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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs


A British Woman Has Received a Suspended Sentence in a High Profile Cyprus Rape Case

Posted: 07 Jan 2020 12:20 AM PST

A 19-year-old British woman at the center of a high-profile rape case has received a four-month suspended sentence on a charge of public mischief in Cyprus, an activist present in the courtroom told TIME.

The woman, who has not been identified publicly, covered her face with a scarf as she arrived at Famagusta District Court in Paralimni, eastern Cyprus, on Tuesday, eight days after a judge declared her guilty of fabricating a rape claim.

In July 2019, she reported being raped by up to 12 Israeli men at the resort town of Ayia Napa. Ten days later, she retracted her statement but has since said that she was forced to do so under pressure by Cyprus police. The police have denied this claim.

On Tuesday, the young woman was accompanied by family and her legal team to the courthouse, where she was greeted by dozens of protesters and activists from Cyprus and Israel.

Her sentence was suspended for three years, and she was ordered to pay €148 ($165) in legal fees by the court. The sentence also means she is now free to return home to the UK; she had already spent more than a month in prison in Cyprus before being granted bail at the end of August, and has not been allowed to leave the island since.

Ahead of the sentencing, lawyers for the woman told TIME of what they say are problems with the way the case has been handled by authorities, including the woman’s detention without a lawyer for eight hours at a police station on July 27, when she made her retraction.

“The whole sequence of the various authorities and the way they treat violence against women is problematic,” says Nicoletta Charalambidou, a Cyprus-based lawyer on the woman’s legal team.

The case has sparked public outcry in Cyprus, the U.K. and Israel.

Demonstrations took place in solidarity with the woman on the eve of the sentencing in London and Tel Aviv. Carrying signs reading “We Believe You,” protesters chanted “Jail the rapists, not the victims” outside the courthouse as the sentencing was carried out. Speaking to the BBC, Lewis Power, a lawyer for the young woman, said the case was “not finished by any means” and that he would be appealing the conviction. “We will be seeking an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court of Cyprus and we will also be considering going to the European Court of Human Rights,” Power said.

Boy Killed After U.S. Family Attacked on a Notorious Stretch of Mexican Highway

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 11:48 PM PST

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Mexican authorities continued searching Monday for the gunmen responsible for an attack on a sparsely traveled stretch of highway near the Texas border that left a 13-year-old U.S. boy dead and four relatives wounded.

On Saturday night, a family traveling in two vehicles was attacked on a two-lane highway paralleling the U.S.-Mexico border in the township of Ciudad Mier.

One SUV of attackers passed the family and then cut them off causing them to collide and come to a halt. Gunmen then opened fire, according to a statement from the state of Tamaulipas security coordinating group. All of the wounded came from one of the family’s vehicles, both of which had Oklahoma license plates. The gunmen escaped in another vehicle.

Prosecutors identified the boy who was killed as Oscar Castillo López.

A 10-year-old relative was among those wounded. They were all taken to a hospital in Monterrey after initially being moved to a nearer small town hospital.

On Monday, Luis Enrique Orozco, a deputy in the Nuevo Leon state prosecutor’s office, said another boy was in critical condition along with a 48-year-old man. A 42-year-old woman was in stable condition, he said. The relationship between the adults and the children was unclear, but Orozco said the two wounded adults were siblings.

Tamaulipas state prosecutors at one point said the boy who died was 14 years old.

The family was returning to the U.S. after spending the holidays in the border state of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is located. Some members of the family are originally from the central Mexico state of San Luis Potosi, while some were born in the United States.

What remained unclear was why the family was on such a dangerous stretch of highway after dark.

The area where the attack occurred is contested by drug cartels.

For years Ciudad Mier was the uppermost edge of the Gulf cartel’s control and Nueva Ciudad Guerrero was the limit for the Nuevo Laredo-based Zetas’. Between them sits uninhabited scrub land.

In 2010, after the Zetas split from the Gulf cartel and established themselves as an organized criminal power through prominent displays of graphic violence, Mier became a battleground for the two cartels and most of its residents abandoned the quaint colonial town.

More recently, however, the Zetas’ splinter group known as the Northeast cartel has been as far downriver as Mier, Miguel Aleman and Camargo, well into what was traditionally the Gulf cartel’s territory.

Photographs from Saturday night’s crime scene showed the Northeast cartel’s Spanish initials — “CDN” — scrawled on the back window of one of the vehicles.

The latest U.S. State Department travel advisory in mid-December listed Tamaulipas state as “do not travel” due to the prevalence of crime and kidnapping.

“Heavily armed members of criminal groups often patrol areas of the state in marked and unmarked vehicles and operate with impunity particularly along the border region from Reynosa northwest to Nuevo Laredo,” the advisory said. That was where the family was driving.

