killing is “an example of the US conspiracies in the region,” the Syrian prime minister, who headed a delegation that includes Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem and Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, said.

“The fight against the presence of US forces in the region must become a sustained process,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said during a meeting with his Syrian counterpart.

Despite Soleimani’s death, “the path of resistance continues,” Hatami said.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched a missile attack on an air base in Iraq housing US troops, sparking fears of a wider conflict and leading countries that have good relations with Tehran and Washington to mediate in a bid to ease tensions.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Tehran on Sunday, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tried to ease tensions in the region on Monday.

Qureshi, who is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia next, called for “maximum restraint and immediate steps” to resolve the crisis, advocating “dialogue and diplomacy.”

No one wants war, the Pakistani official said.

Iranian President Hasan Rohani said he welcomes “with pleasure, Pakistan’s efforts to promote regional peace and stability.”

The Islamic Republic “never tried to start a war,” the Iranian president said. EFE

mv-ar/ta/hv

Detroit bus driver dies of COVID-19 days after posting rant vs coughing passenger

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 6, 2020

A bus driver in the United States (US) died 11 days after he posted a video on Facebook complaining about a coughing passenger.

50-year-old Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove posted a video on March 21 recounting an incident where an woman in her late fifties coughed several times without covering her mouth.

“I feel violated, I feel violated for those folks that was on the bus when this happened,” he said on his video.

He also advised everyone watching the video to take the pandemic seriously.

He reiterated his anger to the old woman who coughed without covering her mouth saying it was those kinds of people who are not taking the situation seriously.

“This is real, I’m out here. We are all here. We are moving in this city back and forth, trying to do our jobs and be professional about what we do,” he said.

“We’re out here as public workers, doing our job, trying to make an honest living to take care of our families. But for you to get on the bus, and stand on the bus, and cough several times without covering up your mouth, and you know that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, that lets me know that some folks don’t care.”

A week after his Facebook rant, Hangrove, a father of six, died on April 1 due to complications from COVID-19.

His video has already been viewed more than half a million times. Netizens are also rallying for the frontliners amid the COVID-19 pandemic. AAC

Trump extends national COVID-19 guidelines to April 30

UNTV News   •   March 30, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will extend the guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus to April 30, from his original target of Easter on April 12. Trump added that deaths from the coronavirus could peak around Easter.

U.S. President Donald Trump also called on Congress Sunday (March 29), to restore the full tax deduction for meals and entertainment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of a wide-ranging 2017 tax reform measure, Congress eliminated the corporate tax deduction for entertainment expenses, but taxpayers were allowed to continue to deduct 50% of the cost of client business meals. Trump said he wanted to restore that tax deduction “so companies can send people to restaurants.”

In a long and wide-ranging news conference focused on his administration’s response to COVID-19, President Trump questioned the increasing need for masks, urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to look into hospitals requesting hundreds of thousands of masks during the pandemic.

“How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300-thousand? 10 to 20,000 masks to 300,000, even though this is different? Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out of the back door? he asked. “I don’t think it’s hoarding. I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out. Check it out.”

On March 25, Trump issued an executive order to prevent the hoarding of essential medical equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, including ventilators and masks.

The executive order authorized the U.S. government to directly target hoarders, who can be criminally prosecuted.

But with the infection rate rising rapidly, Reuters has documented shortages of vital protective equipment in hospitals in hard-hit New York, where healthcare workers are hiding supplies such as facemasks from colleagues in other departments.

As supply chains break down or delay delivery of vital equipment, nurses say they are locking away or hiding N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and other supplies that are prone to going missing if left unattended for long. (Reuters)

(Production: Vanessa Johnston, Arlene Eiras)

US Indo-Pacific Command cancels 2020 Balikatan Exercises amid COVID-19 threat

Robie de Guzman   •   March 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The United States Indo-Pacific Command on Friday said it has canceled the Balikatan exercises scheduled for May 4 to 15 in the Philippines amid the threat posed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement, the US Indo-Pacific Command said the cancellation of the joint military exercises between the troops from the Philippines and the US is in accordance with international travel restrictions implemented by the two countries in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces, it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020,” Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said.

“We remain deeply committed to our long-standing Alliance and friendship,” he added.

Balikatan is an annual exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, and involves the participation of Australia.

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