By Marwa Rashad and Stephen Kalin RIYADH (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump issued a new threat to Tehran on Sunday, tweeting that a conflict would be the "official end" of Iran, as Saudi Arabia warned it stood ready to respond with "all strength" and said it was up to Iran to avoid war. The heightened rhetoric follows last week's attacks on Saudi oil assets and the firing of a rocket on Sunday into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" that exploded near the U.S. embassy. "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" Trump said in a tweet without elaborating. A U.S. State Department official said the rocket attack in Baghdad did not hit a U.S.-inhabited facility and produced no casualties nor any significant damage. No claims of responsibility had been made, but the United States was taking the incident "very seriously." "We have made clear over the past two weeks and again underscore that attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a decisive manner," the official said in an emailed statement. "We will hold Iran responsible if any such attacks are conducted by its proxy militia forces or elements of such forces, and will respond to Iran accordingly." Riyadh, which emphasized that it does not want a war, has accused Tehran of ordering Tuesday's drone strikes on two oil pumping stations in the kingdom, claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group. Two days earlier, four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. In response, countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began "enhanced security patrols" in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf area on Saturday, the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said on Sunday. Iran has denied involvement in either incident, which come as Washington and the Islamic Republic spar over sanctions and the U.S. military presence in the region, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. "The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want a war in the region nor does it seek that," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference on Sunday. "It will do what it can to prevent this war and at the same time it reaffirms that in the event the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with all force and determination, and it will defend itself and its interests." Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Sunday invited Gulf and Arab leaders to convene emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss implications of the attacks. "The current critical circumstances entail a unified Arab and Gulf stance toward the besetting challenges and risks," the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet said in its statement about increased maritime patrols that GCC countries were "specifically increasing communication and coordination with each other in support of regional naval cooperation and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf," with navies and coast guards working with the U.S. Navy. Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim ally the UAE has not blamed anyone for the tanker sabotage operation, pending an investigation. No-one has claimed responsibility, but two U.S. government sources said last week that U.S. officials believed Iran had encouraged the Houthi group or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry it out. The drone strike on oil pumping stations, which Riyadh said did not disrupt output or exports, was claimed by the Houthis, who have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition in a war in Yemen since 2015. The Houthi-controled SABA news agency said on Sunday, citing a military source from the group, that targeting Aramco's installations last week was the beginning of coming military operations against 300 vital military targets. Targets include vital military headquarters and facilities in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, as well as their bases in Yemen, the source told SABA. The head of the Houthis' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, derided Riyadh's call to convene Arab summits, saying in a Twitter post that they "only know how to support war and destruction". A Norwegian insurers' report seen by Reuters said Iran's Revolutionary Guards were "highly likely" to have facilitated the attack on vessels near the UAE's Fujairah emirate, a main bunkering hub lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz. SAUDI PRINCE CALLS POMPEO Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has dismissed the possibility of war erupting, saying Tehran did not want conflict and no country had the "illusion it can confront Iran". This stance was echoed by the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards on Sunday. "We are not pursuing war but we are also not afraid of war," Major General Hossein Salami was cited as saying by the semi-official news agency Tasnim. Washington has tightened economic sanctions against Iran, trying to cut Tehran's oil exports to zero, and beefed up the U.S. military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats to United States troops and interests. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed regional developments, including efforts to strengthen security and stability, in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Saudi Media Ministry tweeted on Sunday. "We want peace and stability in the region but we will not sit on our hands in light of the continuing Iranian attack," Jubeir said. "The ball is in Iran's court and it is up to Iran to determine what its fate will be." He said the crew of an Iranian oil tanker that had been towed to Saudi Arabia early this month after a request for help due to engine trouble were still in the kingdom receiving the "necessary care". The crew are 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran are arch-adversaries in the Middle East, backing opposite sides in several regional wars. In a sign of the heightened tension, Exxon Mobil evacuated foreign staff from an oilfield in neighboring Iraq. Bahrain on Saturday warned its citizens against travel to Iraq and Iran and asked those already there to return. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory to U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution. (Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai, Nandita Bose in Wahsington, Ali Abdelaty in Cairo, Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Writing by Stephen Kalin, Ghaida Ghantous and David Lawder; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Mark Potter, Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)
- The Telegraph
Thousands of national guardsmen were turfed out of the Capitol building on Thursday and sent to sleep in car parks, before being allowed back in late at night after complaints from lawmakers. Despite the quick reversal, two Republican governors commanded their troops home in protest. US Capitol police had ordered the reservists to vacate the building and set up camp outdoors or in nearby hotels, with thousands ending up stationed outside or in car parks. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” one of the guardsmen told Politico. The National Guard were brought into the US capital to provide security after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Beau Biden, who served in the Guard, is buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.
