The Republican field is blaming Joe Biden for dealing with Iran after Hamas’ attack on Israel

The Republican field is blaming Joe Biden for dealing with Iran after Hamas’ attack on Israel
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a rally on October 07, 2023 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AFP)
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Updated 08 October 2023
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The Republican field is blaming Joe Biden for dealing with Iran after Hamas’ attack on Israel

The Republican field is blaming Joe Biden for dealing with Iran after Hamas’ attack on Israel
  • Trump and others claim transfer of $6 billion in "American taxpayer dollars" to Iran used to finance Hamas
  • Biden officials earlier explained the $6 billion figure is not US taxpayer money, but frozen South Korean oil payments to Iran
  • Funds have absolutely nothing to do with the Hamas attacks, White House spokesperson explains

WATERLOO, Iowa: Former President Donald Trump and other GOP contenders tried to lay blame on the Biden administration after Hamas militants launched the deadliest attack on Israel in decades, citing a $6 billion transfer to Iran that administration officials insisted Saturday had yet to be spent.

Hamas’ surprise early morning attack during a major Jewish holiday Saturday marks a new foreign policy front in a presidential election that has already been unusually dominated by foreign affairs. Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has divided the Republican field, with some like Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis questioning the US’s continued involvement, while others like former Vice President Mike Pence insist that supporting the Ukrainian military is vital to US national security interests.
On Saturday, the candidates appeared united, standing with Israel.
“The Hamas terrorist invasion of Israeli territory and the murder of Israeli soldiers today and the brutal murder of citizens is an act of savagery that must and will be crushed,” Trump said at an appearance in Waterloo, Iowa.
Trump, like others, directly blamed the $6 billion — “American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks,” he said in an earlier statement — and argued that, under Biden, the US is perceived as being “weak and ineffective” on the global stage, opening the door to hostility.
“They didn’t have that level of aggression with me. They didn’t have it. This would have never happened with me either,” Trump claimed, adding later in Cedar Rapids that Biden had “betrayed Israel” with the deal.
Biden on Saturday decried the “unconscionable” assault and pledged to ensure Israel has “what it needs to defend itself” after the attack.
Much of the Republican criticism focused on a complex deal announced by the Biden administration in September to release five US citizens detained in Iran. As part of the deal, roughly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets that were being held in South Korea were transferred to an account in Doha, Qatar.
Although Hamas is a Sunni Muslim group, it has a militant wing that has long nurtured close ties with Iran, a source of funding and a Shiite powerhouse. Hamas and Iran are brought together by a shared enmity toward Israel.
Administration officials said Saturday that no money in the Doha account so far has been spent.
The $6 billion figure is not US taxpayer money, senior Biden administration officials stressed at the time of the deal, but rather payments made by South Korea to Iran to buy oil in recent years. The funds had been stuck in South Korea due to US sanctions. That money is now held in a restricted account in Doha, and is meant to be used for solely humanitarian purposes — such as food and medicine for Iranians — and handled by what the administration described as vetted non-Iranian vendors.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said his country would spend the money “wherever we need it,” although the US has said in response that it would exercise rigorous oversight over how the funds are disbursed and that it could freeze the assets again if needed.
DeSantis, in a video statement, accused Biden of “policies that have gone easy on Iran” and have “helped to fill their coffers. Israel is now paying the price for those policies. We’re going to stand with the State of Israel, they need to root out Hamas and we need to stand up to Iran.”
And South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott alleged the attack was “the Biden $6 billion ransom payment at work.”
“We didn’t just invite this aggression, we paid for it,” he said in a statement.
Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said she could not directly address Republican criticism due to federal restrictions.
“But I can clarify the facts: Not a single cent from these funds has been spent, and when it is spent, it can only be spent on things like food and medicine for the Iranian people,” she said Saturday in a statement. “These funds have absolutely nothing to do with the horrific attacks today and this is not the time to spread disinformation.”
Brian Nelson, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, also stressed that “these restricted funds cannot go to Iran” and that “any suggestion to the contrary is false and misleading.”
Pence also blamed Biden, saying the current administration “projects weakness on the world stage” and “kowtows to the mullahs in Iran.” But in an appearance in Iowa, Pence also turned the focus on his GOP rivals who have been advocating more isolationist policies, particularly on Ukraine, calling the attack a “testament to the fact that we need new leadership in the White House, but we also need leadership in the Republican Party that understands the stakes, that understands we achieve peace through strength.”
“I call on Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis,” he said, “to abandon the language of appeasement — to say that we will stand strong with Israel, we will stand strong with Ukraine, we will stand as the leader of the free world.”
 


Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in
Updated 50 min 27 sec ago
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Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in
  • Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections
  • Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks

SYDNEY/PARIS: A thousand police arrived in New Caledonia from France and streets were relatively calm after a week of unrest, the French High Commission said on Monday, but roads were blocked by protesters and the airport remained shut, stranding tourists.
Blockades of roads would continue, Field Action Co-ordination Cell (CCAT), the activist group organising the protests in the French-ruled Pacific island, said in a statement, urging protesters to use a peaceful approach.
Road blocks were making it a challenge to get food supplies to stores in several areas or to provide secure travel for medical staff, New Caledonia government officials said, adding, however, that there were no shortages of supplies or staff.
Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said "the situation there is deeply concerning", after a night of fire and looting.
France's top official in the territory, Louis Le Franc, said on Sunday a police operation to regain control of the road from capital Noumea to the international airport would take several days. Gendarmes had dismantled 76 road blocks, the High Commission said on Monday.
Airline Aircalin said the airport would remained closed until Thursday.
Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections, which local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.
Six people have been killed and the unrest has left a trail of burnt businesses and cars and looted shops, with road barricades restricting access to medicine and food. The business chamber said 150 companies had been looted and burnt.

EVACUATIONS AWAITED
Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks.
"We need strong actions [from the government] to calm the situation ... this is a political, not a security issue," said Dominique Fochi, secretary general of the pro-independence Caledonian Union.
Shares of Australian nickel miners were on the rise as underlying prices surged by 7% over the weekend due to unrest in New Caledonia, a key global supplier of the metal.
Australia's Albanese earlier told ABC radio his country was awaiting approval from French authorities to send an evacuation flight to pick up tourists stranded in New Caledonia hotels.
Around 300 Australians have registered with consular officials in the French territory, which lies in the southwest Pacific, some 1,500 km (930 miles) east of Australia.
There were around 3,200 people waiting to leave or enter New Caledonia as commercial flights were cancelled due to the unrest that broke out last week, the local government said.
New Zealand defence aircraft were on standby and also awaiting the French go-ahead to repatriate nationals, its Foreign Minister Winston Peters wrote in a post on X on Sunday.


Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat

Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat
Updated 20 May 2024
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Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat

Indians vote early in fifth phase of polls to avoid scorching heat
  • World’s largest election began on April 19 amid high summer temperatures and more days of heatwaves than usual predicted
  • Two senior citizens collapsed at polling station in Mumbai temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius and humidity of 71 percent 

MUMBAI/BHUBANESWAR: Indians began voting early on Monday in the fifth phase of mammoth general elections, with thousands queuing at polling stations to beat the scorching heat in the financial capital of Mumbai and the sprawling states of Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

The world’s largest election began on April 19, amid high summer temperatures, with the weather office predicting more days of heatwaves than usual through the season.

Votes will be counted on June 4, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to win a rare third consecutive term.

“Given the hot and humid conditions, there could have been fans and better arrangements for the ill and those with disabilities,” said Sangeeta Rege, 46, a director at a health research organization.

She was speaking after two senior citizens collapsed at her polling station in Mumbai temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 Fahrenheit) and humidity of 71 percent that made it difficult for many, especially the elderly, to set foot outdoors.

Nearly a billion people are eligible to vote in India’s elections, but after poor initial turnout in early phases, more exercised the franchise to take the average of the first four rounds to 66.95 percent, with 69 percent voting in the May 13 fourth phase.

Monday’s phase has the fewest constituencies going to the polls, with 89.5 million voters set to pick representatives for 49 seats.

High-profile candidates in the fray on Monday include trade minister Piyush Goyal, standing from one of six seats in Mumbai, and defense minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, both cities where there has been poor voter turnout in the past.

On Sunday, the Election Commission specifically urged residents of both cities “to erase the stigma” of urban apathy.

“At the core of our vision for Mumbai is – better infrastructure and more ‘ease of living,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while campaigning in the city last week.

GANDHI FAMILY BASTIONS

Two boroughs of the opposition Congress party’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty are also going to the polls in the large politically crucial northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Family scion Rahul Gandhi is contesting the seat of Raebareli, in addition to Wayanad in the south, which has already voted.

