ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Two very different dialogue proposals are on the table for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, one from a historic enemy, Israel, proposed in conjunction with a crucial partner, the United States. The other is from a historic rival, Iran, which shares the same neighborhood and faith.

The choice the Arab countries ultimately make could determine the future peace and prosperity of the region.

On February 15, President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and during a press conference, both leaders hinted at an approaching Arab-Israeli cooperation.

A few days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran’s previously proposed regional platform for dialogue between the Islamic Republic and its Persian Gulf neighbors during a speech at the Munich Security Conference.

The U.S.-Israel proposal encompasses almost all Arab States, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon and Tunisia.

This proposal’s principal objective is a wider Arab-Israeli peace agreement and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the key selling point behind this initiative is mutual concerns regarding Iran, and the proposal has a goal to present a unified front against the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu stated during the press conference that “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” He further stated that “the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach involving our newfound Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace with the Palestinians.”

Related: Michael Dorf: Trump’s Deal-Making Skills Won’t Help Israel

While there has been no official confirmation of back channel talks between Israel and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Trump and Netanyahu’s statements indicate that previous reports alleging secret direct interactions between high-level Israeli and GCC officials have indeed taken place in the past six years if not longer.

The perception left by the Barack Obama administration, that the United States is leaving the region and that an increasingly emboldened Iran is exerting power across the Middle East after the implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement, has revived longstanding hostilities between Arabs and Persians, and presented an opening to realize mutual interests and foster cooperation between Arabs and Israelis.

Israel has long seen Iran as its major adversary because of Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and nuclear advances.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia along with its GCC partners were alarmed when Iran took advantage of the US invasion of Iraq to become influential in Baghdad. The GCC states also grew intolerant of Iran’s perceived links to the uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as well as Iran’s support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and for the Houthis in Yemen.

03_03_Iran_Israel_01Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi arrive at the Hangzhou Exhibition Center to participate in the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016, in Hangzhou, China. Mehran Haghirian writes that if the United States goes forward with plans to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.ETIENNE OLIVEAU/GETTY

At the Munich conference, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted without naming him an old remark by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that “in the Middle East we are facing three challenges: Iran, Iran and Iran…and I can only repeat and confirm this approach.” Lieberman reiterated that Israel would continue efforts to hinder the Islamic Republic’s reintegration into the international community in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also reaffirmed his country’s objections to Iranian actions across the region. “The Iranians do not believe in the principle of good neighborliness or non-interference in the affairs of others,” Jubeir told the Munich conference. “This is manifested in their interference in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan.”

While the prospect for Iran-Saudi détente looks dim at present, it is crucial to remember that the future of Palestine is an issue that not only unites Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but all people in the Muslim world. The outlook for the US-Israeli proposal to solve the Palestinian issue is unclear and most likely not possible to be implemented.

If the United States goes forward with plans to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.

Countering the US-Israeli proposal, Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic’s proposition for creation of a regional platform for dialogue between Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors, or as he called them “brothers.”

“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction erecting realistic regional arrangements,” Zarif told the Munich conference. To implement this proposal, he said it must start with a regional dialogue forum that encompasses the littoral neighbors of the Persian Gulf, and under the framework of shared principles and objectives.

The primary goal of Iran’s proposal is to decrease tensions and increase cooperation between neighbors.

“The forum can promote understanding under a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence and security building measures, and combating terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism,” Zarif said. “It could also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from the protection of the environment to join investments and tourism. Such a forum could eventually develop into a more formal non-aggression and security cooperation arrangements.”

This proposal is not new. Zarif put it forward shortly after finalizing the nuclear deal in an article on Al-Monitor titled “Choose your neighbors before your house,” and traveledto Qatar and Kuwait shortly afterward.

More recently, on January 24, the foreign minister of Kuwait met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a letter on behalf of the GCC. While the details of the letter have not been made public, Rouhani followed with state visits to Oman and Kuwait on February 15, coincidentally the same day Trump and Netanyahu held talks.

Oman and Kuwait, which historically have had less troubled relations with Iran than other GCC members, have indicated a desire to take part in the dialogue forum with Iran, and have repeatedly attempted to mediate tensions between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.

