Trump warns Iran to ‘never, ever threaten’ US or suffer consequences

US President Donald Trump, left, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (AFP/Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2018
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Trump warns Iran to ‘never, ever threaten’ US or suffer consequences

  • Rouhani warned Trump on Sunday: “Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it”
  • Trump has made Iran a favorite target since his rapprochement with nuclear-armed North Korea

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Sunday hit back at bellicose comments by Iran’s president, warning him of consequences “the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered,” as the US intensifies its campaign against the Islamic republic.
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump said on Twitter in a direct message to President Hassan Rouhani, who earlier Sunday warned Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail,” saying that conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars”.
The US president, writing his entire message in capital letters, continued his riposte:
“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”


The high-stakes verbal sparring is reminiscent of the exchanges Trump had last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, before the two leaders met in a historic summit last month.
Trump has made Iran a favorite target since his rapprochement with nuclear-armed North Korea. His comments Sunday night came after his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a major address to the Iranian diaspora in California, said Washington is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime.
Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Trump for his “strong stance” on Iran.
Netanyahu said Trump and his secretary of state were taking a clear position against “Iranian aggression” after years in which the “regime was pampered by world powers.” The Israeli prime minister spoke at his weekly Cabinet meeting Monday.
Trump in May pulled the US out of a hard-won agreement with Tehran, also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for the deal and have vowed to stay in it, though their businesses fear US penalties.
Following Washington’s pullout Pompeo unveiled Washington’s tougher line under which, he said, the US would lift its new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
“You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests,” Rouhani said in a televised speech Sunday, ahead of Pompeo’s address.
Rouhani repeated his warning that Iran could shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil supplies.
“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said.
On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US does not abide by agreements.
“As I have previously said, we cannot trust in the words of the United States and even in their signature, so negotiations with the United States are useless,” Khamenei told a gathering of Iranian diplomats in Tehran.
Pompeo on Sunday noted that the US in January had already sanctioned Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” he said, also confirming that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4, or face American sanctions.
“There’s more to come,” Pompeo said of the US financial penalties.
“Regime leaders -- especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani -- must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk. He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters in the Islamic republic.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said.
Washington’s top diplomat announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, with the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media.
This will ensure that “ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them,” he said.
Regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Islamic republic.
“Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally,” he said.


Tunisia toils to find final resting place for drowned migrants

Updated 22 July 2019
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Tunisia toils to find final resting place for drowned migrants

  • A string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the North African country overwhelmed with bodies

GABES: A putrid odour lingers outside a morgue in Tunisia’s coastal city of Gabes as dozens of bodies of would-be migrants to Europe pulled out of the sea await burial.
A string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the North African country overwhelmed with bodies and struggling to find them a final resting place.
More than 80 drowned migrants have been retrieved from Tunisian waters — most of them victims of a deadly July 1 shipwreck that left only three survivors.
Fished out of the sea between the port city of Zarzis and the tourist island of Djerba in the south, their bodies were brought to Gabes hospital — the only facility in the region capable of taking DNA samples.
Under pressure from civil society groups, Tunisian authorities have stepped up efforts to systematically collect the DNA of each unidentified drowned migrant, hospital director Hechmi Lakhrech told AFP.
The samples could well be the only hope of informing the victims’ families of their fate, he added.
In the basement morgue, staff use surgical masks or simple scarves to fend off the stench of bodies stacked one top of the other on the floor.
Since July 6, the numbers have “overwhelmed” the morgue’s 30-body capacity, said Lakhrech.
With just two forensic doctors and two assistants, not to mention a lack of equipment, the facility is struggling to keep them properly stored, he added.
After forensic tests, the bodies are kept at the morgue until a burial site is found, which in Tunisia is complicated, according to Gabes governor Mongi Thameur.
Many municipalities have refused to allow the drowned migrants to be buried in their cemeteries.
“Some fear the bodies carry cholera, and others refuse to bury people in Muslim cemeteries if their religion is unknown,” he told AFP.
It comes down to “a problem of mentality and also of humanity in some cases,” he said, adding that many people needed to be “sensitised.”
At the Bouchama cemetery, the only one in Gabes to have so far accepted migrant bodies, 16 graves dug off to the side lie empty.
“My parents are resting here, I don’t want non-Muslims to be buried by their side,” said one local resident.
In front of the hospital, the stifling midday heat beats down as 14 white bags are carefully loaded onto the back of a garbage truck.
Once loaded, it will make the two-hour journey to Zarzis, where an improvised cemetery flooded with the bodies of migrants for several years is now full, and a new one has just been opened.
Each grave is marked with a simple plaque bearing the victim’s DNA file number and burial date.
“On July 12, we collected 45 bodies in one day!” said Zarzis deputy mayor Faouzi Khenissi, calling it a “phenomenal problem.”
The city has taken in the bodies “because we have this culture, we can’t just leave the remains unburied,” he said.
Zarzis is a hotspot for illegal departures to Europe and Khenissi says some of the city’s own youth have also been victims of the wrecks.
Municipal workers and officials take shifts volunteering after work to conduct the burials.
After three hours of prep under the blazing sun, 14 bodies are buried alongside the 47 others already laid to rest at the new site, just outside a shelter for rescued migrants.
Mongi Slim of the country’s Red Crescent called for “international mobilization” to address the issue which “does not concern Tunisia alone.”
“The country is already struggling to take care of rescued migrants, but even more so for those who’ve died.”