Facing US Sanctions, Tehran Set to Lose Economic Deals in Syria

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

 

Facing US Sanctions, Tehran Set to Lose Economic Deals in Syria

Tuesday, 13 November, 2018 – 09:15
Booth selling handmade crafts in Damascus bazaar, EPA
Damascus – Asharq Al-Awsat
Washington’s newly imposed sanctions on Iran have given rise to many speculations concerning the fate of Tehran’s recently stepped up investments in Syria.

Despite Iran and Syria labeling their relationship as ‘strategic’ when it comes to political, military and security cooperation, their economic ties have remained humble with a small trade exchange valued at $361 million between 2010 and 2011.

Most of trade happening between the two is skewed to benefit Iran, and fails to meet forecast hopes. Both Damascus and Tehran had hoped to achieve a whopping $2 billion exchange.

Iranian investment is at the bottom of the list when compared with other countries that ventured in Syrian markets that opened up to better global trade relations in 2000. The number of projects undertaken by Iran between 2006 and 2010 totaled seven only, and included a cement manufacture plant, energy supply contracts, and car production deals involving the Syrian Iranian Car Manufacturing Company LLC (SIAMCO).

During that very same period, Turkey bagged a total of 26 investment projects in Syria. Back in 2010, the Syria government approved 37 foreign investment projects, ten of which belonged to Turkey.

After the 2011 uprising set Syria on a downward spiral of bloodshed and devastation, the country’s gross domestic production took a crippling blow and bled an estimated $226 million in losses. Syria’s currency lost up to 90 percent of its value, leaving 85 percent of the Middle Eastern country’s population below the poverty line.

In the aftermath of the Syria Civil war, unemployment aggravated to a staggering 53 percent in 2015 and coincided with depleted national foreign currency reserves, with reports saying the country was left with a diminishing 5.88 percent of its pre-war foreign currency reserves.

Reaching such a tattered state of affairs forced the Syrian regime to seek out squeezing more economic help from Iran, in addition to military and political support. Responding to regime calls, Tehran increased its economic input in Syria by late 2011.

Nevertheless, the contribution did not come by for free. Iran soon subdued the Syrian regime by inking multiple agreements stringing across the entirety of Syrian economic sectors. Quintessential to its influence in Syria, Tehran secured a considerable share in production industries linked to the war-torn country’s sovereign wealth and natural resources.

These stakes were handed over to Iran to settle outstanding debts.

In August 2013, Tehran loaned Damascus $3.6 billion to cover for the regime’s oil derivatives expenditure.  But it was agreed that the money buys Iranian oil exclusively.

Later in July 2017, Bashar Assad approved his country acquiring another $1 billion loan to finance exports.

Syria’s energy, telecommunications, financial, construction and industrial sectors– to some degree–are spending Iranian credit. But it will not be a walk in the park for Iran to secure its share of the Syrian economy.

Russia, a strong regime ally, is also seeking to grab serious investment projects in Syria.  In light of competitiveness, observers believe that Moscow might use US sanctions to sway the situation in its favor, especially in forcing the Syrian regime to hand over energy sector concessions, previously promised to Iran, to Russian companies.

US sanctions are also expected to reduce the spread of Iran proxy militias in Syria because of lack of funds—signs of the US economic sanctions effecting Iran’s regional standing began showing as Russian troops began replacing Iran-linked forces in military outposts in eastern Syria.

For example, Russian forces have taken control of locations, formerly held by Iranian militias, in Abu Kamal, a city on the Euphrates river in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province near the border with Iraq.

Iraq’s New Prime Minister Trips on His First Hurdle

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND FROM BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Iraq’s New Prime Minister Trips on His First Hurdle

Tuesday, 30 October, 2018 – 12:00
In an essay he wrote on his Facebook page five months ago, Adel Abdul Mahdi said he wouldn’t want to be Iraq’s next prime minister. The country’s toxic political culture would make it impossible to govern, he claimed. “Assuming I got accepted now, I will soon lose,” he wrote. “I will face majorities which will not allow their groups to provide necessary support.”

Now that Abdul Mahdi is prime minister, he’s discovering just how right he was. The question is whether he will seek to do anything about it.

On Thursday, after weeks of bickering, parliament finally confirmed Abdul Mahdi, and 14 of the 22 people he named to his cabinet. There was no vote on a number of key appointments, including ministers of defense and the interior. Nearly a third of the 329 members of parliament didn’t even bother to turn up, and those who did complained they weren’t given enough time to properly consider the nominations. Abdul Mahdi didn’t help matters by handing out one-sheet resumes of each of his nominees.

It was an inauspicious start to his premiership, but the messy process of cabinet formation was entirely consistent with his May prophecy. The political groups he warned about — a half-dozen factions whose backing he needed for his confirmation — jockeyed ferociously for control of key ministries, leaving Abdul Mahdi unable to deliver on his promise of a cabinet of “technocrats.” His picks to run the oil and electricity ministries may fit that description, but in other positions it seems clear that Abdul Mahdi’s choices were forced on him. None of the nominations came from an online application process he announced earlier this month, designed to attract fresh talent to government. Worryingly, his nominee for the powerful interior ministry is Falih al-Fayadh, who ran the Iran-backed militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces militias. (The vote on his nomination, and at least some of the others, is expected on Nov. 6.)

