Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” (AP/Reuters)
Amid his sweeping cultural reforms and systematic purges from the royal family, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince this week called Iran’s supreme leader the “new Hitler of the Middle East,” comments that are sure to ratchet up the conflict between the two rival Muslim powers.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the statements about Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an interview with The New York Times that was published Thursday. Salman told The Times that Iran’s efforts to expand “needed to be confronted.”
The prince, 32, who is expected to succeed his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 81, compared Iran and Saudi Arabia’s power struggle in the region to those fighting for Europe in World War II.
“But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,” Salman told The New York Times.
The Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia support rival sides in the various wars and political battles occurring throughout the region. Saudi Arabia backs Sunni Muslims while Tehran backs Shiite Muslims.
Tensions between the two countries escalated earlier this month when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced in Saudi Arabia that he was resigning from his position. Hariri accused Iran-backed Hezbollah, a Shiite political party and terror group based in Lebanon, of holding his country hostage and plotting against him. Saudi Arabia has also accused Hezbollah of meddling on Iran’s behalf in regional affairs.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said earlier this month he was resigning from his position. (AP)
Hezbollah, however, accused Saudi Arabia of engineering Hariri’s resignation, calling it “an act of war,” Reuters reported.
Hariri returned to Lebanon this week and said he was putting his resignation on hold.
Salman also told The New York Times the war in Yemen was “going in its favor.” The war, which has raged since 2015, has pitted a Saudi-led coalition backed by the U.S. against the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ousted president. The war has left over 10,000 people dead, driven 3 million from their homes and destroyed the country’s already fragile infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of sending aid to the Houthi rebels in Yemen while Tehran has denied the accusations, the BBC reported.
Iran did not immediately responded to Salman’s comments but Khamenei has previously called Saudi Arabia’s royal family, the House of Saud, an “accursed tree” and accused the kingdom of “spreading terrorism.”
A November crackdown saw the arrests of 11 members of the House of Saud on various charges related to “corruption.” In the midst of the arrests and constant countering of Iran, Saudi Arabia has also worked to institute reforms such as allowing women to drive vehicles in the Kingdom.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Running a company, department, or team is hard. Have you ever wished you could ask the most successful CEOs how they do it? Well you can’t, but someone else already has–New York Times reporter Adam Bryant, who has interviewed 525 CEOs over the past 10 years for his Corner Office column, asking them for their leadership insights rather than about their companies. On Friday, Bryant published the last of these columns, and he used his farewell piece to provide an amalgamation of everything he’d learned from the CEOs over the years. It’s a fascinating read for any leader. Here are some of their most interesting lessons:
1. There’s no right way to become a leader.
Business columnists (including me) love to write about the one quality you need to be a great leader, but Bryant says there really isn’t any such thing. “There are too many variables, many of them beyond your control, including luck, timing, and personal chemistry,” he explains. Nor is there any obvious career path for CEOs, he writes, though he does note that a surprising number of them were not straight-A students and even got bad grades.
2. You have to balance the opposites.
So many of the things a good leader needs to do are contradictory, Bryant writes. “Better to understand leadership as a series of paradoxes,” he states. For instance, you need humility to know what you don’t know but audacity to make bold moves. Empathy is hugely important, but so is the ability to fire someone (even while empathizing with that person).
One CEO talked about opposing leadership values: listening versus leadership, being generous versus holding people accountable, and so on. “There is a tension or a balance between them,” she said.
3. Culture comes from what you do, not what you say.
Most CEOs have at some point gone through the exercise of defining their companies’ values and culture. Bryant calls it “a predictable rite of passage.” The thing is that it doesn’t matter how many retreats you go on, or whether you provide flexible hours, unlimited vacations, ping-pong tables, or catering–there’s only one way to let employees know your company’s culture and values: by whom you discipline and whom you reward.
“No matter what people say about culture, it’s all tied to who gets promoted, who gets raises, and who gets fired,” one CEO told Bryant. Whatever you say about culture, people in your company will see the people who get promoted as role models for the behavior you want.
4. You have to be trustworthy.
If you forced him to pick one quality all good leaders need, Bryant writes, it would be trustworthiness. “We all have a gut sense of our bosses, based on our observations and experiences: Do we trust them to do the right thing?” he writes. “Do they own their mistakes; give credit where credit is due; care about their employees as people as opposed to assets?”
As one CEO put it, “If you want to lead others, you’ve got to have their trust, and you can’t have their trust without integrity.”