Smriti Irani, minister for women and child development, is contesting from Amethi, where she defeated Rahul Gandhi in 2019, to take a seat his family held almost continuously for the last four decades.

Other keenly watched contests in the state include Kaiserganj, where the BJP is fielding the son of a former wrestling federation chief, although the father has been charged with sexually harassing female wrestlers.

Poor voter turnout became a concern for the ruling BJP initially, and analysts believe the low numbers cast doubts on the landslide victory the party and its allies sought.

But long queues snaked out of polling booths in Mumbai and Bolangir in the eastern state of Odisha after the weather department forecast maximum temperatures to rise between 2 degrees and 4 degrees Celsius.

The election aimed “to ensure stability and security ... plus development of my city and country which ... is happening at a rapid rate,” said Mumbai homemaker Jaya Roy Chowdhury, 48.

“The BJP has not fielded the right candidate for the Lok Sabha, but we are voting ... with Modi in mind,” said 55-year-old Odisha farmer Girish Mishra, referring to the lower house of parliament.

Modi, accused by opponents of targeting minority Muslims to please hard-line voters, resolved in a television interview aired after the fourth phase to “not do Hindu-Muslim (in politics).”

He has repeatedly accused the Congress of plans to extend welfare benefits to Muslims at the expense of disadvantaged tribal groups and Hindu castes, a claim the opposition party has denied.


London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition

London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition
Updated 20 May 2024
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London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition

London court set to rule on Julian Assange extradition
  • The 52-year-old Australian is seeking permission to appeal against a ruling allowing him to be sent to face a US trial on espionage charges

London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could find out on Monday whether he has won a reprieve in his last-ditch legal battle to avoid extradition from Britain to the United States.
The 52-year-old Australian is seeking permission to appeal against a ruling allowing him to be sent to face a US trial on espionage charges, after a long-running court saga.
Two London High Court judges handling Assange’s request adjourned the case in March, asking US government lawyers to give “satisfactory assurances” about free speech protections and that he would not face the death penalty if convicted.
Those submissions are expected to be presented at a hearing on Monday, and the judges could rule immediately afterwards.
If successful, Assange will be able to go back to domestic UK courts.
If he loses, Assange could be swiftly extradited after a five-year legal battle that has pitted the Washington and London governments against free-speech campaigners.
Assange’s only hope would then be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which could order a stay on the extradition if it decides there are “exceptional circumstances.”
It would also require London to accept the order. This is uncertain because of a separate dispute with the European court which blocked the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Dozens of Assange supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London early Monday, many wearing T-shirts bearing Assange’s face.
“This man’s life is at stake,” 83-year-old sculptor Jenny West told AFP.
“He represents all other journalists, it’s a pressing humanitarian situation,” she added.
Assange has been detained in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019.
He was arrested after spending seven years holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of sexual assault that were eventually dropped.
US authorities want to put the publisher on trial for divulging US military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange is accused of publishing some 700,000 confidential documents relating to US military and diplomatic activities, starting in 2010.
The United States has accused Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which his supporters warn mean he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.
UK courts approved the extradition request after the United States vowed that Assange would not go to its most extreme prison, “ADX Florence,” nor to subject him to the harsh regime known as “Special Administrative Measures.”
His supporters have criticized the legal proceedings he has faced.
“It is abundantly clear of course that the process in the court in the United Kingdom is corrupt. The case is rigged against Julian,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, told reporters last Wednesday.
Stella Assange said she hoped her husband would be present at Monday’s hearing but added that she did not expect the judges to rule in his favor.
“I don’t expect a rational outcome from the courts, I’m afraid to say,” she said.
Assange’s supporters say his health is fragile and the Council of Europe this week voiced concern about his treatment.
The United States indicted Assange multiple times between 2018 and 2020 but President Joe Biden has faced domestic and international pressure to drop the case filed under his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden indicated recently that the United States was considering an Australian request to drop the charges.
“President Biden has the chance still to be the president who put an end to this, who acted in the interest of press freedom in journalism,” said Rebecca Vincent, of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).


Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans

Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans
Updated 20 May 2024
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Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans

Daesh claims attack in Afghanistan that killed 3 Spanish citizens and 3 Afghans
  • The Daesh group issued statements on its Aamaq news agency late Sunday
  • Seven people were wounded in the attack on Friday in on Bamiyan province, a major tourist area

ISLAMABAD: The Daesh group has claimed responsibility for an attack on foreigners in central Afghanistan last week in which three Spanish citizens and three Afghans were killed.
Seven people were wounded in the attack on Friday in on Bamiyan province, a major tourist area, according to Abdul Mateen Qani, a spokesman for the interior minister. He said seven suspects were arrested at the scene.
The Daesh group issued statements on its Aamaq news agency late Sunday that said its fighters attacked a bus carrying tourists and their guides. “The attack was in response to the IS leaders’ directions to target citizens of the European Union wherever they are found,” it said.
Spain’s Foreign Ministry said three Spaniards died and at least one more had been wounded. A Taliban official in Bamiyan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the four wounded foreigners were from Spain, Norway, Australia and Latvia.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on social media platform X that he was “overwhelmed” by the news.
Qani said that all those who were wounded have been transferred to capital of Kabul for treatment and they are stable condition.
The Daesh group’s affiliate in Afghanistan is a major Taliban rival and its militants have attacked schools, hospitals, mosques and minority Shiite areas throughout the country.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after 20 years of war.
The Taliban is seeking to increase the number of tourists coming to the country. In 2021, there were 691 foreign tourists; in 2022, that figure rose to 2,300; and last year, it topped 7,000.
Bamiyan was the site of two massive Buddha statues carved into a cliff between the 4th and 6th century and which were destroyed by the Taliban at Al-Qaeda’s urging in early 2001.
Separately on Monday, a hand grenade exploded in the southern city of Kandahar, killing at least one civilian and wounding three, the Kandahar police chief’s office said.
Police were investigating the explosion near the road toward Kandahar airport, the statement said. No group has taken responsibility for the blast.


India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls

India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls
Updated 20 May 2024
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India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls

India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls
  • World’s largest election began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1
  • Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Raebareli, Wayanad seats 

MUMBAI: India began voting in the fifth phase of its mammoth general elections on Monday, with seats in the financial capital Mumbai and the opposition’s Gandhi family bastions set to be sealed in the last few legs of the seven-phase vote.

The world’s largest election began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1, with votes set to be counted on June 4.

Monday’s phase has the least number of seats being contested, with 89.5 million voters set to choose representatives for 49 seats.

Several high-profile candidates are in the fray on Monday — including defense minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow and trade minister Piyush Goyal from Mumbai — cities which have suffered from a dismal voter turnout in the past.

The Election Commission on Sunday specifically called upon residents of those cities “to erase the stigma” of urban apathy.

“At the core of our vision for Mumbai is – better infrastructure and more ‘ease of living,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while campaigning in the city last week, just days after at least 14 people were killed when a massive billboard fell during a rainstorm.

Two boroughs of the Congress party’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh are also going to polls, with scion Rahul Gandhi contesting the seat of Raebareli, in addition to Wayanad in the south which has already voted. India allows candidates to contest multiple constituencies but represent only one.

Sonia Gandhi, Congress party chief and former lawmaker from Raebareli, made an emotional appeal to voters asking them to vote for her son in a region that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has dominated in the last 10 years.

Smriti Irani, minister for women and child development, is contesting from Amethi. In 2019, she defeated Rahul Gandhi in a seat his family held continuously for the last four decades.

Among other keenly watched electorates in the state is Kaiserganj, where the BJP is fielding a former wrestling federation chief’s son, despite his father being charged with sexually harassing female wrestlers.

Poor voter turnout became a concern for the ruling BJP initially, and analysts believe the low numbers cast doubts on the landslide victory the party and its allies sought.

After an initial poor performance, more people started casting their vote with an average turnout of 66.95 percent in four phases, and 69 percent in the fourth one on May 13.

Modi, widely expected to return as prime minister for a third consecutive term, has been accused by opponents of targeting minority Muslims to please hard-line voters.

Modi has repeatedly accused the Congress party of planning to extend welfare benefits to Muslims at the expense of disadvantaged tribal groups and Hindu castes, a claim the Congress has denied.

In a recent television interview aired after the fourth phase, Modi said it was his resolve to “not do Hindu-Muslim (in politics).”

The opposition INDIA alliance, consisting of Congress and a dozen political parties, got a major boost after fierce Modi critic and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal was given temporary relief by the court and allowed to campaign in the elections.