The difficulty Abdul Mahdi has already had with the cabinet-formation process bodes ill for the other challenges that lie ahead. Among those he prophesied in the May essay: resistance by political parties to the institutionalization of government departments, to ending rentierism in the economy, to the separation of powers between the legislative and the executive, to the dismantling of politically affiliated militias, and to transparency in security agreements with other nations, including Iran.

Those would be formidable challenges for any government; they seem insurmountable for one where the ministers are all, like Abdul Mahdi himself, political lightweights, lacking both mass appeal and parliamentary clout. This allows little optimism for reform at the ministerial level, where bureaucracies have long been packed with political appointees who answer to parties rather than to the state. The tradition of parties interfering in the day-to-day functioning of ministries is unlikely to change. As Abdul Madhi wrote in May, “There are large numbers of people who are used to considering this interference a right and not an [encroachment].” It is hard to imagine any of the new ministers cleaning house.

Problem is, while Abdul Mahdi showed himself an astute analyst of the country’s problems, his own track record is uninspiring. As oil minister from 2014-16, he did little to curb the influence of apparatchiks from his own party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, who “treated it as their fiefdom, like any party would and did in any ministry,” says Ruba Husari, managing director of OZME Consultants, which provides consulting on Iraq’s oil and gas sector. Abdul Mahdi proved to be a poor administrator. “He was not a manager, not someone who had any sense of the details of his ministry,” says Toby Dodge, an expert on Iraq at the London School of Economic’s Middle East Center.

Sometimes being a compromise candidate can be an asset. Abdul Mahdi may be weak, but at least he now has a bully pulpit and a job that, in theory, few others want. Given his grasp of Iraq’s problems, it’s tempting to conclude he’s not trying very hard to tackle them. Maybe, despite his protests, he wanted the job a little too much.

(Bloomberg)

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

 

Yes I did say our, as in (you and I) we are all part of this world conversation we call our lives. There is a section of the world’s population who have no faith system of any kind, what percent, I don’t know that answer but it probably varies from nation to nation wouldn’t you think? What I am going to get at is this, you don’t have to believe in something, for that something to kill you. Here in the States there are a lot of Atheist type folks who through their lack of knowledge degrade Christianity and Judaism every chance they get. Unfortunately we find many of these people in seats of power throughout many nations.

I want to ask you what you thought when your nation (if yours did) put blood and money into these Islamic nations, putting our soldiers in direct open conflict with various Islamic faith factions. I totally agree that after 911 when the experts figured out that Osama was behind it and they learned that he was in Afghanistan being protected by the Taliban whom would not give him up, we should have removed them from the face of the earth. The bigger problem after running those Satanic embers out of power was in how to rebuild this broken nation both physically via helping them build a national infrastructure and a solid national pride in getting all of it’s people a quality education both boys and girls. But, big but, how do you cure the inside of a person when their moral fiber is evil and they refuse to change their beliefs or culture within their own brains?

Our nations leaders should all have known that there is no way to help create a puppet government that can only stand for as long as we prop it up with a lot of our blood and money and honestly expect the nations of fundamental Islam to not retake everything once we leave? O, but isn’t that the same lesson our leaders didn’t learn in Iraq either? There is a fundamental reality about the Islamic faith at it’s core, they do not believe in democracies as the rule of law.

The whole world is in a position to have it’s ground stained with the blood of their own children. There are many major brewing and open conflict areas on the globe, all are dangerous, but no conflict can ever be as dangerous as one that is about what a group’s Faith teaches, especially if that Faith teaches global enslavement by force. I would like to say to the world, please wake up, but I have no faith that we will. Folks the world of Islam is very much at war with you and they will kill you whether you believe in them or not, they would prefer we all be foolish, it makes us all easier to kill. Only Islamic believers can put an end to Islamic violence that is generated by Islamic believers who believe that they are following the teachings of G-d via the Quran and the Hadith. I believe that there is little chance of this ever happening as I believe that way to many folks within the different clans are complicit with this evil.

 

Iran city mocked for billboard featuring Israeli soldiers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHAT THE POEM ON THE BILLBOARD SAYS, THAT ‘COULD’ MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN WHY THE THREE ISRAELI SOLDIERS PICTURE WAS USED, I AM NOT SAYING IT IS, I AM SAYING IT COULD.)

Iran city mocked for billboard featuring Israeli soldiers

Photo posted by @mhrezaa on Twitter purportedly showing a billboard in Shiraz, Iran, that features three Israeli soldiers (26 September 2018)Image copyright TWITTER/@MHREZAA
Image caption In the billboard, the Israeli soldiers appeared next to a quote from a Persian poem

The council leader in the Iranian city of Shiraz has ordered an investigation after Israeli soldiers featured on a billboard marking the Iran-Iraq war.

The billboard used a photo shopped picture showing the backs of three male soldiers standing on a rocky outcrop.

After it was put up in a square in central Shiraz this week, people noticed the men were wearing Israeli uniforms and carrying M-16 rifles.

It also emerged that a female soldier was cropped out of the original photo.

Ever since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the country’s leaders have called for Israel’s elimination. They reject Israel’s right to exist, considering it an illegitimate occupier of Muslim land.

Pictures of the controversial billboard commemorating the 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq first appeared online on Wednesday.

