19 October 2019

USA

Trump national security adviser jets to Turkey in bid to halt assault

KONFRONTASI- U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser flew to Turkey on Wednesday as part of an emergency delegation to try to persuade Ankara to halt an assault on northern Syria that has forced Washington into an abrupt retreat.

Robert O’Brien, who has been national security adviser for a month, was due to meet Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, ahead of talks the following day between Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

As options narrow on Syria, Trump prepares to drop sanctions hammer on Turkey

KONFRONTASI-President Donald Trump’s administration is set to impose economic sanctions on Ankara, potentially as early as this week, for its incursion into northern Syria, one of the few levers the United States still has over NATO-ally Turkey.

Using the U.S. military to stop the Turkish offensive on U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters was never an option, defense officials have said, and Trump asked the Pentagon on Sunday to begin a “deliberate” withdrawal of all U.S. troops from northern Syria.

US shoots itself in foot by sanctioning Iran oil buyers

KONFRONTASI-Data from November trade shows rates for shipping US oil to Asia hit more than a three-year high amid American sanctions on China and Iran.

Last Wednesday, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on five Chinese nationals and six entities, including two Cosco Shipping Corporation subsidiaries.

Washington is now facing backlash from the decision because the surge in freight costs has made US crude exports to Asia unprofitable, leaving exporters reluctant to book vessels at the higher rates.

Iran's Rouhani says no to talks under U.S. pressure

KONFRONTASI-Iran will never hold talks with the United States under pressure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, but added that lifting all the sanctions Washington imposed on Tehran and respecting a U.N. Security Council resolution could pave the way for talks.

“Our response to talks under pressure is NO,” said Rouhani, but warned that Iran might exit a 2015 nuclear deal if the European powers failed to salvage the deal.

United States sending troops to bolster Saudi defenses after attack

KONFRONTASI- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday approved sending American troops to bolster Saudi Arabia’s air and missile defenses after the largest-ever attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities, which Washington has squarely blamed on Iran.

The Pentagon said the deployment would involve a moderate number of troops - not numbering thousands - and would be primarily defensive in nature. It also detailed plans to expedite delivery of military equipment to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Reuters has previously reported that the Pentagon was considering sending anti-missile batteries, drones and more fighter jets. The United States is also considering keeping an aircraft carrier in the region indefinitely.

“In response to the kingdom’s request, the president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense,” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a news briefing.

“We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves.”

The Pentagon’s late Friday announcement appeared to close the door to any imminent decision to wage retaliatory strikes against Iran following the attack, which rattled global markets and exposed major gaps in Saudi Arabia’s air defenses.

Trump said earlier on Friday that he believed his military restraint so far showed “strength,” as he instead imposed another round of economic sanctions on Tehran.

“Because the easiest thing I could do, ‘Okay, go ahead. Knock out 15 different major things in Iran.’ ... But I’m not looking to do that if I can,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

But the deployment could further aggravate Iran, which has responded to previous U.S. troop deployments this year with apprehension. It denies responsibility for the attack on Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which has been battling a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the UAE, has claimed responsibility for the strikes.

Iran rules out talks as Trump blames Tehran for Saudi oil attack

KONFRONTASI-Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday ruled out talks with Washington after President Donald Trump blamed Tehran for a crippling attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

Saudi King Salman called on governments around the world to confront the threats to oil supplies and global economic stability posed by the weekend attack. European allies said the crisis should be addressed collectively.

Death toll rises in Bahamas after devastating Hurricane Dorian

KONFRONTASI-Survivors of Hurricane Dorian on Wednesday picked through the wreckage of homes ripped apart by fierce winds, struggled to fuel generators and queued for food after one of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record devastated parts of the Bahamas.

The most damaging storm to strike the island nation, Dorian killed at least 20 people, according to Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands.

But the toll was certain to rise as the scope of the destruction becomes more clear, with aerial video of the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas showing widespread devastation.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said in a conference call with reporters that he expected the death toll to rise significantly.

In the United States, South Carolina was preparing for a record storm surge and major flooding with the potential for over a metre of rain in places when Dorian hits the coast on Thursday or Friday.

Dozens of people in the Bahamas took to Facebook to search for missing loved ones, and aid agencies estimated that tens of thousands of people of the Bahamas population of 400,000 would need food and other support.

"We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country's history," Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference.

"We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information."

LaQuez Williams, a pastor at Jubilee Cathedral in Grand Bahama, who opened the church as a shelter for about 150 people, said he saw people on their rooftops seeking refuge. 

A Reuters photographer surveying the damage on Grand Bahama island said many hangars at Freeport airport and several aircraft appeared to be severely damaged.Aerial video of Great Abaco Island showed miles of flooded neighbourhoods littered with upturned boats and shipping containers scattered like toys. Many buildings had walls or roofs partly ripped off.

'Something no one could prepare for'
A single Facebook post by media outlet Our News Bahamas seeking the names of missing people had 2,000 comments listing lost family members since it went live on Tuesday, although some of the comments were also about loved ones being found.

Janith Mullings, 66, from Freeport, Grand Bahama, said she had been through hurricanes all her life but had never seen anything like Dorian.

"We've never had hurricanes in none of our islands that have experienced the ocean rising like it did. The ocean was something no one could prepare for," she said.

A massive relief effort was under way with volunteers ferrying supplies to the islands in a flotilla of small boats.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

"It's heartbreaking ...," said Caroline Turnquest, director general of Bahamas Red Cross. "We know from what we've been seeing and hearing, that this one will require the help of all the persons."

Food may be required for 14,500 people in the Abaco Islands and for 45,700 people in Grand Bahama, the UN World Food Programme said.

US Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection personnel have airlifted 61 people from the northern Bahamas to the capital Nassau over two days, the US Embassy said.

Turkey's Erdogan: No tolerance for US stalling on Syria safe zone

KONFRONTASI-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that Turkey would not allow the United States to delay its plan to set up a "safe zone" in northeast Syria, while insisting that the deal he reached with Washington was still the correct step to take.

Erdogan was quoted in a CNN Turk report published on Thursday as saying that Ankara would not accept delays in the plan, comparing it to an earlier deal with Washington to remove the Kurdish YPG fighters from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, which Turkey had accused the US of delaying.

U.S. Says China Is Blocking Trillions in Oil and Gas, Will Send Navy for Asia Drills

KONFRONTASI-The United States has accused China of preventing Southeast Asian countries from accessing trillions of dollars worth of untapped oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea as the Pentagon planned to hold its first exercise with regional powers near the strategic region.

U.S. Says China Is Blocking Trillions in Oil and Gas, Will Send Navy for Asia Drills

KONFRONTASI-The United States has accused China of preventing Southeast Asian countries from accessing trillions of dollars worth of untapped oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea as the Pentagon planned to hold its first exercise with regional powers near the strategic region.

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