EarthLink – News
UK ambassador called Trump administration ‘clumsy and inept’
By GREGORY KATZ | Sun, July 7, 2019 04:57 EDT
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s ambassador to the United States described the Trump administration as “diplomatically clumsy and inept” and said he doubted it would become “substantially more normal,” according to a leaked diplomatic cable published Sunday.
The memo was one of several leaked documents published by the Mail on Sunday in which Ambassador Kim Darroch made highly negative statements about the government of Britain’s closest ally.
“We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” Darroch wrote in one memo.
Asked about the leaked cables Sunday, President Donald Trump told reporters that Darroch “has not served the U.K. well.”
The United States and the U.K. enjoy what each describe as a “special relationship” that has held strong since World War II. But the ambassador communicated deep unease with Trump’s foreign policies, which have broken with Britain’s on key issues such as climate change and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Britain’s Foreign Office did not challenge the authenticity of the leaked documents, which covered the period of 2017 to the present. It called the leak “mischievous behavior” and said the public expects diplomats to provide honest assessments of the politics in the countries where they are posted.
The Foreign Office said the leaks would not harm the productive relationship between the British government and the Trump White House. A formal investigation of the leak may be set in motion in the coming days.
The British Embassy in Washington informed the White House on Friday that the memos would be published over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter, and the two sides were in touch throughout the weekend. The person familiar with the matter was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity.
The State Department declined to comment on the ambassador’s comments.
It is customary for senior British diplomats posted overseas to file straightforward memos to senior ministers and security services analysts back home so that political trends and possible threats to British interests can be gauged, but it is unusual for a large number of them to be made public.
Justice Secretary David Gauke called the leak “disgraceful” but said Britain “should expect our ambassadors to tell the truth, as they see it.”
The memos also characterized Trump’s policy on Iran as “incoherent, chaotic.” Trump has frustrated European allies by withdrawing the United States from a complex deal designed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons and has seemed in recent weeks to be on the verge of armed conflict with Iran.
The ambassador said he did not believe Trump’s public explanation for calling off a planned military strike against Iran last month because of concern about possible civilian casualties. He said it is more likely the strike was cancelled at the last minute because Trump felt it would be a liability in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
Darroch said there are doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent” and that the only way to communicate with the president is by being simple and blunt.
He said that while Trump had been “dazzled” by British pageantry on a state visit hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in June, the successful visit would not lead to a fundamental shift in Trump’s priorities.
“This is still the land of America First,” he wrote.
Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the contents of the leaked cables were not surprising or troublesome but that he was concerned such a large cache of embassy documents had been made available to the newspaper.
“I’m not remotely concerned by what the ambassador said,” Rifkind said. “He was doing his job properly and for the most part, I agreed with his comments.”
Since the memos and telegrams dated back only to 2017, “not that many people will have had access to all the documents and that might help them trace who was responsible,” he said.
Darroch’s views may lead to some awkwardness, especially since Trump said shortly after his election in 2016 that Brexiteer Nigel Farage would make an excellent British ambassador to the United States.
Trump has not hesitated to inject himself into Britain’s political fray, repeatedly criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy and praising both Farage and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a strong contender to become the next prime minister.
AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.
EarthLink – News
UK hunts mole behind leak of envoy’s frank Trump missives
By JILL LAWLESS | Mon, July 8, 2019 07:12 EDT
LONDON (AP) — The British government was hunting Monday for the source of a leak of diplomatic cables from Britain’s ambassador in Washington that branded President Donald Trump’s administration “dysfunctional” and “inept.”
British officials are embarrassed by the publication of Kim Darroch’s unflattering assessment — but more alarmed that sensitive confidential information has been leaked, possibly for political ends.
Officials believe the mole will be found among British politicians or officials, rather than overseas.
“I’ve seen nothing to suggest hostile state actors were involved,” said Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack.
Slack said May had “full faith” in Darroch, a long-serving diplomat, although she didn’t agree with his characterization of the Trump administration.
He said ambassadors were hired to provide “honest, unvarnished assessments” of politics in the countries where they served, which didn’t necessarily reflect the views of the British government.
In the leaked cables — published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper — Darroch called the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran “incoherent, chaotic” and said there were doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent.”
“We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” one missive said.
The cables cover a period from 2017 to recent weeks.
After the cables were published, Trump said the ambassador “has not served the U.K. well, I can tell you that.”
“We are not big fans of that man,” Trump said.
The leak is an embarrassment for outgoing prime minister May, who has sometimes clashed with Trump, and could make things difficult for Darroch, who is accused by some Brexit-backing U.K. politicians of a lack of enthusiasm for Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The journalist who reported the leak, Isabel Oakeshott, is a strong supporter of Brexit.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday that the ability to communicate frankly was “fundamental” to diplomacy.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who is meeting U.S. officials in Washington, called the leak “malicious.”
“I think it is unconscionable that any professional person in either politics of the civil service can behave in this way,” he said.
EarthLink – News
Strong quake causes panic in eastern Indonesia
Sun, July 7, 2019 10:31 EDT
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A strong subsea earthquake late Sunday night caused panic in parts of eastern Indonesia and triggered a tsunami warning that was later lifted. There were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.9 quake was centered 185 kilometers (115 miles) southeast of Manado in the Molucca Sea at a depth of 24 kilometers (15 miles).