One Twitter user, @mhrezaa, wrote: “I felt burnt when I saw this billboard in the middle of Sacred Defense Week.”

“M-16 guns, straps, clothes, hat on their shoulders; all of these belong to Zionists. In the best case scenario I can say you did something idiotic.”

The Israeli foreign ministry’s Persian Twitter account also mocked the billboard, and noted that Iranians had posted images showing it being taken down overnight.

On Thursday morning the head of the city council, Seyyed Ahmad Dastgheyb, ordered cultural officials to carry out an urgent investigation, local media reported.

If it was confirmed a picture of soldiers of the “usurper Zionist regime” had been used, he said, it would be “necessary to deal seriously with those responsible”.

Related Topics

Middle East

Iraq: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Ancient War Torn Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Iraq

Introduction Formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was occupied by Britain during the course of World War I; in 1920, it was declared a League of Nations mandate under UK administration. In stages over the next dozen years, Iraq attained its independence as a kingdom in 1932. A “republic” was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of military strong men ruled the country until 2003, the last was SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-88). In August 1990, Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during the Gulf War of January-February 1991. Following Kuwait’s liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. Continued Iraqi noncompliance with UNSC resolutions over a period of 12 years led to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the ouster of the SADDAM Hussein regime. Coalition forces remain in Iraq under a UNSC mandate, helping to provide security and to support the freely elected government. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which temporarily administered Iraq after the invasion, transferred full governmental authority on 28 June 2004 to the Iraqi Interim Government, which governed under the Transitional Administrative Law for Iraq (TAL). Under the TAL, elections for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA) were held in Iraq on 30 January 2005. Following these elections, the Iraqi Transitional Government (ITG) assumed office. The TNA was charged with drafting Iraq’s permanent constitution, which was approved in a 15 October 2005 constitutional referendum. An election under the constitution for a 275-member Council of Representatives (CoR) was held on 15 December 2005. The CoR approval in the selection of most of the cabinet ministers on 20 May 2006 marked the transition from the ITG to Iraq’s first constitutional government in nearly a half-century.
History Ancient Mesopotamia

The region of Iraq was historically known as Mesopotamia (Greek: “between the rivers”). It was home to the world’s first known civilization, the Sumerian culture, followed by the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures, whose influence extended into neighboring regions as early as 5000 BC. These civilizations produced some of the earliest writing and some of the first sciences, mathematics, laws and philosophies of the world; hence its common epithet, the “Cradle of Civilization”.

In the sixth century BC, Cyrus the Great conquered the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and Mesopotamia was subsumed in the Achaemenid Persian Empire for nearly four centuries. Alexander the Great conquered the region again, putting it under Macedonian rule for nearly two centuries. A Central Asian tribe of ancient Iranian people’s known as the Parthia’s later annexed the region, followed by the Sassanid Persians. The region remained a province of the Persian Empire for nine centuries, until the 7th century.

Islamic Caliphate

Beginning in the seventh century AD, Islam spread to what is now Iraq during the Islamic conquest of Persia, led by the Muslim Arab commander Khalid ibn al-Walid. Under the Rashidun Caliphate, the prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law Ali moved his capital to Kufa “fi al-Iraq” when he became the fourth caliph. The Umayyad Caliphate ruled the province of Iraq from Damascus in the 7th century. (However, eventually there was a separate, independent Caliphate of Cordoba.)

The Abbasid Caliphate built the city of Baghdad in the 8th century as their capital, and it became the leading metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world for five centuries. Baghdad was the largest multicultural city of the Middle Ages, peaking at a population of more than a million, and was the center of learning during the Islamic Golden Age. The Mongols destroyed the city during the sack of Baghdad in the 13th century.

Mongol Conquest

In 1257, Hulagu Khan amassed an unusually large army, a significant portion of the Mongol Empire’s forces, for the purpose of conquering Baghdad. When they arrived at the Islamic capital, Hulagu demanded surrender but the caliph refused. This angered Hulagu, and, consistent with Mongol strategy of discouraging resistance, Baghdad was decimated. Estimates of the number of dead range from 200,000 to a million.

The Mongols destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate and The Grand Library of Baghdad (Arabic بيت الحكمة Bayt al-Hikma, lit., House of Wisdom), which contained countless, precious, historical documents. The city would never regain its status as major center of culture and influence.

In 1401, warlord of Turco-Mongol descent Tamerlane (Timur Lenk) invaded Iraq. After the capture of Baghdad, 20,000 of its citizens were massacred. Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him (many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur).

Ottoman Empire

Later, the Ottoman Turks took Baghdad from the Persians in 1535. The Ottomans lost Baghdad to the Iranian Safavids in 1609, and took it back in 1632. From 1747 to 1831, Iraq was ruled, with short intermissions, by the Mamluk officers of Georgian origin who enjoyed local autonomy from the Sublime Porte.[8] In 1831, the direct Ottoman rule was imposed and lasted until World War I, during which the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers.

During World War I the Ottomans were driven from much of the area by the United Kingdom during the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The British lost 92,000 soldiers in the Mesopotamian campaign. Ottoman losses are unknown but the British captured a total of 45,000 prisoners of war. By the end of 1918 the British had deployed 410,000 men in the area, though only 112,000 were combat troops.

