Trump’s Mideast team to visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia to push Palestine-Israel peace plan

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, above, and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt would travel to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Trump’s Mideast team to visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia to push Palestine-Israel peace plan

WASHINGTON: The White House says President Donald Trump’s Mideast negotiating team will visit the region next week as it finalizes its as-yet unveiled Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and will hold talks on deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip. The trip comes as officials say the Trump administration is near completion of the plan with an eye on a possible release this summer.
The National Security Council said Wednesday that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt would travel to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It said they would discuss “the next stages of the peace effort” and get ideas from regional leaders about “remaining questions the White House peace team has.”
No stop in the Palestinian territories is planned, although the NSC said the itinerary may be expanded. However, the prospect of Palestinian interest in the peace proposal appears dim. Peace talks have been frozen since 2014, and Palestinian leaders have been boycotting high-level talks with US officials for months, complaining that the Trump is biased toward Israel.
US officials had said in late May that the administration was aiming to release the peace plan shortly after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends later this week. However, that timeline appears to have been pushed back to at least August, the same officials said Wednesday.
The Kushner, Greenblatt trip comes at a particularly fraught time in US-Palestinian relations, which have plummeted since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
On Sunday, Greenblatt lashed out at the Palestinians’ veteran chief negotiator, saying his “false claims” and angry rhetoric haven’t brought peace closer. The negotiator, Saeb Erekat, had earlier accused American officials of acting as “spokespeople” for Israel and criticized the US for moving the embassy.
In an op-ed published in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Greenblatt wrote that Erekat’s claims “were in many respects simply inaccurate” and suggested it was time for him to step down.
“Dr. Erekat — we have heard your voice for decades and it has not achieved anything close to Palestinian aspirations or anything close to a comprehensive peace agreement. Other Palestinian perspectives might help us finally achieve a comprehensive peace agreement where Palestinian and Israeli lives can be better,” Greenblatt wrote.


Pentagon plans to send 5,000 more troops to Middle East amid Iran threat: US officials

Updated 23 May 2019
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Pentagon plans to send 5,000 more troops to Middle East amid Iran threat: US officials

  • Tehran and Washington have this month been escalating rhetoric against each other
  • The US military deployed a carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Defense is considering a US military request to send about 5,000 additional troops to the Middle East amid increasing tensions with Iran, two US officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Tehran and Washington have this month been escalating rhetoric against each other, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up the US military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the request had been made by US Central Command, but added that it was not clear whether the Pentagon would approve the request.
The Pentagon regularly receives — and declines — requests for additional resources from US combatant commands throughout the world.
One of the officials said the requested troops would be defensive in nature.
This appeared to be the latest request for additional resources in the face of what US officials have said are credible threats from Iran against US forces and American interests in the Middle East.
The Pentagon declined to comment on future plans.
“As a matter of longstanding policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said on Wednesday.
Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that while threats from Iran in the Middle East remained high, deterrence measures taken by the Pentagon had “put on hold” the potential for attacks on Americans.
The US military deployed a carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East earlier this month in response to what Washington said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran.
Trump had warned on Monday that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attacked US interests in the Middle East.