Archive for March, 2015
Sen. Marco Rubio will announce his presidential intentions April 13 in Miami, using an appearance Monday afternoon on Fox News to build suspense for a decision that he has been working toward for quite a while.
Asked about reports he had booked the Freedom Tower in Miami on that date for an undisclosed event, Rubio said he had not reserved a specific site yet, “but I will announce on April 13 what I’m going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate.”
Pressed on whether he would announce a White House bid, Rubio said: “I’ll announce something on April 13.”
His website, marcorubio.com, promised: “A big announcement is coming! Will you be there?”
Rubio has said he would not run for both offices on 2016’s ballots, and his team has been moving ahead as though it was putting together a White House bid, including donors who helped previous presidential nominees collect tens of millions of dollars.
But Rubio faces steep challenges to the nomination, including from his one-time mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Rubio could face as many as 20 other rivals for the GOP nomination.
“You’ll have to tune in on April 13,” Rubio said during his appearance on Fox News Channel, a favorite of GOP presidential hopefuls.
Rubio plans to sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05, a nod to Miami’s 305 area code. It is also a way for the nascent campaign to collect contact information from everyone who wants to be in the audience that day, including low-dollar donors.
A first-generation immigrant whose parents fled Cuba, Rubio could make history as the nation’s first Hispanic president. Rubio frames his pitch to voters as the embodiment of the American dream, a son of a maid and bartender who worked his way through law school and now sits in Congress.
His is an appealing story for a party that has struggled to connect with minority and younger voters. Those voters have been solidly behind Democrats in recent presidential elections. Rubio’s advisers see his candidacy as a way to eat into that Democratic bloc, even if capturing it would be almost impossible.
Rubio is also likely to skip a re-election bid to his Senate seat. He had long said he would not simultaneously run for two offices, and his political advisers have told party leaders that they should start recruiting a candidate to run for his Senate seat.
But Rubio faces a hurdle with some conservative activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over his work on a failed bipartisan immigration bill that included a long and difficult pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. The measure cleared the Senate but collapsed in the House in the face of conservative suspicion. Rubio ultimately wants to create a process that leads to legal status and, then, citizenship.
While he’s drawn interest from Republican kingmakers, he routinely polls in the middle of the likely field, recently drawing 7% support in a CNN/ORC poll.
His announcement is one of a handful of expected presidential launches in a busy April as the contest gears up.
The foreign ministers of Iran and six world powers met on Monday in a final push for a preliminary accord less than two days before their deadline to outline a deal to end Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West.
For days Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have been holding marathon negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne to break an impasse in nuclear negotiations, but officials cautioned that attempts to reach a framework accord could yet fall apart.
In addition to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Russia’s Sergei Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi gathered at a 19th-century hotel overlooking Lake Geneva to try to end the deadlock in the talks.
The six powers want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work. Tehran, which denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, demands in exchange for limits on its atomic activities a swift end to international sanctions that are crippling its economy.
While some issues being discussed in the negotiations have been resolved, there are several differences on which the two sides have been unable to reach agreement. Both Iran and the six have floated compromise proposals in an attempt to make an accord possible.
One sticking point concerns Iran’s demand to continue with research into newer generations of advanced centrifuges that can purify uranium faster and in greater quantities than the ones it currently operates for use in nuclear power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons.
Another question involves the speed of removing United Nations sanctions on Iran. A senior U.S. official said on Sunday there were other unresolved issues, but expected those would fall into place if the big sticking points could be worked out.
Even if Iran and the six powers reach an agreement by their end-March deadline, officials close to the talks say it could still fall apart when the two sides attempt to agree on all the technical details for a comprehensive accord by June 30.
Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.
A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources. The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.
Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.
Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen will continue until Shiite rebels there “withdraw and surrender their weapons,” a summit of Arab leaders decided Sunday, as they also agreed in principle to forming a joint military force.
The decision by the Arab League puts it on a path to more aggressively challenge Shiite power Iran, which is backing the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis.
A Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen on Thursday, saying it was targeting the Houthis and their allies, which include forces loyal to Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Current and former Yemeni military officials have said the campaign could pave the way for a possible ground invasion.
At the summit, held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby read a final communique outlining the leaders’ views.
“Yemen was on the brink of the abyss, requiring effective Arab and international moves after all means of reaching a peaceful resolution have been exhausted to end the Houthi coup and restore legitimacy,” Elaraby said.
The Houthis swept down from their northern strongholds last year and captured the capital Sanaa in September. Embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close U.S. ally against a powerful local al-Qaeda affiliate, fled first to the southern city of Aden and left the country last week.
