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Weekly U.S. War and Foreign Policy Roundup 6/30/19

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North Korea

President Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step foot in North Korea on Sunday, in an effort to reopen talks with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un. The two met in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.

The impromptu meeting was Trump’s idea, “We were in Japan for the G20 and I said, ‘hey I’m over here I want to call Chairman Kim,’” the president told reporters.

Trump and Kim crossed into South Korea and held an hour long closed-door meeting.  For a brief moment, they were joined by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, an unprecedented three-way gathering.

The two leaders agreed to set up teams to resume stalled nuclear talks. Chairman Kim invited Trump to visit North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, Trump returned the favor and told reporters, “I would invite him right now, to the White House, absolutely.”

North Korean officials have expressed that they are displeased with certain members of Trump’s cabinet. Back in April North Korea’s foreign ministry official Kwon Jong-gun had this to say about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “Even in the case of possible resumption of dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would not be Pompeo but… [another] person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”

An unnamed North Korean spokesman called National Security Advisor John Bolton a “warmonger” and a “defective human product” back in May. The comments came after Bolton said recent missile tests by North Korea were a violation of UN resolutions.

The images of the U.S. president and chairman of North Korea walking and smiling together through the DMZ into South Korea are powerful. Critics of the meeting said it was largely symbolic and no real progress was made, but the renewing of the two leaders friendship makes it far less likely North Korea will use their missiles anytime soon.

Denuclearization may be the goal for some, but ending the decades old war between the two Korea’s is the priority for the people of the Korean Peninsula. President Trump’s willingness to have an open dialogue with Kim should be celebrated, and he should be encouraged to opt for diplomacy with more foreign leaders.

Iran

In the latest move of U.S. aggression against Iran, President Trump sanctioned Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei on Monday. Trump called the increased sanctions “hard-hitting”, saying they would deny the supreme leader and his office access to key financial resources. The sanctions came in response to Iran shooting down a U.S. drone, which they said violated Iranian airspace. President Trump called off an airstrike last week, with minutes to spare after his generals estimated the strike would kill 150 Iranians. Trump said the airstrike would not be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

On Tuesday Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani said Trump is “afflicted with a mental disorder.” Rouhani called the sanctions against Khamenei “outrageous and idiotic”- since the 80-year-old supreme leader has no overseas assets.

These comments from Rouhani most likely triggered Trump’s flurry of tweets he sent out later that day. “Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words ‘nice’ or ‘compassion,’ they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone,” he wrote in one tweet.

In another tweet Trump threatened the country with obliteration, “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

It is worth noting that most media outlets translated Rouhani’s comments to “mentally retarded.” The word that had been translated to “retarded,” translates to “disability” or “handicap” according to google translate and many Persian to English dictionaries. It’s possible that Trump’s extreme reaction to the comments were due to the mistranslation, although that’s certainly no excuse for threatening a country with “obliteration.”

On Friday, the Senate rejected a proposal that would have required the White House to gain congressional approval before taking military action against Iran. The effort needed 60 votes to pass and came up short with a vote of 50-40.

U.S. special envoy to Iran, Brian Hook, threatened sanctions on any country that imports Iranian oil on Friday. Hook said, “We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil.” Since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, some European nations have tried to keep the deal alive and continue to buy oil from Iran but Hook said, “There are right now no oil waivers in place.” For a short time, the U.S. did have waivers in place for certain allies.

The U.S. has deployed an unspecified amount of F-22 fighter planes to Qatar amid tensions with Iran. The F-22 Raptor stealth fighters have been deployed “to defend American forces and interests,” according to a statement released by U.S. Air Force Central Command on Friday.

Afghanistan

Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, bringing the number of U.S. military members killed this year in the war to 11. The two soldiers were part of a special forces team and were killed in a firefight with the Taliban. The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers as, Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, from Heilbronn, Germany, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, from Trumansburg, New York.

In an attack on Saturday night, the Taliban killed at least 19 after ramming four armored vehicles into a government compound in the Maruf district. On Friday night Taliban fighters killed at least 25 U.S. backed government forces during fighting in the northern Baghlan province.

This violence occurs as the U.S. and Taliban are holding peace talks in Qatar, the seventh round of talks got under way on Saturday. Reuters news agency quoted Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, “We will continue to fight against foreign and Afghan forces until a peace deal is signed.”

