US, Russia gave Israel green light to strike Iran in Syria, Iraq

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Report: US, Russia gave Israel green light to strike Iran in Syria, Iraq

Under alleged agreement, Jerusalem allowed to conduct attacks against Iranian threats in Middle East, but can’t publicly acknowledge them

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Israel has conducted several strikes on Iranian-controlled bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks with permission from the United States and Russia, a Western diplomatic source told a Saudi-owned newspaper Wednesday.

Moscow and Washington agreed that the Jewish state could conduct these attacks on Iranian targets in order to “ensure Israel’s security,” the source told the London-based Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat.

In recent weeks, a number of explosions have been reported in Iraqi military installations connected to pro-Iranian Shiite militias, including on Tuesday night in an arms depot north of Baghdad.

As part of the reported agreement, Israel would not publicly acknowledge carrying out the strikes. However, this has not prevented Israeli officials from hinting at their involvement in these attacks.

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Asked about Tuesday night’s blast at the pro-Iranian militia base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli reporters, “Iran has no immunity, anywhere… We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary.”

The explosions have occurred in bases and warehouses belonging to militia groups under the umbrella of the mainly Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The state-sanctioned PMF militias have fought alongside Iraq’s regular armed forces against the Islamic State group.

Iraqi MP Karim Alaiwi told pro-Hezbollah Lebanese network al-Mayadeen on Wednesday that evidence pointed to Israel being behind recent attacks on Shiite militias, adding that the Jewish state was trying to weaken the PMF.

Alaiwi said American forces controlled Iraqi airspace and reasoned that no one could be conducting airstrikes without US knowledge.

The Iraqi Civil Defense said in a statement that Tuesday’s blast occurred near Balad air base, one of the country’s largest. A Shiite militia group is stationed nearby.

Iraqi security forces’ vehicles are seen at the delivery ceremony of four new US- made F-16 fighter jets at Balad air base, 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The officials who confirmed the explosion spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. They said the blast occurred in a depot belonging to the PMF and that an investigation was underway.

The mysterious blasts have given rise to a host of theories, including that Israel may have conducted airstrikes.

No one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blast or other recent explosions.

In July, an explosion took place at a PMF base in Amirli, in Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province, killing two Iranians and causing a huge fire.

Last week, a massive explosion was also reported at the al-Saqr military base.

Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, and there has been speculation that it might be expanding its campaign to target Iranian bases in  Iraq. However, neither the Iraqi government nor Israel has addressed the reports.

Satellite photo of a weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia that was hit in an alleged Israeli operation on August 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Israeli officials have identified Iraq as a likely growing base of operations for Iran-backed efforts against the Jewish state. But Israeli officials have so far neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the strikes.

Raphael Ahren, AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

Israel: Hamas: Hezbollah and Iran will join war if Israel tries to ‘break resistance’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas: Hezbollah and Iran will join war if Israel tries to ‘break resistance’

Official from Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist group tells Lebanese paper of understandings reached in Tehran meeting last month

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

An official with Palestinian terror group Hamas on Saturday told a Lebanese newspaper that in the next major conflagration, should the Gaza rulers feel that Israel is trying to “break” the group, its regional allies will join forces with Hamas.

This was one of the understandings reached between Hamas and Iran during a high-level meeting last month in Tehran, the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese paper al-Akhbar reported (in Arabic) on Saturday.

“If the Israeli enemy launches aggression against the Gaza Strip, and we estimate that it is a confined battle that will not develop into a war to break us, we will face it alone,” the official was quoted by the paper as saying.

“But if the enemy [Israel] tries to break the resistance, the rest of the axis will join the battle,” he went on, in reference to Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.

The Islamic Republic is a longtime financial supporter of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, sworn to Israel’s destruction, and the al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military branch. Iran also funds Hezbollah, which is similarly sworn to Israel’s annihilation.