- Associated Press
Transgender kids would be banned from playing on school sports teams for the gender with which they identify under a GOP-backed bill that advanced Thursday in Montana, one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for trans minors this year. The order immediately sparked a backlash from conservative groups, a split that reflects the deep divisions in the U.S. around transgender youth. Proponents of the Montana bill say allowing transgender athletes to compete can create an unfair playing field in middle and high schools, especially in girls' sports.
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden has stopped construction on Trump's border wall, but the fate of outstanding contracts is unclear
- NBC News
Southlake is known for its top-ranked public schools. But a heated fight over a diversity plan has some parents questioning their future in the city.
- The Week
It's the end of a very caffeinated era.When former President Donald Trump occupied the Oval Office, he quite literally had a button on his desk that ordered a Diet Coke to the room whenever it was pressed. But as a glimpse at President Biden's desk just hours after his inauguration shows, the soda-summoning button is gone.> President Biden has removed the Diet Coke button. When @ShippersUnbound and I interviewed Donald Trump in 2019, we became fascinated by what the little red button did. Eventually Trump pressed it, and a butler swiftly brought in a Diet Coke on a silver platter. It's gone now. pic.twitter.com/rFzhPaHYjk> > — Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) January 21, 2021While it may have sounded just too weird to be true, Trump's Diet Coke obsession and his button to match were absolutely real. No word on if Biden will install some kind of ice cream-ordering alternative.More stories from theweek.com Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden has stopped construction on Trump's border wall, but the fate of outstanding contracts is unclear
The move prompted an outcry from some troops.
Returned Honduran migrants are directing anger against their president this week after their U.S.-bound caravan was blocked by the region's security forces, accusing him of making their county unlivable while thwarting their escape to a better life. Honduras is reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America in November, as well as an historic economic contraction on the back of coronavirus pandemic. President Juan Orlando Hernandez has also been under fire from U.S. prosecutors that have accused him of having ties to drug cartels, an allegation he has strongly denied.
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a cluttered, dilapidated San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished in a late-night fire in 2016 is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Families of several victims told the East Bay Times last week that prosecutors told them Derick Almena, 50, will plead guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a nine-year sentence. Almena may serve little or none of that term because of time already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
- The Week
President Biden has taken office, former President Donald Trump is in Florida, and the U.S. still hasn't seen a mass arrests of Democrats or a nationwide blackout.All of these facts were shocking for some followers of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, as they thought and hoped that Trump would somehow seize permanent power on Wednesday, NBC News reports. But as Biden was sworn in without a hitch, QAnon message boards lit up with followers who realized a violent overthrow of the government wasn't about to happen, that Trump had no secret plans to somehow stay in office, and that they'd been wrong for months, if not years.> "Q was a LARP the entire f---ing time." > "There is no plan.' > "It's over and nothing makes sense... absolutely nothing..." pic.twitter.com/I2k8C7708m> > — Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) January 20, 2021> Current mood in Q circles> > "I just want to throw up" > "I'm so sick of the disinformation and false hope" > "What a waste of my life" > "I feel sick" > "Burning my flag" > "Game over" > "Where is the military" > "I'm just so confused" > "I'm just sick" pic.twitter.com/hUR2N6y1sg> > — Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) January 20, 2021Even Ron Watkins, the administrator of the extremist message board 8kun who may have even originated QAnon, posted a last-ditch call for unity that didn't acknowledge the harmful conspiracy theories he'd allowed to spread for years.> Ron Watkins, the former 8kun admin who helped keep QAnon afloat for years (and who some suspected of being Q himself), is throwing in the towel. pic.twitter.com/HJdBrOexO2> > — Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) January 20, 2021Still, just as the many flaws in QAnon's past predictions failed to dissuade supporters, some believers are continuing to make excuses for Wednesday's events and suggesting some sort of overthrow is still possible.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office
- The Independent
Michael Flynn’s brother reveals he was involved in Capitol riot response after Army denied it, report says
Apparent U-turn by Pentagon officials could pose questions about police response
- Associated Press
A prominent Chicago family law attorney who was charged last summer with sexually assaulting a colleague has been charged with doing the same thing to two other women, including a client who says he told her that if he didn't have sex with him, she'd lose custody of her children. Prosecutors outlined the new charges against David Pasulka, 61, during a court hearing on Wednesday that ended with Judge Susana Ortiz setting his new bail amount at $100,000 on charges of sexual assault, aggravated sex assault and criminal sexual abuse. Pasulka, who was already out on bond in the initial case, was released from custody after posting the new amount, according to the Cook County Jail.