The Taliban has made it clear over and over, that they will not negotiate with the U.S. backed Kabul government until all foreign occupation forces leave Afghanistan. There are currently 17,000 foreign troops in the country, 14,000 of them American.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise trip to Kabul on Tuesday, “We’re working to bring Afghans together to negotiate at the table to decide the future of their own country,” he said. “When that table is put together it will be large table. It is crucial to include not just the Taliban and the government, but also representatives of opposition parties, civil society, including women and youth.”

Yemen

At least eight people from one family were killed when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a house in Yemen’s southwestern province of Taiz on Friday, local sources told Xinhua news agency. The airstrike hit a house in the Warzan area of the Khadir district, killing the family inside, including women and children.

The United Arab Emirates, one of Saudi Arabia’s key allies in their fight against the Houthis of Yemen, is scaling back their military presence in the country. The UAE has pulled some troops out of the southern port of Aden and Yemen’s west coast, according to two diplomats.

“It is true that there have been some troop movements…but it is not a redeployment from Yemen,” a senior Emirati official told Reuters, adding that the UAE remains fully committed to the military coalition and “will not leave a vacuum” in Yemen.

The UN mission to Yemen is going to resume peace talks with the U.S. and Saudi backed government. Peace talks were delayed after Yemen’s exiled President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi accused UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, of siding with the Houthis.

The UN oversaw the withdrawal of Houthi troops in the port of Hodeidah as part of a brokered agreement. Hadi’s accusation was that the Houthi’s handed the port over to Houthi-friendly forces.

Hadi has been living in exile since the Saudi bombing campaign began in Yemen. Since then the U.S. backed Saudi-led coalition has launched over 19,000 airstrikes and have killed over 8,000 civilians as result of direct targeting, not to mention those dying of starvation and preventable disease due to the blockade on the country.

Venezuela

Speaking at the G20 summit on Saturday, Trump denied that U.S. efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, telling reporters, “things take time.”

Trump’s envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams spoke at a press conference on Tuesday, reinforcing his support for opposition leader Juan Guaido. Abrams said, “Interim president Juan Guaido continues to travel throughout the country distributing humanitarian assistance, organizing health clinics and spreading an important message that he seeks a peaceful democratic transition.”

In an interview with BBC this week, Guaido said military force is still an option, “if the dictatorship wants to continue usurping power, keeps killing our young people and continues with their repression, then there’s the option of force.” Guaido said the force, “doesn’t have to be international,” although he has already failed at turning the Venezuelan military against Maduro.

U.S. sanctions are still in effect in Venezuela, which the Center for Economic and Policy Research had determined were responsible for the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans in a report they released in April.

Iraq

On May 14th, a Saudi oil pipeline was hit by a drone strike, and Yemen’s Houthis immediately claimed responsibility. Now, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials are claiming the attack originated from Iraq. The U.S. is trying to link the attack to Shi’ite militias in southern Iraq.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told reporters that US officials had contacted Baghdad recently, alleging the drones may have taken off from Iraq.

The prime minister denied the attacks could have come from Iraqi territory. “All of our intelligence services and our air force denied these reports because the airspace is known,” he said.

Libya

U.S.-Made Javelin anti-tank missiles have been discovered at a military base in Libya that belongs to rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar. The New York Times reported the discovery on Friday, the rebel leader has been waging a month’s long offensive against the internationally recognized government in Tripoli.

The markings on the missiles indicate they were sold to the UAE in 2008. If the arms were then sold or transferred to Haftar it would violate the UN arms embargo on Libya. A U.S. state department official said they will be investigating the matter. Other weapons found at the base were made in China and most likely supplied by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Syria

According to Syrian state TV station al-Ikhbariya, Israeli warplanes have fired missiles targeting Syrian military positions in Homs and the Damascus oustskirts, in an attack that killed four civilians and wounded another 21. The Syrian state media station said the attacks were launched from Lebanon airspace.

Syrian government forces and insurgent forces clashed on Friday in the country’s northwest. The Syrian government was trying to take back two villages they lost earlier in the month, according to state media and Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor.

The war monitor said the Syrian government launched an offensive to take back the villages of Jubayn and Tel Milh. From Friday’s fighting alone, 51 government troops and 45 rebel insurgents were killed.

Education

High School Football Players Suspended for Carrying Thin Blue, Thin Red Line Flags Before 9/11 Game

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High School football players in Florida have been suspended from their team for carrying Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags during their football game on 9/11 to honor the first responders who died during the attack on the World Trade Center.

