The U.S. has officially blamed Iran for recent attacks near Washington’s diplomatic presence in Iraq, where the two powers have competed for influence in the latest venue of a decades-long feud sparked by an embassy hostage crisis.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that “Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq” and was “to blame for the attacks against our mission in Basra and our embassy in Baghdad,” adding that his department’s “intelligence in this regard is solid.” Iran has the support of a number of semi-official Shiite Muslim militias across Iraq, and Pompeo cited “repeated incidents of indirect fire from elements of those militias” against the two U.S. sites in a Friday statement announcing the closure of the consulate general in the southern city of Basra.
Iran, whose own consulate general in Basra was burned down last month, has rejected these charges. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi said Saturday that “the ridiculous justification [provided by Americans] for the closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Basra, which came after weeks of propaganda and false allegations against Iran and the Iraqi forces, is a suspicious move aimed at evading responsibility and pinning the blame on others responsibility and pinning the blame on others”
As unrest once again grips Iraq, the ripples of a long-standing dispute between the U.S. and Iran has again highlighted a history of both countries targeting one another’s diplomats.
Poisoned relations between the U.S. and Iran began in 1979. Prior to that, Iran was under the rule of the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the U.S. stepped in to protect British oil interests when Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh challenged the monarch’s absolute power and tried to nationalize the energy sector. With Mossadegh deposed and imprisoned in a 1953 CIA-sponsored coup, Pahlavi went on to rule for another quarter of a century before he himself was forced to flee the Islamic Revolution, which brought the current revolutionary Shiite Muslim government into power.
Upset over Western meddling in Iranian affairs and demanding that an ill Pahlavi be extradited to face justice at home, supporters of the new clerical administration overran the U.S. Embassy and held 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens hostage. A U.S. Army attempt to rescue the detainees by force ended in failure when a helicopter crashed into a transport aircraft, killing eight soldiers. An Iranian civilian was also killed when U.S. forces bombed the truck he was riding in.
The hostages were ultimately released on the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981 following extensive negotiations. Although the U.S. would go on to secretly sell arms to Iran while also supporting Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, relations between Washington and Tehran were effectively squashed. Their relationship further deteriorated with growing Iranian support for foreign Shiite Muslim movements such as the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of whom have been blamed for the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut—an attack that killed up to 63 people, including 17 U.S. officials and soldiers.
The U.S. officially embargoed Iranian trade in 1995 and these sanctions expanded as Iran embarked on a nuclear program, which Tehran always maintained was solely for peaceful purposes. Though Iran was a bitter opponent of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it also backed Shiite Muslim insurgents targeting U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion that toppled him as it expanded ties with the new majority-Shiite Muslim administration in Baghdad. In January 2007, the U.S. raided the Iranian Liaison Office in Erbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Region, accusing five staff members of being agents of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and detaining them.
The local Kurdish government, which had ties to both the U.S. and Iran, vouched for the individuals and prevented the U.S. from detaining other individuals at Erbil’s airport. The five liaison office employees were ultimately released two and a half years later in 2009 as part of the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which sought to establish a framework for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran remained largely frozen until President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began negotiations to lift international sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to considerably restrict its nuclear activities. A multinational accord endorsed by both parties, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., was announced in June 2015.
President Donald Trump, however, has accused Iran of using unfrozen funds to further destabilize the region via support for paramilitary movements and the development of ballistic missiles. Capitalizing on conservative outrage toward the nuclear deal, he demanded that the terms be renegotiated, something that Iran has refused to consider. Even as both the U.S. and Iran devoted assets toward battling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), relations again declined rapidly and Trump announced that he would leave the nuclear agreement in May.
The Trump administration has continued to press the international community to isolate Iran, even without the support of European allies and major powers China and Russia. The U.S. has increasingly aligned its position with that of longtime Iranian foes Israel and Saudi Arabia, which itself severed ties with the Islamic Republic after protestors responded to the kingdom’s execution of an influential Shiite Muslim cleric by torching Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran in early 2016.
(UPI) — The U.S. government has closed a U.S. consulate in Iraq temporarily and evacuated diplomats over security risks from Iran, administration officials said.
The U.S. consulate in the southern Iraq city of Basra was shut down Friday hours after a rocket attack in the area blamed on Iranian-backed militias.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo ordered the evacuation of diplomats from the consulate, the U.S. U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Iraq announced in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will continue providing consular service in the area, the statement said.
The southern part of Iraq has faced violent protests against government corruption and lack of basic services since June with arson attacks of several government buildings earlier this month.
“We remain strongly committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and throughout the country,” U.S. Department of State Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Hours before Pompeo’s decision to close the consulate, rockets or mortars landed near the building, an official said.
The U.S. consulate has faced credible threats from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal.
On Friday, a senior Iran military leader warned the United States against crossing Iran’s “red lines.”
Brigadier General Hossein Salami said the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on a military parade Saturday in southwest Iran that killed at least 29 people were backed by regional elements including the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo denies that the United States had anything to do with the military parade attack.
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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Three people were killed in a suicide car bombing by Islamist group al Shabaab which hit a European Union armoured convoy in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, police and an emergency service worker said.
The blast struck the convoy around 12:10 PM local time on Industrial Road, a major thoroughfare in the heart of the city.
“We carried two dead locals and four others injured,” Abdikadir Abdirahman of AMIN Ambulance Services told Reuters.
Police said the bomber had also died in the blast.
A Reuters witness saw men towing their damaged vehicle after the explosion hit its rear end. The armoured vehicles had Italian and EU flags on them.
The al Shabaab group, which frequently carries out attacks in the Horn of Africa country, claimed responsibility.
The Italian military said a convoy of five vehicles returning from a training activity had been attacked but that no one was wounded or killed.
“The vehicle, with four soldiers on board, was slightly damaged and able to return to the base,” it said.
Al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and impose its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
The European Union is one of the major sources of funding for the African Union-mandated peace-keeping force AMISOM which helps defend Somalia’s central government against the Islamists.
Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since the early 1990s after the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Additional reporting Steve Scherer in Rome; writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by William Maclean, Ed Osmond
Brazilians are as worried as ever about getting shot while driving, but have less money in a stagnant economy to spend on protecting themselves. Enter the second-hand bulletproof car.
Whether to provide genuinely-needed protection or just to show off, the bulletproofed personal vehicle has usually been associated with the rich, but in Brazil, armored cars are far more common than in most countries.
