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

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:

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.

Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 December 2018

Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.