Treasury Removes Sanctions Imposed on Turkish Ministries and Senior Officials Following Pause of Turkish Operations in Northeast SyriaSyria

WASHIGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed sanctions imposed on the Government of Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, as well as the Minister of National Defence, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, and the Minister of the Interior, following Turkey’s pause in military operations in Syria as agreed to with the United States on October 17, 2019 (the October Ceasefire).

“As a result of the ceasefire, and at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, Treasury is delisting two Turkish ministries and three of the country’s senior officials,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

On October 14, 2019, OFAC designated Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources for being a subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of the Government of Turkey.

OFAC simultaneously designated Hulisi Akar, Minister of National Defence, Suleyman Soylu, the Minister of Interior, and Fatih Donmez, the Minister of Energy pursuant to E.O. 13894 of October 14, 2019, for being a current or former official of the Government of Turkey. Today’s action, taken in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, is a direct result of Turkey’s adherence to the terms of the October Ceasefire.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property, which had been blocked solely as a result of these designations, are unblocked and all otherwise lawful transactions involving U.S. persons and these entities and individuals are no longer prohibited.

 

Chinese Soybean Purchases Plant Seeds of Concern for US Farmers

MORRIS, ILLINOIS, (KANE FARABAUGH-VOANEWS).- Farmer Scott Halpin is facing another year of high prices for seed and fertilizer, and low prices for the corn and soybeans his family is planting on farmland outside Morris, Illinois.

“Equipment is expensive,” he told VOA while taking a break from loading seed into the John Deere planter that will eventually place them in the soil. “Land is expensive. It costs a lot of money to put a crop in the ground.”

As U.S. farmers head to their fields to plant this year’s crop, they face new challenges created by Chinese threats to impose tariffs on some of their products, a retaliatory move in the wake of pending U.S. tariffs on Chinese aluminum and steel.

WATCH: Chinese Soybean Purchases Plant Seeds of Concern for US Farmers

It’s the latest salvo in an escalating trade dispute that has farmers warily watching fluctuating commodity prices as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects net farm income in 2018 to reach a 12-year low.

Any potential Chinese tariffs could impact the price of soybeans and ultimately Halpin’s bottom line.

“Soybeans make up just under half of our crop rotation,” Halpin said. “It’s a real important part of our farm operation here.”

Added into the mix are new concerns that buyers in China, the world’s top consumer of soybeans, have stopped purchasing supplies from the U.S., even before tariffs are in place.

For Halpin, the bad news seems relentless.

“It can hurt when things happen on a daily basis. It’s just kind of uncertain times here in farming,” he said.

Not unbearable

Uncertain, but not unbearable, says Phil Flynn, senior market analyst with Price Futures Group and a contributor to Fox Business Network.

“Even though China is talking tough, they realize that they cannot get into a trade war with the United States because they have a lot more to lose than we do,” Flynn told VOA.

According to the USDA, China imports about 63 percent of the world’s total export of soybeans, and is the second-largest export market for U.S. grain products.

“There’s not a lot of places that can replace American soybeans in the near term,” Flynn said. “And the tariffs are probably not going to be enough to change Chinese purchases, because at the end of the day there’s going to be a time and place that the only place that they can get soybeans or soybean meal is going to be the United States even at a higher price.”

​Big picture vs security

Halpin says he understands the big picture and the need for fair trade, but farmers could use a little security in these tough economic times.

“We understand that there’s inadequacies in the overall trade. Yeah, it makes us a little uneasy. Soybean market(s) are such a big part of the overall ag economy and China is such a big player and we need China to buy our soybeans,” he said.

Or someone else needs to step up and take China’s place.

“If China is buying from another country, somebody else is going to be looking for our soybeans. It would just be nice to have some stability,” Halpin said.

While the uncertainty isn’t changing the Halpin family’s overall plans this planting season, it could be a different story during harvest time later this year.

“The prices and the markets dramatically affect the way we do things here on the farm,” he said.

So does the weather, which is another great uncertainty all farmers face.

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

https://www.voanews.com/a/china-us-soybeans-us-farmers/4390921.html

China Trash Ban Creates Crisis for Recyclers

LOS ANGELES, (MIKE O´SULLIVAN-VOANEWS).- Just less than $6 billion worth of U.S. waste was sent to China last year to be converted into packaging and products, and then shipped back to the United States and other markets. Scrap recyclers had taken advantage of low shipping costs for empty containers returning to China after the ships had unloaded their goods on the U.S. West Coast.

Today, that flow of trash is just a trickle, the result of a Chinese ban that went into effect Jan. 1 on many types of foreign garbage, from mixed papers to waste textiles.

The result of the ban is seen at a recycling facility in Anaheim, California, owned by Republic Services, a national company headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. The parking lot of the materials recovery facility (MRF) is brimming with 2,400 bales of mixed paper that once would have been bound for China.

The surplus is a result of an unprecedented 12-day backlog, said James Castro, the facility’s general manager.

And it’s not clear where it’s all going.

China has banned imports of mixed paper, as well as low-grade plastics, certain metals and other types of waste. In April, it expanded the ban, to go into effect later this year, to include more metals and chemical waste. A ban on additional kinds of scrap, including waste timber, is being targeted for the end of 2019.

Less-contaminated scrap

It has also imposed stricter contamination standards on the scrap it does accept, allowing only 0.5 percent contaminants, down for most materials from 1.5 percent.

That has slowed the sorting process, said Richard Coupland, Republic’s vice president of municipal sales.

Further complicating matters, the ban has led to a huge reduction in worldwide prices on recyclable goods, such as mixed paper.

One year ago, bales of unsorted paper, like those now stacked in the parking lot, would have been worth $100 a ton. Today, each ton is worth “less than $5, or negative in some markets,” including shipping costs, Coupland said. He added that much of the industry’s backlog may end up in landfills.

To the north in the city of Azusa, Waste Management’s MRF is also dealing with tightened standards for the workers and sorting machines that use magnets, optical sensors and other means to separate the waste. Executives say they are tweaking a costly system that was designed to meet China’s insatiable craving for scrap.

Asia-based journalist Adam Minter, author of the book Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade, sums up the dilemma facing these companies.

“Recycling is about manufacturing,” Minter said, “and if somebody doesn’t want to use those raw materials, then putting stuff in your recycling bin is doing nothing more than playing with your garbage.”

He says China’s trash ban is spurred partly by a desire to clean up the environment, but even more by nationalism and a desire for political control.

“When you see China pushing against the recycling industry,” Minter said, “it’s really pushing against private industry and in favor of state-owned enterprises, and that is very much in line with the way that Chinese economic policy has been going for the last five years.”

​‘Shockwaves around the world’

Some environmentalists have welcomed the trash ban.

Greenpeace East Asia plastic campaigner Liu Hua said it will send “shockwaves around the world” and force countries to confront their attitudes toward waste, especially environmental contaminants like plastics.

China expert Joshua Goldstein of the University of Southern California said the ban will have social repercussions in China.

Goldstein has studied the informal sector of 3-5 million small-scale recyclers, entrepreneurs whom he says are “picking through (trash) and making their lives slightly better every day through the money that they made.”

“It had environmental repercussions,” he said, “but it also raised 3 to 5 million households out of poverty.”

Goldstein said China faces hurdles to create an operation as efficient.

Companies are also searching for new markets. More recyclable scrap from the United States will now go to India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia, but industry experts say shipping costs are high and demand in those countries is limited.

As commodity prices drop, there is hope for increased use for scrap such as mixed paper in the United States.

​Cleaning up waste

Brent Bell, vice president of recycling operations for Waste Management, said his company is also cleaning up its waste to meet the higher standards that China and other countries are demanding.

“I think as an industry, we’re all at fault to some degree,” Bell said, noting the company is working to educate consumers about better recycling. “Something we all missed as an industry,” he added. “Whether we’re shipping material to China, to India, or even to Louisiana, our customers all want to make sure the material is as clean as possible.”

Republic’s Coupland said the waste and recycling industry needs to work with local communities to find a new business model to replace one that has become unsustainable. It could mean, he said, an increase in the rate that consumers pay for hauling away their trash.

China may yet make adjustments to its policies, USC’s Goldstein added.

Paper fiber is hard to replace, he notes, and China may loosen its bans to bring in the raw materials that its manufacturers require.

“What parts of this reform, this ban, are going to be long term and what parts are going to be short term is still quite unclear,” Goldstein said. But he noted that the economics of the recycling industry are changing.

https://www.voanews.com/a/china-trash-ban-creates-crisis-for-recyclers/4429960.html

Korean-Americans Push for Reunions with North Korea Family Members

WASHINGTON, (NATALIE SEO-VOANEWS).- Won Yun last saw his grandmother and sisters on the banks of the Taedong River during the January Fourth Retreat of the Korean War. Eventually, Yun, his grandfather, parents and three brothers made it to the South, while his grandmother and two younger sisters remained.

The 8-year-old Yun believed the entire family would reunite after the war. They could not.

Like thousands of other Korean-Americans, Yun, now 76, yearns to be reunited with relatives in North Korea.
Hopes raised

For many of them, the recent summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un raised the hope of family reunions.

“[Korean-American divided families are] the last living human link between the U.S. and DPRK,” said Jason Ahn, board chair of the Divided Families USA (DFUSA). He referred to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “This is a humanitarian issue and we need to act quickly to resolve this as soon as possible.”

Since the Korean War split the Korean Peninsula in 1950, an estimated 100,000 Korean-Americans have been cut off from relatives in North Korea.