Industry experts consider Brazil’s $245 million (one billion reais) bulletproofing industry the largest in the world.
But with an economy only just crawling out of recession –- one percent growth in 2017 came on the heels of a steep two year-recession — worried drivers are searching for budget options.
“I like cars, but I don’t feel comfortable spending a lot of money on one,” said lawyer Mauricio Paulo, who drives a second-hand bulletproof Volvo XC 60.
This is the 40-year-old Paulo’s fourth armored vehicle.
He got his first armored car after being robbed while he stopped at a traffic light. The birth of his daughter 18 months ago convinced him he still needs to have one — and stay frugal.
“I need a bulletproof car because of lack of safety,” he said. “I went for a used car because I’m going to spend less money to move around safely.”
To modify a car costs around $13,000 (53,600 reais), pretty much like buying an additional vehicle.
Going for an already used and already armored vehicle gets the price tag down by between 10 and 40 percent, according to varying estimates from dealers and owners.
Armored vehicle capital
Another big market, Mexico, bulletproofed 2,986 cars in 2017, one of the best years the industry there has had. But even in a tough climate last year, Brazil’s armoring industry still put out over 15,000.
Armored private vehicles are especially common among the middle class in the economic hub of Sao Paulo, regardless of the fact that the mega-city is one of the safest parts in an often extremely violent country.
Almost three quarters of bulletproofing work is done in Sao Paulo state, and most of the country’s 150,000 armored vehicles are also in the state, according to the bulletproofing association Abrablin.
Neither Abrablin nor the used car sellers’ body Fenauto keeps track of second-hand armored sales.
But industry experts say it is a real trend here.
“This year, the used car market is hot,” said Fabio Rovedo de Mello, director of a Sao Paulo-based bulletproofing company.
“Because of the situation the country is going through, the demand for used cars has gone up.”
Sales of new cars, in general, plummeted to a 10-year low in 2016 in Brazil. The niche market in new armored cars mirrored the trend, dropping 20 percent last year, compared to 2016.
“When the new market doesn’t sell, there’s higher demand for used cars, because a person can’t afford to buy a new one,” said Abrablin president Marcelo Christiansen, who also heads up a bulletproofing firm.
“Armored cars are a lot more expensive, so the option was to go for a used car that fell within my budget,” said Eliane Wakatsuki, 39, a manager at a hydroelectric firm, who was test-driving a used Mercedes Benz GLA 200 at a luxury bulletproofing outfit. Even those drivers who still buy new cars and get the armoring added are looking for deals.
Last year, the best-selling new car for bulletproofing was the Toyota Corolla, the cheapest and smallest that can handle armor, which can add up to 12 percent to the vehicle’s body weight.
LONDON (Reuters) – Iran said on Saturday that Kurdish activists attacked its embassy in Paris and it accused French police of arriving late on the scene.
Paris police confirmed officers had responded to an incident at the embassy on Friday afternoon, but declined to comment on the speed of their response.
Fars news agency reported that about 15 Kurdish activists burned the Iranian flag in front of the embassy during the incident and broke some windows with stones.
They also threw fire extinguishers and computers at the gate
but did not manage to enter the premises, Fars said.
“The French government should take all necessary measures to protect Iranian diplomatic missions in that country,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, the French police did not arrive as expected on the scene on time, although the assailants were members of a terrorist organization,” he said.
Qasemi said some of the attackers were arrested.
Paris police told Reuters that officers had detained a dozen individuals outside the embassy but that they were released when the embassy said it would not seek charges against them.
“A security detail was put in place with the embassy’s full agreement,” Paris police added.
However, Qasemi said Iran has asked France to put on trial and punish the assailants, and to inform the Iranian government of the verdicts.
Tehran has accused France of supporting opposition groups which seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and are classified by Tehran as terrorist organizations. France has rejected Iranian accusations.
Last week, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards fired seven missiles at the headquarters in northern Iraq of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), an armed opposition group that fights for greater autonomy for Iran’s Kurdish community.
Iranian media said at least 11 people were killed.
France has already told its diplomats and foreign ministry officials to postpone indefinitely all non-essential travel to Iran, citing a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France.
France is also investigating a foiled plot to bomb a rally held by an exiled Iranian opposition group near Paris that was attended by U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani on June 30.
An Iranian diplomat was arrested in Germany in connection with that plot.
Any hardening of relations with France could have wider implications for Iran. France has been one of the strongest advocates of salvaging a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which Trump pulled out of in May.
Turkish police detained two more people on Aug. 24 for their suspected links to the United States Embassy drive-by shooting in the Turkish capital Ankara on Aug. 20, said state-run Anadolu Agency, citing a police source.
The latest detentions on Aug. 24 raise the total number of detainees to four.
The suspects were taken in for interrogation, the source said.
The detention period was extended for suspects Ahmet Çelikten and Osman Gündaş, who were detained on Aug. 20, the source added.
According to the Ankara Governor’s Office, the suspects confessed to their involvement in the attack.
Çelikten, 39, and Gündaş, 38, were detained after six shots were fired from a white vehicle at the U.S. Embassy’s main entrance in Ankara at 5:30 a.m. local time on Aug. 20. Three bullets hit the metal door and glass panel of the security cabin, causing no casualties.
“I had called Osman [Gündaş] that night and we met. We drank and drove around. We talked about the dollar crisis, about the U.S. threats against Turkey and about the recent statements of the U.S. president. Then we got angry and decided to shoot at the U.S. Embassy under the influence of alcohol,” Çelikten said previously in his police testimony.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyans and Tanzanians on Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in their countries that killed more than 250 people, with hundreds of local survivors calling on the U.S. government for compensation.
The explosions on Aug. 7, 1998, were the first major al-Qaida attack on U.S. targets. Nearly 5,000 people were injured.
The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, said the extremists wanted to cause a rift between Kenyans and Americans but failed.
“Their immediate purpose was to kill and destroy, but they had more in mind. They sought to divide us, to divide friends … to undermine the values we hold dear, to destroy civilization itself and to replace it with a nightmare of oppression,” Godec said.
In a separate statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “our partnership with our African allies remains stronger than ever.”
One survivor of the Nairobi attack said hundreds of Kenyans were still pursuing compensation from the U.S., while U.S. citizens working in the embassy had been compensated.
Douglas Sidialo, spokesman with the Kenyan victims’ association, was blinded in the attack.
