Iran’s actions in Mideast key concern, says Merkel

The Israeli premier is lobbying against Iran’s nuclear deal during talks in Europe. (AFP)
Updated 05 June 2018
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Iran’s actions in Mideast key concern, says Merkel

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she agreed with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s activities in the Middle East were a concern, particularly for Israel’s security. 

“We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon and the difference between us is how to do that,” she said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu.

The Israeli premier, who is on a tour to persuade European countries to follow the US administration of Donald Trump in tearing up a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran, said Tehran has been able to bankroll a growing military presence in countries such as Syria and Yemen because sanctions had been lifted in exchange for its halt in nuclear enrichment activities.

He will travel to Paris on Tuesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron before coming to Britain on Wednesday for discussions with Theresa May.

“The Times” newspaper on Monday reported that Israel had shared secret files with European security services showing Iran’s determination to build an atomic bomb.

Among the documents seized by Israel from a Tehran warehouse in January, is a memorandum that formally hands responsibility for the production of weapons-grade enriched uranium to the Iranian defense ministry.

The document, seen by The Times was sent from the Iranian atomic energy authority to the defense ministry around 2001, authorizes the military to take over the task of enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) by centrifuges from three percent to more than 90 percent. 

Netanyahu is expected to use the finds from the files to make the case to May on Thursday that the deal with Tehran has been based on a false pledge from Iran that it never pursued a nuclear weapons program.

Iran wants to “basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria but try to convert Sunnis,” he said at Monday’s joint press conference with Merkel.

“This will inflame another religious war — this time a religious war inside Syria and the consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come,” he said.

Iran’s activities across the Middle East threaten to drive another wave of refugees to Europe, Netanyahu said after Monday’s talks with Merkel.

Merkel also said that talks and the nuclear agreement, torn up by the US, offered ways of thwarting Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions.

“We support Israel’s right to security and have said this to Iran at all times,” she said.

Merkel defended the nuclear accord as ensuring “at least for a certain time, that Iran’s activities are under control” noting that Tehran had been “on the brink of having a nuclear weapon” before the deal was signed.

But she acknowledged that a supplementary deal with Tehran covering its ballistic missile program as well as its interventions in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen was needed.

“But we believe that this can be achieved with tough negotiations,” she said.

Asked about Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comments on Twitter Sunday calling Iran a “malignant cancerous tumour”, Merkel said Germany and its partners had “repeatedly and with great clarity told Iran that we will stand up for Israel’s right to security.”

Western powers view Iran’s involvement in its neighbors affairs as destabilizing for the region while Israel sees it as a direct threat to its existence.


Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

Updated 17 February 2019
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Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

  • President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the $3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it on Sunday.
Officials have said that the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund.
The US defense official said Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would impact and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by recent Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting- I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are underway,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process, we’ll use good judgment,” Shanahan said.
The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.