The Trump administration has notified Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization, multiple officials tell CNN, a move that comes amid a rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the Americas over the past week.
The withdrawal, which goes into effect next July, has drawn criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations and allies abroad. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted the news Tuesday.
“Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the midst of a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests—it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” he wrote.
A State Department official also confirmed that “the United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the UN Secretary-General, who is the depository for the WHO.” The spokesperson for Secretary-General António Guterres said he had received the notice and “is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met.” Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations.”
The letter addressed to the UN is very short, around three sentences, a source briefed on the correspondence told CNN, and it triggers a one-year withdrawal timeline.
President Donald Trump said he was halting funding to the organization in mid-April and announced his intention to withdraw from the WHO in May after he said it “failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms.” Trump had denounced the US’ contribution to the WHO — $400-500 million — in comparison to China’s and consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread.
French President Emmanuel Macron agreed in 2018 to repatriate the remains but bureaucratic obstacles delayed the return until now [AFP]
Algeria has received the skulls of 24 resistance fighters decapitated during France’s colonial occupation of the North African country, and which had been stored for decades in a Paris museum.
The return of the skulls was the result of years of efforts by Algerian historians and comes amid a growing global reckoning with the legacy of colonialism.
“The valiant resistance fighters who refused the colonisation of their country by imperial France were displayed immorally for decades, like vulgar objects of antiquity, without respect for their dignity, their memory. That is the monstrous face of colonisation,” Algerian army chief Said Chengiha said in a speech on Friday.
The return of the skulls of 24 resistance fighters comes amid a growing global reckoning with the legacy of colonialism.
“Algeria is living a special day today,” he said.
The 24 fought French colonial forces who occupied Algeria in 1830 and took part in an 1849 revolt. After they were decapitated, their skulls were taken to France as trophies.
In 2011, Algerian historian and researcher Ali Farid Belkadi discovered the skulls at the Museum of Man in Paris, across from the Eiffel Tower, and alerted Algerian authorities.
The researcher lobbied for years for their return, and Algeria’s then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika eventually launched the formal repatriation request.
French President Emmanuel Macron agreed in 2018 but bureaucratic obstacles delayed the return until now.
In December 2019, Macron said “colonialism was a grave mistake” and called for turning the page on the past.
The remains will be on public display at the Palace of Culture in the capital on Saturday, and will then be buried in a special funeral east of Algiers on Sunday – the 58th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France after a long and bloody war.
French President Emmanuel Macron meets the people in Algiers in 2017, Ludovic MARIN / AFP
In tears, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune presided over Friday’s ceremony, alongside the heads of both houses of Parliament and top military officials.
Three MiG jets escorted the Algerian Ilyushin military plane carrying the remains.
The skulls were placed in coffins wrapped in the Algerian flag, and carried by soldiers across the tarmac as a military band played.
Among the remains were those of revolt leader Sheikh Bouzian, who was captured in 1849 by the French, shot and decapitated, and the skull of resistance leader Mohammed Lamjad ben Abdelmalek, also known as Cherif Boubaghla (the man with the mule).
Historians welcomed the return of the remains, but say they are just part of Algeria’s history that is still in French hands.
“We have recovered part of our memory,” historian Mohamed El Korso told The Associated Press news agency.
“But the fight must continue, until the recovery of all the remains of the resistance fighters, which number in the hundreds, and the archives of our revolution.”
Canada has lost its latest bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council despite an expensive and star-studded campaign.
It lost out to Ireland and Norway for the two “Western bloc” seats
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invested heavily in the campaign, employed 13 full-time staff and invited diplomats to a Celine Dion concert in New York.
Meanwhile, Ireland wheeled out U2 for a similar show but spent around half as much on its campaign.
Canada said it shelled out roughly $1.74m (£1.37m). As of late last year, Ireland spent a reported $800,000 and Norway $2.8m.
The Security Council has 10 non-permanent members, elected for two years each, in addition to permanent members the UK, China, France, Russia and the United States. All permanent members have the power to veto resolutions.
The council can authorize peacekeeping operations, impose international sanctions, and determine how the UN should respond to conflicts around the world.
What happened in the vote?
Norway secured 130 votes, while Ireland got 128 and Canada managed just 108.
India ran unopposed to win in the Asia-Pacific region, while Mexico also ran unopposed.
The terms for new members start on 1 January 2021.
Nur Omar Mohamed, the father of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, died Monday from complications related to COVID-19.
In a press release, Ilhan shared news of Nur’s death “with tremendous sadness and pain.”
“No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew him,” she said.
Ilhan began the statement with a verse from the Quran that states, “Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return.”
Nur first came to the U.S. with his family in 1995 from a refugee camp in Kenya. At the time, Ilhan was 12 years old.
In Somalia, Nur trained teachers for a living, according to a 2016 City Pages story.
Upon arriving in Minneapolis, Nur first drove cabs to support his family and later found work at the Post Office, according to the Washington Post.
In early 2019, as Ilhan was preparing to swear into Congress for the first time, Nur wrote a guest post on her Instagram account referring to their first arrival in an airport in Washington D.C. as refugees two decades before then.
“I could never have dreamed that twenty-three years later I would return to the same airport with my daughter Ilhan by my side, the day before she is to be sworn in as the first Somali-American elected to the United States Congress,” Nur wrote. “You, of course, can imagine how emotional this is and why I am incredibly proud of her.”
In her new memoir, This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman, which was released last month, Ilhan praised her father for supporting her and never “belittling” her “with protectionist admonishments.” She quoted Nur responding to criticism from some of her detractors within his community who “want me to put you in a box because you’re a girl.”