“You have to ask, do they care about the dreams and aspirations of the survivors? The unity the ambassador is talking about is a fallacy,” Sidialo said.
The push to aid Kenyan victims is now focused on the U.S. Congress, Washington-based attorney Philip Musolino, who is representing 538 victims with compensation claims, was quoted in Kenya’s leading newspaper The Daily Nation on Tuesday as saying.
The embassy bombings brought al-Qaida to the attention of the U.S. public and the world three years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.
Kenya has remained under threat from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group based in neighboring Somalia. The group claimed responsibility for the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, that killed 67 people and the 2015 Garissa University attack that killed 147 people, mostly students.
Al-Shabab more recently has been targeting Kenyan security forces, with nearly 100 police officers killed since May 2017 in bombings and ambushes.
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Three gunmen shot their way into the main regional government building in the city of Irbil in northern Iraq on Monday morning before all three were killed by security forces.
One employee was killed and four security force members were injured during a shootout with the militants, who had taken control of the third floor of the governorate building in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
“We believe that the attackers are from Islamic State because of the tactics they used in breaking into the building from the main gate. Two gunmen used pistols to shoot at the guards,” a security official was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Irbil, which typically enjoys good security, was the site of a major attack on the US Consulate in 2015. The IS-claimed attack killed three people and wounded five others.
BERLIN — An Iranian diplomat is suspected of involvement in a bomb plot against an Iranian opposition rally in France. Assadollah Assadi was charged in Germany on Wednesday with activity as a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit murder.
Assadi, a Vienna-based diplomat, is suspected of contracting a couple in Belgium to attack an annual meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in Villepinte, near Paris, German federal prosecutors said.
He allegedly gave the Antwerp-based couple a device containing 500 grams of the explosive TATP during a meeting in Luxembourg in late June, prosecutors said in a written statement.
Assadi was detained earlier this month near the German city of Aschaffenburg on a European warrant after the couple with Iranian roots was stopped in Belgium and authorities reported finding powerful explosives in their car.
In their statement, German prosecutors allege that Assadi, who has been registered as a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna since 2014, was a member of the Iranian intelligence service “Ministry of Intelligence and Security,” whose tasks “primarily include the intensive observation and combatting of opposition groups inside and outside of Iran.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of using its embassies to plot extremist attacks in Europe and warned Tehran that its actions have “a real high cost” after it threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies.
“Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We have seen this malign behavior in Europe,” Pompeo said Tuesday in an interview with Sky News Arabia during a short trip to the United Arab Emirates.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called the allegations of a foiled extremist plot a ploy.
Belgian authorities also accuse Assadi of being part of the alleged plot reportedly aimed at setting off explosives at a huge annual rally of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq group, or MEK, in neighboring France, and want him extradited.
German prosecutors said their investigation wouldn’t hinder Belgium’s extradition request for the suspect.
Meanwhile, an Iranian who resides in Belgium and was detained in France agreed on Wednesday to be turned over to Belgian authorities, who had issued a European arrest warrant, a French judicial official told the Associated Press.
The suspect, identified as Mehrdad Arefani, 54, will be handed over within 10 days, and go before an investigating magistrate there, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly in an ongoing case and asked not to be identified.
The MEK is an exiled Iranian opposition group based near Paris with some members, in particular, in Albania. The formerly armed group was removed from European Union and U.S. terrorism lists several years ago after denouncing violence and getting western politicians to lobby on its behalf.
WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan Monday to see what progress has been made nearly one year after President Trump announced his new “South Asia strategy.”
While he touted successes and said the strategy “is indeed working,” much of the evidence points to the contrary – a continued stalemate nearly 17 years after the U.S. war there began.
Just days before his visit, an American soldier was killed in an insider attack, the third fatality in Afghanistan this year. The Taliban are said to contest control of a majority of Afghan districts, according to analysts. And even Pompeo himself was limited in his travel during his brief time on the ground out of safety concerns.
“My conclusion from this visit is that the president’s strategy is indeed working,” Pompeo said at a press conference in Kabul alongside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, arguing it “has sent a clear message too to the Taliban: They cannot wait us out. And we are beginning to see the results both on the battlefield where the Taliban’s momentum is slowing and in the prospects for peace with them.”
Trump announced last August he was increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, empowering field commanders to make more decisions, and ending the Obama administration’s timeline for withdrawal in favor of a “conditions-based” approach. There are now about 14,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan, training and advising the Afghan military to fight the Taliban and ISIS and occasionally participating in their own counterterror operations.
But even after that injection of American military power, the shape of the battlefield has not changed. According to the latest report by the government’s own special inspector general for Afghanistan, the Afghan government only controlled about 56 percent of the country’s districts, with nearly 15 percent under Taliban control. The Long War Journal at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, a Washington think tank, puts that number even higher, with the Taliban controlling or contesting as much as 61 percent of the country’s districts.
The opium cultivation also jumped to a record high in 2017 of approximately 328,000 hectares — 63 percent higher than 2016, according to that special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR. That growth fuels the terrorism the U.S. has spent nearly two decades fighting, as the majority of terror groups’ funding comes from the drug trade.
At a NATO summit in Brussels this week, the U.S. is expected to urge member nations to contribute more money for security forces, according to U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, because “the terrorist network that has grown in Afghanistan has been exported to many of our countries,” she warned. That threat hit the U.S. again on Saturday when an American soldier was killed and two others wounded in an attack by an Afghan soldier they were training. He was the third American killed this year after a soldier was shot by the Taliban in April and by ISIS in January.
“Make no mistake, there’s still a great deal of work to do,” Pompeo said. But he pointed to the growth in size and capability of Afghan security forces, upcoming elections this fall after a two-year delay, and reforms within the Afghan government as signs of the strategy working.
He added, “An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is hope that many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily.”
But the Taliban continue to publicly eschew peace talks, launch attacks on Afghan and U.S. forces, and campaign to win over Afghan territory militarily and Afghan minds politically. President Ghani’s recent overture for negotiations has gone unanswered, even after a successful, but short-lived ceasefire during the Muslim holiday of Eid in June that saw Afghan and Taliban soldiers taking selfies together.
There may be secret talks ongoing between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The U.S.’s top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson told reporters in May there was a “robust dialogue” with “tremendous potential,” but State Department officials would not confirm any talks were underway.
“I’m not going to speak to specific diplomacy because, obviously, its potential success is dependent in part on a degree of confidentiality of that type of process,” a senior State Department official told ABC News in June.