5. It’s all about respect–yours, not theirs.
For me, one of Bryant’s most surprising insights was about the importance of respect–but not that good leaders need to earn the respect of their employees. It’s the flip side: That the best leaders have the greatest respect for those who report to them.
One CEO put it this way: “By definition, if there’s leadership, it means there are followers, and you’re only as good as the followers. I believe the quality of the followers is in direct correlation to the respect you hold them in. It’s not how much they respect you that is most important. It’s actually how much you respect them. It’s everything.” That’s counterintuitive. And yet, it makes perfect sense.
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BEIJING — For more than a year, China has railed against South Korea, calling for boycotts of its products over Seoul’s decision to let the United States deploy an anti-missile system, which Beijing fears threaten its own security.
On Tuesday, however, China abruptly changed course, essentially saying “never mind,” as the two countries agreed to end their dispute even though South Korea is keeping the system in place.
China’s unexpected move to settle the rancorous dispute could scramble President Trump’s calculations about how to deal with allies and North Korea on the eve of his first trip to Asia.
The decision, by the newly empowered Chinese president, Xi Jinping, appeared to reflect a judgment that China’s continued opposition to the deployment of the American missile defense system was not succeeding in fraying the South Korean government’s alliance with Washington.
But it could also pose a fresh challenge to Mr. Trump, as he attempts to build support in the region to put greater pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile programs.
South Korea’s liberal president, Moon Jae-in, is more receptive to diplomacy with the North Koreans than either Mr. Trump or Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Drawing Mr. Moon closer to Beijing, analysts said, could create a new alignment on how to deal with the North, with China and South Korea facing off against Japan and the United States.
“It’s going to undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build solidarity among the U.S., Japan, and Korea to put pressure not only on North Korea but on China to do more on North Korea,” said Michael J. Green, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Much about the rapprochement is not known, Mr. Green cautioned, and the Chinese could be exaggerating the implications of the agreement. But it adds yet another volatile element to Mr. Trump’s 12-day, five-nation tour of Asia, which begins this weekend.
Formally, the Trump administration welcomed news of the thaw. The State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, told reporters on Tuesday, “We see that as providing better stability, greater stability for a region that desperately needs it because of North Korea.”
Ms. Nauert, however, said she did not know whether China’s move indicated it no longer had objections to the deployment of the antimissile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad.
The White House has not publicly addressed the rapprochement. A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic issue, acknowledged it could complicate matters, but said there should be no inherent conflict in South Korea restoring its relations with China while at the same time pushing to keep maximum pressure on North Korea.
In restoring better relations with South Korea, Mr. Xi appeared to have decided that he could afford to blink. But he also does not face a vigorous political opposition or press, which could accuse him of flip-flopping on the issue.
Even under Mr. Moon, whose outlook toward China had been more favorable than his predecessor’s and who has called for a more balanced diplomacy between Beijing and Washington, Mr. Xi made no headway in achieving his stated goal of stopping the deployment of the Thaad.
A second phase of the missile defense system, intended to defend South Korea from the escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, was installed despite China’s protests in September, just four months after Mr. Moon took office. China had insisted it would not tolerate Thaad’s powerful radar so close to its own missile systems.
Mr. Xi’s tough stance against South Korea also included the informal, though punishing, economic boycott that helped reinforce the American relationship with Seoul, undermining China’s long-term goal of replacing the United States as the pre-eminent power in Asia.
“This is the reversal of an ineffective and costly policy on the part of China,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China.
In agreeing to restore cordial relations, South Korea pledged not to accept additional Thaad launchers and agreed not to join a regional missile defense system with the United States and Japan. The agreement not to accept any more Thaad deployments had been a longstanding policy stance of Mr. Moon anyway, a South Korean government official said on Wednesday.
South Korea also promised not to join a trilateral military alliance with the United States and Japan. Mr. Moon, like his predecessors, had shown no interest in expanding military relations with Japan, its former colonial master.
With the increased threat from North Korea, Mr. Moon had aligned himself more closely with Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe.
The three leaders met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Germany in July and agreed to enhance their defense capabilities against the North Korean threat.
In warming up to South Korea, Mr. Xi probably recognized that Mr. Moon would be more malleable to favoring dialogue with North Korea than was his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye.
At the recent party congress in which he was elevated to a second five-year term as president, Mr. Xi showed himself determined to project China’s power in a “new era.” Resolving the North Korea crisis dovetails with that theme, and any move toward talking with the North would be easier with Mr. Moon by his side.
