Day: January 5, 2020

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Royal Navy deployed…


The Royal Navy was on Saturday night deployed in the Persian Gulf to “take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens” in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iran’s top general Qassim Soleimani.

Ben Wallace, the Defence secretary said he had ordered HMS Montrose and HMS Defender – a Type 23 frigate and a Type 45 destroyer – to accompany British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz.

Mr Johnson flies back in the UK on Sunday from his holiday in Mustique facing his biggest foreign policy crisis of his premiership.

He is likely to be briefed immediately by his National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill who spent Saturday locked in meetings with the heads of the UK’s…



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OFFERS $80 MILLION FOR TRUMP'S HEAD…


HUGE — BREAKING NEWS: Iranian Regime Offers $80 MILLION for President Trump’s Head! —VIDEO

On Friday morning the United States killed General Qassim Soleimani, a top commander of Iran’s al-Quds Force, in an airstrike at Baghdad’s International Airport. The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Seven people were reportedly killed in the airstrike.

The Iraqi Parliament will hold an emergency session on Sunday to discuss the US airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iranian terror leader Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Iran has promised revenge for the death of their terror leader.

Now this–

 

On Sunday the Iranian Regime just offered an $80 million bounty for anyone who brings in the head of President Donald Trump for killing Qassam Soleimani.

The announcement was made today at services for Soleimani!

Via Hanif Jazayeri.



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Iraqi parliament passes resolution to end foreign troop presence…


(Updates throughout)

By Ahmed Rasheed and Ahmed Aboulenein

BAGHDAD, Jan 5 (Reuters) – The Iraqi parliament called on the government on Sunday to work to end all foreign troop presence as a backlash grew after the killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a U.S. strike in Baghdad.

A resolution passed by a special session of parliament said the government should cancel its request for assistance from a U.S.-led coalition.

Parliament resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding to the government. But this one is likely to be heeded: Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence as soon as possible.

“Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” Abdul Mahdi said.

The special session was called after a U.S. drone strike on Friday on a convoy at Baghdad airport that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Since the killings, rival Shi’ite political leaders have called for U.S. troops to be expelled from Iraq in an unusual show of unity among factions that have squabbled for months.

“There is no need for the presence of American forces after defeating Daesh (Islamic State),” said Ammar al-Shibli, a Shi’ite lawmaker and member of the parliamentary legal committee, before the parliamentary meeting.

“We have our own armed forces which are capable of protecting the country,” he told Reuters.

Despite decades of enmity between Iran and the United States, Iran-backed militia and U.S. troops fought side by side during Iraq’s 2014-2017 war against Islamic State militants.

Around 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, most of them in an advisory capacity.

Abdul Mahdi, who holds the post in a caretaker role after resigning in November amid street protests, called on Friday for parliament to convene the extraordinary session to take legislative steps to protect Iraq’s sovereignty.

Hadi al-Amiri, the top candidate to succeed Muhandis, repeated his call for U.S. troops to leave Iraq on Saturday during a funeral procession for those killed in the attack.

Many Iraqis, including opponents of Soleimani, have expressed anger at Washington for killing him and Muhandis on Iraqi soil and potentially dragging their country into another conflict.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Ahmed Aboulenein and Maha El Dahan Editing by Frances Kerry)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Giuliani mixed White House role, personal cybersecurity business…


WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani’s mixing of his business interests, closeness with President Trump and involvement in government actions involving Ukraine is the subject of much attention from Congress as the impeachment case against the president moves toward the Senate.

But a Chronicle investigation has found that Giuliani’s blurring of White House and personal business didn’t start with Ukraine. It began in the early days of the Trump administration, when Giuliani was named as a White House adviser in an area where he had limited experience but was trying to build a clientele: cybersecurity.

His unpaid position with the new administration was vague, because Trump never gave him an official title or created a formal advisory committee for him to serve on or to chair. If Trump had done so, federal ethics laws would have obliged Giuliani to reveal any financial connections that might enable him to profit from his position.

Without an official government job — but with a publicized informal role — the former U.S. attorney and two-term mayor of New York was able to present himself to prospective clients as someone with a direct line to the president, without any transparency for the public.

How this story was reported

Washington correspondent Tal Kopan began looking into Rudy Giuliani’s cybersecurity role in 2017, speaking with sources in the industry about potential business he was doing while he had an unofficial White House advisory position on cybersecurity. After Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine affair came to light, she re-reported the information. Kopan filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Office of Government Ethics and disclosure requests for the White House and State Department ethics offices. She spoke with dozens of people in cybersecurity, including current and former government officials, about their understanding of Giuliani’s role. Most asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject and the small circles in the industry. Once she collected the information, she submitted detailed questions to Giuliani, companies he worked with, the White House and other key figures, most of whom declined to comment.

And because Giuliani’s job was not made official, he was not required to disclose how much money he made in the field as he publicized his White House role, or who he might have done business with.

That included how much he may have earned from speaking engagements where he was introduced as a cybersecurity adviser to the president. In earlier years, however, when Giuliani disclosed fees he had earned as an out-of-office politician, such speaking engagements brought him tens of thousands of dollars apiece.

Giuliani never had contact with the Office of Government Ethics and filed no disclosure paperwork there or with the White House about his business dealings after Trump introduced him as a cybersecurity adviser, The Chronicle confirmed through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Trump announced Giuliani’s role as a cybersecurity adviser days before taking office in January 2017. Giuliani was on hand for a televised White House meeting of cybersecurity experts and Cabinet officials that month, as well as for a meeting on cybersecurity issues in June with unnamed energy sector leaders that was not open to reporters.

In the January meeting, Trump said Giuliani would be working with then-Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Giuliani described his role as convening private sector representatives to communicate with the administration about their cybersecurity-related problems and possible solutions. The burgeoning cybersecurity field seeks to secure computer networks and digital devices from hacking and fraud.

Giuliani made similar comments in a “Fox and Friends” TV interview, saying the private sector held “the answer to cybersecurity” and that he would coordinate meetings between the president and companies on the topic.

However, dozens of cybersecurity experts in and out of government interviewed for this story said they knew of little activity on Giuliani’s part in the cybersecurity field, aside from a few meetings and numerous speaking engagements.

Sources familiar with the inner workings of the White House at the time say Giuliani provided little input into a cybersecurity executive order that Trump signed that spring. Bossert and Kushner took a more active interest in the policy area, the sources said. Most of those who commented on Giuliani’s role asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject and the small circles in the industry.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Giuliani declined to answer questions about his role, saying in a text message that he had “no time.”