During World War I the British and French divided the Middle East in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Treaty of Sèvres, which was ratified in the Treaty of Lausanne, led to the advent of the modern Middle East and Republic of Turkey. The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Iraq and Palestine (which then consisted of two autonomous regions: Palestine and Transjordan). Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula became parts of what are today Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

British Mandate of Mesopotamia

At the end of World War I, the League of Nations granted the area to the United Kingdom as a mandate. It initially formed two former Ottoman vilayets (regions): Baghdad, and Basra into a single country in August 1921. Five years later, in 1926, the northern vilayet of Mosul was added, forming the territorial boundaries of the modern Iraqi state.

For three out of four centuries of Ottoman rule, Baghdad was the seat of administration for the vilayets of Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra. During the mandate, British colonial administrators ruled the country, and through the use of British armed forces, suppressed Arab and Kurdish rebellions against the occupation. They established the Hashemite king, Faisal, who had been forced out of Syria by the French, as their client ruler. Likewise, British authorities selected Sunni Arab elites from the region for appointments to government and ministry offices.[specify][9]

Hashemite monarchy

Britain granted independence to Iraq in 1932, on the urging of King Faisal, though the British retained military bases and transit rights for their forces. King Ghazi of Iraq ruled as a figurehead after King Faisal’s death in 1933, while undermined by attempted military coups, until his death in 1939. The United Kingdom invaded Iraq in 1941, for fear that the government of Rashid Ali al-Gaylani might cut oil supplies to Western nations, and because of his strong ideological leanings to Nazi Germany. A military occupation followed the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy, and the occupation ended on October 26, 1947. The rulers during the occupation and the remainder of the Hashemite monarchy were Nuri al-Said, the autocratic prime minister, who also ruled from 1930–1932, and ‘Abd al-Ilah, an adviser to the king Faisal II.

Republic of Iraq

The reinstated Hashemite monarchy lasted until 1958, when it was overthrown by a coup d’etat of the Iraqi Army, known as the 14 July Revolution. The coup brought Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qassim to power. He withdrew from the Baghdad Pact and established friendly relations with the Soviet Union, but his government lasted only until 1963, when it was overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif. Salam Arif died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, assumed the presidency. In 1968, Rahman Arif was overthrown by the Arab Socialist Bath Party. This movement gradually came under the control of Saddam Hussein ‘Abd al-Majid al Tikriti, who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), then Iraq’s supreme executive body, in July 1979, while killing many of his opponents.

Saddam Hussein

In 1979, Saddam Hussein took power as Iraqi President, after killing and arresting his leadership rivals. Shortly after taking power, the political situation in Iraq’s neighbor Iran changed drastically after the success of the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which resulted in a Shi’ite Muslim theocratic state being established. This was a dangerous change in the eyes of the Iraqi government, as Iraq had a Shi’ite majority, but was ruled by Hussein’s Sunni Muslim dominated regime. In 1980, Hussein claimed that Iranian forces were trying to topple his government and declared war on Iran. Saddam Hussein supported the Iranian Islamic socialist organization called the People’s Mujahedin of Iran which opposed the Iranian government. During the Iran-Iraq War Iraqi forces attacked Iranian soldiers and civilians with chemical weapons. Hussein’s regime was notorious for its human rights abuses; for instance, during the Al-Anfal campaign as well as attacks on Kurd civilians inside Iraq, such as the Halabja massacre, as punishment for elements of Kurdish support of Iran. The war ended in stalemate in 1988, largely due to American and Western support for Iraq. This was part of the US policy of “dual containment” of Iraq and Iran.

In 1977, the Iraqi government ordered the construction of Osirak (also spelled Osiraq) at the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, 18 km (11 miles) south-east of Baghdad. It was a 40 MW light-water nuclear materials testing reactor (MTR). In 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed the facility, in order to prevent the country from using the reactor for creation of nuclear weapons.

In 1990, faced with economic disaster following the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein looked to the oil-rich neighbor of Kuwait as a target to invade to use its resources and money to rebuild Iraq’s economy. The Iraqi government claimed that Kuwait was illegally slant drilling its oil pipelines into Iraqi territory which it demanded be stopped, Kuwait rejected the notion that it was slant drilling and Iraq followed this in August 1990 with the invasion of Kuwait. Upon successfully occupying Kuwait, Hussein declared that Kuwait had ceased to exist and it was to be part of Iraq, against heavy objections from many countries and the United Nations.

The UN agreed to pass sanctions against Iraq and demanded its immediate withdrawal from Kuwait. Iraq refused and the UN Security Council in 1991 unanimously voted for military action against Iraq. The United States, which had enormous vested interests in the oil supplies of the Middle East led an international coalition into Kuwait and Iraq. The coalition forces entered the war with more advanced weaponry than that of Iraq, though Iraq’s army was the largest armed force in the Middle East at the time. Despite a large arsenal of military forces, the Iraqi army stood no match to the advanced weaponry of the coalition forces and the air superiority which the U.S. Air Force provided. Iraq responded to the invasion by launching SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hussein hoped that by attacking Israel, the Israeli military would be drawn into the war, which he believed would rally anti-Israeli sentiment in neighboring Arab countries to support Iraq. However Hussein’s gamble failed as Israel reluctantly accepted U.S. demand for Israel to remain out of the conflict to avoid inflaming tensions. Iraqi armed forces were quickly destroyed and Hussein eventually accepted the inevitable and ordered a withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, but before they were to do so, he ordered them to sabotage Kuwait’s oil wells, which resulted in hundreds of wells being set ablaze causing an economic and ecological disaster in Kuwait.

