TRUMP: I ‘couldn’t care less’ if Iran wants to negotiate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday made it clear that the days for negotiation between the United States and Iran are long over.

The president’s comments come after weeks of escalating tensions between the U.S., culminating in a coup that led to the killing of Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani. Iran retaliated one week later by launching dozens of surface-to-surface missiles at Iraq’s Ain Assad air base which housed U.S. troops.

“I think the maximum pressure campaign is working,” White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told “Fox News Sunday.” “Iran is being choked off, and Iran is going to have no other choice but to come to the table.”

O’Brien told Fox News he believes the financial sanctions on Iran will eventually be too much for the rogue state to bear.

“There’s no other way for them to get the money they need,” he said. “What’s going to cause them to negotiate is the pressure on the economy, and when you’ve got students out there chanting ‘death to the dictator,’ and when you have thousands of Iranians out protesting in the street, that’s the sort of pressure that’s going to bring them to the table.”

The president followed O’Brien’s comments with a scathing tweet in which he warned Iranian officials that they are in no position to propose a deal.

“National Security Adviser suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran ‘choked off,’ will force them to negotiate. Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate,” Trump wrote. “Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters.'”

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Kinzinger: Iran Goading US to ‘Overreact’

WASHINGTON — Iran is trying to push the United States into taking two different courses of action on the escalating tensions in the Middle East: “overreact or do nothing at all”, Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Thursday.

Kinzinger says either reaction would only aid Iran.

“They either want the U.S. to not react to provocation, which makes us look weak, or they want us to overreact which, in that way, they can use the “blame America first” crowd in the United States,” the Illinois Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

There have been numerous conflicts with Iran since 1979, said Kinzinger, “despite the fact we have never invaded Iran, and yet somehow, this is our fault.”

So far, said Kinzinger, President Trump has refused to plan into his detractors’ hands, instead choosing to respond “proportionately, but with strength.”

Kinzinger, who served in the Air National Guard, categorized the threat by Iran as escalating but said we are not yet in red level status yet. “It’s a fact that they want to destroy the United States,” said Kinzinger he said. “They say ‘Death to America’ We have to take them seriously.”

However, it would be a mistake for the United States to retaliate too quickly, said Kinzinger. Doing so would only benefit the rogue state.

“I’m not sure this is quite yet rising to the level of ‘we are on the brink of an impending battle with Iran,'” said Kinzinger. “Iran is overreacting; we are reacting in a measured way.”

“Keep in mind, the rest of the region, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, everywhere, people are protesting against Iranian expansion into the Middle East,” Kinzinger added. “Right now they’re on the decline and we are in a much better position to see this thing through.”

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‘MANY OPTIONS’: Trump considers penalties for Iran as tensions mount

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday said there are “many options” with dealing with Iran in the wake of the rogue state’s alleged attack on Saudi Arabia.

“There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we’ll see,” the president told reporters while in Los Angeles. “I’m saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war.”

Trump has already ordered the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase sanctions on the country of Iran” in the wake of the the Sept. 14 raids which left the world’s biggest crude oil processing facility devastated.

Despite Iran’s denials that it was involved in the attack, which temporarily knocked out half of Saudi production, Saudi officials produced drone and missile debris which they claimed provided “undeniable evidence” of Iranian involvement.

“A total of 25 drones and missiles were used in the attacks launched from Iran, not Yemen,” Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told the media at a news conference. “The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” he said, adding that Iranian Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used in addition to cruise missiles.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the attack a “real test of the global will” to confront subversion of the international order.

In an interview with the BBC, Salmon’s envoy to London, Prince Khalid bin Bander, said the attack was “almost certainly” Iranian-backed.

“We’re trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region,” said Bander.

Despite the evidence, Iranian officials continue to deny any wrongdoing.

“They want to impose maximum … pressure on Iran through slander,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

“We don’t want conflict in the region … Who started the conflict?” he asked, before directly placing the blame on Washington and its Gulf allies for the ongoing war in Yemen.

