Pompeo raps Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticism of Israel: ‘Deep flavor of antisemitism’

‘Deep flavor of antisemitism’: Former Secretary of State Pompeo blasts Omar, AOC criticism of Israel

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U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responds to base remarks by President Donald Trump after he called for four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their "broken" countries, as … more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Liberal attacks on Israel amid the country’s violent clash with Hamas militants in Gaza have the “deep, deep flavor of antisemitism,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, condemning by name Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for their controversial takes on the bloody conflict.

In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Mr. Pompeo said some key figures in the Democratic party — prominent “Squad” members Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in particular — are wrong to equate Israel’s military response with the indiscriminate shelling of Israeli cities by Hamas fighters.

“So, for my years in Congress, it was largely the case that support of Israel was a bipartisan effort. And that has changed over these last six or eight years,” said Mr. Pompeo, who served as former President Trump’s top diplomat.

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“You have the hardcore folks on the far left, Ilhan Omar, AOC, all attacking Israel in ways that have the deep, deep flavor of antisemitism,” Mr. Pompeo said, referring to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez by her common nickname. “And then you have more mainstream Democrats, too, who simply refuse to support this important geostrategic partner for the United States.”

Both prominent Democrats have made headlines this week for their criticism of Israel. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, for example, took issue with President Biden’s declaration that Israel has an unassailable right to defend itself from attack.

“Blanket statements like these w/ little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle of violence — namely, the expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa  — dehumanize Palestinians & imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong,” the New York Democrat wrote on Twitter, referring to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Ms. Omar also has condemned Israel’s actions, referring to some Israeli military strikes in Gaza as an “act of terrorism” and arguing that too few lawmakers in the U.S. are willing to stand up for innocent Palestinians.

“Palestinian children deserve advocates for their humanity, safety and security. No exceptions,” the Minnesota Democrat said in a Twitter post this week.

Dozens of Palestinians and at least seven Israelis have been killed in the fighting.

More broadly, Mr. Pompeo said Democrats are indirectly fueling the crisis by negotiating with Iran, which is the chief financial backer of Hamas. Biden administration officials are holding indirect talks with Tehran in the hopes of resurrecting the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Mr. Pompeo and others have long argued that the money Iran got in sanctions relief under the JCPOA has enabled the funding of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist outfits in the Middle East.

“Right now as we sit here, the United States is engaged in conversations in Vienna to hand the Iranian regime billions of dollars and go back into the flawed nuclear deal. Every Iranian-backed terror group in the region, Hezbollah, the Shia militias in Iraq, you see with Hamas in the Gaza Strip … Those terror organizations know that they are about to be flush with cash,” Mr. Pompeo said.

“This policy of appeasement of Iran is destabilizing in the Middle East, and the fact that Democrats don’t understand that, I find shocking,” he said.

Ethiopia gives UN green light to deploy 25 staff to Tigray

Ethiopia gives UN green light to deploy 25 staff to Tigray

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FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020 file photo, refugees who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region ride a bus going to the Village 8 temporary shelter, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan. Life for civilians … more >

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Monday, February 8, 2021

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – U.N. agencies received approval from Ethiopia’s government Monday to send 25 more staff members to embattled Tigray, a region where the United Nations says hunger is growing and much of the area has been inaccessible to humanitarian workers.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the clearance “a first step towards ensuring that aid workers in Tigray can deliver and ramp up the response given the rapidly rising needs in the region.”

A U.N. humanitarian report released Thursday said life for civilians in Tigray has become “extremely alarming” since fighting began in early November pitting Ethiopian and allied forces against those of the Tigray region, which dominated the country’s government for almost three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. Each side now views the other as illegitimate.

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The government has said well over 1 million people in Tigray have been reached with assistance but some aid workers have reported having to negotiate access with a range of armed actors, even from neighboring Eritrea, and starvation has become a major concern.

As fighting enters its fourth month, international pressure has increased on Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and the anchor of the Horn of Africa, to allow aid workers, journalists and human rights experts into Tigray. Currently, communications are patchy and little is known about the situation for most of its 6 million people.

Dujarric pointed to recent “positive engagements” between the government and senior U.N. officials, including World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, who just wrapped up a trip to Ethiopia.

