Trump threatens to cut aid to Pakistan, a 'haven to terrorists'

In this file photo, President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before leaving the White House in Washington on Oct. 7, 2017. (AP)
Updated 01 January 2018
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Trump threatens to cut aid to Pakistan, a 'haven to terrorists'

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump lashed out at Pakistan on Monday in his first tweet of 2018, threatening to cut off aid over what he said were its “lies and deceit” in offering “safe haven to terrorists.”
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump said as the new year kicked off.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!“
Last week, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was seriously weighing whether to withhold $255 million in already delayed aid to Islamabad over its failure to crack down more effectively on terror groups in Pakistan.
US-Pakistani ties, long contentious, have taken a nosedive under Trump, who in August declared that “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.”
Last month, Trump had already hinted that he may cut off the aid.
“We make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” he said in unveiling his national security strategy.
And in late December, Vice President Mike Pence told American troops during a visit to Afghanistan, “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.”
The comments were an extension of repeated US warnings that Pakistan must stop offering cross-border havens to Taliban factions operating in Afghanistan as well as armed jihadist groups fighting US troops and their Afghan allies.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif responded to Trump’s tweet Monday, telling Geo television in an Urdu-language interview, “The United States should hold its own people accountable for its failures in Afghanistan.”
He said all funds from the US had been “properly audited” and that “services (were) rendered.”
Islamabad has repeatedly denied the accusations of turning a blind eye to militancy, lambasting the United States for ignoring the thousands who have been killed on its soil and the billions spent fighting extremists.
Lisa Curtis, who is the South and Central Asia director on Trump’s National Security Council, wrote in an article published in February that the “activities and operations of diverse terror groups on and from Pakistani soil, and the government’s failure to rein them in, threaten vital US national security interests in the region.”
“To accomplish US counterterrorism objectives in the region and to reverse extremist trends in Pakistani society, Pakistani authorities — specifically the country’s military leaders, who control its foreign and security policies — need to take a comprehensive approach to shutting down all Islamist militant groups that operate from Pakistani territory, not just those that attack the Pakistani state,” she said.
Trump first signaled that the US was reassessing its fractious relations with Pakistan in August, when he accused Islamabad of harboring “agents of chaos.”
The remarks triggered a series of high-level diplomatic meetings in the US and Pakistan, but Islamabad has given few signs of concessions.
After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States, Washington forged a strategic alliance with Islamabad to help in its fight against terrorists. But US leaders have often complained that Pakistan, which once supported the Taliban, has done too little to help.


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 19 September 2018
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.

The advisory came in tandem with France’s decision to hold off on appointing a new ambassador to Iran, as it seeks clarification over an attempt to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.