The aftermath of the war saw the Iraqi military, especially its air force destroyed. In turn for peace, Iraq was forced to accept “no-fly zones”, the dismantlement of all chemical and biological weapons it possessed, and end any attempt to create or purchase nuclear weapons, to be insured by the allowance of UN weapons inspectors to evaluate the dismantlement of such weapons. And finally, Iraq would face sanctions if it disobeyed any of the demands. Shortly after the war ended in 1991, Shia Muslim Iraqis engaged in protests against Hussein’s regime, but Hussein responded with violent repression against Shia Muslims and the protests came to an end. After the war, Iraq on a number of occasions through the 1990s was accused of breaking its obligations including the discovery in 1993, of a plan to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush, in which sanctions were imposed and military action was taken by U.S. forces against Iraq.

Critics estimate that more than 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the sanctions.[13] The U.S. and the UK declared no-fly zones over Kurdish northern and Shiite southern Iraq to oversee the Kurd’s and southern Shiites.[specify]

Invasion by American-led Coalition forces

20 March 2003, a United States-organized coalition invaded Iraq, with the stated reason that Iraq had failed to abandon its nuclear and chemical weapons development program in violation of United Nations resolution 687. When Iraq invaded Kuwait during the first Gulf War, the United Nations Security Council, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, adopted resolution 678, authorizing U.N. member states to use “all necessary means” to “restore international peace and security in the area.” After Iraq was expelled from Kuwait the United Nations passed a cease-fire resolution 687. The agreement included provisions obligating Iraq to discontinue its nuclear weapons program. The United States asserted that because Iraq was in “material breach” of resolution 687, the armed forces authorization of resolution 678 was revived.

The United States gave further justification for the invasion of Iraq in claims that Iraq had or was developing weapons of mass destruction and the opportunity to remove an oppressive dictator from power and bring democracy to Iraq. In his State of Union Address on 29 January, 2002, the American President George W. Bush declared that Iraq was a member of the “axis of evil”, and that, like North Korea and Iran, Iraq’s attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction gave credence to the claim that the Iraqi government posed a serious threat to America’s national security. He added, “Iraq continues to flaunt its hostilities toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade… This is a regime that agreed to international inspections—then kicked out inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world… By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes [Iran, Iraq and North Korea] pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.”[14] However, no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been found since the invasion.[15]

Post-invasion

Following the invasion, the United States established the Coalition Provisional Authority to govern Iraq.[16] Government authority was transferred to an Iraqi Interim Government in June 2004 and a permanent government was elected in October 2005. More than 140,000 Coalition troops remain in Iraq.

Studies have placed the number of civilians deaths as high as 655,000 (see The Lancet study), although most studies have put the number much lower; the Iraq Body Count project has a figure of less than 10% of The Lancet Study, though IBC organizers acknowledge that their statistics are an under-count as they base their information off of media-confirmed deaths. The website of the Iraq body count states, “Our maximum therefore refers to reported deaths – which can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media.”

After the invasion, al-Qaeda took advantage of the insurgency to entrench itself in the country concurrently with an Arab-Sunni led insurgency and sectarian violence.

On December 30, 2006, Saddam Hussein was hanged.[18] Hussein’s half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Hassan and former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court Awad Hamed al-Bandar were likewise executed on January 15, 2007;[19] as was Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam’s former deputy and former vice-president (originally sentenced to life in prison but later to death by hanging), on March 20, 2007.[20] Ramadan was the fourth and last man in the al-Dujail trial to die by hanging for crimes against humanity.

At the Anfal genocide trial, Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka Chemical Ali), former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed al-Tay, and former deputy Hussein Rashid Mohammed were sentenced to hang for their role in the Al-Anfal Campaign against the Kurd’s on June 24, 2007[citation needed].

Acts of sectarian violence have led to claims of ethnic cleansing in Iraq, and there have been many attacks on Iraqi minorities such as the Yezidis, Mandeans, Assyrians and others.[21]

In 2007 Foreign Policy Magazine named Iraq as the second most unstable nation in the world after Sudan.[22]

Although violence has declined from the summer of 2007,[23] the U.N. reported of a cholera outbreak in Iraq.[24]

Iraqi diaspora

The dispersion of native Iraqis to other countries is known as the Iraqi diaspora. There have been many large-scale waves of emigration from Iraq, beginning early in the regime of Saddam Hussein and continuing through to 2007. The UN High Commission for Refugees has estimated that nearly two million Iraqis have fled the country in recent years, mostly to Jordan and Syria.[25] Although some expatriates returned to Iraq after the 2003 invasion, the flow had virtually stopped by 2006.[26]

In addition to the 2 million Iraqis who fled to neighboring countries, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimates the number of people currently displaced within the country at 1.9 million.

Roughly 40% of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled, the U.N. said. Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return.[28] Refugees are mired in poverty as they are generally barred from working in their host countries.

