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Syria vows to recover Golan as Trump policy shift draws criticism

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The Syrian government vowed to recover the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as its allies and enemies alike condemned U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday for moving to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized in war.

Trump’s statement on Thursday marked a dramatic shift in U.S. policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in 1981 – a move not recognized internationally.

Against this backdrop of hostility toward the U.S. move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Beirut after visiting Israel on Friday. He is expected to pile pressure on the government to curb the influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The declaration is the latest in a series of moves that have fueled anger among Israel’s Arab enemies and U.S.-allied Arabs.

It follows the U.S. recognition in December 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – a decision that also drew international criticism as the disputed city’s status remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad with forces in Syria, said Trump’s comments risked seriously destabilizing the region and expressed hope the statement was just declaratory.

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Iran, Assad’s main regional ally and which also has forces in Syria, condemned the statement as illegal and unacceptable.

Turkey, a U.S.-allied state and an adversary of Damascus, also criticized the move, saying it had brought the Middle East to the edge of a new crisis and the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights could not be allowed.

Damascus said the Golan Heights would remain “Syrian, Arab” and Trump had shown contempt for international law.

“The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means,” the Syrian government said.

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Though the Golan Heights had been calm for decades, the frontier has reemerged as a flashpoint for regional tensions during the Syrian war. Last May, Israel accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of launching a rocket salvo into its territory from the Syrian side of the frontier.

Israel, which has mounted numerous air strikes against what it has called Iran-backed targets in Syria, has demanded Russia keep forces allied to Tehran away from the frontier.

The Syrian side of the frontier was held by rebel forces for years until pro-government forces recovered it in July.

POMPEO TO FLAG HEZBOLLAH CONCERNS
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said: “we cannot allow the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights”.

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The Arab League, which suspended Syria in 2011 after the start of its civil war, said Trump’s comment paved “the way for official American recognition” of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and said it “completely beyond international law”.

Trump’s statement has given a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign. Netanyahu has praised Trump for “making history” with the statement.

In Lebanon, Pompeo is expected to flag U.S. concerns about Hezbollah’s growing role in government: the group has three ministers in government and together with its allies controls more than 70 of parliament’s 128 seats.

The United States is a major donor to the Lebanese army but its allies, including the Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, have been weakened as Iran’s role has deepened through Lebanon, Iraq and Syria and Saudi influence has retreated.

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Washington has reintroduced sanctions on Iran and imposed new financial sanctions on Hezbollah which Lebanon’s Hezbollah-aligned president, Michel Aoun, said on Thursday were hurting all Lebanese.

Reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo/Tom Perry in Beirut, Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Yousef Saba in Cairo, Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Darren Schuettler and Raissa Kasolowsky and Samia Nakhoul

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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John Dean explains the big mistake Hope Hicks made by stonewalling Congress

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Former White House counsel John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal, said Wednesday on CNN that there was a serious flaw in the attempt to prevent longtime Trump confidant Hope Hicks from testifying to Congress.

White House lawyers have asserted that Hicks has absolute immunity and is not legally required to testify about her time as Trump's director of communications. Hicks testified Wednesday during a closed-door hearing before the House Judiciary Committee — where she reportedly refused to answer questions about her White House job.

"Privilege is not being asserted here. Instead, the White House says that Hicks has absolute immunity regarding the time that she spent at 1600 Pennsylvania. Does absolute immunity even exist? And if so, can you explain to me the difference between the two?" CNN host Brooke Baldwin asked Dean.

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GOP gangs up on AOC: Top Republican demands Ocasio-Cortez apologize to the entire world – she refuses

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The Republican machine is in fifth gear right now, speeding to attack one of their top Democratic targets: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

At issue, a video the New York Democrat recorded in which she calls the migrant detention camps on the U.S. Southern border "concentration camps."

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Economist mocks GOP for trying to pin racism on Democrats — after telling a harrowing story about anti-black economic envy

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Economist Julianne Malveaux explained to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that there was a time in the United States where black Americans were actually closing the wealth gap with white Americans -- until white Americans rioted and burned their property.

During her testimony at a hearing on reparations, Malveaux recounted the horrific story of the destruction of "Black Wall Street," which was a location in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was known for its high concentration of black-owned businesses and black wealth.

The area's prosperity came to an end in 1921 when white Tulsa residents used baseless accusation of a black man sexually assaulting a white woman as a justification to chase out all black residents and set fire to their neighborhoods. Hundreds of black residents were killed in the riots and the majority fled the city.

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