Speaking at the summit Saturday, Hadi directly accused Iran of being behind the Houthi offensive, raising the specter of a regional conflict. Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though the Islamic Republic has provided humanitarian and other aid.
Asked at a news conference to explain vague references to “foreign powers” being behind conflicts in different Arab nations, Elaraby said: “I will answer this question indirectly. There is meddling by some neighbors, Israel on one side, Turkey and Iranian interference in several countries.”
Speaking after Elaraby, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said leaders also agreed in principle to creating a joint Arab military force. He said a high-level panel will work under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff to work out the structure and mechanism of the force.
Elaraby said the chiefs of staff would meet within a month and have three more months to decide on the structure, budget and mechanism of the force before they present their proposals to a meeting of the Arab League’s Joint Defense Council.
“It is an important resolution given all the unprecedented unrest and threats endured by the Arab world,” Elaraby said.
A summit resolution said the force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups.
“There is a political will to create this force and not to leave its creation without a firm time frame,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told a news conference.
Egyptian military and security officials have said the proposed force would consist of up to 40,000 elite troops and be headquartered in either Cairo or Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The force would be backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor.
However, it is unlikely that all 22 member nations of the often-fractious Arab League will join the proposed force. Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense agreement.
Iraq, whose Shiite government is closely allied with non-Arab and Shiite Iran, has said more time is needed to discuss the proposed force.
Now in its fourth day, the Saudi-led air campaign has pushed Houthi rebels out of contested air bases and destroyed any jet fighter remaining in Yemen, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed bin Hasan Asiri said.
The strikes also continued to target Scud missiles in Yemen, leaving most of their launching pads “devastated,” according to remarks carried Saturday by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. However, he warned that the rebels could have more missiles. His account could not be immediately corroborated.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said the air campaign, codenamed Operation Decisive Storm, had prevented the rebels from using planes they seized to attack Yemeni cities or to using missiles to attack neighboring Saudi Arabia. It also stopped Iran’s supply line to the rebels, he said.
Yassin said military experts will decide when and if a ground operation is needed.
“This is a comprehensive, a package operation and (ground operations) will depend on the calculations of the military,” he told reporters. Yassin said political dialogue will only happen after the Houthis surrender the weapons they seized from the state.
Meanwhile Sunday, Pakistan dispatched a plane to the Yemeni city of Hodeida, hoping to evacuate some 500 citizens gathered there, said Shujaat Azim, an adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister. Azim told state-run Pakistan Television more flights would follow as those controlling Yemen’s airports allowed them.
Pakistan says some 3,000 of its citizens live in Yemen. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also tweeted Sunday: “We are doing everything to evacuate our people from Yemen at the earliest by all routes land, sea and air.”
Fiorina told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that there is a “very high” chance she will run, and followed it up by specifying that the probability is “higher than 90 percent.”
If she decides to run, Fiorina wants to wait until late April or early May to announce, she said.
“We need to make sure we have the right time in place, that we have the right support, that we have the right financial resources lined up, just as all the other candidates have done,” Fiorina said in an interview on the show.
Fiorina took the interview as a chance to take some shots at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to announce soon her candidacy in the 2016 race as a Democrat.
“There’s a competence issue now. Anyone in 2015 who says you can’t have two email accounts on a single device obviously doesn’t understand technology,” she said, referring to Clinton’s statement that she used a private email account to avoid carrying multiple smartphones.
When Wallace asked Fiorina to make the case for her nomination, the Republican, who ran for Senate in 2010, focused largely on her tenure at HP from 1999 to 2005.
“Because I have a deep understanding of how the economy actually works, having started as a secretary and become the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world,” she said.
Fiorina, who is likely to be the only woman in the GOP field, also sought to ward off what Wallace said would be unavoidable criticisms of her time at HP, including that the company laid off 30,000 American workers, its stock price plummeted by half and the HP’s board fired her.
“We took Hewlett Packard from about $44 billion to $88 billion in six years,” she responded. “We quadrupled cash flow. We went from a market laggard to a market leader in every product category and every market segment.”
Fiorina said HP’s layoffs were among the “tough calls” she had to make as the company weathered the technology sector’s worst recession in 25 years.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton permanently deleted all the emails on the private server she used to do official business as secretary of state, the Republican lawmaker who subpoenaed the emails said late Friday.
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the House committee investigating the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, said Clinton’s lawyer informed him of the news.
“Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server,” Gowdy said in a statement.
Gowdy had also asked that Clinton turn over her server to the State Department inspector general for an independent review.
Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, said no.
In his letter to Gowdy, Kendall said the former secretary of state “chose not to keep her non-record personal emails.”
“Thus, there are no … e-mails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” he wrote.
