Blinken Says He’ll Work with US Congress to Respond to ICC Move on Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on President Biden's proposed budget request for the Department of State, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on President Biden's proposed budget request for the Department of State, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Blinken Says He’ll Work with US Congress to Respond to ICC Move on Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on President Biden's proposed budget request for the Department of State, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on President Biden's proposed budget request for the Department of State, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the Biden administration would be happy to work with Congress to formulate an appropriate response to the International Criminal Court prosecutor seeking to issue arrest warrants on Israeli leaders over the Gaza war.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Blinken called the move "a profoundly wrong-headed" decision which would complicate the prospects of reaching a hostage deal and a ceasefire in Israel's conflict with the Palestinian group Hamas.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's defense chief and three Hamas leaders "bear criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Washington roundly criticized Khan's announcement, arguing the court does not have jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict and raising concerns over process.

The United States is not a member of the court, but has supported past prosecutions, including the ICC's decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

"We'll be happy to work with Congress, with this committee, on an appropriate response" to the ICC move, Blinken said on Tuesday.

He did not say what a response to the ICC move might include.

Republican members of Congress have threatened legislation to impose sanctions on the ICC, but a measure cannot become law without support from President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats, who control the Senate.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump's administration accused the ICC of infringing on US national sovereignty when it authorized an investigation into war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The US targeted court staff, including then-prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, with asset freezes and travel bans.



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.