Palestinians slam US threats to cut off support to UN refugee agency

A Palestinian man walks past a logo of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jalazone refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Updated 04 January 2018

Palestinians slam US threats to cut off support to UN refugee agency

AMMAN: Palestinians have reacted angrily to US threats to cut off financial support to the UN refugee agency, which provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the US administration is not acting as an honest broker. President Donald Trump is threatening to “starve Palestinian children in refugee camps and deny them their natural rights to health and education, if we do not endorse his terms and dictations,” Erekat said.
Another PLO leader, Hanan Ashrawi, said Trump “singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace” by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month. She says the Palestinians “will not be blackmailed.”
She said: “Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice.”
The US has given the Palestinians more than $5 billion in economic and security aid since the mid-1990s, according to Congressional research figures, with an average of $100 million annually since 2008 for President Mahmoud Abbas’ security services.
Trump threatened to cut off US aid money to the PA, asking why the US should make “any of these massive future payments” when the Palestinians are “no longer willing to talk peace.”
Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.”
“They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue ... peace treaty with Israel,” he wrote.

Salim Zanoun, speaker of the Palestine National Council, told Arab News that the council is due to meet in Ramallah on Jan. 14 and that “the Palestinian answer will be issued at that meeting.”
Khaled Abu Arafeh, minister of Jerusalem during the 2006 Ismail Haniyeh government, told Arab News that by his own admission Trump is using Palestinians. “The very same Palestinian leadership that trusted the Americans is now the subject of a policy of blackmail, bribery and bullying, using refugees who are the weakest party to announce his strategic policy totally in support of the occupiers.”
Abu Arafeh, who called the US decision “ever renewable in its stupidity,” said it would have an effect opposite to what Trump intended. “Palestinians will now be reinvigorated to join the stubborn resistance.”
Annes Sweidan, director of the PLO’s external relations, said various PLO factions have met to prepare a reply to Trump’s statement and that some ideas will be formulated in the meeting of the PLO’s executive committee.
Demonstrations and protests have taken place at various locations of UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) offices throughout the occupied territories, Sweidan said.
Hamas leaders in Gaza slammed Trump’s threats to cut US aid to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas’ spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that Trump’s threats are “cheap political blackmail” that unmasks the barbaric US policy.
A protest was held in Ramallah Wednesday outside the UN offices in which a representative of national and Islamic forces in the Ramallah area thanked the world community for its support at the UN General Assembly meeting.
The statement read out by Issam Abu Baker called on the UN to reject US threats against international agencies. “We reject all forms of US hegemony against international agencies and countries that support Palestinian rights.” The statement termed the US action “bullying” and called on the Americans to stop meddling in the affairs of international agencies.
Sami Mushasha, spokesman of UNRWA, said the agency has not been informed of any change in US funding. He said that UNRWA’s efforts are crucial for human development and its efforts in education, and health and for the dignity of Palestinian refugees and the stability of the region can’t be replaced.
The fact that Israel has not allowed a single refugee to return (while allowing non-refugee Jews to immediately become Israelis) has been a major source of anger and frustration to Palestinians. The PLO was created in refugee camps and has heralded their right of return as one of its most sacred goals.
Over the years, Israel itself has made a very modest contribution to the UN agency and has supported its work with the knowledge that poverty and lack of education will spur more violent resistance. The Israeli Foreign Ministry says on its official website that “Israel recognizes UNRWA’s important contribution to the welfare of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants.”

Rouhani warns Trump of ‘mother of all wars’ as US launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s regime

Updated 44 sec ago

Rouhani warns Trump of ‘mother of all wars’ as US launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s regime

  • Rouhani warned Trump on Sunday: “Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it”
  • Trump suggested Iranian leaders are “going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal’” but Iran rejected talks

DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday cautioned US President Donald Trump about pursuing hostile policies against Tehran, saying “America should know ... war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” but he did not rule out peace between the two countries, either.
Iran faces increased US pressure and looming sanctions after Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats, Rouhani said: “Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” the state-news agency IRNA reported.
“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said, leaving open the possibility of peace between the two countries which have been at odds since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests,” Rouhani said, in an apparent reference to reported efforts by Washington to destabilize Iran’s Islamic government.
In Washington, US officials familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups.

More than half a dozen current and former officials said the campaign, supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, is meant to work in concert with US President Donald Trump’s push to economically throttle Iran by re-imposing tough sanctions.

The drive has intensified since Trump withdrew on May 8 from a 2015 seven-nation deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The White House declined comment on the campaign. The State Department also declined to comment on the campaign specifically, including on Pompeo’s role.

A review of the State Department’s Farsi-language Twitter account and its ShareAmerica website — which describes itself as a platform to spark debate on democracy and other issues — shows a number of posts critical of Tehran over the last month.

Iran is the subject of four of the top five items on the website’s “Countering Violent Extremism” section. They include headlines such as “This Iranian airline helps spread violence and terror.”

In social media posts and speeches, Pompeo himself also appeals directly to Iranians, the Iranian diaspora and a global audience.

On June 21, Pompeo tweeted out graphics headlined: “Protests in Iran are growing,” “Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights,” and “Iran’s revolutionary guard gets rich while Iranian families struggle.” The tweets were translated into Farsi and posted on the ShareAmerica website.

Rouhani scoffed at Trump’s threat to halt Iranian oil exports and said Iran has a dominant position in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping waterway.
“Anyone who understands the rudiments of politics doesn’t say ‘we will stop Iran’s oil exports’...we have been the guarantor of the regional waterway’s security throughout history,” Rouhani said, cited by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.
Rouhani’s apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries came in reaction to efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for any hostile US action. Separately, a top Iranian military commander warned that the Trump government might be preparing to invade Iran.
“The enemy’s behavior is unpredictable,” military chief of staff General Mohammad Baqeri said, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
“Although the current American government does not seem to speak of a military threat, according to precise information it has been trying to persuade the US military to launch a military invasion (of Iran),” Baqeri said.
Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by the end of the year because of new US sanctions, putting oil markets under huge strain amid supply outages elsewhere.
Washington initially planned to totally shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries to stop buying its crude by November.
But it has somewhat eased its stance since, saying that it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies.