World News

Subscribe To This Feed

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(TAORMINA, Italy) -- President Trump, coming off a G7 summit and meeting at the Vatican where he was pushed for the U.S. to stay in the Paris climate agreement, tweeted Saturday that he will make a decision next week.


I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017

The future of the United States’ involvement in the landmark agreement, which Trump repeatedly criticized as a candidate, was a sticking point at the G7 summit in Italy that ended on Saturday, with the Italian prime minister pointing to it as an "open question" at the end of the summit's first day on Friday.

“There is one open question, which is the U.S. position on the Paris climate accords. … All others have confirmed their total agreement on the accord,” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said. “We are sure that after an internal reflection, the United States will also want to commit to it.”

In addition to getting pushed on the topic at the G7 summit, the president also got an earful at the Vatican, where the pope presented Trump with one of his writings on the environment and the Cardinal secretary of state further raised the issue during a bilateral meeting.

Though the president has yet to make a final decision, his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, indicated Friday that the president was growing more attuned to the European stance on the issue.

"I think he is leaning to understand the European position,” Cohn said when asked which way the president was leaning. “Look, as you know from the U.S., there's very strong views on both sides.”

Cohn told reporters the president's views on the Paris climate agreement are “evolving.”

“He came here to learn,” Cohn said at the G7 summit. “So his views are evolving, which is exactly what they should be.”

The president’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, chimed in to say that the president’s decision about whether to remain in the agreement would ultimately be based on what’s best for the United States, to which Cohn concurred.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.



Subscribe To This Feed

Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images(TAORMINA, Italy) -- President Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, repeatedly declined to answer media questions about reports that the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, sought backchannel communications with Russia prior to Trump's taking office. But McMaster said, “generally speaking,” he would not be concerned about such an action.

“It’s not something that I've in any way been involved with or have any knowledge of,” McMaster said at a press briefing in Italy of the revelation that Kushner talked about communications in his discussion with Russia’s U.S. ambassador in December.

Asked whether he would be concerned as a general matter if someone in the administration or National Security Council sought backchannel communications with the Russian embassy, McMaster said he would not.

“No, we have backchannel communications with a number of countries. So, generally speaking about backchannel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner,” McMaster said.

Pressed in a follow-up question about whether he has any concerns at all about Kushner's talking to the Russian ambassador about setting up such communications, McMaster stayed silent and simply did not respond.

Backchanneling is a practice at times used by government officials, but Kushner was not yet a government employee at the time of his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December.

Another senior administration official, Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn, said the topic of Kushner and his relationship to Russia was not raised at the G7 summit in Italy, which ended on Saturday.

"Never came up," Cohn said when asked if the subject were discussed.

He also said issues around Russia, while discussed at the G7, were not raised in any of the president’s bilateral meetings.

"Russia as a country came up a lot. It was part of the communique; it was discussed many times, Russia as a country," Cohn said. "Russia never came up in the bilaterals.”

Trump held no press conferences on trip

Asked about the absence of any press conferences by Trump during the trip, Cohn said the president has been very busy with a “robust schedule” and that he has “worked nonstop.”

When reporters said other world leaders are making time to hold press briefings, Cohn said, “I don’t know that that’s true.”

Paris climate deal

Cohn, asked to explain his comment Friday that the president’s view on the Paris climate accords is evolving, said Trump is “continuously talking to people about the issue to gain more knowledge about the issue.”

'Amazing deals'

Speaking broadly speaking about Trump's foreign trip, Cohn said the “the president was able to make some of the most amazing deals that have been made by an administration ever.”

Cohn specifically cited the arms deal and private business deals announced in Saudi Arabia, saying they amount to close to a half-trillion dollars and that he’s never seen so many deals come together at once.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Mandel Ngan/Getty Images(SICILY, Italy) -- President Trump, addressing U.S. troops at Sigonella Naval Air Station in Italy in the final event of his first foreign trip, called his international tour a "home run.”

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” the president said.

