CENTCOM Nominee: There Are Risks with Iran's Sanctions Relief

Central Command (CENTCOM) candidate Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla (AP)
Central Command (CENTCOM) candidate Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla (AP)
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CENTCOM Nominee: There Are Risks with Iran's Sanctions Relief

Central Command (CENTCOM) candidate Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla (AP)
Central Command (CENTCOM) candidate Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla (AP)

US President Joe Biden's candidate for chief of Central Command (CENTCOM), Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, warned Iran might use the money resulting from the sanctions waivers to support its proxies in the region.

Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there is a risk with sanctions relief that "Iran would use some of that money to support its proxies and terrorism in the region. And if they did, it could increase the risk to our forces in the region."

US officials stated that they likely have until the end of this month to salvage the nuclear agreement with Iran.

CNN quoted senior administration officials as saying that "this session is the critical one… We are genuinely in the very final stretch."

Kurilla's warnings reflected the military leaders' concern about Iran's growing influence in the region.

"Iran is the No. 1 destabilizing factor in the Middle East right now with their malign behavior," testified Kurilla, calling on the US to maintain strong relations with the countries of the world and enhance its capabilities to confront the Iranian threat.

The General stressed the importance of artificial intelligence in confronting Iran, adding that he would boost this strategy if approved for the position, noting that the US must continue to invest in technology, including artificial intelligence, to enhance its capabilities to respond to Iran's military capabilities.

Kurilla also referred to the Houthis' recent ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, stressing the importance of publicly accusing Iran of these attacks.

The US must expose Iran's involvement in such actions whenever possible, said Kurilla.

At the hearing, the army general said it's critical to help partners in the region improve cyber defenses that can protect them from Iran's "very capable offensive cyber capability."

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives members sat in the opposite section of the building listening to the President's Special Envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, to discuss developments on the nuclear talks in Vienna.

Malley participated in the hearing via videoconferencing to answer questions about the administration's negotiations over the return to the 2015 nuclear deal amid concerns over the pace of Iran's nuclear advances and sanctions implementation.

The envoy provided his first classified briefing on Capitol Hill and it was evident that bipartisan legislators were running out of patience with Malley.

Representative Claudia Tenney, a committee member, led the pressure on Malley to testify

She said later that the session left her with more questions than answers.

"Before today, Rob Malley had yet to appear before the full Foreign Affairs Committee, either publicly or in private, to answer our questions and explain to the American people why sanctions are not being fully enforced on Iran," Tenney said.

"This briefing, unfortunately, left me with more questions than answers. While it was a start, it is still not enough."

Tenney also called for a full public hearing, urging greater transparency, adding that it "was a start, it is still not enough. Rob Malley works for the American people, and he needs to answer to them as well."

"That's why I'm continuing to press for a full, public hearing. On a matter as important to our national security as a nuclear Iran, maximum transparency is the only path forward."

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Senator Bob Menendez shared Tenney's concerns during a briefing at the Senate, which included the top Middle East official on the National Security Council, Brett McGurk.

Members pressured Malley to clarify the administration's efforts to return to the agreement in light of many questions raised by Menendez.

Earlier this week, Malley spoke with congressional staffers and left them feeling that the next few weeks will determine if the deal lasts or dies, two congressional sources told CNN.

"I have been cautiously optimistic about the Biden administration's initial efforts," said Menendez.

"However, a year later, I have yet to hear any parameters of 'longer' or 'stronger' terms or whether that is even a feasible prospect."

Menendez said it's still "possible" for the US to agree with Iran, but "it's increasingly difficult, cause the window is closing, closing rapidly."

In turn, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said after leaving the closed session that it was a "sobering and shocking briefing," saying that Iran is "weeks away from a nuclear weapon, once they decide to get it, that time is getting smaller, not bigger."



Sudan Tops UN Envoy's Concerns about Children Caught in Conflicts, With Congo and Haiti Next

FILE - United Nation's special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, speaks during a press conference, in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, her first visit to the country. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw, File)
FILE - United Nation's special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, speaks during a press conference, in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, her first visit to the country. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw, File)
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Sudan Tops UN Envoy's Concerns about Children Caught in Conflicts, With Congo and Haiti Next

FILE - United Nation's special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, speaks during a press conference, in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, her first visit to the country. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw, File)
FILE - United Nation's special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, speaks during a press conference, in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, her first visit to the country. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw, File)

The United Nations envoy charged with reporting on violations against children in conflicts around the world said Thursday that first and foremost she is worried about what’s happening to youngsters in war-torn Sudan, followed by Congo and Haiti.
Virginia Gamba told a news conference officially launching the secretary-general’s annual report and UN blacklist of violators that she is also very worried about children caught in Myanmar's civil war and the spillover into neighboring Bangladesh, The Associated Press reported.
“For the future, on the horizon,” she said, “I’m worried about Somalia and Afghanistan.”
The report for the first time put both Israeli forces and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants on the blacklist for violating children’s rights in 2023 during Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise invasion of southern Israel and its massive military retaliation in Gaza that is ongoing.
The UN also kept the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups on the blacklist for a second year over their killing and maiming of Ukrainian children and attacks on schools and hospitals in 2023.
Gamba said she remains very concerned about the plight of children in the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza, as well as in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
“But the ones that I’m really worried about for, let’s say, the rest of this year and beginning of next year, are first and foremost Sudan, particularly Darfur, and Chad because it is expanding,” she said.
Sudan plunged into conflict in mid-April 2023, when long-simmering tensions between its military and paramilitary leaders broke out in the capital Khartoum and spread to other regions including Darfur, which became synonymous with genocide and war crimes two decades ago. The UN says over 14,000 people have been killed and 33,000 injured.
Gamba said their “ferocious armed struggle” led to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces being put on the blacklist for killing and maiming, raping and committing other acts of sexual violence, as well as attacking schools and hospitals.
In Congo, the 13,500-strong UN peacekeeping force is in the process of withdrawing by the end of December, leaving militant groups and government forces fighting in its mineral-rich east where security has deteriorated. Gamba said “massive sexual violence” against children is taking place and “is going to swell.”
The new report has Congo’s armed forces and 16 armed groups fighting in the country on the UN blacklist for violating children’s rights.
When the UN withdrawal is completed, Gamba said, “I lose my eyes.” Though monitoring of abuses will continue, it won’t be the same level of engagement, she said.
The violence in Haiti only became “a situation of concern” for her office in June 2023, Gamba said, so it only monitored violence against children for the last six months of that year. This meant Secretary-General Antonio Guterres didn’t have enough data to decide whether any parties should go on the blacklist.
Gangs have grown in power since the July 7, 2021, assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and are now estimated to control up to 80% of the capital. The surge in killings, rapes and kidnappings has led to a violent uprising by civilian vigilante group s.
In the report, the UN chief expressed deep concern at the “indiscriminate armed gang violence and grave violations against children.” It says the UN verified 383 grave violations against 307 children in the last six months of 2023 — 160 boys, 117 girls and 30 whose sex wasn’t known — and it lists about a dozen gangs that were responsible for the violations.
Gamba said she is very concerned because grave violations of children’s rights seem to be “endemic, and particularly systemic (is) the rape of girls.”