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Tillerson: US military not leaving Syria



Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson(File Photo)

Washington, Jan 18: The US must remain both diplomatically and militarily engaged in Syria to protect its own national security interests, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said.

“Continued strategic threats to the US from not just the Islamic State and Al Qaeda persist, and this threat I am referring to principally is Iran,” Tillerson said on Wednesday, adding, “In short, Syria remains a source of severe strategic threats.”

Tillerson was speaking on the campus of Stanford University before an audience that included former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice, CNN reported.

He said President Donald Trump’s administration was implementing a new strategy on Syria that would achieve “key end states” for the carnage engulfing the country — which has left a half million people dead — and would ultimately lead to a political resolution without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.

The continued presence of the IS in Syria despite the loss of a majority of its territory there is necessary, Tillerson said, to avoid a repeat of the security vacuum that followed the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 and the conditions that allowed the IS and other terrorist groups to flourish in the region.

“The IS presently has one foot in the grave, and by maintaining an American military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of ISIS is achieved, it will soon have two,” Tillerson said.

“We understand that some Americans are sceptical of continued involvement in Syria,” Tillerson said, but he argued such engagement was necessary to assure the IS “do not present a threat to the homeland and do not resurface in a new form”.

Similarly, Iranian influence inside Syria through Tehran’s use of proxy forces alongside its own military presence remains a reality that must be checked, Tillerson said.

“As a destabilized nation, and one bordering Israel, Syria presents an opportunity that Iran is all too eager to exploit,” he said.

“Assad’s continued military operations against his own citizens… have created a humanitarian crisis of millions of refugees and only add to the instability in Syria,” the Secretary said.

He reiterated US support for the UN-led process that envisions a unified and stable Syrian state without Assad in power and called on Russia to use its influence with Assad’s regime to reach that end.



Obama scoffs at Trump’s ’60 Minutes’ interview



Barack Obama

At an event in Miami Florida, former U.S. President Barack Obama scoffed at President Donald Trump for walking out of a ’60 Minutes’ interview.

Former President Barack Obama lit into President Trump during a drive-in rally at the Florida International University campus in support of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Saturday.

With hundreds of cars honking, Obama tore into Trump from the start. The former president said the current occupant in the White House has shown little interest in taking his job seriously and that he “treats the presidency like a reality show.”

Trump “hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody except himself and his friends or treating the presidency like a reality show to give himself more attention. And as we noted the other day, his TV ratings are down,” Obama said.

Obama added, “The rest of us have to live with the consequences of what he’s done.”

The former president went on to speak about those consequences as it relates to Trump’s bungling of the pandemic response. And he encouraged Floridians to make Trump a one-term president.

“At least 220,000 Americans are dead. More than 100,000 small businesses have closed. Half a million jobs are gone. Half a million jobs are gone. Right here in Florida. Half a million jobs,” Obama said. “You delivered twice for me, Florida, and now I’m asking you to deliver for Joe and for Kamala [Harris].”

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Trump, once Presbyterian, now says he’s a ‘nondenominational Christian’



Donald Trump

President Trump, who has long identified as a Presbyterian, now considers himself a “nondenominational Christian.”

Trump shared his change in religious identity in a written statement to Religious News Service.

“Though I was confirmed at a Presbyterian church as a child, I now consider myself to be a nondenominational Christian,” Trump wrote, without giving an explanation for the transformation or saying when it occurred.

Trump has a loyal base among white evangelicals, who in 2016 helped propel him to victory.

That year, the religious group made up roughly a quarter of the electorate, and 81 percent of them voted for Trump, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The president told RNS that his parents “taught me the importance of faith and prayer from a young age.”

Trump, who contracted COVID-19 in early October, attributed his swift recovery to his faith.

“I said, ‘There were miracles coming down from heaven.’ I meant it — Melania and I are very thankful to God for looking out for our family and returning us to good health,” he told the outlet.

The president received a cocktail of anti-virus drugs while battling COVID-19. After taking an antibody treatment by drug-maker Regeneron, Trump said he “felt like Superman.”

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Middle East

Guterres hopes Israel-Sudan agreement will bring peace to wider regions

The United Nations remains fully committed to supporting Sudan’s efforts to achieve socio-economic recovery, stability and prosperity for all people in Sudan and the wider region, the statement added.




Antonio Guterres

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday expressed hope that the agreement between Israel and Sudan to normalise relations will create opportunities for peace and prosperity in the wider regions, said his spokesman.

Guterres took note of the announcement of the agreement by the governments of the United States, Israel and Sudan, Xinhua news agency reported.

He hoped the agreement will further cooperation, enhance economic and trade relations, and bring about new opportunities to advance peace and economic prosperity in the wider Horn of Africa and Middle East regions, said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman, in a statement.

The United Nations remains fully committed to supporting Sudan’s efforts to achieve socio-economic recovery, stability and prosperity for all people in Sudan and the wider region, the statement added.

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