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Trump releases video announcing troop withdrawal from Syria

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2018

 

US President Donald Trump giving a statement on withdrawing troops from Syria on Dember 19, 2018 | REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump overrode his top national security aides, blindsided U.S. ground commanders, and stunned lawmakers and allies with his order on Wednesday (December 19) for U.S. troops to leave Syria, a decision that upends American policy in the Middle East.

The result, said current and former officials and people briefed on the decision, will empower Russia and Iran and leave unfinished the goal of erasing the risk that Islamic State, or ISIS, which has lost all but a sliver territory, could rebuild.

Trump was moving toward his dramatic decision in recent weeks even as top aides tried to talk him out of it, determined to fulfill a campaign promise of limiting U.S. involvement militarily abroad, two senior officials said.

The move, which carries echoes of Trump’s repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change accord, is in keeping with his America First philosophy and the pledge he made to end U.S. military involvement.

A U.S. defense official said Trump’s decision was widely seen in the Pentagon as benefiting Russia as well as Iran, both of which have used their support for the Syrian government to bolster their regional influence. Iran also has improved its ability to ship arms to Lebanese Hezbollah for use against Israel.

Asked who gained from the withdrawal, the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, replied: “Geopolitically Russia, regionally Iran.”

Another U.S. defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S military commanders had expressed concerns with the administration about what a rapid withdrawal would mean for U.S.-backed local forces fighting Islamic State.

The official said the plan to withdraw had caught the commanders by surprise.

Lawmakers from both parties complained that they were not briefed in advance of the decision.

French officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were scrambling to find out exactly what the announcement meant and how it will affect their participation in U.S.-led coalition operations against Islamic State.

Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced around half the country’s pre-war 22 million population and defied all efforts at diplomatic resolution. — Reuters

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Lawmakers call Trump’s attack as attempt to distract from his policies

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Four minority U.S. congresswomen, known as the “the squad”, accused President Donald Trump of trying to sow division and distract attention from what they characterized as failed policies on immigration, health care and taxation on Monday (July 15).

“This president does not know how to make the argument that Americans do not deserve health care. He does not know how to defend his policies. So, what he does is attack us personally and that is what this is all about,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York – Democrat) said.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts – Democrat) urged the public to “not take the bait” following Trump’s Twitter messages on Sunday (July 14) that said the lawmakers should go back to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

All four of the first-term House members are U.S. citizens and all but one were born in the United States.

The president’s remarks were widely derided and some, though not many, of his fellow Republicans spoke out against them.

Trump did not identify the lawmakers by name in his Sunday tweets, but he appeared to refer to representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“This is not the first, nor will it be the last time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the president,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Michigan- Democrat) said.

Omar said Trump’s remarks were rooted in the “agenda of white nationalists.”

Tlaib and Omar repeated their calls for Trump to be impeached. (REUTERS)

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Iran ready to talk to U.S. if sanctions lifted

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking at televised address | Courtesy: Reuters footage

Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday (July 14).

“When a big power that is a bully, well then we have to stand up to it. It must stop being a bully. We have always believed in talks. Always, right this hour, right this moment, if they stop the oppression, if they stop the belligerence, if they lift sanctions, return to the table, return to to logic; we are ready,” said Rouhani.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute. (REUTERS)

(Production: Vin Shahrestani)

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Empty taxis, buses and hotel lobbies: Cuba sees tourism dropping due to Trump travel restrictions

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

Tourists boarding tourist bus, antique cars that function as tourist taxis parked and waiting for clients, empty lobby in hotel | Courtesy : Reuters

Tourism to Cuba will likely drop 8.5% this year in the wake of tighter U.S. restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island, the government said on Thursday (July 11), and the decline in arrivals will further hurt Cuba’s already ailing centrally planned economy.

A boom in tourism over the last few years has helped offset weaker exports and a steep decline in aid from key ally Venezuela that has forced the government to take austerity measures like cutting imports.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to squeeze that hard currency revenue stream too as part of its attempt to force the government to reform and stop supporting Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Last month it banned cruise ships and private planes and yachts from traveling to the island and ended a heavily used educational category of travel allowed as an exemption to the overall ban on U.S. tourism.

Cubans at the heart of the tourism industry call the changes “noticeable.”

Luis Manuel Perez, who drives antique cars that serve as taxis, said that several drivers had recently resigned because of poor business.

And Fernando Lopez, a horse-drawn carriage driver, said the decline in tourism since the cruise ship restriction has affected all tourism-related industries.

Tourism minister Manuel Marrero estimated 4.3 million people would visit Cuba this year, down from the goal of more than 5 million, and 4.7 million last year.

Looser restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba under former President Barack Obama, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and commercial flights and cruises had caused a spike in U.S. visits to the country.

U.S. travelers excluding Cuban-Americans became the second- biggest group of tourists on the island in recent years after Canadians, with cruise travelers accounting for half of them.

But Trump has rolled back much of Obama’s detente and taken additional measures to punish the economy and government.

Marrero said the country would continue to develop the tourism sector regardless of the U.S. measures. It is planning new dolphinariums and the country’s first amusement park, for example.

Cranes tower around Havana at the construction sites of what are to be the city’s first generation of luxury hotels, in a bid to attract a new type of client.

Cuba, which receives just two-thirds of the visitors that neighboring Dominican Republic does although it is twice as large, has traditionally focused on resort tourism or travelers on a medium budget. (REUTERS)

(Production: Nelson Gonzalez/Mario Fuentes/Heriberto Rodriguez/Anett Rios

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