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Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dead at 88

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(Last Updated On: July 1, 2021)

Donald Rumsfeld, a forceful U.S. defense secretary who was the main architect of the Iraq war until President George W. Bush replaced him as the United States found itself bogged down after more than three years of fighting, has died at age 88, his family said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather,” the statement said.

“At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”

The statement did not say when Rumsfeld died,Reuters reported.

Rumsfeld, who ranks with Vietnam War-era defense secretary Robert McNamara as the most powerful men to hold the post, brought charisma and bombast to the Pentagon job, projecting the Bush administration’s muscular approach to world affairs.

With Rumsfeld in charge, U.S. forces swiftly toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but failed to maintain law and order in the aftermath, and Iraq descended into chaos with a bloody insurgency and violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, Reuters reported.

U.S. troops remained in Iraq until 2011, long after he left his post.

Rumsfeld played a leading role ahead of the war in making the case to the world for the March 2003 invasion. He warned of the dangers of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction but no such weapons were ever discovered.

Only McNamara served as defense secretary for longer than Rumsfeld, who had two stints – from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, for whom he also served as White House chief of staff, and from 2001 to 2006 under Bush.

Rumsfeld was known for imperious treatment of some military officers and members of Congress and infighting with other members of the Bush team, including Secretary of State Colin Powell. He also alienated U.S. allies in Europe, Reuters reported.

In 2004, Bush twice refused to accept Rumsfeld’s offer to resign after photos surfaced of U.S. personnel abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The scandal triggered international condemnation of the United States.

The United States faced global condemnation after the photos showed U.S. troops smiling, laughing and giving thumbs up as prisoners were forced into sexually abusive and humiliating positions including a naked human pyramid and simulated sex. One photo showed a prisoner forced to stand on a small box, his head covered in a black hood, with wires attached to his body.

Rumsfeld personally authorized harsh interrogation techniques for detainees, Reuters reported.

The U.S. treatment of detainees in Iraq and foreign terrorism suspects at a special prison set up under Rumsfeld at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, drew international condemnation, with human rights activists and others saying prisoners were tortured.

He was a close ally of Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, who had worked for Rumsfeld during the 1970s Republican presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ford.

Rumsfeld became a lightning rod for criticism and, with the Iraq war largely a stalemate and public support eroding, Bush replaced him in November 2006 over Cheney’s objections.

Days after vowing Rumsfeld would remain for the rest of his term, Bush announced his departure a day after mid-term elections in which Democrats took control of Congress from Bush’s Republicans amid voter anger over the Iraq War.

Many historians and military experts blamed Rumsfeld for decisions that led to difficulties in Iraq. For example, Rumsfeld insisted on a relatively small invasion force, rejecting the views of many generals. The force then was insufficient to stabilize Iraq when Saddam fell, Reuters reported.

Rumsfeld also was accused of being slow to recognize the emergence of the insurgency in 2003 and the threat it posed.

The U.S. occupation leader under Rumsfeld, L. Paul Bremer, quickly made two fateful decisions. One dissolved the Iraqi military, putting thousands of armed men on the streets rather than harnessing Iraqi soldiers as a reconstruction force as originally planned.

The second barred from Iraq’s government even junior members of the former ruling Baath Party, essentially emptying the various ministries of the people who made the government operate.

Rumsfeld also oversaw the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban leaders who had harbored the al Qaeda leaders responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. As he did in Iraq two years later, Rumsfeld sent a small force to Afghanistan, quickly chased the Taliban from power and then failed to establish law and order.

U.S. forces during Rumsfeld’s tenure also were unable to track down Osama bin Laden. The al Qaeda chief slipped past a modest force of U.S. special operations troops and CIA officers along with allied Afghan fighters in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora in December 2001. U.S. forces killed him in 2011.

Critics argue that had Rumsfeld devoted more troops to the Afghan effort, bin Laden may have been taken. But as he wrote in “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” his compilation of truisms dating to the 1970s: “If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.”

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Hezbollah says it won’t be dragged into war after Beirut bloodshed

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2021)

The deadly clashes that broke out in Beirut on Thursday amounted to a “massacre” and its perpetrators should be held to account, the pro-Iranian al-Mayadeen TV cited a Hezbollah representative in the Lebanese parliament as saying on Sunday.

“What the criminals … did is a massacre and it will have important ramifications,” MP Hassan Fadallah said, according to the Beirut-based channel.

“Those who incited, planned … and opened fire should be held to account all the way up to the top.”

On Friday the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah said it would not be dragged into civil war even as it stepped up accusations against the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party it says killed seven Shi’ites in Beirut’s bloodiest street violence in years.

The accusation, denied by the LF, underlines worsening sectarian tensions after Thursday’s violence which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast.

The probe into the catastrophic blast appears in increasing doubt, fuelled by a bitter political dispute over the lead investigator’s attempts to question officials who include Hezbollah allies.

The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods, has added to concerns for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s sharpest ever economic meltdowns.

The Lebanese Forces condemned the violence on Thursday which it blamed on Hezbollah “incitement” against Judge Tarek Bitar, the investigator.

The sound of gunfire could be heard across Beirut during funerals on Friday.

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Police arrest suspect for brutal murder at India’s mass farmer protest

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2021)

Police investigating the killing of a Sikh man at the site of an ongoing farmers’ protest in New Delhi said on Saturday they had arrested a suspect from a Sikh warrior sect, after the mutilated body was found strung up on a police barricade.

Authorities in India are investigating the brutal murder of man at one of the locations used by the nationwide mass protests by farmers there, that have rocked the country since last year, Reuters reported.

The body of a 35-year-old man was reportedly found mutilated and strung up to a police barricade at the site in New Delhi. The victim was beaten to death by a group of men who had accused him of desecrating religious texts, sacred to Sikhs.

One of the man’s hands was cut off.

A member of a Sikh warrior sect has been taken into custody. Most of the farmers involved with the protests in New Delhi — thousands of them — come from Punjab, which is dominated by Sikhs, Reuters reported.

A group that represents farmers’ organizations has condemned the killing. The ongoing protests are over changes to the law which deregulates the agriculture sector, although the protesters say it leaves them vulnerable to big business.

The prime minister’s political party says the murder shows the protest leaders are losing control of their movement.

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Saudi foreign ministry says discussed Iran nuclear program with US Blinken

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington and exchanged views on Iran’s nuclear program and international talks on the matter, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Had a productive meeting today with my friend Secretary Blinken, during which we discussed a range of issues of common interest & concern to both our nations & ways to strengthen our strategic partnership & cooperation on multiple fronts,” Al Saud said in a twitter post on Friday.

Al Saud also met the US Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, and discussed intensifying joint efforts against “Iranian violations of international treaties related to the nuclear agreement,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.

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