Trump authorizes sanctions against Turkey over military offensive in Syria

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019   •   259

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed an order authorizing sanctions against Turkey and raised tariffs on steel imports from the country in response to its military operations in Syria.

Trump said in a statement released on Monday afternoon that the United States will immediately stop negotiations for a 100-billion-U.S.-dollar trade deal with Turkey and raise tariffs on steel imports from Turkey to 50 percent.

The Trump administration’s new move came days after Turkey launched military operations targeting the Kurdish forces in several parts of northeast Syria and also followed Trump’s order over the weekend to withdraw around 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Monday evening that Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier in the day and called for an immediate end to Turkey’s moves against the Kurdish forces in Syria.

Pence also said that he will soon visit the Middle East to meditate the crisis.

Trump previewed the executive order he was to sign in a statement first posted in his Monday afternoon tweet, saying that the order will also enable Washington to impose powerful additional sanctions against those involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home among other issues regarding Turkey’s action in Syria.

The blacklisted persons will face a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States, the statement added.

Trump also noted that the U.S. troops leaving Syria will remain in the Middle East region to monitor the situation, while a small number of U.S. forces will remain at the At Tanf Garrison in southern Syria to counter the remnants of the Islamic State (IS).

The tariff hike announced on Monday is expected to put Ankara in a tougher economic situation after a reduction months ago.

The U.S. in May cut its tariffs on imports of Turkish steel from 50 percent to 25 percent, while terminating the preferential trade treatment for Turkey. (Reuters)

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Iran admits to having downed UIA passenger plane, says it was by mistake

UNTV News   •   January 11, 2020

A view of victims’ possessions around the wreckage after an Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 carrying 176 people crashed near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, killing everyone on board, in Shahriar, Iran, 08 January 2020. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

TEHRAN — Iran admitted on Saturday that its armed forces had downed a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet with 176 civilians on board and said it had been an involuntary human error.

The Iranian military had been denying their responsibility in the tragedy – which took place on Tuesday, shortly after the UIA flight PS752 took off from Tehran airport – for the past two days after several NATO members, spearheaded by Canada, said they had intelligence suggesting the plane crash was not due to a technical error, but rather had been brought down by ballistic missiles.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.”

Rouhani said in a separate post that the investigation into the circumstances that led to the tragic error would continue.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard said in a statement that the mistake was made in the context of a “very delicate crisis situation,” claiming that the Boeing 737 had flown close to a IRG military center with the “altitude and flight position of an enemy target.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, also took to Twitter to express his regret for the incident and partially blamed it on the United States’ “adventurism.”

“A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Zarif wrote. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”

The crash occurred in the context of a targeted missile attack against two US bases in Iraq, Tehran’s retaliation for the assassination of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, via drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Iran warned the US in advance of this limited response, thus avoiding any casualties.

On Friday, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzade, ruled out the possibility that the airliner had been shot down by the army.

“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Abedzadeh said during a press conference in Tehran held in response to earlier remarks by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying his government had evidence indicating that the cause of the crash that killed all 176 passengers was a missile strike.

On Saturday, it was also revealed that 57 passengers onboard the aircraft were Canadian nationals, instead of the 63 that had been initially reported. EFE-EPA

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Trump imposes new sanctions after Iran attacks US bases in Iraq

UNTV News   •   January 9, 2020

US President Donald J. Trump (C) delivers a statement on the US response to Iranian missile strikes, beside US Vice President Mike Pence (Front R) US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (Front L) in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington, DC, 08 January 2020. EFE/EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

WASHINGTON — The president of the United States Donald Trump said Wednesday his country would be imposing fresh sanctions on Iran which would remain in place until the country “changes its behavior.”

The announcement comes after Iran struck two military bases used by US troops stationed in Iraq overnight.

“As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Trump said.

“We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” Trump told reporters of the attack on the two military installations.

“Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for every American, and for the world” he continued.

Trump said Iran was a “leading sponsor of terrorism,” something that posed a “threat” to the “civilized world.”

He also spoke about the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike on Friday, saying that the US had “eliminated a terrorist” who had been behind some of the world’s “atrocities” and who had “fueled bloody civil wars” in the Middle East.

The slain commander had been “planning new attacks on American targets but we stopped him,” according to Trump.

“He should have been terminated long ago,” he said, adding that his killing sent a “powerful message” to others.

Trump also made reference to the “very defective” nuclear deal with Iran that “expires soon,” and urged other signatories to abandon it in favor of finding another solution to curb the country’s activities.

The US has already withdrawn from the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (PCPOA), which was agreed under his predecessor, Barack Obama, along with the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

“We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran,” Trump told the media.

The president vowed that Iran would “never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon” while he was the leader of the US.

He used the occasion to hail the US economy, saying it was “stronger than ever before.

“We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.”

The head of state also referred to US military equipment, saying: “the fact we have this great military equipment however does not mean we have to use it.”

Trump also called on NATO to get “much more involved in the Middle East process.” EFE-EPA

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PH implements forced repatriation in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 8, 2020

The Philippines has implemented forced or mandatory repatriation in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon amid the rising tension between the United States and Iran.

There are currently 36,799 Filipinos in the three said countries.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said several government officials facilitating the repatriation process will leave the Philippines by next week.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard Olalia will fly to Lebanon, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac will travel to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, while DOLE Usec. Claro A. Arellano will fly to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Bello said the government officials will travel with the Rapid Response Team (RRT).

“They will bring with them the RRT or the Rapid response team so that they could immediately brief our OFWs there of the situation and the action that our department together with the other department will take in order to ensure a well coordinated and safe repatriation of our OFWs,” he said.

The Labor Secretary also said they created a crisis management committee to provide further assistance to Filipinos in the Middle East.

“We have a crisis management center and you can call this center through the hotline of DOLE,” Bello said.

The public can contact DOLE at 1349 and OWWA at 1348.

Meanwhile, there are a over 2.1 million Filipinos expected to repatriated from the Middle East in case a full-scale war erupts.

The government calls on Filipinos to voluntarily return to the Philippines if they know that the situation in their area may possibly worsen.—AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

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