Either way, the Taliban has demanded that the U.S. engage it directly in peace talks, but the U.S. has consistently dismissed that idea.
“We can’t run the peace talks. We can’t settle this from the outside. This will be settled by the Afghan people coming together,” Pompeo reiterated Monday.
But Pompeo’s statement that the Taliban realize “the continuation of fighting will lead them to a bad outcome” doesn’t seem to have materialized. As Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio and Thomas Jocelyn wrote in June, the U.S. and Afghan governments have “not beaten back the jihadists in the months since the Trump administration announced its new strategy last August. They have, at best, prevented them from conquering even more ground. Why would the Taliban, which is not close to being defeated, give up now?”
Pompeo’s visit was also overshadowed by his own security concerns. It was not announced in advance, and journalists traveling with him could not report that he was there for hours – a sign of how poor the security situation is at this moment.
He landed not at Kabul International Airport, where the Taliban launched a rocket attack after Defense Secretary James Mattis landed there hours earlier, but at the U.S.’s Bagram Air Base about 30 miles north of Kabul. From there, he took a small plane to Kabul, to catch a helicopter to the U.S. embassy and avoid the streets. After meetings at the embassy, he was driven in a convoy of armored vehicles a few hundred yards to the presidential palace, according to reporters traveling with him.
Upon landing in Kabul, Pompeo was offered a flak jacket and took off his suit jacket to put it on, before U.S. Ambassador John Bass declined one and Pompeo did, too.
When Pompeo’s predecessor Rex Tillerson visited last October, he and his delegation never even left Bagram Air Base. But the U.S. embassy put out a press release about his visit to “Kabul,” and the Afghan president’s office released a photo of Tillerson and Ghani meeting that had digitally altered it to remove a clock with military time and a red fire alarm — two signs the picture was taken at a U.S. facility. The State Department later said the embassy’s error was “a simple mistake.”
After a little over six hours on the ground, Pompeo was out of the country and onward to the United Arab Emirates.
Translated by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: El País
By: Javier Garza Ramos, Torreón, Coahuila.
June 18, 2018
The bullet that killed Fernando Purón Johnston , PRI candidate for federal deputy in Piedras Negras, Coahuila on Friday, June 8, was the same one used six days earlier, on June 2, that killed Pamela Terán Pineda, candidate for councilor El Juchitán , Oaxaca, and Juana Maldonado Infante, candidate for local deputy in Jopala, Puebla .
The same bullet was used the next day, on Saturday June 9, which wounded Rosely Magaña, candidate for councilor in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, who died 72 hours later. And it was the same bullet that killed Alejandro Chávez, candidate for mayor of Taretan, Michoacán on Thursday, June 14th.
This same bullet has killed 44 pre-candidates and candidates for election and other 70 officials and political figures in this election process. No ballistic proof is needed to sustain the claim, just follow the path of the bullet of impunity.
Fernando Purón Johnston, PRI Candidate and former Mayor of Piedras Negras, Coahuila
The person who ordered Purón’s murder probably knew that nothing was going to happen to him, because nothing happened to Terán’s murderer , and he knew that Salado’s murderer had nothing happen to him and so goes back in time the long thread of impunity.
I get the impression that we already saw this movie. The sequence of candidates killed in the current electoral process in Mexico is very similar to the list of dozens of journalists killed in Mexico in the last decade. A succession of crimes that alarm at first, but have become normalized.
Candidates and journalists are two high-risk groups in Mexico. Of course, they are not the only ones, they are only two subgroups of rampant unabated violence that last year averaged 20 victims a day and of which there is no end in sight.
While the motive of each murder is particular, in the case of journalists and candidates, a common thread unites them in that the victims may have touched powerful interests that prefer to use violence to end threats because they live in a country with a broken rule of law. Violence is a cheap, fast and easy remedy to perceived threats to institutions.
Throughout this succession of crimes there are those who warn about the gestation of an epidemic but their voices are drowned because nothing ever happens, until a high-profile case arrives that causes greater impact, which raises the volume of the complaints, although the increasing demand for sentencing does not end up solving anything.
The “strong condemnation” that we hear from the authorities is just a placebo that shows its inefficiency. Worse yet, when those high-profile cases are registered in the highest spheres of authority, after having ignored dozens of other cases, things are only likely to get worse.
Fernando Purón was the highest-profile candidate killed in the current electoral process, as he was the first candidate to hold a federal election position, while the previous candidates had been candidates for local positions in small municipalities.
Secretary of Labor Roberto Campa
His death was the first that merited the presence of a member of the cabinet of President Enrique Peña Nieto at the funeral. The Secretary of Labor, Roberto Campa, traveled to Piedras Negras as the presidential representative, but also with the same common promises to deliver justice.
Something similar happened with the case of Javier Valdez, the highest profile journalist killed in Mexico in recent years.
Javier Valdez, award winning and internationally known Journalist and Author of several books
A year ago, when Javier Valdez was gunned down in Culiacán, Peña Nieto spoke for the first time about the murder of a journalist, after having ignored 35 previous crimes committed during his six-year term . The president brought together the security cabinet and the governors, issued instructions to strengthen the protection of journalists and promised that the killing would not go unpunished.
A year later, two of the three men who attacked Valdez on May 15, 2017 have been detained, but accused only of the material authorship of the crime, because until now the intellectual authors enjoy the same impunity enjoyed by those responsible for dozens of previous murders.
It is easy to conclude that if the murder of a nationally and internationally recognized journalist provoked the reaction of the same President of the Republic but the crime still goes unpunished, anyone who is thinking of killing a lesser-known journalist than Javier Valdez can reasonably think he or she will get away with it.
In fact, there were already some who thought about it: in 2017 six more journalists were killed after Javier Valdez and at least four so far in 2018.
Mexican Citizens take to the streets to demand Justice and Freedom of the Press after their beloved brave truth-telling journalists continue to be murdered.
That is why Roberto Campa’s presence at Purón’s funeral involves a challenge in itself: if the murder of a candidate that merited this level of attention is unpunished the fate of others is already cast.
The impunity in the homicide of Purón also carries another risk because it threatens to throw overboard the pacification that the State of Coahuila has had in the last years and in particular the northern zone of the state, in Piedras Negras, ie, where Purón was mayor from 2014 to 2017, a period in which state and federal operatives managed to dismantle the power of Los Zetas, who waged a reign of terror in the area during the previous decade .
