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Trump declares national emergency 'over Huawei' amid accusations he is risking 'devastating' conflict with Iran

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Joe Sommerlad
New York
,Clark Mindock,Lucy Anna Gray
Thursday 16 May 2019 00:22
Donald Trump on the Green New Deal: 'That's a hoax like the hoax I just went through'

Donald Trump has been accused of “playing a very dangerous game” with Iran and risking dragging the US into a new war in the Middle East that could have “devastating” consequences.

The warning came from Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, with the acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan tabling plans to send 120,000 troops to the region if needed as tensions soar between the two nations over economic sanctions and an increased American military presence in the Persian Gulf.

A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Maj Gen Hossein Salami, later warned the nation is “on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy”.

Meanwhile, President Trump has signed an executive order declaring a national emergency that will ban American companies from using telecommunications equipment made by foreign firms posing a national security risk to the US.

The move – thought to be aimed at China’s Huawei – comes as tensions flare between the two countries, with Beijing and Washington failing to find consensus on trade and tariffs after months of negotiations.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the emergency declaration by the president is”part of his commitment to protecting the information and communications technology and services of our Nation.”

In the latest US immigration news, the Trump administration is planning to redirect Transportation Security Administration staff to the Mexico border, the TSA said Wednesday.

“TSA, like all DHS components, is supporting the DHS effort to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southwest border.

TSA is in the process of soliciting volunteers to support this effort while minimising operational impact,” TSA spokesman James Gregory said in a statement.

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The announcement came as Donald Trump spoke at the annual Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington DC, where he denounced illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border.

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Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 09:11

Donald Trump has been accused of “playing a very dangerous game” with Iran and risking dragging the US into a new war in the Middle East that could have “devastating” consequences.

The warning came from Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, with the acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan and hawkish national security adviser John Bolton reportedly tabling plans to send 120,000 troops to the region if needed as tensions soar between the two nations over economic sanctions and an increased American military presence in the Persian Gulf.

The US recently dispatched an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers in a show of force, prompting accusations that Washington was engaging in "psychological warfare" from Tehran. Baeidinejad called this a "serious miscalculation", also denying Iranian involvement in the "sabotage" of rival oil tankers belonging to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Norway, which has further ramped up tensions.

Both US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have denied their side is preparing for conflict. "We fundamentally do not seek war with Iran," Pompeo said at a press conference with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

Having said on Monday "It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens", President Trump was more measured yesterday, refuting the suggestion he was readying ground forces: "Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that." 

But members of the international community are not convinced.

"We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict," British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels. "What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking."

Here's more from our diplomatic editor Kim Sengupta.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 09:39

A British general has downplayed the threat of war in the region, only to then find himself rebuked by US Central Command.

"No, there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria," said major general Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the US-backed coalition fighting Isis. Speaking in a video conference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad, Ghika told reporters at the Pentagon that the coalition monitors the presence of Iranian-backed forces "along with a whole range of others because that's the environment we're in." 

"There are a substantial number of militia groups in Iraq and Syria, and we don't see any increased threat from any of them at this stage," he added. 

Late in the day, in a rare public rebuttal of an allied military officer, US Central Command said Ghika's remarks "run counter to the identified credible threats" from Iranian-backed forces in the Middle East. In a written statement, Central Command said the coalition in Baghdad has increased the alert level for all service members in Iraq and Syria. 

"As a result, [the coalition] is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq," the statement read. 

Here's Andrew Buncombe's report.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 09:54

The US State Department has just ordered all non-emergency government staff to leave Iraq urgently amid escalating tensions with neighbouring Iran. 

Here's the latest from Chris Baynes.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 10:00

All this and the trade war with China rumbles on.

Trump - the billionaire business genius who lost a whopping $1.17bn (£897m) in the 1980s - started the fight by increasing tariffs on more than 6,000 Chinese consumer goods to 25 percent or $200bn (£153bn).

Beijing has since retaliated as promised by increasing tariffs on $60bn (£46bn) of American goods, an increase of 10 percent to 20-25 percent on items from alcohol and clothing to liquefied natural gas.

Trump has in turn threatened to impose tariffs on a further $300bn (£232.4bn) of Chinese goods but hopes to meet with Xi Jinping at the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, to resolve a situation he is now seeking to downplay it as "a little squabble".

Here's Chris Riotta with the latest.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 10:15

Yesterday the president argued on Twitter that America's "great Patriotic Farmers" would ultimately benefit from the stand-off.

But those same farmers are reportedly already bearing the brunt of lower prices and the loss of access to key overseas markets.

The price of soybeans has dropped below $8 (£6.20) a bushel for the first time since 2008 as a result of the current trade feud, which comes as many Midwestern farmers are facing rampant flooding at the height of planting season.

This follows the national net farm income dropping by more than $9bn (£9.9bn) or 12 percent in 2018 as a result of the President Trump's trade tactics, which are slamming the door to key markets for their produce, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 10:30

The president's son, Don Jr, has now agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in accordance with the subpoena issued to him after agreeing a last-minute deal.

Junior has previously skipped out on two earlier appointments with the Republican-led committee, which is seeking to verify precisely what went down at the notorious Trump Tower meeting with influential Russians of June 2016 after the Mueller report contradicted his statements on the affair in 2017. 

Chairman Richard Burr's subpoena - the first for a member of the Trump family - sparked an intra-party dispute and accusations Burr himself was playing along with the Democrats' "witch hunt", with criticism incoming from fellow Republican senators John Cornyn, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham.

"It's really a tough situation because my son spent, I guess, over 20 hours testifying about something that Mueller said was 100 percent OK and now they want him to testify again," Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. "I don't know why. I have no idea why. But it seems very unfair to me." 

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 10:45

President Donald Trump showcased his "America First energy policy" on Tuesday during a trip to Louisiana designed to highlight his administration's efforts to increase liquefied natural gas exports and boost the country's energy infrastructure. 

Trump toured the outskirts of a $10bn (£7.7bn) export terminal that will liquefy natural gas (LNG) for storage and shipping. The process involves cooling gas vapor to a liquid state. Sempra Energy announced on Tuesday the plant has begun producing LNG and will begin shipping to global markets in the next few weeks. 

"Under my administration we have ended the war on America energy and ended the economic assault on our wonderful energy workers," Trump said in a wide-ranging speech to workers in Hackberry,

He went on to call the Democrats' Green New Deal a "hoax", repeated his idiotic line about wind energy (still apparently refusing to understand the concept of battery power storage) and mocked his 2020 rivals.

"I'm looking at the competition. You sort of dream about competition like that, you know?" he said.

Beto O'Rourke is "falling fast", Trump told his captive audience, and Bernie Sanders has "got a lot of energy. But it's energy to get rid of your jobs".

Trump's evident fascination with the "monster, beautiful pieces of art" he saw around him making up the industrial landscape was also mighty weird and resulted in this preposterous tweet recapping his day.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 11:00

But it was this guy's socks - and the resulting photo - that were surely the true highlight of the day.

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 11:15

With regard to the president's potential 2020 challengers, Elizabeth Warren came out with a superb attack on arguably the real source of Trump's power - Fox News - after refusing their invitation to appear at a town hall event, branding the right-wing broadcaster "a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists".

Joe Sommerlad15 May 2019 11:30

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