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State Dept watchdog: US admin blocked review of Saudi arms deal

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Watchdog fired by Trump tells Congress he was looking into Mike Pompeo’s approval of an $8bn arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

A former independent watchdog at the United States State Department who was fired by President Donald Trump has said top department officials tried to bully him and dissuade his office from conducting a review of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Former Inspector General Steve Linick told Congress last week that two senior officials sought to block an inquiry into the arms deal, according to a transcript of the interview made public on Wednesday by Democrats leading an investigation into his dismissal.

Linick, who had been inspector general since 2013, was looking into previously reported allegations that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife may have misused government staff to run personal errands and several other matters. Trump abruptly fired him late on May 15 with what Linick said was no warning or cited cause.

“I was in a state of shock because I had no advance notice of anything like that,” Linick said, recalling his reaction when he was informed of Trump’s decision. “I had no indication whatsoever.”

A ‘bad actor’

Shortly after the transcript was released, Pompeo called Linick a “bad actor” who had been acting inappropriately and not in the best interests of the State Department.

Pompeo did not address the allegations of attempted bullying. He stood by his recommendation that Trump fire Linick, one of several inspectors general whom the president has recently dismissed.

Linick said he had opened a review of last year’s $8bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia at the request of legislators who claimed Pompeo had inappropriately circumvented Congress to approve the deal. Linick said the State Department’s top management officer Brian Bulatao, and legal adviser Marik String tried to stop him.

Bulatao “said that we shouldn’t be doing the work because it was a policy matter not within the IG’s jurisdiction”, Linick said, adding that both Bulatao and String “were of the same mind” on the matter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes a question from a reporter during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC [File: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Linick said in the interview that he believed the Saudi review, which is continuing, was appropriate because it looked at whether proper procedures and regulations were followed. He said he had requested an interview with Pompeo on the matter but had never received a response. Linick acknowledged that Pompeo did respond in writing to questions.

“All I can say is it’s ongoing and their report is ongoing,” he said of the Saudi arms sale review.

Alleged leak

Linick testified that he repeatedly clashed with Bulatao, a former business associate and close friend of Pompeo, over other issues as well. “I would say that sometimes the relationship was professional; at other times, he tried to bully me,” he said.

Pompeo, Bulatao and others have said Linick was dismissed in part because of inappropriate actions but also because of the alleged leak of one of his office’s reports into accusations of political reprisals by Trump appointees against career State Department officials.

Linick denied his office was responsible for the leak. He said an investigation into the alleged leak by the Defense Department inspector general cleared him and his office.

Linick’s office has been highly critical of such retaliation but had also criticized Democratic officials during the Obama administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

At a State Department news conference, Pompeo questioned the validity of the leak investigation and said he and others still had questions about the origin of information that was critical of the administration’s top envoy for Iran, Brian Hook.

“We have asked for a more thorough investigation than Mr Linick asked for,” Pompeo said. “We’re determined to figure out how that information escaped to harm someone who works here.”

In addition to the Saudi arms deal and Pompeo’s use of government staff, Linick said that at the time of his removal, his office had open reviews into several other matters. They included issues related to the conduct of the former chief of protocol who was dismissed last year, the curtailment of visas for former Afghan and Iraqi translators who served with US forces, and a controversy over a rescinded Global Women of Courage award.

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Armenian Aggression

Amnesty International verifies use of banned cluster bombs by Armenia to attack Azerbaijani Barda

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Amnesty International has verified the use of banned cluster bombs by Armenia for the first time in the current Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, following an attack on the city of Barda in Azerbaijan.

On October 28, 2020, at approximately 1.30 pm (GMT+4) local time, one or several Smerch rockets were fired into Barda, striking a residential neighbourhood close to a hospital. The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office has stated that at least 21 people were killed, with an estimated 70 more injured.

Amnesty International’s Crisis Response experts verified pictures (taken by Vice News reporters in the city) of fragments of 9N235 cluster munitions from 9M55 Smerch rockets, that appear to have been fired into the city by Armenian forces.

“The firing of cluster munitions into civilian areas is cruel and reckless, and causes untold death, injury and misery,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons, and their use in any circumstances is banned under international humanitarian law.”

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Armenian Aggression

Lebanese human rights defenders condemn Armenian vandalism in Beirut

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By Trend

Lebanese human rights defenders condemn Armenian vandalism in Beirut, well-known Lebanese lawyer, expert on foreign policy and international law, board member of the International Association of Human Rights Defenders Tareg Chandeb told Trend.

Chandeb noted that the Lebanese Center for Legal and Political Research and Defense of Freedoms condemns the actions of the Lebanese Armenian extremist groups – their burning of the Turkish flag and the image of the president of Turkey.

Ongoing vandalism of some Armenian extremist groups and their incitement to sectarian strife in Lebanon requires Lebanese security forces to arrest these terrorists and punish them appropriately, Chandeb said.

He noted that the security forces and judicial bodies of Lebanon have not yet arrested a single Armenian extremist criminal who had previously abused Lebanon's relations with friendly Turkey.

