Category Archives: World

UN calls urgent Syria meeting after Trump threat

WASHINGT ON: The United Nations warned world powers against letting the crisis over an alleged chemical attack against civilians in Syria from “spiraling out of control” after US President Donald Trump said “missiles will be coming.”
As tensions mounted over a face-off with Damascus-ally Russia, opponents of unilateral US action called an emergency closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council for Thursday. Britain also scheduled an emergency cabinet meeting.

With punitive US military action seemingly imminent, Russia scrambled to deflect blame from Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and, according to a monitor group, regime forces evacuated key defense buildings in Damascus.

Trump’s bellicose tweets came in response to a warning from Russia’s ambassador to Beirut, who took to a television network run by the armed group Hezbollah to declare that any US missiles would be shot down “as well as the sources they were fired from.”

If the US action follows the pattern of a previous punitive strike on Syria last year, it will begin with a salvo of cruise missiles fired from US warships in the Mediterranean, as Trump implied when he tweeted they would be “nice, new and ‘smart.'”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as CIA director Mike Pompeo met at the White House on Wednesday to discuss options, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

With the UN Security Council failing thus far to find a diplomatic solution, Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that time was running out.

“Today, I called the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council to reiterate my deep concern about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control,” he said, referring to the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

Moscow and Washington have so far vetoed each other’s motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use.

Meanwhile, the Russian defense ministry said the Syrian regime flag was flying in Douma — the target of Saturday’s attack — which it said indicated government forces have taken full control over the formerly rebel-held district of Eastern Ghouta.

“The raising of a regime flag over a building in the town of Douma signified control over this town and consequently over Eastern Ghouta as a whole,” Major General Yury Yevtushenko was quoted as saying Thursday by the Interfax news agency.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the remaining rebels in Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons to Russian military police and their leader left the enclave for the north.

The Russian army has continued to deny their side’s latest victory came after Assad launched a chemical attack on the last rebel-held pocket of the enclave in the Damascus suburbs, instead accusing the White Helmets civil defense organization of staging the supposed gas assault.

Trump’s spokeswoman dismissed this idea, and pointedly refused to say that concern about the risks of a direct confrontation with Russia would hold the US military back.

“The intelligence provided certainly paints a different picture,” Sanders said. “The president holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.”

But while the Russian president’s lieutenants continued to up the ante with threats and allegations, Vladimir Putin himself adopted a more statesmanlike tone, in remarks to new ambassadors presenting their credentials at the Kremlin.

“The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and international relations will take a constructive path,” he said.

Trump’s tweets were more belligerent. He told Russia: “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” He declared that US relations with Russia have plunged to a historic low.

But Trump notably also said there was “no reason for this,” reiterated his hope for talks with Putin to halt a new arms race, and blamed his domestic political opponents for poisoning ties.

Assad’s Damascus regime, which has long accused Washington of supporting its armed opponents in the country’s bloody seven-year-old civil war, hit back at Trump’s “reckless escalation.”

Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday’s alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an emergency cabinet meeting for Thursday, while French President Emmanuel Macron is to decide on a response in the coming days, having insisted he does “not want an escalation” and that any response would focus on Syria’s chemical capabilities, not on allies of the regime.

As it looked to head off the threat of Western strikes, Syria said it had invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has blamed the regime for previous attacks, to visit the site.

The OPCW said it would “shortly” deploy a fact-finding team to Douma for an investigation, but US officials said they were working from their own information and would not necessarily hold back.

Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal in 2013, narrowly avoiding American and French air strikes in retaliation for a suspected sarin attack.

That incident, which killed hundreds, also took place in Eastern Ghouta.

Conservative Indonesian province to halt public floggings

BANDA ACEH: Indonesia’s ultra-conservative Aceh province will no longer hold public canings or allow such punishment to be recorded, the government chief said on Thursday.
Aceh is the only province in majority-Muslim Indonesia that follows Islamic law and imposes public caning for crimes like theft, gambling and adultery. In 2014, the province outlawed homosexuality.