The Philippine Vice President Says Duterte’s War on Drugs Is a Failure

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 07:09 PM PST

(MANILA) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs has failed to substantially eradicate the menace and ensnare major drug lords and should be reformed to prevent further bloodshed, the country’s vice president said Monday.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition, also called for a stop to the dreaded police practice of home inspections that have led only to the killings of petty drug suspects.

It’s the latest criticism of Duterte’s notorious crackdown by the vice president and is likely to deepen the political divide between the two leaders.

Presidents and vice presidents are elected separately in the Philippines, resulting in candidates from rival parties like Duterte and Robredo ending up in the country’s top leadership and often colliding on policies.

Robredo said only about 1% of the estimated supply of methamphetamine, a powerful banned stimulant locally known as shabu, has been seized in the last three years, since the crackdown was launched by Duterte when he took office in mid-2016.

“Very clearly, based on official data, despite the killings of Filipinos and all the money spent, the amount of shabu and drug money we’ve seized has not gone beyond 1% of those in circulation,” Robredo said at a news conference.

“If we really want to end the scourge of illegal drugs, we need to run after the big suppliers and not just the small-time pushers,” Robredo said, adding the campaign would not succeed unless it’s reformed to be more strategic, better organized and closely supervised in all aspects by the president.

Her remarks were largely based on information gathered during a brief stint in a government anti-drugs committee, which Duterte asked her to help lead last year after being piqued by her constant criticisms of his bloody crackdown. Robredo surprisingly accepted the offer, but Duterte fired her after 18 days after she started seeking confidential information about the campaign.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo dismissed Robredo’s statements, saying Duterte’s campaign has succeeded in closing many drug laboratories and forcing the surrender of a large number of drug suspects. Big-time drug lords have also been neutralized, Panelo said, although he failed to immediately provide a list of those key drug personalities.

“If you noticed, when she was threatening to release this report, she implied that there were some irregularities discovered, a bomb that would explode on your face. It’s a dud,” Panelo told reporters.

Robredo, a 54-year-old former human rights lawyer and political newcomer, has openly criticized the campaign against illegal drugs launched by Duterte, a longtime city mayor and state prosecutor known for his extra tough approach against criminality and brash speaking style.

Robredo has said she accepted Duterte’s offer last year to help oversee the crackdown despite warnings by her advisers and allies, so she may be able to save lives under the campaign.

One of her first moves was to request confidential documents from law enforcers, including a list of key drug suspects targeted under Duterte’s campaign. Duterte warned Robredo about sharing confidential information about the anti-drug campaign with his foreign critics, including human rights advocates.

It’s the latest twist in the unprecedentedly massive crackdown Duterte launched after he took office in June 2016. He promised to end illegal drugs and corruption in six months during the campaign but failed and later acknowledged that he was overwhelmed when he found out the immensity of the problems after becoming president.

More than 6,000 mostly petty drug suspects have been killed in the crackdown after allegedly resisting arrests and more than a million others have surrendered, officials say. But human rights groups have cited a higher death toll and accused some policemen of killing unarmed suspects based on flimsy evidence and altering crime scenes to make it look like the suspects violently fought back.

At least two complaints for mass murder have been filed before the International Criminal Court over the large-scale deaths, but Duterte and the police have denied condoning extrajudicial killings under the crackdown.

Duterte has warned that his bloody campaign will continue up to the last day of his presidency in June 2022.

‘Honest Mistake’: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper Says No Decision to Leave Iraq Despite Letter

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 04:41 PM PST

WASHINGTON — Top Pentagon leaders said Monday that the United States has no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, despite a draft letter from a senior military officer that appeared to suggest plans for withdrawal were underway.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the U.S. is “moving forces around” Iraq and neighboring Kuwait. He said a draft letter circulated internally by a U.S. Marine commander was a “poorly written” honest mistake that should never have gotten out.

The draft letter appeared to suggest the U.S. was preparing to pull troops out of Iraq in response to a vote by the Iraqi Parliament over the weekend. The draft said troops would be “repositioning over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.” and warned of an increase in helicopter travel around the Green Zone. It added, “We respect your sovereignty decision to order our departure.”

Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, however, said the U.S. has been re-positioning troops, largely due to increased security threats from Iran. The letter was meant to coordinate with the Iraqi military on an increase in U.S. helicopter and troop movements as they shift positions around the country.

“There’s been no decision whatsover to leave Iraq,” Esper said. “There’s no decision to leave, nor did we issue any plans to leave or prepare to leave.”

Milley acknowledged that some language in the letter “implies withdrawal,” but said that ”is not what is happening.”