The infamous prison near Piedras Negras, Coahuila that Los Zetas turned into a Base of Operations and many call a death camp. The death toll will probably never be known.
Unlike previous municipal administrations, that of Purón did not succumb to the control of Los Zetas. That had been one of the focal points of his speech and it is now one of the lines of investigation into his murder.
It was during the years that Purón was mayor when Piedras Negras managed to overcome the trauma of the massacres and disappearances that have been documented with horrifying detail by El Colegio de México, the government of Coahuila and the Executive Commission for Victim Assistance.
Piedras Negras has made such a remarkable recovery that in the latest surveys of urban security by the National Institute of Geography and Statistics, Piedras Negras appeared among the cities with a better perception of security, data that resulted from the mayoral work of the now dead candidate.
Just a week ago, Pablo Ferri published in this newspaper the chronicle of a trip through Coahuila that ended precisely in Piedras Negras. Noting the horror of recent years, the story also showed a semblance of quiet normalcy within political campaigns.
Two days after the text was published, the story completely changed to one that we already know all too well.
Authorities issue arrest warrants in the murder of candidate Purón..his widow announces pregnancy
Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat ,,,Big thanks to mi Amiga Lacy
Ignacio, ‘El Putrambula’, served as director of public security in Tenosique, Tabasco, and has more than 81 complaints of homicide, kidnapping, torture, abuse of authority.
Purón was 112th candidate murdered in the past 14 months of Mexico’s bloody election campaign
The young widow announced through her personal Facebook account and confirmed it later in an exclusive interview with Periódico Zócalo. “I feel a lot of happiness, I am eight weeks pregnant and I know in this way that Fernando is giving me the strength to keep going despite his absence,” she said.
This is the second child of Villarreal and her husband, who was killed minutes after leaving a political debate on Friday June 8th. Puron, was running for deputy, (similar to a congressman) of the 11th district of Coahuila.
“Since Fernando became the father of María Constanza, I could see how his life changed, and with the anticipation of our second child, we were very excited, we were already making many plans, like decorating a second room, (… ) I have at the same time nostalgia, but it fills me with illusion to know that a part of Fernando grows inside me,” she said.
In a news conference yesterday, authorities announced they have issued arrest warrants for two men believed to be the authors of the murder, not necessarily the trigger-man.
The names were not revealed yesterday but later revealed by Governor Miguel Riquelme, along with a wanted poster.
The wanted men are brothers Erick and Ignacio Arámbula Viveros, there is a 10 million MP reward offered.
Ignacio was director of public security in Tabasco
Erick was part of the Equitation team of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sena), and even participated in the Pan-American Games in Guadalajara. Ignacio, ‘El Putrambula’, served as director of public security in Tenosique, Tabasco, and has more than 81 complaints of homicide, kidnapping, torture, abuse of authority. They are from Michoacan.
This kidnapping attributed to Ignacio was caught on video….
From video notes:
2011: The kidnapping of Gino Gritilli by the then chief of public security of tabasco, Ignacio Arambula Viveros. All involved are policemen and are hooded. “A dozen of municipal police officers and the corrupt, legalized professional criminal (a former lieutenant, former military chef) Ignacio Arambula Viveros (el putrambula), director of public security in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mex.”
During his candidacy Puron highlighted how Los Zaetas cartel were “ran out of Piedras Negras” and mentioned the same during the debate. Puron was a popular mayor of Piedras Negras before running for the federal office seat. Piedras Negras is a border city adjacent to Eagle Pass Texas
Jalalabad, Afghanistan: A suicide attack in restive eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed at least 14 people and wounded 45, an official said, the second attack in as many days to mar an unprecedented ceasefire.
The explosion happened outside the Nangarhar provincial governor´s office in the capital Jalalabad, his spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP.
It was also close to the Indian consulate.
Khogyani said 14 people had been killed and 45 wounded. An Afghan security source confirmed the suicide attack but gave a lower death toll of at least 10.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.
Khogyani said a suicide bomber on foot had targeted Taliban, local elders and civilians as they left the governor´s compound where they had attended a special event for the Eid holiday.
On Saturday, a suicide attack on a gathering of Taliban, security forces and civilians in a district of the same eastern province of Nangarhar killed at least 36 people and wounded 65 others, provincial health director Najibullah Kamawal told AFP.
Daesh group´s Afghanistan franchise claimed responsibility for that attack.
It’s time for Western policymakers to develop a playbook for countermeasures against potential ‘directed energy’ attacks, Robert Bunker writes.
A recent health alert posted on the US Department of State website related to an incident in Guangzhou, China, in which an employee of the US embassy suffered certain ‘bio-effects’. The event can be viewed in the context of earlier incidents, such as that in which US – as well as one or more Canadian – diplomatic staff members serving in Havana, Cuba were similarly affected.
These traumatic brain and bodily injuries to diplomatic personnel have raised concerns over the possibility that an ongoing series of clandestine directed energy attacks have been taking place, and are increasingly drawing news and social media attention.
Three primary reasons exist why a clandestine state entity may intentionally project directed energy at US and allied embassies.
First, such energies can be utilized for sensing and spying activities in an attempt to obtain restricted and secret information either being discussed or transmitted. For instance, listening devices exist that can bounce energy frequencies off the window glass of an office, thus allowing the hearing of a private conversation inside.
Second, directed energy can be deployed in a jamming and harassment role to degrade embassy and staff functioning. This would be akin to disrupting cell phone reception, local area networks (for example from a computer to a printer), or even other more secure forms of communication.
Third, certain electromagnetic frequencies may be utilised in order to injure personnel and destroy specific forms of military equipment. As national militaries increasingly weaponise the electromagnetic spectrum, the use of infra- and ultra-sonic devices, high-powered microwaves (HPM), and lasers are becoming more common
Such advanced technologies are well suited for clandestine use because some of them – particularly certain sonic and HPM technologies – can bypass physical walls and structures. They directly injure targeted individuals with virtually none of the conventional forensic evidence a firearm or explosive would leave behind. China is well aware of these advanced weaponry capabilities and is actively pursuing them developmentally and in field-testing.
Various narratives and counter-narratives, however, have been proposed about these incidents in attempts to dismiss them as non-events. They have been portrayed as a figment of employee imagination, the product of mass hysteria, and more recently – given the preponderance of medical evidence that diplomatic personnel have suffered actual physical damage – as the malfunctioning of electronic eavesdropping equipment.