The move to restrict access comes nearly a year after two men convicted of having gay sex were publicly flogged and images of their punishment were livestreamed and uploaded on the Internet, drawing international criticism.

“The prisoner is punished once, but if it’s recorded on video and that’s uploaded to YouTube, he is punished for life with those images,” Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf, who will issue a decree to change the rules, told reporters.

He added that children will no longer be allowed to witness corporal punishment.

“Imagine if children witness a punishment and there is applause… Is that what Islamic law means?” he added.

Public canings were introduced in Aceh in 2005 and are supported by many Acehnese. Some members of the provincial legislative council disagreed with the governor’s decree, which does not require council approved.

“Something like this should be done in consultation with the council, otherwise it is unconstitutional,” said council speaker Muharuddin.

Construction is booming in North Korea, but who's paying?

PYONGYANG: Beachfront, five-star hotels? Skyscrapers just blocks from Kim Il Sung Square?
North Korea is racing forward with major development projects some experts believe are aimed at expanding a market for rented or privately owned real estate to help fortify the finances of Kim Jong Un‘s regime against the bite of sanctions over its nuclear program.

A swelling market for private property doesn’t sound very socialist, and it’s not.

But the chronically cash-strapped government appears to be nurturing a fresh source of revenue _ sales of property to the newly affluent class of North Koreans who have made their fortunes on the country’s growing, but still largely unofficial, market economy that has come into its own since Kim assumed power.

The pressure on Pyongyang is growing as the Chinese investors who traditionally have propped up its economy are retreating amid tougher than ever restrictions imposed by Beijing.

The construction projects, which could cost well over a billion dollars to complete, have a lot of momentum behind them. They are part of a six-year building spree under Kim that has transformed the Pyongyang skyline. North Korean officials told The Associated Press they hope to have at least some of the developments ready to show off for celebrations in September marking the country’s 70th anniversary.

“Since 2012, we have been building a new project each year, so I think one year from now a lot of changes will have been made in the city,” said Kim Kum Chol, an architect with the Paektusan Academy of Architecture, the center for architectural research and design in North Korea. “We have a lot of construction plans.”

He said there are three main projects this year:

First, to redevelop the center of Pyongyang by replacing low-rise housing built after the 1950-53 Korean War with more space-efficient new skyscrapers, offices, public buildings and residential high rises. “For the center of the city there are many old residences, so we are trying to turn that into new ones,” Kim explained.

On the east coast’s Wonsan-Kalma area, more than 10 hotels, thousands of units of residential housing and a number of recreational facilities are either planned or underway, Kim said. He said the hotels would range from relatively modest three-star facilities to luxury five-star resorts. Kim Jong Un has already built a new airport to serve the area known as his home away from home.

The third focus is near the Chinese border in Samjiyon, a scenic town at the foot of Mount Paektu, the spiritual home of the ruling Kim dynasty. The area is to become an “open-air museum for education in revolutionary traditions,” according to state-media reports, and a center of mechanized potato farming “envied by the people the world over.”

North Korea has often used ostentatious projects to inspire nationalistic pride, reward loyalty and enhance the prestige of the ruling regime. But Kim Jong Un seems to have a penchant for spearheading the completion of high-rise neighborhoods and modern, seemingly quite functional recreational facilities.

In theory, housing, education and health care are provided free to all in socialist North Korea, where the state owns all capital, including the buildings, factories and land. Selling property outright, or collecting rents, would pull money out of the pockets of those who can afford it, putting it back into the coffers of the regime. Demanding prepayment could help finance projects underway or in the planning stages.

North Korea has been doing this to some degree for years.

Chinese investment has generally been seen as the key source of funds. So has slow but steady growth in the North’s domestic economy, helped along by a swelling sector of entrepreneurs who have savings in foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar and Chinese yuan.

These people, known as “donju,” or money masters, have been more visible since Kim Jong Un assumed power, creating a natural market for better housing that didn’t exist in the past. Most live in Pyongyang and the Wonsan area, where construction is most active. A big part of the building boom is focused on high-end properties in prime locations, like the Pyongyang city center or along riversides or ocean fronts that might be expected to appeal to them most _ and have a higher market value.