South Korea and China announced their decision to restore relations just before Mr. Trump’s visit.
The timing was interpreted in Beijing as a way to blunt some of the impacts of the American president’s stop in Seoul, where he is expected to deliver a speech to the National Assembly.
Indeed, the rapprochement between China and South Korea carries risks for the United States. How far Mr. Moon would now lean toward China is something that Washington needs to watch closely, said Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department official who has dealt with the Korean Peninsula.
In agreeing not to join a regional missile defense system, South Korea is addressing China’s concerns about what it views as the United States’ aim to “contain” China.
“Beijing was worried that Thaad would eventually be succeeded by ‘son of Thaad’ — a regional missile defense system involving the United States, South Korea and Japan and others that would be aimed at dealing with China’s offensive missile force, unlike the current Thaad, which it is not,” Mr. Revere said.
For Mr. Moon, the Chinese government’s efforts to discourage the purchase of popular South Korean goods as punishment for the Thaad deployment has taken a toll. China is by far the biggest trading partner of South Korea; two-way trade is bigger than South Korea’s trade with the United States and Japan combined.
The Hyundai Research Institute found that the Thaad dispute was likely to have cost South Korea $7.5 billion so far this year, a 0.5 percent hit to its gross domestic product. China lost $880 million, just a 0.01 percent drop of its G.D.P., the institute said.
South Korean car sales plummeted in China. Lotte, the retailer, recently put 112 of its stores in China on the market after customers abandoned it. South Korean movies and cosmetics also suffered.
The government-encouraged boycott — coupled with what was perceived as Beijing’s interference in South Korea’s internal affairs over Thaad — hardened the view of China as a bully among the South Korean people.
“We have seen anti-Chinese sentiments rising in South Korea,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor at the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul. “So did the approval ratings for the Thaad deployment, and calls mounted for strengthening the alliance with the Americans.”
Despite the apparent resolution of the standoff between the two countries, there was no guarantee that the accord would stick.
People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, issued a somewhat friendly, but mostly stern, editorial. “Only proper resolution of the Thaad issue can bring the Sino-Korean relationship back onto the right track,” it said.
It was possible that both sides agreed to resolve their differences so the two leaders, Mr. Xi and Mr. Moon, could meet in Vietnam next week during an Asian economic summit meeting. After that, there is the talk of Mr. Moon visiting China before the end of the year.
“This is a direct result of South Korea’s efforts to mend fences,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University. “China also realizes that Thaad should not hold hostage the whole relations between the two nations. But I think the Thaad issue is just shelved, not resolved.”
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With each passing week, the story seems to change when it comes to Trump and Russia
And, in almost every instance, what we find is more smoke around those connections
Washington (CNN) When it comes to Russia, Donald Trump — and his son — can’t get their stories straight.
Consider the last day and a half.
On Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. said that a 2016 meeting between himself and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin was primarily about “adoptions.” That came in response to a New York Times piece detailing the meeting between Trump, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
On Sunday, when the Times reported a second piece alleging that Trump Jr. had met with Veselnitskaya after receiving a promise that she possessed “damaging information” about Hillary Clinton, he changed his story.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in a statement. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Then there was this odd reversal from the President himself on another matter involving Russia.
On Sunday at 7:50 a.m., President Trump tweeted: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”
On Sunday at 8:45 p.m., President Trump tweeted: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can,& did!”
So. That’s a lot to process.
As of Monday morning, here’s what we know (I think):
1. At the behest of a friend he made from the Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Russia in 2013, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer who promised him dirt on Clinton. He has said he didn’t know the name of the person prior to the meeting, but we now know that person was Veselnitskaya. He said he didn’t tell Manafort or Kushner anything about the meeting — other than to ask them to come.
2. Trump Jr. initially said the meeting was primarily about adoption when initially confronted about it by the Times on Saturday. He did not mention that it had anything to do with the 2016 election despite the fact that Veselnitskaya’s promise of negative information appears to have been the impetus for the meeting in the first place.
3. At the much-anticipated meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Trump confronted Putin about meddling in the election. Putin denied it. Reports differ about whether Trump accepted that denial or not (Russia says he did, the White House says he didn’t).
