WASHINGTON: The US defense chief said President Donald Trump’s administration was seeking to deter Iran but not start a war, after he briefed members of Congress.
“This is about deterrence, not about war. We are not about going to war,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters after exiting the closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Shanahan credited robust US moves in recent weeks, which included the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, with thwarting Iranian threats.
“We have deterred attacks based on reposturing of assets, deterred attacks against American forces,” Shanahan said.
“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate,” he said.
Pompeo said that he and Shanahan placed Iranian actions within the context of “40 years of terrorist activity,” since the 1979 Islamic revolution replaced the pro-Western shah with a staunchly anti-US clerical regime.
The briefing did not satisfy many of the Democrats, who say that the heightened tensions are the results of President Donald Trump administration’s aggressive stance and shunning of diplomacy.
“I worry very much that, intentionally or unintentionally, we can create a situation in which a war will take place,” Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic presidential nomination, told reporters.
Saying that the Iraq and Vietnam wars were based on lies by previous administrations, Sanders said: “I believe that a war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq.”
Biden, Sanders to face off as 1st Democratic debate line-up set
WASHINGTON: The Democratic Party on Friday announced its line-ups for the debut debate of the 2020 presidential cycle — a crowded, two-night affair that will see front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders square off in a highly anticipated match-up.
Twenty Democrats will take the stage in prime time on June 26 and 27 in Miami — in two groups of 10 — as they battle to become the nominee who will challenge President Donald Trump for the White House next year.
Former US vice president Biden, the unequivocal frontrunner, and liberal senator Sanders, who is polling in second, will be among 10 candidates sharing the stage on the second night.
They will be joined by South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has surged from obscurity into fourth place in early polling, and fifth place Senator Kamala Harris, who launched her campaign to strong buzz but has struggled to maintain momentum.
That leaves liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is polling in third place and whose star has risen recently, as the clear headliner on the first night.
Her primary on-stage rivals will be ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke and Senator Cory Booker.
With the opening debate now set, the political stakes of the primary race were becoming clearer.
Warren squares off against several lower-polling rivals scrambling for a breakout moment.
Joining her will be New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, the only Latino in the 2020 race; former congressman John Delaney; congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; Senator Amy Klobuchar; and congressman Tim Ryan.
But the second night’s broadcast may ultimately score more eyeballs given it features the lion’s share of popular candidates.
In addition to the top-tier candidates, Day 2 will include Senator Michael Bennet; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, congressman Eric Swalwell; best-selling author on spirituality Marianne Williamson; and technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
The debates will give unprecedented public exposure for candidates like Williamson and Yang, who are new to the political realm.
Yang, a 44-year-old Asian-American, has proposed a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month for every American adult to help address the growing threat of automation.
“My dreams are coming true,” he tweeted after the debate line-up was announced.
The debate, two hours per night, will air live on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
A manual random drawing to determine the line-ups was held at NBC News headquarters in New York, conducted in the presence of Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials and candidate representatives.
The 2020 Democratic race features the largest primary field in modern history, and the party was not able to accommodate all candidates.
Congressman Seth Moulton, Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Florida failed to meet the polling and fund-raising criteria set by the DNC and were not invited to attend.
Mexico publishes Trump’s ‘secret deal’ on migration
MEXICO CITY: Mexico published the document Friday that Donald Trump earlier flaunted as a secret deal to curb migration, but denied it had capitulated to the US president’s demands for a so-called “safe third country” agreement.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard underwent a grilling in Mexico’s Congress, where some lawmakers insisted otherwise and demanded more details on what exactly he agreed to in the last-minute deal brokered a week ago to dodge Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods.
Angry over a surge of Central Americans seeking US asylum, Trump is pushing Mexico to agree to a deal in which migrants entering Mexican territory would have to apply for refugee status there, not in the United States.
The language in the “supplementary agreement” released by Mexico appears to resemble that. However Mexico’s foreign ministry insisted the document — signed by a deputy legal advisor to the ministry and his State Department counterpart — was “not a binding bilateral agreement.”
Rather, it says the two sides agree to immediately open talks to arrive at just that — a “binding bilateral agreement” — in which Mexico “would accept the return, and process refugee status claims, of third-party nationals” who cross its territory to reach the United States.
If in 45 days Washington decides that Mexico City’s efforts to curb migration are not enough, then the Mexican government “will take all necessary steps under domestic law” to bring that agreement into force in another 45 days, the text concludes.
Trump had waved the one-page document in front of reporters Tuesday to fend off critics who said he had in fact extracted little in the way of new commitments from Mexico with his tariff threats.
Photojournalists managed to capture a few sentences that day, but the full contents had not previously been revealed.
They will now almost certainly add fuel to the raging debate over who got the best of whom in the Mexican tariff row.
Trump blames Iran in tanker blasts
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday rejected Tehran’s denial it was behind mysterious explosions on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, saying the incident had Iran “written all over it.”
As US-Iranian tensions soared, Trump dismissed previous threats by Tehran that in case of conflict it could block the Hormuz Strait – a narrow seaway vital to the world’s oil supplies.
“They’re not going to be closing it,” he said in an interview on Fox News television.
Speaking hours after the US military released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an “unexploded limpet mine” from one of the tankers, Trump was emphatic.
“Iran did do it,” Trump told the “Fox and Friends” show. “You know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it.”
“You saw the boat at night, successfully trying to take the mine off — and that was exposed,” he added.
Iran rejects the US accusations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the US had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”
He accused Washington of seeking to “sabotage diplomacy” as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran. One of the targeted vessels is owned by a Japanese company while the other was Norwegian-operated.