He again said money is pouring into NATO, though he did not offer details on any specific new commitments that have been made by NATO countries. He also reiterated the U.S. commitment to the North Atlantic alliance.

“Money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they're doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that,” the president said. "We are behind NATO all the way. All of us will be more safe and secure if everyone fulfills their obligations the way they're supposed to, right?”

Reflecting upon the G7 summit over the last two days, the president said it was "productive."

“It was a tremendously productive meeting where I strengthened America's bonds. We have great bonds with other countries. We concluded a historic week for our country,” he said.

The president also expressed optimism about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, recalling his visit to Israel and his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, a city he noted is “so precious to so many.”

“[Abbas] assured me he's willing to reach for peace with Israel in good faith, and I believe he will. And Israeli [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu -- he assured me that he's ready to reach for peace. He's a friend of mine, and he means it,” he said.

At one point during the speech, the president seemed to be referencing the sound of an approaching helicopter and pondered aloud about who it was -- again mispronouncing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s name in speculating it could be him or “Justin from Canada,” an apparent reference to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The president thanked the troops and their families for their service to the country and vowed that the U.S. will “win” the fight against terrorism.

“Terrorism is a threat. Bad threat," he said. "Together we'll overcome this threat. We'll win.”

First lady Melania Trump introduced the president to the troops, telling the crowd that it has been a “very special” trip for her and a success for her husband in his role as president.

“We had a great time here. We did a lot of great stuff,” she said. “My husband worked very hard on behalf of our country. I am very proud of him. This trip has also been incredible for me as first lady.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(MANCHESTER, England) -- British police made two more arrests early Saturday in connection to Monday's terror attack at a crowded concert hall in Manchester that killed 22 people.

Officers executed a search warrant and used a controlled explosion to gain entry to an address where two men -- ages 22 and 20 -- were arrested.

A total of 13 people have been arrested in the terror investigation, two of whom have been released without charge, the Greater Manchester police said.

Eleven people remain in custody in connection with Monday night's suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, where American singer Ariana Grande had just finished performing.

The ages of the detained men range from 18 to 38, police said.

On Friday, the police said a man was arrested in Moss Side, an impoverished neighborhood nestled south of Manchester city center.

The Friday-evening arrest targeted a 44-year-old man in the Rusholme area who was taken into custody on suspicions related to the attack.

Authorities have said Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old suspected suicide bomber who died in the explosion, grew up in an area near Moss Side.

There are 12 locations police are continuing to search and police activity will continue throughout the weekend, according to Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins. Manchester Arena is still cordoned off.

Britain's top counter-terrorism police officer, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, said in a statement that police have made "significant arrests and finds" in the investigation, adding that they had gotten "hold of a large part" of Abedi's network.

"We are focusing on understanding Abedi's life; forensically examining a number of scenes; reviewing hours of CCTV from the night itself and the hours before; financial work; communication; digital exhibits; the accounts from hundreds of witnesses; and, of course, enquiries internationally," Rowley said.

Rowley said "immense" progress has been made and that more arrests are likely.

"It has been a challenging week, and we are still in the middle of a live investigation," Hopkins said in a statement on Friday. "We have hundreds of officers that are working on this investigation from across the national counterterrorism policing network, and we have seized thousands of exhibits that are now being assessed."

A senior security source told BBC News that the threat level was raised to "critical" partly because of concern about the possibility of copy-cat attacks.

Manchester police said they have seen an increase in reports of hate incidents this week, from 28 on Monday -- which Hopkins said is what they receive on an average day -- to 56 on Wednesday.

"We can't directly link these to the events of Monday night and are continuing to monitor the situation," he said.

In addition to those killed, 116 people have been treated for injuries from Monday's attack and 75 were hospitalized, including 23 patients who are currently in critical care, according to the National Health Service in England.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images(TAORMINA, Italy) -- Before President Trump boards Air Force One on Saturday, he is concluding his whirlwind eight-day trip overseas at the Group of Seven, or G7, summit in Taormina, Italy.