In the months before and after Trump introduced him as a cybersecurity adviser, Giuliani was building his profile in the field. He was named chairman of the cybersecurity practice at the global law firm Greenberg Traurig in January 2016. He also continued running his longtime consulting firms — Giuliani Partners, where he sought to beef up its cybersecurity work, and Giuliani Security and Safety, which does physical security and emergency management.

His Greenberg Traurig online biography noted his White House role, saying he “leads a group of private sector representatives who share information about cyber security with President Trump and the Administration.” Giuliani was presented as representing the president’s efforts in at least one meeting with private sector entities that Greenberg Traurig hosted in the Bay Area. The firm declined last month to comment about his work, other than to say he resigned in mid-2018.

It’s not clear how Giuliani’s companies handled his White House advisory role. The website for Giuliani Partners was taken down and an internet archive does not contain a contemporaneous version of it, while Giuliani Security and Safety’s site makes no mention of it currently or in an available archive from early 2018.

There are several federal laws governing his private sector work that would have applied to Giuliani had he held a formal administration position. For example, career federal ethics officials would have reviewed his financial holdings and connections for possible conflicts of interest. In Giuliani’s case, because he didn’t hold an official position, no such reviews were conducted, and there is no documentation revealing how much he may have made — if anything — by being promoted as a White House cybersecurity adviser.

Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who was a White House ethics official under President George W. Bush, said such disclosure rules exist so that the public knows just what financial stake someone advising the president or performing government business has. The point is to keep presidential or other government advisers from secretly enriching themselves through their service, he said.

Painter said Giuliani should have been designated as a formal adviser, to bring his activity under ethics laws.

“The bottom line is, you can’t just delegate any U.S. government function to somebody and simply because they’re not getting a salary from the government, they get to ignore all the conflict-of-interest rules,” Painter said. “That’s a nonstarter in terms of ethics. It’s a disaster.”

Giuliani’s cybersecurity work was gaining more attention at the time the president was taking office. Shortly before Trump announced Giuliani’s cybersecurity role, Giuliani Partners and BlackBerry said they had reached an agreement for the mobile phone company to provide a security platform that Giuliani Partners could provide to its clients. In a Jan. 5, 2017, interview with Bloomberg at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Giuliani said clients would include companies and governments.

He sat next to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who did not directly answer a question about the dollar scope of the deal. Chen said Giuliani brought to the table “a rich client base across the world” and predicted a “long-term relationship,” though with respect to working out dollar amounts, Chen said, “it’s going to take a while.”

In that interview, Chen also did not answer a question about whether Giuliani’s connections to Trump would be beneficial for BlackBerry. Giuliani said his company would do no lobbying, only consulting, and added that it already had business on every continent.

It’s unclear what the relationship between Giuliani Partners and BlackBerry generated, if anything. A BlackBerry spokesman would say only that the company has no relationship now with Giuliani or Giuliani Partners, and he declined to say when the relationship ended or what it amounted to.

BlackBerry never mentioned the deal in reporting paperwork it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which requires publicly traded companies to report deals and activities with a meaningful impact on their bottom line. The last mention of the deal on BlackBerry’s website was in April 2017, and a former executive who left the company at the end of that year who spoke with The Chronicle could not recall anything substantive coming out of it.

Giuliani told the Washington Post in October that at some point he had worked with Qatar on cybersecurity, including “solving a hack.” He was not specific about what the work involved or when it happened.

After Trump introduced him as an adviser, Giuliani began racking up travel miles as a speaker at cybersecurity conferences.

Although there is no documentation showing how much he earned from giving speeches, Giuliani had a track record of bringing in tens of thousands of dollars for such appearances. A financial disclosure document that Giuliani filed when he was running for president as a Republican in 2008 showed he commanded $40,000 to $270,000 per speech in 2006 and early 2007. In all, the records show, he made more than $9 million giving speeches during that period.

In 2017, Giuliani gave numerous public speeches on cybersecurity and related topics, and was identified at several as a cybersecurity adviser to Trump.

In March of that year, he made remarks at a cybersecurity gathering in Washington of the Visograd Four countries — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. He was a featured speaker at Israel’s Cyber Week in June, and in July he took part in a panel discussion on Trump’s policy influence in Europe at a global security forum in Poland.

In October, he was the keynote speaker at a cybersecurity conference in New York. Four months later, Giuliani gave a keynote address at a seminar in Bogota, Colombia, which was affiliated with Greenberg Traurig, the law firm where he chaired the cybersecurity practice.

He was not paid for the Poland forum, and other event organizers did not respond to questions about whether he received compensation or were unreachable.

Giuliani was the featured participant at an April 2017 meeting on cybersecurity in East Palo Alto, hosted by Greenberg Traurig. According to two people present, the lengthy meeting consisted of local startups describing their products to Giuliani, after he said he would be bringing good ideas to the president.

Giuliani told those present that he was working with the White House and was looking for solutions. One of the startup leaders present was Graeme Speak, the founder of a company named BankVault, who splits his time between his native Australia and San Francisco. Speak wrote a blog post at the time about describing his firm’s product to Giuliani, saying the former mayor expressed interest in bringing BankVault to Trump’s attention.

In an interview, Speak said he was in contact for the rest of 2017 with an associate of Giuliani’s about trying to line up government users for BankVault’s technology, which is designed to protect login credentials from hackers.

No contracts or other business deals were ever signed, however, and Speak never got a meeting with the administration.

“The experience overall was really, really exciting,” Speak said. “It was a highlight for me to be one whisper away from the president’s ear. If something had come of it, it would have been amazing.”

Giuliani’s cybersecurity activities largely ended when Trump hired him as his private attorney in April 2018. After an initial leave of absence, Giuliani resigned from Greenberg Traurig the next month.

It was around that time that Giuliani escalated his engagements with Ukraine and began serving as an unofficial point of contact for the administration with the country. Those interactions were part of Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to announce investigations that Democrats believe were intended to benefit his 2020 re-election campaign. Two of Giuliani’s associates in that effort have been indicted by federal authorities for alleged campaign finance violations.

Investigations by the New York Times and Washington Post have found that as Giuliani was representing Trump in foreign affairs with Ukraine, he also was negotiating with Ukrainian officials to make hundreds of thousands of dollars personally. Giuliani said none of those deals was finalized. “I never received a penny,” he told the Times.

Painter, the law professor, said the 2017 cybersecurity advisory position also had the potential for Giuliani to enrich himself. Because Trump never made the job official, he said, the public may never know whether that happened.

“It’s just another example with this administration,” Painter said, “and we see with Ukraine it’s the same thing.”