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‘NO MORE JOHN KERRY & OBAMA!’: Trump threatens to ‘obliterate’ Iran as tensions escalate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday drew a clear line in the sand with Iran, threatening to “obliterate” the rogue state as tensions between East and West mount.

The president’s comments come in the wake of Iran’s response to tough new sanctions imposed upon them by the Trump administration, which Iranian officials referred to as “mentally retarded.”

“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion,” they never have,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone.”

“The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else. The U.S. has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2000 Americans, and wounded many more,” the president continued. “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry and Obama!”

Speaking at a White House press conference, the president reiterated his threats against Tehran and vowed Iran must not be cleared a path to develop nuclear weapons.

“We’re not gonna allow that to happen, can’t do it,” Trump said, warning Iranian officials to end the “hostility.”

Trump went on to say he hopes Iran gets the “message” from the newly issued sanctions, but warned Iran is “not going to need an exit strategy” should they choose not to comply.

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HITTING HARD: Trump fires off tough new sanctions against Iran as tensions mount

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order targeting Iran’s supreme leader with financial sanctions as tensions increase with the United States.

The sanctions, which follow follow Iran’s downing of a more than $100 million U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz, are meant to deter Tehran from supporting militant groups and from developing nuclear weapons.

“These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as he signed the executive order. “We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons, increased enrichment of uranium, development of ballistic missiles, engagement and support for terrorism, fueling of foreign conflicts and belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.”

The sanctions are a direct hit to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and prevent him from accessing money and other methods of financial support.

Tensions have been steadily increasing between the U.S. and Iran since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran signed by former president Barack Obama Iran re-imposed economic sanctions against the rogue state.

Iranian officials have declared the sanctions put forth by President Trump, which essentially bar Iran from selling oil internationally, as “economic terrorism.”

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‘OUT OF CONTROL’: Trump blasts Pelosi’s defense of ‘hateful’ Omar

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her ongoing defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Omar (D-Minn.), has been under constant fire in recent weeks after making comments that were deemed anti-Semitic by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The controversy began in February after the freshman Democrat responded to a tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who had commented on GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s threat to punish Omar and another congresswoman for being critical of Israel.

Omar wrote back, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” insinuating that Republicans only supported Jews and Israel for financial gain.

In a follow-up tweet Omar named the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, claiming the organization was funding Republican support for Israel.

Then last month, Omar again sparked controversy after making what many saw as hurtful comments regarding the September 11, 2001 terror attacks

“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” Omar said in March in a speech to the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Pelosi was featured in a “60 Minutes” segment on Sunday night in which she slammed Trump’s leadership and appeared to downplay Omar’s inflammatory comments.

“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made,” Trump tweeted. “She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”

The president’s latest statement on the issue follows a tweet he put out on Friday which contained video footage of the September 11 terror attacks. In it he criticized Omar’s comments.

In a statement released late Sunday, Omar claimed she has been the subject of death threats following the president’s 9/11 tweet.

“Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief,” Omar said. “We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”

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AP: Trump, Kim share smiles, dinner before nuke talks

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un projected optimism Wednesday as they opened high-stakes talks about curbing Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, a problem that has bedeviled generations of leaders.

The second summit between Trump and Kim came against the backdrop of the American president’s domestic troubles. As the leaders dined on steak and chocolate cake, Trump’s former personal attorney was readying explosive congressional testimony claiming the president is a “conman” who lied abut his business interests with Russia.

The turmoil in Washington has escalated concerns that Trump, eager for an agreement, would give Kim too much and get too little in return. The leaders’ first meeting in June was heavy with historic pageantry but light on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal. Still, both offered optimistic words before dinner.

“A lot of things are going to be solved I hope,” Trump said as dinner began. “I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term.”

Kim said his country had long been “misunderstood” and viewed with “distrust.”

