Iran naval drills designed to send message to US: general

In this June 30, 2018 photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, who heads the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard attends a graduation ceremony of a group of the guard's officers in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2018
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Iran naval drills designed to send message to US: general

  • The sanctions imposed on Tehran this week have already led banks and many companies around the world to scale back dealings with Iran
  • Trump responded by noting that Iran could face serious consequences if it threatened the United States

WASHINGTON: The general overseeing US military operations in the Middle East said Wednesday that an Iranian naval exercise around the Strait of Hormuz was meant to send a message to Washington before it reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran launched the exercise in the Gulf last week, sending dozens of small attack boats out into the Strait of Hormuz — a vital, oil-shipping waterway that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last month threatened to shut down.
“It’s pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach the period of the sanctions here that they had some capabilities,” US Central Command head General Joseph Votel told Pentagon reporters.
The capabilities include ocean mines, explosive boats, coastal defense missiles and radars, he said.
Votel said he saw Qassem Soleimani, who heads the external operations Quds Force for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as being responsible for the exercise.
“He is an individual who is perpetrating a lot of this destabilizing activity,” Votel said.
“Wherever you see Iranian activity, you see Qassem Soleimani.”
The United States on Tuesday reimposed sanctions on Iran, after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.


Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed praises Jacinda Ardern and lights up Burj Khalifa to honor New Zealand

Updated 22 March 2019
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Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed praises Jacinda Ardern and lights up Burj Khalifa to honor New Zealand

DUBAI: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, thanked Jacinda Ardern on Friday for her ‘sincere empathy’ following the attack on two New Zealand mosques that killed 50 Muslims.

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was illuminated in a gesture of solidarity with New Zealand and its prime minister.

Ardern has received widespread praise from around the world and in particular from Muslim countries and their leaders for the way she has handled the aftermath of the terrorist attack carried out by a white supremacist.

“New Zealand today fell silent in honor of the mosque attacks' martyrs,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted. “Thank you PM Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world.”

Ardern led thousands of people in a two minute vigil on Friday as the shocked nation came together to remember those killed in the attack. 

She told those gathered in a park opposite the Al Noor mosque, where 42 people died, that: "New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”

The prime minister’s response to the killings has been widely admired in helping the country come to terms with the atrocity. In the hours after the shootings she wore a black headscarf and visited members of the Muslim community.

She moved to reassure those caught up in the attacks and hugged survivors at a community center in Christchurch.

“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion,” Ms Ardern said on the day of the attack. “A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

She did not hesitate to describe the killings as a terrorist attack and said she would refuse to say the name of the killer who carried it out.

But she has also acted quickly with legislation. Her government banned on Thursday the sales of semi-automatic weapons.

“Ardern’s performance has been extraordinary - and I believe she will be strongly lauded for it both domestically and internationally,” political commentator Bryce Edwards of Victoria University in Wellington told Reuters.

Social media has been flooded with messages of admiration for Ardern, with many using her as an example for their own politicians to follow.