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Monday
January 2020
1:32 AM IST
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International News
US points to dissent in Iran in wake of deadly drone strike
 
Washington: Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other administration officials joined President Donald Trump in trying to draw attention to dissent in Iran instead of lingering questions about the scale of the threat used to justify a drone strike on Iran's top military leader.

Esper added to the uncertainty over the intelligence behind last week's killing of Gen Qassem Soleimani when he said Sunday that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under possible threat. Trump said last Friday that

Soleimani had been planning such an attack.

In appearances on Sunday news shows, both Esper and national security adviser Robert O'Brien said they agreed that Iran might have hit more than just the US Embassy in the Iraqi capital. It is certainly consistent with the intelligence to assume that they would have hit embassies in at least four countries," O'Brien said.

But Esper, when asked whether there was a specific piece of evidence, replied: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.' And in response to a question about whether Trump was embellishing' the threat, Esper said, I don't believe so.

In a tweet both defiant and dismissive, Trump turned his attention again to supporting Iranian protesters and warning the Iranian government not to attack them or to pursue nuclear weapons.

He tweeted: National Security Adviser suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran 'choked off', will force them to negotiate. Actually, I couldn't care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and 'don't kill your protesters.'

O'Brien had suggested the United States sees this moment as an opportunity to further intensify pressure on Iran's leaders, with whom the US has been at odds for four decades.

Iran's leaders already are under enormous strain from economic sanctions that have virtually strangled Iran's main source of income oil exports. Esper said street protests in Tehran show the Iranian people are hungry for a more accountable government after leaders denied, then admitted shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane.

"You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government a different regime," Esper said.

Trump's order to strike at Soleimani came as he was already under pressure ahead of an impeachment trial in the Senate. Many in Congress complained that the administration did not consult them in advance and did not adequately brief members afterward.

After the US killed Soleimani in Baghdad, it appeared the backlash in Iran and elsewhere had helped Tehran by shifting the focus away from its internal problems. The strike also seemed to divert attention away from domestic unrest in Iraq over government corruption, and it intensified efforts by Iraqi politicians to expel American and other foreign forces.

But the shootdown of the Ukrainian plane on the night of the Soleimani strike, killing all 176 people aboard, opened a new avenue of pressure for the Trump administration.

"I think the regime is having a very bad week," O'Brien said.

"This was a regime that's reeling from maximum pressure, they're reeling from their incompetence in this situation and the people of Iran are just fed up with it, he said, adding that regime change is not US policy.

"The people of Iran are going to hopefully have the ability at some point to elect their own government and to be governed by the leaders they choose, O'Brien said.

In Tehran, Iran's security forces deployed in large numbers on Sunday. Demonstrators defied the heavy police presence to protest their country's days of denials that it shot down the Ukrainian plane. Videos posted online showed protesters shouting anti-government slogans and moving through subway stations and sidewalks.

Iranians have expressed anger over the downing of the Ukrainian flight and the misleading explanations from senior officials in the immediate aftermath. Later the government took the blame for the shootdown, saying it was caused by human error.

Reviewing the dramatic sequence of events that preceded the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner Wednesday, Esper justified the US killing of Soleimani as an act of self defense, and he said the US foresees no more Iranian military attacks in retaliation for that.

Even so, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is closely aligned with Iran, said Sunday that Iran's missile attacks on two bases in Iraq housing US forces last week were only the start of the retaliation.

Hassan Nasrallah described Iran's military response, which caused no casualties, as a "slap" at the US. He called it the "first step down a long path" that will ensure US troops withdraw from the region.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was concerned that "Iran has lots of ways that they can take action against us, both overt and covert, and I don't think they're done trying to seek revenge.'

Esper spoke hopefully of getting the NATO alliance more involved in Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces. He said this could allow him to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq, currently numbering more than 5,200, but he did not say any reduction was in the works yet.


China facing ''grave'' situation, says Xi as coronavirus death toll rises to 41
Quake kills 22 in Eastern Turkey
Nepal offers to play role of mediator between India and Pakistan
Italy threatens Facebook with new fine for selling users' data
Nepal says if India can resolve boundary issue with Bangladesh, why not Kathmandu
Houston building explosion shakes city, scatters debris
Lanka Prez Rajapaksa stays arrest of judge in tape controversy
Queen gives assent for Britain to leave EU
UN court orders Myanmar to prevent Rohingya genocide
Trump trial opens with clash over witnesses
Trump 'would have loved' to have met Thunberg at Davos
China''s ex-Interpol chief sentenced to over 13 years in prison for corruption
Thousands of missing persons during Lanka''s civil war are ''dead'': President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
China coronavirus: Death toll rises to 6 as leaders warn officials against cover up
IMF lowers 2019 India growth to 4.8 per cent
BBC boss Tony Hall to step down in six months
More than 80 soldiers killed in Yemen missile, drone attack
Indian school teacher undergoes treatment for Streptococcal infection in China
Putin's, Xi's ruler-for-life moves pose challenges to West
Ukraine PM offers to resign after leaked recording
ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
'Batman' script is beautiful, dark and moving: Colin Farrell
 Los Angeles: Hollywood actor Colin Farrell has revealed that the script of Matt Reeves' "The Batman"  
Scriptwriting is underrated: Ayushmann Khurrana
Abhishek Bachchan starts filming 'Bob Biswas'
Signed 'Radhe' for story and my character: Disha Patani
KERALA NEWS
Man killed with soil excavator
 Thiruvananthapuram: A 36-year-old man was killed with an excavator near here when he objected to a g
Delhi court extends ED custody of NRI bizman C C Thampi
Congress president restructures KPCC
Kerala Guv again criticises LDF govt for passing resolution in Assembly against CAA
NATIONAL NEWS
Padma Vibhushan for Jaitley, Sushma, Fernandes posthumously; Parrikar given Padma Bhushan
 New Delhi: Former union ministers Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and George Fernandes, Olympian boxer M
Govt will not allow universities to become political battlegrounds: Ramesh Pokhriyal
Maha phone tapping row hots up; Fadnavis rejects charge
Bru settlement: Tripura begins survey to identify beneficiaries
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