Archive for February 5, 2019

Senate pushes back against Trump over Syria troop pullout 

February 5, 2019

Source: Senate pushes back against Trump over Syria troop pullout | The Times of Israel

Lawmakers vote in favor of Republican-backed measure that warns removing troops from region could destabilize area and create vacuums which Iran or Russia may fill

In this photo from December 30, 2018, shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria's northern city of Manbij. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

In this photo from December 30, 2018, shows a line of US military vehicles in Syria’s northern city of Manbij. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Monday to oppose the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, breaking with President Donald Trump as he calls for a military drawdown in those countries.

Senators voted 70-26 for the amendment sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The measure says the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda terrorists still pose a serious threat to the United States, and it warns that “a precipitous withdrawal” of US forces from those countries could “allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia.”

Trump abruptly tweeted plans for a US pullout from Syria in December, arguing that the Islamic State group had been defeated even though his intelligence chiefs have said it remains a threat. Trump also ordered the military to develop plans to remove up to half of the 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan.

The strong bipartisan vote comes as Republican senators have increasingly diverged from Trump on foreign policy. When he introduced the amendment last week, McConnell said “ISIS and al-Qaeda have yet to be defeated.”

In this file photo taken on January 25, 2019, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks with reporters at the US Capitol in Washington, DC (WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

McConnell’s amendment, which is nonbinding, would encourage cooperation between the White House and Congress to develop long-term strategies in both nations, “including a thorough accounting of the risks of withdrawing too hastily.”

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the amendment was not a rebuke to Trump, though he added, “we can do things over there which will make us safer here.”

While the majority of senators voted for the amendment, a handful of Republicans voted against it. McConnell’s Kentucky colleague, Republican Sen. Rand Paul said before the vote that “enough is enough” and the money spent on wars should be spent at home.

“I want to compliment President Trump for being bold and brave,” Paul said.

Many of the most liberal members of the Senate — including several Democrats who are eyeing presidential runs in 2020 — also voted against the amendment. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and others have agreed with Paul that the United States should withdraw, though they have criticized Trump for his sudden announcement.

McConnell’s provision was added to a wide-ranging foreign policy bill that has been pending on the Senate floor for several weeks. The legislation includes measures supporting Israel and Jordan and would slap sanctions on Syrians involved in war crimes. The Senate is expected to vote on the broader measure later this week.

That bill has split centrist and liberal Democrats due to a provision from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that seeks to counter the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and the West Bank settlement enterprise. Israel sees a growing threat from the BDS movement, which has led to increased boycotts of the Jewish state in support of the Palestinians.

A man holds a sign during a rally in support of the BDS movement in Albany New York, on June 15, 2016. (AP/Mike Groll)

That has led to a “boycott of the boycotts” as Israel pushes back against those aligned with BDS.

In support of Israel, Rubio’s measures would affirm the legal authority of state and local governments to restrict contracts and take other actions against those “engaged in BDS conduct.” Several states are facing lawsuits after taking action against workers supporting boycotts of Israel.

Opponents say Rubio’s measure infringes on free speech.


Hezbollah chief: Netanyahu ‘inciting’ against Lebanon by saying Iran in control

February 5, 2019

Source: Hezbollah chief: Netanyahu ‘inciting’ against Lebanon by saying Iran in control | The Times of Israel

Nasrallah denies his terror group controls newly formed government; accuses PM of turning US, Europe, and Gulf states against Lebanon

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on June 29, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of inciting Western powers against Lebanon, a day after the premier blasted the country for including the Iran-backed terrorist group in its newly formed government.

“The new Lebanese government is not controlled by Hezbollah,” Nasrallah said in a speech broadcast by Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV channel.

“The new Lebanese health minister is close to Hezbollah, but not a member of the party,” he said.

“The Zionist prime minister is inciting the US, European countries, and the Gulf states against the Lebanese government, claiming it is controlled by Hezbollah,” Nasrallah charged.

Political factions in Lebanon on Thursday ended a nine-month deadlock and agreed on the new government, which saw a strengthening of the Shiite terrorist group.

Hezbollah and its allies now hold two ministries and a ministry of state, including for the first time the Health Ministry, which has one of the country’s largest budgets. The Finance Ministry remains in the hands of a Hezbollah ally, Ali Hassan Khalil.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told a group of 40 UN ambassadors that Iran was in control of the Lebanese government, via its proxy Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefs a delegation of ambassadors to the United Nations, at a helipad at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 3, 2019. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

“Iran has proxies. One of them is Hezbollah. Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon,” Netanyahu said. “It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”

Nasrallah’s deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, on Sunday responded that Israel was not ready for a conflict with Lebanon.

“The situation is complicated and Israel is not interested in war,” Qassem told local TV. “But it if wants to launch a war, we are ready.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) and Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on January 31, 2019. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Rival political groups in Lebanon had been locked in disagreement over the makeup of a new government since May, after the country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years.

The breakthrough came after rival factions worked out a compromise allowing representation of Sunni lawmakers backed by Hezbollah.

The new government will be headed by Saad Hariri, the Sunni politician who headed the outgoing government since 2016. The post always goes to a Sunni politician under the country’s political system.

The government also sees an increase in the number of ministries affiliated with Hezbollah, which is under tightening sanctions from the United States that labels the group a terrorist organization. The group made significant gains in last year’s parliament elections while Hariri’s bloc lost a third of its seats.

Raphael Ahren and AP contributed to this report.


U.S. to maintain military presence in region to “watch Iran” – TV7 Israel News 

February 5, 2019



U.S. to maintain military presence in region to “watch Iran” – TV7 Israel News

February 5, 2019