Within the context of these narratives, disinformation campaigns are actively being waged by Chinese, Russian, and allied authoritarian regimes as a component of their foreign policies, which are directly at odds with liberal democratic governance and individual human rights.
Viewing the incidents as some form of ongoing series of attacks, however, appears more plausible and more in line with US governmental perspectives, especially considering the types and circumstances of the injuries suffered, as well as the concurrent audible noises and other sensory events reported.
Recommendations for policymakers concerning the mysterious incidents in Havana and Guangzhou exist at varying levels of action.
On the declaratory level, restraint must be exercised because no ‘smoking gun’ (or, in this instance, ‘energised device’) exists which directly links any of these incidents to a specific entity or national backing.
With this said, an increasing evidential pattern of incidents and anomalies have taken place within Chinese military activities to warrant concern over the likelihood that the embassy attacks may represent a new component of Chinese clandestine operations carried out against the Western liberal democracies. These include the counter-optical lasing of multiple US military aircraft from the new Chinese base in Djibouti and the use of commercial fishing fleets to harass US warships.
While Western nations are attempting to engage with China, the Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping – now its leader for life – has essentially seized the South China Sea, militarised it, and slowly begun to build up the capacity to globally project its military power.
Western political leaders – including those in Australia – should now be on guard for Chinese attempts to fracture democratically based defence agreements and coalitions. It can be expected that such a strategy will be supported by ongoing clandestine measures directed against democratic states for disruptive and propaganda purposes.
At the more specific level of protecting embassies and their staff, this pattern of incidents warrants the creation of a directed energy weapons playbook for incident deterrence, detection, mitigation, response, emergency services, investigation and recovery purposes.
Such playbooks – generally utilised within counter-terrorism programs – are created for countermeasure purposes against known and recognised threats such as active shooters, suicide bombers or weaponised drones. They proactively lay out the identified threat, and detail plans and actions to address that threat before, during and after an incident has taken place. Examples of potential countermeasures include detectors to provide early warning of electromagnetic use, the ability to triangulate back to the point of origin of a suspected attack, and energy frequency dampeners (for example projected anti-frequency fields).
While none of these policy recommendations will immediately end what could be additional, albeit likely sporadic, future directed energy attacks on US embassy personnel, they will begin to help in responding to these incidents along the continuum of deterrence through to recovery. They should be viewed as prudent measures to be used alongside those actions now being undertaken by US intelligence and federal investigative agencies, which are attempting to determine the actual perpetrators of these incidents and if any definitive links to China’s clandestine services exist.
The views expressed in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
On Monday morning, May 28, an employee at the Moroccan Consulate in Düsseldorf, Germany, received a letter that contained suspicious powder. The latter gave the employee an unpleasant-looking rash, reports German online newspaper Westdeutsche Zeitung.
According to the same source, the police went to the consulate to «determine the nature of the powder». Moreover, WDR rejects the hypothesis, suggesting that the powder was poisonous, indicating that «the tingling was probably due to a heart attack».
According to the same source, the letter also contained a CD. The information was confirmed by the police, without giving further details.
On May 23, the U.S. embassy in China released a health alert, claiming that a U.S. government employee in China “recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.”
Although the statement clarified that the United States did not know “what caused the reported symptoms” nor was aware of “any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community,” the U.S. government sent a warning message to all its citizens in China in the health alert:
[I]f you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.
An embassy spokeswoman also toldCNN that this U.S. employee was diagnosed with a “mild traumatic brain injury.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later claimed that this incident in China was “very similar” to and “entirely consistent” with those experienced by American diplomats posted in Havana, Cuba. Last year U.S. State Department sent most of its diplomats in Cuba home after accusing the Cuban government of conducting “sonic attacks” on employees of the American embassy.
Unsurprisingly, after Pompeo’s remarks the U.S. media then widely referred to this incident as a Chinese “sonic attack.”
However, many researchers believe that the symptoms these U.S. diplomats suffered are unlikely to be caused by “sonic attacks.”
Jürgen Altmann, a physics professor at Technischen Universität Dortmund in Berlin, told CNN, “I know of no acoustic effect that would produce concussion-like symptoms; according to my research, strong effects on humans require loudness levels that would be perceived as very loud noise while exposed.”
In line with Altmann, Wang Ning, chief physician of the Department of Neurosurgery in Beijing Xuanwu Hospital, who has specialized in the field of neurosurgery for many years, also told Chinese media that “To cause a ‘traumatic brain injury,’ the intensity of sound waves should be as strong as an explosive level.”
As for the earlier Cuba incident, many U.S. experts also ruled out the possibility of “sonic attacks.” For example, after examining the 21 embassy workers in Havana, a team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania published a report on February 15 in the journal JAMA, suggesting that none of the proposed causes for these mass brain symptoms (including sonic weapons) really make sense, according to Live Science.
In fact, even the FBI made it clear that “there has been no evidence to support the theory of sonic waves being used to harm Americans in Havana.”
Kevin Fu, a researcher at the University of Michigan, together with Wenyuan Xu, a professor at Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou, China, and her Ph.D. student Chen Yan, published a report, titled “On Cuba, Diplomats, Ultrasound, and Intermodulation Distortion,” giving a more plausible explanation.
Through experiments, this team showed that ultrasonic signals from eavesdropping devices can “combine to produce audible and potentially dangerous tones similar to the undulating, high-pitched chirping that the diplomats described,” as Michigan News put it.
“We’ve demonstrated a scenario in which the harm might have been unintentional, a byproduct of a poorly engineered ultrasonic transmitter that was meant to be covert,” Fu told Michigan News. “A malfunctioning device that was supposed to inaudibly steal information or eavesdrop on conversation with ultrasonic transmission seems more plausible than a sonic weapon.”
IEEE Spectrum, a magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, believes that Fu’s report is “finally a likely explanation.” While Fu was quick to point out this is still just a theory, he suggested the harmful sound could be the unintentional result of an ultrasonic transmitter — an eavesdropping device — reacting with an ultrasonic jammer meant to safeguard against such bugs.
“Each device might have been placed there by a different party, completely unaware of the other,” Fu said.
Notably, this report was published in March, before the latest China incident.
So far, China’s attitude toward this incident has been quite calm.
China has always protected the safety of foreign diplomatic missions in China, including that of the U.S. diplomatic staff, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Regarding what was said in those reports, China has carried out an investigation seriously and given an initial feedback to the U.S. By far, we have found no reason or clue for what was reported by the U.S.