“The long and the short of it is, it’s an honest mistake,” he said, adding that he had just gotten off the phone with the U.S. commander in the Middle East, who explained the effort.

Esper said the U.S. remains committed to the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and the region.

Pro-Iran factions in the Iraqi Parliament have pushed to oust American troops following the killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad in a U.S. drone strike last week.

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Situation With Iran

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 03:02 PM PST

On Jan. 3, the U.S. military carried out a drone attack in Iraq. The attack killed Qasem Soleimani, a top military leader from Iran. The action comes after increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and has fueled anxiety about what might happen as a result. The situation is dominating the news, and children who hear about it are likely to have lots of questions.

We realize this is a difficult topic to explain to kids. TIME for Kids is here to help. The guide below offers talking points for how to answer questions about this tough topic. It’s not intended to be used as a script. It’s meant to arm you with the information you need if you choose to bring up the topic or if kids ask questions about it.

Trust your instincts. You know your kids best. Use that knowledge to gauge the depth and breadth of your discussion. Sometimes, it’s best to let a child take the lead and only answer the questions that are asked. Often, brief and simple answers can satisfy a child’s curiosity.

 

Who was Qasem Soleimani?

Qasem Soleimani was a top military leader in Iran, a country in the Middle East.

 

Why did the U.S. take action against Soleimani?

President Donald Trump has called Soleimani a terrorist. Trump says Soleimani ordered attacks on American military and diplomats and was planning attacks against Americans in the Middle East. For this reason, Trump ordered the U.S. military to kill Soleimani. The drone attack took place at an airport in Baghdad, in Iraq. An Iraqi leader was also killed.

The U.S. strike came after a series of recent attacks by Iran against Americans in Iraq. On Dec. 27, a rocket strike killed one American civilian and wounded several U.S. service members. There was also a Dec. 31 attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Trump says Soleimani ordered these attacks.

U.S. military leaders gave Trump several choices for how to respond to Iran’s actions. Killing Soleimani was considered the most extreme. Some top U.S. military and government officials have expressed surprise and concern about Trump’s decision. But the President insists it was in America’s best interest. “We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans, and our allies,” Trump said in a Jan. 3 address from his resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

 

How has Iran responded following Soleimani’s death?

Iran has called for three days of national mourning. Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, to protest Soleimani’s killing. Funeral services were held in Iran on Sunday and Monday. Iranian leaders say they will take action against the U.S. At this time, however, it is unclear how or when they will do so. Still, some kind of action is expected.

Majid Takht Ravanchi is Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations. “We cannot just remain silent,” he told CNN.

 

What will the U.S. do if Iran retaliates?

On Jan. 3, President Trump warned Iran not to retaliate. If it does, he said, the U.S. is “ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.” A day later, Trump wrote on Twitter that the U.S. had targeted 52 Iranian sites, including places that are important to Iranian culture. But according to international law, strikes on cultural sites are illegal.

Why don’t the U.S. and Iran get along?

The U.S. and Iran have a difficult relationship. It’s been this way for many years. In 1979, Iran took 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage. They were released after 444 days.

In 2018, tensions increased again after President Trump said the U.S. would no longer participate in a 2015 deal with Iran. This international agreement set strict limits for 15 years on Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons. In return, the U.S. and countries in the European Union agreed to end trade restrictions. When Trump pulled out of the agreement, the U.S. put trade restrictions back in place. This has hurt Iran’s economy.

Does the killing of Soleimani mean the U.S. and Iran are going to war?

Many people worry that the latest tensions between the U.S. and Iran could lead the U.S. to war in the Middle East. Following Soleimani’s death, the U.S. sent troops to the region. But President Trump has said he does not want war. “We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said in his Jan. 3 address. “We did not take action to start a war.”

Others wonder if Americans will be required to join the U.S. military if the U.S. and Iran do go to war. But the U.S. ended the draft in the 1970s after protests against the Vietnam War. Neither the President nor Congress have indicated they would bring back the draft.

The United Nations (U.N.) says steps should be taken to avoid war and decrease tensions between the U.S. and Iran. António Guterres leads the U.N. “This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint,” he said in a Jan. 3 statement.

 

If my child is feeling worried, what should I do?

Psychologist Paul Coleman, author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces, spoke to TIME’s Belinda Luscombe. He suggests following these SAFE steps:

Search for hidden questions or fears. Ask what else is on their mind about what happened, what their friends say about it, and what their biggest worry is right now.

Act. Keep routines going—homework, bedtime rituals, and so on—because they’re reassuring and distracting. “It is a good time to have them do kind things for others,” says Coleman.

Feel feelings. “Let them know their feelings make sense,” says Coleman. Let them talk it out and show that you understand.

