PARIS: Ahead of this week’s summit of NATO countries in Brussels, speculation mounted about what sort of Donald Trump would turn up for the two days of talks about the military alliance.
Would it be angry, vindictive Trump who has a tendency to turn on the US’s historic allies in public and undermine NATO, the cornerstone of European security for 70 years? Or would he arrive ready to make a deal and put on a display of unity that was desperately sought by his European partners after a disastrous meeting at the G7 summit in Canada last month?
In the end, the US leader, who thrives on keeping both allies and enemies off balance, was a combination of both. His Twitter account buzzed with criticism of NATO – “Very Unfair!”, “Not acceptable!” – and he began with a blistering public attack on Germany, which he accused of being “totally controlled” by Russia.
Both charges play well with Trump’s conservative electoral base back home in America. “Trump is motivated by domestic politics, the mid-term elections (in November) and his populist image,” the head of the Schuman Foundation think-tank in Brussels, Jean-Dominique Giuliani, told Media. But behind closed doors, European leaders suggested things had gone more smoothly, particularly over dinner on Wednesday night when the 29 heads of state and government in central Brussels.
“I read in the papers that everything depends on President Trump’s mood. Well, I can tell you he was in a good mood and he said that Europe was a continent he appreciates,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told reporters on Thursday morning.
This was echoed by others, including French President Emmanuel Macron who was photographed smiling and sharing a hug with Trump on Wednesday despite recent tensions between the two.
It is pertinent to recall here that during the G7 summit in Canada in June, Trump clashed bitterly with his Western partners behind closed doors over US tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imports. At one point, he was reported to have thrown a handful of sweets towards German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying “here, Angela, don’t say I never give you anything”.
The meeting ended with Trump insulting his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as “dishonest and weak”. Despite fears of another bust-up in Brussels, the NATO summit ended Wednesday in what was neither harmony nor the crisis some had feared. Trump signed up to a joint declaration by NATO members and left the Belgian capital claiming victory in having forced European states to increase their spending.
“This was a fantastic two days. It all came together at the end. Yes, it was a little tough for a little while,” he said. But Macron insisted that NATO members have simply recommitted to a previous target of military spending, set in 2014, at a level of 2.0 percent of GDP. They have also agreed to publish their plans to get there. The joint declaration also recommitted all members to Article 5 of the alliance which holds that an attack on one country is an attack on all of them — something Trump had raised doubts about. “I believe in NATO,” Trump told a news conference, denying rumors that had spread through the press room that he had threatened to pull out of the alliance during talks. The joint declaration also included tough language on Russia and reiterated NATO’s position that it would never recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea – something some Europeans fear Trump might be reconsidering.
He is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at their first bilateral summit in Helsinki. “The shared interests (of the European and Americans) are stronger than the public statements and the tweets,” added Giuliani of the Schuman Foundation.
Referring to Trump’s focus on domestic politics, he said: “Beyond that, all of the US industrial, strategic and diplomatic complex sees the benefit of the alliance.” Tomas Valasek, director of the Carnegie Europe think-tank, also sounded upbeat and said that “a pattern has emerged”. Trump “uses these events to speak to home audiences. He’s permanently campaigning,” Valasek wrote on Twitter, adding that NATO appeared to be “an oasis amidst the wreckage of transatlantic cooperation”.
But Francois Heisbourg, head of the The International Institute for Strategic Studies, forecast a bleak future for the organization because Trump had undermined its credibility. “Trump is not interested in a collective defense arrangement operated on multilateral lines, that’s the bottom line,” he told Media.”NATO is like a zombie bank,” he said.
“Never, ever threaten the US”: Trump hits back at Iran ‘war’ talk
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Sunday hit back at bellicose comments by Iran’s president, warning him of dire consequences as the US intensifies its campaign against the Islamic republic.
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump said on Twitter in a direct message to President Hassan Rouhani.
Earlier Sunday the Iranian leader had warned Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail,” saying that conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars”. The US president, writing his entire message in capital letters, continued his riposte: “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
His comments Sunday night came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a major address to the Iranian diaspora in California, said Washington is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime.
Trump in May pulled the US out of a hard-won agreement with Tehran, also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for the deal and have vowed to stay in it, though their businesses fear US penalties. Following Washington’s pullout Pompeo unveiled Washington’s tougher line under which, he said, the US would lift the new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
Rouhani immediately dismissed those US threats and on Sunday said: “You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests.” In a televised speech ahead of Pompeo’s address, Rouhani repeated his warning that Iran could shut down the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil supplies.
“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said.
On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said US words and “even… their signature” cannot be trusted, “so negotiations with the United States are useless.”
The US in January had already sanctioned Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations, Pompeo noted on Sunday.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” he said, confirming that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4 or face American sanctions.
Pompeo called on “all governments to end their flirtations” with Iran’s regime and said “there’s more to come” in terms of sanctions.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk. He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters who have taken to the streets of Iran as economic woes mount after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said. “The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”
To reinforce that message, Washington’s top diplomat announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, through the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media. Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Islamic republic. The Trump administration is regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, and Pompeo said: “our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally.”
Power Division to ensure electricity supply on Election day
ISLAMABAD: Power Division has established two control rooms to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply during polling and completion of the counting process across the country on the Election Day (July 25).
These control rooms have been established in Islamabad and Lahore. The industry will remain off on polling day in order to meet any demand and supply gap, Radio Pakistan reported.
Federal Compliant Cell at Power Division will also function to address complaints of the consumers across the country.
It can be contacted on telephone numbers 051-9103888, 051-9204430 and 051-9206834
20 people injured in attack on BAP office
QUETTA: At least 20 persons were injured when some unknown men threw a hand grenade at Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP) election office in Dalbandin area of Chaghi district on Sunday evening.
According to police sources, unidentified men riding a motorbike hurled a hand grenade at an election office of BAP which went off, leaving 20 workers of BAP injured on the spot, in Killi Khuda-e-Raheem area.
Police reached the site and shifted the injured to a nearby hospital for medical aid.
Four of the injured were being shifted to Quetta Civil hospital in view of their critical condition. Law enforcement agencies reached the site, cordoned off the entire area and started an investigation.