Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is blaming Iran for last weekend’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities, describing them as an “act of war.” Pompeo was speaking from Jeddah, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the airstrikes which heavily damaged one of the world’s biggest oil processing facilities. Pompeo’s visit came as Saudi military officials in Riyadh showed reporters remnants of what they described as Iranian drones and cruise missiles, saying they could not have been launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, even though Houthis have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Iran has denied responsibility, but Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN his nation was prepared to defend itself against any attack by the U.S. or its allies.
Nick Paton Walsh: “What would be the consequence of an American or Saudi military strike on Iran now?”
Javad Zarif: “An all-out war.”
Nick Paton Walsh: “You make a very serious statement, minister.”
Javad Zarif: “Well, I make a very serious statement about defending our country. I’m making a very serious statement that we don’t want war. We don’t want to engage in a military confrontation. We believe that a military confrontation based on deception is awful, will have a lot of casualties. But we won’t blink to defend our territory.”
Senate Democrats have warned Trump against any attack on Iran, saying he would need authorization from Congress. The President said Wednesday he has imposed new sanctions on Iran — though the White House, Treasury and State Department haven’t released any details.
The Washington Post reports that a conversation between President Trump and a world leader disturbed a U.S. intelligence official so much that the person filed a whistleblower complaint — leading to a showdown between lawmakers and U.S. intelligence agencies. According to the Post, Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted the unnamed official to file a complaint with Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community. Atkinson reportedly agreed that the concern was credible and troubling enough to alert congressional oversight committees, but Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details of the complaint with lawmakers. Atkinson is scheduled to answer questions in a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee today. It’s not clear which world leader’s conversation with Trump prompted the complaint. The Post reports Trump spoke with five world leaders during the time period covered — including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
President Trump has named Robert O’Brien as his fourth national security adviser, after ousting John Bolton from the role last week. O’Brien is author of the 2016 book, “While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis,” a collection of essays promoting hawkish U.S. foreign policy. O’Brien is a longtime associate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and previously served as the top U.S. hostage negotiator. In July, President Trump sent O’Brien to Sweden to win the release of A$AP Rocky, after the 30-year-old rapper’s arrest for allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old man in Stockholm. He’s previously worked as a national security adviser to the presidential campaigns of Republican candidates Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Mitt Romney.
In Afghanistan, in the lead-up to national elections later this month, at least 30 civilians were killed and 40 wounded late Wednesday after U.S.-backed Afghan security forces launched an air raid on farmers in eastern Nangarhar province. A local official said a drone attack was aimed at a hideout used by Islamic State fighters but instead killed farmworkers who’d finished a hard day’s labor harvesting pine nuts. Elsewhere, the Taliban has claimed responsibility for a truck bomb explosion in the southern city of Qalat that killed at least 20 people and wounded 97 others. A local official said the blast ripped through a gate to a hospital, but the target was likely a nearby training base for Afghanistan’s powerful security agency. Elsewhere, in eastern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber and gunmen attacked a government building in Jalalabad, injuring at least nine people at a distribution center for national identity cards, which voters will need to cast ballots in the September 28 election. This follows a pair of attacks on Tuesday that killed 48 people and wounded dozens of others. The Taliban promised to step up attacks after President Trump abruptly canceled peace talks on September 7, declaring the negotiations “dead.”
In Indonesia, massive forest fires have spread toxic haze over the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, sending residents to hospitals, shutting down airports and closing schools as far away as Singapore and Malaysia. On Wednesday, military pilots began seeding clouds above the fires with chemicals, hoping to produce enough rain to douse the blazes. Indonesian officials estimate about 80% of the fires were deliberately set in order to clear land for palm oil plantations.
In Bermuda, more than 28,000 homes and businesses lost power overnight as the outer bands of Hurricane Humberto brought down trees and power lines. But the British territory was spared a direct hit from the dangerous Category 3 hurricane. This comes as a record-tying six named storms churned in the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic basins. Climate scientists say warmer ocean temperatures driven by greenhouse gas emissions are making hurricanes and other extreme weather events more destructive.
On Capitol Hill, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg pleaded with a congressional committee Wednesday to listen to climate scientists’ warnings about catastrophic climate change. In a short opening statement, the 16-year-old youth climate leader said she was not submitting a testimony and would instead enter a report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change into the Congressional Record. The report calls on world leaders to take rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented action to avert a climate catastrophe.
Greta Thunberg: “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists, and I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action.”
More than a million students are expected to walk out of classes in over 150 countries on Friday in a Global Climate Strike, with more than 800 actions in the United States alone. Youth leaders are also billing Friday’s strike as a day of action for Puerto Rico. September 20 marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall on the island, which led to thousands of deaths, destroying homes and businesses and knocking out electricity for months. We’ll have more on the climate crisis after headlines with Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
The University of California has voted to divest from fossil fuel companies. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, two top university investment officials said it was the long-term risk posed by fossil fuel investments, rather than concerns over the environment, that led them to pull some $150 million in fossil fuel assets from the university endowment. Nonetheless, climate activists are hailing the move. 350.org founder Bill McKibben tweeted that the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, the University of Michigan and others should follow suit, adding, “If the biggest system in the country has decided it must sell its oil stock, the pressure on these guys will go way up.”
In Israel, the party of election challenger Benny Gantz has rejected an offer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join him in a unity government. Netanyahu’s surprise offer came after Tuesday’s election provided no clear winner. Both Netanyahu and Gantz ran on platforms vowing to take harsh measures targeting Palestinians, and have called on Israel to annex much of the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law.
In Japan, a court has found three former executives at the Tokyo Electric Power Company not guilty of professional negligence over their role in the multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant in 2011. The three had been indicted for failing to safeguard against the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that brought power at the nuclear plant offline, leading to explosions that spread radioactive fallout over parts of northern Japan. They were the only people to face criminal charges for the nuclear disaster.
Democratic Party donor and political activist Ed Buck was arrested in Los Angeles Tuesday night and charged with several felonies, including running a drug house, following the overdose deaths of at least two gay black men at Buck’s home in the past two years. Buck’s arrest comes after a third man overdosed on methamphetamine at Buck’s apartment last week. That man survived. Black LGBTQ activists and the family members of the two men who died have been calling on prosecutors for months to file criminal charges against Buck, accusing him of being a sexual predator. If convicted, Buck faces a maximum of five years in prison.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Wednesday after a photo emerged showing him in brownface. The 2001 photo, published by Time magazine, was taken from a Vancouver high school yearbook where Trudeau was then a teacher. It shows him wearing a costume turban, with his face and hands covered with dark makeup. Speaking to journalists Wednesday, Trudeau said he had dressed up as Aladdin as part of an Arabian Nights-themed school gala.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “I take responsibility for my decision to do that. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better. It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.”
The photo’s publication comes just one week after Trudeau launched his re-election campaign; it drew condemnation from leaders of all of Canada’s political parties. This is Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party.
Jagmeet Singh: “Well, it’s troubling. I mean, it’s really — it’s insulting. Anytime we hear examples of brownface or blackfacing, it’s really — it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are. I think he needs to answer for it. I think he’s got to answer the question why he did that.”