Ease Minds. After you’re sure they’ve talked through their fears, you can assure them of their safety.

The Battle for India’s Founding Ideals

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 01:13 PM PST

They wore masks and carried sticks. On the evening of Jan. 5, a mob stormed into India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of the nation’s most prominent centers of learning and an institution long associated with left-wing politics. Both students and faculty were indiscriminately attacked, many were left beaten and bleeding. Ambulances were prevented from entering the campus. Political activist Yogendra Yadav was only one of many who observed that the police let the situation persist without intervening. Journalists posted a video of the masked individuals, who are alleged to be linked to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), being allowed to depart in complete freedom.

These events come after much of India has been engulfed in protests over a new citizenship law that treats Muslims differently to those from other religions. These protests , which have seen tens of thousands march across the nation, began in universities. The government’s reaction was swift and brutal. It encompassed both prohibitory measures, such as Internet shutdowns and the prevention of public assembly, as well as reactive measures, which included detention and violence. In Uttar Pradesh, a state which is home to more Indians than any other, the tales of police brutality would send a shiver down any spine.

Sunday’s attack underscores two crucial changes taking place in the world’s largest democracy. The first is to the country’s formal legal architecture. India’s founders, as I have suggested in a new book, India’s Founding Moment, imagined citizenship to be unmediated by community affiliation. For them, to belong to the modern world was to belong to representative framework where each person was treated on free and equal terms. Measures like the new citizenship law challenge and undermine this founding vision. The law enables “any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan” to become an Indian citizen, thereby explicitly excluding Muslims.

India’s Constitution guarantees the right to equal treatment. This right applies to all persons and not only to citizens. To pass muster, a law has to make an intelligible distinction between those that it includes and those that it excludes. Moreover, this distinction has to bear a rational connection to the law’s objective. In this case, the stated objective is addressing the religious persecution of the enumerated classes. But the law does not capture this objective as it is both over- and under-inclusive. It does not provide protection to groups such as the Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan and it assumes that all those who enter India from the specified classes are persecuted. This presumption is revealed by the fact that the law has no provisions relating to religious persecution at all, thus eliminating any link between the distinctions drawn and the declared aim.

The provisions make it clear that it is one’s religion that separates a person eligible for citizenship from an illegal migrant. Hindus and others belong to the former category; Muslims are condemned to the latter one. By using a religious-based test for membership, the law also breaches the Indian Constitution’s commitment to secularism, one that the Supreme Court has confirmed to be even beyond the power of a constitutional amendment. In a crucial decision in the early 1990s, the Court held that when a state government departs from secular principles, it amounts to the breakdown of constitutional machinery. But if the legal case against the law could hardly be stronger, the Court has rarely been so weak. In recent months, its authority appears to have been entirely eroded, and its decimation has paved the way for a new constitutional order to emerge.

The second change going on in India pertains to extra-constitutional violence. All societies face law and order challenges, and they all must confront the use of force by non-state actors. But the situation in India is of an altogether different nature. Here, one is faced with a case where some of the police force seem to share an inextricable relationship with the perpetration of force. The police are either directly responsible for the violence, as suggested by reports that have emerged out of Uttar Pradesh, where the very machinery of law and order appears to have been communalized, or responsible for providing cover for the violence, which appears to be the case in Jawaharlal Nehru University, where the masked men were allowed to run amok and then to run away. In either instance, there is now the creation and perpetuation of an extra-constitutional order.

As India is thrown deeper and deeper into a cycle of extra-constitutional violence, we should fear that the state and citizens will struggle to manage the situation. In such scenarios, the disorder and horror often follows a logic of its own. If India continues to unravel in this fashion, there will be unspeakable acts on either side, untold truths that are hidden in every quarter. Even the most terrifying moves will be justified, even the clearest forms of evidence will be challenged. In a world where public institutions and social harmony have given way, we will live under a state that claims monopoly over the exercise of force but no longer quite enjoys it. The state will deploy and exploit its power in every possible way, but, as in the case of colonial rule, the idea of legitimate authority will cease to have meaning.

If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. India wouldn’t be the first country to self-destruct, and its time may well have come. To stem the tide, to prevent a swift decline into communalism and authoritarianism, the outrage seen on the streets will need to translate into a robust and organized political opposition. In one of the images that spread across social media during the early days of the citizenship-related protests, students held images of Mohandas Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar, among two of the most significant figures that laid the foundations for modern India. The image was telling in two respects. On the one hand, it gave the protests an anti-colonial feel, capturing the anger and fear that results from unbridled and unhinged state power. On the other hand, it revealed the need to recover past leaders, for no present ones exist. Many Indians are in search of a more contemporary reference point. Will they find it?

