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Convoy hit by coalition in Syria likely ‘Iranian-directed’: Mattis

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Jim Mattis

Washington (IANS) – A pro-regime convoy that was struck by US-led warplanes inside Syria this week likely was directed by Iran, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday.

The strike on the convoy heading toward a coalition garrison near the Jordanian border was “necessitated by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed forces,” Mattis said, adding he was not sure if there were Iranians on the ground.

Thursday’s strike occurred inside an established “deconfliction zone” northwest of the At-Tanf garrison, where British and US commandos have been training and advising local forces fighting the Islamic State group.

Such zones are agreed upon between Russia and the coalition, and are designed to stop either side inadvertently striking the other’s forces on the ground and in the air.

The Pentagon says coalition attempts to stop the convoy from proceeding had included a call to the Russians — who work with the Syrian regime — then a “show of force” in the skies above the vehicles, followed by warning shots.

It appeared the convoy had moved into the area against the advice of the Russians, Mattis said.

“It looks like the Russians tried to dissuade them,” he said.

The Pentagon has stressed the attack did not signal broader US involvement in Syria’s civil war, but Damascus on Friday condemned the strike on pro-government forces as a “brazen attack” and said it would “not be intimidated.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the strike a violation of Syrian sovereignty and said he was “unaware” that Russia had been given any warning ahead of the strike.

An array of regular and irregular forces are battling alongside the government against rebels, including Russian and Iranian soldiers and militants from Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

Thursday’s strike comes in the context of growing tension over which forces will take on IS in Syria’s east.

President Bashar al-Assad’s army is trying to prevent US-backed forces from leading that fight.

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Trump accuses Comey of lying in testimony to Congress

Trump criticised Comey’s testimony, the transcription of which was made public Saturday evening and was published on Sunday by several US media outlets.

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James Comey

Washington, Dec 10 : US President Donald Trump has accused former FBI Director James Comey of lying during his testimony before a congressional committee last week, when the ex-official revealed that the investigation into presumed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was initially focused on four US citizens.

In two tweets, Trump criticised Comey’s testimony, the transcription of which was made public Saturday evening and was published on Sunday by several US media outlets, Efe reported on Sunday.

“Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The president added that during Comey’s appearance before the House Judiciary and Government Reform committees on Friday, the former FBI chief told lawmakers “on 245 occasions” that “he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) … All lies!”

Comey, who was abruptly fired by Trump in May 2017, was ordered to appear before Congress behind closed doors on Friday to respond to questions from lawmakers investigating the actions of the FBI and the Department of Justice during the scandal involving former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton regarding her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

In July 2016, Comey closed the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of her private server to send a number of e-mails while she was serving in the Barack Obama administration, but a few days before the election he reopened the probe to review new messages, something that Democrats say could have influenced the result of the election, which Clinton lost to Trump in what most regarded as a stunning upset.

In his appearance before the House committees, Comey defended the decisions he made in 2016 and revealed that the FBI investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign initially was focused on four Americans, according to the transcript.

Comey did not identify those four people, but he said that Trump was not one of them.

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Former US President George H.W. Bush dead at 94

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Herbert Walker Bush-

Washington, Dec 1: George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the US who is best known for sanctioning the Gulf War, presiding over the fall of the Berlin Wall and steering America through the end of the Cold War, has died at the age of 94 in Houston.

The announcement of his passing on Friday night was made in a statement by his son and 43rd US President George W. Bush on Saturday. “Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear dad has died,” Bush said.

George Herbert Walker Bush served as a fighter pilot during the Second World War, a Congressman, Ambassador to the UN, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director and served two terms as Ronald Reagan’s Vice President between 1981 and 1989, before concluding his four-decade long political career by serving as the US President from 1989 to 1993.

During his stint in the White House, Bush Sr. saw the end of the Cold War, the first Gulf War and the invasion of Panama while the Soviet Union collapsed and Germany reunified.

Despite military and diplomatic successes, he was unable to secure re-election and handed over the reins of the White House to Bill Clinton and retired to his home in Boston, Texas, along with his wife Barbara Bush.

Bush Sr’s death came eight months after that of his spouse to whom he was married for 73 years. They had six children together. The cause of his death was not immediately known.

He was suffering from a form of Parkinson’s disease that left him on a wheelchair over the last few years. He was also frequently hospitalised especially for respiratory problems.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump said Bush guided the nation and the world to a victorious end to the Cold War.

“With sound judgement, common sense and unflappable leadership, President Bush guided our nation and the world to a peaceful and victorious conclusion of the Cold War,” Trumps said.

Bush Sr. was also lauded by former President Barack Obama who called him “a patriot and humble servant”.

“His life was a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling,” Obama said.

Grandson George P. Bush said: “He was a good man. His courage was matched by his compassion; and his dedication to country was equalled only by his devotion to his family.”

Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughters of former President Richard Nixon, said: “George H.W. Bush lived a life that was purposeful, and extraordinarily rewarding – for our nation, and for our world.”

IANS

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Trump grants new authority to troops to protect border personnel

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US TROOPS
(Photo Credit- CNN)

Washington, Nov 22: US President Donald Trump has approved a memorandum that grants new authority to US troops on the Southwest border to protect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel from migrants if they engage in violence, according to the Pentagon.

Department of Defence spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told CNN on Wednesday that the Pentagon had received the memorandum.

The White House memo authorises the troops to conduct activities such as “crowd control, temporary detention and cursory search”, according to the memorandum.

It allows troops to use “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary)” in order to perform these protective activities.

While some have questioned whether active duty troops detaining and searching people on US soil constitutes law enforcement, the memo, which is signed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, said that US troops “shall not, without further direction from the President, conduct traditional civilian law enforcement activities, such as arrest, search, and seizure”.

“On detention we do not have arrest authority, detention — I would put it in terms of minutes, in other words if someone’s beating on a border patrolman and if we were in a position to have to do something about it we could stop them from beating on them and take them over and deliver them to a border patrolman who would then arrest them for it,” Secretary of Defence James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

The decision comes as a large group of migrants is arriving at the US-Mexico border.

More than 2,000 Central American migrants arrived in the border city of Tijuana in recent days, and about 3,000 more migrants were estimated to be in Mexicali, Mexico, another border city about 100 miles away.

Until this new authority was granted, troops were not allowed to intervene if CBP personnel came under attack unless they needed to act in their own self-defence.

The Pentagon has been working for the last several days on options for how troops can protect CBP. There are 5,800 to 5,900 troops assigned to the border mission, CNN said.

Trump has said he will deploy as many as 15,000 troops if needed to push back against the group of migrants who are planning on asking for asylum.

On Tuesday, Trump told reporters that the troops “are proud to be on the border. They are proud to be defending our nation. And we are not letting people in”.

IANS

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