In the July meeting between nine senior Hamas officials — including Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of the Hamas politburo, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — Iran agreed to massively increase its monthly payments to the terror group in exchange for intelligence on Israeli missile capabilities, Israel’s Channel 12 reported earlier this month.

Tehran expressed willingness to raise its monthly financial backing to the terror group to an unprecedented $30 million per month, according to the report citing an unnamed Arab source.

That will represent a massive increase in Iranian support for the Gaza rulers. A report by the Ynet news site from August 2018, citing Palestinian sources, said Iran’s payments to Hamas at the time amounted to $70 million per year (less than $6 million per month).

In exchange for the funding, Tehran asked Hamas to provide intelligence about the location of Israel’s missile stockpiles, the report said. It was not immediately clear if the raise was strictly conditioned on the intelligence provided by the terror group.

The Hamas members said they would convey the request to the movement’s leaders in Gaza.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

According to the report, Qassem Soleimani, the head of  the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force, also joined the meeting and members of Hamas’ military wing explained the difficulties they were facing and shortages in arms and equipment.

Hamas also reportedly asked Iran to act as a mediator for the terror group with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, after ties were cut off during the Syrian civil war.

The report also noted that ahead of the visit Saudi Arabia had unsuccessfully been trying to pressure Hamas to cut ties with Iran.

During his visit to Tehran, al-Arouri said that Hamas and Iran stand on “the same path” in fighting Israel, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported at the time.

“We are on the same path as the Islamic Republic — the path of battling the Zionist entity and the arrogant ones,” he said, according to the report.

Arouri visited Iran with several other high-ranking Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouk, Maher Salah, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan, Ezzat al-Rishq and Ismail Radwan.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a group of Turkish journalists at the time that he hoped the delegation’s visit would achieve “important results.”

Arouri, who was elected as Hamas’s deputy chief in October 2017, has traveled to Iran at least five times over the past two years. He has frequently heaped praised on Iran.

“Iran is the only country that says that entity [Israel] is cancerous and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the pro-Hamas Al-Quds TV in February 2018. “It is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”

report in August by the Haaretz daily said that Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas and Iran have come to an agreement for the terror group to open a war front against Israel from the southern coastal Strip in the event of conflict breaking out with Iran’s allies on the Jewish state’s northern border.

The report quoted a senior security official as saying the intelligence establishment estimates Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group will try to force Israel to move forces and air defense systems to the south at the expense of troops fighting in the north.

The report said that Israeli intelligence sources believe Iran has increased its involvement in the Strip in order to turn Hamas into its operational arm against Israel.

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5 Most Useful Second Languages For Travelers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Most Useful Second Languages For Travelers

In addition to the world’s most influential and widely spoken language of English, understanding a second language is key to unlocking authentic experiences on your travels and making and maintaining global connections. It’s a way of displaying respect to the people of the country as a traveler, and it will allow you to feel more comfortable in foreign destinations and ease the process of adopting a new culture. Before taking off on your next journey, consider picking up one of these useful second languages to better engage with locals.

Russian

Credit: Kichigin/Shutterstock

Outside of tourist hotspots in Eurasia, navigating the public transportation systems and ordering food can pose a challenge. Though the official Russian speaking nations of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus don’t regularly top bucket lists for many travelers, its Soviet Union legacy solidified Russian as a recognized second language in its 15 former countries, allowing Russian speaking travelers to move through Armenia, Estonia, Georgia and Uzbekistan with ease. Based on the 33 letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, a grasp of the Russian language is pertinent to Eurasian adventures of traveling on the Trans-Siberian and hiking the rugged paths of Lake Baikal.

Arabic

Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

As one of the United Nations’ six official languages, Arabic is a useful second language for exploring the Middle East and North Africa. Comprised of 30 modern types, Modern Standard Arabic is officially used in politics, books and news channels, while Classical Arabic is the language of the Quran and is used in Islamic literature dating between the 7th and 9th centuries. The squiggly lines of Arabic script written from right to left may seem intimidating and foreign to English speakers at first, but the biggest challenge of learning Arabic is deciding on which dialect to study, as these regional variations are the basis for daily interactions.