In Fu’s mind, “bad engineering just seems much more likely than a sonic weapon.” If the China incident was “entirely consistent” with the Cuba “sonic attacks,” then it may be that a “poorly engineered ultrasonic transmitter” — or jammer, or both — was being used in both cases.
Security officials at the Israeli consulate in New York have forbidden representatives of the Foreign Ministry and official Israeli emissaries from New York to attend a festive event marking Israel’s 70th anniversary, which will take place next week at Times Square, News 2 reported.
According to the news report, security officials fear that the presence of the representatives at the event will increase the security risk, and that they could be targets for terrorist attacks or violent protests.
The security officer of the Israeli Consulate in New York wrote to diplomats and other Israeli emissaries that “this is a very sensitive incident at a very sensitive time. The security team has no security responsibility for the external event.
“We prohibit any participation and any presence of the emissaries and employees at this event, which is a very sensitive event with no adequate security response, and the NYPD, including the highest echelons, stresses that this is a very high risk event,” wrote the security officer.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed the details: “We received a clear directive not to be on the street or in the square itself, and the emissaries will be at the same event that takes place in the hall at the Renaissance Hotel.”
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As the US embassy moves to Jerusalem amid high security, history teaches that US diplomatic missions can become targets.
For many in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is anything but diplomatic.
It risks alienating important partners in the region and disqualifying Washington as a neutral broker to negotiate peace in the region. Already, it has contributed to Palestinian anger, as seen in the current protests on the border between Gaza and Israel, with deadly results.
Benghazi 2012: This Stars and Stripes flag was found after the attack on the US diplomatic mission (Reuters)
Yet if history has taught anything, it is that Trump, a self-styled expert dealmaker, may end up getting more than he bargained for.
When disaster does strike, American prestige and policy can suffer with high-flying political careers dashed
American diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa, as the representatives of the country in the region, can become lightning rods for anti-US sentiment, sometimes resulting in death and destruction.
And when disaster does strike, the reverberations can be felt worldwide, with American prestige and policy suffering and high-flying political careers dashed.
Tehran 1924: Lynching heralds martial law
Any discussion of US diplomacy and Iran triggers recollections of the 1979 crisis and the Islamic Revolution. Yet US diplomats had fallen victim to events in the region long before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rose to power.
In 1924, Robert Whitney Imbrie, a major in the US army, was the American vice-consul in Tehran. A spy-adventurer, his pre-foreign service exploits included successfully bringing a live gorilla from the Congo to New York and volunteering for the French army’s ambulance service during World War One.
Before taking his position at the US embassy in Iran, Imbrie gained a reputation as a hot-headed, fearless and vehemently anti-Bolshevik American agent, once using his walking stick to beat the head of the Soviet secret police department in Petrograd.
Ironically, Imbrie spent much of his working life undermining what he regarded as godless Soviets – but it was religious fanatics who were to determine his fate.
In July of that year, he took a carriage to inspect an angry crowd of anti-Bahai protesters in the center of Tehran. The protesters were gathered around a well that was rumored to have miraculous healing powers. But now the Bahais, a religious minority, had been accused of poisoning the font.
Imbrie approached, carrying a camera to take photographs for the National Geographic Society and accompanied by his bodyguard, a burly oilfield worker.
But soon he drew attention from the crowd, some of who accused him of being a Bahai.
He was attacked, badly beaten and rushed to a nearby hospital, where the mob then forced their way into the operating theatre and killed him.
Understandably, Imbrie’s death was a source of tension between Tehran and Washington, which demanded justice. Eventually, a soldier and two teenagers were found, accused and executed.
The incident also cast doubt on the safety of foreigners in Iran, as US newspapers fretted about security and religious fanaticism in the region.
The New York Times wrote that Iranian authorities should “cease to resort to appeals to the fanatical instincts which permeate not only the mob but also a large proportion of the intelligentsia” and urged Tehran to better protect foreigners in future.
This it did, when Iranian Prime Minister Reza Khan declared martial law, using the crisis to consolidate his power before eventually assuming the Iranian throne.
WAK Fraser, the British military attache at the time, noted how “the event gave him … the excuse for declaring martial law and a censorship of the press… Numerous arrests have been made, chiefly political opponents of the prime minister.”
Imbrie was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery. But his death had opened a new chapter in Iranian politics.
Tehran 1979: Hostages and revolution
Fifty-five years later, a second crisis involving American diplomats heralded another significant shift in US-Iranian relations.
In early 1979, the US embassy in Tehran was a long, two-story redbrick building standing on an avenue in central Tehran, the scene of intense US-Iranian cooperation which neither government expected to be broken.
The US embassy is stormed by Iranian students in Tehran in 1979 (Wiki)
Popularly likened to an American high school in appearance, the mission was known as “Henderson High”, a reference to Loy Henderson, its first US ambassador.
“It was like any other embassy, except the relationship of the United States and Iran was very close,” says Iranian-American historian Shaul Bakhash at George Mason University in Virginia.
“The shah worked closely with the Americans on diplomatic issues, on regional security, on the sharing of intelligence.”
But all that changed in February 1979, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and son of Reza Khan, was deposed by the Islamic Revolution.
At first, Washington managed to uphold an uneasy relationship with the new Iranian government, despite the revolutionary fervor in Tehran.
But when the US granted Reza Shah asylum in May of that year, the hardliners had all the reason they needed to target the embassy.
‘It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments’
– Shaul Bakhash, academic
A group of students stormed the building on 4 November, taking 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage and parading them blindfolded and bound in front of television cameras.
“I was in Iran at the time and I must say the images were electrifying,” Bakhash said. “It was a precise, planned political move that was designed to drive a wedge between the Iranian and American governments.”
The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days, was the death of President Jimmy Carter’s administration. His downfall was fuelled by the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, which resulted in the deaths of eight US service personnel in the desert southeast of Tehran.
The release of the hostages in January 1981 was regarded as an early victory for Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan, who was sworn in as president just minutes before they were freed.
But the crisis was catastrophic for US-Iranian relations, which have never recovered and are currently at a new low following the rejection by US President Donald Trump of the Iran nuclear deal.
Today the Tehran embassy – popularly known as the “den of espionage” in Iran – is a museum, standing as a monument to a shattered relationship.