While the U.S. and North Korea do not have a formal reunification channel for Korean-Americans and their North Korean relatives, since 2000, North and South Korea have held 20 reunions for their divided families, both physically and virtually. The next is scheduled for Aug. 20-26 at North Korea’s Diamond Mountain resort.

The greatest deterrent to reuniting Korean-Americans and their North Korean families has been the tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea, now warming somewhat, and the precedence of the denuclearization issue.

“I’ve argued that human rights issues ought to be part of any conversation that the United States has with North Korea,” said Ambassador Robert King, the former special envoy for North Korean human rights issues in the Obama administration, adding that denuclearization is “an extremely important issue … and there’s no question that it’s the most important.”

But the divided families issue cannot wait.

“These [divided family members] … they’re all in their 70s, 80s, they’re all going to die,” Yun’s son, David Yun, said. “So that 100,000 is no longer 100,000 anymore.”

DFUSA and its partner organization, the National Coalition for the Divided Families (NCDF), each keep a registry of Korean-Americans with family members in North Korea.

Within the last year, several Korean-Americans on the registries have died. Others decided they no longer wanted to be registered. Some just fell off the radar.

We need to be prioritized … even before normalization [of relations between the U.S. and North Korea] or even before the nuclear issue is resolved,” Ahn said. “That may take many years and … people are dying. Literally dying.”

Tracking down relatives

Some Americans have made their own way to North Korea. That’s what Heang Ki Paik did.

A 69-year-old taekwondo master who lives in San Francisco, Paik is the son of a North Korean mother and a South Korean father who married before the Korean War. Paik, his parents and his five brothers fled to the South in 1951, leaving behind his mother’s side of the family.

“My mother … spoke in a North Korean dialect, and everyone knew that she was North Korean,” so she was discriminated against in the South, Paik said in a translated interview with VOA.

When Paik’s mother died in 1991, she left him the last known addresses of her North Korean family.

Paik moved to the U.S. in 1992 and began seeking her family.

Fifteen years later, in October 2007, Jung Woo-jin, a Korean-American taekwondo grandmaster and publisher of Taekwondo Times, hosted North Korea’s national Taekwondo Demonstration Team to perform and tour five cities in the U.S. The North Korean group consisted of 18 taekwondo athletes and seven officials.

Among them was Ung Chang, who represents Pyongyang on the International Olympic Committee.

Paik, who coordinated the event in San Francisco, stuck close to Chang over the course of three days.

“I knew this person was my only chance, so I worked hard to become friendly with him,” Paik said. On the meeting’s last day, he asked Chang to find his mother’s relatives.

Three months later, a U.N. representative for North Korea contacted Paik and confirmed that his aunt and uncle were alive.

Three years later, on Oct. 22, 2010, in his mother’s hometown Nampo, Paik met his family and spent three days with them.

Other avenues

Other divided Korean-American families seek different avenues.

Yun’s parents never gave up looking for their daughters. When they died, Yun, who had been living in the U.S. since 1965, continued their quest. He contacted a Canadian organization that said they had located his sisters.

“I was very skeptical … I think that’s the feeling that everyone had,” said David Yun, whose doubts failed to deter his father.

On Oct. 13, 2007, Yun flew to Pyongyang, then trekked to Anju. There, at a four-story hotel, he opened the door to a room and his younger sisters, Won Bok and Won Sil, flew into his arms.

Yun, who documented his time in North Korea, showed the videos to his family in New Jersey when he returned.

“Our jaws dropped, because this lady was the spitting image of my grandmother,” David Yun said in reference to Won Bok, the older sister. “It was as if my grandmother rose up from the dead and she was living in North Korea.”

Although Paik and Yun were able to reunite with their families, thousands of Korean-Americans remain frustrated.

Third-party organizations, brokers or black marketers often demand tens of thousands of dollars from those seeking their families. Sometimes people are cheated of their money.

“[The divided families] went from one broker to another to hoping the next time would be … successful to find out whether their parents were still alive,” said Chahee Stanfield, NCDF’s executive director.

Although legislation for divided families has been introduced and passed under the Bush and Obama administrations, they did not yield the formal mechanism for reunions that the families and their advocates want.

When VOA asked about the possibility of the Korean-American divided families being discussed with North Korea, the U.S. State Department referred to the first point in the Singapore statement that the “United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”

In June, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California introduced a resolution that would require the U.S. government to hold a reunion within 60 days of the resolution’s passing.

In accordance with the binding nature of the resolution, which is with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bass believes that reunions should not be dependent on the United States’ relationship with North Korea.

“I think reunification should happen. Period,” she said in an interview with VOA.

Pushing for more

Stanfield, NCDF’s executive director, appreciates the congresswoman’s resolution and wants the Trump administration to do more.

“DFUSA [has] met high-ranking officials at the vice president’s office, the president’s office — the people we have met are in the decision-making positions,” Stanfield said. “So right now, we appreciate … the resolution, [but] we have passed … that stage. Long time ago.”

Hannah Y. Kim, who wrote the Divided Families Bill that passed Congress in 2016 as the chief of staff to former Congressman Charles Rangel, believes resolutions are not sufficient.

“It’s not enough for a politician or an elected official to introduce a bill,” Kim said. “That doesn’t mean anything unless people do something about it, keep on raising the issue. And that has to be led by Korean-Americans.”

Organizations like the Council of Korean Americans (CKA) and the Korean American Grassroots Conference (KAGC) urge Korean-Americans to raise the issue with their Congressional representatives.

“Part of what we’re trying to do at CKA is to educate our community around the power that we wield,” Interim Executive Director of CKA Jessica Lee said. “Until we have more people doing that with this [divided families] issue, I think it’s going to be difficult to make the … progress that we all want.”

Ahn, who has been involved with the divided families issue for 12 years, looks at the success of the repatriation of remains from North Korea and wants the same for the divided families.

“Really, with a handshake … between President Trump and Chairman Kim, it could happen,” Ahn said. “They just need to declare it and it will happen.”

Hannah Kim recognizes that facilitating a meeting for thousands of families has its challenges.

“At the very least, let’s do a virtual [reunion]. … Nothing, nothing, nothing will be better of course than being united in person, to be able to hug and kiss and talk to each other,” she said. “But just knowing … that they’re even alive on the other end of the screen, sometimes that’s just good enough for them.”

https://www.voanews.com/a/korean-americans-push-for-reunions-north-korea-family-members/4534794.html

NASA Offers Challenge with $750,000 Reward to Further Mars Goal

WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).- The U.S. space agency NASA is offering a public challenge, with a lofty $750,000 reward, to anyone who can find ways to turn carbon dioxide into compounds that would be useful on Mars.

Calling it the “CO2 Conversion Challenge,” NASA scientists say they need help finding a way to turn a plentiful resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products in order to make trips to Mars possible.

Carbon dioxide is one resource that is readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere.

Scientists say astronauts attempting space travel to Mars will not be able to bring everything they need to the red planet, so will have to figure out ways to use local resources once they get there to create what they need.

“Enabling sustained human life on another planet will require a great deal of resources and we cannot possibly bring everything we will need. We have to get creative,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program.

She said if scientists could learn to transform “resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products, the space — and terrestrial — applications are endless.”

Carbon and oxygen are the molecular building blocks of sugars.

On Earth, plants can easily and inexpensively turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar. However, scientists say this approach would be difficult to replicate in space because of limited resources, such as energy and water.

NASA says the competition is divided into two phases. During the first phase, individuals or teams would submit a design and description of their proposal, with up to five teams winning $50,000 each. In the second phase, the finalists would build and present a demonstration of their proposals, with the winning individual or team earning $750,000.

Those who are up for the challenge need to register by Jan. 24, 2019, and then officially apply by Feb. 28, 2019.

https://www.voanews.com/a/nasa-offers-challenge-750-000-reward-mars-goal/4556657.html

Russian War Games Seek to Cement Ties With China, Send Message to West

LONDON, (HENRY RIDGWELL-VOANEWS).- Russia is holding its largest military exercises since the Cold War in the far eastern part of the country, and for the first time it has invited contingents from China and Mongolia.

About 36,000 tanks and 300,000 Russian troops, a third of the country’s military personnel, are on maneuvers in the vast expanses of eastern Siberia. China has sent more than 3,000 troops.

The skies are patrolled by 1,000, aircraft, including strategic long-range bombers. In the Arctic and Pacific oceans, 80 Russian warships are conducting mock battles and landing drills.

Russian President Vladimir Putin took a front-row seat to observe the exercises Thursday and praised the relationship with the country’s eastern neighbors.

“I would like to say a special thank you to the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia. Our fraternity in arms has long and firm traditions,” Putin said.

Huge Russian War Games Seek to Cement Ties With China, Send Message to West

The war games, known as Vostok ’18, come as relations between Moscow and the West continue to worsen following the poisoning of a former double agent on British soil. Meanwhile the trade war between Beijing and Washington continues to deepen.

The exercises may be taking place in a remote corner of the world, but they have global resonance, said analyst Emily Ferris of London’s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

“As well as demonstrating to the West that it has this alliance with China, it’s also an opportunity for Russia to show what it’s learned from its military interventions, for example in Syria, for example in eastern Ukraine,” Ferris told VOA in an interview.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the United States and its allies to impose sanctions on Moscow.