“There have been efforts, whether out of hostility or not, to block the path that we intend to take,” he said. “But we have overcome all these and walked toward each other again and we’ve now reached Hanoi after 261 days” since their first meeting in Singapore.

“We have met again here and I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes,” he added.

The leaders’ formal talks continue Thursday. Possible outcomes could include a peace declaration for the Korean War that the North could use to eventually push for the reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea, or sanctions relief that could allow Pyongyang to pursue lucrative economic projects with the South.

Skeptics say such agreements would leave in place a significant portion of North Korea’s nuclear-tipped missiles while robbing the United States of its negotiating leverage going forward.

Asked if this summit would yield a political declaration to end the Korean War, Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”

Trump’s schedule for Thursday promised a “joint agreement signing ceremony” after their meetings conclude.

The two leaders were joined for dinner by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief and Kim’s point man in negotiations, and North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho. Interpreters for each side also attended.

Trump did not answer a question from a reporter about his former attorney Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony. Shortly after, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders excluded some U.S. reporters, including the reporter from The Associated Press who asked the president about Cohen, from covering Trump and Kim’s dinner.

“Due to the sensitive nature of the meetings we have limited the pool for the dinner to a smaller group,” she said in a statement.

Still, Trump was unable to ignore the drama playing out thousands of miles away, tweeting that Cohen “did bad things unrelated to Trump” and “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close White House ally, said the Cohen hearing was evidence that “Democrats’ hatred of Trump is undercutting an important foreign policy effort and is way out of line.”

Anticipation for what could be accomplished at the summit ran high in Hanoi, and there were cheers and gasps as Trump’s motorcade barreled through this bustling city. Crowds three or four deep lined the streets and jockeyed to capture his procession with their mobile phones.

The carnival-like atmosphere in the Vietnamese capital, with street artists painting likenesses of the leaders and vendors hawking T-shirts showing Kim waving and Trump giving a thumbs-up, contrasted with the serious items on their agenda: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has been trying to convince Kim that his nation could thrive economically like the host country, Vietnam, if he would end his nuclear weapons program.

“I think that your country has tremendous economic potential — unbelievable, unlimited,” Trump said. “I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country — a great leader — and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”

The summit venue, the colonial and neoclassical Sofitel Legend Metropole in the old part of Hanoi, came with its own dose of history: Trump was trying to talk Kim into giving up his nuclear arsenal at a hotel with a bomb shelter that protected the likes of actress Jane Fonda and singer Joan Baez from American air raids during the Vietnam War.

After their first summit, where Trump and Kim signed a joint statement agreeing to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, the president prematurely declared victory, tweeting that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” The facts did not support that claim.

North Korea has spent decades, at great economic sacrifice, building its nuclear program, and there are doubts that it will give away that program without getting something substantial from the U.S.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, essentially a cease-fire signed by North Korea, China and the 17-nation, U.S.-led United Nations Command. A peace declaration would amount to a political statement, ostensibly teeing up talks for a formal peace treaty that would involve other nations.

North and South Korea also want U.S. sanctions dialed back so they can resurrect two major symbols of rapprochement that provided $150 million a year to the impoverished North by some estimates: a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong and South Korean tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort.

___

AP journalists Hau Dinh and Hyung-jin Kim in Hanoi and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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REPORT: Four military service members confirmed dead in Syria explosion

BEIRUT — The U.S. military confirmed Wednesday that at least two U.S. military members were killed during an explosion while on patrol.

Military officials acknowledged the blast which took place in the northern Syrian town of Manbij via Twitter on Wednesday morning.

“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” military officials responsible for operations in Iraq and Syria said in a statement. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.

The blast killed a total of 16 people including nine civilians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based Syrian war monitoring agency.

Three additional service members were wounded in a blast. Their immediate conditions have not yet been confirmed.