Murals and posters criticising American and Israeli “arrogance” cover the walls, while various encryption devices and communication equipment are displayed behind glass screens, proof the Iranians say of Washington’s meddling overseas.
“For the Iranians it showed that the United States could be beaten,” says Bakhash.
Beirut 1983: Bombed into retrenchment
In early 1983, the US embassy in Lebanon was nothing if not picturesque, nestled as it was next to the American University of Beirut’s leafy campus and boasting vistas of the Mediterranean.
Journalist Kai Bird, who lived in the mission as a child, says: “The Beirut embassy was right on the corniche, a lovely venue. Any Lebanese, any American could just walk right into the embassy, say hello to the marine guards, state their business and get an appointment to see somebody.”
A bulldozer demolishes the bombed-out US embassy in Beirut in 1983 (Reuters).
Such openness in 2018 is unimaginable, as a visit to any US mission across the world will prove, in part due to the devastating suicide bombing in Beirut that took 63 lives and changed the American diplomacy forever.
In April 1983, Lebanon was eight years into a bloody civil war, which would eventually leave an estimated 150,000 dead and not end till 1990.
On the 18th of that month, a truck loaded with explosives drove into the US embassy and detonated.
Packing more than 900 kg of explosives, the truck bomb tore apart the embassy’s entire facade, as the explosion shattered windows across west Beirut.
Seventeen Americans, 32 Lebanese employees of the embassy and 14 passersby and visitors were killed, including some of the CIA’s top agents.
Beirut in 1983 was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today
It was to be the opening salvo in a new type of warfare with which the United States still battles today. Likely directed by Iranian intelligence, the attack was carried out by Islamic Jihad, a militant group that later grew into Hezbollah.
It was also the first of several attacks on the US in the city. In October 1983, two truck bombs targeted at an international peacekeeping force killed more than 300 people, including 241 US peacekeepers. And in September 1984, 24 people were killed by a car bomb attack on the US embassy annex in east Beirut.
The attacks drew strong rhetoric and promise to see the mission through from then-US President Reagan. But by February 1984 the American military presence in Lebanon began to be drawn down, with the British, French and Italian forces following suit.
“There’d never been a military-scale attack on a US embassy before and I think it inaugurated a new form of warfare. It changed the whole landscape of US diplomacy – literally, the architecture changed.”
In an attempt to avoid a repetition of such a disaster, US embassies and missions worldwide now sit behind layer upon layer of security.
Many invariably resemble fortresses, set in isolated locations and sat behind thick walls, high fences and dozens of cameras. The former US embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square, for example, was constructed during the 1950s. Security increased over the decades, until the area on one side of the residential square was cordoned off. The new embassy, in Vauxhall, opened in December 2017, is on open ground and surrounded by a semi-moat.
But such security has its disadvantages. “Since 1983, the average diplomat is extremely isolated, and it’s very hard for them to develop friendships and contacts with local journalists,” says Bird
“So that’s had a very real impact on the daily routine and life of the average American diplomat. It’s terrible and it sends completely the wrong message. It sends a message to the average person in Lebanon or Egypt or Nepal or India that you can’t approach America, that we Americans are fearful.”
Benghazi 2012: The lingering legacy
Missions in Tripoli, Kuwait City, Jeddah, Damascus, Sanaa, Istanbul, Cairo and Tunis have all witnessed bombs, assaults or riots. A suicide bombing in Ankara in 2013, which killed one person, is just one of the more recent examples.
An armed man in the US consulate compound in Benghazi in September 2012 (AFP)
But none has had quite the political reverberations in recent years as the attack on the US temporary mission facility in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
In 2012, Libya was emerging as splintered and unstable country after the uprising and NATO operation that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi the previous year.
Benghazi had been the cradle of the revolution against Gaddafi’s regime. Stevens was in the city promoting democracy and American friendship, as the US considered making its presence in the eastern Libyan city permanent. It was to cost him his life.
On the 11th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, the militant group Ansar al-Sharia staged an assault on the US mission.
Coming at the compound from all angles, the militants broke through the security using heavy weapons, RPGs and grenades. Once inside, the assailants started a fire, filling the Americans’ hiding place with smoke. Stevens managed to escape the building and was taken to a nearby hospital, but eventually died of smoke inhalation.
The unexpected attack and the diplomat’s death shocked America: according to David Des Roches at the National Defense University, it was also a wakeup call for US policy in Libya.
“It showed that the country had descended into something that was sub-national,” says Des Roches.
“Right now, when people look at Libya, it’s basically divided along the lines the Emperor Constantine divided it at the time of the Roman Empire.”
But Benghazi’s more enduring legacy was, perhaps, seen not in Libya but 8,000km away in the White House.
The attack sparked a lengthy inquiry, and exposed then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of an external email server – a scandal that plagued her 2016 run for the presidency.
“In her memoirs secretary Clinton attributes her defeat to the fact that additional emails were unearthed just five days before the election,” says Des Roches. “Well, we only found out that those emails existed because of the inquiries into Benghazi.
So if you take Secretary Clinton’s analysis, if not for Benghazi [then] she would be president today.”
Going by the same logic, Donald Trump would not be sat behind a desk in the Oval Office – and Washington would not have decided to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A radical Iranian student group is reportedly offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who bombs the U.S. embassy in Israel, which officially opened Monday after being relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Iranian Justice Seeker Student Movement disseminated posters Monday calling for an attack on the newly inaugurated embassy, according to a translation of local Farsi language reports obtained by the WashingtonFree Beacon.
“The Student Justice Movement will support anybody who destroy the illegal American embassy in Jerusalem,” the poster reads in Farsi, Arabic, and English. The advertisement goes on to offer a “$100,000 dollar prize” to anyone who succeeds in destroying the embassy.
Arab leaders have uniformly condemned the Trump administration for formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite the city’s status as an Islamic holy site.
“America has entered a crisis of strategic decision-making that looks at the international arena immaturely and adventurously,” Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Monday. “Spur-of-the-moment and uncalculated actions cannot continue in today’s world. Feeble-mindedness is costly for statesmen and they will eventually have to pay the price.”
The Iranian regime has grown increasingly hostile in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal last week. The announcement was met with the burning of the American flag and chants of “death to America” in Parliament.
The embassy’s opening Monday coincided with the deaths of as many as 52 protesters at the hands of Israeli forces along the border with Gaza, as weeks-long Hamas-backed demonstrations peaked.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, joined by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, praised Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem as Congress required in a 1995 law.