Mandarin

Credit: zhu difeng/Shutterstock

Widely used in Asia and beyond, Mandarin is the world’s most spoken language, with over one billion native speakers. Because few residents speak a language other than Mandarin, navigating China and Taiwan can prove difficult for foreigners. The most challenging aspect of learning the language is mastering its tonal component, as the meaning of the word changes depending on which of its four tones you use. But grasping the language means being able to engage in daily interactions with locals in the markets of Malaysia, with street food vendors in Singapore, and can also prove useful in the sizable Chinese communities of Indonesia and Thailand.

French

Credit: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

A native language of France, French is also one of Canada’s two official languages. It remains a popular second language across Europe and is also widely spoken on islands of the Caribbean and parts of Africa. France consistently tops surveys as the most visited country in the world and is one of few places where tourists outnumber locals. Immerse yourself in the French culture by ordering delectable crepes from street vendors in Nice and sailing the sparkling blue waters of Corsica in the Mediterranean, all in French. Travelers fluent in the language can also lay on the sugary white sand beaches of Martinique, explore Montreal’s Old Port, or navigate the souks of Morocco without a hitch.

Spanish

Credit: SL-Photography/Shutterstock

America’s second most spoken language, Spanish, also dominates Central and South America, allowing Spanish speaking travelers to easily navigate their way through the region’s most popular destinations of Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. Aside from its high geographic coverage in the Americas, Spanish is also a native language of Spain, and its commonalities with Portuguese and Italian assist travelers in communicating across southern Europe and Brazil. Due to regional accents, Spanish is spoken differently in countries around the world, but Guatemala’s neutral accent has been recognized by travelers as a favorite place to learn, resulting in a high number of Spanish language schools in the nation’s colonial city of Antigua.

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua
Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua

A Russian Antonov military cargo plane, carrying parts of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, is unloaded after landing at the Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey, on July 12, 2019. The first batch of Russian S-400 air defense system was delivered in Turkish capital city of Ankara on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

Turkey began taking the delivery of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system on Friday, completing a much-debated deal that is likely to trigger sanctions from the United States and test the NATO alliance.

The first components for the state-of-the-art system arrived aboard three Russian military planes at the Murted air base, located at a distant suburb of Ankara, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Turkey received the first batch of S-400 air defense systems. The deliveries are sent to the Murted air base,” the ministry said. Two more deliveries are expected in the coming days.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that “there is no problem in the deliveries,” adding that “the process will also continue in a healthy pace in the future.”

The purchase, which is the fruit of a controversial agreement inked between Ankara and Moscow in 2017, signals, according to observers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to coordinate more with Russia and could set off a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the US, two major NATO allies.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration had given mixed signals about how it might respond if Turkey went through with the deal, but US officials had warned of repercussions, including canceling sales of around 100 high-tech US-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the imposition of sanctions under a 2017 law in cooperation with adversaries.

During a visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium in June, acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s, they will not receive the F-35.”

However, Trump has been publicly supportive of the Turkish president and expressed recently sympathy for Erdogan’s decision to purchase the surface-to-air S-400s. Erdogan, after meeting Trump at the G-20 Summit in June in Osaka, said he did not believe that the United States would sanction Turkey.

Erdogan has refused to back down on the S-400 deal and defended the 2.5 billion US dollar acquisition of the Russian system as part of Turkey’s sovereign right to defend itself, and said he tried to purchase the US-made Patriot air defense system but was not offered favorable terms in the past.

US officials fear that Turkey’s possession of the S-400 could give Russia access to secrets of the F-35’s stealth technology and argued that it would create interoperability problems inside NATO.

Ankara has ruled out such a possibility, saying that it is a long standing NATO country, since 1952, and that the S-400 would not be integrated in NATO capabilities.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s purchase of F-35 planes could be compromised as a concrete move last month, the Pentagon said it would halt the training of Turkish pilots to fly the warplane.