In recent times the Diaspora seems to be reversing with the increased security of the last few months, and the Iraqi government claims that so far 46,000 refugees have returned to their homes in October of 2007 alone.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Kuwait
Geographic coordinates: 33 00 N, 44 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 437,072 sq km
land: 432,162 sq km
water: 4,910 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Idaho
Land boundaries: total: 3,650 km
border countries: Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181 km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814 km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km
Coastline: 58 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate: mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq
Terrain: mostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: unnamed peak; 3,611 m; note – this peak is not Gundah Zhur 3,607 m or Kuh-e Hajji-Ebrahim 3,595 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, sulfur
Land use: arable land: 13.12%
permanent crops: 0.61%
other: 86.27% (2005)
Irrigated land: 35,250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 96.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 42.7 cu km/yr (3%/5%/92%)
per capita: 1,482 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms, floods
Environment – current issues: government water control projects have drained most of the inhabited marsh areas east of An Nasiriyah by drying up or diverting the feeder streams and rivers; a once sizable population of Marsh Arabs, who inhabited these areas for thousands of years, has been displaced; furthermore, the destruction of the natural habitat poses serious threats to the area’s wildlife populations; inadequate supplies of potable water; development of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers system contingent upon agreements with upstream riparian Turkey; air and water pollution; soil degradation (salination) and erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Law of the Sea
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography – note: strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf
People Population: 27,499,638 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 39.4% (male 5,509,736/female 5,338,722)
15-64 years: 57.6% (male 8,018,841/female 7,812,611)
65 years and over: 3% (male 386,321/female 433,407) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 20 years
male: 19.9 years
female: 20 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.618% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 31.44 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.26 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.032 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.026 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.891 male(s)/female
total population: 1.024 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 47.04 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 52.73 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 41.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.31 years
male: 68.04 years
female: 70.65 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.07 children born/woman (2007 est.)

Israel: Truth, Knowledge, History Of God’s Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Israel

Introduction Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories Israel occupied since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”) guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In April 2003, US President BUSH, working in conjunction with the EU, UN, and Russia – the “Quartet” – took the lead in laying out a road map to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005, based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between September 2003 and February 2005. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005, along with an internally-brokered Palestinian ceasefire, significantly reduced the violence. In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military while retaining control over most points of entry into the Gaza Strip. The election of HAMAS in January 2006 to head the Palestinian Legislative Council froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Ehud OLMERT became prime minister in March 2006; following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in June-July 2006 and a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006, he shelved plans to unilaterally evacuate from most of the West Bank. OLMERT in June 2007 resumed talks with the PA after HAMAS seized control of the Gaza Strip and PA President Mahmoud ABBAS formed a new government without HAMAS.
History Early roots

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since the time of the biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible has placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE.[24] According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jews as their homeland,[25][26] and the sites holiest to Judaism are located there. Around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Jewish kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Jewish kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years.[27]

Between the time of the Jewish kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule.[28] Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine was maintained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee;[29] the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism’s most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period.[30] The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads,[31] Abbasids,[32] and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.[33]

Zionism and the British Mandate

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel.[34] That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible[35] and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the twelfth century, a small but steady stream of Jews began to leave Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.[36] During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe.[38] While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism,[39] a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane.[40] In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine.[38] Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews,[42] but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement.[43] During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”[44] The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Israel. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish defense organization known as the Haganah, from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain a mandate over Palestine for the express purpose of “placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home”.[46] The populations of the Ottoman districts in the area at this time were predominantly Muslim Arabs, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

Jewish immigration continued with the Third Aliyah (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929), which together brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine.[38] In the wake of the Jaffa riots in the early days of the Mandate, the British restricted Jewish immigration and territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.[48] The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This influx resulted in the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine.[38] By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.[49][50]

Independence and first years

After 1945 Britain became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews[51]. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.[52] The newly-created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city – a corpus separatum – administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.[53] The Jewish community accepted the plan,[54] but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it.

Regardless, the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate for Palestine.[56] Not long after, five Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – attacked Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[56] After almost a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.[57] During the course of the hostilities, 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, fled from Israel.[58] The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[59][60]

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics.[61][62] These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958.[63] Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma’abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel “doing business” with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Arab fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip.[65] In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with Great Britain and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an implementer of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial.[67] The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust[68] and to date Eichmann remains the only person sentenced to death by Israeli courts.

Conflicts and peace treaties

In 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, during which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.[70] The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem’s boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

In the early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated.[71] On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses.[72] An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin’s Likud party took control from the Labor Party.[73] Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state.[74] In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.[75] Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented.

In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War.[76] Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule,[77] broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence.[78] During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel’s neighbors.[81][82] The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in return for recognition of Israel’s right to exist and an end to terrorism.[83] In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.[84] Public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by a wave of attacks from Palestinians. The November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right-wing Jew, as he left a peace rally, shocked the country. At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron[85] and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it.[87] After the collapse of the talks, Palestinians began the Second Intifada.