His agenda includes discussions about emerging markets and global issues, specifically migration, food security and gender. He will be seated between the leaders of Niger and Tunisia, according to White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn.

Trump tweeted Saturday morning, "Big G7 meetings today. Lots of very important matters under discussion. First on the list, of course, is terrorism. #G7Taormina."

The president then tweeted, "Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in -- NATO will be much stronger."

Big G7 meetings today. Lots of very important matters under discussion. First on the list, of course, is terrorism. #G7Taormina

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017

Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in- NATO will be much stronger.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017

This tweet comes after Trump lectured member countries on payments at NATO headquarters on Thursday, where he said that 2 percent of a country's GDP is the minimum in terms of necessary contributions.

Trump's third and final session at the summit will be a closed meeting with seven heads of state.

The annual event brings together the leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and Canada to discuss and promote solutions for major world issues.

On Friday, Trump sat down with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss North Korea, among other issues.

"It's a big problem. It's a world problem," the president said. "It will be solved at some point. It will be solved -- you can bet on that."

Just before departing for Washington, D.C., Trump will speak to American and allied servicemen and their families, recapping highlights and accomplishments of the trip.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday to say that the trip has been "very successful" and that the United States has made and saved "billions of dollars and millions of jobs."

"Any improvement on trade would save untold numbers of jobs. Stopping even one bad trade deal can save millions. Changing the infrastructure of global trade to tilt it back toward the U.S. would save and create millions, easily," a White House official said, explaining the president's tweet. "This is, of course, in addition to all of the jobs from the deals made in Saudi Arabia."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday morning that the country's terrorism threat level has been reduced from its top level of "critical" to "severe."

The change indicates an attack is highly likely but not imminently expected.

The level was raised to "critical" after Monday's bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, which left 22 people dead.

May cited progress in the investigation for the change in threat level, but urged people to remain vigilant.

Following May's announcement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted, "Security plans will remain in place this weekend -- including additional policing for major events and the army helping with police guarding duties."

Khan continued, "I encourage all Londoners to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police."

The national threat level for terrorism has now been reduced from 'critical' to 'severe'. Security plans will remain in place this weekend.

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) May 27, 2017

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- Masked gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Friday, killing at least 28 people and wounding another 25 people, according to BBC.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. Coptic Christians make up just 10 percent of Egypt's population of 92 million.

Last month, ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks on Coptic churches on Palm Sunday in which 49 people were killed.

President Donald Trump condemned the attacks on Friday and said the U.S. stands in solidarity with Egypt.

"Terrorists are engaged in a war against civilization, and it is up to all who value life to confront and defeat this evil," Trump said. "This merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt tears at our hearts and grieves our souls. Wherever innocent blood is spilled, a wound is inflicted upon humanity."

Trump said the attack "steels our resolve to bring nations together for the righteous purpose of crushing the evil organization of terror, and exposing their depraved, twisted and thuggish ideology."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency will conduct its first-ever intercept test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) next week, a nod to the growing threat from North Korea.

The test, scheduled for Tuesday, will involve launching an ICBM-class target from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

If successful, the "kill vehicle" or intercept will collide with the ICBM test target mid-course over the Pacific Ocean. This is different than the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system located in South Korea which would intercept the kill vehicle at a lower altitude in the missile's terminal stage.

This will be the 18th test of the ground-based interceptor. The last one, in June 2014, was the first success since 2008. The system is nine for 17 since 1999 with other types of target missiles. An ICBM target has never been tested before.

There are 32 ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska and four at Vandenberg.

The Missile Defense Agency said in its FY2018 Budget Overview that it would deploy eight additional ground-based interceptors in Alaska by the end of 2017, for a total of 44 overall "to improve protection against North Korean and potential Iranian ICBM threats as they emerge."

The U.S. tests its ICBMs about twice every year. Earlier this month, Air Force Global Strike Command test launched an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM equipped with a single test reentry vehicle from Vandenberg. The reentry vehicle landed 4,200 miles away to the Kwajalein Atoll.