Beasley reported that WFP has accepted the government’s request “to help authorities and aid partners transport aid into and within Tigray” and also agreed “to provide emergency food aid for up to one million people in Tigray,” Dujarric said.

The U.N. spokesman said humanitarian workers “are looking forward to receiving approval” for 60 staff members from the U.N. and aid agencies who are in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, ready to go to Tigray, as well as rapid approval of future requests.

According to last week’s report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which is funded and managed by the United States, “aid workers on the ground indicate a rising in acute malnutrition across the region.” It said that “only 1 percent of the nearly 920 nutrition treatment facilities in Tigray are reachable.”

“Many households are expected to have already depleted their food stocks, or are expected to deplete their food stocks in the next two months,” the report said. It warned that more parts of central and eastern Tigray likely will enter Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine, in the coming weeks. Health care in the region is also “alarmingly limited,” the report said.

In a separate statement, the U.N special adviser on the prevention of genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, said she has received reports of serious human rights violations in Tigray, including “extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, looting of property, mass executions and impeded humanitarian access.”

New START five-year extension in U.S. interests, John Kirby says

Five-year extension of arms treaty with Russia in U.S. interests, Pentagon official says

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Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby declined to comment on a review to be released by the Pentagon that cites serious problems of U.S. nuclear capabilities. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ** FILE ** more >

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By Mike Glenn

The Washington Times

Thursday, January 21, 2021

President Biden’s decision to seek a five-year extension of the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia serves the nation’s security interests because it allows for intrusive inspection of Moscow’s nuclear stockpile, Defense Department officials said Thursday.

John Kirby, chief Pentagon spokesman, said Americans are safer with New START intact and extended. The 10-year treaty is set to expire in about two weeks.

“Failing to swiftly extend New START would weaken America’s understanding of Russia‘s long-range nuclear forces,” Mr. Kirby said. “Extending the treaty’s limitations on stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons until 2026 allows time and space for our two nations to explore new verifiable arms-control arrangements that could further reduce risks to Americans.”

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The Pentagon “stands ready” to support the State Department as the nation’s diplomats explore the new arrangements and seek the extension, he said.

“We in the (Department of Defense) will remain clear-eyed about the challenges Russia poses and committed to defending the nation against their reckless and adversarial actions,” Mr. Kirby said.

US nuclear submarine transits Strait of Hormuz amid tensions

US nuclear submarine transits Strait of Hormuz amid tensions

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Associated Press

Monday, December 21, 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – An American nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine traversed the strategically vital waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula on Monday, the U.S. Navy said, a rare announcement that comes amid rising tensions with Iran.

The Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain said the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia, accompanied by two other warships, passed through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passageway through which a fifth of the world’s oil supplies travel.

The unusual transit in the Persian Gulf’s shallow waters, aimed at underscoring American military might in the region, follows the killing last month of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist named by the West as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear program. It also comes some two weeks before the anniversary of the American drone strike in January that killed top Iranian military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran has promised to seek revenge for both killings.

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The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine’s presence in Mideast waterways signals the U.S. Navy’s “commitment to regional partners and maritime security,” the Navy said, demonstrating its readiness “to defend against any threat at any time.” The USS Georgia is armed with 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and can host up to 66 special operations forces, the Navy added.

Earlier this month, the U.S. military flew two bomber aircraft to the Middle East in a mission that U.S. officials described as a message of deterrence to Iran. The displays of military might are meant to signal the United States’ continuing commitment to the Middle East even as President Donald Trump’s administration withdraws thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 5th Fleet covers an area of 2.5 million square miles (6.5 million square kilometers), running through the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

South Korean officials defend controversial propaganda law

South Korean officials defend controversial propaganda law

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In this Feb. 16, 2013, file photo, North Korean defectors and South Korean activists prepare to launch helium balloons carrying leaflets against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attached to them, during an anti-North Korea rally denouncing North Korea’s third nuclear … more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Monday, December 21, 2020

Top South Korean officials on Monday defended a controversial new law banning the flying of leaflets and other propaganda into North Korea by balloon, arguing that the measure will protect citizens living along the militarized border between the two nations.

While critics say the law amounts to little more than an effort to appease North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and will further restrict the flow of information into the reclusive country, supporters argue that the use of leaflets does more harm than good.