British Lawmaker Comes Out as Pansexual, Criticizes Newspaper For Allegedly Trying To Out Her

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 07:59 AM PST

A British lawmaker has criticized the U.K.’s tabloid press, saying journalists threatened to reveal her same-sex relationship without her consent.

Layla Moran, a lawmaker from the Liberal Democrat party representing the constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon, announced she is pansexual and in a relationship with a woman in a tweet posted on Jan. 2. (Moran’s partner, Rosy Cobb, is a former head of media for the Liberal Democrats. She left her position after a scandal in which she allegedly forged an email.)

Moran is believed to be the first openly pansexual lawmaker in the United Kingdom.

“Pansexuality, to me, means it doesn’t matter about the physical attributions of the person you fall in love with, it’s about the person themselves,” Moran told PinkNews, a British LGBT publication. (“Being pansexual means being attracted to all gender identities,” as per a GLAAD definition, “or attracted to people regardless of gender.”)

But she criticized a British tabloid newspaper for its role in events leading up to the announcement, and for essentially forcing her to come out.

“Although I am happy to have talked openly about my sexuality and had already told many friends and family, the timing of speaking publicly wasn’t on my own terms,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Indy 100 news website on Monday.

Moran said that journalists from The Mail on Sunday had been calling people close to her for months and “attempting to make [my] relationship salacious or sensational.”

The newspaper had agreed to hold its story revealing her same-sex relationship after Moran pleaded with them to let her tell her 92 year-old grandmother first, she alleged. “I pleaded with them to wait,” Moran wrote. “I couldn’t bear the idea she would see it before anything else.”

But Moran said she “believed they would publish” the story regardless, so she decided to tell the world, along with her grandmother, on her own terms. “[I] decided to take back the control that I feared would be stolen from me,” she wrote.

Moran also criticized the Mail on Sunday for a follow-up story published Sunday by the newspaper’s political editor, which prominently quoted anonymous users of an online forum criticizing her for “weaponizing” her sexuality to “look woke.”

“The story frames my actions, my telling of my story, as a calculated plan,” Moran wrote. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. While I am proud of who I am, it was the media who I felt intimidated me… It’s possible that to some journalists and readers this is a jolly jape where they get one over me, but to me, this is my life.”

The newspaper said its journalists’ questions to Moran were for a story about whether her relationship with Cobb was a conflict of interest.

“The Mail on Sunday approached Ms Moran last weekend with questions about whether her relationship with Ms Cobb represented a conflict of interest,” the paper stated in its Sunday article. “We agreed not to run a story after Ms Moran invoked her right to keep her sexuality private: she then announced it herself five days later.”

The Mail on Sunday did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

‘Most Prolific Rapist in British History’ Sentenced to Life in Prison, Filmed Assaults of Nearly 200 Men

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 07:50 AM PST

(LONDON) — A man described as “the most prolific rapist in British legal history” has been sentenced to life in prison with a possible release after 30 years following his conviction for sexual offenses against 48 men.

Authorities said the evidence against 36-year-old Reynhard Sinaga indicates he had many more victims, with roughly 195 men apparently having been filmed while being abused when they were in his apartment. Many were unconscious at the time.

Judge Suzanne Goddard said in Manchester Crown Court the true number of Sinaga’s victims may never be known.

“You are an evil serial sexual predator who has preyed upon young men who came into the city center wanting nothing more than a good night out with their friends,” she said. “One of your victims described you as a monster. The scale and enormity of your offending confirms this as an accurate description.”

She said the courts had rarely if ever seen such a prolonged “campaign of rape.” Reporting restrictions that had prevented the publication of Sinaga’s name were lifted Monday.

Prosecutors say Sinaga had a non-threatening manner. He befriended young men, including many who were intoxicated after a night out, and offered them a place to stay at his apartment. He filmed many of the forced sexual encounters.

Prosecutor Ian Rushton said many victims initially thanked Sinaga for offering them accommodation. “But once back at his flat, he used victims as objects purely for his own gratification,” Rushton said.

Sinaga arrived in Britain from his native Indonesia on a student visa in 2007. He received two degrees in sociology and planning from the University of Manchester and was studying for his PhD at the University of Leeds when he was suspended following his arrest in 2017.

His thesis was called: “Sexuality and everyday transnationalism: South Asian gay and bisexual men in Manchester.”

His Manchester church offered a statement in support of his character that did not seem to sway the judge. “It is almost beyond belief that someone who could profess some Christian faith could at the same time have been committing such wicked and evil crimes,” she said.