But she “has maintained and preserved copies” of work-related, or potentially work-related emails she turned over to the State Department late last year. Kendall did not specify whether the emails were kept in paper or digital form.
Clinton has faced weeks of questioning, and Republican scrutiny, over her exclusive use of private e-mail, and a server at her home, during her tenure as secretary of state from early 2009 to early 2013.
Gowdy and the committee were notified in a letter Friday, “Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all e-mails from her server ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” said Gowdy, of South Carolina.
Gowdy said his committee will work with House leaders as the panel considers next steps, which could include legal action against Clinton.
A Clinton spokesman, Nick Merrill, said in a statement that the State Department has been responsive to the committee and that Clinton’s office has made clear that she wants her e-mails made public.
“She’s ready and willing to come and appear herself for a hearing open to the American public,” Merrill said.
Clinton’s office said on March 10 that she gave 30,490 work-related e-mails to the State Department, which is reviewing them for public release. Another 31,830 e-mails that Clinton has said involved personal matters, such as her daughter’s wedding planning or yoga routines, were deleted.
Clinton was secretary of state during the attacks that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Gowdy said lawmakers need to speak with Clinton about how she handled e-mail and her decisions on deleting some of it. Gowdy and other Republicans have said all relevant records are needed to reach conclusions about whether investigators looking into the attack on the U.S. consulate have what they need.
The top Democrat on the committee, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said the panel has already obtained Clinton’s e-mail on Benghazi.
“It is time for the committee to stop this political charade and instead make these documents public and schedule Secretary Clinton’s public testimony now,” Cummings said in a statement.
Clinton has been under intense scrutiny from Republicans who suggest the State Department failed to protect diplomatic personnel. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats say the matter has been thoroughly investigated by previous and costly congressional inquiries. Those efforts have come up with nothing, the Democrats say, suggesting the Republican efforts are politically motivated.
Arab leaders meeting this weekend in this Egyptian Red Sea resort are moving closer than ever to creating a joint Arab military force, a sign of a new determination among Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies to intervene aggressively in regional hotspots, whether against Islamic militants or spreading Iranian power.
Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense pact. And there remains reluctance among some countries, particularly allies of Iran like Syria and Iraq, a reflection of the divisions in the region.
Foreign ministers gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh ahead of the summit, which begins Saturday, agreed on a broad plan for the force. It came as Saudi Arabia and its allies opened a campaign of airstrikes in Yemen against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels who have taken over much of the country and forced its U.S.- and Gulf-backed president to flee abroad.
The Yemen campaign marked a major test of the new policy of intervention by the Gulf and Egypt. The brewing Yemen crisis and Gulf fears that the rebels are a proxy for Iranian influence, have been one motivator in their move for a joint Arab force. But it also signaled that they are not going to wait for the Arab League, notorious for its delays and divisions, and will press ahead with their military coordination on multiple fronts.
Egyptian officials said the Yemen airstrikes are to be followed by a ground intervention to further weaken the rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies and force them into negotiations. They have also moved ahead with action in Libya after its collapse into chaos since 2011 and the rise of militants there including now an affiliate of the Islamic State group that has overrun much of Iraq and Syria. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have both carried out airstrikes against Libyan militants in the past year.
In their agreement Thursday, the foreign ministers called on the chiefs of staff of the Arab League’s 22-member nations to meet within a month to iron out details of the force, like its budget and mechanism, and report back to the organization.
The Egyptian military and security officials said the proposed force would be made of up to 40,000 elite troops and will be headquartered in either Cairo or Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The force would be backed by jet-fighters, warships and light armor. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Arab league officials said some Arab nations had reservations about the creation of a joint force, including Iraq, whose foreign minister, Ibrahim a-Jaafari, has counselled fellow ministers that more time was needed for planning. Iran holds massive influence with Iraq’s Shiite-led government and its military advisers are playing an active role in the fight by government troops and allied Shiite militias against militants of the Islamic State.
The Associated Press exclusively reported last November that the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, all Sunni Muslim nations, were discussing the creation of a joint military alliance with a possible joint force to deal with the threat posed by Islamic militants in Libya and to combat the growing influence of Shiite, non-Arab Iran, particularly in Yemen. Jordan and Bahrain have since expressed their willingness to join the alliance.
Egypt’s president, soldier-turned-politician Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was the first Arab leader to speak publicly about the plan. In a recent address, he said there was a pressing need now for a joint Arab force and repeated his assertion that Egypt was prepared to intervene militarily in support of its Gulf Arab allies. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have poured billions of dollars into Egypt’s emptying coffers since el-Sissi ousted Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 following mass protests against the rule of the Islamist president.
