Washington, Jun 24 (AP/UNB) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran.
Pompeo spoke as he left Washington for Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Sunni Arab allies that are alarmed by Shiite Iran's increasing assertiveness and are working to limit its influence in the region. His stops in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi were hastily arranged late last week as additions to a trip to India from where he will join President Donald Trump in Japan and South Korea. But they were not announced until immediately before his departure in a sign of fast-moving and unpredictable developments.
"We'll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world's largest state sponsor of terror," Pompeo said about Iran.
But even as Pompeo delivered his tough talk, he echoed President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in saying the U.S. is prepared to negotiate with Iran, without preconditions, in a bid to ease tensions. Those tensions have been mounting since Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran and began pressuring Tehran with economic sanctions. A fresh round of Iran sanctions is to be announced Monday in a bid to force the Iranian leadership into talks.
"They know precisely how to find us," Pompeo said.
It was a week of topsy-turvy pronouncements on U.S. policy toward Iran that careened between the bellicose, the conciliatory and back again after Iran shot down an American military drone and boasted it would not bow to Washington's pressure.
Trump initially said Iran had made a "very big mistake" and that it was "hard to believe" that shooting down the drone on Thursday was not intentional. He later said he thought it was an unintentional act carried out by a "loose and stupid" Iranian and called off retaliatory military strikes against Iran. On Saturday, Trump reversed himself and claimed that Iran had acted "knowingly."
But Trump also said over the weekend that he appreciated Iran's decision to not shoot down a manned U.S. spy plane, and he opined about eventually becoming Iran's "best friend" if Tehran ultimately agrees to abandon its drive to build nuclear weapons and he helps the country turn around its crippled economy.
Then Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, stepped in Sunday with a blunt warning from Jerusalem, where he was traveling. Bolton said Iran should not "mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness" after Trump called off the military strike. Trump said he backed away from the planned strikes after learning that about 150 people would be killed, but he said the military option remained.
A longtime Iran hawk, Bolton emphasized that the U.S. reserved the right to attack at a later point.
"No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. As President Trump said on Friday our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go," Bolton said during an appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, himself a longtime and outspoken Iran critic.
On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States' "interventionist military presence" for fanning the flames. He was quoted by the official IRNA news agency. Shortly thereafter, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched an attack against an airport in southern Saudi Arabia, killing one person and wounding seven others, according to the Saudi military. Such attacks have been cited by Saudi and U.S. officials as examples of Iran's "malign behavior" in the Middle East.
Pompeo, who addressed reporters from the tarmac before he boarded his airplane in Washington, declared the goal of his talks with the Saudi kingdom and the UAE is to deny Iran "the resources to foment terror, to build out their nuclear weapon system, to build out their missile program."
"We are going to deny them the resources they need to do that, thereby keep American interests and American people safe all around the world," said Pompeo, who was due to arrive in the region after one person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in Saudi Arabia on Sunday evening, the Saudi military said.
The downing of the unmanned aircraft marked a new high in the rising tensions between the United States and Iran. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
U.S. military cyber forces on Thursday launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems, according to U.S. officials. The cyberattacks disabled Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said.
Throughout the recent crisis, Trump has wavered between bellicose language and actions toward Iran and a more accommodating tone, including a plea for negotiations. Iran has said it is not interested in a dialogue with Trump. His administration is aiming to cripple Iran's economy and force policy changes by re-imposing sanctions, including on Iranian oil exports.
Washington, Jun 24 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump says he hesitated to back a possible 2024 presidential run by Vice President Mike Pence because he was caught off-guard by the question. Given a chance at a do-over, however, Trump still did not endorse his loyal lieutenant.
"You can't put me in that position," Trump said June 14 when a host of Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends" asked him about endorsing Pence should the vice president seek to succeed Trump in 2024. Pence hasn't explicitly said he'll run in 2024, but is widely expected to.
Offered a chance to explain, Trump told NBC News he hesitated "because it was a surprise question."
"I'm not even thinking of it. It's so far out. I mean, It's so far out," Trump told "Meet the Press" in a wide-ranging interview taped Friday and broadcast Sunday. "Now what happens in 2024? I don't know that Mike is going to run. I don't know who's running or anything else."
Also in the interview, Trump criticized Fed chairman Jerome Powell and said his biggest mistake was choosing Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.
For his part, Pence glossed over the flap Trump's comments caused, telling CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Trump's comment reflected "the fact that the only election he and I are focused on is 2020." Trump formally announced his 2020 reelection bid last week with Pence at his side.
In the NBC interview, Trump lashed out at Powell over past interest rate hikes and denied threatening to demote him to the Fed's No. 2 job.
The Federal Reserve voted last week to leave its key interest rate unchanged, but the independent agency also signaled that it is prepared to begin cutting rates to protect the U.S. economy from trade conflicts and other threats.
Trump did not answer directly last week when he was questioned about news reports that the White House in February had explored whether Trump had the authority to demote Powell. Trump denied to NBC that such a threat has been issued.
"I have the right to do that. But I haven't said that," the president said.
Trump has previously explored firing Powell, who, by law, can only be fired for cause.
The interview was airing locally Sunday as Trump arrived at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, by helicopter from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, where he spent part of the weekend.
Trump also returned to the White House on the helicopter instead of by motorcade, his usual means of transportation to and from the club.
White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on the change in the president's mode of travel.
Chicago, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- One person was killed and as many as 10 others were injured in a shooting at a bar on early Sunday in South Bend, a city in the U.S. state of Indiana, according to the local police.
Someone unleashed gunfire at Kelly's Pub on East Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend police said in a tweet. There were 50 and 100 people either inside the bar or outside in the parking lot when the shooting happened.
