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Yemeni rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of US-Saudi talks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in Saudi Arabia Sunday evening, the Saudi military said, as the U.S. secretary of state was on his way to the country for talks on Iran.

Regional tensions have flared in recent days. The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone on Thursday.

The Trump administration has combined a “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday.

The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha. Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Houthis in Yemen for more than four years.

A Houthi spokesman, Yahia al-Sarie, said earlier Sunday the rebels had launched drones targeting Saudi airports in the southern cities of Abha and Jizan.

Saudi Arabia’s military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki did not say what type of weapon was used in Sunday’s attack, which took place shortly after 9 p.m. local time. The Saudi Press Agency reported that a Syrian resident of Saudi Arabia had been killed, but did not identify the nationalities of those wounded.

It was the second attack in less than two weeks on Abha’s airport. The Houthis launched a cruise missile at the airport on June 12, wounding 26 passengers inside. The Iranian-backed Houthis also claimed responsibility for bomb-laden drone strikes that targeted a key Saudi oil pipeline in recent weeks.

Also Sunday, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was traveling to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for talks on Iran. His meetings in Saudi Arabia will be in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, about 315 miles (505 kilometers) north of where the Saudi airport was struck.

Speaking to reporters before flying out, he said he’ll be talking to the two U.S. allies “about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned” and how to build a global coalition to “push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

At the same time, Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. was prepared to negotiate with Iran to ease tensions.

“We’re prepared to negotiate with no preconditions. They know precisely how to find us,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton was in Jerusalem on Sunday, where he said Iran should not “mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness.” President Donald Trump has said he backed away from planned strikes after learning 150 people would be killed.

Bolton’s tough message seemed to be aimed not only at Tehran, but also at reassuring key U.S. allies that the White House remains committed to maintaining pressure on Iran. Israel, along with Arab countries in the Gulf, considers Iran to be their greatest threat, and Trump’s last-minute about face appears to have raised questions about U.S. willingness to use force against the Islamic Republic.

On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States’ “interventionist military presence” for fanning the flames. He was quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

Bolton, a longtime Iran hawk, emphasized that the U.S. reserved the right to attack at a later point.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. As President Trump said on Friday our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go,” Bolton said alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, himself a vocal critic of Iran over the years.

Netanyahu, a longtime opponent of the nuclear deal, has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the current crisis between the U.S. and Iran. The Israeli leader appears to be wary of being seen as pushing the U.S. into a new Middle Eastern military conflict.

Standing alongside Bolton, Netanyahu said Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region had increased as a result of the nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for set limits on its uranium enrichment levels.

Netanyahu made no mention of the called-off airstrike and said he was “pleased” by U.S. plans for increased economic pressure. But some Israeli commentators said that Trump’s about-face was a cause for concern.

Iran’s foreign minister said Bolton was trying to force the U.S. into a conflict with Iran. Javad Zarif tweeted that the presidential adviser was “moments away from trapping” Trump into a “war,” before the U.S. president called off the strikes against Iran.

America’s European allies have expressed deep concern about the volatile standoff. A top British diplomat was in Tehran on Sunday to discuss preventing any “escalation and miscalculation,” according to the UK Foreign Office.

The two-day visit of Andrew Murrison, the UK’s minister of state for the Middle East, was aimed at “open, frank and constructive engagement” with his Iranian counterparts, according to the Foreign Office. This included reiterating the UK’s assessment that Iran almost certainly bears responsibility for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Iran denies.

Murrison added that Iran must continue to meet its commitments under the nuclear deal.

Iran has threatened to break the limits set on its uranium stockpile by the deal in the coming days, if European powers don’t find a way to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

According to IRNA, Iranian officials told Murrision they hoped that European signatories to the nuclear deal will pursue “normal relations and trade” despite the sanctions.

Also Sunday, a top Iranian military commander warned that any conflict with Iran would have uncontrollable consequences across the region and endanger the lives of U.S. forces. Maj. Gen. Gholamali Rashid’s remarks, published by the semi-official Fars news agency, were made while addressing Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps during a field visit to a command center for Iranian radars and missile systems.

Throughout the recent crisis, Trump has wavered between bellicose language and actions toward Iran and a more accommodating tone. His administration is aiming to cripple Iran’s economy and force policy changes by re-imposing sanctions, including on Iranian oil exports.

He’s also dangled the prospect of eventually becoming an unlikely “best friend” of America’s longtime Middle Eastern adversary.

The regional tensions have prompted major international carriers, including Saudi Arabia’s state airline Saudia, to divert flight routes away from the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday barred U.S.-registered aircraft from operating over parts of the Persian Gulf.