"These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent," the Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement.

North Korea has spent the last decade working to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the continental United States. Though the country has conducted eight missiles tests thus far in 2017, none have proven to be an ICBM.

The last test North Korea conducted on May 21 was the successful launch of a KN-15 medium range ballistic missile that traveled just over 300 miles into the Sea of Japan.

But one week earlier, North Korea tested a KN-17 medium range ballistic missile, the first successful launch of its kind for the nation.

The Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told reporters that the missile reached an unprecedented altitude of 1,245 miles. Experts claim the missile would have flown a much greater distance if launched on a maximum trajectory, perhaps reaching military bases in Guam.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released(NEW YORK) — Two Chinese J-10 fighter jets came within several hundred feet of a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion over the South China Sea on Thursday local time, U.S. officials said.

The fighters flew 200 yards in front of the P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft with an altitude separation of 100 feet, an encounter the commander of the U.S. aircraft determined as "unsafe and unprofessional," U.S. officials said.

According to a U.S. official, the Chinese jets were weaving ahead of the American plane, an action that concerned the U.S. pilot.

The activity occurred 150 miles southeast of Hainan Island in the northern part of the South China Sea.

A U.S. official said the U.S. plans to address the incident with China through diplomatic and military channels.

This encounter appears to have occurred the same day that the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef in the South China Sea, conducting a Freedom of Navigation Operation by the artificial island claimed by China.

The U.S. military conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations worldwide to challenge what the U.S. sees as excessive maritime claims and to ensure free and open waterways under international law.

The Dewey's trip was the first such operation near a South China Sea island claimed by China since October and the first under the Trump administration.

Mischief Reef is one of the manmade islands that China has built up in the Spratly Islands chain and turned into airstrips and facilities that could be used by China's military.

Last week, the Chinese conducted a barrel roll over a U.S. Air Force WC-135 radiation “sniffer” aircraft, known as Constant Phoenix, flying in international airspace in the Yellow Sea west of the Korean peninsula.

That incident was also characterized as "unprofessional," a U.S. official said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. service member was killed in a vehicle accident in northern Syria on Friday, according to a statement from the anti-ISIS coaliton.

"A U.S. service member died of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover in northern Syria, May 26, 2017," said a statement from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the formal name for the military coalition helping to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

"Further information will be released as appropriate," the statement added, saying it is the coalition's "policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities."

The United States has slightly more than 900 military personnel in Syria to advise and assist Kurdish and Arab rebel forces fighting ISIS.

Two other American service members have died in Syria since U.S. troops arrived there in early 2016.

Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton, 42, was killed by an improvised explosive device in northern Syria on Nov. 24, 2016.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin L. Bieren, 25, died from suspected natural causes while deployed to northern Syria on March 28.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(TOARMINA, Italy) — President Donald Trump is in Taormina, Italy, where he will attend his first of the Group of Seven (G7) summit.

The meeting comes a day after the U.S. president faced other world leaders at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he called out NATO leaders for "chronic underpayments" to the security alliance. Whether points of contention loom for Trump at the G7 summit is unclear, but among possible areas of discussion will be whether the U.S. will withdraw the from the Paris climate accord signed between by nearly 200 nations during the Obama administration. Trump has publicly blasted the agreement in the past.

But coordinating and discussing international politics and economics is why the group of advanced industrialized countries exists. The group consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., and it has been meeting regularly since its founding in 1975. While not a country, the European Union is also represented at G7 meetings.

The consultative diplomatic grouping was founded by six of the countries to discuss international economic policies following a period of global economic stagnation caused by the 1970's oil crisis. Canada was added the following year, and in the 1980s the group expanded its purview to discuss foreign and security policy issues.

For nearly two decades beginning in the mid-1990s, the addition of Russia made the G7 the G8. But after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the other member countries disallowed Russia from attending the summit "as a result of Russia's violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," according to the G7 organizers from the following year.