The disagreements between rival powers should not preclude comprehensive and inclusive arrangements that address mutual concerns, and that benefit all participating countries. The Iranian proposal will ensure a sustainable relationship between neighboring states based on mutual respect, and eventually, the cooperation could facilitate an end to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

The Israeli proposal might lead to a wider peace agreement between Arab states and Israel. However, it will most definitely exacerbate tensions with Iran and increase the chances of a wider military conflict.

There has been no substantial conflict between the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Israel in the past decade or more, and while a wider Arab-Israeli peace would undoubtedly have a positive impact in the region, it is contingent on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Meanwhile, the rise in contention between some GCC states and Iran in the past decade has arguably had more dire consequences for the region than the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Agreeing to sit at the same table with Iran for dialogue based on a mutually acceptable and beneficial outlook will lead to greater peace in the region and beyond. It is crucial for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf to weigh the rewards and consequences of each proposal before going forward with either approach.

Mehran Haghirian is an Iranian Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C., and he is currently a Project Assistant at Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian Republican Guard General visits Moscow, violating Sanctions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND ‘OUTBRAIN’)

IRAN

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian general visits Moscow, violating sanctions

A shadowy Iranian general responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 Americans traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with high-ranking Russian officials — a trip that violated multiple United Nations resolutions forbidding him from leaving his country, multiple western intelligence officials with direct knowledge of the visit told Fox News.

RUSSIAN SPY SHIP SPOTTED CLOSER TO USA, NEAR NAVY SUBMARINE BASE

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in Terminal A of Vnukovo airport outside Moscow on Feb. 14 on Mahan Air WD084 at 12:13 p.m. local time and was scheduled to remain in Russia for a few days for meetings, officials said.

Soleimani is visiting Moscow to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, mainly regarding weapons deals and strengthening economic ties, sources told Fox News.

MIDEAST PEACE MAY NOT COME FROM TWO-STATE SOLUTION, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

The CIA would not immediately answer a request for comment. A State Department spokesman said he was unaware of the visit.

This is Soleimani’s third trip to Moscow following visits in April and July last year. Soleimani is thought to be the mastermind behind Iran’s proxy war in Syria in order to prop up the Assad regime. Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu days after the Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to in Vienna. Iran has been a key ally along with Russia in Syria, working together to shore up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against opposition fighters, some of whom are backed by the United States.

The Quds Force, which Soleimani heads, is the special operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxy forces across the Middle East. Soleimani reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Testifying before Congress last year, former Secretary of State John Kerry said Soleimani and the Quds Force would continue to face sanctions even after some UN sanctions were lifted on Iran following the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

UN Resolution 1747 prohibits Soleimani to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is also defying sanctions. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and would be a aware of the restrictions against meeting him.

During his confirmation hearing before Congress in 2015, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani.

“The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren’t always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn’t necessarily have the forensics to support that,” Dunford told lawmakers.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said five days after Soleimani’s Moscow visit that he would never receive sanctions relief.

“Under the United States’s initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions,” Kerry said.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

U.S. Says Venezuela’s Vice President Is An International Drug Trafficker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN)U.S. authorities on Monday said the vice president of Venezuela was an international drug trafficker and slapped severe sanctions on him.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Tareck El Aissami has played a “significant role in international narcotics trafficking,” a news release said.
“OFAC’s action today is the culmination of a multi-year investigation under the Kingpin Act to target significant narcotics traffickers in Venezuela and demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities,” said John Smith, acting director of OFAC.
El Aissami, who was appointed vice president of Venezuela in January, is a former interior and justice minister and governor of the country’s Aragua state.
The Treasury Department said he “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, (and) narcotics shipments of over 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States.”
In addition, the department said El Aissami is linked to coordinating drug shipments to Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel, and provided protection to a Colombian drug lord.
Monday’s action imposes sanctions on El Aissami that prohibit anyone in the United States from doing business with him, and freezing any assets the US.
A senior administration official said Monday’s sanctions are “not a reaction to El Aissami’s role as executive vice president of Venezuela. The designation is the result of a years-long investigation of narcotics trafficking by OFAC.”
The official went on to say, “This is a narcotics trafficking case … and any other kind of activity is not a basis for our action today.”
El Aissami is also a subject of a yearlong CNN and CNN en Espanol investigation published last week.
A confidential intelligence document obtained by CNN links El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and ID‘s that it says were issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The official who ordered the issuing of the passports, the report said, is El Aissami, who “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians and Iraqis.”
El Aissami has not responded to multiple requests for comment over several months. CNN reached out to the Venezuelan government Monday night but there was no immediate response.