‘We Promise to Continue Down Martyr Soleimani’s Path.’ Huge Crowds of Mourners in Tehran Attend Funeral For Qasem Soleimani

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 05:28 AM PST

(TEHRAN, Iran) — Weeping amid wails from a sea of mourners, Iran’s supreme leader on Monday prayed over the remains of a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, an attack that’s drastically raised tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The targeted killing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qasem Soleimani drew a crowd, said by police to be in the millions, on Monday in Tehran, where Soleimani’s replacement vowed to take revenge. Additionally, Tehran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying while in Iraq, the parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.

Read more: How Qasem Soleimani’s Assassination in Iraq Comes at a Fraught Moment for Trump

The developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb, set off a proxy or military attack launched by Tehran against America and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.

March in Tehran for Iranian Commander Killed in U.S. Airstrike
Ali Mohammadi—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesMourners attend the funeral ceremony of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, on Jan. 6, 2020.

Adding to the tensions, President Donald Trump threatened to demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” if it goes through with expelling U.S. troops.

Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab, directly threatened an attack on the U.S. military in the Mideast while speaking to a crowd that stretched as far as the eye could see down major thoroughfares in Iran’s capital.

“The families of the American soldiers in western Asia … will spend their days waiting for the death of their children,” she said to cheers. Iranian state television and others online shared a video that showed Trump’s American flag tweet following Soleimani’s killing turn into a coffin, the “likes” of the tweet replaced by over 143,000 “killed” with the hashtag #severerevenge.

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani in Iran
Iranian Leader Press Office—Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesZainab Soleimani, daughter of Qasem Soleimani, makes a speech during her father’s funeral in Tehran on Jan. 06, 2020.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself prayed over the caskets of Soleimani and others slain in the attack. Khamenei, who had a close relationship with Soleimani, wept at one point during the traditional Muslim prayers for the dead. The crowd wailed.

Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani stood near Khamenei’s side, as did Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other top leaders in the Islamic Republic. While Iran recently faced nationwide protests over government-set gasoline prices that reportedly killed over 300 people, Soleimani’s mass processionals has seen politicians and leaders across the Islamic Republic’s political spectrum take part, temporarily silencing that anger.

Demonstrators burned Israeli and U.S. flags, carried a flag-draped U.S. coffin or effigies of Trump. Some described Trump himself as a legitimate target for Iran’s revenge.

Mohammad Milad Rashidi, a 26-year-old university graduate, predicted more tension ahead.

“Trump demolished the chance for any sort of possible agreement between Tehran and Washington,” Rashidi said. “There will be more conflict in the future for sure.”

Read more: Iran Has Vowed Revenge Against the U.S. for Killing Qasem Soleimani. Here’s What May Happen Next

Ghaani made his own threat in an interview with Iranian state television aired Monday. “God the Almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly actions will be taken,” he said.

Markets reacted Monday to the tensions, sending international benchmark Brent crude above $70 a barrel. The Middle East remains a crucial source of oil and Iran in the past has threatened the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all the world’s oil traded passes.

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani in Iran
Iranian Leader Press Office—Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesNew Quds Force leader Gen. Esmail Qaani cries during the funeral ceremony of Qasem Soleimani in Tehran on Jan. 06, 2020.

Ghaani, a longtime Soleimani deputy, has now taken over as the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, an expeditionary arm of the paramilitary organization answerable only to Khamenei. Ghaani has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2012 for his work funding its operations around the world, including its work with proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Those proxies likely will be involved in any operation targeting U.S. interests in the Mideast or elsewhere in the world.

Already, the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.” In Lebanon, the leader of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah said Soleimani’s killing made U.S. military bases, warships and service members across the region fair game for attacks. A former Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and others could be targeted should the U.S. attack Iran.

“We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani’s path as firmly as before with help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to get rid of America from the region,” Ghaani said.

The head of the Guard’s aerospace program, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, suggested Iran’s response wouldn’t stop with a single attack.

“Firing a couple of missiles, hitting a base or even killing Trump is not valuable enough to compensate for martyr Soleimani’s blood,” Hajizadeh said on state TV. “The only thing that can compensate for his blood is the complete removal of America from the region and taking away their evil from the oppressed people of the region.”

On the nuclear deal, Iranian state television cited Sunday a statement by Rouhani’s administration saying the country would not observe the nuclear deal’s restrictions on fuel enrichment, on the size of its enriched uranium stockpile and on its research and development activities.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson specifically urged Iran to “withdraw all measures” not in line with the 2015 agreement that was intended to stop Tehran from pursuing its atomic weapons program.

Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners over its nuclear program. And it did not back off from earlier promises that it wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions last year. It further raises regional tensions, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.

Iran did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program. Tehran has already broken some of the deal’s limits as part of a step-by-step pressure campaign to get sanctions relief. It already has increased its production, begun enriching uranium to 5% and restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

While it does not possess uranium enriched to weapons-grade levels of 90%, any push forward narrows the estimated one-year “breakout time” needed for it to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon if it chose to do so.