“The Western sanctions have damaged Russia’s ability to get, for example, military components that it used to get from its Western partners. And so, Russia’s military in the meantime is undergoing a 10-year-long renovation and upgrade. And so, to pay for those parts, Russia is going to need to find alternative partners,” Ferris said.

The exercises coincide with the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, attended by several heads of state. With China engaged in a spiraling trade war with the United States, analysts say Moscow sees an opportunity to deepen relations with Beijing.

“They are politically becoming very close. Economically, the Russian-Chinese trade is booming, when other kinds of trade, especially in Russia, is not booming at all. And also, of course, now militarily, they are acting together as brothers-in-arms in military games that are basically aimed at the United States and its allies,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst based in Moscow.

Sources of tension

Ferris said there are also sources of tension in the relationship.

“Particularly the belt-and-road initiative of China’s that sort of bypasses Russia, especially because China is quite interested in countries like Ukraine and Belarus, and using its infrastructure as a gateway to Europe. I think Russia is quite suspicious of what China is planning,” she said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Tuesday that he sees “little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.” The military exercises come amid threats from Washington of more sanctions against Russia if it conducts an assault on Idlib, the last rebel-held area in Syria. The United Nations has warned of a potential massacre of civilians.

https://www.voanews.com/a/russian-war-games-seek-to-cement-ties-with-china-send-message-to-west/4571438.html

Taiwan military capable of protecting nation: defense minister

TAIPEI, (CNA).- Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) on Friday reiterated the ministry's ability to defend the nation.

The minister was responding to a CNN report Thursday, which said the United States is planning a show of force in areas close to Chinese-claimed territory in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

Yen said the Ministry of National Defense is closely monitoring the situation.

"People in Taiwan do not need to worry," Yen said at a hearing held at the Legislative Yuan. "The military is capable of ensuring national security and defending the country."

In the report, CNN cited several unnamed U.S. military officials as saying "the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force as a warning to China and to demonstrate the U.S. is prepared to deter and counter their military actions" in November.

According to the report, the U.S. aims to send ships close to Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in a freedom of navigation operation to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters.

The U.S. military officials said in the CNN report that the proposal, which will involve U.S. warships, combat aircraft and troops, means U.S. ships and aircraft would operate close to Chinese forces.

However, the U.S. defense officials said the planned exercise indicated no intention to engage in combat with China.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the proposal with David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, saying in the CNN report the department does not comment on future operations of any kind.

Yen said the reported U.S. Navy operations are Washington's decision so Taiwan's defense ministry is not in a position to comment on the plan.

Nevertheless, Yen emphasized that whether in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan's military is immediately aware of any change in Chinese military deployments so local people can rest assured about the security of the nation.

On Wednesday, Yen said at another legislative hearing that protecting Taiwan is in the national interest of the United States because Taiwan plays a role in maintaining regional peace.

The Wednesday comments came after the minister was asked by lawmakers to comment on U.S. veteran journalist Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," in which U.S. President Donald Trump is quoted as asking the National Security Council: "What do we get from protecting Taiwan?"

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Frances Huang)

FOTO CNA.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201810050008.aspx

Taiwan needs U.S. military support to defend itself: official

TAIPEI, (CNA).- Taiwan needs the United States' continuous support in the face of China's growing military threat or it will be vulnerable to being taken over by force by Beijing, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told CNN during an interview aired Monday.

Asked if the U.S.'s continuous military support for Taiwan would increase the potential risk of military confrontation with China, Wu told CNN that the reality is quite the opposite.

"What we are concerned about is that the U.S. does not support Taiwan anymore," he said.

"If the security ties between Taiwan and the U.S. are getting stronger and strengthening our ties, then that would become a barrier for the Chinese to think about future military scenarios against Taiwan," Wu said.

The comments came in the wake of a China Times report that the military's newly revised defense plan indicates that in the event of a conflict between Taiwan and China, the U.S. will not send troops to Taiwan.

Taiwan instead will ask the U.S. to provide intelligence to monitor the movements of enemy forces, said the report, which the Ministry of National Defense did not deny.

In the interview with CNN, Wu also noted the importance of the relationship with the U.S.

He said Taiwan was pleased that Taiwan-U.S. relations were growing closer under the Donald Trump administration, despite concerns raised by some Taiwanese who fear Taiwan will be used as a pawn between Washington and Beijing.

He stressed that Taiwan government has full faith in the cordial relationship.

"We (Taiwan and U.S.) both believe in the values that we share and they (U.S.) told us that they believe Taiwan is not tradeable, and democracy is not tradeable," he said.

"We feel very strongly that the Trump administration as a whole is deeply committed to Taiwan's security and its relationship with Taiwan," he added.

Wu was also asked about the mounting pressure Beijing has put on Taiwan, using military drills, aircraft fly-bys and vessels passing through the Taiwan Strait, since President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has traditionally favored independence, took power in 2016.

The foreign minister described such measures as counterproductive to Beijing's claim to win over Taiwanese hearts and minds.

"They (Beijing) say they want to win the hearts and minds of Taiwanese people but what they're doing... is to create hatred among the regular Taiwanese people of the Chinese government. It is pushing Taiwan further and further away," he said.

Asked whether President Tsai would push for Taiwan independence, Wu said Tsai was determined to maintain "the status quo" with its mainland neighbor.

"We want to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait... By itself, Taiwan exists outside China, Taiwan exists by itself, so there's no need for Taiwan to go beyond what it is right now," he said.

According to Taiwan's Foreign Ministry, CNN's half-hour interview with Wu was conducted on Monday morning and is scheduled to be aired at 8 p.m. Monday (Taiwan Time).

(By Joseph Yeh)

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201807230019.aspx

Treasury and Commerce Implement Changes to Cuba Sanctions Rules

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) unveiled amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to further implement the President’s foreign policy on Cuba. These amendments complement changes to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which Commerce is also unveiling today. These regulatory changes were announced on April 17, 2019 and include restrictions on non-family travel to Cuba.

“Cuba continues to play a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “This Administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”

These actions mark a continued commitment towards implementing the National Security Presidential Memorandum signed by the President on June 16, 2017 titled “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.” These policies continue to work to channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services. The Treasury changes will take effect on June 5, 2019 when the regulations are published in the Federal Register.

For the Treasury regulations, which can be found at 31 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 515, see here. For the Commerce regulations, which can be found at 15 CFR parts 730-774, see here. Major elements of the changes in the revised regulations include:

Ending Group People-to-People Travel

In accordance with the newly announced changes to non-family travel to Cuba, OFAC is amending the regulations to remove the authorization for group people-to-people educational travel. OFAC’s regulatory changes include a “grandfathering” provision, which provides that certain group people-to-people educational travel that previously was authorized will continue to be authorized where the traveler had already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5, 2019. Please note that travel-related transactions continue to be permitted by general licenses for certain categories of travel and certain authorized export transactions.

Ending Exports of Passenger Vessels, Recreational Vessels, and Private Aircraft

BIS, in coordination with OFAC, is amending the EAR to make passenger and recreational vessels and private and corporate aircraft ineligible for a license exception and to establish a general policy of denial for license applications involving those vessels and aircraft.

Resources:

Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Press Release on Updated Cuba Export Administration Regulations (EAR)

State Department Press Guidance on Updated Cuba Regulations

Treasury Designates Russian Financial Institution Supporting North Korean Sanctions Evasion

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today announced the designation of a Russian entity that has assisted North Korea in evading sanctions to access the international financial system. Today’s action targets Russian-registered Russian Financial Society pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for having provided, or attempted to provide, financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, U.S.-designated Dandong Zhongsheng Industry & Trade Co. Ltd (Dandong Zhongsheng), an entity that is owned and controlled by, directly or indirectly, U.S.- and United Nations (UN)-designated Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank.

“Treasury continues to enforce existing U.S. and UN sanctions against individuals and entities in Russia and elsewhere who facilitate illicit trade with North Korea. Those who attempt to circumvent our authorities to provide the DPRK with access to international financial markets expose themselves to significant sanctions risk,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

Russian Financial Society began to provide financial services to North Korea immediately upon attaining their non-banking credit organization license, which allows Russian Financial Society to transact in multiple foreign currencies. Russian Financial Society provided bank accounts for OFAC-designated Dandong Zhongsheng and to a North Korean chief representative of Korea Zinc Industrial Group, which was also designated for operating in the mining industry in the North Korean economy and for having sold, supplied, or transferred zinc from North Korea, where revenue or goods received may benefit the Government of North Korea.

Since at least 2017 and continuing through 2018, Russian Financial Society has opened multiple bank accounts for Dandong Zhongsheng. These actions have enabled North Korea to circumvent U.S. and UN sanctions to gain access to the global financial system in order to generate revenue for the Kim regime’s nuclear program.

Dandong Zhongsheng was designated by the United States for being owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, FTB, an entity whose property and interests are blocked pursuant to E.O. 13382. Han Jang Su, FTB’s chief representative in Moscow, played a key part in acquiring banking services from Russian Financial Society. Han Jang Su was designated by the United States on March 31, 2017, for acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, FTB. Both Han Jang Su and FTB have also been designated by the UN Security Council Committee pursuant to Resolution 1718 (2006).

Russian Financial Society is the latest Russian financial institution sanctioned by OFAC for providing financial services to North Korea. In August 2018, OFAC designated Russian-registered Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank for knowingly conducting or facilitating a significant transaction on behalf of Han Jang Su.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of this target that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

 

Treasury Further Targets Entities and Vessels Moving Venezuelan Oil to Cuba

WASHINGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated four entities that operate in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13850. Additionally, OFAC identified four vessels that transport oil and other petroleum products from Venezuela to Cuba as blocked property owned or controlled by the four designated entities.