The G7's meetings are hosted by one of the member countries in different cities every year. This year's summit will span Friday and Saturday, with scheduled sessions covering foreign policy about cybersecurity, terrorism, trade, climate and migration.

There will also be a closed meeting on Saturday with no agenda for the seven leaders to discuss.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who is expected to attend some portions of the summit with Trump, told reporters Thursday that in addition to other topics, there will be a "fairly robust discussion" about climate but that the president will "ultimately make a decision on Paris and climate when he gets back" to the U.S.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(TAORMINA, Italy) — President Donald Trump continued his marathon of meetings with world leaders Friday on the fifth stop of his overseas trip in Taormina, Italy, where he is attending his first Group of Seven (G7) summit.

The annual meeting convenes the leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and Canada to discuss and promote solutions for major world issues.

Ahead of his meeting with G7 leaders Friday morning, Trump met with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss North Korea, among other issues.

"It's a big problem, it's a world problem," the president said. "It will be solved at some point. It will be solved, you can bet on that.”

Abe, who joined Trump at Mar-a-Lago in February, joked about playing golf.

“There is one unfortunate thing I have to confess, this time around we will not be able to play golf together,” said Abe.

But in contrast to the collaborative and at times even playful demeanor leaders would assume during the eight years President Barack Obama was in office, Trump's emergence so far on the diplomatic circuit has shown his willingness to use the meetings to confront world leaders and openly express his grievances.

Trump's speech at the opening of a new NATO memorial Thursday aimed to publicly call out countries who may not have paid their full share in recent years. It also rattled some diplomatic experts over the president's decision to not explicitly express the U.S. commitment to NATO's Article 5 collective defense treaty.

A key issue expected to be on the summit's agenda is Trump's weighing of whether to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a decision that several leaders of the G7 countries have expressed could significantly undermine global efforts to combat climate change.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday that the president would make his decision whether to exit the treaty upon his return to the U.S.

Also under the microscope during Trump's meetings have been his body language and interactions with other heads of state. In particular reporters and social media have pointed out his lengthy handshake with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, his alleged "shove" to move in front of Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and his face-to-face with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who expressed dismay over an alleged U.S. leak of British intel from the investigation into the Manchester bombing.

In the evening following his meetings, Trump and the first lady will attend a G7 concert by La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra before the leaders and their spouses sit down for dinner.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) — President Trump is in Italy for the G7 summit with uncertainty over the U.S.'s commitment to the Paris accord. During his campaign, Trump said he would “cancel” the Paris agreement but has yet to take action since entering office. Experts are anticipating that some European parties at the G7 will try to get the U.S. to affirm its commitment to the deal at the summit. Here’s what you should know ahead of the meeting.

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an accord sponsored by the U.N. to help slow global climate change. The 145 parties who ratified the convention set a goal to ensure global temperatures do not increase more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It also aims to limit temperature increases by only 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

After the conference, each country set their own "Nationally Determined Contributions" (NDCs) and agreed to report their progress regularly on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. To remain in the deal, the U.S. must cut its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Learn more about the specifics of the agreements here.

Where does the Trump administration stand on the agreement?

Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump said he would roll back environmental protections and regulations. He threatened to "cancel" the deal, but since taking office has said he's studying it. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said the Paris Agreement is bad for America because it’s bad for jobs. However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon, said he supports staying in the deal. White House adviser Ivanka Trump set up a review process to make sure her father received information from experts in both the public and private sector before making a decision on the agreement. President Trump and Ivanka Trump have both postponed meetings with consultants about the agreement.

Are the Paris accords binding?

The U.S. can decide to withdraw from the agreement but stipulations outlined in the deal would require the U.S. to remain in the pact until November 2020. However, the Trump administration can adjust the U.S.'s Nationally Determined Contributions very simply.

“The Paris agreement was designed to be flexible so that parties could respond to changing domestic circumstances,” Andrew Light, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute told ABC News.

The agreement was signed on the U.S.’s behalf by former Secretary of State John Kerry, with his granddaughter on his lap on Earth Day April 22, 2016. President Obama signed it into law via executive action, bypassing the then Republican-controlled Senate.