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
A man who went missing while snorkelling off the Australian coast may have been taken by a shark, authorities said on Friday, after a search operation found pieces of diving equipment. The man went missing late on Thursday while snorkelling near Port MacDonnell, on the country's south coast, sparking an air and sea search, police said. "We haven't recovered any remains but there are a few remaining areas of interest that we want to explore, but the search will be scaled down," the Australian Broadcasting Corp quoted South Australia Police Limestone Coast operations manager Campbell Hill as saying.
- Yahoo News Video
President Joe Biden issued a warning Wednesday to his appointees that a hostile workplace will not be allowed in his administration.
- The Week
A Delaware News Journal reporter captured a powerful, private moment on Wednesday as Joe Biden gave his first address as president of the United States. "Poignant moment," the reporter, Patricia Talorico, captioned the photo, which swiftly went viral. "While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau."> Poignant moment: While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau. pic.twitter.com/QkCuJRHzTz> > — Patricia Talorico (@PattyTalorico) January 20, 2021As Talorico explained in a subsequent article, "Delaware is a tiny state." She described how back in 2002, when she was struggling with an assignment from her editor, Beau Biden approached her to ask if she was okay while she sat alone on a bench at an elementary school in Wilmington. "He wasn't in office at the time," she wrote. "He was just being kind. It wasn't a grand gesture, just a small one, but somehow, it made a difference that day. I never forgot that act of kindness."On Wednesday, Beau — who died of a brain tumor in 2015 at the age of 46 — was on Talorico's mind, and she decided to drive by his grave to say "a short prayer" when she saw "a lone man in a blue uniform kneeling at Beau's grave. No one else was around … In my car, I had the radio tuned to CNN. Joe Biden was being sworn in as president and was about to begin his address."As Talorico writes, "The journalist in me wanted to go back and find out [the man's] identity and ask why he was there. The person who once received a kind gesture from Beau when I needed it most knew it was a time to be respectful, and I drove away." Read her full story at Delaware News Journal.More stories from theweek.com Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
With just over 30 minutes left in his presidency, now-former President Trump issued a full pardon to Albert J. Pirro, Jr., ex-husband of Fox News firebrand and Trump defender Jeanine Pirro.Why it matters: This was Trump's final act as president, and he issued the pardon during the inauguration of Joe Biden.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Details: Albert Pirro was sentenced to 29 months in federal prison in 2000 on charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. * The final pardon comes after Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, many of which went to his allies engulfed in corruption scandals. * The pardons include one for his former chief strategist Steve Bannon; former top Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy, and rapper Lil Wayne. Go deeper: The Swamp wins. Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Los Angeles Times Opinion
Senate Republicans should recognize that the filibuster hasn't been their friend, but rather has damaged their popularity and shifted power from Congress to the president.
- Associated Press
The latest jackpot-winning Powerball ticket, worth $731.1 million, was sold in a struggling coal mining town whose biggest previous claim to fame was being the hometown of baseball legend Lefty Grove. The store will get a $100,000 bonus for selling the ticket to the fifth-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. An even larger Mega Millions jackpot will be up for grabs Friday night.