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Saudi Arabia says its oil infrastructure attacked by drones

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Saudi Arabia says its oil infrastructure attacked by drones

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Araba said drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom on Tuesday, shortly after Yemen’s rebels claimed a coordinated drone attack on the Sunni power.

The assaults marked the latest incidents challenging Mideast security after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates earlier this week amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting against since March 2015, said they launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom, across the border from Yemen. The spokesman of the rebels, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, told The Associated Press: “This is a message to Saudi Arabia, stop your aggression.”

“Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing everyday against the Yemeni people,” he added.

In a statement carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that drones attacked a petroleum pumping station supplying a pipeline running from its oil-rich Eastern Province to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea.

A fire broke out and firefighters later brought it under control, though the state-run Saudi Aramco stopped pumping oil through the pipeline.

The kingdom’s state security body also said two petroleum pumping stations in the greater region of Riyadh, the landlocked capital, were targeted at the same time. The statement described it as a “limited targeting” of petroleum stations in areas al-Duadmi and Afif in the Riyadh region, without elaborating.

Al-Falih called the attack “cowardly,” saying that recent sabotage acts against the kingdom’s vital installations not only target Saudi Arabia, but the safety of the world’s energy supply and global economy. He said this reaffirms the need of the international community to confront the activities of groups like the Houthis. He also promised the production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted.

Benchmark Brent crude traded at $71 a barrel Tuesday, up $1.27 on the day.

The attack on Saudi oil targets comes after four oil tankers anchored in the Mideast were damaged by what Gulf officials described as sabotage, though satellite images obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday showed no major visible damage to the vessels.

Details of the alleged sabotage to two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker on Sunday remained unclear, and Gulf officials have declined to say who they suspected was responsible. But it demonstrated the raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies as tensions are increasing between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The U.S. has warned sailors of the potential for attacks on commercial sea traffic, and regional allies of the United Arab Emirates condemned the alleged sabotage as the tankers were off the coast of the UAE port city of Fujairah.

A U.S. official in Washington, without offering any evidence, told the AP that an American military team’s initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, agreed to reveal the findings only if not quoted by name. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Mideast and operates from a base in Fujairah, has repeatedly declined to comment.

The U.S. already had warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

On Tuesday, Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates that was part of a U.S.-led combat fleet from near the Persian Gulf because of mounting U.S.-Iran tensions. The Ministry of Defense said the Méndez Núñez, with 215 sailors on board, will not cross the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf together with the USS Abraham Lincoln. The Spanish frigate was the only non-U.S. vessel in the fleet.

Citing heightened tensions in the region, the United Nations called on “all concerned parties to exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace, including by ensuring maritime security” and freedom of navigation, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Tensions in the region have risen since Trump withdrew America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored U.S. sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The oil tankers were visible in satellite images provided Tuesday to the AP by Colorado-based Maxar Technologies. A boom surrounded the Emirati oil tanker A. Michel, indicating the possibility of an oil leak. The other three showed no visible major damage from above.

Yemen plunged into civil war in 2014 when Iran-backed rebels captured the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 to help government troops facing the Houthi advance. The U.S. supported the coalition for years despite its airstrikes killing civilians, and is only recently beginning to step back after the October killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents.

This isn’t the first time Yemen’s Houthis have used drones as weapons — a bomb-laden drone launched by the rebels exploded over a military parade in January for the Saudi-led coalition, killing at least six people.

The use of drones also raises new concerns over Iran’s influence in the conflict. Coalition officials have recently displayed a series of drones they claim show a growing sophistication of the Houthis, starting first with plastic foam models that could be built by a hobby kit, to one captured in April that closely resembled an Iranian-made drone.

Those drones have been flown into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missile batteries, according to the research group Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.

Iran has been accused by the U.S. and the U.N. of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthis, which Tehran denies.

Such drones remain difficult to shoot down with either light or heavy weapons. Iraqi forces learned this from driving out the Islamic State group from northern Iraq, where the extremists would load drones with grenades or simple explosives to target their forces.

___

Associated Press writers Maggie Michael and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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Democrats

As Erica Thomas’s racism story breaks down, The Guardian now says she’s a Republican

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As Erica Thomass racism story breaks down The Guardian now says shes a Republican

It’s funny how the media treats lawmakers when it comes to their political affiliation. If something is good, it’s probably a Democrat at the heart of the report. If it’s bad, it’s probably a Republican. The Guardian and AP News don’t seem to actually care which is which. They interchange political parties based on the sentiment of the story, even if they’re already declared a different party previously.

Case-in-point, Georgia Democrat Erica Thomas after she claimed to be the victim of a racist rant versus Georgia Republican Erica Thomas after her story starts falling apart.

Thomas’s original claim was that a white racist told her to “go back where she came from,” echoing the “racist” Tweet made in completely different circumstances by President Trump. That story stuck all the way into a media interview until Eric Sparkes showed up. He admitted to cursing at the African-American lawmaker because she was in the express checkout lane at the grocery store with too many items. But he vehemently denies saying anything racist, including the “go back” line Thomas attributed to him.

