Dozens killed as explosion hits near Afghanistan's President campaign rally in country's north
At least 24 people were killed and dozens more wounded after an IED attached to a security vehicle exploded near a campaign rally attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, potentially marking an attempt on his life.

The bombing occurred on Tuesday afternoon in Afghanistan’s northern city of Charikar as President Ghani began addressing a campaign rally there. The blast hit the entrance to the venue, killing at least 24 and injuring over 30 attendees, preliminary reports say.

Ghani was not hurt in the blast and was brought to safety. It appears to be the first high-profile terrorist attack that targeted an event featuring the President himself.

No group has immediately claimed credit for the blast, but it comes after the Taliban repeatedly threatened to resume attacks on Afghan forces and their Western backers on the back of the failed peace talks with the US.

‘No power to negotiate’? Trump scraps Afghan talks after Taliban attack, hints at ‘decades’ more war
The blast in Kabul that killed a dozen of people, including an American soldier, shows that there is no point in negotiating with the Taliban who can’t even uphold a ceasefire during important talks, President Trump has claimed.

“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said in a tweet, announcing his decision to call off peace negotiations and cancel the meeting with the Taliban leaders scheduled for Sunday at Camp David.

While many praised the US leader for his refusal to ‘negotiate with the terrorists’, some of Trump’s followers called him out over Washington’s own history of not standing by any ‘meaningful agreements’, while others emphasized that the nearly two decades of fighting and American blood spilling in Afghanistan was already more than enough.

At the same time, many seemed sincerely shocked that the president even considered holding “secret talks” with the Taliban just ahead of the anniversary of 9/11 attacks which the US had used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan and the perpetual war on terror ever since.

Puzzled by what Trump’s plan might be, his Twitter followers argued whether he wants to use the cancelled talks as a pretext to stay – or on the contrary to pull out of Afghanistan entirely, and leave the weakened government in Kabul to sort out the mess on its own.
posted by ZUKUNASHI at 18:07| Comment(0) | 国際・政治


TBSNEWS 2019/09/17 12:12
トランプ氏 日米貿易協定に署名する意向

US Reaches Initial Trade Agreement With Japan Regarding Tariff Barriers - White House
In a statement by the White House Office of the Press Secretary Monday evening, US President Donald Trump announced the US and Japan had concluded an initial trade agreement regarding trade barriers between the two nations.

"On October 16, 2018, my Administration notified the Congress that I intended to initiate trade negotiations with Japan on a United States-Japan Trade Agreement," Trump said in the Monday statement. "As stated in that notification and subsequent consultations with the Congress, my Administration proposed pursuing negotiations with Japan in stages. I am pleased to report that my Administration has reached an initial trade agreement regarding tariff barriers (the 'agreement') with Japan and I intend to enter into the agreement in the coming weeks."

Trump further noted he would be entering into an executive agreement with Japan regarding digital trade.

The deal focuses in large part on foodstuff trade between the two countries, including beef, wine, wheat, pork and dairy products. However, the agreement notably excludes Japanese automobile sales to the US, which have been the target of Trump's ire in the past and against which he's threatened to launch putative tariffs akin to those in place against Chinese imports.

The deal has taken place under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact that entered effect last year. Trump pulled out of the initial, larger deal shortly after becoming president, claiming the deal was bad and pledging to negotiate smaller, separate deals with various nations.

The deal will see tariffs slowly decrease over the next several years, Reuters noted.

According to the Japan Times, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines at the annual Group of Seven conference in Biarritz, France, late last month and agreed to speed up finalization of the deal. Abe said at the conference that they hoped to see the deal signed on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York from September 17-30.

posted by ZUKUNASHI at 15:46| Comment(1) | 社会・経済

Trump Says US Does Not Need Mideastern Oil and Gas But 'Will Help Allies' After Saudi Aramco Attacks

Trump Says US Does Not Need Mideastern Oil and Gas But 'Will Help Allies' After Saudi Aramco Attacks
Trump has not specified yet whether he was considering a military response following the drone strikes, which his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Iran, but said he was waiting for more information from Saudi Arabia. Iran denies any role in the attacks, which were claimed by Yemeni Houthi militants.