“Today, the lives of 1.12 million people living along the border area are repeatedly threatened, daily lives and economic activities are restrained due to imposed safety measures and fear, and the local economy is suffering as less tourists visit the area,” Suh Ho, vice minister of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, said in a piece for NK News. “The people have constantly pleaded with the National Assembly and the government to stop leaflets.”

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“There exists no evidence that scattering leaflets improve North Korean human rights,” he said. “On the contrary, it endangers defector families in the North by strengthening the government’s control and brings adverse effects to North Korean human rights. Many defectors in South Korea even testified that malicious insults against the North Korean government do not contribute to improving human rights.”

The law marks another step in South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s policy of engagement with Pyongyang.

But critics in South Korea, including some lawmakers, argued that the leaflet ban will block the flow of information and eliminate a key method of informing North Korean citizens about the outside world and their country’s record of human-rights abuses. A group of South Korean attorneys already has vowed to file a constitutional appeal to the law.

The use of balloons to spread propaganda has drawn the ire of Mr. Kim and his family. Earlier this year, the dictator’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, demanded an end to the use of leaflets and labeled North Korean defectors involved in the effort “human scum” and “mongrel dogs.”

That kind of rhetoric out of North Korea helped fuel the ban and pushed South Korean leaders to make concessions to Pyongyang, said David Maxwell, a former U.S. special forces officer turned North Korea analyst with the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“One only need to look at the timing of the law and the history of North Korean blackmail diplomacy and north-south relations to know this entire debacle is in response to Kim Yo-jong’s threats combined with the naive belief that this will somehow appease the Kim family regime and allow the Moon administration to pursue its engagement strategy in the same way Charlie Brown tries to kick Lucy’s football,” he said.

For UK exporters, post-Brexit border chaos arrives early

For UK exporters, post-Brexit border chaos arrives early

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A police officer directs traffic at the entrance to the closed ferry terminal in Dover, England, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, after the Port of Dover was closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal suspended following the French government’s announcement. France … more >

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By JILL LAWLESS

Associated Press

Monday, December 21, 2020

LONDON (AP) – For some British truckers, retailers and traders, a feared New Year’s nightmare arrived early.

“French borders closed,“ signs on roads approaching the English Channel port of Dover flashed Monday, steering truck drivers away as traffic backed up. British supermarkets warned that supplies of fresh produce could run short within days.

Businesses have spent months worrying about disruption at Britain’s borders when the U.K. makes a post-Brexit economic break from the European Union at the end of the year. Monday’s mayhem, however, was caused by the coronavirus.

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Early tracking of a COVID-19 variant that scientists think may spread more easily plunged southern England into lockdown and over the weekend prompted countries around the world to halt flights from the U.K. France went further and shut its border for at least 48 hours from Sunday night, stopping people and cargo vehicles entering by air, road, sea or rail.

The move left the 6,000 trucks that cross from England to France each day on ferries from Dover or on trains through the Eurotunnel stuck, for now, in England.

Port of Dover Chief Executive Doug Bannister said that if the port was not reopened soon, there would be “quite a stark situation.”

“Because of the importance of the Dover straits in handling critical goods such as food and other things like that, I think it could become quite dramatic,” he said.

French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said a new “health protocol” to be introduced within hours should allow shipments from the U.K. to resume. British officials said they were conferring urgently with their European counterparts.

The delays were an early taste of what many businesses worry will happen on Jan. 1, when Britain leaves the EU’s economic structures, including its vast single market for goods. The break will mean new customs inspections and paperwork – and even worse disruption if the two sides don’t have a new trade agreement in place.

Trade negotiations that began after Britain formally left the EU on Jan. 31 have staggered on for months, with the two sides unable to bridge gaps over fair-competition guarantees and European boats’ access to British fishing waters. With 10 days until the year-end deadline, both sides say it’s likely the talks will fail and there will be a bumpy “no-deal” British exit on Jan. 1.

Earlier this year the U.K. government published its “reasonable worst-case scenario” for post-Brexit border disruption, including lines of 7,000 trucks near Dover and two-day waits to cross the English Channel.

Even if there is a trade deal, new inspections and red tape will bring delays. The government is building huge new truck parking depots and customs clearance sites around southeast England to ease the strain, though most are unfinished or behind schedule.