Funeral Procession For Iran's General Qasem Soleimani
Morteza Nikoubazl—NurPhoto/Getty ImagesIranian policemen stand in front of portraits of Qasem Soleimani before his funeral in Tehran on Jan. 6, 2020.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s program, did not respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”

Soleimani’s killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of back-and-forth attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. Iran has promised “harsh revenge” while Trump has vowed on Twitter that the U.S. will strike back at 52 targets “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. ”

He doubled down on that threat Sunday, dismissing warnings that targeting cultural sites could be a war crime under international law.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump told reporters.

The processions for Soleimani mark the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic, received such a processional with his death in 1989.

Soleimani will be buried in his hometown of Kerman.

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Here’s What’s at Stake in Taiwan’s Presidential Election

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 02:17 AM PST

As the only place in the Chinese-speaking world where people can choose their top political leader, it’s unsurprising that elections in Taiwan embody democracy at its unbridled messiest: febrile, rambunctious and dripping in color. This year is no different. The island of 23 million heads to the ballot box on Saturday following a campaign dominated by fake news from malevolent actors, sexist personal attacks and fist-pumping speeches.

The growing clout of Beijing looms large over the island. China’s strongman President Xi Jinping has been blunt about the need to politically reunite self-governing Taiwan with the mainland. The past four years has seen seven diplomatic allies switch to Beijing—only 15 nations still recognize the government in Taipei—and repeated threats of invasion.

How best to safeguard the island’s democratic way of life has dominated the election, which pits the anti-China incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen against the more pro-Beijing challenger Han Kuo-yu.

Deteriorating cross-Strait relations are worrisome for the U.S., which maintains Taiwan as an unofficial ally.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 Taiwan presidential election.

What’s at stake?

Taiwan has ruled itself since effectively splitting from the mainland following the Nationalists’ flight across the Taiwan Strait in 1949 following China’s civil war. Relations between Taipei and Beijing had improved thanks to the “One China” principle, which states that the island and mainland belong to the same country, even if the governments of Beijing and Taipei bicker over which is the legitimate power. Today, Taiwan’s unfortunate distinction is that it has every characteristic of a state—people, territory, economy, military, government—except recognition by the U.N. and most governments. (The U.S. switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing under Jimmy Carter in 1979, though maintains a host of unofficial ties with Taiwan.)

Although the island’s population is over 95% ethnic Han Chinese, over the previous half-century they have been politically divided between those who migrated alongside Nationalist Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek 70 years ago and those who were already on the island, and identify as Taiwanese above all. Historically, the former have supported the Nationalists, or Kuomintang (KMT), while the latter back the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Taiwan democratized in the early 1990s and enjoyed an export-driven boom. The island’s economy ranks 21st in the world with a GDP per capita about three times that of the mainland. It has switched from low-end manufacturing to advanced design and production for semi-conductors, AI and biotech. Still, like fellow “tiger economies” Japan and South Korea, in recent years Taiwan has fallen victim to the middle-income trap with sluggish growth and stagnant wages.

But it is relations with China that have dominated the election campaign. Last January, Xi suggested Taiwan would enjoy the same system of semi-autonomy, known as “one country, two systems,” under which Hong Kong has been ruled since its 1997 takeover by Beijing. However, ferocious and increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in the freewheeling former British colony have galvanized opposition to any such arrangement.

Recent surveys show some 80% of Taiwan’s people reject political union with China. Most back the island’s current status of de facto independence, given Beijing has vowed formal secession would draw a military response. There’s also a fear that conflict with Taiwan might become an easy distraction for Beijing if its slowing economy sparks popular unrest. “That’s probably the biggest threat to Taiwan right now,” says Shelley Rigger, an East Asia expert at Davidson College in North Carolina and author of Why Taiwan Matters.

The ballot is taking place just over a week after a helicopter crash killed eight military officials including Gen. Shen Yi-ming, who had taken over as chief of the general staff in July and was Taiwan’s top military officer.

Who are the main candidates?

The campaign is widely seen as a two-way race between incumbent President Tsai for the DPP and Kaoshiung Mayor Han for the KMT. A third candidate, People First Party candidate James Soong, brings up the rear.

Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan Pres. Tsai Ing-wen ahead of election
Kyodo News/AP Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party attends a campaign rally in Tainan on Jan. 5, 2020.

Elected president in a landslide in 2016, Tsai, 63, is a U.S. and U.K.-trained lawyer and academic with a reputation as “bookish and aloof,” says Rigger. Although Tsai is of southern Taiwanese stock, she was born in Taipei and grew up among the capital’s KMT-dominated educated elite. One grandmother belongs to Taiwan’s Paiwan aboriginal group, famed for their intricate wood and slate carvings.