Iran Arrests Eight Sunni Foreigners Said To Be Planning Terrorists Attacks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Iran says holds eight foreigners planning attacks

Iranian security forces have arrested eight hardline Sunni Islamists suspected of planning attacks to disrupt celebrations for Iran’s Islamic revolution in the past week, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said on Saturday.

Alavi said the eight were “Takfiri” foreigners, some of whom were linked to a “Takfiri” leader who had been killed in Iran, IRNA reported. He did not give details of which countries they were from.

“Takfiri” is a word used by predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iran to refer to hardline, armed, Sunni Islamist groups.

“Initial information indicates that Kalashnikovs and other equipment were obtained to carry out terrorist operations … in Tehran and several other cities under the direct guidance of persons based in neighbouring countries,” Alavi was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying.

In August, Alavi said the leader of a Sunni militant group in southeast Iran responsible for attacks against security forces and civilian targets has been killed, although it was not immediately clear if he was person he suspected those arrested of being linked to.

Although Alavi did not identify which country Iran suspected of guiding the suspects, Iranian officials often accuse regional rival Saudi Arabia of backing ultrahardline Sunni militant group Islamic State.

Riyadh denies the charges and says Tehran destabilizes the region and sponsors terrorism, an accusation rejected by Iran.

On Friday, Iran’s prosecutor-general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said security forces had smashed a cell linked to Islamic State near Tehran that wanted to “sabotage” rallies on Friday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

Iranian security forces have repeatedly announced arrests of Islamic State fighters and sympathizers.

Iran Is Allowing Russian Bombers To Use Their Airspace And Military Base For Refueling

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Iran allowing Syria-bound Russian planes to use airspace-report

Iran has again allowed Russian planes to use its airspace during recent operations in Syria, a senior Iranian security official was quoted as saying on Saturday.

In August, Russian aircraft for the first time used an Iranian air base to conduct strikes in Syria. The Russian military said its fighters had completed their tasks, but left open the possibility of using the Hamadan base again if circumstances warranted.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said then that Russia had stopped using the base for strikes in Syria, bringing an abrupt halt to the deployment that was criticized both by the United States and some Iranian lawmakers.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, on Saturday told the semi-official news agency Fars: “Their (Russians’) use of Iran’s air space has continued because we have a fully strategic cooperation with Russia.”

“In the recent cases, Russian fighter planes have only used Iran’s airspace and have not had refueling operations,” Shamkhani added.

The agency said Shamkhani was commenting on media reports that Russia’s Tupolev-22M long-range bombers had used Iranian airspace and a base in the country on their missions in Syria, where both Tehran and Moscow back President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

It was not immediately clear if the recent missions were linked to Russian air strikes on Thursday that accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers during an operation against Islamic State in Syria, according to the Turkish military.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Anywhere America Steps Back: China’s Communist Government Steps Forward

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

A new rift in world affairs appears to be opening up: a division between pro-globalization Asia, with China in the lead, and the transatlantic nations that have turned against globalization.

“President Xi’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week,” I write in a blog post this week, “comes at both an auspicious and inauspicious moment. It is an auspicious moment because President-elect Donald Trump has all but announced America’s withdrawal from the world it has largely made over recent decades — and from which Asia has most benefited.” Since Europe has become inwardly absorbed with anxieties over terror attacks, immigration and failed integration, I continue, “that leaves China as the one major power with a global outlook. Ready or not, China has become the de facto world leader seeking to maintain an open global economy and battle climate change. In effect, President Xi has become the ‘core leader’ of globalization.”

“The inauspicious aspect is the reverse,” I go on to say. “The general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party is speaking to the converted from the pulpit in the foremost church of the global elite that gathers annually in Davos. Aligning with the global business elites in such a high profile manner places China even more squarely in the negative sights of the populist wave sweeping the Western democracies. It affirms in their minds that China is the main enemy of the working and middle class in the West.” China’s increasing show of force in the South China Sea this week in response to what it sees as provocations by the incoming U.S. administration also does it little favor in Western eyes.