The national disaster agency said the tsunami warning issued for North Sulawesi and North Maluku was canceled just after midnight, about two hours after the quake hit.
It said it was still gathering information but was hampered by loss of communications with disaster officials in North Maluku.
A hospital in Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province, was damaged and patients evacuated, according to a local disaster official.
The quake caused panic in the city of Ternate in the Maluku island chain, where people ran to higher ground, a witness told The Associated Press.
The disaster agency said residents in Manado ran out of their homes in panic. It said residents in North Sulawesi and North Maluku should return to their homes.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
EarthLink – News
1 minor goring, 4 others injured in Spain’s running of bulls
Mon, July 8, 2019 03:39 EDT
PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — The second day of bull runs at the San Fermin festival left five people injured, including one with a minor goring Monday, Spanish health officials said.
Two men and a woman were hospitalized with head injuries or severe bruises, said Tomás Belzunegui, a spokesman with the regional hospital in Pamplona.
Another runner was treated for bruises, and a fifth was gored in the back by a horn but didn’t need hospital treatment.
The six bulls from the Cebada Gago ranch, which is known for raising ferocious beasts, were surrounded by tame cattle for most of the 930-yard (850-meter) route to the bullring, leaving runners scrambling for limited space close to their horns.
The race lasted 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Eight bull runs are held in Pamplona every July.
The festival, which attracts annually around a million people to the northern city, was immortalized in the 1920s by American novelist and Literature Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway.
EarthLink – News
Sudanese say US pressure was key to reaching transition deal
By SAMY MAGDY | Mon, July 8, 2019 02:49 EDT
CAIRO (AP) — The power-sharing agreement reached between Sudan’s military and pro-democracy protesters last week came after the United States and its Arab allies applied intense pressure on both sides amid fears a prolonged crisis could tip the country into civil war, activists and officials said.
The agreement, which raised hopes of a democratic transition following the military overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April, was announced days after the protesters held mass marches through Khartoum and other areas.
But those familiar with the negotiations say the main breakthrough happened at a secret meeting the day before the protests, when diplomats from the U.S., Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pressed the two sides to accept proposals from the African Union and Ethiopia.
“It was a tense but crucial meeting. It melted the ice,” a leading activist said on condition of anonymity to discuss the back-room negotiations. “The meeting was the cornerstone of Friday’s deal.”
The two sides agreed on a jointly run sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader will head the council for the first 21 months followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into security forces’ deadly crackdown on the protests last month — though it’s unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the internet after a weekslong blackout.
Much could still go wrong, and last month’s violence erupted at a similarly hopeful moment. But for now the deal appears to be on track, with the two sides expected to formally sign it this week.
Two leading activists, a Sudanese military official and two Egyptian officials described intense U.S. efforts to force a deal after veteran diplomat Donald Booth was appointed special envoy in mid-June. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks.
State Department officials declined to comment on U.S. efforts to broker the deal, saying only that Washington welcomes the agreement and commends the AU and Ethiopia for their mediation efforts.
The Arab officials said the U.S. not only ramped up pressure on the military, but also on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which supported the military’s overthrow of al-Bashir and sided with the generals when the protesters remained in the streets.
Two Egyptian officials with direct knowledge of Booth’s meetings in Cairo last month said the U.S. urged President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to back the AU and Ethiopian proposal and “pressure” Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling military council, to respond positively.
“We received a direct message from the White House: Facilitate a deal between the military and the protesters,” one of the officials said.
They said the same message was conveyed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, close U.S. allies that had pledged billions of dollars in aid to the military after al-Bashir’s overthrow.
The two Arab nations were seen as having major influence over Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who has sent Sudanese forces to aid their war in Yemen. Dagalo, known by the nickname “Hemedti,” is seen by many as the most powerful figure on the military council, and his paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led last month’s violent dispersal of the protesters’ main sit-in.
The Sudanese military official says the generals received the same message.
“The Americans demanded a deal as soon as possible. Their message was clear: power-sharing in return for guarantees that nobody from the council will be tried,” he said, referring to the June 3 crackdown. Protesters say security forces killed at least 128 people, while authorities put the death toll at 61, including some security personnel.
The crackdown left protesters in a precarious position, and raised fears that Sudan could share the fate of Syria, Yemen and Libya, which spiraled into civil war after their own popular uprisings.
The U.S. and its allies also put pressure on the protesters, who are represented by a coalition known as the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change. The activists say the U.S. and Arab countries reached out to individual factions, which then threatened to negotiate separately with the military. Protest leaders gave in when it appeared the coalition was at risk of fracturing.
The efforts culminated in a secret meeting on July 29 at the home of a Sudanese businessman that was attended by protest leaders as well as Burhan and Dagalo.
Officials from the U.S., Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also attended, in a show of unity that pushed the two sides together. By the end of the over three-hour-long meeting, the two sides had agreed to thrash out an agreement within days.
Protest leaders went ahead with the rallies the following day, saying they needed time to prepare people for the agreement, and tens of thousands took to the streets in another show of popular support for a transition to civilian rule. Five days later, on July 5, the two sides announced that they had reached a power-sharing deal.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed.