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US slaps new sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei

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The United States imposed sanctions Monday on Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a string of military chiefs, tightening pressure on the country that President Donald Trump threatened with “obliteration” if it seeks war.

Trump signed the punitive financial measures against in the Oval Office, calling this a “strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions.”

Repeating that “never can Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said it was now up to Tehran to negotiate.

“We do not ask for conflict,” he said, adding that depending on Iran’s response the sanctions could end tomorrow — or it “can also be years from now.”

Expanding on the new measures, the Treasury said the United States will blacklist Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and block “billions” more in Iranian assets, with eight top commanders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards already added to the list.

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Tensions are running high after Iran shot down a US spy drone last week and Trump considered, then canceled, a retaliatory strike.

Iran, crippled by existing US sanctions that include the blocking of most of its crucial oil exports, sought to play down the US move.

US AIR FORCE/AFP/File / Handout Tehran insists that a US Global Hawk surveillance drone was within its airspace when it was shot down, a claim the US denies

“Are there really any sanctions left that the United States has not imposed on our country recently or in the past 40 years?” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said shortly before Trump signed his order.

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“We… do not consider them to have any impact,” he said.

Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates urged “diplomatic solutions” in the standoff, which is playing out in a region crucial to the global economy’s oil supplies.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would use a meeting with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan to urge “a constructive solution with the aim of ensuring collective regional security.”

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The Kremlin, which has longstanding links to Iran’s government, earlier called Monday’s sanctions “illegal.”

– US policy clear: Trump –

At home, Trump has taken criticism for sending mixed messages to Iran. However, the US president insists he has a clear strategy that breaks firmly with past US policy in the tinderbox Middle East.

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AFP / MANDEL NGAN US President Donald Trump has taken flak for sending mixed messages to Iran, but says that his strategy is clear

In a pair of tweets Monday, Trump said US aims regarding Iran boil down to “No Nuclear Weapons and No Further Sponsoring of Terror.”

On Sunday, Trump told an NBC television interview that if it came to war, Iran would experience “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

Iran insists that it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

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It signed onto an international pact in 2015 meant to ensure that its nuclear industry sticks to civilian uses. Trump, however, pulled the United States out of the deal in 2017, seeking its collapse.

But while some in Washington see the White House’s ultimate goal as regime change in Tehran, Trump says he wants to avoid war and that he’s open to negotiations with Iran’s leaders.

He also insists that Washington’s hands are freer than in the past because its own energy production frees it of dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

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This means the United States should no longer be seen as the guarantor of open sea lanes in the Gulf region, which saw two mysterious attacks in mid-June on non-US tankers that Washington claims were carried out by Tehran.

“All of these countries should be protecting their own ships,” Trump tweeted Monday. “We don’t even need to be there.”

So far, Trump’s carrot-and-stick message does not seem to be getting through to Tehran.

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“America’s claim of readiness for unconditional negotiation is not acceptable with the continuation of threats and sanctions,” Hesamodin Ashna, an advisor to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, said Monday on Twitter.

– International diplomacy –

POOL/AFP / Jacquelyn Martin US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C-R) walks with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir as he departs Jeddah on June 24, 2019

The dispute is bound up in a complex web of regional rivalries, with US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel long pushing Washington to act aggressively against Iran.

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned his country, which is widely believed to have an undeclared nuclear arsenal, would do “everything” to stop Iran getting such a weapon.

In New York, the UN Security Council was to meet later Monday at the request of the United States to discuss the tensions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled Monday to meet with Saudi leaders to build what he called a “global coalition” against the Islamic republic.

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AFP / Olivier LEVRAULT Map showing Tehran’s and Washington’s differing locations of a US drone when it was downed by Iran

Pompeo met Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Red Sea city of Jeddah and was later due to hold talks in the United Arab Emirates.

The sultanate of Oman, meanwhile, said reports that it had served as a back channel for the United States to Iran in the aftermath of last week’s drone shooting were “not true.”

The foreign ministry called on Iran and the United States via Twitter “to show self-control and to resolve the pending issues through dialogue.”

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Although Trump backed away from a bombing strike in retaliation for last week’s drone downing, US media reports said a US cyber attack took place against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network.

On Monday Iranian Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said no cyber attack against his country had ever succeeded.


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Trump is a racist — but he is also ‘deeply mentally ill’: Trump biographer

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On Monday's edition of MSNBC's "Hardball," anchor Chris Matthews discussed President Donald Trump's racist outbursts against congresswomen of color with Pulitzer Prize-winning tax journalist and Trump biographer David Cay Johnston.

Johnston agreed that Trump has been deeply racist throughout his career — but added that another major problem is Trump's cognitive faculties are severely impaired.

"Is he the kind of guy, in a back room with other right-wing business guys, who would make slurs about people of color?" said Johnston. "Is he that kind of guy?"

"That's not Donald's style. Donald's actions are what matter here," said Johnston. "He once removed a black blackjack dealer because he thought it would curry favor with his biggest gambler, [alleged mobster] Bob Libutti. He's found to have discriminated in his casino business against blacks, Asians, women, Puerto Ricans. He has a long history of actions. We should be paying attention to his actions, and they're flat-out racist."

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Republicans in Congress are angry about Trump’s latest racist comments — but not because they’re racist

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There can be no denying that amid the firestorm from President Donald Trump tweeting that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) should "go back where they came from," Republicans in Congress are upset.

However, as many of them make clear in conversation with reporters, the fact that these comments were racist is not the main reason they are angry at the president. Rather, they are frustrated that his comments are hogging the news cycle, which leaves them incapable of discussing their agenda — and of criticizing the agenda of the Democratic representatives he targeted.

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Lara Trump says the president is the real victim: He ‘gave up his entire life’ to be president

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Campaign advisor Lara Trump defended her father-in-law saying that he's the real victim in this exchange between four Congresswomen of color. Then she repeated that these women can "leave" the country.

Trump began the fight Sunday when he told four Congresswomen that if they didn't like what was happening in the United States Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." The women are all citizens and all but one was born in the United States.

"The reality is everything he says, of course, was taken and misconstrued," she said, alleging Trump's statements were taken out of context. You can read them below:

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