Tal Kopan is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent. Email: tal.kopan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @talkopan



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Threatens to attack White House…


 

'We can attack the White House itself, we can respond to them on the American soil. We have the power, and God willing we will respond in an appropriate time,' Iranian MP Abolfazl Abutorabi (pictured)

‘We can attack the White House itself, we can respond to them on the American soil. We have the power, and God willing we will respond in an appropriate time,’ Iranian MP Abolfazl Abutorabi (pictured) 

Iran has threatened to attack the White House in response to Donald Trump’s warning that any strike on American interests in the region will bring massive retaliation as Iranian leaders brand the president a ‘terrorist in a suit’.

‘We can attack the White House itself, we can respond to them on the American soil. We have the power, and God willing we will respond in an appropriate time,’ said Iranian MP Abolfazl Abutorabi, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency.

Abutorabi went on to say that ‘this is a declaration of war, which means if you hesitate you lose’.

‘When someone declares war do you want to respond to the bullets with flowers? They will shoot you in the head,’ he added. 

Abutorabi’s threat was made during an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday, and just days after Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Tehran’s overseas clandestine and military operations as head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was killed on Friday in a US drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport. 

Following massive funeral marches in Iraq, Soleimani’s body was flown to the city of Ahvaz in southwest Iran on Sunday. 

Video from the scene shows a casket wrapped in an Iranian flag being unloaded from a plane as a military band plays and the crowd angrily chanted ‘Death to America’.

On Saturday, Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami promised ‘a strategic revenge which will definitely put an end to the US presence in the region’.  

However, Trump threatened to hit 52 critical targets in Iran in retaliation if Tehran strikes any American interests in the region. He upped the stakes after Iran said it had identified 35 targets for potential strikes and raised its red ‘flags of revenge’ over a key mosque.   

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Iranian lawmakers chant anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans to protest against the US killing of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani at the start of an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday

Iranian lawmakers chant anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans to protest against the US killing of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani at the start of an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday

Soleimani's body was returned to Iran on Sunday. People are seen carrying his casket upon arrival at Ahvaz International Airport in Tehran. The casket was greeted by chants of 'Death to America' as Iran issued new threats of retaliation

Soleimani’s body was returned to Iran on Sunday. People are seen carrying his casket upon arrival at Ahvaz International Airport in Tehran. The casket was greeted by chants of ‘Death to America’ as Iran issued new threats of retaliation

Following massive funeral marches in Iraq, his body was flown to Ahvaz, Iran. Military personnel carry Soleimani's casket in Iran. A tide of mourners packed the streets of the Iranian city of Ahvaz Sunday to pay respects to the top general

Following massive funeral marches in Iraq, his body was flown to Ahvaz, Iran. Military personnel carry Soleimani’s casket in Iran. A tide of mourners packed the streets of the Iranian city of Ahvaz Sunday to pay respects to the top general

Iranian military members transferred Soleimani's casket at the airport in Tehran after it arrived on Sunday

Iranian military members transferred Soleimani’s casket at the airport in Tehran after it arrived on Sunday

Iranian mourners crowded in to touch the casket and express there grief at the death of the powerful general

Iranian mourners crowded in to touch the casket and express there grief at the death of the powerful general

The flag-draped coffins of Gen Qassem Soleimani and his comrades who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during their funeral in southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, on Sunday

The flag-draped coffins of Gen Qassem Soleimani and his comrades who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during their funeral in southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, on Sunday

‘Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!’ Trump tweeted on Saturday from Mar-a-Lago, after spending the day at his nearby golf course. 

‘Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters,’ Trump said.

‘He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years,’ he continued.

Trump’s threat referenced the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1981, in which 52 US diplomats and citizens were held hostage by student revolutionaries in Iran. 

His threat to target sites important to ‘Iranian culture’ drew many accusations from critics that he was threatening to commit ‘war crimes’.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the list of US targets from DailyMail.com. 

‘They attacked us, & we hit back,’ Trump said of the drone strike on Soleimani, which followed assaults on the US embassy in Baghdad by pro-Iranian militiamen.

‘If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!’ he said.

‘The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!’ he said.   

On Sunday, Information and Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi tweeted: ‘Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis! They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit. He will learn history very soon that NOBODY can defeat ”the Great Iranian Nation & Culture”.’ 

Abutorabi's threat came just a day after Trump (pictured) threatened to hit 52 critical targets in Iran in retaliation if Tehran strikes any American interests in the region, upping the stakes after Iran said it had identified 35 targets for potential strikes and raised its red 'flags of revenge' over a key mosque

Iran said it had identified 35 targets for potential strikes and raised its red 'flags of revenge' over a key mosque following the death of top general Qassem Soleimani (pictured in November 2019)

Abutorabi’s threat came just a day after Trump (pictured on Friday) threatened to hit 52 critical targets in Iran in retaliation if Tehran strikes any American interests in the region. Iran said it had identified 35 targets for potential strikes and raised its red ‘flags of revenge’ over a key mosque following the death of top general Qassem Soleimani (right)

Abutorabi made the threat against the White Houseof war, which means if you hesitate you lose'.

Abutorabi made the threat against the White House (file image) during an open session of parliament on Sunday. He said: ‘This is a declaration of war, which means if you hesitate you lose’

Paratroopers and equipment assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division load aircraft bound for the US Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Saturday

Paratroopers and equipment assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division load aircraft bound for the US Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Saturday

The 82nd Airborne Division loads equipment bound for the Middle East on a C-17 Globemaster III Saturday in Fort Bragg

The 82nd Airborne Division loads equipment bound for the Middle East on a C-17 Globemaster III Saturday in Fort Bragg

Military hardware bound for the Middle East is seen aboard a C-17 Globemaster on Saturday at Fort Bragg

Military hardware bound for the Middle East is seen aboard a C-17 Globemaster on Saturday at Fort Bragg

In a CNN interview, Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said: ‘The response for sure will be military and against military sites.’

‘Let me tell you one thing: Our leadership has officially announced that we have never been seeking war and we will not be seeking war,’ Dehghan said.

‘It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions. The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward they should not seek a new cycle,’ he added. 

Dehghan was referring to Khamenei’s statement in May when the supreme leader said Tehran does not seek war with the US. 

At the time, Khamenei said: ‘There won’t be any war. The Iranian nation has chosen the path of resistance. We don’t seek a war, and they don’t either. They know it´s not in their interests.’ 

Earlier on Saturday, an Iranian official said at least 35 US targets, including warships and Tel Aviv, have been identified for retaliatory strikes. 

Iranian General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a Revolutionary Guards commander in the southern province of Kerman, said vital American targets in the region were identified a ‘long time ago’, including ships in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and Tel Aviv. 

‘The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there … some 35 US targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv are within our reach,’ he said, according to Reuters.

