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Treasury Department imposes toughest-ever sanctions on Iranian central bank for funding terrorism

Aftermath of attacks: Damaged refining towers at Aramco’s oil plant in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, on Friday. AFP

President Donald Trump on Friday announced new sanctions on Iran that he said were the toughest-ever against another country but indicated he did not plan a military strike, calling restraint a sign of strength.

The Treasury Department unveiled action against Iran’s central bank after U.S. officials said that Tehran carried out weekend attacks on rival Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, which triggered a spike in global crude prices.

“We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”

But Mr. Trump indicated he did not plan a military response, attacking both critics who thought he would trigger war and hawks seeking a military response.

“The easiest thing I could do (is) knock out 15 different major things in Iran,” Mr. Trump said.

“I could do it right here in front of you. And that would be it. And then you would have a nice, big story to report,” he said.

“But I think the strong-person approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint,” he said.

‘Iran on borrowed time’

“Much easier to do it the other way. It’s much easier. And Iran knows if they misbehave, they’re on borrowed time,” he said.

The United States already maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran, including on its central bank, with anyone who deals with it subject to prosecution, due to Tehran’s alleged nuclear programme.

But the Treasury Department said that it was imposing sanctions for the additional reason of “terrorism,” saying the central bank had provided “billions of dollars” to two forces blacklisted by the U.S.

Such a designation may be more difficult to lift, even if Mr. Trump loses next year’s election to a Democrat who wants to ease sanctions as part of a future deal.

“Iran’s brazen attack against Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“Treasury’s action targets a crucial funding mechanism that the Iranian regime uses to support its terrorist network, including the Qods Force, Hezbollah and other militants that spread terror and destabilise the region,” he said.

The Qods Force conducts international operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, who are in charge of protecting the clerical regime. Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party in Lebanon, is among Iran’s closest regional partners.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which supports tough action on Iran, said that the latest measures are a way “to push Tehran to shun funding terrorism.”

“It proves to Tehran that there will be no stopping U.S. sanctions unless Iran changes its behaviour,” he said.

Development fund hit

The United States also imposed sanctions on Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, a development fund whose board of trustees includes President Hassan Rouhani as well as Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s Defence Ministry.

Mr. Trump in June authorised a military strike after Iran shot down a U.S. drone, only to call it off at the last moment. He recently said that he hopes for talks with Mr. Rouhani, who responded that Mr. Trump must first ease sanctions.

Mr. Trump last year pulled out of a nuclear accord with Iran negotiated under former President Barack Obama.

She spoke against Army’s sexual abuse

Gulalai Ismail

Gulalai Ismail’s campaigns to empower Pakistani girls have won her international awards and recognition as one of her country’s foremost activists.

But when she spoke out against sexual violence and disappearances allegedly carried out by the Army in northwestern Pakistan, her fortunes quickly changed.

The 32-year-old said she feared for her life. After four months on the run, she succeeded in eluding a vast hunt and has turned up in the U.S., where she is seeking asylum.

Ms. Ismail said she never sought to become an overseas dissident but sees a closing of the political space in Pakistan.

“I never wanted to leave Pakistan,” she told AFP in an interview in Washington. “I believe that I can better work towards democracy and civil supremacy and peace in Pakistan.”

But she concluded she would be more effective abroad, saying: “If I had ended up in prison and tortured for many years, my voice would have been silenced.”

Ms. Ismail believed she posed a special threat as a vocal woman. “When a man stands up, he is mostly against the State oppression. But when a woman stands up, she is fighting oppression on many levels — fighting cultural norms, fighting the patriarchy and the State oppression.”

Amnesty International accused Hong Kong police on Friday of torture and other abuses in their handling of more than three months of pro-democracy protests, but the police say they have shown restraint on the street in the face of increased violence.

Anti-government protesters, many masked and wearing black, have thrown petrol bombs at police and central government offices, stormed the Legislative Council, blocked roads to the airport, trashed metro stations and lit fires on the streets of the Chinese-ruled city.

Police have responded with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and several live rounds fired in the air, warning the crowds beforehand with a series of different coloured banners.

They have also been seen beating protesters on the ground with batons, with footage of one such attack on cowering passengers on an MTR subway train going viral online and prompting widespread anger.

“The evidence leaves little room for doubt in an apparent thirst for retaliation, Hong Kong’s security forces have engaged in a disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics against people during the protests,” Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director at Amnesty International, said in a report following a field investigation.

Uproar over his call to a foreign leader to ‘influence 2020 poll’

U.S. President Donald Trump again denied on Friday that he did anything wrong during a mysterious phone call with an as-yet unidentified foreign leader after a whistleblower in the intelligence services sounded the alarm.

The Washington Post reported that the call was to Ukraine and that Mr. Trump had made a “promise” of some kind.

“There was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!” Mr. Trump tweeted, without detailing whom he had spoken to or what was said.

He said his Democratic opponents and the media “think I may have had a ‘dicey’ conversation with a certain foreign leader” but this was only based on what he called “a ‘highly partisan’ whistleblowers statement.”

However, a political storm is rapidly brewing over the refusal by Mr. Trump’s Director of National Intelligence to give Congress the whistleblower’s report.

The allegations could refer to a call known to have been made in July between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who was elected in May.

Mr. Trump allegedly sought to pressure the Ukrainians to pursue corruption charges against the son of his main Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election Joe Biden.

Congressional legislators were also concerned that the Trump administration had been holding back military aid to Ukraine at the time.

The Lord and His consort descend together to fulfil the purposes of their incarnations. In Rama avatar, out of compassion for humanity, the divine mother as Sita allows herself to be taken away forcibly to Lanka. This is to enable the killing of Ravana who is a great Siva devotee and a ruler who has consolidated extraordinary prowess through boons obtained by austere practices. She subjects herself to untold miseries when in captivity. In Krishna avatar, the divine mother as Rukmini pleads with Krishna to save her from the untoward marriage with Sisupala before he can approach her, pointed out Sri B. Damodhara Dikshitar in a discourse. Her brother Rukmi entertains enmity to Krishna and wants to give Rukmini in marriage to the evil minded Sisupala. But Rukmini has heard of the Lord’s glories and her heart is filled with His thoughts. She represents the true devotee who is only driven by a desire to be with the Lord. She sends a Brahmin as a messenger to Krishna to inform Him of her desperate situation. The famed letter she reaches out to Krishna has tremendous significance as showcasing the plight of the jivatma for whom the Paramatma is the rightful owner. All jivatmas belong to the Lord and are His property. She also alludes to Narasimha avatar, and states that He has to make His appearance at the right moment to claim her, lest the Chedi king like a jackal takes away the possession meant for the lion. A jivatma earns the right to be with the Lord through acquiring merit by worship and spiritual practices, sacrifices, charities, religious rites, and adoration of holy men, elders and teachers. She suggests that Krishna should come incognito to her presence during the procession for worship at the temple of Goddess Parvati and by force of arms should marry her with all chivalry and glory.

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