Whether such projects would ever pay for themselves is unclear. That could help explain why Kim has made diplomatic overtures over the past few months to Seoul and Beijing — two potentially huge pools of investment and aid if the political tensions on the peninsula ease.

Before stepped up sanctions kicked in last year, North Korea made a massive sell-off of minerals to China that coincided nicely with the building boom.

William Brown, an economist at Georgetown University, said the “liquidation” of some state property makes fiscal sense, despite the cost to socialist principles, especially given North Korea’s chronic trade deficit with China.

The downturn in Chinese trade and new investment since about September and Kim’s inability to get foreign loans or woo other investors has cast serious doubt on the future of the economic boom and is jeopardizing funding for the military, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, a scholar with the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute think tank and co-editor of the North Korea Economy Watch website.

Dwindling trade with China is not only sucking foreign reserves away from the regime, but also hurting businesses the “donju” rely on as well, a one-two punch to the economy that could get significantly worse in the months to come, possibly undermining demand for luxury property.

“The state really doesn’t have any sustainable revenue source as of now,” Silberstein said.

Pregnant Pakistani singer shot dead

ISLAMABAD: A pregnant Pakistani singer was shot dead in Larkana district after she reportedly refused to oblige a man’s “request” to stand up while singing at a ceremony, the media reported.
Samina Samoon, 24, also known as Samina Sindhu, was allegedly shot dead on Tuesday by Tarique Ahmed Jatoi while she was serenading the gathering, Dawn reported.

Jatoi, who was allegedly intoxicated, had badgered the victim to comply before he shot her dead.

The police have arrested the accused.

Samina was rushed to the hospital, but was declared dead.

The slain singer’s husband told the media that she was six months pregnant.

S China Sea drills underscore China's sovereignty claims

BEIJING: China has launched three days of naval drills near its South China Sea island province of Hainan, underscoring its growing capabilities in defending its maritime interests.
Those exercises follow recent ones in the disputed waterway featuring China’s sole operating aircraft carrier that come amid deployments and drills by the rival US Navy.

China’s Maritime Safety Administration said the exercises began on Wednesday and would last through the end of Friday.

China is building new vessels at a rapid pace to equip its navy, coast guard and maritime law enforcement agencies, including its first entirely domestically-built aircraft carrier.

It claims virtually the entire resource-rich South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes annually, and has constructed airstrips and other installations on artificial islands to enlarge its military footprint.

Hainan is home to a major military presence, including naval air stations and the country’s largest submarine base.

This week it also hosted a global business forum that included a smattering of world leaders, among them Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose country is a U.S. treaty ally and has overlapping claims with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Gaza's hospitals taxed by wounded from Israeli fire

GAZA CITY (GAZA STRIP): Raed Jadallah belonged to an exclusive club — a small band of surfers who escaped the claustrophobia of blockaded Gaza by riding the waves of the Mediterranean. Now he’s immobile, a metal fixation device clamped to his left leg after an Israeli bullet fractured his femur in two places.
The 25-year-old plasterer from a seaside refugee camp said he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to walk again, let alone surf.

“Sea and surfing are everything to me,” he said on Wednesday, a day after being discharged from the hospital, his lower body covered by a blanket as he rested on a sofa at his home.

Jadallah is among 1,297 Palestinians shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers, including snipers, during the past two weeks of mass protests on the Gaza-Israel border, according to a computerized count by the Gaza Health Ministry. An additional 1,554 Gaza residents have been treated for tear gas inhalation or injuries by rubber-coated steel pellets.

In addition, 33 Palestinians have been killed during this period, including 26 in border demonstrations. The latest casualties came on Thursday, when Israel said it bombed Hamas militant targets in the Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and wounding another.

The Israeli military has disputed the Gaza count of wounded, saying that at most dozens were struck by Israeli fire. But it has not offered supporting evidence and did not respond to requests for comment.