Tsai first entering government in 1994 with roles in the Fair Trade Commission, National Security Council and Mainland Affairs Council. Tsai’s popularity plummeted over her first term as president due to a series of scandals. Her decision to overhaul Taiwan’s lavish state pension system resulted in chastening local election results in 2018. At one point she had a 30-point deficit to her KMT rival. However, her poll numbers have since recovered, helped not least by the turmoil engulfing Hong Kong.

“After the local election she realized she needed more face-to-face communication with the people,” Jason Liu, Deputy Secretary-General of Presidential Office, tells TIME in his Taipei office. “Since then she has cut time in internal meetings and increased that she spends outside meeting the people.”

Tsai’s refusal to endorse the idea that Taiwan and China must and always will be the one nation makes her anathema to Beijing. Taipei has also accused Beijing of orchestrating a campaign of misinformation against her. In recent months, Tsai has been falsely accused of everything from installing artwork bearing an enormous quote from Mao Zedong in her Presidential Office to faking her doctoral dissertation. (The Chinese government denies any such campaign.)

She has also been the subject the of a series of spiteful, misogynistic attacks from opponents who claim that an unwed, childless woman isn’t qualified to lead the next generation.

Nevertheless, she’s clear favorite for reelection.

Han Kuo-yu

Han Kuo-yu
Chiang Ying-ying–APTaiwan’s 2020 presidential election candidate, KMT or Nationalist Party’s Han Kuo-yu, delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019.

The populist Han, 62, has been described as Taiwan’s Donald Trump for good reason. When he’s not leading diehard supporters—known as the “Han Wave”—in nostalgic and patriotic songs on the stump, he’s making outlandish promises, such as drilling for oil in the contested South China Sea and bringing casinos and Formula One motor races to Taiwan.

An undeniably colorful character, Han has been accusing of having links to a gangster and once punched fellow lawmaker and future DPP President Chen Shui-bian within the parliament building, hospitalizing him for three days. However, unlike Trump, Han doesn’t vilify particular social or ethnic groups and has no problem making fun of himself, especially his bald head.

Few thought Han would be win the KMT nomination, especially given his opponent was the popular and fabulously well-resourced billionaire Foxconn CEO Terry Gou. But Han is used to pulling off the miraculous. His stock within the party had fallen so far that many saw his assignment to run as mayor in the DPP stronghold of Kaohsiung in 2018 as a punishment—so slender seemed the possibility of victory. Han shocked everyone by orchestrating a stunning victory, wresting Taiwan’s third-largest city from 20 years of DPP control, helped by the backlash against Tsai’s pension reforms. In the end, he bested Gou, too.

Han says building ties with Beijing can ultimately better safeguard Taiwan’s de facto sovereignty, describing the two sides as “one family” during speeches. But he has also rejected “one country, two systems” as a formula for reuniting the estranged territories.

Still, Han’s Beijing-friendly stance has put off many fearful of soft colonization via Taiwan’s growing economic reliance on the mainland. China is Taiwan’s top trading partner, with trade totaling $226 billion in 2018; Taiwan companies have over $100 billion invested in China, reports Reuters.

What does this mean for the U.S.?

Although Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing to in 1979, that same year Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which obliges the U.S. government to sell the island weaponry necessary for its own defense among other security guarantees.

Still, Trump’s transactional record on foreign policy has caused palpable anxiety over whether the U.S. would flip on Taiwan. The recent U.S. withdrawal from the Syrian border with Turkey spotlights how quickly the mercurial U.S. President can turn on allies, this time the Kurds. And Trump has long prided himself in doing what other leaders consider unthinkable­—the sudden suspension of U.S.-South Korea military drills during denuclearization talks with Kim Jong Un, for one.

Yet there’s much evidence to suggest U.S. support for Taiwan remains robust as the U.S. relationship with China becomes more acrimonious generally. Last year, Trump signed the bipartisan Taiwan Travel Act, which boosts the exchange of high-level officials, prompting the Chinese embassy in Washington to complain the law’s clauses “severely violate the One China principle.”

Taiwan also just purchased $2.2 billion of American weaponry, including Abrams tanks, much to Beijing’s ire. In late October, a bill to protect Taiwan from Chinese diplomatic pressure won approval in the U.S. Senate.

That same month, Ted Cruz became the first U.S. Senator in 35 years to attend Taiwan’s National Day celebration. When it comes to support for Taiwan, Cruz tells TIME, “the United States will not be bullied and will not back down.”

—With reporting by Gladys Tsai/Taipei