US President Donald Trump has made a vague promise to help America's allies in the Middle East, after attacks on critical oil facilities in Saudi Arabia marked yet another uptick in tensions in the region.

In a tweet on Monday, Trump maintained that the United States, as a leading crude exporter, has no interest in Middle Eastern natural resources.

"We don’t need Middle Eastern Oil & Gas, & in fact have very few tankers there, but will help our Allies!" he wrote.

Trump upped the ante in a later tweet, claiming that Iran had lied about downing a US spy drone in July. Back then, Iranian officials said the drone was shot down when it violated the country's borders, disputing the US version that it was in international airspace.

"They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie," Trump said of Iran's account of where the attack occured. "Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia.​"

Earlier in the day, Trump said the US was "locked and loaded depending on verification" of the culprit and waiting for the conclusions from Saudi investigators.

Major oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia were targeted in a drone attack on Saturday, prompting the kingdom to halt half of its oil production and sending the oil price soaring.

Scott L. Montgomery, an affiliate faculty member at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at University of Washington, says: "While the Saudis have said that the damage can be repaired or minimized in a few days, so that operations will return to a near-normal state, this can't be wholly confirmed without more details."

"Nonetheless, it seems likely that this is the case. If so, then upward pressure on oil prices will be reduced soon, perhaps by the end of the week. On the other hand, if there is a military exchange between the US and Iran, prices could go even higher, depending on how serious an exchange takes place. A key factor is any loss of life on either side. That could escalate the situation significantly. As always, there are a number of uncertainties and no one is in control of the entire situation."
Who is to Blame?

Although the Houthi rebels, who are fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, admitted to carrying out the attack, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed, without providing evidence, that Iran was the real culprit. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a major Trump ally, went even further and urged the US administration to consider retaliating against Tehran. Reports in US media suggest that a military option remains on the table.

Iran − which expresses moral support to the Houthi cause but denies arming the rebels − has rejected the accusations as "unacceptable" and "baseless."
What is Going on in the Middle East?

The Houthis regularly carry out drone attacks on facilities in Saudi Arabia, which is involved in the Yemeni conflict as part of an Arab coalition at the request of the internationally-recognised government. In May, the Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a major Saudi pipeline. At the time, Riyadh claimed Iran was behind the strike, but Iran dismissed the accusations.

Relations between the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia, on one side, and Iran on the other, have deteriorated rapidly since Trump left the 2015 nuclear deal and mounted a "maximum pressure" campaign against the Islamic Republic over allegations that it is illegally working on nuclear weapons and supporting terror groups.

Iran's crucial energy exports have plummeted since then due to crippling US sanctions, but the country has been reluctant to negotiate a new nuclear deal, as Trump demands, and insists it has respected its international commitments. At the same time, Iran has started rolling them back as a way to put pressure on the European signatories to the nuclear deal.

posted by ZUKUNASHI at 15:16| Comment(0) | 国際・政治

US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks

US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks
Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively on international affairs.

The devastating blitz on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry has led to a flurry of accusations from US officials blaming Iran. The reason for the finger-pointing is simple: Washington’s spectacular failure to protect its Saudi ally.

The Trump administration needs to scapegoat Iran for the latest military assault on Saudi Arabia because to acknowledge that the Houthi rebels mounted such an audacious assault on the oil kingdom’s heartland would be an admission of American inadequacy.

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars in recent years purchasing US Patriot missile defense systems and supposedly cutting-edge radar technology from the Pentagon. If the Yemeni rebels can fly combat drones up to 1,000 kilometers into Saudi territory and knock out the linchpin production sites in the kingdom’s oil industry, then that should be a matter of huge embarrassment for US “protectors.”

American defense of Saudi Arabia is germane to their historical relationship. Saudi oil exports nominated in dollars for trade – the biggest on the planet – are vital for maintaining the petrodollar global market, which is in turn crucial for American economic power. In return, the US is obligated to be a protector of the Saudi monarchy, which comes with the lucrative added benefit of selling the kingdom weapons worth billions of dollars every year.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia has the world’s third biggest military budget, behind the US and China. With an annual spend of around $68 billion, it is the world’s number one in terms of percentage of gross domestic product (8.8 per cent). Most of the Saudi arms are sourced from the US, with Patriot missile systems in particular being a recent big-ticket item.

