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When White House plans for a strike on Iran left Pentagon, State Dept alarmed

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France President Emmanuel Macron reaches out to resentful citizens, and Bangladesh’s famed garment workers continue protests for better pay.

 White House mulled Iran strike, WSJ report claims

The White House had last year approached the Pentagon to seek “military options” on striking Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The request followed an attack by militants aligned with Tehran on Baghdad’s diplomatic quarters, which is where the US embassy is located, in early September 2018. The attack, which caused no human loss, said the WSJ report, had nevertheless triggered alarm in Washington. According to the report, the request had sparked deep concern among Pentagon and State Department officials.

“People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran”, the report quoted a former senior US administration official as saying.

The attack reportedly prompted US President Donald Trump’s national security team, headed by John Bolton, to hold a series of meetings on a “forceful American response”.

According to the report, while it is known that Pentagon agreed to the request and drew up options to strike Iran, it is not clear if the White House was briefed on the proposals, or if Trump was aware of the request.

“Bolton, an avid proponent of the Iraq invasion during the George W. Bush administration, has long taken one of the hardest lines against Iran in Washington and has openly supported the idea of regime change in Tehran,” US channel CNBC wrote on its website, while reporting the WSJ news break.

Pompeo urges Gulf states to end Qatar blockade

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Qatar capital Doha Sunday, said that the West Asian nation’s rift with its Gulf neighbours had stretched too long, and that this was benefiting their “regional adversaries”, a purported dig at its own nemesis Iran, reported Al Jazeera.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on Qatar over allegations that it was supporting terrorism and their regional enemy, the Shia-dominated Iran.

“We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited,” said Pompeo. “When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful.”

Reuters quoted Pompeo as saying that the US hoped “the unity of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) will increase in the days and weeks and months ahead”.

According to the report, Pompeo said he had raised the matter with Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. On the likely duration of the blockade, Pompeo added, “It’s… not at all clear that the rift is any closer to being resolved today than it was yesterday and I regret that”.

What taxes to lower first, President Macron asks France

French President Emmanuel Macron Sunday announced the start of a three-month-long national debate to address the resentment that sparked the yellow-vest protests, a nine-week stir reportedly triggered by fuel price hikes, rising living costs, and Macron’s “pro-business” bent.

In a 2,330-word letter in French, published in local newspapers Monday, Macron issued a questionnaire to the French population, seeking their views on a series of subjects such as the taxes that should be lowered first, limits on approving asylum requests, and referendums reported Al Jazeera.

However, France24 reported, “Macron said he would remain faithful to his campaign manifesto, and appeared to rule out rolling back some of the pro-business economic reforms, such as scrapping a wealth tax, which have earned him the nickname ‘president of the rich’.”

Earlier, Macron had scrapped the fuel tax hike that triggered the protests, and approved a 10-billion-euro package “of wage boosts and tax relief for the low income class”, France 24 reported.

Meanwhile, far-Right leader Marine Le Pen of the National Rally party, who lost the 2017 presidential election, sought to tap the anger in France as she announced the outfit’s candidates for the upcoming EU parliament.

Europe will vote this May to elect the 751 members of the EU Parliament, which is based in Brussels.

Euronews quoted her as saying, “In the context of the healthy popular revolt of the yellow vests, this European election on May 26, 2019 (…) offers the opportunity to unravel the political crisis born out of blindness, intransigence, class contempt, economic despoliation, and the human disconnect of a president”

Bangladesh garment workers strike work for better pay

Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers, who make clothes for top global brands, have struck work and taken to the streets in and around Dhaka to demand better pay, with police countering them with water cannons and tear gas.

The protests, which entered their second week Monday, have so far led to the death of one person and injuries to 50 others, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

British daily The Guardian quoted police director Sana Shaminur Rahman as saying that “the workers barricaded the highway”.

“We had to drive them away to ease traffic conditions. So far, 52 factories, including some big ones, have shut down operations due to the protests,” he added.

Union leader Aminul Islam blamed factory owners for inciting violence, adding that workers won’t stop protests till their demands were met.

According to The Guardian, while the government did increase the minimum monthly wage for the lowest-wage garment employees by 51 per cent to 8,000 taka (roughly Rs 6,700) from December, mid-level tailors said the rise was incompatible with current living costs.

Bangladesh is the second-largest garment producer after China. The buyers of the apparel include popular brands like H&M, Primark, Walmart and Tesco.

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