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Iran says shot down US drone over its territory

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it had shot down a US “spy drone” which violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, in the latest incident to stoke tension in the strategic sea lane.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States.

The US-manufactured Global Hawk surveillance drone was hit with a missile “after violating Iranian air space” over the waters of Hormozgan province, the Guard said in a statement.

The Iranian military did not immediately publish images of the drone.

The incident comes at a time of growing antagonism between Iran and the United States following two waves of still unexplained attacks on Gulf shipping, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.

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Iran has denied any involvement and hinted that the US might have orchestrated them itself to provide a pretext for the use of force against the Islamic republic.

Shooting down the drone on Thursday was “a clear message” that Iran will defend its borders, the head of the Revolutionary Guard said.

Iran will “respond to all foreign aggression and our reaction is, and will be, categorical and absolute,” Hossein Salami said, quoted by Tasnim news agency.

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“We declare that we are not looking for war but we are ready to respond to any declaration of war,” he added.

– ‘Maximum pressure’ –

AFP / Mumen KHATIBThe Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous has been towed to the coast of the United Arab Emirates after being attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week

Tensions have been running high between Iran and the United States ever since President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement in May last year.

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The subsequent reimposition of crippling unilateral sanctions has dealt a heavy blow to Iran’s already flagging economy.

Washington has also bolstered its military presence in the Middle East in a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran.

Its deployment to the Gulf of an aircraft carrier task force as well as B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defence battery has sparked fears of fresh conflict in the region.

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One of the two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week was damaged by a limpet mine, the US military said Wednesday.

Commander Sean Kido of US Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, said the mine used in the attack “is distinguishable and it is also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades”.

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, loaded with highly flammable methanol, came under attack last Thursday as it passed through the Gulf of Oman along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair.

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– Fingerprints –

It was the second attack in a month on ships in the strategic shipping lane.

On May 12, two Saudi oil tankers and two other vessels were damaged in mysterious “sabotage attacks” in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates.

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Kido told reporters in the UAE emirate of Fujairah that the US military had recovered “biometric information” of the assailants on the Kokuka Courageous including fingerprints.

This information “can be used to build a criminal case”, Kido said as the US Navy took journalists to the damaged ship currently anchored some 14 kilometres (nine miles) off Fujairah.

Defence Minister Amir Hatami flatly rejected allegations Iran was behind the twin attacks.

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“Accusations levelled against Iran’s armed forces and the published film with regards to the incident (that) happened to the vessels… are unsubstantiated and we categorically reject these accusations,” the official news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

Washington has released images and a grainy black-and-white video it says shows Iranians on a patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine attached to the Kokuka Courageous.

The US commander Kido said there was an “ongoing joint and combined investigation with our regional partners into the attacks” on the two tankers.


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Dear NeverTrumpers: Either help or STFU

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Bill Kristol Max Boot David Frum
Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that the NeverTrumpers — repentant Republicans and conservatives — have been offering up lots of advice for how the Democrats can win the next election. Their jackhammer advice has basically been limited to urging the party to disavow its activist, progressive members in order to secure the contrarian swing voters who cast ballots for Barack Obama twice, then switched to Donald Trump in 2016.

Before I offer up a come-to-Jesus moment for the NeverTrumpers, let me say that as many of you know, I’ve defended members of this exiled faction in the past, and continue to stand by the idea that we need to form a coalition to close the loopholes exposed by Donald Trump’s malfeasance as a means of preventing another, perhaps more dangerous monster from sashaying through the Trump-shaped hole in the wall. To be clear: I’m not talking about conceding on policy or platform planks. I’m merely suggesting a detente between voices who all agree that Trump is a menace and his presidency is an existential national crisis.

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News flash: Trump’s no racist!

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The gap that Donald Trump continually shows us between word and deed is remarkable. He lets words hurt while ignoring the substance of what the words mean.

That public words that various people, from both in and out of government or politics, say about him seem to matter a whole lot more than actual events, scandals or bad governmental behavior reflecting on his presidency. We’re used to it by now, numb really, so, it seems useful to step back and look at the pattern.

Even so, his tweets on Sunday telling four rebellious first-year congresswomen, citizens who are all of color, that they should return to where they came from “to go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” is an insult that crosses all borders. As it happens, three of the four are American-born, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Mich.) has been a naturalized citizen since age 12.

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Morning Joe panel brutally dismantles Lindsey Graham for doubling down and backing Trump’s extreme racism

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough was left speechless by Sen. Lindsey Graham's impassioned defense of President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen.

The "Morning Joe" host sat in stunned silence after rolling video of the South Carolina Republican defending Trump's tweets, and doubling down by hurling his own slurs against the first-year lawmakers.

"You call Americans in Congress communists?" Scarborough said, after gathering his thoughts, "and you say they hate America? And then your punch line to that is aim higher?"

Scarborough, who served alongside Graham as a Republican congressman, said the episode was a shameful new low for the veteran lawmaker.

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