“But I ask,” Ilhan quotes her father saying, “how many people are calling the father of any male member of Congress to say, ‘Your son needs a talking-to?’”
“She is a full being,” Ilhan also quotes Nur saying. “She gets to have autonomy over her decisions and how she wants to live.”
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, whose older brother died from complications related to COVID-19 in March, shared her condolences with Ilhan on Twitter Monday night.
“The pain you’re feeling is familiar to me,” Flanagan wrote. “My heart breaks for you, sister. I’m praying for you and your family.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday removed a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition from a United Nations blacklist, several years after it was first named and shamed for killing and injuring children in Yemen.
READ ALSO: Yemen war: Human rights groups urge UN to put Saudi Arabia on blacklist of shame over child deaths
The coalition killed or injured 222 children in Yemen last year, Guterres wrote in his annual report to the U.N. Security Council. He said the Houthis were responsible for 313 such casualties and the Yemen government forces 96 casualties and both remain on the annual children and armed conflict blacklist.
Guterres said the coalition would “be delisted for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease in killing and maiming due to air strikes” and the implementation of measures aimed at protecting children.
But he added that the coalition would be subjected to one year of monitoring and “any failure” to further decrease child casualties would result in it being listed again next year.
An eight-year-old boy named Faris, who was badly injured when a missile hit his house.(ABC News: Sophie McNeill)
The conflict in Yemen is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.(Reuters)
The Saudi mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
“The Secretary-General is adding a new level of shame to his ‘list of shame’ by removing the Saudi-led coalition and ignoring the U.N.’s own evidence of continued grave violations against children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014. The Saudi-led military coalition in 2015 intervened in a bid to restore the government.
The Saudi-led military coalition has officially been on the blacklist for the past three years.
It had been briefly added to the blacklist in 2016 and then removed by former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pending review. At the time, Ban accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” undue pressure after sources told Reuters that Riyadh threatened to cut some U.N. funding. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.
Murad, who picked up a cluster bomb in Yemen. Photo taken in 2016.(ABC News: Sophie McNeill)
A house hit by airstrikes in Yemeni capital Sanaa. Photo taken in 2016.(ABC News: Sophie McNeill)
When asked if the U.N. had come under any pressure to remove the Saudi-led coalition from the list this year, the U.N. envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, told reporters: “I can answer that very, very clearly – absolutely not.”
The U.N. report does not subject those listed to action but rather shames parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children.
It has long been controversial with diplomats saying Saudi Arabia and Israel both exerted pressure in recent years in a bid to stay off the list.
Countries or groups can be blacklisted for killing, injuring or abusing children, abducting or recruiting children, denying aid access for children or targeting schools and hospitals.
Soleimani wielded immense power and influence in his position and was crucial as the architect who spread and maintained Iran’s influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.
An Iranian citizen who allegedly provided information to US and Israeli intelligence services on the whereabouts of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ slain commander Qassem Soleimani will be executed soon, Iran’s judiciary said on Tuesday.
On January 3, a US drone strike in Iraq killed Soleimani. Though on the record Israel has taken no credit, Israeli intelligence was instrumental in the targeted killing, NBC News reported at the time and The Jerusalem Post has independently confirmed. Jerusalem often prefers to keep a low profile on any role in such operations to reduce the chance of retaliation.
Soleimani wielded immense power and influence in his position and was crucial as the architect who spread and maintained Iran’s influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in the region through acts of terrorism.
After flying to Iraq from Damascus on a Cham Wings Airbus A320, he and his security entourage were killed by four US hellfire missiles targeting their two vehicles as they were leaving Baghdad International Airport. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an important leader of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed.
According to NBC and Reuters, and confirmed by the Post, informants in Damascus were able to tip off the CIA about exactly which plane Soleimani would be on, which Israeli intelligence confirmed and verified.
Reuters was told in January by Iraqi investigators that the US had inside help from two security staffers at the Baghdad airport and two Cham Wings employees: “a spy at the Damascus airport and another one working on board the airplane,” the source said. Iraqi national security agency’s investigators believe the four suspects, who have not been arrested, worked as part of a wider group of people feeding information to the US military, the official said.
“Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, one of the spies for the CIA and Mossad, has been sentenced to death. He gave the whereabouts of martyr Soleimani to our enemies,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a televised news conference.
Officials have not said whether Mousavi-Majd’s case is linked to Iran’s announcement last summer that it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA, some of whom it said were sentenced to death.
It was also unclear to what extent Iran, Iraq and Syria have caught others involved in tracking and planning the Soleimani killing.
Finally, Iran often announces fake arrests of supposed CIA or Mossad spies who are really just Iranians in the political opposition which the regime wants to remove from influence. Accusing such opposition officials of being foreign spies is always a convenient excuse.
According to The New York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was likely the only US ally in the know regarding the assassination, having spoken to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo beforehand.
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said in January that the Times report was based on Israeli sources, which he noted was poor judgment.
“We need to distance ourselves from it,” he said in a radio interview. “Ambiguity and silence are the best thing for us.”
A former defense minister, Liberman said he has a lot of experience in working with publications like the Times.
“They usually rely on Israeli sources,” he said. “I suggest you check who they are.”
The assassination of Soleimani inflamed tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic, with a massive debate about whether it finally sent a message of deterrence to Iran or whether it will eventually destabilize the region.
Iran responded with missile strikes on US bases in Iraq. Those strikes failed to kill any US troops, however, and Trump declared the crisis over.