News
Tyler Civic Theatre surprises Arc of Smith County group with flash mob performance from "Newsies"

Cast members of Tyler Civic Theatre’s presentation of Disney’s “Newsies The Musical” crashed the Arc of Smith County’s Funlover’s Dance with a surprise flash mob performance of their song “Seize the Day” on Thursday in the Tyler Rose Garden Center.

Stephen Rainwater, director of the summer musical, said the Arc group got the first official preview of the show.

“Seeing the Arc group tonight, and the joy on their faces watching the kids, made the last four weeks of work worth it,” Rainwater said.

Arc of Smith County is a nonprofit organization that works on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The show opens July 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Tyler Civic Theatre in Tyler. For more information, visit tylercivictheatre.com.


Local
Five questions with former Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass

Editor’s Note: This Q&A is the first in a regular series of Five Questions features with people shaping East Texas’ past, present and future.

Barbara Bass, 65, of Tyler, is a partner at the accounting firm Gollob Morgan Peddy where she has worked for more than 30 years.

Bass has a degree in accounting and is licensed as a certified public accountant. Her firm works with companies all over Texas and has expertise in oil and gas industry accounting.

Bass is best known in the community for her service as mayor from 2008 to 2014, starting in the midst of the Great Recession. She is so far the first and only woman who has ever held the office.

Her previous service has been as chairman of the board of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau.

What did you learn while serving as mayor?

I learned several things. First of all, I learned how diverse Tyler really is, and was able to go to all parts of the community in trying to represent the whole community which is mayor rather than being a council member and how passionate people are about our community and willing to give their time as part of being engaged and just literally being engaged in the community. That was really exciting and fun and sometimes interesting helping them channel their ideas and their thoughts.

What is Tyler’s greatest strength?

Its people, conservative values, strong family commitments. I think we still have just a real focus on family and community and we’re at a size we can do that.

What is Tyler’s greatest weakness?

The challenge of growing, embracing new ideas, just dealing with the growth of being a regional center, and maybe being debt-averse, because we do like to pay on an as-you-go basis to the point that we are just adamant about not borrowing money.

How can we get more women involved in public service?

I think that is a multifaceted answer. Programs like Leadership Tyler, statewide programs like Leadership Texas or Leadership Women, which started in Texas, just the different boards and commissions that we have, getting women involved and excited about serving on some of them.

Mentoring each other better. The women in my generation and the ones after me — the accumulation of women that have been in business positions — reaching back and keeping the door open or literally inviting a younger woman behind them to get engaged. We need to start sooner. I know that’s difficult sometimes when women detour starting their families. We still need to keep the effort going.

If you look across the community now, I don’t see a lot of women growing their resume, so to speak, in enough areas that they’re wanting to move up or that it looks like they’re wanting to move up. There’s just a handful, and I haven’t heard any of those saying they want to go run for office, for school board.

Part of the answer also is looking at the group of women who are involved and those of us who have made commitments to be on boards, to chair boards or run for office, literally identifying the women in those groups that are already engaged, going in and saying, “Let’s talk. Would you be interested? And what will it take?” It’s not an overnight fix.

With a lot of women they look at lunchtime and all those things to do before 1 o’clock and skip lunch, so they don’t bring the other women out to lunch in the community. I really don’t see that with the guys, the male accountants. I think the guys just kind of have innately included each other for so many years that they continue to be bringing people to the table. I do think that the guys are doing their part, but as women collectively we’re not as good about doing our part.

The fix is just first of all rethinking and making a commitment that we’re going to do better and then putting it on our calendar, do it. It sounds easy. If it were, we would already be doing it.

What advice would you give a woman thinking of running for office?

The first advice I would give them is don’t just get up this morning and think you’re going to get up and run without having done anything. I’ve had some friends, it was almost like they went to bed and woke up and read there’s a deadline to run and they go run but they’ve not gone out and to build any kind of network. They’ve not really engaged in the community.

Particularly in running for office, I want to know what that person is going to bring to the table. We have people who are willing to give and be engaged in the community who don’t run for office who are very qualified. If you’re thinking about running for office, I want to see what you’ve already done.

I mean anyone can run, obviously, but as far as really being ready to run, I think you’re better prepared if you have served on boards, you’ve dealt with working through compromise, you’ve dealt with different nonprofit board engagements — or even city boards or commissions — where you get a better feel of working with people to get a greater and better outcome.

Have a person in mind for a Five Questions feature? Email news@tylerpaper.com with your suggestion.