Daily Archives: February 1, 2017

France 24 : US says ‘putting Iran on notice’ after missile test

US says ‘putting Iran on notice’ after missile test


U.S. President Donald Trump took an aggressive posture toward Iran on Wednesday for test-firing a ballistic missile, with his national security adviser declaring “we are officially putting Iran on notice” for what he called a provocation.

The warning from Michael Flynn marked an abrupt change in policy and tone toward Iran from that of Trump’s predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, who had negotiated a 2015nuclear deal with Tehran.

It was Trump‘s sharpest threat against a U.S adversary since taking office on Jan. 20, a warning that could foreshadow more aggressive economic and diplomatic measures against Iran.

Flynn told reporters that, instead of being thankful to the United States for the nuclear deal, “Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”

Iran confirmed on Wednesday it had tested a new missile but said it did not breach a nuclear accord reached with world powers or a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the pact.

The Islamic Republic carried out the test of a medium-range missile on Sunday, a U.S. official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Flynn said on Wednesday that the missile launch was in defiance of the 2015 Security Council resolution. While signaling a more muscular U.S. foreign policy that Trump has said he would pursue, the meaning of Flynn’s comment was unclear.

Three senior U.S. officials who briefed reporters at the White House said a range of options, including economic sanctions, was being considered on how to respond and that a broad review was being conducted of the U.S. posture toward Iran.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to say whether a military option was on the table.

“We are in the process of evaluating the strategic options and the framework for how we want to approach these issues,” one official said. “We do not want to be premature or rash or take any action that would foreclose options or unnecessarily contribute to a negative response.”

Crude oil futures rallied on Wednesday, jumping more than $1 a barrel on geopolitical concerns after Iran confirmed the missile test and bulls found support in reports on production cuts.

The Islamic Republic has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal in 2015, but the latest test was the first since Trump became president.

Flynn, in his first appearance in the White House press briefing room, said the missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel by Iran-allied Houthi militants off the coast of Yemen underscored “Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East.”

Richard Nephew, a former Obama administration official who was a U.S. negotiator with Iran on the deal, said Flynn’s comment could backfire.

“I think this will create an impetus for the Iranians to ‘resist’ and ‘defy’ more, and that could well create an escalatory cycle with Iran,” he said. “Being tough with Iran is one thing, but you have to back it up and bring partners with you. Is Flynn prepared to deal with what comes from that?”

Trump has frequently criticized the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, calling the agreement weak and ineffective.

While campaigning in September, then-candidate Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harass the U.S. Navy would be “shot out of the water” if he is elected.

A section of U.N. resolution 2231 calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Trump and Saudi Arabia’s ruler, King Salman, spoke by phone on Sunday and were described by the White House as agreeing on the importance of enforcing the deal and “addressing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”

Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based policy group that advised Trump during the campaign and has continued to consult with the new administration on Iran, said the missile test was the 12th since the 2015 Iran deal.

“It’s going to provide further justification for what we expect over the coming months, which is new congressional sanctions, new administration sanctions and a message … that Iranian aggression needs to be punished and deterred,” Dubowitz told Reuters on Tuesday.

Trump is due to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strident critic of the Iran deal, at the White House on Feb. 15. The two leaders are expected to try to coordinate strategy on Iran, Israel’s regional archfoe.


France 24 : Hundreds of thousands protest in Romania over government decree

Hundreds of thousands protest in Romania over government decree


Hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets across Romania on Wednesday to protest the government’s decriminalising of a string of corruption offences, the largest demonstrations since communism fell in 1989.

At least 200,000 protesters, according to media estimates, braved sub-zero temperatures to demonstrate, with some shouting “Thieves!” and “Resign!” a day after the government passed an emergency decree.

In the capital Bucharest the rally saw some demonstrators hurl bottles, firecrackers and stones at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas. A few police and protesters were lightly injured.

For the second straight night crowds also hit the streets in other cities across the country — including in Timisoara, cradle of the 1989 revolution.

Over a matter of days that uprising nearly 30 years ago forced dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from power, ending with he and his wife being summarily executed on December 25, 1989.

In the emergency decree issued late Tuesday, the government decriminalised certain corruption offences and made abuse of power punishable by jail only if it results in a monetary loss of more than 44,000 euros ($47,500).

Romania‘s left-wing government under the Social Democrats (PSD) has only been in office a few weeks after bouncing back in electionson December 11, barely a year since mass protests forced them from office.

The government had remained silent since Tuesday evening, but on Wednesday Justice Minister Florin Iordache wrote on his Facebook page that there was “nothing secret, illegal or immoral” about the emergency decree.

Bucharest said it is putting legislation in line with the constitution.

But critics say the main beneficiary will be PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, currently on trial for alleged abuse of power, as well as other left-wing politicians.

Dragnea, 54, is already barred from office because of a two-year suspended jail sentence for voter fraud handed down last year. His abuse-of-power trial, which began on Tuesday, concerns 24,000 euros.

Another initiative, which Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu will submit to parliament, will see around 2,500 people serving sentences of less than five years for non-violent crimes released from prison.

The government said that this will reduce overcrowding in jails but critics say that, again, the main beneficiaries will be the many officials and politicians ensnared in a major anti-corruption drive of recent years.


The anti-corruption push saw Romania make history in 2015 when then-Prime Minister Victor Ponta went on trial over alleged tax evasion and money laundering, charges he denies.

Only last week the European Commission commended the efforts of ex-communist Romania, which joined the European Union together with neighbouring Bulgaria in 2007 as the bloc’s two poorest members.

But this week’s latest move set off alarm bells in Brussels, with European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and his deputy Frans Timmermans issuing a joint statement expressing “deep concern” on Wednesday.

“The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone,” they said. “The Commission warns against backtracking and will look thoroughly at the emergency ordinance… in this light.”

Centre-right President Klaus Iohannis, elected in 2014 on an anti-graft platform and a sharp critic of Dragnea, on Wednesday called the decree “scandalous” and moved to invoke the constitutional court.

Both decrees were published earlier this month, sparking protests last Sunday that drew 40,000 people including 20,000 in the capital, and more than 15,000 a week earlier.

The laws have been heavily criticised by several Romanian officials and institutions, including the attorney general, the anti-corruption chief prosecutor and the president of the high court.

“I am outraged. The PSD won the elections but that doesn’t mean they can sneakily change the penal code in the middle of the night,” said protester Gabriela State, 46.

On Wednesday some 20,000 demonstrators gathered in the western city of Cluj, an AFP correspondent said, while there were 15,000 in Timisoara and 10,000 in Sibiu in central Romania.


BBC News: White House: ‘We are officially putting Iran on notice’

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

White House: ‘We are officially putting Iran on notice’ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38832407

BBC News: Trump cabinet: Rex Tillerson sworn in as top US diplomat

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Trump cabinet: Rex Tillerson sworn in as top US diplomat – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38835462

BBC News: Trump executive order prompts Google to recall staff

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Trump executive order prompts Google to recall staff – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38781420

Great exercise 

Check out @VenusGifts’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/VenusGifts/status/826984004402425857?s=09