4. The two sides agreed to put the Russian campaign meddling (or not) in the past — by, in part, discussing the possibility of creating an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to make election hacking a thing of the past. After a huge amount of blowback to that proposal Sunday — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, tweeted: “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit'” — Trump changed his tune, insisting that he didn’t really think the “cyber security unit” would happen anyway.
Got all that?
The point here is simple: With each passing week, the story seems to change when it comes to Trump and Russia. And, in almost every instance, what we find is more smoke around those connections. We don’t have fire yet — as Trump like to remind people (and he’s right). But, man oh man, the smoke just keeps getting thicker.
Why, even if he didn’t know exactly who he was meeting with, did Don Jr. take the meeting — with the promise that he would get dirt on Hillary Clinton? (Remember that Trump Jr. knew this was someone who was a friend of a friend he had made in Russia — meaning that it doesn’t take much of a logical leap to think this person he was meeting with might be Russian.)
And does President Trump think it’s a good idea to form a cybersecurity task force with Russia? Or not? If he does support it, why did he walk away from it — or hedge on it — 12 hours after he seemed to suggest it was the successful result of his confrontation with Putin?
Like almost everything with Trump and Russia, there are more questions than answers. And, if past is prologue, Trump and his senior advisers won’t answer any of them.
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WASHINGTON — President Trump thrust himself into a bitter Persian Gulf dispute on Tuesday, claiming credit for Saudi Arabia’s move to isolate its smaller neighbor, Qatar, which is a major American military partner.
On Monday, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen broke diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, citing its support for terrorist groups. Mr. Trump, who made the cutting of terrorist funding a centerpiece of his trip to Saudi Arabia in May, said he was responsible.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” the president said on Twitter. “They said they would take a hard line on funding.”
Moments later, he added, “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
Qatar has long been accused of funneling arms and money to radical groups in Syria, Libya and other Arab countries. But so has Saudi Arabia. And Mr. Trump’s tweets have huge potential strategic consequences in the Middle East, where Qatar is a crucial military outpost for the United States.
A peninsula that juts into the Persian Gulf, Qatar is home to the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command. It is a major intelligence hub for the United States in the Middle East and the base where the United States plans and carries out airstrikes on the Islamic State.
Qatar has also built deep ties to American academia, providing funding and real estate to build Middle Eastern campuses for six major universities, including Cornell, Georgetown and Northwestern.
Qatar’s financing of radical groups has long been a source of tension with Washington. But the United States has generally avoided taking sides in the regional feuds in the Persian Gulf since it has strategic ties with several of the gulf states.
Mr. Trump’s comments were a sharp break from his top national security aides, who tried to play down any impact of the rift within the Sunni-Arab coalition that is helping the United States fight the Islamic State.
“We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences,” Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson told reporters in Sydney, Australia, where he and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were meeting with officials.
Mr. Mattis added, “I am positive there will be no implications coming out of this dramatic situation at all, and I say that based on the commitment that each of these nations that you just referred to have made to this fight.”
Mr. Trump’s tweets also appeared to contradict the American ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, who this week retweeted a post of hers saying that Qatar had made “real progress” in curbing financial support for terrorists. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been previously accused of support for extremist militants.
At the Pentagon, some Defense Department officials said they were taken aback by Mr. Trump’s decision to thrust the United States into the middle of a fight with its close partners, particularly given the American military’s deep ties to Qatar.
Al Udeid base, outside Doha, the country’s capital, is home to around 10,000 American troops, and Mr. Mattis made a point of visiting Qatar in April, spending three nights in Doha, where he held meetings with the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Mr. Mattis “reinforced the importance of deepening the U.S.-Qatari strategic partnership and discussed shared security interests, which include the defeat of ISIS,” the Pentagon said in its statement about the meeting, using another name for the Islamic State. The official statement also spoke of the “value of the Qatari support to the counter-ISIS coalition as well as the country’s role in maintaining regional stability and security.”
After the president’s tweets on Tuesday, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, tried to steer clear of the appearance that the United States had taken sides.
“I consider them a host to our very important base at Al Udeid,” he said. “We have no intention of altering our current operations not only in Qatar but anywhere in the G.C.C.,” he added, referring to Gulf Cooperation Council of Sunni states in the region.
Privately, however, several Defense Department officials said that Mr. Trump’s tweets had undercut the Pentagon, particularly given how crucial Al Udeid base is to the war against the Islamic State.
In addition to the military’s combat and intelligence mission based in Qatar, the American end of the “de-confliction” line is there, a conduit for discussions with Russia to try to avoid accidental conflict in the skies above Syria and Iraq.