Also, the security and judicial authorities of Lebanon didn’t take any action against the Armenian extremists who violated Lebanese laws and recruited people as mercenaries, sending them to fight in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh against peaceful Azerbaijanis.

He also noted that Azerbaijan is a friendly country and Lebanon maintains official diplomatic relations with it.

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Armenian Aggression

Armenia once again violates ceasefire agreements

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By Trend

If to look at the history of the Karabakh conflict, one very interesting detail can be traced – the actions of Yerevan have always been aimed at violating the agreements reached, especially the agreements on a ceasefire and a humanitarian truce, which became relevant due to the latest known events, Trend reports.

The agreement on the third ceasefire regime in Nagorno-Karabakh entered into force at 8:00 am on October 26. However, already five minutes after the regime entered into force, Armenia violated the agreements. Why?

In 1991, 1992, 1993, temporary armistice agreements were concluded:

Kazakhstan played its role during the first war in Nagorno-Karabakh and made the first attempt at peace. Former President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and then Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin tried to end the hostilities. Despite the consensus reached, Armenia didn’t stop its attacks. Peacekeeping efforts were stopped during the crash of an Azerbaijani MI-8 helicopter with Russian, Kazakh observers, and high-ranking Azerbaijani government officials on board when it was shot down by Armenia over the village of Garakand in the Khojavand district on November 20, 1991.

On February 25, 1992, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati arrived in Baku to apply the experience of the Iran-Iraq war in Karabakh. On February 26, the parties promised each other by telephone a ceasefire from February 27 to 9 am on March 1, after which Velayati arrived in Ganja and began to wait for the promises. On February 26, Armenian militants committed the Khojaly genocide.

In May 1992, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Tehran and signed a truce. But as soon as the negotiations ended, the Armenian military stormed Shusha city.

On August 27, a meeting of the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia took place in Alma-Ata. Its holding was agreed on the eve in a telephone conversation of the presidents of these states. The ceasefire entered into force on Sept. 1, 1992, but was violated within a few days by the Armenian side.

With the mediation of Russia, the ceasefire agreement of September 19, 1992, entered into force on September 25, 1992. The ceasefire was violated by the Armenian side.

Former Iranian President Rafsanjani brokered a ceasefire agreement between the parties on October 28, 1993. Again Armenia violated the ceasefire.

Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian in his book "Life is Freedom: Autobiography of the Ex-President of Armenia and Karabakh" wrote: "We have repeatedly tried to negotiate with Azerbaijan on a truce and ceasefire. But every time for some reason it seemed to me that I needed to take advantage of inept actions. We managed to take advantage of the "truce window" in October 1993, that’s when, having agreed on a ceasefire, we established de facto control over Zangilan on October 29."

On December 5-6, 1994, at the CSCE summit in Budapest, in order to coordinate mediation efforts within the CSCE, it was decided to establish the institution of the co-chairmanship of the Minsk Conference. At the Budapest Summit, the CSCE Chairman-in-Office was instructed to negotiate to reach a political agreement to end the armed conflict. The specified political agreement was intended to eliminate the consequences of the conflict and allow the convening of the Minsk Conference.

On May 12, 1994, an agreement on a ceasefire was reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which, with the exception of local and short-term violations, lasted until April 2016;

On March 23, 1995, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office issued a mandate to the Minsk Process Co-Chairs. At the summit held on December 2-3, 1996 in Lisbon, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, and the OSCE Chairman-in-Office recommended the fundamental principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s settlement, which Armenia rejected, becoming the only one of the 54 OSCE member states that voted against the proposal.

On April 2, 2016, after another provocation of the Armenian army, large-scale military clashes took place. As a result, the Armenian army suffered losses and retreated, and the Azerbaijani army took control of new strategic heights. On June 20, 2016, in St. Petersburg, at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a meeting was held between the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia;

On July 11, 2018, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan held their first meeting after the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in Armenia in May 2018. On the eve of the new leadership of Armenia proposed to change the format of negotiations on Karabakh.

On July 12, 2020, after another provocation by Armenia, clashes began in the Tovuz direction of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, which continued with varying intensity for about a week;

The new leadership of Armenia, trying to change the format of the negotiations, as well as declaring the inadmissibility of any concessions, actually disrupted the process of peace agreements. New statements by the Prime Minister of Armenia N.Pashinyan and the leaders of the military junta in Karabakh indicated the continuation of the aggressive policy and the existence of plans of official Yerevan in this direction;

On September 27, 2020, the Azerbaijani army reacted harshly to the new provocations of the Armenian side. Within a month, 4 cities, 3 settlements, 165 villages were liberated. In fact, the Azerbaijani army in one month returned the territories that Armenia had seized in the early 1990s for several years;

In fact, the 1994 ceasefire ceased to exist. Armenia bears full responsibility for the current situation, which has consistently thwarted all agreements both on the resolution of the conflict and on ensuring the ceasefire;

In a short time, which had existed for 27 years, the status quo and the line of contact were eliminated. A new situation has developed in which Armenia is forced to agree to the withdrawal of troops from the territory of Azerbaijan.

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