One of the young men on the Little Miami High School football team is the son of a police officer, another, the son of a firefighter.

“Were you trying to make some kind of a political statement here?” a Local 12 reporter asked Brady Williams, a senior cornerback, who carried the Thin Blue Line flag.

“No,” he answered quickly. “Not at all. I was just doing it to honor the people that lost their lives 19 years ago.”

Jarad Bentley, whose father is a firefighter, carried the Thin Red Line flag.

“I was all for it,” he said. “Because my dad is a firefighter, and if it had been him killed on 9/11, I would have wanted someone to do it for him.”

The young men had asked the school for permission to carry the flags on to the field before the game, and the school refused. They were told that if they did, there would be consequences.

Still, the boys did it anyways.

“Listen,” Williams said. “I don’t care what my consequences are. So long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy.”

Local 12 reports that “Williams and Bentley heard from the athletic director Monday afternoon and received an indefinite suspension.” The station said that they had called the superintendent about the boys a few hours prior.

Superintendent Gregory Power claimed that they denied the boys’ request because they don’t want to “set a precedent” for “political” flags being carried out on the field.

“We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” Power claimed.

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DC Police Helicopter Hit With Lasers By Rioters Forced to Make Emergency Landing — Crew Member Hospitalized

One of the crew members had to be hospitalized due to vision loss in one eye.

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A DC Metropolitan Police helicopter had to make an emergency landing on Saturday night as it was hit by laser pointers shined at it by rioters.

A law enforcement source tells the District Herald that one of the crew members had to be hospitalized due to vision loss in one eye.

Rioters were also shining the blinding lasers in the eyes of officers on the ground.

In July, it was revealed that federal officers in Portland may have been permanently blinded by the lasers, that are becoming increasingly common at the riots.

“When officers responded to put out these fires, glass bottles were thrown and lasers – which can cause permanent blindness – were shined in their eyes,” Federal Protective Service (FPS) Deputy Director of Operations Richard Cline said at a press conference at the time. “We have three officers who currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight in those eyes from those laser attacks.”

There were multiple helicopters circling throughout the area all evening to keep track of the rioters.

Rioters from all over the nation, including many familiar faces from the Portland riots, have been causing chaos throughout the city for several days.

The riot escalated when the militants began to throw bricks at police officers.

Earlier in the evening, a speaker in the newly named “Black Lives Matter Plaza” asserted that “I’m at the point where I’m going to put the police in a f*cking grave. I’m at the point where I want to burn the f*cking White House down!”

There were multiple arrests for assaulting police officers, but it seems as though rioters are being quickly caught and released the next day by the US Attorney’s Office.

The riot in DC is currently ongoing and the District Herald will be continuing to provide updates as the situation progresses.

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BREAKING: Member of Patriot Prayer Fatally Shot in Portland

The rioters also attacked the founder of Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson.

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A member of the Pro-Trump organization Patriot Prayer has been shot and killed in Portland amidst the riots.

Early reports on social media had claimed that a black male was shot by a “Trump supporter,” but that was not the case.

The victim was a white male who was reportedly wearing a hat with the Patriot Prayer insignia on it.

“A Patriot with camouflage gear with infidel and thin blue line patches, was shot and killed during pro-Trump car caravan through downtown Portland at around 8:45pm,” independent reporter Andrew Duncomb tweeted.

“Just heard that the man killed is affiliated with my group. Just had drinks with him last Saturday,” Duncomb added.

Speaking to the District Herald, Duncomb said that “all I got to say right now is he was a good Patriot and this news has hit my group of friends pretty hard. It’s time for Trump to hear our cries and clean up Portland. We will not let them kill us anymore.”

Duncomb added, “shame on Ted Wheeler and Kate Brown. His blood is on their hands. They allowed this violence to happen for over three months. How many people need to die before the elected officials will do their job to protect its citizens?”

Following the fatal shooting, rioters also surrounded and assaulted Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson. When Gibson retreated into a gas station, rioters broke the windows and threatened the owner.

The shooting victim’s name has not yet been released, though it is known, to allow time for the family to be notified.

Duncomb, clearly outraged, tweeted a call for patriotic Americans to come to Portland on September 19 to stand against the rioters.

The situation in Portland is ongoing. The District Herald will be providing updates as they become available.

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