Trump, Macron agree on need to work with allies to counter destabilization attempts of Iran and Hezbollah

French President Emmanuel Macron, center right, and his wife Brigitte, right, meet Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, second left, his wife Lara, center left, and their son Hussam upon their arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris on November 18, 2017. (AP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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Trump, Macron agree on need to work with allies to counter destabilization attempts of Iran and Hezbollah

JEDDAH: US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday agreed on the need to partner with allies to respond to the destabilization activities of Hezbollah and Iran in the region.
The two leaders’ telephone conversation came in the aftermath of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation, which he announced during a recent trip to Saudi Arabia.
“Both presidents agreed on the need to work with allies to counter Hizballah’s and Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” a statement from the White House said.
Hariri has accused Iran and Hezbollah of dominating Lebanon and attempt to covertly target his life, which prompted his resignation, and drew comparisons to the similar “atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik Al-Hariri.”
“I refer explicitly and unequivocally to Iran, which sows sedition, devastation and destruction in any place it settles in, as proven by its interferences in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, driven by a deep hatred of the Arab nation and an overwhelming desire to destroy and control it,” Hariri said, when he announced his resignation on November 4.
Hariri traveled to Paris for a meeting with Macron over the weekend upon the French president’s invitation, and also to dispel allegations he was being held against his will in Saudi Arabia, and was expected to return to Lebanon for the Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.
Saudi Foreign Ministry Adel Al-Jubeir had earlier belied accusations that Saudi Arabia was keeping the Lebanese Prime Minister against his will.
“It doesn’t hold merit as Hariri is free to go anywhere he wants,” Al-Jubeir said in a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian in Riyadh.
The Saudi foreign minister also accused Hezbollah of disturbing regional peace and stability by supporting Houthi militias in Yemen, suppressing the will of the Syrian people and violating Lebanese law.
Hezbollah must learn to “respect Lebanon’s sovereignty,” he added.


US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 51 min 27 sec ago
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US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”