Alexis Crow makes the counter-case that globalization continues to be beneficial to the West, saying trade is closely correlated with economic growth. “Increased wages in Southeast Asia boost demand for goods from new economy sectors in the West,” she writes. She also notes, as a case in point, how Chinese investment is creating thousands of jobs in Ohio.

Writing from Vladivostok, Artyom Lukin wonders how heightening conflict with China, as Trump tilts toward a closer embrace of Moscow, will play out. “Given Trump’s obvious hostility to China and his friendliness to Russia,” he writes, “Moscow may move into the apex spot of the triangle, having better relations with Beijing and Washington than they have with each other.” As Lukin sees it, Russian President Vladimir Putin may well seek to, “position himself as a sort of mediator between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.”

Based on his experiences with Putin, Alexey Kovalev offers some advice as a Russian journalist to his American colleagues who this week faced their first press conference with Donald Trump. “Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him.” He welcomes his American colleagues to “the era of bullshit.” Fearing this is only the beginning of what’s to come in the battle between Trump and the press, Howard Fineman writes, “It’s not a video game. It’s Washington in the Trump era, and we’ve just seen an unsettling preview.”

Many Africans are also wondering how a Trump presidency that is hostile to China will unfold for them. As Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden report, while America’s role in the world is growing uncertain, China is becoming more predictably favorable. As the year opened, China outlawed its domestic ivory trade and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is making a visit to Africa his first overseas trip of the year. China has also committed $60 billion in financing for African projects.

Writing from Singapore, Parag Khanna takes another tack entirely, suggesting that an America caught up in the turmoil of a populist backlash might learn a thing or two not only from other successful states like Germany, but from China as well. America, Khanna observes, “is caught in a hapless cycle of flip-flopping parties and policies while overall national welfare stagnates. Populism has prevailed over pragmatism.” He further remarks that, even in the West, there is grudging admiration for, “China’s ability to get things done without perpetual factionalism holding up national priorities, such as infrastructure.”

The populist drift in both the U.S. and Europe deeply concerns the Human Rights Watch organization, Nick Visser reports. “They scapegoat refugees, immigrant communities, and minorities. Truth is a frequent casualty,” he cites the watchdog’s director, Kenneth Roth, as saying. Nick Robins-Early looks at the trend of populism in Europe, noting that this year will be a test for the far-right, specifically in France, Germany and The Netherlands.

Writing from New Delhi, Swati Chaturvedi fears the consequences of the anti-Muslim and anti-woman hate speech that seems part and parcel of a Hindu brand of populism taking hold in India today. “Trolls,” she says, “are the goons of the online world. … lies and violent words can have deadly consequences in the real world.”

In an interview, former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr sees opportunity for the regime in a Trump presidency where others see only trouble. “Khamenei’s supporters believe not only that Trump will maintain the Vienna nuclear agreement,” he says, “but also that his policies in Syria and the Middle East will maintain the interests of the regime.”

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also has a positive spin on the negativity surrounding President-elect Trump. He thinks Americans are more than capable of rising to disruptive challenges of new technologies behind so much political anxiety today. Wheeler argues that the slogan “‘Make America Great Again’ became a surrogate for ‘Make me secure again amidst all this change.’ Great swaths of the electorate sought stability in a world where everything seemed to be changing.” Wheeler reminds his fellow Americans that they’ve been here before: “Like today,” he says, “the technology revolution of the 19th century produced a longing for stability. But instead of retreating, Americans pushed forward to build a new security around new concepts. Universal education, employee rights, governmental offsets to abusive market power and other initiatives targeted the new problems. The result was the good old days many now long for.”

Writing from Geneva, Richard Baldwin sees a double blow to the labor market – in both rich and poor countries ― of both offshoring and robots. “Rapid advances in computing power and communication technology,” he contends, “will make it economical for many more people to work remotely across borders.” As medical costs rise in the rich countries, for example, Baldwin expects to see more and more “telesurgery” where the patient and doctor are divided by hundreds of miles.