“The United States continues to take strong action against the former illegitimate Maduro regime and the malign foreign actors who support it. Maduro’s Cuban benefactors provide a lifeline to the regime and enable its repressive security and intelligence apparatus,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people, and should not be used as a bargaining tool to prop up dictators and prolong the usurpation of Venezuelan democracy.”

Since the January 28, 2019 designation of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), Cubametales, the Cuban state-run oil import and export company, and other Cuba-based entities have continued to circumvent sanctions by receiving oil shipments from Venezuela. On July 3, 2019, OFAC designated Cubametales for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy pursuant to E.O. 13850, as amended.

Today’s action further targets Venezuela’s oil sector and the mechanisms used to transport oil to Maduro’s Cuban benefactors, who continue to provide a lifeline to the illegitimate former regime:

Caroil Transport Marine Ltd. is based in Cyprus, and operates three vessels: Carlota C, Sandino, and Petion.
Carlota C (IMO 9502453) is a chemical/products tanker that recently delivered Venezuelan petroleum products, including gasoline, to Cuba. In August 2019, PdVSA, Cubametales, and Cuban officials arranged to ship gasoline from El Palito, Venezuela to Cuba. Later in August, Carlota C traveled from Venezuela to the Havana Port Petroleum Refinery in Cuba.

Sandino (IMO 9441178) is a chemical/products tanker that recently delivered Venezuelan oil products to Cuba.
Petion (IMO 9295098) is a products tanker that loaded crude oil as part of a shipment involving Cubametales and PDVSA in late May 2019.
Trocana World Inc. is based in Panama and is the registered owner of Petion.
Tovase Development Corp is based in Panama and is the registered owner of Sandino.
Bluelane Overseas SA is based in Panama and is the registered owner of Giralt.
Giralt (IMO 9259692) is a crude oil tanker that recently delivered Venezuelan oil to Cuba.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these entities, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated entities, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Delistings
U.S. sanctions need not be permanent; sanctions are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior. The United States has made clear that the removal of sanctions is available for persons designated under E.O. 13692 or E.O. 13850, both as amended, who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the illegitimate former Maduro regime, and combat corruption in Venezuela

In addition to today’s designations and in recognition of a demonstrated change in behavior, OFAC is delisting Serenity Maritime Limited, Lima Shipping Corporation, the vessels Leon Dias and New Hellas, and an aircraft (N133JA).

OFAC designated Serenity Maritime Limited on May 10, 2019, for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy, pursuant to E.O. 13850, as amended. Additionally, one vessel, the Leon Dias, was identified as blocked property in the interest of Serenity Maritime Limited. Following the company’s designation, Serenity adopted sanctions compliance measures that included the discontinuation of business activities with Cubametales, which chartered the Leon Dias to transport Venezuelan oil to Cuba.

Lima Shipping Corporation was designated by OFAC on April 12, 2019, for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy, pursuant to E.O. 13850, as amended. Additionally, one vessel, the New Hellas, was identified as blocked property in the interest of Lima Shipping Corporation. Lima Shipping Corporation has subsequently terminated its charter with Cubametales and refused new oil shipments from Venezuela to Cuba.

Finally, OFAC is delisting aircraft N133JA, which was blocked on January 8, 2019, because it was identified as property in which Gustavo Adolfo Perdomo Rosales (Perdomo) had an interest. OFAC designated Perdomo pursuant to E.O. 13850 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, any transaction or series of transactions involving deceptive practices or corruption and the Government of Venezuela or projects or programs administered by the Government of Venezuela, or for being an immediate adult family member of such a person. OFAC has determined that aircraft N133JA is no longer associated with Perdomo.

Treasury recognizes the actions that Serenity Maritime Limited and Lima Shipping Corporation took to ensure that these entities’ respective vessels no longer support the economic interests of the illegitimate former Maduro regime. As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property that had been blocked as a result of the designation of Serenity Maritime Limited and Lima Shipping Corporation are unblocked, and all otherwise lawful transactions involving U.S. persons and these two entities are no longer prohibited.

Additional Information
For additional information about the methods that Venezuelan senior political figures, their associates, and front persons use to move and hide corrupt proceeds, including how they try to exploit the U.S. financial system and real estate market, please refer to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) advisories FIN-2019-A002, “Updated Advisory on Widespread Public Corruption in Venezuela”; FIN-2017-A006, “Advisory on Widespread Public Corruption in Venezuela”; FIN-2017-A003, “Advisory to Financial Institutions and Real Estate Firms and Professionals”; and FIN-2018-A003, “Advisory on Human Rights Abuses Enabled by Corrupt Senior Foreign Political Figures and their Financial Facilitators.”

Identifying information on the individuals and entities designated today.

 

 

Treasury Sanctions BANDES, Venezuela’s National Development Bank, and Subsidiaries, in Response to Illegal Arrest of Guaido Aide

WASHINGTON. – Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, or BANDES, pursuant to E.O. 13850, as amended, for operating in the financial sector of the Venezuelan economy, as well as four additional financial institutions that BANDES owns or controls.

“The willingness of Maduro’s inner-circle to exploit Venezuela’s institutions knows no bounds. Regime insiders have transformed BANDES and its subsidiaries into vehicles to move funds abroad in an attempt to prop up Maduro. Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank, which was founded to help the economic and social well-being of the Venezuelan people, as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“The regime’s continued use of kidnapping, torture, and murder of Venezuelan citizens will not be tolerated by the U.S. or the international coalition that is united behind President Guaido. Roberto Marrero and other political prisoners must be released immediately.”

Today’s action designating BANDES and its subsidiaries follows a determination by Secretary of the Treasury, Steven T. Mnuchin, in consultation with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, that persons operating in Venezuela’s financial sector may be subject to sanctions.

The following entities designated today have been determined to operate in the financial sector of the Venezuelan economy, or are owned or controlled by an entity that operates in the financial sector of the Venezuelan economy:

BANDES is based in Venezuela, and is a state-owned and controlled bank. As Venezuela’s national development bank, BANDES was created in order to promote the economic development and sustained growth of Venezuela, to include providing services such as monetary intermediation, credit, and security and commodity contracts brokerage services, among other financial and trust activities. Simon Alejandro Zerpa Delgado, who was designated by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 13692 on July 26, 2017, is the Chief Executive and President of the Board of the bank.

Banco Bandes Uruguay S.A. is based in Uruguay.

In early 2019, Maduro tried to move over one billion dollars out of Venezuela via BANDES to its subsidiary in Uruguay, Banco Bandes Uruguay S.A.

Banco Bicentenario del Pueblo, de la Clase Obrera, Mujer y Comunias, Banco Universal C.A. is based in Venezuela.

Banco de Venezuela, S.A. Banco Universal is based in Venezuela.

Banco Prodem S.A. is based in Bolivia.

For information about the methods that Venezuelan senior political figures, their associates, and front persons use to move and hide corrupt proceeds, including how they try to exploit the U.S. financial system and real estate market, please refer to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) advisories FIN-2017-A006, “Advisory on Widespread Public Corruption in Venezuela,” and FIN-2017-A003, “Advisory to Financial Institutions and Real Estate Firms and Professionals.”

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these entities, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by this entity, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Concurrent with today’s action, OFAC announced five General Licenses.

U.S. sanctions need not be permanent; sanctions are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior. The United States has made clear that the removal of sanctions is available for persons designated under E.O. 13692 or E.O. 13850, both as amended, who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the Maduro regime, and combat corruption in Venezuela.

 

Treasury Sanctions Officials Aligned with Former President Nicolas Maduro and Involved in Repression and Corruption

WASHINGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five officials aligned with illegitimate former President Nicolas Maduro, who continue to repress democracy and democratic actors in Venezuela and engage in significant corruption and fraud against the people of Venezuela.

This action, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13692, targets the head of the Venezuelan National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, and SEBIN’s First Commissioner, Hildemaro Jose Rodriguez Mucura; the Commander of Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence, Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala; and the Director of the Venezuelan National Police’s Special Actions Force (FAES), Rafael Enrique Bastardo Mendoza. Additionally OFAC designated the illegitimate President of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), Manuel Salvador Quevedo Fernandez.

“Treasury continues to target officials who have helped the illegitimate Maduro regime repress the Venezuelan people. We are sanctioning officials in charge of Maduro’s security and intelligence apparatus, which has systematically violated human rights and suppressed democracy, including through torture and other brutal use of force,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“We are intent on going after those facilitating Maduro’s corruption and predation, including by sanctioning the President of PdVSA and others diverting assets that rightfully belong to the people of Venezuela.”

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these individuals, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by such individuals, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

U.S. sanctions need not be permanent; sanctions are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior. The United States has made clear that we will consider lifting sanctions for persons designated under E.O. 13692 or E.O. 13850 who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the government, and combat corruption in Venezuela.

The following five individuals designated today have been determined to be current or former officials of the Government of Venezuela:

Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala (Hernandez) is the Commander of illegitimate former-President Maduro’s Presidential Guard, or Guardia de Honor Presidencial, a position he was appointed to in January 2014. Additionally, Hernandez is Commander of Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence, or Director General de Contrainteligencia Militar, more commonly known as DGCIM.