A news site affiliated with Islamic State earlier issued statement claiming an attacker with a suicide vest had targeted a patrol of the U.S.-led coalition operating in Manbij.

U.S. officials have yet to confirm or deny those allegations.

FILE PHOTO: Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah

THREATS OF WAR: Iran pushes back in wake of latest Trump sanctions

WASHINGTON — Iran on Monday hit back against the U.S. in the wake of newly reimposed sanctions ordered by President Donald Trump, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warning a that “war situation” now faces Tehran.

The sanctions, which were once lifted as the result of a 2015 nuclear deal with former U.S. President Barack Obama, were reinstated on Monday.

In televised air-defense drills, Iranian people can be seen cheering before the camera and chanting “death to America”.

Last week the U.S. Treasury Department imposed penalties on more than 700 Iranian and Iranian-linked individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels as part of the new sanctions. Among them are 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 high ranking individuals and shipping vessels, Iran Air, the nation’s state-run airline, and more than 65 of its planes.

The new sanctions also targeted Iran’s oil industry, which serves as a crucial source of hard currency. In a statement on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that the sanctions have already cost Iran the sale of over 1 million barrels of crude oil per day.

“Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East and, indeed, around the world,” Pompeo said. “The Iranian regime has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlawed course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.”

President Trump, who campaigned on a promise of voiding the Obama nuclear deal, says he wants Iran to radically change its policies, including halting its support for radical militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.

Rouhani, who remains defiant in the wake of the sanctions, vowed that Iran would still continue to sell its oil on the international market.

“We are in an economic war situation. We are standing up to a bullying enemy,” Rouhani told government officials in televised remarks, referencing Iran’s previous war with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “Yesterday, Saddam was in front us; today Trump is front of us. There is no difference. We must resist and win.”

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Rand Paul to Trump: Saudis ‘Are Not Our Friends’; ‘Stop Arming Them’

WASHINGTON— Senator Rand Paul says he advised President Donald Trump over the weekend that the time to stop arming Saudi interests is long overdue.

“I told him that we need to cut off arms to Saudi Arabia,”Paul told Fox News’s Neil Cavuto on Tuesday.”For over a year now, I have been trying to get Congress to stop sending more arms to Saudi Arabia”.

“It’s important to remember that Saudi Arabia is the largest state sponsor of radical Islam,” the Kentucky Republican continued. “They fund tens of thousands of madrassas around the world, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Philippines, all teaching hatred of America. They have been doing this for decades. They are not our friends.”

Paul’s urging of Trump comes in the wake of this week’s news of an apparent murder of a Saudi writer at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Paul said the journalist’s murder only represents more proof “that we need not be arming them.”

In their conversation, Paul says the president claimed that cutting off $110 billion in U.S. arms sales to the Saudis may result in Saudi officials turning to Russia or China to supply them.

An argument to which Paul says he completely disagrees.

“It’s been reported that their air force can’t go a couple months without spare parts. Their air force is entirely U.S. planes. They are dependent on us for parts, mechanics. They are entirely dependent on us. They can’t last months without our help.”

“We tell them absolutely we are not going to do business with a government that chops up journalists, puts them in little bags, and then escorts them out of an embassy and dumps them somewhere,” Paul countered.

“This is not civilized behavior. And what they’re doing around the world — hatred of America is not civilized. We have been turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia for decades. They are the worst actor out there promoting terrorism.”

Paul then went on to note that Trump himself has referred to the war in Iraq as a “big mistake”.

“He has been very consistent and strong on that,” said Paul. “The war in Yemen is exactly the same way. It’s going to lead to chaos, and it will lead to be another festering ground for terrorism.”

Is he insistent on the matter when it comes to his dealings with Trump? Yes, says Paul. And unapologetically so.

“I do bug the president. When I talk to the president, what I talk to him about is, let’s get the hell out of Afghanistan ” adding that he feels the same way about getting the U.S. out of Yemen.

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