Tillerson seeks UK, French support for new penalties against Iran

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (AP/Susan Walsh)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Tillerson seeks UK, French support for new penalties against Iran

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seeking British and French support for tough new penalties against Iran and preventing a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Tillerson on Sunday began a nearly weeklong trip to Europe.
Tillerson left Washington as the government shutdown enters its second day. The State Department said he is conducting foreign relations that are essential to national security.
Britain and France are parties to the 2015 Iran deal that President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from this spring unless fixes are made to his liking.
The official said Tillerson’s intent is “to close the gaps” in the accord that gave Iran billions in sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program, and to explore more ways to counter Iranian behavior in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss Tillerson’s plans before the trip, and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, Trump pledged to stop waiving US sanctions unless the Europeans agreed to strengthen its terms by consenting to a side deal that would effectively eliminate provisions that allow Iran to gradually resume some advanced atomic work. Trump also wants tighter restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Iran has rejected any renegotiation. Britain, France and the other European party to the accord, Germany, have expressed some willingness to work with the US over the issue.
A US withdrawal probably would scrap the agreement, a chief foreign policy achievement for President Barack Obama, by reimposing a broad range of sanctions that isolate Iran from the international financial system. Iran has said it will no longer be bound by the terms of the deal if that happens.
Tillerson, on his eighth trip to Europe since becoming secretary of state a year ago, planned to meet with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and national security adviser Mark Sedwill on Monday. He also intended to visit the new US Embassy in the British capital. Trump had been expected to preside over a formal ribbon-cutting for the embassy next month but canceled plans to visit Britain, citing the billion-dollar cost of the embassy and lambasting the Obama administration for its location in a less desirable area than the old site in London’s posh Mayfair district.


Trump blacklists critical ex-CIA chief Brennan

Updated 15 August 2018
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Trump blacklists critical ex-CIA chief Brennan

  • In a highly unusually directive, Trump claimed that Brennan had become “erratic”
  • Brennan, a frequent Trump critic, could now lose access to classified information, a courtesy usually afforded to former senior officials

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan Wednesday, warning several other prominent critics they too risk being blacklisted.
In a highly unusually directive, Trump claimed that Brennan — a former station chief in Riyadh who rose to lead the formidable spy agency — had become “erratic.”
Brennan is a frequent Trump critic. Just hours before this presidential edict, he accused Trump of failing “to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity.”
Brennan, who has briefed Republican and Democratic presidents, could now lose access to classified information, a courtesy usually afforded to former senior officials.
The White House has been besieged by a scandal over a former aide’s tell-all memoir in recent days and often tries to defuse crises by stoking new controversy.
It said that eight other critical officials could also lose their clearances.
They included former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director and four star general Michael Hayden and ex-FBI director James Comey.
The group was accused — without details — of politicizing and monetizing their public service and security clearances.
“Historically former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service so that they can consult with their successors,” Trump’s statement read.
“At this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr.Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
Following the president’s summit last month with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Brennan, who headed the CIA under president Obama, described Trump’s behavior as “nothing short of treasonous.”
The move to pull his security clearance prompted immediate outrage, with former secretary of state John Kerry accusing the president of “putting personal petty politics ahead of patriotism and national security.”
“You expect this banana republic behavior in the kind of countries that the State Department warns Americans not to travel to, but not at home in the USA.”
National security lawyer Brad Moss said it is not certain that Trump can legally rescind clearances on the grounds stated by the White House.
Hayden said Trump’s threat would have “no impact on what I think, say or write.”
He went on to tell CNN that “it’s almost as if they wanted us to implicitly sign a no disparagement agreement” — a reference to gag orders which Trump often insists on for civilian staff.