Iran exiles tied to top Trump advisers urge regime change

US Air Force maintainers prepare a US military drone RQ-4A Global Hawk for takeoff at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. (Reuters)
Updated 22 June 2019

Iran exiles tied to top Trump advisers urge regime change

  • Rallyists gather outside State Department demanding end to theocratic govt
  • Washington has accused Iran of responsibility for carrying out attacks on tankers in the congested shipping lanes heading out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz

WASHINGTON: Supporters of an Iranian exile group with ties to some of President Donald Trump’s top advisers rallied Friday for regime change in Iran, amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.
Clad in yellow vests emblazoned with the words “Free Iran,” more than 1,000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq gathered outside the State Department to demand an end to Iran’s theocratic government. The demonstration took place just hours after Trump claimed he had approved but then called off military strikes against Iran to retaliate for its downing of a US drone in the Persian Gulf.
After the rally, the demonstrators were to march to the White House to press their case.
“We have and will continue to declare that what we seek is the regime’s overthrow, overthrow, overthrow,” the group’s Paris-based leader Maryam Rajavi said in a video message to the crowd, which also included current and former US lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Known as the MEK, the group has hosted Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton at previous events and the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a supporter. Before joining the administration, Bolton told an MEK meeting in 2018 that “before 2019, we here ... will celebrate in Iran.” Giuliani, the former New York mayor, has made similar comments before the MEK.

HIGHLIGHT

Known as the MEK, the Iranian exile group has hosted Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton at previous events and the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a supporter.

Last year its annual rally in Paris that Giuliani attended was the target of an alleged Tehran-backed bomb plot that was thwarted by arrests.
An Austrian-based Iranian diplomat is being held in Belgium, where police found bomb material in the car of a couple of Iranian origin.
The group has its headquarters outside Paris with several thousand members in Albania, extracted in a UN-brokered effort from Iraq.
In another development, the US has requested a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Iran and the latest developments in the Gulf, diplomats said on Friday.
The discussions would touch on both the recent attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf and the Iranian downing of a US spy drone, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. Another diplomat told AFP the meeting would take place Monday afternoon.
Washington has also accused Iran of responsibility for carrying out attacks on tankers in the congested shipping lanes heading out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz.


South Korean justice minister resigns during finance probe

Updated 48 min 34 sec ago

South Korean justice minister resigns during finance probe

  • Cho said in a statement he was offering to resign to reduce the burden on President Moon Jae-in
  • The conservative Liberty Korea Party criticized Moon for sticking with Cho for too long

SEOUL: South Korea’s justice minister resigned Monday, citing the political burden of an investigation into alleged financial crimes and academic favors surrounding his family, a scandal that has rocked Seoul’s liberal government and spurred huge protests.

Cho Kuk has denied wrongdoing. But the law professor who for years cultivated an anti-elitist reformist image said he couldn’t remain a government minister while ignoring the pain his family was enduring.

Huge crowds of Cho’s supporters and critics have marched in South Korea’s capital in recent weeks, demonstrating how the months-long saga over Cho has deepened the country’s political divide.

Cho said in a statement he was offering to resign to reduce the burden on President Moon Jae-in, whose office later said he accepted Cho’s offer.

Cho’s resignation came as state prosecutors continued a criminal investigation into his university professor wife, brother and other relatives over allegations of dubious financial investments, fraud and fake credentials for his daughter that may have helped her enter a top university in Seoul and a medical school in Busan.

“I concluded that I should no longer burden the president and the government with issues surrounding my family,” Cho said in an emailed statement. “I think the time has come that the completion of efforts to reform the prosecution would only be possible if I step down from my position.”

Moon’s liberal Minjoo Party and Cho’s supporters, who occupied streets in front of a Seoul prosecutors office for the fourth-straight weekend Saturday, have claimed the investigation is aimed at intimating Cho, who has pushed for reforms that include curbing the power of prosecutors.

South Korea’s main opposition party called Cho’s resignation offer “too late” and criticized Moon for causing turmoil with a divisive appointment.

In a meeting with senior aides, Moon said he was “very sorry for consequentially creating a lot of conflict between the people” over his hand-picked choice but also praised Cho’s “passion for prosecutorial reform and willingness to calmly withstand various difficulties to get it done.”

Moon had stood firmly by Cho, whom he appointed a month ago despite parliamentary resistance. But the controversy dented the popularity of Moon and his ruling liberal party in recent polls, an alarming development for the liberals ahead of parliamentary elections in April.

The conservative Liberty Korea Party criticized Moon for sticking with Cho for too long. “Is President Moon Jae-in listening to people’s voices only after his and his ruling party’s approval ratings face the danger of a nosedive?” the conservative Liberty Korea Party said in a statement.

In South Korea, prosecutors have exclusive authority to indict and seek warrants for criminal suspects and exercise control over police investigative activities. They can also directly initiate criminal investigations even when there’s no complaint.

Critics say such powers are excessive and have prompted past conservative governments to use the prosecution as a political tool to suppress opponents and carry out vendettas.

The controversy over Cho has struck a nerve in a country facing widening inequality and brutally competitive school environments and has tarnished the image of Moon, who vowed to restore faith in fairness and justice after replacing President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and jailed for corruption.

Recent polls indicate Moon’s popularity has sank to the lowest levels since he took office. In a survey of some 1,000 South Koreans released last Friday by Gallup Korea, 51% of the respondents negatively rated Moon’s performance in state affairs, compared to 43% who said he was doing a good job. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.