The DGCIM, in addition to SEBIN, is responsible for serious human rights abuses and the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition. DGCIM has detained and tortured Venezuelan military members suspected of plotting against the government, and has detained and tortured family members of some of those suspects in order to gain information. Abuses reportedly carried out by the DGCIM and SEBIN include brutal beatings, asphyxiation, cutting soles of feet with razor blades, electric shocks, and death threats. Under his command, DGCIM members have often used excessive force against detainees. Hernandez was promoted to the rank of Major General on July 5, 2018.

Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera (Cristopher) is the Director General of the Venezuelan National Intelligence Service, or Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, more commonly referenced to as SEBIN. Cristopher replaced Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, who was designated by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 13692 on March 9, 2015, who occupied that position from March 9, 2015 until October 30, 2018.

Prior to his role with SEBIN, Cristopher was President, with the rank of Director General, of the Centro Estratégico de Seguridad y Protección de la Patria, or Strategic Center of Security and Protection of the Homeland, the Venezuelan government organization responsible for the unification of information related to defense, intelligence, internal order, and external relations. According to an official of the Venezuelan opposition party, Justice First, or Primero Justicia, Cristopher oversees mass torture, mass human rights violations, and mass persecution against those who want democratic change in Venezuela.

Hildemaro Jose Rodriguez Mucura (Mucura) is the First Commissioner of SEBIN. On January 11, 2019, Mucura, along with three other SEBIN officers, detained Interim President of Venezuela and President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó. Mucura directed the detainment of Guaidó, and was one of 12 SEBIN officials later arrested for their association with Guaidó’s temporary detainment.

Rafael Enrique Bastardo Mendoza (Bastardo) is the Commander of a Venezuelan National Police Unit commonly referred to as the Special Actions Force, or Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales (FAES). Additionally, Bastardo was promoted to the position of Lieutenant Colonel on July 5, 2018, as a member of the Venezuelan National Guard. FAES has been branded as Maduro’s “extermination squad,” known for its brutal methods and masked appearances, carrying out nighttime raids throughout Caracas. Since Guaidó assumed his position as Interim President, FAES has been accused of dozens of extrajudicial killings targeting the opposition. On January 31, 2019, in the middle of Guaidó’s news conference on his economic plans, Guaidó said that FAES were in his home threatening his family.

Manuel Salvador Quevedo Fernandez (Quevedo) is the current President of Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PdVSA, which he has continued to represent even after OFAC designated PdVSA pursuant to E.O. 13850 on January 28, 2019. PdVSA is Venezuela’s primary source of income and foreign currency, and has long been used as a vehicle for significant government corruption.

Government officials and businessmen alike devised schemes to launder billions of dollars stolen and embezzled for their personal gain. Quevedo is also the illegitimate Minister of Petroleum and Mining aligned with former President Maduro, a position he has served in since November 26, 2017. Quevedo previously served in numerous government positions, including as the Minister of Housing and Habitat, and as a Brigadier General and head of Regional Command number 5, located in Greater Caracas.

For information about the methods that Venezuelan senior political figures, their associates, and front persons use to move and hide corrupt proceeds, including how they try to exploit the U.S. financial system and real estate market, please refer to FinCEN’s advisories FIN-2017-A006, “Advisory on Widespread Public Corruption in Venezuela,” and FIN-2017-A003, “Advisory to Financial Institutions and Real Estate Firms and Professionals.”

Identifying information on the individuals designated today.

 

 

 

Treasury Targets Facilitators Moving Millions to HAMAS in Gaza

WASHINGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in partnership with the Sultanate of Oman, designated financial facilitators responsible for moving tens of millions of dollars between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and HAMAS’s operational arm, the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza.

OFAC designated Muhammad Sarur, Kamal Abdelrahman Aref Awad, Fawaz Mahmud Ali Nasser, and Muhammad Kamal al-Ayy for providing financial, material, technological support, financial or other services to, or in support of, HAMAS. These individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

“These facilitators funneled tens of millions of dollars from Iran’s Qods Force through Hizballah in Lebanon to HAMAS for terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip. HAMAS’s continued violent campaign against innocent civilians and the state of Israel is to the great detriment of the people in Gaza,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “This Administration will not falter to hold HAMAS and its Iranian leaders accountable for their violence. Treasury will continue to disrupt terrorist networks by targeting those who generate funds to carry out the Iranian regime’s violent agenda.”

The Lebanon and Gaza-based financial facilitators targeted today are critical intermediaries between the Iranian regime, and the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades and end users in the West Bank. At the center of this scheme is a Lebanon-based financial operative, Muhammad Sarur, who has been identified as being in charge of all financial transfers between the IRGC-QF and the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, and has an extensive history working at Hizballah’s sanctioned bank, Bayt al-Mal. Bayt al-Mal was designated by OFAC in 2006 for being owned or controlled by, and acting for or on behalf of Hizballah. Also sanctioned today are three Gaza-based individuals who have been integral to providing funding to HAMAS’s prisoner and martyrs infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

HAMAS was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in October 1997 and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001. It was also listed as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) in January 1995 in the Annex to E.O. 12947, which targets terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process.

MUHAMMAD SARUR

Muhammad Sarur (Sarur) provides financial, material, technological support, financial or other services to or in support of, HAMAS.

Sarur, a Beirut, Lebanon-based HAMAS and Hizballah-linked financial operative, is in charge of transferring tens of millions of dollars per year from the IRGC-QF to the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. As of 2014, Sarur was identified as in charge of all money transfers from the IRGC-QF to Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. Overall, in the past four years, the IRGC-QF transferred over U.S. $200 million dollars to the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. The IRGC-QF, a branch of the IRGC, has provided material support to numerous terrorist groups. The IRGC-QF is a designated FTO and SDGT, and the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades is a designated FTO, SDGT, and SDT.

Sarur served as a middle-man between the IRGC-QF and HAMAS and worked with Hizballah operatives to ensure funds were provided to the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. In 2011 and extending through 2016, Sarur worked for Hizballah’s Bayt al-Mal. To transfer funds to HAMAS in Gaza, Sarur coordinated transfers through an individual who served as a Gaza-based HAMAS financial facilitator and money smuggling operations officer.

KAMAL ABDELRAHMAN AREF AWAD

Kamal Abdelrahman Aref Awad (Awad) provides financial, material, technological support, financial or other services to or in support of, HAMAS.

In early 2018, Awad, a Gaza-based HAMAS financial associate, coordinated with the same Gaza-based HAMAS financial facilitator, leveraged by Sarur, to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits for HAMAS.

As of 2017, the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades worked through Awad to distribute funds to the families of “martyrs” in the West Bank. Also in 2017, Awad coordinated the mismanagement of certain HAMAS prisoner entitlement funds. As of early 2016, HAMAS senior official Salih al-Aruri relied on Awad for detailed information regarding HAMAS prisoners and payments to HAMAS prisoners. Salih al-Aruri was designated by OFAC as an SDGT in September 2015 for acting for or on behalf of, and providing financial support to, HAMAS.

FAWAZ MAHMUD ALI NASSER & MUHAMMAD AL-AYY

Fawaz Muhmud Ali Nasser (Nasser) and Muhammad Kamal al-Ayy (al-Ayy) provide financial, material, technological support, financial or other services to or in support of, HAMAS.

As of mid-2018, Nasser, a Gaza-based HAMAS financial auditor, worked with Gaza-based money exchanger al-Ayy to transfer Iranian funds through Hizballah to HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a designated FTO, SDGT, and SDT. Nasser also managed funds related to HAMAS prisoners, including those in the Ofer prison.

As of late 2016, al-Ayy worked with a Gaza-based HAMAS financial facilitator to coordinate funds transfers to HAMAS.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.

Treasury Targets Wide Range of Terrorists and Their Supporters Using Enhanced Counterterrorism Sanctions Authorities

WASHINGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) utilized newly enhanced counterterrorism sanctions authorities to designate a series of terrorist leaders, facilitators, and entities.

Equipped with new tools from President Trump’s recently updated Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which became effective today, Treasury designated 15 leaders, individuals, and entities affiliated with terror groups.

Today’s action targets a wide array of groups, including entities affiliated with HAMAS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qa’ida, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods-Force (IRGC-QF), and combined with actions taken by the State Department amounts to some of the furthest reaching designations of terrorists and their supporters in the past 15 years.

“Since the horrific attacks of 9/11, the U.S. government has refocused its counterterrorism efforts to constantly adapt to emerging threats. President Trump’s modernized counterterrorism Executive Order enhances the authorities we use to target the finances of terror groups and their leaders to ensure they are as robust as possible,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“These new authorities will allow the U.S. Government to starve terrorists of resources they need to attack the United States and our allies, and will hold foreign financial institutions who continue to do business with them accountable.
These new tools aid our unrelenting efforts to cut off terrorists from their sources of support and deprive them of the funds required to carry out their destructive activities. They serve as a powerful deterrent to radical terror groups and those seeking to aid their nefarious goals.”

History of Post-9/11 Terrorism Authorities
Twelve days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the President signed the original E.O. 13224 to disrupt the financial infrastructure of terrorist groups worldwide. Since then, this authority has become a cornerstone of Treasury’s efforts to prevent terrorist attacks by cutting off sources of funding and denying access to the international financial system. Yet terrorists and their supporters are constantly seeking to test and evade our counterterrorism measures.
As the U.S. Government confronts evolving threats of worldwide terrorism, the President has significantly enhanced E.O. 13224 to strengthen the U.S. Government’s ability to disrupt terrorist activity by depriving terrorist supporters of financial, material, and logistical backing worldwide

The U.S. Government has leveraged E.O. 13224 to dismantle networks supporting a broad range of terrorist groups from al-Qa’ida and ISIS to Iranian-backed groups like Hizballah and HAMAS. E.O. 13224 also serves as an important tool in our efforts to drain the financial resources of the Iranian regime’s malign actors including the IRGC, and its foreign expeditionary arm, the Qods Force (IRGC-QF).