Ariel Sharon soon after became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[88] In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert. The kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah and the shelling of settlements on Israel’s northern border led to a five-week war, known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War. The conflict was brought to end by a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations. After the war, Israel’s Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, resigned.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to begin negotiations on all issues, and to make every effort reach an agreement by the end of 2008.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Geographic coordinates: 31 30 N, 34 45 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 20,770 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
water: 440 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,017 km
border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
Coastline: 273 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources: timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use: arable land: 15.45%
permanent crops: 3.88%
other: 80.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,940 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1.7 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.05 cu km/yr (31%/7%/62%)
per capita: 305 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: there are 242 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 0 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2005 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
Politics Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage.[2] The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial.[101] A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties.[103] Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the Knesset can dissolve the government at any time by a no-confidence vote. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel’s six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities.[105][106] Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure.[107] Israel’s legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law.[2] It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries.[105] Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

The Israeli Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties. Israel is the only country in the region ranked “Free” by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the “Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority” was ranked “Not Free.”[109] Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries.[110] Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International[111] and Human Rights Watch[112] have often disapproved of Israel’s human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel’s civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.[113] Israel’s system of socialized medicine, which guarantees equal health care to all residents of the country, was anchored in law in 1995.

Israel is located in the region of the world (i.e.,Southwest Asia including North Africa) that is the ” . . . least hospitable to democracy. Of the 19 states in this broad region, only 2 Israel and Turkey are democratic (though in Turkey the military still retains a veto on many important issues).”

People Population: 6,426,679
note: includes about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.1% (male 858,246/female 818,690)
15-64 years: 64.2% (male 2,076,649/female 2,046,343)
65 years and over: 9.8% (male 269,483/female 357,268) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 29.9 years
male: 29.1 years
female: 30.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 17.71 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.17 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.048 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.015 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.754 male(s)/female
total population: 0.994 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.59 years
male: 77.44 years
female: 81.85 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.38 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 100 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli
Ethnic groups: Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)
Religions: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004)
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.1%
male: 98.5%
female: 95.9%

Iraqi cleric shows Iran’s part in killing US troops

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Decade-old interrogation of Iraqi cleric shows Iran’s part in killing US troops

Recently declassified testimony of Shiite militia leader Qais al-Khazali details Iranian efforts to stoke 2007 attacks that killed or wounded hundreds of Americans

This file photo taken on January 8, 2016 shows Qais Al-Khazali, the head of the Iraqi Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, speaking at a press conference in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)

This file photo taken on January 8, 2016 shows Qais Al-Khazali, the head of the Iraqi Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, speaking at a press conference in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)

Interrogations by US-led forces in Iraq of a top Shiite military and religious figure a decade ago are bringing to light the scale of Iran’s involvement in Iraqi Shiite militias’ attacks on US troops in the years following the American invasion.

Qais al-Khazali, who now heads the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that won 15 parliamentary seats in the country’s May elections, detailed the scale of Iranian involvement in the country in the 2007 interrogation, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing recently declassified documents.

Khazali was under arrest at the time on suspicion of organizing an attempted kidnapping of US soldiers in the Iraqi city of Karala that left five Americans dead.

Khazali’s testimony from that period, declassified earlier this year by the US military’s Central Command, is especially damning.

Though he is now a critic of Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs, a decade ago his statements to US interrogators depicted Iranian assistance as key to the ability at the time of Iraqi Shiite militias to carry out their ongoing campaigns of bombings and other attacks against US troops. The report also comes amid rising tensions between Tehran and the Trump administration after the latter’s withdrawal in May from the nuclear deal.

Khazali and his group are also now being considered by the US for designation as terrorist entities.

American soldiers at a base complex in Iraq, December 29, 2014. (AFP/ALI AL-SAADI)

In one interrogation report cited by the Journal, from June 18, 2007, Khazali said his militia was among those that received training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in military bases near Tehran.

“There are Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah conducting the training at these bases,” the report was quoted as saying, citing Khazali’s comments in the interrogation.

“The Iranians are experts in full scale warfare while the Lebanese are experts in urban or guerrilla warfare,” it added.

Some of the ordinance key to the campaign against US troops, including explosively formed penetrators that killed and injured hundreds of Americans, were delivered by Iran, he claimed.

As the report says, “Detainee said that anyone can receive EFP training and Iran does not care who gets it. This is because of the availability and low cost of EFPs.”

This frame grab from video provided on Dec. 8, 2017, by Asaid Ahl al-Haq’s TV station al-Ahd, shows Iraqi militia commander Qais al-Khazali of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, speaking in front of a wall that was built by Israel at the Fatima Gate border point in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon. (Al-Ahd TV station via AP)

Even the attack at Karbala that led to his capture was planned by Iran, he said.

He also detailed how he traveled personally to Iran to raise funds and support for his militia, and met with Iranian officials including top IRGC general Qassem Suleimani.

The US-led coalition released Khazali to Iraqi officials in 2009 after he promised to lay down his arms. US forces left Iraq in 2011.

Khazali’s group angrily denied the claims in the interrogation reports, with Qassim al-Darraji, a member of its political bureau, telling the Journal, “It seems that the US is leading a campaign against Asaib Ahl al-Haq and its leader Sheikh Qais al-Khazali because he strongly rejected foreign interference in Iraqi affairs.”

READ MORE:

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria

Noting facility’s apparent similarity to Iran’s Parchin complex, report says site likely spared from Israeli strike due to nearby Russia anti-aircraft battery

Satellite photos published Thursday purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria, raising fresh concerns over the extent of the two countries’ military cooperation on Israel’s northern border.

The photos, which were taken by ImageSat International and published by Channel 10 news, were said to show a facility outside Wadi Jahannam in northwest Syria resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Beyond noting an apparent surge in construction work at the site and the building’s seeming similarity to Parchin, Channel 10 did not say how it was identified as a missile factory.