Yet for all that financial largesse and the finest American military technology, the oil kingdom just witnessed a potentially crippling wave of air assaults on its vital oil industry. Saudi oil production at its mammoth refinery complex at Abqaiq, 205 miles (330 kms) east of the capital Riyadh, was down 50 per cent after it was engulfed by flames following air strikes. One of the Saudi’s biggest oilfields, at Khurais, also in the Eastern Province, was also partially closed.

There are credible reports that the damage is much more serious than the Saudi officials are conceding. These key industrial sites may take weeks to repair.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got it half right when he claimed, “Iran launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

Yes, it is unprecedented. But Pompeo and other US officials have most likely got it wrong about blaming Iran.

Some Trump administration officials told US media that “cruise missiles” were responsible for the giant fireballs seen over the Saudi oil facilities. One was quoted anonymously as saying: “There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this… there’s no escaping it. There is no other candidate.”

In a hurried effort to substantiate accusations against Iran, satellite images were released which show what appears to be the aftermath of the air strike on the Abqaiq refinery complex. US officials claim the location of the explosions indicate the weapons originated not from Yemen to the south, but from either Iran or Iraq.

Even the normally dutiful New York Times expressed doubt about that claim, commenting in its report: “The satellite photographs released on Sunday did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq.”

The accusations made by Pompeo and others are assertions in place of substantiated claims.

It is noteworthy that President Donald Trump refrained from openly blaming Iran by name, merely hinting at the possibility. If Pompeo is so adamant in fingering Iran, why didn’t Trump? Also, the president made a telling remark when he said he was “waiting for verification” from Saudi Arabia “as to who they believe was the cause of the attack.” Again, if US officials are explicitly accusing Iran then why is Trump saying he wants “verification” from the Saudis?

For its part, Iran has flatly dismissed the allegations that it had any involvement, saying that statements by Pompeo were “blind” and tantamount to setting up a conflict.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also rejected claims that his country’s territory might have been used by pro-Iranian Shia militants to launch the air strikes.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have issued unambiguous statements claiming responsibility for the air raids on the Saudi oil installations. They were specific that the weapons were drones, not missiles, adding with details that 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were deployed.

Notably too, most US media reported initially that the attacks were by drones flown from Yemen. Associated Press reported a level of sophistication in the attacks whereby drones were used first to disable the US Patriot radar systems before other UAVs proceeded to execute the air strikes.

It therefore seems that US officials are attempting to switch the story by blaming Iran. It is reckless scapegoating because the logical consequence could elicit a military attack against Iran, in which event Tehran has warned it is ready for war.

The rationale for blaming Iran is that the Yemeni rebels (which Iran supports politically) are just not capable of using drones with such dramatic success against the Saudi oil industry. The culprit must be Iran, so the rationale goes. This is a follow-on from alleged sabotage by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this summer.

However, a timeline shows that the Houthis are more than capable of launching ever-more powerful ballistic missiles and deeper penetrating drones into Saudi territory. The rebels have been using drones from the beginning of the war which the US-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched on the southern Arabian country in March 2015.

Over the past four years, the Houthi aerial firepower has gradually improved. Earlier, the Saudis, with American defense systems, were able to intercept drones and missiles from Yemen. But over the last year, the rebels have increased their success rate for hitting targets in the Saudi interior, including the capital Riyadh.

In May this year, Houthi drones hit Saudi Arabia’s crucial east-west pipeline. Then in August, drones and ballistic missiles were reported to have struck the Shaybah oil field near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the Dammam exporting complex in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

The Yemenis claim they are taking the war to Saudi Arabia and the UAE after years of relentless air strikes on their homeland which have resulted in nearly 90,000 dead. A recent UN report censured the US, Britain and France for possible complicity in war crimes through their military support for the Saudi coalition.

There must be trepidation among the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE that the rebels from war-torn and starving Yemen are now coming after them with drones that could demolish their oil economies. What’s more, the much-vaunted American protector is not able to deliver on its strategic bargain, despite billions of dollars of Pentagon weaponry. That’s why Washington has to find an excuse by casting Iran as the villain.

posted by ZUKUNASHI at 14:34| Comment(0) | 国際・政治