Tough line on Iran to continue as Trump hails ‘great win’ in election

Updated 08 November 2018
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Tough line on Iran to continue as Trump hails ‘great win’ in election

  • Two Muslim women make history by winning races for US House of Representatives
  • Loss of the House of Representatives unlikely to affect President Trump’s regional policies, say analysts

WASHINGTON, AMMAN: President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed “a great win” in midterm elections after his Republican party increased its majority in the US Senate, although it lost control of the lower House of Representatives.

The Republicans “defied history” by retaining control of the upper house and “dramatically outperformed historical precedents,” Trump said.

Analysts said the loss of the House of Representatives was unlikely to affect President Trump’s regional policies, particularly in relation to Iran.

Eliot Engel, the congressman expected to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was one of the Democrats who opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. 

On Trump’s foreign policies, he said: “I don’t think we should challenge something just because it’s put forth by the administration, but I do think we have an obligation to review policies and do oversight.”

The election brought wins for Arab-American candidates on both sides of the political divide, and two Democrats made history by becoming the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

Rashida Tlaib, 42, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, ran virtually unopposed in Michigan. Ilhan Omar, 37, a former refugee from Somalia, won in Minneapolis, Minnesota, succeeding Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Tlaib has become “a source of pride for Palestine and the entire Arab and Muslim world,” her uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah, told Arab News Tlaib’s victory spoke volumes about the accumulation of political expertise and the political assimilation of Palestinian-Americans. 

“We are proud that this trailblazer American politician is female, a professional, and ready and able to speak truth to power,” he said.

Palestinian diplomat Husam Zomlot said: “Her victory is historic and indicative of the role the Palestinian-American community will play in the future.”

Omar fled Somalia’s civil war with her parents when she was 8, and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. In 1997, the family settled in Minnesota, where there is a large Somali population. She won a seat in the state’s legislature in 2016.

Elsewhere, Republican Justin Amash, the first Palestinian elected to Congress, in 2010 in Michigan, was comfortably re-elected.

In Florida, Lebanese-American Democrat Donna Shalala defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar. Three other Arab-American Republicans incumbents were also re-elected — Darin LaHood in Illinois, and Ralph Abraham Jr. and Garret Graves in Louisiana.


US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 21 January 2019
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US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.