Mike Pompeo Promises To 'Crush' Iran And Achieve A Better Deal

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday presented a lengthy list of grievances against the Iranian government and vowed to forge a new, better nuclear agreement — but he offered few details on how the United States would accomplish that goal without support from European allies, Russia or China.

“The bet that the [2015 Iran nuclear deal] would increase Middle East stability was a bad one for America, for Europe, for the Middle East and indeed for the entire world,” Pompeo said during his first major speech in his new role, promising that the new deal would address not only the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program but also its ballistic missile program, its interventions in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, and its repressive treatment of its own people.

“We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them,” Pompeo added, referring to the Lebanese armed group that is Iran’s chief ally in the region. “Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

The original deal ― negotiated between Iran, the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia ― focused only on Iran’s nuclear program, and some of its provisions would expire 10 to 15 years after it took effect. State Department officials had described Pompeo’s speech as an opportunity for the secretary to present a diplomatic roadmap to achieving a better deal with Iran two weeks after President Donald Trump announced plans to violate the international nuclear agreement by pulling out.

But the secretary offered few clues about how Washington might convince Tehran to sign on to a tougher accord. Pompeo’s chief proposal ― fresh sanctions that would force the Iranians to negotiate ― depends on cooperation from Russia, China and Europe, which, unlike the U.S., do significant business with Iran. Obama administration officials spent years building a sanctions framework with those governments before attempting the nuclear diplomacy.

Pompeo repeatedly blasted President Barack Obama’s team as naive and even once suggested they actually sought to help the Iranian government. But it’s unclear how the Trump administration believes it will prove more successful than its predecessor in bringing aboard other international powers. Since Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the deal, the other countries involved in it have scrambled to ensure that Iran continues receiving economic benefits so that it will continue upholding its end of the deal, which they say is essential to global security.

Pompeo has not outlined a strategy, but rather a grab bag of wishful thinking that can only be interpreted as a call for regime change in Iran.
Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department official at the Brookings Institution.

The European Union has already started the process of insulating European countries from U.S. secondary sanctions, which punish companies in other countries for doing business with Iran. Russian aircraft manufacturers moved to sell planes to Iran after the Treasury Department announced it would cancel licenses that allowed Boeing and Airbus to sign deals with Iran. And China is eyeing opportunities to replace Total on a massive Iranian gas field expansion project if the French energy giant pulls out of the country under pressure from the U.S.

The Trump administration’s contradictory approach to Iran ― exemplified in Pompeo’s speech by his saying Tehran negotiated in bad faith and simultaneously arguing Trump wants to create a grand bargain with it ― has convinced partner governments they need to develop their own policies without looking for leadership from the U.S.

The EU, the closest American partner in diplomacy with Iran, has been unusually blunt in recent days. “Looking at latest decisions of @realDonaldTrump someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, tweeted last week.

Pompeo attempted to downplay the rift. “From my conversations with Europeans friends, I know that they broadly share these same views, of what the Iranian regime must do to gain acceptance in the international community,” he said. 

Hours after Pompeo’s remarks, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal.

“There is no alternative to the JCPOA,” Mogherini said in a statement, referring to the Iran deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “Secretary Pompeo’s speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran’s conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA.” 

Pompeo  — like hawkish national security adviser John Bolton — has warned that the Trump administration would be willing to punish European businesses dealing with Iran.

The Europeans have already been burned by the U.S. Over the past several months, the State Department’s director of policy planning, Brian Hook, led negotiations with U.S. allies aimed at creating parallel agreements to supplement the 2015 nuclear accord, part of an effort to entice Trump to stay in the deal. State Department officials say they were close to reaching an agreement — but Trump seemed to have not even known about the effort.

During his speech on Monday, Pompeo specifically referenced cooperating with the few American partner governments who praised Trump’s Iran deal decision: Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Some of them and other pro-U.S. nations like Qatar have supported the Trump administration’s anti-Iran actions since the announcement on the deal, including placing new sanctions on Iran-linked figures and entities.

But it’s unclear how far Gulf countries will go to pressure the Islamic Republic, particularly if Europe, Russia and China try to sustain significant international economic activity with Iran. The UAE and Qatar have their own strong economic ties to Iran, and officials around the region are wary of sparking fresh tensions between the few remaining stable governments there.

Pompeo tried to justify his case by repeatedly referencing the plight of ordinary people: Iranians themselves, Middle Easterners at risk from Iranian-backed Houthi and Hamas militants and Syrians suffering because of Iran’s support for the brutal Assad regime. (In Trump-era style, he both spoke of Syrians as victims and then repeated the misleading populist argument that Syrian refugees flowing into Europe include many terrorists.) 