American officials had been anticipating the Saudi-led move, a Defense Department official said, and had received reassurances from Qatari officials that the United States would not be shut out of Al Udeid. But that was before Mr. Trump’s Tuesday morning tweets.
“Qatar can certainly make it less convenient to use the base, and the president’s tweets give them reason to flex their muscles and remind the United States just how convenient the base has been for the last 15 years,” said Jon B. Alterman, Middle East program director with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Also Tuesday, the leaders of Kuwait and Turkey offered to play mediation roles in the dispute. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, an important Qatari ally, called his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, a Turkish presidential official said.
The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has not joined the campaign against Qatar, flew to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a meeting with the Saudi head of state, King Salman.
Disagreements between Qatar and its gulf neighbors escalated after a series of uprisings against Arab autocrats in 2011. In the power vacuums that came after the uprisings, Qatar backed Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria and Libya — angering Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which see the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Like the Saudis and Emiratis, Kuwait backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s subsequent ouster from power in Egypt in 2013. Analysts said the country had taken a more conciliatory role in this week’s dispute because it was wary of ceding too much influence to the Saudi alliance.
“Kuwait feels that if Saudi Arabia and the Emirates get what they want from Qatar, then Kuwait will be next, too,” said Galip Dalay, research director at Al Sharq Forum, a Turkish think tank.
Turkey publicly maintains that it is not taking sides in the dispute. “Turkey does not get into that — they’re all our Sunni brothers and our friends,” Ilnur Cevik, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Erdogan, said by phone on Tuesday.
The analysts said in private that Turkey was frightened of losing its best regional ally. Turkey has a military base in Qatar and supports many of the same Islamist groups in the region. Like Qatar, Turkey welcomed Muslim Brotherhood members who fled Egypt after the removal of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
“If Qatar gives into this pressure, that will mean that Turkey’s role in the region will be further constrained,” Mr. Dalay said.
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LONDON — Everyone called him “Abs.” He gave out Halloween candy to children and taught them how to play Ping-Pong. He invited his neighbors to barbecue.
But Khurum Shazad Butt was not the typical resident of the East London neighborhood of Barking. He dressed in the religious gown of a conservative Muslim — with a tracksuit and sneakers underneath. He turned up in a Channel 4 documentary, “The Jihadis Next Door.” And now London’s Metropolitan Police have identified him as one of the three men who carried out the deadly terror attack on Saturday at London Bridge and Borough Market.
Mr. Butt and his accomplices drove a van onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, running over pedestrians, before jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing patrons at the bars and restaurants of Borough Market. They killed seven people and injured dozens before they were shot and killed by police less than 10 minutes after the rampage began.
It was the van that struck a chord with Ken Chigbo, one of Mr. Butt’s neighbors in Barking.
“He approached me about a week ago, making conversation, and found out I’m moving home,” Mr. Chigbo recalled in a phone interview on Sunday, before the police had officially identified Mr. Butts as one of the attackers. “He was just being polite. Then he said, ‘Look, Ken, where did you get your van from? How much did you pay? Do they do it in automatic?’ ”
Another neighbor said Mr. Butt lived with his wife and young children, including a newborn, in the Elizabeth Fry Apartments on Kings Road in Barking.
“His wife just gave birth, the baby was two weeks old,” said Nasser Ali, who lives in the building facing Mr. Butt’s apartment.
Residents of the Elizabeth Fry Apartments said they would see Mr. Butt coming and going from the apartment complex. “I just saw him going in and out,” said another neighbor, Shehzad Khurram. “I saw him walking his kids.”
On Monday evening, the police identified Mr. Butt, 27, and another man, Rachid Redouane, 30, as two of the three people who carried out the attack. Mr. Butt was a British citizen who was born in Pakistan. Mr. Redouane had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan, the police said, and also sometimes used a pseudonym, Rachid Elkhdar. The authorities are still trying to confirm the identity of the third attacker.
With questions mounting about whether authorities had let the killers slip through their fingers, the police confirmed that Mr. Butt “was known” to them and to MI5, the British intelligence service. “However, there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly,” the police said in a statement. “The other named man, Rachid Redouane, was not known.”
Mr. Butt appeared briefly in a Channel 4 television documentary last year about extremists living in Britain. The film, which is also available on Netflix, featured a number of British Muslim men openly expressing their support for violence. In one scene, Mr. Butt stands in line with five other men in Regent’s Park in London as another man kneels in front of them unfurling an Islamic State flag.