Possible US economic sanctions would mark a new standoff in Turkish-American ties. Last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a currency crisis. Sanctions were lifted after Ankara released the clergyman.

Following the arrival of the first S-400 components to the Turkish capital, the Turkish lira dropped about 1.5 percent against the greenback, trading at 5.76 lira.

The deal with Russia also raised some concerns in Western circles that Turkey is drifting away, closer to Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Deliveries of the S-400 components to Turkey would continue “in the coming days,” according to a statement by Turkey’s defense industries authority, which did not say when or where the completed system would ultimately be deployed.

“Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by relevant authorities,” said the statement.

An official close to the matter said to Xinhua that the first battery could be deployed at Murted base and a second one likely in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian and Iraqi border and be operational by October.

“Assessments are underway at several levels to decide on the issue, but everything is going according to plan,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.

US Deploys F-22 Stealth Fighter Jets to Gulf

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

 

US Deploys F-22 Stealth Fighter Jets to Gulf

Saturday, 29 June, 2019 – 12:00
In this photo from September 16, 2017, an F-22 Raptor does a fly-by during the airshow at Joint Andrews Air Base in Maryland. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Nearly a dozen Air Force F-22 stealth fighters have deployed to the Arabian Gulf, part of a force buildup requested by US Central Command in May in response to what it called heightened Iranian threats against American forces in the region.

The Air Force arm of US Central Command on Friday said the F-22 Raptors arrived this week at Qatar’s al-Udeid air base to “defend American forces and interests.”

It posted to its website photos of several F-22s arriving there on Thursday and said this is the first time F-22s have deployed to al-Udeid.

Four B-52 strategic bombers were deployed to al-Udeid days after a May 5 White House announcement that the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group also was being rushed to the region in response to “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” and as a “message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

At the request of Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of Central Command, additional Patriot air-and-missile defense systems also were sent to the Gulf region in recent weeks.

He also is receiving additional surveillance and intelligence-gathering aircraft to improve the military’s ability to monitor potential Iranian threats against shipping in the Gulf area.

Trusting The Government: U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, All The Same?

Trusting The Government: U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, All The Same?

 

I was born in the mid 1950’s and grew up watching Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news. Mr. Cronkite was by most considered to be the “most trusted man in America.” Whom is it that you totally trust the most in American news media or within the political realm today? With all the news outlets of today all trying to get you to watch or listen to them I find it difficult to put much trust in any of them. There are two main reasons for that, one is that each of these outlets are companies, they are ‘for profit’. Two is the consideration of where are they getting their information?

 

I am in my early 60’s now so during the past 50 years or so we here in the U.S. have been constantly told that we are the good guys and governments who are Communist are the bad guys. From all of the reading and studying that I have done over the years I really don’t doubt that these Communists governments are far less than friendly toward their own population nor to others. Communists seem to think military first and usually military only and it is a proven fact that very few people who are military oriented are very good public leaders. Military frame of mind and civilian frame of mind seldom seem to end up within the same person. Then again within the non-communists countries the people have to put up with politicians who seem to change their mind like farts in a breeze. Here in the U.S. we the people have learned a lot since the NSA murdered John and Bobby Kennedy back in the 60’s. When Nixon was President he illegally expanded the war in Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia. We had military personal who died there or were captured there that our government turned their back on as well as their families basically saying they must have deserted. When the U.S. officially left Vietnam Nixon got on TV and said there were no more POWs in southeast Asia, knowing very well that he was lying to the people. Reality comes down to the fact of truth or not the truth, trust or not being able to trust.