Unlike other Iranian facilities in Syria that have been targeted in Israeli airstrikes, the report said the site was likely spared due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 ant-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

Satellite image of the Parchin facility in April (photo credit: Institute for Science and International Security/AP)

Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012. (AP/Institute for Science and International Security)

In July, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in nearby Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier this month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.

According to a New York Times report, Israel believed that Dr. Aziz Asbar was leading a classified weapons development program called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy rebuilding an underground weapons factory to replace the one said destroyed by Israel.

Israel did not comment on its alleged involvement in the July airstrike on the facility, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement following the raid that Israel “will not stop taking action in Syria against Iran’s attempts to establish a military presence there.”

Iran has been one of the top military backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the over sever-year-long civil war in the country, as has been its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah terror group.

This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian president Bashar Assad, right, meeting with Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami, in Damascus, Syria, on August 26, 2018. (SANA via AP)

Both Israel and the United States have called for the removal of all Iranian-backed forces from Syria. Russia, which like Iran is fighting on behalf of Assad, has expressed support for this goal but said it can’t force Iranian forces out of the country.

Iran for its part has vowed to remain in Syria, and earlier this week the two countries signed a defense agreement during a visit by Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami to Damascus.

Hatami said the pact would include the rebuilding of Syria’s military and defense programs.

Netanyahu this week reiterated that Israel will continue to take action against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria, and issued an emphatic warning against those who call for Israel’s annihilation, such as the Islamic Republic.

“Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger, and in any case will not achieve his goal,” Netanyahu said during a ceremony at the nuclear research facility in Dimona.

READ MORE:

Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

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

 

Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

Saturday, 30 June, 2018 – 09:30
Ankara – Saeed Abdelrazek
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Friday that Ankara began taking measures to reopen its consulates in Mosul and Basra that have remained shut for years due to security threats.

Turkey closed its consulate in Mosul in 2014, shortly after ISIS advanced on the city and stormed the mission on June 11 of that year, kidnapping 48 people including the Turkish consul.

Among the captives were also employees at the consulate and their family members, including three children, as well as members from the Turkish special operations force.

The captives were released after three months.

Later, the former Turkish consul accused Ankara of handing him over, along with the consulate staff, to ISIS.

As for the Turkish consulate in Basra, the Iraqi foreign ministry announced on January 21 that it had struck an agreement with Turkey to reopen it following its closure in 2014 due to security threats.

In April, Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad Fatih Yıldız said that the Basra consulate will reopen soon. In remarks to Turkish media, he said that Turkey is a huge country and can’t be restricted to specific parts of Iraq.

Turkey has a border with southern Iraq, and has sent humanitarian aid to provinces in central Iraq, he said.

He added that the Turkish consulate building in Basra is still there and that talks must be held with local figures and tribal leaders before reactivating the diplomatic mission.

Preliminary Results Show Sadr ahead of Abadi in Iraq Elections

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

 

Preliminary Results Show Sadr ahead of Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq Elections

Monday, 14 May, 2018 – 11:00
Supporters of Marching Towards Reform list celebrate with portraits of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, after preliminary results of Iraq’s parliamentary election were announced in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iraqis sprung a political surprise by voting for two electoral lists opposed to the current political class during Sunday’s parliamentary elections, showed preliminary results on Monday.

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and a rival bloc of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) appeared to surge in surprise preliminary results from the country’s first poll since the defeat of the ISIS terrorist group.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who is the internationally favored incumbent, lagged behind after a vote hit by record abstentions.

The ballots of some 700,000 security personnel who voted and some one million Iraqis abroad were yet to be tallied up, meaning Abadi could get a boost five months after he announced victory over ISIS.

According to partial results seen by AFP, the Marching Towards Reform alliance of Sadr and his communist allies was ahead in six of Iraq’s 18 provinces and second in four others.

Next in the running is the Conquest Alliance, made up of ex-fighters from the mainly Iran-backed PMF, with results putting them ahead in four provinces and second in eight others. The head of the list is Hadi al-Ameri, a long-time ally of Tehran.

Both Sadr and Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but they pitched themselves as seeking to sweep clean the country’s elite.

Sadr’s apparent victory does not mean his bloc could necessarily form the next government as whoever wins the most seats must negotiate a coalition government, expected to be formed within 90 days of the official results.

Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said – that was significantly lower than in previous elections. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

The commission did not announce how many seats each bloc had gained and said it would do so after announcing the results from the remaining provinces.

During the election campaign, frustrated Iraqis of all shades complained about their political elite’s systematic patronage, bad governance and corruption, saying they did not receive any benefits of their country’s oil wealth.

Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, rife poverty, weak public institutions and bad services despite high oil revenues for many years. Endemic corruption has eaten at the government’s financial resources.

Celebrations erupted on the streets of Baghdad after the commission’s announcement, with thousands of Sadr’s supporters singing, chanting, dancing and setting off fireworks while carrying his picture and waving Iraqi flags.

Many of his supporters chanted “Iran out”.

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit Iran’s nuclear deal, a move Iraqis fear could turn their country into a theater of conflict between Washington and Tehran.

He will also face the mammoth task of rebuilding a country left shattered by the battle against ISIS — with donors already pledging $30 billion (25 billion euros).

The results unexpectedly showed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was touted as a serious challenger to Abadi, lagging behind.