In this world so afflicted by hatred and violence, Turkish novelist Kaya Genc also sees a way to unite amidst division, finding beauty and peace in the quotidian event of a winter snowfall. “Snow saved Istanbul,” he writes this week from his beloved hometown on the shores of the Bosphorous. “As flakes fell from the sky, the city was relieved of its status as the new destination of international terror. … There was a hint of something chilling in the air, and I felt relieved that it was not man-made.” 

Iran’s Violations of Arms Embargo to Be Discussed by UN Security Council

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS AGENCY)

 

Iran’s Violations of Arms Embargo to Be Discussed by Security Council

United Nations Security Council. Reuters

New York- Few days after former Secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern regarding the fact that Tehran might have violated an arms embargo by supplying weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shi’ite group so-called Hezbollah, the topic is set to be discussed by the council on January 18.

The second bi-annual report, due to be discussed by the 15-member council, also cited an accusation by France that an arms shipment seized in the northern Indian Ocean in March was from Iran and likely bound for Somalia or Yemen.

Regardless that the session was aimed at following the implementation of U.N. resolution 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Reuters confirmed on Monday that the report submitted every six months by U.N. chief included U.N. concern from Iran violating an arms embargo.

According to Reuters, the report was submitted to the Security Council on Dec. 30 by Ban Ki-moon before he was succeeded by Antonio Guterres on Jan. 1.

It came just weeks before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has threatened to either scrap the nuclear agreement or seek a better deal, takes office.

“In a televised speech broadcast by Al Manar TV on 24 June 2016, Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, stated that the budget of Hezbollah, its salaries, expenses, weapons and missiles all came from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ban wrote in the report.

“I am very concerned by this statement, which suggests that transfers of arms and related materiel from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Hezbollah may have been undertaken contrary to a Security Council resolution,” Ban said.

Most U.N. sanctions were lifted a year ago under a deal Iran made with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, the United States and the European Union to curb its nuclear program.

However, Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran Asma Jahangir expressed deep concerns over the continuous detention of human rights defenders in the country, who, she said “have been tried on the basis of vaguely defined offences and heavily sentenced following trials marred with due process violations.”

Raising alarm over the health of several prisoners of conscience in Iran, who have been on a prolonged hunger strike contesting the legality of their detention, the U.N. expert on the human rights situation there urged the authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release all those who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted for exercising their rights.

Two of at least eight protesting prisoners of conscience have been on hunger strike since October last year.

One of the two ended his strike last week after his wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, a human rights defender, was granted bail.

Another protester – Mohammed Ali Taheri – started his strike on 28 September.

However, his whereabouts have been unknown since his reported transfer to Baghiatollah Military Hospital in October.

Furthermore, at least one of the protesters – Arash Sadeghi, another human rights defender – is being denied transfer to specialized medical facilities despite his critical health condition and is reportedly kept in his cell.

“I call on the Iranian authorities to ensure that Sadeghi has access, as a matter of utmost priority, to specialized health care in a hospital outside prison, in compliance with international human rights standards and medical ethics in particular the principles of informed consent,” said Jahangir.

Tehran Worried after Drone Flies Near Khamenei Office

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS)

Tehran Worried after Drone Flies Near Khamenei Office

Tehran

London – Iranian authorities were worried on Friday after a drone flew near the office of the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

Iran’s anti-aircraft forces extensively fired at the drone as it approached the Pasteur strategic area, where the office of the supreme leader is located.

The drone later appeared to have been operated by a film crew shooting aerial footage for a documentary.

Tehran’s deputy governor general for security affairs, Mohsen Hamedani said the state television crew was filming Friday prayers and “did not know about the prohibited airspace.”

He added: “The drone did not respect the no-fly zone” in central Tehran.

Pasteur Street in central Tehran is highly secured due to the presence of key government institutions there, such as the office of the Iranian President, the center of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence leadership, the center of the Assembly of Experts for the Leadership, and the Supreme National Security Council. The street also includes several military schools and the center of the Armed Forces Logistics.

Iran’s Air Defense Base issued a statement on Friday saying the drone had entered Tehran’s airspace without coordination and permission, Mehr new agency said.

The statement said the drone was shot down by the anti-craft forces in a central district of the capital.

ILNA news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that the drone was shot down as “it approached the no-fly zone” near the office of the supreme leader.

The source later explained that the drone belonged to a documentary-making team that had permission to film but “unintentionally started moving it towards the no-fly zone,” Reuters reported.