 

Now I am going to talk about current events here in the U.S. and this reality of trust or no trust. On a personal level can you trust a person on really serious matters when you absolutely know as a fact that they have lied to you many many occasions?  In the last 24-36 hours we have been hearing on the news that Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. spy drone. The early news strongly hinted that the drone was over Iranian land which by all forms of international law would have been a violation committed by the Americans and Iran would have had every right to shoot it down. By international law every country which borders a body of water has 12 miles sovereignty except for China’s Communists government who seems to want to claim at least a few thousand miles sovereignty but that is another story for other articles. Now the U.S. government is saying that the drone was 21 miles off of Iran’s coast and if this is true then basically Iran committed and act of war against the U.S. and the U.S. government would have the right to retaliate against Iran. The issue is, how can we trust our own government when they and especially our President is a habitual liar? President George W. Bush’s lies paved the way for us to start a war with Iraq. Personally I believe that he was just trying to show his Daddy that he could ‘one-up’ him and take out Saddam. Think of the cost of those lies in terms of thousands of people dead and about a trillion dollars of taxpayer money thrown into that bloodbath. Today’s news headline said that some of the Republicans in the Senate were upset that President Trump called off a bombing raid in Iran that would have started an all out war with them and their allies. Going to war with anyone should not be a partisan matter and going to war should not be in the hands of one person. If we are going to enter a war this war should be voted on and passed by at least 2/3 of the Congress and the Senate. This is not a computer game, many thousands of people will die. So, what is the truth on this matter, can you or I honestly trust anything that Mr. Trump says? Personally I don’t. Credibility is something that our leaders no longer have, their word is not good enough any more. If we go to war with Iran they have many allies including many sleeper cells within our own borders, many Americans on American land will die, life as we have always know it here in the States will be over. But, how the hell can we the people ever know if what we are being told is the truth, or just another lie.

 

Pakistani FM to AAWSAT: Islamic Summit to Avoid War

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

 

Pakistani FM to AAWSAT: Islamic Summit to Avoid War

Friday, 31 May, 2019 – 10:30
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Reuters
Jeddah- Mohammed Al-Ayed
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has affirmed that the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) hosted by Saudi Arabia in attendance of Arab, Gulf, and Islamic leaders is an opportunity to address the tensed conditions in the region and avoid the breaking out of the war.

Amid the tension arising from the Iranian interventions in the region, Qureshi said that the war won’t be in the best interest of anyone, and won’t serve the region or the global economy. In fact, it would weaken the investment and increase the threat of terrorist activities, he added.

Despite all, Iran remains part of the region and can’t be removed and that’s why there should be a way to deal with it, Qureshi asserted.

As for the ballistic missiles launched by Houthis – Iran’s arm in Yemen – towards Makkah, Qureshi told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that any attack against the kingdom and the Two Holy Mosques is equivalent to an attack targeting Pakistan.

Qureshi stressed that his country will be ready in case any danger threatens the Saudi territories, lauding the continuous Saudi support to Pakistan.

Commenting on the attacks against energy sources and passages in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, the Pakistani FM stated that these energy sources don’t only contribute to economy and trade development on the level of Saudi Arabia but the world overall.

Further, he considered that the Iranian intention to close the Strait of Hormuz would escalate regional crises — Qureshi urged Iran to desist from escalation and to open up to diplomacy because extremist means would not be constructive.

Qureshi noted that the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, to Pakistan brought several achievements to both countries, adding that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have key roles in the Islamic world that could boost stability and security in the region.

(Persian) Gulf Acquisitions, Mergers Grow by 39 Percent

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

 

Gulf Acquisitions, Mergers Grow by 39 Percent

Sunday, 28 April, 2019 – 08:45
General view of Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. (Reuters)
London – Mutlaq Muneer
The number of merger and acquisition deals (M&As) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) grew 39 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2019, according to a report released by Kuwait Financial Center (MARKAZ) on Saturday.

The Saudi market topped the Arabian Gulf markets in terms of M&As in Q1-19, in which the sector witnessed Aramco’s 70 percent acquisition of SABIC in a deal worth USD69.1 billion.

In January, the Kuwait Finance House (KFH) said it gave initial approval for the average of stock exchange with AUB Bahrain at a rate of 2.33 shares of AUB’s in return for one share in KFH, added the report.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), listed on Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), announced last month that its general assembly approved its merger with Union National Bank (UNB).

Italy’s Eni and Austria’s OMV will collectively acquire a 35 percent stake in ADNOC Refining for an estimated USD5.8 billion, whereby ADNOC will retain the remaining 65 percent stake in the company. KKR and BlackRock have acquired a 40 percent stake in ADNOC Oil Pipelines, an entity that will lease ADNOC’s interest in 18 pipelines for 23 years.

GCC acquirers accounted for 60 percent of the total number of transactions during Q1 2019 and 75 percent during Q4 2018. Foreign acquirers accounted for 34 percent of the total number of transactions during Q1 2019 and 17 percent during Q4 2018. Buyer information was not available for 6 percent of the transactions in Q1 2019.

Each of the GCC acquirers seemed to have a different appetite with regards to M&A transactions during Q1 2019.

Kuwaiti acquirers preferred investing in their home country. Saudi acquirers mostly invested in their home country and equally between other GCC countries and outside the GCC. UAE acquirers mostly invested outside the GCC and within their home country. Bahraini acquirers only invested outside the GCC. Qatari and Omani acquirers each engaged in one acquisition in their respective countries.

Q1 2019 witnessed a 70 percent increase in the number of completed transactions by foreign buyers compared to Q1 2018. In comparison to Q4 2018, the number of such transactions grew by 89 percent.

UAE targets represented 71 percent of the closed transactions by foreign acquirers during Q1 2019, while Saudi Arabia and Kuwait represented 23 percent and 6 percent respectively of the transactions during the same period. Bahraini, Omani and Qatari targets did not attract any foreign buyers during Q1 2019.

As per MARKAZ’s report, the industrial, financial and consumer sectors in the GCC accounted for 62 percent of M&As in the region during the first three months of 2019.

The media, insurance, telecommunication services and aviation sectors each accounted for 2 percent of the total closed transactions during Q1 2019, collectively amounting to 8 percent of the transactions during the period.

There was a total of 14 announced transactions in the pipeline during Q1 2019, representing a 27 percent increase in the number of announced transactions compared to Q4 2018.

UAE and Saudi Arabia collectively accounted for 79 percent of the announced transactions during Q1 2019. Oman and Qatar made up 21 percent of the announced transactions.

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FACTCHECK.ORG’)

 

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrongly stated that Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria.” Middle East experts tell us that Assad controls a majority of Syria’s land and population.

Pompeo made his remarks during an April 8 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Pompeo urged the Cuban government to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — telling Baier that Maduro’s “days are numbered” — when in an aside the secretary also remarked about Assad’s power in Syria.

Pompeo, April 8: I might add, Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today. The work that the Trump administration has done to deny Assad the capacity to rebuild his nation — this is the guy who believes he won, but the truth is the Middle East is in a much more stable, much better place today than it was when President Obama was running the joint in Syria.

“Pompeo’s comment is false,” Steven Heydemann, director of Middle East Studies at Smith College, told us in an email. “The Assad regime controls about 60% of Syrian territory, including the entire western ‘spine’ of the country that includes all its major cities and a large majority of its population.”

The civil war in Syria started in March 2011, and, at its weakest point in 2015, Assad’s government held less than a fifth of Syria. “However, the Asad government — backed by Russia and Iran — has reasserted control over much of western Syria since 2015, and appears poised to claim victory in the conflict,” according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

CRS, March 25: The collapse of IS [Islamic State] and opposition territorial control in most of Syria since 2015 has been matched by significant military and territorial gains by the Syrian government. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment stated in February 2018 that, “The conflict has decisively shifted in the Syrian regime’s favor, enabling Russia and Iran to further entrench themselves inside the country.”