By far, local police has not mentioned whether arrests have been made.
Local media disclosed that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski will participate in a town hall meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss the police shooting and could face questions about the bar shooting as well.
Washington, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said Saturday that military action against Iran was still an option for its downing of an unmanned US military aircraft, but amid heightened tensions he dangled the prospect of eventually becoming an unlikely "best friend" of America's longtime Middle Eastern adversary.
Trump also said "we very much appreciate" that Iran's Revolutionary Guard chose not to target a US spy plane carrying more than 30 people.
The president's softer tone Saturday marked a stark contrast to the anti-Iran rhetoric he employed throughout the presidential campaign and presidency, including his use of punishing economic sanctions in an attempt to pressure Iran to give up its quest to build nuclear weapons.
"The fact is we're not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon," he said as he left the White House for a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat. "And when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country, they're going to be so happy and I'm going to be their best friend."
"I hope that happens. I hope that happens, but it may not," Trump said. He later said Iran will be hit with unspecified new sanctions on Monday.
Another event earlier this week put a different cast on Trump's more optimistic rhetoric. US military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday in response to the loss of the military drone. US officials told The Associated Press that the cyberattacks, which disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, had been authorized by Trump.
On Saturday, days after he said it was "hard to believe" the shoot-down of the US drone was intentional, Trump did an about-face and accused Iran of "knowingly" targeting the plane. And he reiterated that he aborted a planned military strike set for Thursday after learning approximately 150 Iranians would be killed.
"Everybody was saying I'm a war monger. And now they say I'm a dove. And I think I'm neither, if you want to know the truth," Trump told reporters. "I'm a man with common sense. And that's what we need in this country, is common sense. But I didn't like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people."
He added: "I don't want to kill 150 Iranians. I don't want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it's absolutely necessary.'"
Trump's comments came as Iran summoned the United Arab Emirates' top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighboring Arab nation's decision to allow the US to use one of its military bases to launch the drone that Iran says entered its airspace, state media reported Saturday.
Iran issued a "strong protest" to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory, the report by the official IRNA news agency said.
The US said its RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down Thursday over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, not inside Iranian airspace.
The shoot-down by elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces marked the first time the Islamic Republic directly attacked the American military amid mounting tensions over Tehran's unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.
The two countries disputed the circumstances leading up to an Iranian surface-to-air missile bringing down the drone, an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner and costing over $100 million.
British diplomat Andrew Murrison planned to visit Iran on Sunday to call for the "urgent de-escalation in the region and raise UK and international concerns about Iran's regional conduct" during talks with Tehran's government, Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday.
Trump said US sanctions on Iran have turned the country into an "economic mess" and he tweeted later Saturday about new penalties to be imposed on Monday, without providing details. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that Iran's financial sector would be penalized soon if it doesn't work to stop evading international guidelines designed to combat money laundering.
The drone incident immediately heightened the crisis already gripping the wider region, which is rooted in Trump withdrawing the US a year ago from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran.
Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to be on pace to break one of the deal's terms by next week, while threatening to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 if Europe doesn't offer it a new deal.
In Iraq, security measures were increased at one of the country's largest air bases, which houses American trainers, a top Iraqi air force commander said Saturday. The US military said operations at the base were going on as usual and there were no plans to evacuate personnel.
New Hampshire, Jun 22 (AP/UNB) - Several motorcycles and a pickup truck collided on a rural, two-lane highway Friday, killing seven people and injuring three others, and sending onlookers rushing to treat and help the motorists peppered along the road.
New Hampshire State Police said a 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck collided with the riders on U.S. 2 in Randolph Friday evening. The cause of the deadly collision is not yet known. The pickup truck was on fire when emergency crews arrived.
Witnesses described a "devastating" scene as bystanders tried to help riders lying in the road.
Along with the seven dead, state police said two additional people were transported to the Androscoggin Valley Hospital and one was airlifted to Maine Medical. Police did not provide any names.
"It's tragic," New Hampshire State Police Capt. Chris Vetter told reporters during a late night news conference. "It's tragic for those involved, tragic for the families, so we're doing our job, we're doing our work and our thoughts are with the people who were adversely affected by this."
Parts of the highway was closed Friday evening, state police said, and would be closed for several more hours as investigators comb the scene for clues. A photo posted by WMUR-TV showed motorcycles and wreckage scattered across the highway and a truck on the shoulder in flames.
Randolph is about a two-hour drive north of Concord, the capital, and a three-hour drive from Boston.
"There was debris everywhere," said Miranda Thompson, 21, of Manchester, who was several cars back and recalled seeing a truck in flames on the side of the highway and six motorcycles.
"People were in the grass. There were people putting tourniquets on people, trying to make sure they didn't move," she said. "You could tell people were lost who it happened to ... It was a sad day for all of them."
Jerry Hamanne, co-owner of a nearby bed-and-breakfast where most of the motorcyclists were staying, said he and a doctor also staying at his inn went to the scene to help. Others tried to assist as best they could but some people were already dead.
"It was so devastating to see the bodies on the road," Hamanne said. "My God, I don't want to see something like this again."
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, which hosts one of the state's biggest rallies in June, said he couldn't recall an accident of this magnitude involving bikers in the state.
He wasn't on the scene but said had been fielding calls about the accident much of the night. St. Clair said he heard the riders were mostly Marine veterans who belonged to the same motorcycle club.
"This is staggering and it's tragic beyond description," St. Clair said. "You have a bunch of people out for a ride enjoying one of the first nice days we had. To have this happen, it defies logic quite frankly."