The commander of Tehran air defense forces said in August that the capital’s airspace was under full control and “no aircraft can enter it without permission.”

Meanwhile, experts expected on Friday that the U.S. decision to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) would engender a new crisis between Washington and Tehran that could negatively reflect on the Nuclear Deal, already criticized by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

On Dec. 15, U.S. President Barack Obama allowed U.S. sanctions against Iran to be renewed, but have rejected in a surprise move to actually sign the legislation that brings the sanctions into force.

AFP said on Friday that the White House said renewing ISA was pointless since it remains suspended so long as Tehran sticks to its promises to curb its nuclear program.

“The US Congress never liked the deal and now that Obama is leaving office, they’re trying to find ways of violating the deal without being too obvious about it,” Foad Izadi, a world politics professor at the University of Tehran told AFP.

Iran also fears that keeping the sanctions would affect Tehran’s economic relations with the rest of the world. Tehran therefore believes that the U.S. Treasury should take more measures to comfort banks that are hesitant in dealing with Iran due to the sanctions.

When the banks ask the U.S. Treasury for guidance, the answers are slow and ambiguous, said Izadi.

“They ask for a green light, and they are given a yellow light, which is not enough.”

Shashank Joshi, from the RUSI think tank in London said, “Iran is showing they’re looking into doing something tough, without actually doing it… that they’re willing to tear up the deal if pushed too far.”

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Russian Intelligence Fears Chechnya Mujahideen Fighters Leaving Aleppo Are Headed To Lebanon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘ONLY LEBANON’ NEWS)

“During the Russian operations to eject the Syrian armed opposition groups from eastern Aleppo, the Russians expressed their fear through private channels from the possibility of transmission of “Mujahideen Chechnya” from Aleppo to Lebanon. There in the eastern districts of Aleppo dozens of Chechen jihadists involved within the “Aleppo local organizations,” has no organic link to “Ahrar al – Sham , ” or “Isl.

Russian intelligence began chasing them finally wary that they may be trying to get out of Aleppo in the direction of Lebanon, not to the countryside west of Aleppo under the paths accessible to the control of Russian-Syrian tight.

Moscow fears that the “jihadists” Chechnya in Syria, may prefer after losing a refuge Aleppo escape to a safe place is not for the Russians Regional eyes in it, and Lebanon is to be Bdelhm to move him instead of going to Idlib region and its countryside, which has Turkey harmonious militarily and politically this period with Russia, a big influence them, exposing them to the risk of extradition to Moscow.

This information sheds light on Lebanon as one of the candidate countries to continue because the destination subsidiary of terrorism UN takfiri cells, as sometimes “Square haven”, and at other times “Square clash” for the liquidation of Arsal and Qalmoun war accounts with the Lebanese army and Hezbollah, etc .. It may be also the time, according to the Russian fear, unintended Square jihadists from Amman, including Chechnya to filter the results of the battle of Aleppo with Russia in Lebanon accounts, or used yard assemble them and expressing to arrange for their return to their country.

Papers highlight the introduction of an international conference on the fight against terrorism, internationalist, that between 2011 and 2016, was settled by “terrorists Maolmo nationality”, Lebanon, and they have the extraordinary tasks. And indicates their presence to the operators for them to have a special look to the Lebanese arena, beyond it, “Square victories” Background to Syria, in the interest that a certified passages from Syria to the world and vice versa, and concentrated fear now is that the “terrorists globalized” in Syria (estimated to number between 10 and 15 alpha) may choose to Lebanon to assess it after their displacement from Syria, as the forms for them when having to get out of Syria, the same role that formed by Pakistan in relation to the “Arab mujahideen” after being forced to get out of Afghanistan, any yard assemble them in preparation for returning to their country by stealth or implementation of the liquidation of the account operations, and from which, against the interests of the forces that participated in the defeat of their project jihad in Syria. “

Offer a quick look at the regulations «jihadist» globalized names appearing in front of the Lebanese judiciary, whether Jahia or in absentia, since 2011 until 2016, Proceedings of the important implications:

First, the number of nationalities of those involved using Lebanon to carry out various targets terrorist operations (planning and carrying out operations, reconnaissance and falsifying documents and deport cells to other countries) 0.13 nationalities, are: «Egyptian, Iranian, Algerian, Turkish, Jordanian, Bakedzana, diagonal, Saudi, Iraqi, Australa, French, Yemeni, Tajkstani ».