In Barking, residents described a man more likely to share candy with the neighborhood children than spread violent jihad. Sarah Sekyejwe, who lives with her husband and children in the newly built row of houses next to the Elizabeth Fry Apartments, said Mr. Butt had moved to the street in 2014 and befriended the local children.
“My daughter says he’s the one who on Halloween would open the door and give them lots of sweets,” Ms. Sekyejwe recalled. “He was friendly to the kids. He would buy them ice cream when the ice cream van came. And in the summer he put out a table-tennis table and taught the kids how to play.”
Mr. Chigbo knew Mr. Butt only as Abs, the nickname everyone seemed to call him. He had recalled how “he would always be in a religious gown to his shins, with tracksuit bottoms and trainers underneath.” But on Monday Mr. Chigbo identified Mr. Butt in a photograph released by police as the same man.
The two men met barely a week after Mr. Chigbo moved into the complex three years ago. “He invited me and everyone to a barbecue in the block’s shared garden green area a week ago,” Mr. Chigbo recalled. “He’s a neighbor. I trusted him, we got on.”
Everyone is just, “shocked and upset,” he added.
Mr. Chigbo said small groups of three or four “Muslim guys” used to regularly visit Mr. Butt’s apartment. “I found them quite intimidating, actually,” he said. “They were always in religious robes and wearing red and white checkered scarves wrapped around their heads.”
Police have raided several locations in Barking in the past two days, including the Elizabeth Fry Apartments. Some of the sites raided on Monday were located near the Jabir bin Zayd Islamic Centre, a small facility that occupied several floors of a small office building. Mr. Butt reportedly attended the mosque.
On Monday, a sign outside the main prayer room used four pictographs to remind worshipers to wear long enough shirts so that their lower backs were not exposed during prostration.
Leaders of the mosque declined to comment and directed questions to their legal counsel. But they did issue a statement saying they “are deeply shocked and saddened” by the attack and “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families at this time of great heartbreak.”
“As a community, we denounce this abhorrent criminal act, for which there can never be any justification,” the statement said.
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WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign, aides said Thursday, disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement.
Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter. The order he will sign waives for six months a congressional edict requiring the embassy be located in Jerusalem, after which he will have to consider the matter again.
The decision is the latest shift away from campaign positions upending traditional foreign policy as Mr. Trump spends more time in office and learns more about the trade-offs involved. He has reversed himself on declaring China a currency manipulator, backed off plans to lift sanctions against Russia, declared that NATO is not “obsolete” after all, opted for now not to rip up President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and ordered a punitive strike against Syria that he previously opposed in similar circumstances.
In this case, Mr. Trump may invite the wrath of powerful supporters like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican donor who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns a newspaper in Israel. Some hard-line Israel backers have privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump has not lived up to his campaign pledges because he has been seduced into thinking he may reach the “ultimate deal” that has eluded every other president.
Mr. Trump began backing away from his promise to move the embassy shortly after taking office when King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Washington without a White House invitation to buttonhole the new president at a prayer breakfast and explain what he viewed as the consequences. The king warned that a precipitous move would touch off a possibly violent backlash among Arabs, all but quashing any hopes of bringing the two sides together.
The embassy question has assumed enormous symbolic significance over the years. The United Nations once proposed that Jerusalem be an international city, but after Israel declared statehood in 1948, it took control of the western portion of the city while Jordan seized the eastern side. During its 1967 war with Arab neighbors, Israel wrested away control of East Jerusalem and annexed it.
Over the 50 years since then, Israel has declared that Jerusalem is its eternal capital and would never be divided again, even as it has built more housing in the eastern parts of the city intended for Jewish residents over the objections of the Palestinians and much of the international community. Most of its main institutions of government are based in Jerusalem.
Like every other country with a diplomatic presence in Israel, the United States has kept its embassy in Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the expense of Palestinians who also claim it as the capital of a future state of their own. The United States does have a consulate in Jerusalem that mainly deals with Palestinians but could be converted on a temporary basis into an embassy until a permanent site is found and a full-fledged facility constructed.
Like Mr. Trump, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both promised to move the embassy as presidential candidates only to drop the idea once they got into office. In 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999 or else the State Department would have its building budget cut in half.
But lawmakers included a provision allowing a president to waive the law for six months if determined to be in the national interest. So every six months since 1999, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama and now Mr. Trump have signed such waivers.