What are the consequences of withdrawing?

Light said that the Trump administration could face a fallout if it withdraws from the agreement.

“It could potentially harm U.S. businesses who are trying to compete with businesses from other countries in the exploding global market in renewable energy,” Light told ABC News. He went on to explain that withdrawal could look like “Trump is turning his back on the world” by walking away from the spirit of global cooperation that the Paris agreement created.

For example, the Pope gave Trump copies of his published works on climate change as a parting gift following their meeting on May 24, 2017. Some are inferring the Pope was trying to convince Trump to support the Paris agreement.

If Trump manages to avoid taking a stance at the G7 meeting this weekend, his team will most likely try to settle the issue ahead of the G20 meeting in July.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NEW YORK) — President Trump said Thursday that his first trip overseas has given him “renewed hope that nations of many faiths can unite to defeat terrorism, a common threat to all of humanity.” But his time in the Middle East may have done more to deepen one of the region's main religious divides and alienate a key ally in that fight, experts told ABC News.

The president chose Saudi Arabia for the first stop on his first overseas trip as president and praised King Salman for his stance against extremism -- particularly with respect to Iran. But a weekend spent blasting Iran -- a predominantly Shiite country -- from the halls of its longtime Sunni adversary could risk alienating America’s most important ally in the fight against ISIS: Iraq, Middle East experts said.

As President Trump and leaders from dozens of Muslim countries gathered in the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Saudi Arabia Sunday, there was one critical Middle Eastern leader missing from their family photo -- because he wasn’t invited -- sources tell ABC News.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi was home in Baghdad, where his administration is leading that fight against the terror group ISIS that has upended their country.

Instead of Abadi, who is a Shiite Muslim, Saudi Arabia invited Fuad Masum, Iraq’s Sunni Kurdish president, largely a ceremonial position. That kind of snub for Abadi, seemingly along sectarian lines, was just one of a handful of perceived slights for Iraq at a summit that was meant to bring Muslims together against terrorism, experts say.

Critics say that the summit's targeting of Iran as a source of extremism and its sidelining of a prominent Shiite leader could drive the Iraqi government further into Iran’s arms at a time when the U.S. needs a strong partner there.

“It was another example of Saudi dismissal of Iraq as a potential ally,” said James Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. “Saudi Arabia writes off Iraq as a Iranian vassal ... and this undercuts U.S. efforts.”

“Having Iraq's leadership snubbed by the Saudis and not having Abadi there is truly unfortunate. It's a real missed opportunity,” said Ilan Goldenberg, Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security and a former State Department and Pentagon official.

It also reveals a new U.S. administration that is either inexperienced or missed the nuances of a complicated region, according to some experts.

“This whole incident shows what happens with a new inexperienced team with much of the State Department mid-ranks empty,” added Jeffrey. “Those people are supposed to foresee such problems and counter it. Didn't happen.”

The cold shoulder for Abadi was not the only insult perceived by the Iraqis. When President Masud arrived, he was greeted at the airport not by any high-ranking Saudi officials, but the vice emir of the local province Riyadh. It was a humiliating reception, according to Iraqi press.

The summit also appeared to downplay Iraq’s role in the campaign against ISIS. King Salman did not mention Iraq once in his speech and Trump did not praise the Iraqi army’s efforts on the front lines, only giving a nod to the “American troops [who] are supporting Kurds, Sunnis and Shias fighting together for their homeland.”

President Masum wasn’t given a speaking slot at all, although his office posted the text of a speech he had ready on their website.

“ISIS have killed the Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Yazidis, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Shabaks and others without any discrimination, and its ugly crimes included all the Iraqi components,” he would have told the summit, had he been able to.

A senior administration official praised the summit, saying, “Donald Trump united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn’t been in many years.”