The casualty figures are at the heart of an intensifying debate over the military’s open-fire orders, branded as unlawful by rights groups because soldiers are permitted to use potentially lethal force against unarmed Palestinians approaching the border fence. Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using the protests as a cover for carrying out attacks, including a possible mass breach of the border fence, and says it has a right to defend its sovereign border. It says its sharpshooters have been careful, aiming only at “instigators” involved in attempted attacks.

The protests have been organized by Hamas, but have also been fueled by widespread despair among the territory’s 2 million people. Gaza has endured more than a decade of border closures, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group seized the territory in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian parliament elections.

More bloodshed on the border is likely, with organizers calling for protests to continue until mid-May and Israel saying it won’t change its rules of engagement.

Already, the recent surge of patients with gunshot wounds has severely taxed Gaza’s clinics and hospitals.

Gaza’s health system has been buckling under years of shortages of essential medicines and equipment caused by the blockade and Hamas’ power struggle with the rival Palestinian Authority, doctors say. The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority accuses Hamas of selling medicines it sends, while Hamas accuses it of delaying medicine shipments.

The violence comes at a time when 40 percent of basic medicines are no longer in stock in Gaza hospitals, according to the World Health Organization. Equipment is also in short supply. At Gaza’s main hospital, Shifa, half of 200 available fixators had been used up for bones broken by bullets, officials said.

Doctors carefully manage scarce resources, said Ayman Sahbani, the spokesman and emergency room director at the Shifa Hospital. Those with relatively simple soft-tissue gunshot wounds are treated and sent home the same day to make room for the most serious cases and new arrivals, he said.

Earlier this week, 64 patients with complications from gunshot wounds — mainly sustained in large protests on two consecutive Fridays — were still hospitalized, filling up orthopedic and surgery wards.

A majority suffered either open, compound or multiple fractures, or damage to blood vessels, said Sahbani, adding that there is concern about permanent disability in some cases.

“A noticeable number of the gunshot injuries comprise an exit point larger than the entry point, suggesting explosive bullets,” he added.

The European Hospital in southern Gaza received 100 people with gunshot wounds last Friday, including 78 who remained hospitalized this week, said spokesman Yehiyeh Nawajha. Among the wounded are four women, he said.

Jadallah, the surfer, was among those shot last Friday. He said he had been throwing stones about 15 meters (yards) from the fence and was just leaving when he was shot.

He said he had been drawn to the protests by the organizers’ slogan of a “Great March of Return” to destroyed Palestinian communities in what is now Israel. Hamas leaders have sent mixed signals about a possible border breach, which Israel says it will prevent at all costs.

Two-thirds of Gaza residents, including Jadallah, are descendants of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.

“We want to return to our land,” Jadallah said.

At Shifa, 17-year-old Mohannad Hamouda was in agony from a gunshot wound to the back.

He was hit March 30 while running from tear gas and gunfire toward protesters who had approached the fence. With his parents at his bedside, he would not say whether he was throwing rocks or had gotten close to the frontier.

Hamouda had joined the protests over the objections of his parents. “I was bored, life is grinding here,” he said.

Doctors said they were concerned about bullet fragments near his spine and feared surgery to remove them could cause permanent paralysis.

The Gaza Health Ministry runs a data collection system known as “e-hospital.”

Detailed injury reports are entered from field hospitals, clinics and Gaza’s main hospitals, with patients identified by name, ID number and type of injury. The system eventually detects and removes any duplicates that might occur if a patient is transferred from one hospital to another, said ministry official Hani al-Wehidi.

For example, 82 people were initially admitted to a north Gaza hospital, but four names were later removed to avoid double counting, he said.

He said the count is transparent and reliable. “Anyone can come and see our work,” he said.

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, has sent more supplies to Gaza hospitals, including 27 essential drugs and medical supplies, including saline and glucose, critical for treating serious injuries.

An Israeli group, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, is sending eight Arab doctors from Israel to Gaza in anticipation of more injuries on Friday. It also will deliver insulin syringes collected by Israeli volunteers in a Facebook campaign.