Hezbollah, an Islamic political and militant group, has also warned Iraqi soldiers to stay at least 1,000 meters away from US military bases from Sunday onwards. 

Vowing vengeance for Soleimani’s death, Iranians raised the blood-red ‘flags of revenge’ over the minarets at the revered Jamkaran Mosque in the holy city of Qom on Saturday. 

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamene visits the family of slain general Qasem Soleimani on Friday

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamene visits the family of slain general Qasem Soleimani on Friday

Iranian members of the Basij militia take part in an anti-US rally at Palestine Square in the capital Tehran on Saturday to protest the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by a US airstrike

Iranian members of the Basij militia take part in an anti-US rally at Palestine Square in the capital Tehran on Saturday to protest the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by a US airstrike

Women hold up posters of Soleimani as they protested his killing in the Iran capital on Saturday

Women hold up posters of Soleimani as they protested his killing in the Iran capital on Saturday 

Iran raised blood red 'flags of revenge' over the minarets at the revered Jamkaran Mosque in the holy city of Qom on Saturday

Iran raised blood red ‘flags of revenge’ over the minarets at the revered Jamkaran Mosque in the holy city of Qom on Saturday

Iranians take part in an anti-US rally on Saturday in Tehran, Iran. Soleimani, the 62-year-old deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, will be laid to rest next week in his hometown of Kerman as part of three days of ceremonies Iran

Iranians take part in an anti-US rally on Saturday in Tehran, Iran. Soleimani, the 62-year-old deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, will be laid to rest next week in his hometown of Kerman as part of three days of ceremonies Iran

A retaliation attack from Iran could be seen ‘within weeks’ either at home or abroad, a senior congressional staffer told Time.   

The staffer said: ‘There is no indication that there is going to be a de-escalation in the near future. The only question is how bad is the retaliation going to be and where and what is it going to hit.’

Abuhamzeh’s concerning remarks that Iran has previously identified targets seems to confirm the State Department’s reasoning behind the airstrike on Friday. 

The State Department said: ‘General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.’

‘The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.’

Meanwhile, one of the Iranian-backed militia Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, warned Iraqi soldiers to vacate any premises near US bases housing American soldiers in a thinly-veiled threat. 

‘The leaders of the security forces should protect their fighters and not allow them to become human shields to the occupying Crusaders,’ the statement said, regarding coalition bases.     

Iran is considering its options against America in retaliation for the killing of Quds commander Qassem Soleimeni in Baghdad. The conflict could quickly spiral out of control, dragging in other world powers including Russia, Turkey and China

Iran is considering its options against America in retaliation for the killing of Quds commander Qassem Soleimeni in Baghdad. The conflict could quickly spiral out of control, dragging in other world powers including Russia, Turkey and China

An Iranian official revealed that at least 35 US targets have been identified for retaliatory strikes, including ships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Pictured: The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (L), the air-defense destroyer HMS Defender and the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut transit the Strait of Hormuz in November

An Iranian official revealed that at least 35 US targets have been identified for retaliatory strikes, including ships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Pictured: The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (L), the air-defense destroyer HMS Defender and the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut transit the Strait of Hormuz in November

Tel Aviv, a prominent city in Israel, has also be singled out as a possible target for attack by General Gholamali Abuhamzeh

Tel Aviv, a prominent city in Israel, has also be singled out as a possible target for attack by General Gholamali Abuhamzeh

In a press conference after Friday’s airstrike, Trump said Soleimani was plotting attacks against Americans in a press conference after the airstrike. 

‘Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,’ the president revealed in a press conference.  

Although the specific locations of the 35 targets have not been disclosed, the US Embassy in Baghdad and the military base could be potential targets. 

This comes off the heels of the slaying of an American contractor who was killed in a rocket attack a week ago while working at an Iraqi military base in the country’s northern region. 

The US retaliated by launching an attack on five Popular Mobilization militia bases in Iraq and Syria, killing more than 24 people and inciting a nearly two-day siege of the United States Embassy in Baghdad.

Following Soleimani’s death, several Iranian officials and the 62-year-old’s supporters vowed revenge on the US. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the US made a ‘grave mistake’ in killing Soleimani and will supposedly suffer consequences for years to come. 

Iran’s President Rouhani issues chilling warning that the US made a ‘grave mistake’ and will face the consequences ‘for years to come’ after Soleimani’s family asks for revenge

The President of Iran has issued a chilling warning that the U.S. made a ‘grave mistake’ by killing the leader of Iran’s Quds force, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike and that it will face consequences for years to come. 

In a visit to the notorious general’s house on Saturday, one of Soleimani’s daughter’s asked President Hassan Rhouani for revenge.

‘Who is going to avenge my father’s blood?’ she asked. 

In response, he promised her that ‘everyone will take revenge’ and ‘we will, we will avenge his blood , you don’t worry.’

‘The Americans did not realize what a grave mistake they have made. They will suffer the consequences of such criminal measure not only today, but also throughout the years to come,’ Rouhani said. 

‘This crime committed by the US will go down in history as one of their unforgettable crimes against the Iranian nation.’

Soleimani, 62, was killed in the early hours of Friday, local time, outside Baghdad’s International Airport in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump.

President Rouhani (right) speaking with General Soleimani's daughters (left) on Saturday

President Rouhani (right) speaking with General Soleimani’s daughters (left) on Saturday

Hours after the attack, Trump said that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to prevent war, adding that the commander was plotting ‘imminent and sinister’ attacks against Americans. 

The general was the architect of Iran’s shadow warfare and military expansion in the Middle East and was targeted specifically because he was actively developing plans to kill members of the U.S. military and diplomats in the region.

‘We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,’ the president said in brief remarks at Mar-a-Lago on Friday. 

Rouhani has said that Iran has the right to seek revenge, saying that that retaliation will come when the ‘dirty hands of the US’ are removed from the region indefinitely.   

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei (pictured) with a member of Soleimani's family during a visit to the family's home on Friday evening

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei (pictured) with a member of Soleimani’s family during a visit to the family’s home on Friday evening

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei also visited the home on Friday evening where he said the airstrike that killed the architect of the country’s infamous militia was ‘villainous’. 

‘Everyone is bereaved & grateful to your father. This gratitude is due to his great sincerity, since hearts are in God’s hands. Without sincerity, [people’s] hearts wouldn’t have been with him like this. May God bestow His blessings on all of us,’ he said, recounting the conversation in a tweet. 

‘You saw people in many cities come out in numbers, with devotion. Wait to see his funeral. These blessings are before us to see the value of martyrdom. What a blessing for Hajj Qasem. He achieved his dream.’