But by trying to make Iran the common enemy in Riyadh, the summit put Iraq in an awkward position. Once sworn enemies who fought a brutal eight-year war, Iran and Iraq have had close ties since Sunni strongman Saddam Hussein was deposed by the U.S. in 2003. After years of his oppressive rule, Iraq’s majority Shiites took power and aligned with Iran.

Iraq's Sunni minority began to suffer persecution and mistreatment under the new Shiite leadership, including abuses by the new Shiite-majority Iraqi army and the Shiite militia groups backed by Iran. That sense of alienation and abuse helped to drive the rise of ISIS, a Sunni terrorist group that swept across traditionally Sunni areas, experts say.

While a common enemy in ISIS has united the country for now, new pressure on the country's sectarian fault lines could ignite tensions within Iraq just as ISIS’s defeat in Mosul appears imminent, especially with Shiite militias and Shiite-majority armed forces emboldened by their victories on the battlefield.

But because of that complex relationship, Abadi’s absence from the summit could have also been a blessing for him, says former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

“I’d imagine Abadi was grateful not to be invited,” said Crocker. “As he tries to juggle a relationship with Saudi Arabia at a time when the Saudis are in maximum overdrive against the Iranians, I think he would be pleased and relieved that he wasn’t put on the spot like that.”

Crocker says the Iraqi officials he's spoken with aren't acting like it's a snub and have praised what they've seen from Trump so far.

Despite the tension, the Saudis and the Iraqis have made efforts to build relationships in recent months. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir traveled to Baghdad in February, the first such visit in 27 years, and the Iraqis say they are working with the Saudis on a visit by Abadi to the Kingdom soon, according to Crocker, the first in more than a decade.

“There is an opening for a very good neighborly relationship,” Abadai said of the Iraqi-Saudi relationship at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington in March. “Our Saudi friends used to think that Iraq is under the control of our Iranian neighbors, but we are not. Iraq is governed by Iraqis, and they saw for themselves” with Jubeir's visit.

Still, suspicions run deep in Riyadh, where officials watch Iran’s influence in the region with great concern.

“The shabby treatment the Iraqis feel they received has more to do with how the Saudis see the Iraqi government and its ties to Iran,” said Aaron David Miller, vice president and distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center who was a Middle East negotiator under presidents of both parties.

“It's less relevant to Riyadh whether Iraq is fighting ISIS than it is Baghdad's unwillingness and inability to buck Iran.”

But experts say this week's gathering may not have given Baghdad much impetus to leave Tehran's orbit.

“A critical element of U.S. strategy for countering Iran involves encouraging closer ties between Iraq and the Gulf States in order to pull Baghdad away from Tehran,” said Goldenberg.

Bringing Iraq into alignment with its Gulf allies remains a top priority for the U.S., especially for a new administration that has put Iran "on notice."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- For over five seconds, the presidents of two of the world's most powerful countries gripped and shook each other's hands with an amount of force uncommon for the ritual -- an action some are interpreting to be symbolic of their budding relationship's dynamic.

U.S. President Donald Trump and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron met for the first time as they convened at a NATO summit in Belgium, and, as is tradition in the Western world, shook hands at the conclusion of remarks in front of reporters.

The shake lasted over 5.2 seconds and included an unsuccessful attempt by Trump at one point to release himself from his counterpart's grasp.

Trump's hesitancy to engage in such a lengthy series of ups and downs may stem from his aversion to the gesture. He has previously commented that he is "not a big fan of the handshake," though has regularly and publicly participated in them since launching his bid for the presidency almost two years ago.

"I think it's barbaric," said Trump on "Later Today" in 1999. "I mean, they have medical reports all the time. Shaking hands, you catch colds, you catch the flu, you catch this. You catch all sorts of things. Who knows what you don't catch?"

During a January press conference prior to his inauguration in which he refuted unsubstantiated claims about his conduct during a trip to Russia included in an intelligence dossier that had been leaked to the public, Trump again shared his position.

"I'm also very much of a germaphobe, by the way," said Trump.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


KJC Kennel Club





"Always in our Heart! "

LinkedUpRadio Envisionwise Web Services