ENHANCED E.O. 13224 Provides New Counterterrorism Tools
E.O. 13224, as amended, provides the Treasury and State Departments with new tools that allow the U.S. Government to better identify and designate perpetrators of terrorism worldwide. Specifically, the E.O.:

Contains new designation criteria that allows the U.S. Government to more efficiently target leaders or officials of terrorists groups as well as individuals who participate in terrorist training;
Provides for secondary sanctions against foreign financial institutions that have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant financial transactions on behalf of any person sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 13224;
Authorizes Treasury to prohibit a foreign financial institution that has knowingly conducted or facilitated a significant transaction with any Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) from opening or maintaining a correspondent or payable-through account in the United States;
Consolidates U.S. counterterrorism authorities under a single sanctions program by eliminating E.O. 12947 and combining that authority’s goal of defending the Middle East Peace Process with E.O. 13224’s global remit and expanded authorities.
This new authority serves to put all foreign financial institutions on notice that enabling terrorists and their financial backers to rely upon the international financial system to facilitate their malign activities will have consequences. This Administration remains committed to facilitating the peace process in the Middle East and will use this amended authority to sanction those who stand in the way of progress.

ENHANCED Authorities Allow Treasury to Target Broader Range of Terrorists and Activities
These new authorities allow Treasury to target a broad range of new terrorist leaders, supporters, entities, and activities. Below are the terrorists and sympathizers targeted today under these new authorities:

Muhammad Sa’id Izadi (Izadi)
Izadi is a leader or official of the IRGC-QF.

Lebanon-based Izadi is the chief of the Palestinian Office of the IRGC¬QF Lebanon Corp.

Izadi has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, HAMAS.

As of late 2016, Izadi required a HAMAS Political Officer member to get permission from three senior HAMAS leaders in order to receive money directly from him. The HAMAS Political Office member stated Izadi would be sending $1 million dollars in addition to Izadi’s regular allocation, and an additional $1 million dollars earmarked for the HAMAS Political Office member.

Zaher Jabarin (Jabarin)
Jabarin is a leader or official of HAMAS.

Turkey-based Jabarin is the head of HAMAS’s Finance Office. In this capacity, he manages HAMAS’s yearly budget amounting to tens of millions of dollars, is in charge of all HAMAS’s income from various elements around the world, and seeks to obtain additional sources of funding for HAMAS.

Jabarin has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, HAMAS.

In his capacity as head of HAMAS’s Finance Department, Jabarin was focused on developing a financial network in Turkey that would allow HAMAS to raise, invest, and launder money prior to transferring it to Gaza and the West Bank.

In recent years, Jabarin has promoted HAMAS’s terrorist activities in the West Bank and Gaza targeting Israel by transferring hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars in the West Bank to finance HAMAS’s terrorist activity. In addition, Jabarin tries to promote business activity and investments to generate revenue for HAMAS.

Jabarin has served as the primary point of contact between HAMAS and the IRGC-QF. Since 2017, there was growing contact between IRGC-QF and HAMAS officials focused on increased funding from Iran.

Jabarin was involved in the transfer of millions of dollars to HAMAS via Redin Exchange, also sanctioned today and detailed immediately below.

Redin Exchange
Redin Exchange has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, HAMAS.

As of March 2019, the Turkey-based Redin Exchange and Treasury-designated financial facilitator Muhammad Sarur were involved in a $10 million dollar transfer to HAMAS’s operational arm, the Izz-Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.

As of mid-2018, Redin Exchange was identified as a key part of the infrastructure used to transfer money to HAMAS. Throughout 2017, tens of millions of dollars was transferred to HAMAS with the assistance of Redin Exchange.

In July 2018, Redin Exchange assisted in the transfer of $4 million from the IRGC-QF to HAMAS.

In May 2018, Redin Exchange assisted in the transfer of $2 million from the IRGC-QF and Hizballah to HAMAS.

In July 2017, a senior HAMAS leader transferred $5.5 million to HAMAS finance chief Zaher Jabarin via Redin Exchange.

Marwan Mahdi Salah Al-Rawi (Al-Rawi)
Al-Rawi is a leader or official of Redin Exchange.

Al-Rawi is identified as Redin Exchange’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

In late January 2018, OFAC-designated ISIS financial facilitator Walid Talib Zughayr al-Rawi, was aware of an approximately $500,000 financial transaction of Redin Exchange administrator Marwan al-Rawi.

Ismael Tash (Tash)
Ismael Tash is a leader or official of Redin Exchange.

Tash is Redin Exchange’s Deputy CEO and is in charge of Redin Exchange’s foreign relations.

As of January 2019, Tash was a key player in many financial transfers from Iran to HAMAS, and was highly involved with HAMAS facilitators.

Since at least 2017, Tash has had ongoing contact with a money transfer channel managed by Treasury-designated HAMAS financial facilitator Muhammad Sarur. This channel has transferred IRGC-QF money to Hamas and in particular HAMAS’s operational arm in the Gaza Strip.

SMART Ithalat Ihracat Dis Ticaret Limited Sirketi (SMART)
SMART is owned or controlled by Ismael Tash.

Tash is the owner of SMART.

SMART is an import/export limited company and possible front company associated with Redin Exchange. Both SMART and Redin Exchange share the same Istanbul-based address.

Saksouk Company for Exchange and Money Transfer (Saksouk)
Saksouk has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, ISIS.

In late 2018, Saksouk handled fund transfers on behalf of Syria-based ISIS members.

In mid-2017, an ISIS financial facilitator and U.S. Treasury-designated Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi (Fawaz) and an ISIS commander utilized Saksouk to conduct financial operations throughout the Middle East. ISIS financial facilitators and affiliates were listed as points of contact for Saksouk branch locations in Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.

In July 2017, the Syria-based ISIS Immigration Logistics Committee (ILC) attempted to transfer money to an ISIS ILC affiliate via Saksouk Company.

Al Haram Foreign Exchange Co. Ltd. (Al Haram Exchange)
Al Haram Exchange has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, ISIS.

As of April 2019, ISIS members in Syria received instruction to conduct all financial transactions with Al Haram Exchange.

As of early 2017, Al Haram Exchange was involved in an ISIS financial transfer between Syria and Belgium.

As of mid-2017, a Syrian-based ISIS facilitator coordinated a money transfer between the Al-Haram Exchange and Fawaz, the owner of the Hanifa Currency Exchange, an entity designated in December 2016 for being owned or controlled by Fawaz.

Al-Khalidi Exchange (Al-Khalidi)
Al-Khalidi has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, ISIS.

As of September 2017, ISIS-affiliated al-Khalidi served as a hawala financial exchange office. All locations were run by two individuals who knowingly assisted ISIS members in financial transfers. Al-Khalidi’s office in Mayadin, Syria also served as an internet café for ISIS members in addition to its function as a hawala money transfer office.

As of early 2017, al-Khalidi in al-Raqqah, Syria, and Gaziantep, Turkey were involved in ISIS's transfer of funds from Iraq through al-Raqqah, Syria, to Gaziantep, Turkey, in support of ISIS. As of 2017, ISIS also transferred money into Syria via al-Khalidi.

As of late 2016, Al-Khalidi was the most important financial transfer office in the region used to move money to fund ISIS-held areas. Al-Khalidi was the largest financial exchange office that dealt with ISIS. Hundreds of thousands of dollars per day passed through the office in Sanliurfa, Turkey.

As of mid-2016, Fawaz al-Rawi, who was subsequently designated in late 2016 as an ISIS financier, arranged for cash shipments to Iraq and Turkey. Fawaz al-Rawi was the owner and operator of Hanifa Currency Exchange in Albu Kamal, Syria, a designated entity, which he used to store ISIS external funds. Fawaz al-Rawi conducted financial transactions with agents and transfer currency-exchanges throughout the region, including al-Khalidi exchanges in Sanliurfa, Turkey.

As of mid-2015, al-Khalidi’s Istanbul, Izmir, and Sanliurfa branches facilitated money transfers and transactions for ISIS. During this same timeframe, ISIS maintained a telephone directory of associates and managers of various ISIS offices, which included Syria-based locations for al-Khalidi Exchange and al-Hebo Jewelry Company, also sanctioned today

Al-Hebo Jewelry Company (al-Hebo)
Al-Hebo has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, ISIS.

As of late 2017, al-Hebo’s location in Gaziantep, Turkey was involved in an ISIS scheme to convert gold into cash to more efficiently and secretly send funds via hawalas in Turkey to ISIS sleeper cells in Iraq and Syria.

As of early 2017, Raqqah-based al-Hebo was a cash transfer business used by ISIS members.

In September 2016, an employee of Raqqah-based al-Hebo likely coordinated a money transfer on behalf of a now-deceased, Syria-based, ISIS senior operations official.

Muhamad Ali al-Hebo (Muhamad)
Muhamad has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, al-Hebo.

As of late 2016, Turkey-based al-Hebo owner, Muhamad, was involved in procuring precious metals to enable ISIS to produce its own ISIS coinage.

As of late 2016, Muhamad was the General Manager of an al-Hebo location in Raqqah, Syria.