In a series of other tweets following the meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei referred to the Trump administration as ‘villainous’ and  condemned the airstrike. 

‘Hajj Qasem Soleimani had been exposed to martyrdom repeatedly, but in performing his duty & fighting for the cause of God, he didn’t fear anyone or anything. He was martyred by the most villainous people, the US govt, & their pride in this crime is a distinguishing feature of him,’ he wrote on Saturday. 

He also warned Iran’s ‘enemies’ that the Jihad of Resistance’ supposed victory will be ‘bitter.’    

While visiting Soleimani’s family on Saturday, Rouhani called the airstrike an ‘unforgettable crime’.

‘The Americans did not realize what a grave mistake they have made. They will suffer the consequences of such criminal measure not only today, but also throughout the years to come,’ Rouhani said.

‘This crime committed by the US will go down in history as one of their unforgettable crimes against the Iranian nation.’ 

Ayatolla Ali Khamenei visited the family on Friday and echoed similar sentiments against the Trump administration. 

‘Hajj Qasem Soleimani had been exposed to martyrdom repeatedly, but in performing his duty & fighting for the cause of God, he didn’t fear anyone or anything. He was martyred by the most villainous people, the US govt, & their pride in this crime is a distinguishing feature of him,’ he wrote on Saturday.

He also warned Iran’s ‘enemies’ that the Jihad of Resistance’ supposed victory will be ‘bitter’.

He wrote: ‘All friends—& enemies—know that Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation & definite victory awaits the fighters on this blessed path. The loss of our dear General is bitter. The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals.’

During funeral processions for Soleimani, his supporters chanted ‘No, No, America,’ ‘Death to America, death to Israel’ and ‘America is the Great Satan.’

Mohammed Fadl, a mourner dressed in black, said the funeral is an expression of loyalty to the slain leaders.

‘It is a painful strike, but it will not shake us,’ he said.

Thousands chant ‘Death to America!’ and hold signs vowing revenge at funeral of Soleimani

Thousands of furious mourners thronged in the streets of Baghdad today during funeral processions for the slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia commander who died with him during yesterday’s US strike.

They chanted ‘Death to America’ and ‘America is the Great Satan’ as they walked beside the coffins of Soleimani, architect of Iran’s global military strategy, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Kataeb Hezbollah chief, in Baghdad. 

The pair had been riding in a two-vehicle convoy which was decimated by three missiles from an American MQ-9 Reaper Drone in the early hours of Friday outside Baghdad International Airport.

The strike – which also killed four more Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards and five members of Iraq’s pro-Iran paramilitary network – infuriated Tehran, who vowed jihad on America. 

Thousands of mourners pack the streets of Baghdad on Saturday to mourn Soleimani and Muhandis killed in a US strike outside the Iraqi capital's airport in the early hours of Friday

Thousands of mourners pack the streets of Baghdad on Saturday to mourn Soleimani and Muhandis killed in a US strike outside the Iraqi capital’s airport in the early hours of Friday

Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis

Funeral processions were held for the 62-year-old Soleimani (left), chief of the elite Quds Forces arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as well Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, 66, (right) commander of a pro-Iran Iraqi militia in Baghdad on Saturday

Meanwhile Iraq, whose prime minister attended the funerals today, threatened to order the expulsion of all US troops from the country after what it called ‘a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.’ 

President Donald Trump has said that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to prevent war, adding that the commander was plotting ‘imminent and sinister’ attacks against Americans.  

Mourners in the Iraqi capital today carried posters of Soleimani and flags of Muhandis’s Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah militia, which has committed brazen attacks against US bases in recent months, climaxing with a siege of the US embassy on Tuesday. 

The procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad, one of the most revered in Shia Islam before crowds headed south to a point near the Green Zone, the high-security district home to government offices and foreign embassies, including America’s.   

Mourners surround a car carrying the coffin of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani through the streets of Baghdad on Saturday

Mourners surround a car carrying the coffin of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani through the streets of Baghdad on Saturday

Meanwhile thousands of angry demonstrators stood outside the UN offices in Iran’s capital, demanding retribution for the killing of Soleimani. 

The head of Iran’s elite Quds Force will be laid to rest Tuesday in his hometown of Kerman as part of three days of ceremonies across the country, the Revolutionary Guards said. 

Yesterday Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited the 62-year-old father-of-five’s family home and offered condolences after vowing ‘jihad’ on America for the drone strike. 

It comes as Tehran’s UN ambassador, who represents Iran’s only diplomatic mission within the US, told CNN Friday that the airstrike was ‘tantamount to opening a war against Iran.’

‘The US has already started a war against Iran, not just an economic war but something beyond that by assassinating one of our top generals,’ Ravanchi said. ‘There will be harsh revenge… The response for a military action is a military action.’  

Today mourners in the Iraqi capital, many of them in tears, chanted: ‘No, No, America,’ and ‘Death to America, death to Israel.’

Mohammed Fadl, a mourner dressed in black, said the funeral is an expression of loyalty to the slain leaders.

‘It is a painful strike, but it will not shake us,’ he said.

Two helicopters hovered over the procession, which was attended by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and leaders of Iran-backed militias. 

The remains will later be taken to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to the south, and the remains of the Guards will then be flown to Iran, which has declared three days of mourning.

Following the violent attacks on the embassy during marches for other militant ‘martyrs’ earlier this week, the U.S. is bracing for the possibility of another assault.

Some of the funeral processions were being held in areas close to the heavily-fortified ‘Green Zone’ and officials are extremely wary of masses of militia close to consular buildings.

Any attempt by Iran-backed militias to breach the embassy would ‘run into a buzzsaw’ of fire from U.S. defenders, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said earlier this week. 

‘We are very confident that the integrity of that embassy is strong and it is highly unlikely to be physically overrun by anyone,’ Milley said at a Pentagon briefing.  

A US defense official told AFP Saturday that America would scale back military operations in Iraq and devote manpower to defending its bases and troops.

‘We will conduct limited anti-Islamic State group operations with our security partners where it mutually supports our force protection efforts,’ the official said. ‘We have increased security and defensive measures at Iraqi bases that host coalition troops.’ 

NATO announced Saturday it was suspending training missions in Iraq. The NATO mission in Iraq, which numbers in the hundreds, trains the country’s security forces at the request of the Baghdad government to prevent the return of the Islamic State group. 

As tensions soared across the region, there were reports overnight of an airstrike on a convoy of Iran-backed militiamen north of Baghdad.

Hours later, the Iraqi army denied any airstrike had taken place. The U.S.-led coalition also denied carrying out any airstrike.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed militias, and security officials had reported the airstrike in Taji, north of the capital. An Iraqi security official had said five people were killed and two vehicles were destroyed.