The group called the Palestinian health care system “one of the major victims” of Israel’s blockade.

Syrian govt now in control of rebel town: Russia

MOSCOW: The Russian military says the Syrian government is now in full control of town on the outskirts of Damascus that was held by the rebels and that was the site of suspected chemical attack over the weekend.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the situation in the town of Douma, just east of the Syrian capital, is “normalizing.”

More than 13,500 Syrian rebel fighters and their families have left Douma this month under a so-called evacuation deal between the rebels and the Russian military, a top ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

The Russian ministry says 1,500 left the town in the past 24 hours.

There was no immediate confirmation or indication from Assad’s government that Syrian troops entered Douma on Thursday.

Australian Muslim activist 'kicked out of US'

SYDNEY: A high-profile Australian author and Muslim activist was refused entry to the United States Thursday and put on a plane home after arriving for a speaking engagement, sparking calls for a re-think by border officials.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied, an advocate for youth, women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, said she was stopped at immigration and ordered out of the country.

“Roughly three hours since touch down in Minneapolis, I’m on a plane back,” she tweeted.

“Well, guess that tightening of immigration laws business is working, despite my Australian passport. We’re taking off now.”

A statement by US Customs and Border Protection, cited by Australian media, said she did not have the right visa.

Abdel-Magied was due to appear in New York to discuss online hate against Muslims and the difficulties of being a young Muslim woman in Western countries at a forum organised by PEN International, a freedom of expression organisation.

PEN America chief Suzanne Nossel said she was dismayed by the decision and understood it was the same type of visa used previously for similar trips without issue.

She said the purpose of the PEN World Voices Festival, founded after the 9/11 attacks, was to sustain links between the US and the wider world.

This, she said, was being jeopardised “by efforts at visa bans and tightened immigration restrictions” which threatened “to choke off vital channels of dialogue that are protected under the First Amendment right to receive and impart information through in-person cultural exchange”.

“We call on Customs and Border to admit her to the US so that she can take her rightful place in the urgent international conversation to take place at the festival next week.”

Adbel-Magied, 27, said authorities seized her phone and passport before putting her on a plane out.

“Those who say the world is borderless are those who have the right colour passports — or birthplace,” she tweeted.

Abdel-Magied, a former Queensland state Young Australian of the Year and mechanical engineer, was born in Sudan but migrated to Australia in 1992. She moved to London last year.

She has worked as a presenter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and formerly served on the government’s Council for Australian-Arab Relations.

She sparked an outcry in Australia over an Anzac Day social media post which referred to current global conflicts and the plight of asylum-seekers detained by Australia in offshore camps.

Anzac Day annually marks the ill-fated 1915 landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in modern-day Turkey during World War I.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware she had been denied entry.

“Like Australia, the United States administers a strict entry regime. The decision on who can enter the United States is a matter solely for the US government,” it added.

In call with Saudi king, Trump demands quick end to Gulf row

WASHINGTON: In a telephone call this month with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, President Donald Trump demanded that the kingdom and its Arab partners quickly end a nearly year-old dispute with Qatar that has left US allies in the region fractured, according to two US officials briefed on the conversation.
Trump wants the rift healed to restore unity among Arab Gulf states and present a united front against Iran, said the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss high-level diplomatic communications.

Trump’s tone in the April 2 call with Salman was described by one official as “forceful.” It was not clear what the king’s response was.

Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, accusing it of backing their arch-rival, Iran, and supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott impinges on its sovereignty.

“The president’s focus has always been on Iran, and its nuclear and missile programs that threaten all the Gulf states, as well as Israel, and he stressed that the feud the Saudis and Emirates are having with Qatar makes no sense,” the official said.

Trump’s demand for swift action to end the rift represents a shift. Early in the crisis, he publicly sided with the Saudis and Emiratis, complicating then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s attempts to mediate.

Trump also discussed the dispute in a phone call last Friday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and in a White House meeting on Tuesday with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani, where he said his ties with Qatar were working “extremely well.”