Yet so far, the effects of Trump’s decision are hitting the individuals Pompeo mentioned the hardest ― making it more difficult for Iranians to buy vital goods and for U.S. officials to use diplomacy to help the American prisoners held in Iran

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran will likely only grow in the months ahead as hard-liners there gain power by pushing the narrative that the West cannot be trusted and the Trump administration continues to try and look tough.

Experts who watched Pompeo’s speech called his demands unrealistic and some predicted that when Iran inevitably fails to meet them, the U.S. will use it as justification for military intervention.

“Pompeo has not outlined a strategy, but rather a grab bag of wishful thinking that can only be interpreted as a call for regime change in Iran,” tweeted Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department official during the George W. Bush administration.

This article has been updated to include comment from Federica Mogherini.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/mike-pompeo-promises-apos-crush-144539726.html

Mourners Honor Pakistani Student Killed in Santa Fe High School Shooting

The Texas community rocked by Friday’s mass school shooting that killed eight students and two teachers came together to celebrate the life of Sabika Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student who had been studying in the U.S. through a State Department-sponsored program. 

Mourners, including her host family, the mayor of Houston and Santa Fe High School classmates, gathered at a local mosque on Sunday for the first funeral for those who were slain. 

“I always told her, ‘Sabika, you have a warrior’s heart,’” Joleen Cogburn, Sheikh’s host mother, tearfully told the crowd. Her host father, Jason Cogburn, told mourners how much they loved and cared for Sabika

Just weeks from completing her school year and returning home, Sabika had dreams of one day working as a diplomat to help her country, her father Aziz Sheikh told Reuters. He spoke of how grateful she was to be studying in America.

Sabika Sheikh's host family members are comforted following a funeral prayer service at the Brand Lane Islamic Center on May 20, 2018 in Stafford, Texas. (Scott Olson via Getty Images)Sabika Sheikh's host family members are comforted following a funeral prayer service at the Brand Lane Islamic Center on May 20, 2018 in Stafford, Texas. (Scott Olson via Getty Images)

“Sabika’s case should become an example to change the gun laws,” her father added. “I want this to become a base on which the people over there can stand and pass a law to deal with this. I’ll do whatever I can.”

He learned of her death from turning on the television after iftar, the meal Muslims eat to break the daily Ramadan fast, he told The Associated Press. He had been calling and messaging her without a reply.

The assumption that life is America is safe and secure is clearly untrue, he said. Attacks in the U.S., he noted, are “rampant.”

Abdul Khatri, one of the mosque’s worshippers, agreed. “People come here because they are told there is peace here,” he told The Washington Post. “You have the right to be protected here. It’s why I came. But to have this happen not in India or Pakistan, but here? We have gotten off track. And it’s been going on too long.”

Worshippers pray in Stafford, Texas, during the funeral service of Santa Fe High School shooting victim Sabika Sheikh, 17, on May, 20, 2018.  (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images)Worshippers pray in Stafford, Texas, during the funeral service of Santa Fe High School shooting victim Sabika Sheikh, 17, on May, 20, 2018.  (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images)

Other local congregations paid their respects to school shooting victims on Sunday as well. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) attended morning prayers at a Baptist church near Santa Fe High school, during which the pastor, the Rev. Jerl Watkins, blamed the shooting on a Godless, technology-obsessed society. 

“It seems to me, since the 1960s in this country, we’ve begun to think technology and other things can replace our God, and we’ve taken God out of the schools, and social media has taken togetherness out of the family,” Watkins said. “Many of these video games and movies our children are exposed to on a daily basis is all about thrill and killing and destruction. We’ve slaughtered millions of unborn children for the sake of convenience, and we twisted the sanctity of morality.”

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said he plans to pay for all 10 funerals, describing the massacre as “absolutely horrific.”

Sabika’s body will be flown to Pakistan for a traditional burial.

The investigation of the shooter’s motivation continues. The governor said the suspect wrote in a journal about carrying out a shooting and then committing suicide. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/mourners-honor-pakistani-student-killed-112552962.html

U.S. Citizens Say They Were Detained By Border Patrol Agent For ‘Speaking Spanish’

Two U.S. citizens said they were detained last week by a Border Patrol agent in Montana after he overheard them speaking Spanish to each other in a convenience store. 

Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez said they’d popped into the store in Havre, a small town near the border with Canada, early Wednesday morning when they were approached by a uniformed Border Patrol agent, KRTV reported.

The two women, who are Mexican American, had been chatting in Spanish while waiting in line to pay for eggs and milk when ― to their incredulity ― the agent asked them for their IDs.

“I looked at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, very serious.’” Suda, who was born in Texas, told The Washington Post of the encounter.  

Outside, in the parking lot, Suda began filming the agent on her phone. She asked him why he’d been compelled to detain them. He told her that their use of Spanish had caught his attention.

“Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” the agent can be heard saying in the cellphone footage. 

He then denied that the women had been racially profiled.

“It has nothing to do with that,” the agent said in the clip. “It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store ― in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.”

Suda told MTN News that even after seeing their IDs, the agent did not let them leave the parking lot for about 35 minutes. She said her husband, a former probation officer with the Montana Department of Corrections, criticized the agent for overstepping the limits of his position. 

“He thinks it is very bad what this guy was doing because he does not have the right to do it,” Suda told the outlet. 

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told HuffPost on Monday that the agency was reviewing the incident to ensure “all appropriate policies were followed.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are committed to treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect while enforcing the laws of the United States,” the rep said in a statement. “Although most Border Patrol work is conducted in the immediate border area, agents have broad law enforcement authorities and are not limited to a specific geography within the United States. They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence.”

According to the CBP website, the Havre Border Patrol Sector, headquartered in Havre, is “responsible for 456 miles of border area between Montana and Canada, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, as well as, part of Idaho.” 

Suda, who plans to take legal action over the incident, said she and Hernandez were deeply shaken by the encounter and remained in shock.

“My family was asking me, because my family is still in Texas, and they were asking me, how is Montana about this? I said I have never had a problem before,” she told MTN News. “I say Montana is perfect. I love the people here, the people are so nice. It is nicer than other states. I cannot believe this happened.”

She said she was especially alarmed by her 7-year-old daughter’s reaction to the incident. 

“When she saw the video, she was like, ‘Mom, we can’t speak Spanish anymore?’” Suda told the Post. “I said ‘No. You be proud. You are smart. You speak two languages.’ This is more for her.”

People on social media have reacted with horror to Suda’s video and story.

“Since when is speaking a foreign language criminally suspect?” asked one Twitter user on Sunday.

This story has been updated with comments from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-citizens-were-detained-border-101824943.html

Lava creeps onto geothermal plant site on Hawaii's Big Island

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Molten lava from the erupting Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island crept onto a geothermal power plant site on Monday, as workers rushed to shut down the facility to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases.

Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power, as lava from an active fissure flowed 200 to 300 yards from the nearest well pad, county and federal officials said.

“County, state, and federal partners have been collaborating closely to monitor the situation and work with PGV to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities,” the county said.

The race at the site marked the latest challenge facing authorities as they cope with what geologists rank as one of the biggest upheavals in a century from one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

The latest explosive eruption at the Kilauea summit occurred shortly before 6 p.m. local time, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.

“The resulting ash plume may affect surrounding areas,” it said.

The plant has been closed since shortly after lava began erupting on May 3 through newly opened fissures in the ground running through neighborhoods and roads on the far eastern flank of Kilauea.

Within a week, some 60,000 gallons (227,124 liters) of the highly flammable chemical pentane, which was stored at the plant, were moved from harm’s way. The state said last week it was pumping cold water into the wells and would cap them with iron plugs.

The plant’s wells run 6,000 to 8,000 feet (1,829-2,438 meters) underground to tap into extremely hot water and steam used to run turbines and produce electricity.

LAZE ALERT

About 3 miles (4.8 km) to the east of the plant on the coast, noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean from two flows cutting across Highway 137, one of the main exit routes from the eruption zone.

Laze — a term combining the words “lava” and “haze” — is formed when erupting lava, which can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius), reacts with sea water. It is potentially deadly if inhaled.

“If one were to be near the laze, because of the various acids, it would be corrosive to the eyes, the nose and respiratory tract, and the skin,” Dr. Alvin Bronstein from the Hawaii State Department of Health told journalists on a conference call.

Laze killed two people when a lava flow reached the coast in 2000, and authorities warned residents to stay clear of it.

Another hazard was the potential for methane gas explosions as searing lava neared pockets of rotting vegetation, igniting traces of the flammable gas given off by the decay.

“These are quite a big hazard in vegetative areas and the explosions can occur well away from the lava flow itself,” USGS geologist Janet Babb said on the call.

Geologists say Kilauea’s eruption, which has already produced around two dozen lava-spewing fissures, has now entered a more violent phase, in which larger volumes of molten rock are oozing from the ground and traveling farther than before.

At least 44 homes and other structures have been destroyed in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens area of the Puna district, and a man was seriously injured on Saturday when a plate-sized chunk of molten shot out of a fissure and struck him on the leg.

Two thousand people have been ordered from their homes due to lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide gas, levels of which have tripled in the last two days, according to civil defense officials. The Hawaii National Guard has warned of more mandatory evacuations if further highways are blocked.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester, additional reporting by Jolyn Rosa in Honolulu; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Sandra Maler, Joseph Radford and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/lava-creeps-edge-geothermal-plant-hawaiis-big-island-041337706.html