Mr. Trump had promised that he would be different and presented himself as the best friend Israel would ever have in the Oval Office. During the campaign, he said he would move the embassy “fairly quickly” and on the eve of his inauguration reiterated his commitment by telling an Israeli journalist, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”
But he has become enamored of the idea that he, unlike all of his predecessors, could be the one to finally negotiate a permanent peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and he was persuaded that an embassy move would hinder that. The president has assigned Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his former personal lawyer, to lead the peace efforts.
Anticipating that Mr. Trump would back off the embassy move, some in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition hoped that the president at least would say during his trip last week that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, but he did not do that.
Mr. Trump did visit the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish prayer site in the country, becoming the first sitting American president to do so — an act that some interpreted as indirect recognition since the wall is in a part of the city that Israel took control of during the 1967 war.
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SHANGHAI — Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating on China’s sovereign debt by a notch on Wednesday, saying that the steady buildup of debt in the Chinese economy would erode the country’s financial strength in the coming years.
In a bluntly worded statement, Moody’s said that the Chinese government remained committed to achieving high economic growth despite slowing productivity gains and a shrinking population of working-age adults. The only way for China to achieve that high growth is to allow its debt to continue to grow as a way to stimulate the economy, Moody’s warned.
”The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economywide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the credit rating firm said.
Moody’s moved down China’s debt rating to A1 from Aa3, but changed its outlook for further ratings adjustments to stable, from negative.
Moody’s action is still likely to anger Chinese officials, who have tried hard to persuade the Chinese public and the international financial community that they have the country’s debt troubles well in hand.
Stock markets in China and Hong Kong opened slightly lower on Wednesday on the news. The Australian dollar, which is widely considered a barometer of investor sentiment about China because Australia sells so much of its raw materials to that country, weakened against the United States dollar.
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WASHINGTON — As a senator, Jeff Sessions was such a conservative outlier on criminal justice issues that he pushed other Republicans to the forefront of his campaign to block a sentencing overhaul, figuring they would be taken more seriously.
Now Mr. Sessions is attorney general and need not take a back seat to anyone when it comes to imposing his ultratough-on-crime views. The effect of his transition from being just one of 535 in Congress to being top dog at the Justice Department was underscored on Friday when he ordered federal prosecutors to make sure they threw the book at criminal defendants and pursued the toughest penalties possible.
“This is a key part of President Trump’s promise to keep America safe,” Mr. Sessions said on Friday as he received an award from the New York City police union to mark the beginning of National Police Week.
Given Mr. Sessions’s long record as a zealous prosecutor and his well-known views on the dangers of drug use, his push to undo Obama-era sentencing policies and ramp up the war on drugs was hardly a surprise. But it was still striking, because it ran so contrary to the growing bipartisan consensus coursing through Washington and many state capitals in recent years — a view that America was guilty of excessive incarceration and that large prison populations were too costly in tax dollars and the toll on families and communities.
In an increasingly rare achievement, conservatives and liberals had come together on the issue, putting them on the verge of winning reductions in mandatory minimum sentences and creating new programs to help offenders adjust to life after prison. Given the success shown by similar changes at the state level, bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate seemed eager to move ahead on the issue last year.
Despite the strong support, stiff opposition from Mr. Sessions and a few other outspoken Republicans — Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia among them — stalled the bill in the Senate and sapped momentum from a simultaneous House effort.
As the 2016 elections approached, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, shied from bringing to the Senate floor the politically charged issue that had divided his party. So the effort died, much to the disappointment of the unusual cross-section of advocates behind it.
Backers of the sentencing overhaul say that Mr. Sessions, who as a senator from Alabama supported legislation that would have made a second marijuana trafficking conviction a capital crime, is living in the past and is badly misguided.
“Locking up people who don’t pose a threat to public safety is a waste of taxpayer money, a waste of resources and doesn’t deter crime,” said Steve Hawkins, the president of the Coalition for Public Safety, a sentencing reform advocacy group whose partners are as diverse as the liberal Center for American Progress and the conservative FreedomWorks.
These organizations, along with Koch Industries, argued for sentencing changes as a way to save governments the huge costs of maintaining prisons and to make more productive contributors out of nonviolent offenders — a rare win-win for ideologically divided factions.