An administration spokeswoman would not expand on an earlier White House description of the call with the Saudi king. A spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A second official knowledgeable about the call said Trump insisted that the rift within the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council be patched up within three weeks, in part because of a looming decision on Iran.

Trump has set a May 12 deadline for European powers to commit to improving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, or he will pull Washington out of the deal.

Trump also faces a potential confrontation with Tehran in Syria, where he has accused President Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian-backed government of using poison gas on his own people in an assault on Saturday. Trump appeared on Wednesday to threaten an imminent retaliatory missile strike in Syria.

It remains to be seen whether Trump’s Gulf pressure campaign will work. Outwardly, there is little sign of a rapprochement between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors.

A written White House readout of Trump’s phone call with Salman said the president “emphasized the importance of resolving the Gulf dispute and restoring a united Gulf Cooperation Council to counter Iranian malign influence and defeat terrorists and extremists.”

The readout did not recount Trump’s tough tone or describe a US deadline for resolving the dispute.

California joins Guard border mission, shuns Trump's message

SACRAMENTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown accepted President Donald Trump‘s call to send the National Guard to the Mexican border, but rejected the White House’s portrait of a burgeoning border crisis and insisted that his troops will have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.
The Democratic governor broke a week of silence Wednesday by agreeing to contribute 400 troops, though not all will be on the border. Brown’s commitment brought pledges from the four states that border Mexico just shy of the low end of the president’s target to marshal 2,000 to 4,000 troops.

Brown cast his decision as a welcome infusion of federal support to fight transnational criminal gangs and drug and firearms smugglers.

“Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans – Republicans and Democrats,” Brown wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Federal law, notably the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, sharply limits military involvement in civilian law enforcement, creating a supporting role for the Guard. The Pentagon said last week that troops won’t perform law enforcement functions or interact with people detained by border authorities without its approval.

Brown released a proposed agreement with the federal government that emphasizes the widely shared understanding of the Guard’s limited role but explicitly bans any support of immigration enforcement. It says troops cannot guard anyone in custody for immigration violations or participate in construction of border barriers.

The White House praised Brown’s decision without addressing his comments on immigration enforcement.

“We’re also glad to see California Gov. Jerry Brown work with the administration and send members of the National Guard to help secure the southern border,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Reaction in California was limited, with few of Brown’s allies or opponents weighing in.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and author of California’s so-called sanctuary state law, said Guard deployment was unnecessary and not a good use of resources. But he said more can be done to combat border crime and that he appreciated Brown’s design of “a clear and limited mission focused on real public safety threats.”

“I am confident Governor Brown will not use our National Guard to harass or tear apart immigrant families in California,” he said in a statement.

Rob Stutzman, who advised former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, praised the decision on Twitter, calling Brown’s decision to accept money for using the Guard to fight drugs and human trafficking “good government.”

Immigration advocacy groups were generally quiet, although some were skeptical.

Pedro Rios, director for the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico border program in San Diego, questioned why Brown would send troops while rejecting Trump’s premise that they are needed to help stop illegal immigration.

“If he’s in disagreement with Donald Trump about the justifications for having the National Guard on the border, then why would he accept it?” he said.

Unlike Republican governors in other border states, Brown disagreed with Trump’s portrayal of a border spiraling out of control, noting that Border Patrol arrests fell to the lowest level last year since 1971 and that California accounted for only 15 percent of the agency’s arrests on the Mexican border.

“Here are the facts: there is no massive wave of migrants pouring into California,” Brown wrote the Trump Cabinet members.

In contrast, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is contributing 1,000 troops, embraced Trump’s mission the day it was announced, saying it would promote the rule of law and “help ensure we are doing everything we can to stem the flow of illegal immigration.”

Brown said California’s troops would join an existing program to combat transnational drug crime, firearms smuggling and human trafficking. About 250 California National Guard troops are already participating, including 55 at the border.

The new contingent of California Guard members being deployed could be posted at the border, the coast and elsewhere statewide, Brown said.

California deployed troops to the border under former Presidents George W. Bush in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2010.