It was not immediately clear if another type of explosion had occurred. 

At least two rockets were reported to have fired near the US Embassy in Baghdad and three were fired at Balad Airbase housing US troops, about 50 miles north of the city.

After the rockets landed, security around the embassy’s perimeter, located in the the green zone were rammed up in response. 

Of the three missiles that fired from the airbase, two Katyusha rockets fell inside the base and it was not immediately clear how many US troops are being housed inside. 

A number of rockets also landed in the Al-Jadiriya neighborhood, according to the Iraq Army, although it is not clear if that was the intended target.

There have been no reports of injuries and it is not clear who fired the rockets.

Rockets launched at US Embassy in Baghdad and military airbase housing American soldiers

Rockets were fired near the US Embassy in Baghdad and a military airbase housing American troops a day after General Qassem Soleimani was killed in an air strike. 

On January 1, pro-Iran protesters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad, and lit fires outside

On January 1, pro-Iran protesters stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad, and lit fires outside

At least two rockets landed near the embassy, which is located in the security-tight Green Zone. 

It also reported that security at the embassy’s perimeter was stepped up after the rockets fell.  Earlier this week, pro-Iran protesters stormed the US embassy in a siege that lasted just over a day.

Another three rockets were fired at Balad Airbase housing American troops, about 50 miles north of the city, according to Reuters.   

Of those, two Katyusha rockets fell inside the base. It’s not clear how many US troops are being house at the base. 

A number of rockets also landed in the Al-Jadiriya neighborhood, according to the Iraq Army, although it is not clear if that was the intended target.  

There have been no reports of injuries and it is not clear who fired the rockets.

Iranians raise blood red ‘flags of revenge’ for General Qassem Soleimani’s killing

Iranians raised the blood-red ‘flags of revenge’, vowing to retaliate after the US killed general Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad.

Iranian state TV broadcast the flag being hoisted over the minarets at the revered Jamkaran Mosque in the holy city of Qom on Saturday.

In Shia Islam the red flags, which have also been flown at demonstrations in Tehran, symbolize blood spilled unjustly and serve as a call to avenge the person who is slain.  

It comes as Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei and President Hassan Rouhani consoled Soleimani’s distraught children at his family home last night, reassuring them the commander would be avenged. 

As the flag was raised in Qom, the mosque speakers called, ‘O Allah, hasten your custodian reappearance,’ a reference to the end-times reappearance of the Mahdi. 

Protesters demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Saturday. Red flags in Shia tradition symbolize both blood spilled unjustly and serve as a call to avenge a person who is slain

Protesters demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Saturday. Red flags in Shia tradition symbolize both blood spilled unjustly and serve as a call to avenge a person who is slain

In Shia Islam, the faith of Iran, the Mahdi is a divine figure who will appear to bring a Day of Judgement and rid the world of evil.

According to local reports it is the first time in the Qom mosque’s history – a holy site since the Middle Ages – that the red flag has been raised over the building.  

Last night Khamanei and Rouhani consoled Soleimani’s family.

‘Who is going to avenge my father’s blood?’ One of the commander’s daughters asked.

In response, Rouhani promised her that ‘everyone will take revenge’ and assured her as she wept, ‘we will, we will avenge his blood, you don’t worry.’ 

‘The Americans did not realize what a grave mistake they have made. They will suffer the consequences of such criminal measure not only today, but also throughout the years to come,’ Rouhani said.

‘This crime committed by the US will go down in history as one of their unforgettable crimes against the Iranian nation.’  

Soleimani, 62, was killed in the early hours of Friday, local time, outside Baghdad’s International Airport in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump.

Hours after the attack, Trump said that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to prevent war, adding that the commander was plotting ‘imminent and sinister’ attacks against Americans.

The general was the architect of Iran’s shadow warfare and military expansion in the Middle East and was targeted specifically because he was actively developing plans to kill members of the U.S. military and diplomats in the region. 

Thousands of mourners took to the streets of Tehran on Saturday where the red flag was also seen fluttering before a downtown mosque in the Iranian capital. 

Meanwhile in Baghdad, shouts of ‘Death to America’ filled the air as tens of thousands of people marched to mourn Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was also killed in the US strike.     

A PMF-organised procession carrying the bodies of Soleimani, Muhandis and other Iraqis killed in the US strike took place in the city’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

Mourners included many militiamen in uniform for whom Muhandis and Soleimani were heroes.

They carried portraits of both men and plastered them on walls and armoured personnel carriers in the procession. 

In another unsettling event, Iran has unfurled a red flag, signifying revenge, on top of the Jamkaran Mosque, in Qom. 

The US has since ordered all citizens to leave Iraq and closed their Baghdad based embassy, where Iranian militiamen and supporters staged violent protests outside the building for two days. Additionally, NATO has suspended training Iraqi security and armed forces in the region.

Spokesman Dylan White said: ‘The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount.’  

Several US cities have also begun taking precautions against any potential attacks by bolstering security. 

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD will take steps to protect ‘certain locations’ from ‘from any attempt by Iran or its terrorist allies to retaliate against America’.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would bolster security in the wake of the Iranian airstrike

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would bolster security in the wake of the Iranian airstrike 

Bill de Blasio: 'We are in an unprecedented situation today, but the NYPD is ready for any scenario. New Yorkers will see heightened security at locations around the city, but there is NO credible and specific threat at this time. If you see something, say something'

Bill de Blasio: ‘We are in an unprecedented situation today, but the NYPD is ready for any scenario. New Yorkers will see heightened security at locations around the city, but there is NO credible and specific threat at this time. If you see something, say something’

‘No one has to be reminded that New York City is the number one terror target in the United States. We’re taking escalation in the Middle East seriously — and I have absolute faith in the NYPD to protect this city and keep every New Yorker safe,’ he said in a tweet. 

Gov Andrew Cuomo added that the Department of Public Service has been in contact with all electric, telephone, water and natural gas utilities in New York in an effort to increase vigilance for cybersecurity and physical security. 

The Los Angeles Police Department and Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC, have also announced mounting security. 

The LAPD is in talks with law enforcement at all levels and say there is not credible threat as of now.

Bowser released a statement saying Metropolitan Police and Homeland Security were working to monitor evolving events. 

‘While there are no immediate threats to the District of Columbia, we remain vigilant and [Metropolitan Police Department] & [DC Emergency Management and Homeland Security] will remain in close contact with regional and federal partners to monitor evolving events — both at home and abroad,’ she said.    