As it turns out, he’s Cuban and a Democrat.

The Guardian, through an Associated Press source, initially said Thomas was a Democrat, which she is:

Erica Sparks The Guardian Democrat

But once the story crumbled, she was suddenly a Republican:

Erica Sparks The Guardian Republican

Was this intentional? Actually, it doesn’t matter. If it was intentional, then it’s just part of standard operating procedure to smear Republicans whenever possible. If it was an accident, then it’s a Freudian slip of sorts, one that both proper journalists and good editors, both of which should be employed at The Guardian, should be able to catch very easily. As of the writing of this article, the correction has not been made.

People like Erica Thomas put real victims of racism at risk when they make false claims like this. But the media’s trumpeting of false narratives does nothing to help fix the situation. Both are complicit in denying the truth.

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Culture and Religion

Two weeks after Benghazi attack, Ilhan Omar Tweeted ‘Allahu Akbar’

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Two weeks after Benghazi attack Ilhan Omar Tweeted Allahu Akbar

This is old news, of course, but bears repeating at this time. Representative Ilhan Omar has been doing everything she can over the last couple of weeks to paint herself as the victim of bigotry and someone who loves our country. And while there’s definitely some substance to the notion that crowds of Republicans shouldn’t be chanting “send her back,” it’s also understandable why so many Americans are opposed to her presence on Capitol Hill.

Even if we dismiss reports that she married her brother, called for CBP to be eliminated, said this is “not going to be the country of white people,” referred to 9/11 as “some people did something,” and is regularly praised by former KKK leader David Duke, it’s difficult to dismiss her reaction to the Benghazi attacks that took the lives of four American heroes in 2012.

I’m not going to dignify her Tweet with an opinion. She’s the one who needs to explain it. But despite her celebration, life isn’t good for the four men who lost there’s in Benghazi. Remember this, folks, as Democrats embrace her wholeheartedly.

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Democrats

Kyrsten Sinema’s ‘Operation Safe Return’ is a good effort but won’t work to slow migrants

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Kyrsten Sinemas Operation Safe Return is a good effort but wont work to slow migrants

Any time a Democrat makes an effort to do something tangible to stop illegal immigration, it’s praiseworthy. Today’s Democratic Party is not only devoid of a plan to slow the migrant surge or end the border crisis. Many are doing what they can to make the problem bigger by pretending it isn’t a problem at all. This is why it’s refreshing to see Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema psuh for “Operation Safe Return.”

The proposal would set rules that would expedite the removal of migrant family units who do not demonstrate a “credible fear” of persecution. It’s a complex, multi-stage plan that sets time limits on how soon migrant families are interviewed and tightens the criteria for them to be released to the interior.

What it does not do is make changes to the Flores Agreement, which enables family units to be released quickly from detention once they file for asylum. This rule is dangerous to the children involved because it makes them a hot commodity for those wanting to move quickly into the interior of the country. Children are being used as “tickets” and are being sold to or rented by illegal immigrants.

Sinema’s plan doesn’t address this, but does go after “economic migrants” which likely accounts for the vast majority of those crossing the border illegally. Our asylum rules do not allow for those seeking better opportunities in America to claim asylum simply because they cannot get a good job in their home country.

According to The Arizona Republic:

The program would allow the Department of Homeland Security to deport certain migrants within 15 days, according to the letter, and would help alleviate overcrowding at border facilities, Sinema said.

“This pilot program would apply to families who aren’t claiming ‘credible fear,’ which of course is the first threshold in seeking asylum,” Sinema told The Arizona Republic. “If someone says ‘I left my country because I can’t make a living,’ (or) ‘it’s hard to take care of my family’ — that’s what we call an economic migrant.”

Sinema is one of the main architects behind the proposed program, along with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Sinema said she came up with the idea for the pilot program in response to a meeting with White House and Trump administration officials who she said were focused on changing asylum laws and challenging court rulings like the Flores Settlement Agreement, dictating how the government treats certain migrants.

“I just felt those weren’t the right answers,” Sinema added. “We wanted to solve the problem. We wanted to protect the asylum process for valid applicants … and we want to respect the Flores decision.”

This is a nice attempt, but here’s the problem. Word will continue to spread that migrants should not claim economic hardship as their reason for filing for asylum. They are being given talking points about their status that include saying they’re being persecuted because of their beliefs. This is easy to say and difficult to prove, making it the easy path through which migrant families can come to America and be released to the interior three weeks later.

The proposal has been delivered to acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan for review. It was signed by Sinema and Johnson as well as five Republican and two Democratic Senators.

This is a stopgap plan that may slow the migrant surge and expedite deportations on a small scale, but eventually it will become worthless. Sinema deserves credit for trying, but we need bolder measures if we’re going to make a dent in the border crisis.

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