Washington seeks global ‘coalition’ against Iran regime

Iranian protesters hold a portrait of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, General Qassem Suleimani, during a demonstration in Tehran against the US. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
Updated 18 May 2018
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Washington seeks global ‘coalition’ against Iran regime

  • US State Department says the coalition will not be “anti-Iran” because the US stands “firmly behind” the country’s people, in contrast to the regime and its “bad actions.”
  • Citing Iran's failure to curb its destabilization activities, President Donald Trump pulled out the US from the Iran nuclear accord, to the anger of US allies.

WASHINGTON: The US wants to build a global “coalition” against the Tehran regime and its “destabilizing activities,” the State Department said on Thursday, after pulling out from the Iran nuclear accord to the anger of US allies.
The plan is to be detailed on Monday by the top United States diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his first major foreign policy address since taking office in April.
“The US will be working hard to put together a coalition,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.
The aim is to “bring together a lot of countries from around the world with the specific goal of looking at the Iranian regime through a more realistic lens” which would include “all of its destabilizing activities that aren’t just a threat to the region but are a threat to the broader world,” she said.
Nauert added that the coalition will not be “anti-Iran” because the US stands “firmly behind” the country’s people, in contrast to the regime and its “bad actions.”
She evoked a comparison with the US-led international coalition against the Daesh group in Syria and Iraq.
Begun in 2014, that coalition now counts as members 75 countries or institutions and intervened militarily against the jihadists, although only a minority of coalition members have conducted most of that military action, which has left the extremists nearly defeated on that battlefield.
Nauert did not say whether the proposed coalition against Iran’s regime would have a military component.
She said the State Department received on Monday about 200 foreign diplomats to explain to them President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord, and the next steps.
In a breakthrough that ended a 12-year standoff over Western fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb, the administration of former president Barack Obama and other major powers reached the accord with Iran in 2015.
It lifted punishing international sanctions in return for Iran’s agreement to freeze its nuclear effort.
Withdrawing from the deal last week, Trump called for a new agreement with deeper restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program as well as curbs on its ballistic missiles and its backing for militant groups across the Middle East.
Along with Iran the other signatories of the 2015 deal — France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia — strongly criticized the US withdrawal.
On Thursday the European Union said it will begin moves to block the effect of reimposed US sanctions on Iran as efforts to preserve the nuclear deal deepened a transatlantic rift.
Asked about the potential willingness of European nations to join the proposed new coalition, Nauert said many US allies “fully understand” and are “not turning a blind eye” to Iran’s actions.


Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

  • Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH: The American pastor recently released after two years of confinement in Turkey said on Friday that he suffered a breakdown during his time in prison and was put on anti-anxiety medication.
Andrew Brunson said he was deprived of books — even a Bible — for long stretches of time. For eight months, he spent 24 hours a day with more than 20 men in a cell designed for eight.
But the worst of it, he said, was the uncertainty. The pastor who had led a small congregation faced the possibility of life in a Turkish prison if convicted on charges of terrorism and related counts, accusations he still calls “ridiculous.”
“I didn’t do very well,” Brunson said of living in the crowded prison cell. “It was very high stress, and I was sleeping three to four hours maximum a day. And I was really struggling a great deal. I didn’t know how long this would continue. I didn’t know why I was in prison.”
He added: “I really had a breakdown emotionally. And I received medication for anxiety because I was just a basket case.”
Sitting next to his wife, Norine, Brunson spoke inside the Virginia Beach headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network after an interview on “The 700 Club,” among other CBN shows. The network closely followed his ordeal, which became a cause celebre for evangelical Christians as well as President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Brunson was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to more than three years in prison. But he was freed and allowed to leave for the two years he had already spent in custody. For the past few months, he had been on house arrest.
Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.
Upon his return, Brunson, 50, visited the White House and placed his hand on Trump’s shoulder in prayer before asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”
Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. And the president maintained there was no deal for Brunson’s freedom.
Brunson said on Friday that he was unaware of any deals. And he pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously suggested trading Brunson for Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of engineering a failed coup in 2016. The swap was never made.
The Brunsons, who spent 25 years in Turkey, said they still love the country but cannot return any time soon. They said they do not know what is next, but they view their ordeal as part of God’s plan.
“We haven’t done anything great,” Brunson said. “But for so many people in so many countries to be praying for us, this is something that God did. It was not just to bless me. He’s using that to bless Turkey.”
In the meantime, the couple is still recovering from the past two years, which included Norine Brunson’s arrest with her husband and the two weeks she spent with him in prison.
She was released and allowed to stay in the country while he was shipped around to various prisons. Their children, then ages 15, 18 and 21, were in the US and have remained there.
The Brunsons said they still do not know why the Turkish government made its accusations. Their missionary work was legal and out in the open for more than two decades.
But they said they were American Christians, who are viewed with suspicion in Turkey. And they were there after the failed coup.
Brunson said Turkish authorities never offered any proof to support the charges — no emails, no social media postings or recordings.
But people the Brunsons had known testified against him. It is something the pastor is still processing.
“It’s not an option not to forgive; we are required to as Christians,” Brunson said. “Is it easy? No. But God forgave me. As I get emotions that come back, I say, ‘I forgive.’”