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Maxine Waters thought she was talking to Greta Thunberg. It was actually trolls…



The call starts innocently enough: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., warmly greets the voices on the line, whom a staffer identifies as Greta Thunberg and her father, Svante. They share a laugh about Waters’s nickname, “Auntie Maxine.” The congresswoman praises her young caller for her climate change activism.

“You have made quite a big, big, big, big thunder on this issue. I am really, really very proud of you and the work that you’re doing,” Waters is heard saying.

The congresswoman and her staff thought they had connected with Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who was recently named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” In reality, two 30-something Russians, Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, were on the other end of the line. The duo describe themselves as comedians and pranksters, but they are widely suspected of having ties to the Russian government.


Audio from the call with Waters was posted to the pair’s YouTube page on Thursday, along with a cartoon animating the approximately 10-minute interaction as part of their comedy video series called “Stars Save the Earth.”

It’s unclear when exactly the call took place. Waters’ office did not respond to questions seeking details about how the call was arranged or whether her office has screening or security protocols for phone calls. Waters waved off the incident on Saturday, telling The Washington Post in an email statement:



“This was just another stupid prank by the same Russian operatives who have targeted many U.S. elected officials, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and late-Senator John McCain, and international heads of state such as Emmanuel Macron. The end.”

But security experts warn that what’s being passed off as prank-call mischief is really Russian misinformation meant to undermine the United States.

Kuznetsov and Stolyarov deny they’re Kremlin-backed agents with ties to Russian security forces, despite their pattern of frequently targeting people critical of Russia or the fact that, as two supposed pranksters, they’re able to reach powerful world leaders directly by phone.

“We work for ourselves, for nobody else,” Stolyarov told the Guardian in 2016.

Whether the pair are agents of the Russian government, the kind of ruse they pulled on Waters can accomplish two goals for Russia, according to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the 2018 book, “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President.”


“The first [goal] is adding info. to a political dialogue in which discrediting one side is useful to Russia,” Jamieson told The Post by phone. “The second is being able to make the argument to the rest of the world that U.S. leaders are easily duped. Putin’s interests are served when U.S. leaders are made to look foolish in the eyes of the world.”

Kuznetsov and Stolyarov started pranking their own rich and famous countrymen around 2014, before moving on to targets like Elton John, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and, more recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. The men pose as prominent figures their targets would be keen to speak with, engage them in conversation and then post the audio to their YouTube channel.

The call to Waters includes a mix of the absurd – the Thunberg impersonator mentions a climate strike in support of “Chon-go-Chango island” – and the overtly political.

Halfway through the call, the impersonators detail a fictional exchange between President Donald Trump and Thunberg that they claim happened when both attended the U.N. climate summit in September. In it, they tell Waters that the president made Thunberg cry when he said, “You’ll never achieve your goals like those congressional fools who accuse me,” and “I’ll tell you the truth: I really wanted to push the Ukraine president to put my competitor on trial. And he will go to trial with you, with [a bunch of] Democrats. . . . I would have a separate cage for all of you.”

“Oh my god, he mentioned the Ukrainian president?” Waters is heard asking.

The caller impersonating Thunberg’s father offers that they have an audio recording of Trump’s remarks to Greta that they can provide to the congresswoman.

Waters is heard assuring the callers that her colleagues are working diligently to gather facts in the impeachment case against Trump. “[I]f the public knew he talked to Greta like that, and that she will never achieve – that will go against him, too,” she said.

Waters ends the call by offering to arrange a meeting as quickly as possible, to which the callers agree.

Schiff, Waters’ congressional colleague and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, received a similar call from the two men in April 2017, when one posed as the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Andriy Parubiy, the Atlantic reported in 2018. On the call, the impersonator told Schiff they had compromising material on Trump, including nude photos of the president.

“We will try to work with the FBI to figure out, along with your staff, how we can obtain copies,” Schiff reportedly responded. A spokesman for Schiff later told the magazine that they suspected the call was “bogus” and had alerted security and law enforcement before agreeing to take it and after.

Despite those precautions, Republican opponents like Rep. Devin Nunes of California pointed to the existence of the call as evidence Democrats were being cavalier and incautious in gathering evidence against Trump for the impeachment hearing.

“The point at which this enters the dialogue and can be used for a political attack has real consequences,” said Jamieson.

Not all targets have been Democrats, but Jamieson said it matters if the “pranksters” are reaching out to people involved in an ongoing investigation. She also advised watching to see whether reports of the stories are picked up and amplified by Russian government-controlled websites like RT and Sputnik.

“At that point, this is no longer a prank; this is engaging in disinformation,” she said.

A lingering question for Jamieson – and perhaps many lawmakers’ offices – is whether voice recognition or other technology can advance to the point where it can help verify who is on the other end.

“There’s a real vulnerability when you’re talking to someone you can’t see. You wouldn’t want the president of the U.S., or someone who has the capacity to make significant leadership decisions, to be tricked by someone who isn’t who they allege they are,” Jamieson said.

Trump already fell victim to such a prank in 2018 when U.S. comedian John Melendez, a.k.a. Stuttering John of “The Howard Stern Show,” claims to have reached the president on Air Force One by pretending to be Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.



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PM says Iraq must end foreign troop presence as soon as possible…


BAGHDAD, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi urged parliament on Sunday to take urgent measures and end the foreign troop presence as soon as possible.

“Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” Abdul Mahdi told parliament in a speech.

The Iraqi parliament is holding an extraordinary session that lawmakers said they would use to push for a vote on a resolution requiring the end of the presence of foreign troops. (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Ahmed Aboulenein, and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Alison Williams)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Parliament discusses withdrawal of US forces…


Iraq’s parliament started its extraordinary session on Sunday with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in attendance, where they are expected to vote on ousting thousands of US troops from military bases.

The outgoing Mr Abdul Mahdi, who resigned following months of protests but is in office until a replacement has been decided on, told parliament it must “take careful consideration” whether to “take urgent measures to end the presence of US troops” or limit their remit.

In the event that they are limited, they may allowed to conduct training missions and be banned from mounting any military operations in the country.

Mr Abdul Mahdi said asking the US forces to leave “would be the best option to establish a strong friendship with the US and other countries, based on mutual respect for sovereignty”.

The decline of ISIS, he said, removes the major reason for the presence of US forces in the country.

The bases are threatened by pro-Tehran factions after an American strike killed commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Gen Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis.

Late on Saturday, missiles hit the Baghdad enclave where the US embassy is located and an airbase north of the capital housing American troops, prompting US President Donald Trump to threaten strikes on 52 sites in Iran.

The near-simultaneous attacks seemed to be the first phase of promised retaliation for the US precision drone strike that killed Suleimani and Al Muhandis.