On Monday, officials shut a stretch of the main highway to Dover, turning it into a parking lot for trucks, and said a disused airport would be reopened to park another 4,000 goods vehicles to help ease gridlock.

The border delays sent shivers of apprehension around the U.K., including the fishing port of Brixham in southwest England, where much of the local catch of crabs, scallops and other high-value seafood is exported to EU countries.

Many British fishermen back Brexit because they want to wrest control over U.K. fishing waters from the EU — but they also rely on access to the European market.

“Today is a prime example of what is in store for Brexit,” said fishing boat skipper Sean Beck.

“If we can’t sell to Europe we’re finished,” he said. “There’s no future.”

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, urged France to let in perishable goods. He said U.K. seafood companies, which export millions of pounds’ (dollars’) worth of seafood through Dover to the continent for Christmastime meals, were facing “disaster.”

Long lines formed outside some British supermarkets Monday as customers stocked up on supplies, despite official warnings that panic-buying was unnecessary.

Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer of the Food and Drink Federation, said “there is no need for shoppers to be concerned” just yet.

“There is still plenty of food in the supply chain,” he said. “Christmas is a time when warehouses are full, and it’s only if this isn’t resolved swiftly that there could be any kind of impact down at the retail end of the supply chain.”

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s said that if the border did not reopen soon, “we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit — all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.”

___

Jo Kearney in Brixham, England contributed to this story.

Turkey: US consulate employee receives 5-year jail term

Turkey: US consulate employee receives 5-year jail term

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Associated Press

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – A Turkish court on Tuesday convicted a local employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul of aiding a terrorist organization and sentenced him to five years and two months in prison, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The Istanbul court found Mete Canturk, a Consulate security officer, guilty of “knowingly and willingly” helping U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network, the agency said. The Turkish government accuses Gulen of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 and considers his network to be a terrorist organization.

The court acquitted Canturk’s wife and daughter of the charges, citing lack of evidence, Anadolu reported.

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Canturk, who has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, is expected to appeal his conviction. He will remain free pending the appeal.

Prosecutors accused him of holding frequent contacts with police officers who were also accused of links to Gulen.

In his final testimony, Canturk tearfully told the court that his meetings with the police officers were part of his duties and that he had no way of knowing whether they were involved in any criminal activity, Anadolu reported.

The arrest of Canturk and two other local employees of U.S. missions in Turkey helped stoke tensions between Ankara and Washington.

Another Istanbul Consulate employee, Metin Topuz, was convicted of charges of aiding Gulen’s group in June and sentenced to more than eight years in prison. He is appealing his case and remains free until a decision.

Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in the U.S. since 1999, denies involvement in the coup attempt, which killed about 250 people and injured around 2,000 others.

US offers $5M bounty for top Venezuela judge, Maduro ally

US offers $5M bounty for top Venezuela judge, Maduro ally

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FILE – In this Jan. 31, 2020 file photo, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, right, speaks with Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela. Maduro is at the court to give his annual presidential address. On … more >

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Associated Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – The Trump administration offered a $5 million reward Tuesday for information leading to the arrest of the head of Venezuela’s high court, accusing the judge of taking bribes.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Supreme Tribunal of Justice President Maikel Moreno, a close political ally of socialist President Nicolás Maduro, actively participated in transnational organized crime.

Moreno has allegedly received bribes in over 20 criminal and civil court cases, Pompeo said.

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Moreno quickly rejected the reward, saying it was based on lies aimed at undermining him and will only strengthen his “autonomy and independence” as the head of Venezuela’s high court.

“This is not the first time a mouthpiece of the U.S. empire has tried to attack me,” Moreno said in a statement posted on Facebook. “They will never succeed because the independence and sovereignty of our homeland is not up for discussion.”

The Trump administration this year launched a “maximum pressure” campaign to oust Maduro as Venezuela’s economic and social crisis deepens in the once-wealthy oil nation. U.S. officials earlier this year charged Maduro as a narcoterrorist, offering $15 million for his arrest.

Maduro has rejected the U.S. charges against him, saying the are politically motivated.

The White House recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. U.S. federal prosecutors earlier this year charged Moreno with money laundering offenses associated with the bribery.

“The United States continues to stand with the people of Venezuela in their fight against corruption and for the peaceful restoration of democracy,” Pompeo said in a statement.