The wide backing, which came as an opioid crisis was hitting economically struggling communities across America, struck a chord with Republicans who might usually balk at a less punitive model. Prominent Republican backers in the Senate included John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 party leader; Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman, who was instrumental in advancing the legislation; and Mike Lee of Utah, a well-respected younger conservative.
But while these lawmakers saw an opportunity to take a new approach to sentencing and incarceration, Mr. Sessions was not convinced. Despite a broad decrease in crime in recent years, Mr. Sessions believed that a recent surge in violence in some cities showed that America was again at risk. An early backer of Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions shared his stark vision of an urban America besieged by criminals, and argued that plea deals disguised the real nature of crimes committed by people portrayed as nonviolent.
Mr. Sessions repeatedly said that going soft on crime would accelerate a return to the days of drug-fueled criminality across the country — a point he reaffirmed on Friday.
“We know that drugs and crime go hand in hand,” he said. “Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business.”
In the Senate, Mr. Sessions was more than willing to cede the limelight on the issue to Mr. Cotton, a rising star among conservatives who referred to the Senate legislation as the “criminal leniency bill” and said America was suffering from an “under-incarceration” problem. But Mr. Sessions remained a crucial force.
“He’s been the No. 1 opponent of the bipartisan effort in the Senate to reduce mandatory minimums for low-level nonviolent drug offenses,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, who was one of the chief authors of the bipartisan bill.
Advocates of the sentencing changes say they hope that the unilateral move by Mr. Sessions will stir Congress to intervene and establish new policy through legislation. And Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law, has been assigned the job of working on a criminal justice overhaul, among other issues.
But pushing the bipartisan approach would require confronting the sitting attorney general and perhaps the president — a challenge many Republicans may not be willing to accept. None of the chief Republican backers of the Senate legislation issued any public reaction to the new Justice Department directive on Friday — not a good sign for proponents of an overhaul.
As a senator, Mr. Sessions succeeded in stalling the sentencing reform movement. As attorney general, he has sent it reeling in Washington, and it could be very hard for advocates to regain their footing while he is the nation’s chief law enforcement official.
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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.
The drastic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Sessions’s first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it highlights several of his top targets: drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence. The Justice Department released the new directives on Friday.
In an eight-paragraph memo to the nation’s prosecutors, Mr. Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush’s administration by calling for more uniform punishments — including mandatory minimum sentences — and directing prosecutors to pursue the strictest possible charges. Mr. Sessions’s policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general.
The policy signaled a return to “enforcing the laws that Congress has passed,” Mr. Sessions said on Friday at the Justice Department, characterizing his memo as unique for the leeway it afforded federal prosecutors around the country.
“They deserve to be un-handcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington,” he said. “It means we are going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness. It’s simply the right and moral thing to do.”
The guidance allowed for limited exceptions. “There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted,” Mr. Sessions wrote.
His memo replaced the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. Mr. Holder directed prosecutors — when considering nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to drug trafficking or other criminal organizations — to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to lead to automatically harsh penalties.
Mr. Holder called the new policy “unwise and ill-informed,” saying it ignored consensus between Democrats and Republicans, and data demonstrating that prosecutions of high-level drug defendants had risen under his guidance.
“This absurd reversal is driven by voices who have not only been discredited but until now have been relegated to the fringes of this debate,” he said in a statement.
Supporters of Mr. Holder’s policy have argued that quantities of drugs are a weak indicator of how dangerous a person may be.
“Long sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation,” Mr. Holder wrote in his 2013 memo, noting that in fact they exacerbate an expensive, overburdened prison system. The Obama administration, which led a bipartisan push for more lenient and flexible sentencing laws, presided over the first decline in the federal prison population in a generation.
Mr. Sessions’s memo explicitly mentioned Mr. Holder’s 2013 directive in a footnote and rescinded it effective immediately.
Mr. Sessions’s policy was most similar to one issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003. Then, Mr. Ashcroft outlined six specific types of “limited exceptions” in his memo — which ran nearly four times the length of Mr. Sessions’s new guidance, and repeatedly referenced particular federal statutes. Mr. Sessions, by contrast, outlined no specific scenarios and provided little detail.
Instead, he simply directed prosecutors to “carefully consider whether an exception may be justified.” He said any exceptions to ease criminal penalties must be documented and approved by United States attorneys, assistant attorneys general or their designees.
“There’s a long history of these memos saying both that prosecutors should charge the most serious, readily provable offense, but also that prosecutors should exercise some discretion,” said David Alan Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in criminal justice. “There’s tension between those two things.”
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