The US-led coalition against ISIS on Sunday announced it was “pausing” its fight against ISIS in Iraq, where US troops training local forces have faced a spate of rocket attacks.

“This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh (the Arabic name for ISIS) and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review,” the coalition said in a statement.

Iraq's caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi speaks during a ceremony in Baghdad. Mr Abdel Mahdi slammed a US strike that killed top Iraqi and Iranian commanders in Baghdad as an 'aggression' that could 'spark a devastating war'. AFP
Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi speaks during a ceremony in Baghdad. AFP

Iraqi politicians said they would use the special session to push for a vote on a resolution requiring the government to tell Washington to withdraw US troops from the country.

The Iraqi foreign ministry also said on Sunday that it has summoned US ambassador Matthew Tueller to condemn the strikes.

“They were a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” the ministry said in a statement, and “contradict the agreed-upon missions of the international coalition.”

More to follow

Updated: January 5, 2020 06:33 PM



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Netanyahu, in apparent stumble, calls Israel 'nuclear power'…


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – In an apparent slip of the tongue on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Israel as a nuclear power before correcting himself with a bashful nod and an embarrassed smile.

Israel is widely believed to have an atomic arsenal but has never confirmed or denied that it has nuclear weapons, maintaining a so-called policy of ambiguity on the issue for decades.

Netanyahu stumbled at the weekly cabinet meeting while reading in Hebrew prepared remarks on a deal with Greece and Cyprus on a subsea gas pipeline.

“The significance of this project is that we are turning Israel into a nuclear power,” he said, before quickly correcting himself to say “energy power”.

He then paused for a beat, acknowledging his mistake with a smile, and then ploughed on with his comments.

The rare blooper from one of Israel’s most polished politicians swiftly proliferated on social media.

Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival in a March 2 vote after two inconclusive elections in April and September. In November, he was indicted on corruption charges, which he denies.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Frances Kerry

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Britain 'must be ready' for looming war…


War between the US and Iran could inevitably draw in Britain and the UK “must be ready”, a Royal Navy admiral has warned.

Admiral Lord West – formerly the most senior officer in the Royal Navy – said it would be “very difficult” for Britain to stay out of a fresh conflict in the Middle East .

The Royal Navy hero said Britain and the US are “joined at the hip” militarily the region – and are also perceived as being absolutely interlinked by Iran.

He explained Iran views the US as the “Great Satan” and the UK as the “Little Satan”.

Iran sees both Britain and America in the “same box” – and the actions of one is almost always linked to the other.

The former First Sea Lord told Daily Star Online: “We have to make sure our military in region are ready and the British people are aware of the risk.”

British and US flags get burned in Tehran

Pictures from protests in Iran already shown British flags being burned alongside the Stars and Stripes.

War fears are now raging after Trump ordered an airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Soleimani was accused of plotting attacks on US forces in the Middle East in his role as head of the so-called Quds Force.

His assassination came following the storming of the US Embassy by an Iran-linked militia.

Tehran has pledged to respond, and the world is waiting as tensions teeter on a knife edge.

Admiral Lord West is the former First Sea Lord

Admiral Lord West told Daily Star Online: “It will be very difficult for us not to get involved.

“And the sad thing is if we somehow didn’t get involved, the Iranians wouldn’t believe we weren’t.”

He added: “It is highly dangerous. Britain has got to be very careful because we are seen in the same box as the Americans.

“An attack on us [by Iran] is seen as pretty good and not just second best to the Americans.”

He added he hoped the US have briefed Britain on what has happened so we can establish a working relationship amid the unfolding crisis.

Iran has a large arsenal of missiles

Admiral Lord West said Britain should remain “calm” and try to avoid getting involved if the US opt for a campaign of selective strikes.

“But there will come a stage where we have to get involved if it becomes a more general war,” Admiral Lord West explained.

“Because the Iranians will assume we are part of what the Americans do.”

The Royal Navy hero – who was the last man aboard HMS Ardent when it was sunk during the Falklands War – previously warned against war saying it require millions of men to invade Iran .

And he said nothing short of full ground invasion and total occupation could successfully defeat Iran, with any other option leaving the damaged country as a “festering sore” which would later lash out at the West.

However, he dismissed these are totally unrealistic – comparing it to the invasion of Germany in World War 2 and saying the US would have to go onto a “war footing”.

Royal Navy ships are heading to the Strait of Hormuz

Britain announced yesterday Royal Navy vessels will resume escort duty in the Strait of Hormuz amid fears of attacks on tankers.

Admiral Lord West explained that the seizures of shipping, or even the laying of mines in the Strait could be a response to the killing of Soleimani by Iran.

He described the regime as “desperate” to capture British sailors during the tanker crisis that unfolded during the summer.

And he added Iran could also continue launching proxy attacks using the terrorist organisations the regime has links with through the so-called Quds Force.

Iran has yet to launch a direct response to the US amid various threats of “harsh revenge” and “vengeance” – which have been responded to furiously by Trump.

Qassem Soleimani was a powerful figure in Iran

Trump issued a stark warning to Iran, threatening to hit dozens of targets “very fast and very hard” if it retaliates.

In unusually specific language, Mr Trump tweeted that his administration had already targeted 52 Iranian sites, “some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

“Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters,” the president tweeted.

“He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years.”

Mr Trump also warned: “The USA wants no more threats!”

Iranian protesters burn US and British flags in Tehran

Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab defended the US as he accused accused hardliners in Tehran of “nefarious behaviour”.

He described Soleimani as a “regional menace” and said Trump’s nation has the “right of self defence”.

But he called for the pursuit of a diplomatic route came as Iran accused Trump of breaching international law in authorising the fatal drone strike.

The Foreign Secretary also defended Boris Johnson, saying he has been in “constant contact” with the Prime Minister who remained “in charge” throughout his Caribbean holiday during the crisis.

Raab, who is due to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Thursday, said he has been in contact with the Iraqi prime minister and president and will be speaking to Iran’s foreign minister.

Donald Trump has said there are 52 targets for the US in Iran

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Trump of having “committed grave breaches” of international law with the killing.

He also accused of him threatening to commit a “war crime” by targeting cultural sites in Iran.

“Whether kicking or screaming, end of US malign presence in West Asia has begun,” Mr Zarif tweeted.

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Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused the PM of dismissing her concerns that Trump was heading down a dangerous path by working to tear up the nuclear treaty with Iran.

With the US sending 3,000 extra troops to Kuwait, she warned of a “lurch towards war” arising from the president’s “reckless” decision to kill the general who masterminded Iran’s regional security strategy.

Johnson is due back in Downing Street today as he returns home from the private island of Mustique where he celebrated the New Year with his partner Carrie Symonds.



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