“The resolution sends a clear message that Arab nations can agree on a plan to defend themselves,” Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby told a news conference late Thursday in Sharm el-Sheikh. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the proposed force would undertake “quick and effective missions.”
Saudi Arabia, a staunch U.S. ally, views Yemen as strategically important to its national security and has traditionally patronized key players there like top politicians, military commanders and tribal chiefs to protect its interests. It fought a brief border war against the Houthis in 2009. Similarly, Egypt views neighboring Libya as vital to its own national interests. Last month, Egyptian warplanes struck Islamic State positions in eastern Libya in retaliation for its mass beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians.
Thursday’s resolution, however, will streamline military actions like those undertaken by the Egyptians and Saudis in Libya and Yemen respectively, allowing future actions to be carried out under Arab League cover. El-Sissi’s calls for a U.N.-backed force to intervene in Libya were stymied by the West on the grounds that more time should be given to U.N.-led efforts to reconcile Libya’s rival governments.
Egyptian forces have recently concluded large-scale war games near its border with Libya. Codenamed “Thunder,” the exercise involved navy warships, attack helicopters and beach landings by army commandos.
Moreover, Egypt and its Gulf Arab allies have over the past year held a series of joint war games, including several in the Red Sea, a tactic that the Egyptian officials said was necessary to create harmony between members of the proposed force.
Already, the officials said, Egyptian troops are embedded with Saudi forces on the kingdom’s border with Iraq, about a third of which is controlled by the Islamic State. Egyptian military advisers are also deployed near Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen. As the crisis in Yemen worsened, Egypt has coordinated efforts with Sudan and Horn of Africa nation Eritrea to ensure the safety of shipping through the southern Bab al-Mandab entrance of the Red Sea, which Yemen overlooks
The pair will also face questions from a studio audience in the joint Sky News/Channel 4 programme. Elsewhere, Sky News presenter Kay Burley will moderate as members of the studio audience put questioned directly to each party leader, one of whom is likely be Prime Minister after the election
Despite being in the same TV studio, the Prime Minister and Labour leader will not go head to head, but will be interviewed individually.
What is the format?
David Cameron declined to do a head-to-head interview with Ed Miliband but agreed to be grilled by the former BBC Newsnight interviewer Jeremy Paxman on the same night as his opponent. The Labour leader won a coin toss and opted to go second, allowing him the chance to rebut Cameron’s points. The prime minister will therefore be questioned by Paxman for 18 minutes followed by a further 18-minute audience Q+A session moderated by Sky’s Kay Burley. Then Milband will take questions from the audience for 18 minutes, followed by an 18-minute interview with Paxman.
When does the excitement begin?
The coverage will kick off at 9pm on Channel 4 and Sky News. Immediately after the questioning, Sky will broadcast live from the “spin room” where each of the party’s spokesmen will comment on how the leaders perform and try to shape the media narrative around the interviews. The Guardian will be running a liveblog of the event, while the political team will be writing post-match reports and analysis. The Twitter hashtag is #BattleForNumber10 .
Why Jeremy Paxman?
Labour will likely be keeping a close eye on the questioning given Paxman’s pronouncement last year that he is a “one nation Tory”. However, the presenter has given politicians of all stripes an extremely hard time over the years. He once asked the former Conservative leader Michael Howard the same question 12 times without getting a straight answer and more recently he took down the former Conservative treasury minister Chloe Smith as she stumbled over details of a fuel duty announcement.
What will he ask them?
Both will surely be grilled on their stagnant positions in the polls and why their campaigns do not yet seem to be striking a chord with the public. The leaders are also vulnerable on their respective failures to spell out exactly where and when they would make public spending cuts and tax rises in order to meet their goals of balancing the books. They are certain to be asked about the explosive political situation in Scotland, which has led the Conservatives to run a scare campaign about a pact between Labour and the Scottish National party and could see Miliband lose dozens of seats north of the border.
Who will be in the audience?
The studio audience of 100 has been selected by the research company Survation to ensure it is demographically representative and all the members are registered to vote. It is also weighted by voting intention, comprising one-third Conservative supporters, one-third Labour supporters and one-third undecided voters.
What about the actual debate?
Cameron and Miliband have agreed to a seven-way debate including Ukip’s Nigel Farage, the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s leader, Leanne Wood, and the Green party’s Natalie Bennett. This will take place a week later on ITV and be moderated by the ITV News at Ten presenter Julie Etchingham. There will also be a debate featuring the five opposition parties outside the coalition and a Question Time-style show presented by David Dimbleby in which Miliband, Cameron and Clegg will answer questions from a studio audience.