As of early 2016, Muhamad managed the Sanliurfa-based al-Hebo location.

Muhamad has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, al-Khalidi.

As of early 2017, al-Hebo and al-Khalidi were both under the control and management of Muhamad. During this same timeframe, Muhamad was involved in operating jewelry stores and money exchange/transfer businesses in Istanbul, Urfa, and Gaziantep, Turkey. These businesses operated under the name al-Khalidi.

As of late 2016, Muhamad worked at the Raqqah-based al-Khalidi location.

As of early 2016, Muhamad managed the Sanliurfa-based al-Khalidi location.

Mohamad Ameen (Ameen)
Ameen has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K).

Ameen is an ISIS-K recruiter who encouraged people to join ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K). Ameen told a Maldivian citizen and digital media member of ISIS-K to go to Afghanistan because the ISIS-K media group needed him. The ISIS-K digital media member was told he would receive $700 monthly in salary and was responsible for translating material for Ameen.

Additionally, as of April 2019, Maldives-based Ameen was actively engaged in leading ISIS recruitment through his close lieutenants. Ameen’s subordinates were holding roughly 10 recruitment sessions per week under the guise of Islamic classes at several Malé, Maldives-based locations, including Ameen’s home. Ameen and his group continued to recruit on behalf of ISIS from various Maldivian criminal gangs.

Additionally, Ameen is a recruiter and key leader for ISIS in Syria, Afghanistan, and the Maldives. Ameen used to direct terrorist fighters to Syria, but now sends them to Afghanistan.

Mohamed Ahmed Elsayed Ahmed Ibrahim (Ibrahim)
Ibrahim has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, al-Qa’ida.

Ibrahim, a Brazil-based member of al-Qa’ida, provided facilitation support to al-Qa’ida members and material support to al-Qa’ida.

Almaida Marani Salvin (Salvin)
Salvin has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, ISIS-Philippines.

In April 2019, Salvin was arrested in Zamboanga City, Philippines, based on her suspected unlawful manufacture, sale, acquisition, disposition, importation, or possession of an explosive or incendiary device. During the raid, the Philippine authorities recovered improvised explosive device components, as well as bank accounts and passbooks for Salvin linked to ISIS-Philippines (ISIS-P) funding.

As of early 2019, Philippine authorities determined Salvin, who was the wife of an ISIS-P leader, conducted financial transactions, procurement, transportation of firearms and explosives, and facilitated the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters to the Philippines.

Muhammad Ali Sayid Ahmad (Ahmad)
Ahmad has participated in training related to terrorism that was provided by ISIS.

In an October 2018 public interview, Ahmad recounted his journey to join ISIS. He stated that he left Toronto to join ISIS in April 2014 and attended basic training as a new ISIS recruit. In basic training, he learned how to use small arms. Later he joined a sniper and reconnaissance unit where he received advanced sniper and reconnaissance training.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individual designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.

Furthermore, pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended today, all SDGTs are now subject to secondary sanctions. OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for any SDGT, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, a SDGT.

Identifying information related to today’s action .

Trump Criticizes Condemnation of Saudi Arabia in Journalist's Disappearance

WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).-  President Donald Trump criticized growing condemnation of Saudi Arabia and allegations it is behind the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, saying, "Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent," in an interview Tuesday with the Associated Press.

Trump compared the case of Jamal Khashoggi, a missing journalist who was critical of the Saudi monarchy, with the case of his recent Supreme Court nominee who faced sexual abuse allegations.

"We just went through that with Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned," Trump told the AP. "I think we have to find out what happened first."

The interview was released after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi, who was last seen Oct. 2 entering Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul to fill out paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

The Saudis have rejected Turkish claims that Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi inside the consulate. However, U.S. news reports said Saudi Arabia was edging toward acknowledging that Khashoggi was killed after he entered the consulate, blaming his death on an interrogation gone wrong.

Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince in columns written for The Washington Post, had been living in the U.S. in self-imposed exile.

Turkish investigators

Pompeo's visit to Riyadh came hours after Turkish crime scene investigators finished an inspection of the Saudi consulate. The AP quoted an unnamed high-level Turkish official as saying that evidence was found there of Khashoggi's killing, without elaborating, while Reuters said investigators found "strong evidence" but no conclusive proof of Khashoggi's death.

The Turkish official also told AP that authorities were likely to search the consul general's home. The diplomat had left Turkey, according to the official.
In a statement after meetings with both the Saudi king and crown prince, Pompeo said they "strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul."

"My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders or senior officials," he said in a statement.

Pompeo next travels to Turkey to meet with officials there.

While Pompeo was in Riyadh, Trump said on Twitter that he had talked with the crown prince, the country's de facto leader, "who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate."

Trump said the Saudi leader assured him that "he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter. Answers will be forthcoming shortly."

The U.S. State Department said Pompeo made it clear to the Saudis that "learning what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is the primary reason" Trump dispatched him to Riyadh, and that the matter "is of great interest to the president."

Pompeo met first with King Salman, then twice with the crown prince. As they sat down for their first meeting, the crown prince, in English, told Pompeo, "We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow."

"Absolutely," Pompeo replied.

While the meetings were going on, Trump, in Washington, said on Twitter, "For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!"

But during a 2015 campaign stop, Trump boasted about his business dealings with the Saudis. "Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them," Trump said. "They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

As he dispatched Pompeo to Riyadh on Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House that King Salman's denials to him about Khashoggi's fate in a phone call "could not have been stronger."
U.S. lawmakers' reactions

But some lawmakers in the U.S. have all but accepted Turkey's version of the events, that a team of Saudi agents arrived in Istanbul and killed Khashoggi when he went to the consulate.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Tuesday the U.S. should "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia" over the incident and said he would never again work with the crown prince, assailing him as "toxic" and calling him a "wrecking ball."

The State Department said Pompeo also met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, continuing their conversations from the recent United Nations General Assembly about a range of Middle East issues and U.S.-Saudi concerns.

Up until this point, Saudi officials have strongly denied accusations that Khashoggi was murdered, saying instead he left the diplomatic outpost on his own. Neither side has publicly shown clear evidence to back up its claims, and the two governments agreed on a joint working group to probe Khashoggi's disappearance.

State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/a/turkey-saudi-journalist/4616834.html

Trump Says Killing of Iran’s Quds Force Commander Overdue

BAGDAD, (JEFF SELDIN-VOANOEWS).- U.S. President Donald Trump is defending the U.S. airstrike that killed one of Iran's most powerful generals, brushing aside threats from Tehran that it will exact a harsh revenge.

In his first comments since defense officials confirmed the U.S. carried out the airstrike near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq early Friday (local time), Trump blamed the Quds Force commander for the deaths of thousands of Americans, and said the strike was long overdue.

Burning debris are seen on a road near Baghdad International Airport, which according to Iraqi paramilitary groups were caused…
US Kills Commander of Iran’s Elite Quds Force

General Qassem Soleimani was among at least seven killed outside Baghdad International Airport
"General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more," Trump tweeted Friday.

"Soleimani was both hated and feared," the president added. "He should have been taken out many years ago!"

General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number....

 "He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action, as he described it — that would have put dozens, if not hundreds, of American lives at risk," Pompeo said of the Quds Force commander. "We know it was imminent."

Pentagon officials confirmed the strike on Soleimani in a statement late Thursday (local time), saying the action was carried out on Trump's order.

It further described the strike as a "decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad," and warned, "The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."

Iraqi officials have said the strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. They said other top officials may have been killed, as well.

Iran Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called for three days of national mourning and has promised a harsh response.

"All Enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation, and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war," he said in a statement carried on Iranian television.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif labeled the U.S. strike an "act of terrorism," tweeting it was an "extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation."

How or when Iran may respond to the strike is unknown. U.S. defense and intelligence officials have long warned about Iran's penchant for using asymmetric techniques, like terrorism and cyber attacks, to target the U.S. and Western nations.

But in the hours since images of Qassem Soleimani first started spreading on social media, U.S. officials have been reaching out to allies to prepare for what may come next.

The State Department said Pompeo phoned British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to discuss the "defensive action to eliminate" Soleimani, and thanked them for their "recent statements" recognizing the continuing aggressive threat from Iran and its Quds force. The secretary of state also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Chief of Staff General Bajwa on Friday.

"I don't think Iran would want that to happen. It would go very quickly," President Trump told reporters Tuesday.

Still, defense officials have been preparing for new attacks.

The U.S. has already deployed 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait to help bolster the defense of U.S. bases and personnel in the region. Defense officials said Thursday more troops would be sent as needed.

VOA's VOA Persian Service and White House Correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/voa-news-iran/trump-says-killing-irans-quds-force-commander-overdue

Trump, Kim Exchange Summit Commitments

SINGAPORE, (STEVE HERMAN-VOANEWS).- In an agreement signed Tuesday in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while U.S. President Donald Trump “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea.

The document also calls for the two countries to jointly work on efforts to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, to establish new U.S.-North Korea relations and to recover the remains of prisoners of war and military members missing in action. The two sides also promised to hold follow-up negotiations.

“We’re going to denuke North Korea,” Trump told VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren.

He also said neither side issued ultimatums and that the agreement Tuesday was the result of months of negotiations.

“You know that could have ended in a war, that could have ended with many millions of people — you know North Korea very well, Seoul has 28 million people, that could have ended with millions of people dead but we ended with a deal,” he said.

Trump also told VOA that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea will remain in place, but announced one concession long-sought by North Korea.