The order seemed especially dangerous belonging to Yemeni nationality who, despite their association with factions operating in Syria, the fact that party affiliation has been linked to global takfiri operate across continents. The most prominent model for Yemeni jihadis who worked in Lebanon «Salim Abdul Karim Saleh» aka «Abu Turab», who was arrested on 10/7/2013 on charges of belonging to an armed organization and carry out terrorist acts.

Activities «Abu Turab», especially within the Roumieh prison, was the most prominent of its success has shown to be his employers have an important communication Bouklayahm capabilities, regardless of the places of their existence, as evidenced by its implementation (ie «Abu Turab») dangerous terrorist operations even during his detention in Roumieh prison the introduction of «material Alcarper» to prison, and his success in escaping from it.

We have adopted a «Daesh» since its appearance in Syria, and to a lesser extent «Nasra Front» Also, terrorists operating in Lebanon Maolim strategy every time you wanted to implement quality strikes do not polemical terrorist strikes.

These are usually people of Lebanese origin have Western nationalities for many years. And described as «strategic reserve terrorist qualitative» for «Daesh» or «victory» and their dispute. As an example of them, stand out French terrorist cell of Lebanese origin Fayez Youssef Bhoshran who tried to blow himself up in June 2014 during a raid Lebanese security «de Roy» hotel in the locality Raouche with the dawn of his companions actually themselves.

In addition to cell Australian of Lebanese origin «unknown Amer Haddara» who was attending to one of the largest bombing harming of civilians, as well as Australian of Lebanese origin «Walid FAQ» plans to assassinate Lebanese politicians.

Second, the period is short adopted Lebanon «hotel» and «sanctuary» quiet for specialists codes communications and bombings manufacturing, and to the families factions terrorist leaders and Zana in Syria, in the forefront of «Daesh» and others, indicating that Lebanon is a rear bunker quiet cadres terrorist related capabilities distinctive and is required to maintain investment in the tasks of scientific production and innovative means of recruitment.

Iraqi temper Hamid Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, al-Baghdadi, the former wife and her daughter from him amounting to ten years old, lived in Lebanon for the purpose to hide. And also the Iraqi «Ziad Alolaan» He is looking for an electrical engineer of Baghdad, an expert manufacture of toxic gases and packing missiles and monitoring US movements around the world, use a remote place to Lebanon to carry out its missions.

The same applies to the Kuwaiti «Mohammed Al Dosari» and Tajkstani «Mohammed Patarrov» experts to establish links to the organization «young people across the world» innovative ways for the benefit of terrorist organizations, and Iranian Bishara Shirazi

40,000 Christians Feel Safer Under President Assad: Terrified ‘Rebels’ Will Return

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TED SHOEBAT’S WEBSITE)

Forty Thousand Christians Say That They Feel Safer Under Bashar Al-Assad And Are Terrified Of The Islamic Rebels Returning To Their Neighborhoods

By Theodore ShoebatForty thousand Christians living in Aleppo feel safer now that their city is under Bashar al-Assad — thanks to Russia — and fear the return of the Islamic rebels, as we read in one report:

The estimated 40,000 Christians in Aleppo are not among the civilians who are dreading the fall of the city to the Russia and Iran-backed regime of dictator Bashar al Assad, according to a charity group that helps persecuted Christians. These Christians instead reportedly fear the return of the rebels to Aleppo, particularly the jihadi coalition known as Jaish Al Fatah, or ‘Army of Conquest,’ that includes the likes of the Syrian al-Qaeda branch formerly known as the Nusra Front before it became Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant).

Jaish Al Fatah has been “heavily involved” in the battle for Aleppo and the persecution of Christians in the city, claims the charity group Barnabas Fund.

Until recently, Aleppo city had been roughly divided between Assad regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since 2012.

The Russian government and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to monitor the ongoing civil war in Syria, have declared that the Assad regime is now in control of Aleppo.

Russian-backed Assad forces and their Iranian-allied counterparts operating on the ground have been accused of “genocide” against civilians in the former rebel stronghold of eastern Aleppo.

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