Jan. 14 Bloomberg News article on the various forces still fighting in Syria includes a map that shows the Assad regime controls about two-thirds of Syria — nearly all of the land southwest of the Euphrates River, which serves as a natural barrier between the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Russia-backed Syrian military.

“The Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, comprising about a quarter of the country, are the largest remaining areas outside of Syrian government control,” the CRS report said. “Asad has stated that his government intends to recover these areas, whether by negotiations or military force.”

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution, agreed that Pompeo’s statement was “not correct.” In an email, he told us that “in terms of population, Assad controls a substantially higher percentage of the densely populated regions of the country.”

“The main cities under government control are: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Palmyra, Albu Kamal,” according to a March 13 Al-Jazeera article headlined “Syria’s War: Who Control What?” Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, followed by Damascus and Homs, according to the World Atlas.

“The regime is not in control of two important areas: parts of northwest Syria from north of Homs up to the border with Turkey. This area includes the city and province of Idlib and areas under Turkish control,” Heydemann said. “In addition, the regime is not in control of a large part of Syria’s northeast, which is dominated by Kurdish forces that are supported by the U.S.”

Idlib province has been under rebel control since 2015. It is the “the most significant zone remaining outside of government control in western Syria” — “the final opposition stronghold,” according to CRS. Idlib is strategically important to the Assad regime because it allows direct transit from government-control areas in the south to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, according to CRS.

The area in the northeast that is under control of Kurdish forces is strategically important because that’s where “most of Syria’s major oil production facilities” are located, Heydemann said. “However,” he added, “the PYD – the most powerful Kurdish political party in the northeast – has entered into agreements to provide the Assad regime with oil from the areas it controls.”

The Wall Street Journal, in a Feb. 8 article, said the decision by the Kurdish forces to sell oil to the Assad regime “represent[s] a new challenge to U.S. efforts to starve the Syrian government of oil.”

Clearly, Assad doesn’t have full control of Syria as he did before the civil war. But he controls more than “a small fraction” of it, contrary to what Pompeo said.

We asked the State Department to clarify Pompeo’s remarks, but did not receive a response. We will update this article if we do.

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Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today.”

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

Image caption Israel has established more than 100 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday and Mr Netanyahu is competing for votes with right-wing parties who support annexing part of the West Bank.

The settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Last month the US recognised the occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, as Israeli territory.

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements make a future independent state impossible.

Israel says the Palestinians are using the issue of settlements as a pretext to avoid direct peace talks. It says settlements are not a genuine obstacle to peace and are negotiable.

What exactly did Netanyahu say?

He was asked during an interview on Israeli TV why he had not extended Israeli sovereignty to large settlements in the West Bank.

“You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage,” he said.

“I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters: “Any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed.”

Presentational grey line

Potentially explosive comments

By Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs editor

These comments by Benjamin Netanyahu are potentially explosive over an issue that has helped stall peace efforts for years.

They will resonate with several parties with which he’ll try to form a coalition government if he wins the biggest share of votes.

But the very idea of annexation will rouse new Palestinian fury, as well as international condemnation.

Mr Netanyahu may have been emboldened by the Trump administration, which just last month recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Presentational grey line

What is the political background?

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in a tight race with the new centre-right Blue and White alliance.

However other parties, some of which support annexation, could end up being kingmakers when they try to form a governing coalition.

In Mr Netanyahu’s own Likud party, 28 out of the 29 lawmakers running for re-election are on record as supporting this approach. Until now the prime minister was the only exception.

What is the situation of peace negotiations?

Mr Trump’s administration is preparing to unveil a long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which US officials say will be fair.

However the Trump administration has carried out a series of actions that have inflamed Palestinian opinion and generally pleased Israel.

In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.

In response Mr Abbas cut off relations with the US, saying the US could no longer be a peace broker.

Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency(Unrwa), which has been looking after Palestinian refugees since 1949.

In March President Trump officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he warned a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”, in an effort to make the case to Jewish voters to support his re-election.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.