"We are going to get out of the war games that cost so much money," he said.

Trump said at later news conference that existing U.S. sanctions will remain in place until North Korean nuclear weapons "are no longer a factor."

As for verification, Trump said he and Kim discussed the issue and that monitoring denuclearization efforts would be achieved “by having a lot of people there.” He also predicted Kim would begin work right away to “live up to” the agreement.

Asked if the talks included specifics on the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, Trump said “what they have is substantial.”

On human rights, Trump said Tuesday’s meetings only very briefly touched on the topic, but that the two sides would discuss it more in the future. When asked about thousands of people imprisoned in labor camps, Trump said he thinks he has helped them because things in North Korea will change.

“I think they are one of the great winners today,” he said.

He cited American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in 2016 and died a year ago after being repatriated to the United States with severe brain damage.

“Otto did not die in vain, he had a lot to do with us being here today,” Trump said.

'Special bond'

The U.S. president repeatedly struck a positive tone about Kim, thanking the North Korean leader for taking what he called a bold step and saying he “has the chance to seize an incredible future for his people.”

He also thanked the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea for their efforts in making Tuesday’s summit happen.

Hours earlier as he sat alongside Kim at the signing ceremony, Trump said the two leaders “have developed a special bond” and that after several hours of talks Tuesday and the signing of the agreement he thinks the U.S. relationship with North Korea “will be very different than in the past.”

Both Trump and Kim expressed gratitude toward each other for the meetings.Trump said he would “absolutely” invite Kim to visit the White House and is open to visiting Pyongyang as well.

“Today we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind,” Kim said, speaking through a translator.”The world will see a major change.”

Kim at one point told Trump that many people around the world would see their meeting as a kind of fantasy, as if it the event was a “science fiction movie.”

​Historic meeting

They first met Tuesday for about 40 minutes alone, except for their translators, before bringing in delegations from their respective sides for a working lunch. They walked outside together after the lunch, stopping briefly to look at the U.S. president's special limousine.

"We had a really fantastic meeting, a lot of progress, very positive," Trump said.

The U.S. side included Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The North Korean participants included former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho, and Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party.

Tuesday marked the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Dozens of cameras snapped photos as the two men first came together in front of a background of U.S. and North Korean flags.

The language in Tuesday’s agreement was not as strong as the CVID standard Pompeo set out. But the secretary of state still seemed positive about the outcome.

“It’s a great day,” Pompeo told VOA.

About 5,000 journalists are in Singapore for the occasion, but only a handful of American and North Korean reporters and photographers were permitted at the venue when the two leaders greet each other.

Reporter Bill Gallo contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-north-korea-sign-agreement/4434921.html

USAGM Reviewing Foreign Journalist Visas

WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).- Some 76 foreign journalists working for the Voice of America in Washington are facing the possibility that their visas, many of which expire this month, may not be renewed.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Agency for Global Media said Thursday that the agency is conducting a case-by-case assessment of J-1 renewal applications. The agency has 62 contractors and 14 full time employees who are in the United States on J-1 visas. An unknown number of journalists at other USAGM entities are also affected.

So far none of the journalists seeking J-1 extensions appears to have been rejected outright. But at least one journalist’s deadline for an extension has passed, giving her until the end of the month to leave the U.S. Other VOA journalists have a few weeks left before they could be forced to return to their home countries, where some fear retribution because of VOA’s reporting.

The USAGM spokesperson said the visa review is aimed at improving agency management, protecting U.S. national security and ensuring that hiring authorities are not misused.

J-1 visas are a category of non-immigrant entry permits for individuals with unique skills who are approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. They are typically issued for a period of several years and are subject to renewal or extension. But the J-1 is also among several visas that were temporarily banned by the Trump Administration in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and because the administration believes such visa holders take jobs away from U.S. citizens.

Journalism groups including PEN America, the National Press Club and its Journalism Institute issued statements Friday expressing concern that declining to renew the visas could put the safety of those VOA journalists at risk.

Because of its mandate to provide high-quality professional journalism in more than 40 languages, VOA often struggles to find enough American citizens with the needed journalism and language skills to keep its programs on the air. In those cases it has long relied on individuals recruited from the target countries or new immigrants still working their way through the lengthy process of becoming American citizens.

VOA and other government agencies routinely scrutinize J-1 visa renewals, which are filed by the employer and submitted to the State Department. In the past, some foreign journalists at VOA have been forced to leave their jobs because their visa was not renewed. It’s unclear how the USAGM process this year differs from past practice.

“To improve agency management and protect U.S. national security, it is imperative to determine that hiring authorities and personnel practices are not misused. As such, USAGM is undertaking a comprehensive, case-by-case assessment of personal services contractors (PSCs) who are J-1 visa holders,” the USAGM spokesperson’s statement said. At the time of publication, USAGM had not responded to VOA’s inquiry about whether full time staff who hold J-1 visas are also subjected to this year’s review.

USAGM CEO Michael Pack was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the agency more than two years ago. But with solid Democratic opposition to his appointment, his confirmation was held up until June. Since his confirmation, the heads of the five media networks USAGM oversees have quit or been fired. Pack told the Washington Times in an interview this month that he is working to correct past mismanagement.

“My plan here, and I think everybody in the White House and everybody else knows this, is to hold these agencies accountable to fulfilling their mission, and in [Voice of America’s] case, its charter, and that’s what I plan to do,” he told the newspaper.

https://www.voanews.com/usa/usagm-reviewing-foreign-journalist-visas

Who is Jamal Khashoggi?

 

WASHINGTON, (VOANEWS).- One of the most influential Arab journalists in the world, Jamal Khashoggi, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish authorities have blamed the Saudis, but Riyadh has denied harming the veteran reporter.

Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was born in Medina, Saudi Arabia, one of the holiest cities in Islam. Like many Saudis at the time, Khashoggi left to study abroad. He earned a business administration degree in 1983 at Indiana State University in the United States.

Career in journalism

Khashoggi began his career as a reporter for the English language newspaper Saudi Gazette. He went on to work for several Arab newspapers and made his mark as a foreign correspondent covering Afghanistan, Algeria, Sudan and the Middle East in the 1990s. During that time, he met and befriended Osama bin Laden, who was fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians. Khashoggi interviewed bin Laden several times during that period.

He was deputy editor-in-chief of Arab News, the leading English newspaper of Saudi Arabia, from 1999 to 2003. He was named editor-in-chief of the Al Watan newspaper in 2003 but the job lasted only two months.

After he was fired from Al Watan, Khashoggi became media adviser to Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate, who served as the Saudi ambassador to Washington from 2005 until the end of 2006.

On his personal website, Khashoggi writes he was reinstated as editor-in-chief at Al Watan in 2007 and served for three years before being fired again for “pushing the boundaries of debate within Saudi society.”

In 2010 he was made general manager of a new 24-hour Arabic news channel, Al-Arab, in Manama, Bahrain. The news channel was ordered off the air within 11 hours of its launch.

​Self-imposed exile

Since then, Khashoggi has been a political commentator, appearing on several Arab and international news channels and writing for a number of publications and on social media.

He went into a self-imposed exile in the United States last year, fearing for his safety after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began consolidating his position and cracking down on critics. He told Al Jazeera TV’s Upfront in March that he left the kingdom “because I don’t want to be arrested.”

Khashoggi comes from a powerful and well-known family in Saudi Arabia. He is the grandson of Muhammad Khashoggi, a Turkish doctor who married a Saudi woman and served as the personal physician for King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the kingdom.

Jamal Khashoggi is the nephew of Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi businessman and arms dealer known for his part in the Iran-Contra scandal. Adnan Khashoggi was the middleman in the arms-for-hostages deal. In the 1980s, Adnan Khashoggi was estimated to have a net worth of $4 billion.

Jamal Khashoggi’s cousin, Dodi Fayed, was dating Britain’s Princess Diana when the two were killed in a car crash in Paris.

https://www.voanews.com/a/who-is-jamal-khashoggi/4610403.html

With Islamic State Defeated, US Shuts Iraqi Command Center

WASHINGTON, (KEN BREDEMEIR-VOANEWS).- The U.S. on Monday shut its Iraqi military headquarters controlling American ground operations against Islamic State, signifying the end of major combat operations against the insurgents.

Islamic State once controlled a third of Iraq and its second biggest city, Mosul. But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last December declared that Iraqi forces, with the assistance of 5,000 U.S. troops in a support role, had defeated it.

The U.S. deactivated its Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command, "acknowledging the changing composition and responsibilities" of the coalition's fight against random Islamic State attacks.

The U.S., however, will continue to station troops in Iraq, although neither Washington nor Baghdad would say how many. They will continue to advise and equip missions in support of the Iraqi Security Force.

The American ground forces assisted in the three-year effort to claw back Islamic State territory in Iraq. Islamic State had taken over much of northern Iraq and northern Syria, where Raqqa, the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, has also been liberated even as the city's buildings have been left in shambles.

The U.S. troops were not involved in active combat in Iraq, but were often at field command centers near Mosul as they operated surveillance drones and advised Iraqi commanders on battlefield logistics.

The presence of the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq has become an issue in May's national elections in Iraq. Abadi has said he wants the U.S. troops to remain to continue to bolster Iraqi forces, but his opponents in the important Shiite militias, some of them aligned with Iran, have demanded that the American forces leave immediately.

National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/a/with-islamic-state-defeated-us-shuts-iraqi-command-center/4370692.html