MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

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

 

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018 – 11:15
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi receives MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s , Asharq AL-Awsat
Algeria, Beirut- Boualam Ghimrasah and Asharq Al Awsat
Religious authorities in Algeria partnered with the Muslim World League for organizing awareness campaigns against extremism in a number of Arab countries facing the threat of religious radicalism.

The partnership was struck during the MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s visit to Algeria, which lasted two days.

During his stay, Issa met Algeria’s Head of the Supreme Islamic Council Bouabdallah Gholamallah and other officials from both the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs Endowments and Ministry of Interior.

“The agreement between the two sides is aimed at using well-known Imams to carry out this mission, especially in the Sahel countries, such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where extremist groups are active and seek to recruit youth into armed action,” an insider source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The source said that Issa’s meetings tackled societies facing religious extremism, and praised the “policy for reconciliation” in Algeria, which swayed thousands of extremists into peaceful means of living.

The agreement encourages scholars and intellectuals to “renew religious discourse and propagate moderation, values of tolerance and dialogue, as well as to discuss plans to combat extremism and terrorism.”

The MWL has worldwide influence, so Algeria is looking forward to cooperating with it on exposing baseless arguments against Islam and Muslims, Gholamallah was quoted as saying.

For his part, Al-Issa said that the agreement signed with the Supreme Islamic Council framed the cooperation that will be carried out by both bodies with the main objective being to clarify the real face of Islam as a religion and abolish extremism and terrorist ideologies.

Most recently, Issa met with religious leaders on an official visit to Lebanon.

He started his visit by meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Durian, later meeting with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

During meetings, the secretary-general stressed the importance of dialogue in order to promote common values based on love, respect and cooperation, and to confront hatred.

He visited Elias Audi, Metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. They discussed bilateral cooperation and coordination.

Issa also met with the president of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan.

He also met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Al-Aql Naim Hassan, with Bishop Boulos Matar, Chaldean Bishop Michel Kasarji and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Krikor Bedros.

Israel Shocked by Russia’s Blame for Downing of Plane by Syrian Forces

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

(THIS IS A CASE OF YOUR SISTER SHOT YOU IN THE BACK BUT BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT TO PISS OFF THE FAMILY, YOU BLAME IT ON THEIR NEIGHBOR.)

Israel Shocked by Russia’s Blame for Downing of Plane by Syrian Forces

Monday, 24 September, 2018 – 10:15
An explosion is pictured at Quneitra at the Syrian side of the Israeli Syrian border, as seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel July 22, 2018. (File photo: Reuters)
Tel Aviv- Nazir Majli
Israel was shocked with Russian accusations that it was responsible for the downing of the Ilyushin 20 plane in Lattakia a week ago. Officials declined to comment publicly on the issue, however, they leaked to the media explanations, assessments and political stances that Russians are launching a campaign aimed at establishing a new position that restricts the freedom of the Israeli air force to carry out raids on Iranian bases in Syria.

Former chief of Israel’s air force indicated that Russia received IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, last Thursday, and listened to his explanations about the downing of the plane.

According to the retired general, Moscow accepted Israeli explanations that the Syrian defenses are responsible for attacking the plane, however, they offered a contradicting rhetoric in their public campaign. He believes Russian officials are in a very difficult position given that their Syrian allies dropped a plane and killed all 15 crew members.

Military expert Ron Ben-Yishai indicated in his op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth that the most striking thing about the report produced by the Russian Defense Ministry is the fact that it ignores the findings of the investigation conducted in Israel that were presented by Maj. Gen. Norkin and Israeli intelligence officials who accompanied him to Moscow in a bid to lower the ensuing tension.

In an unprecedented diplomatic move, Israel sent its air force commander with authorized and detailed documentation to Moscow which was intended not only to shed light on what transpired, but also on the events leading up to it.

Yet, the Russians ignored Israeli reports and bore Israel the sole responsibility for the incident. The report didn’t even try to refute Israel’s claims or to make counterclaims against the information Russians had been provided just days earlier.

The report seems as though absolutely no attempt to clarify matters was made by the Israeli side.

They demonstrated just how “ungrateful Israel apparently is to the charitable Russians who are trying to protect it and are only repaid in bad faith,” added Yishai.

The expert believes that upon analyzing the Russian position, two major conclusions can be depicted.

First, they are trying to ensure that the Russians did not provide their Syrian allies with the electronic signals to identify their planes. The aim is to show that the incident was not due to Syrian army’s ignorance, but rather that Russian officers who operate jointly with the Syrian air defenses did not train them well or provide them with radars to detect the plane.

The second reason is to solicit new compromises from Israel regarding the situation in Syria. The Defense Ministry did not include in its report any warning or threat of retaliation. “It can be assumed that the Russians will try to use the crisis against Israel to limit the freedom over Syria’s skies which it has been granted by Moscow through new agreements,” he indicated.

The Israeli government must ignore the Russian lies and the refusal to take into consideration the investigation findings, in the hope that this will calm the situation, and it will be possible to fully resume the security coordination with the Russians.

Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Harel considered that Russian Defense Ministry’s report should not surprise anyone in Israel, except maybe for a few supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No matter how good his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be, Netanyahu cannot make the problem disappear,” he said.

An experienced pilot described Russian inquiry’s as “rather dubious”, according to Harel, who added that some of the claims included in its announcement “are strange”.

The bottom line still depends on Putin’s decision, who will probably take the report’s findings and come out with new agreements with Israel in Syria.

The Russian President is aware of an Iranian attempt to smuggle arms into Syria and Israel’s intention to attack the shipment, and this will be another test for the Russia-Israeli agreements, concluded Harel.

Egypt’s Sisi Hinges on Developing Health, Education to Improve Living Conditions

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

 

Egypt’s Sisi Hinges on Developing Health, Education to Improve Living Conditions

Thursday, 20 September, 2018 – 09:45
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (3rd L) visits police officer Mohamed el Hayes, who was rescued after being kidnapped during an attack in the Western Desert, at a military hospital in Cairo, Egypt on November 1, 2017 (Reuters)
Cairo – Mohamed Abdu Hassanein
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has revealed a huge interest in developing the education and health sectors to improve the living conditions of Egyptians.

During the inauguration of a number of development projects, Sisi said he would not allow citizens to suffer, promising to take the new education system to a whole new level.

The majority of Egyptians, living under the poverty line, fail in meeting their own basic needs and suffer from deteriorating health and education services amid growing inflation and a devalued currency.

Sisi inaugurated Wednesday a military hospital in Monufia governorate and a number of educational projects and new institutions, including Japanese schools, in several other provinces.

In his comment, he hailed the state’s initiative to eradicate queues in hospitals, noting however that the challenge in providing good medical services remains in the funding.

The president stated that queues had ended around 75 days after launching the initiative. The time-frame could have been shorter because Egypt has medical staff and hospitals that can offer medical services, he said.

Sisi urged civil society organizations to participate in the development and management of state hospitals.

He further tackled the screening campaign for Hepatitis C, saying it was launched because the virus has caused illnesses for the past 50 years.

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

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

 

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 – 09:15
Beirut – Sanaa el-Jack
Taking to Twitter in service of their own ends, Lebanese politicians use the platform to expose secrets previously kept exclusive to political echelons. But unlike the average citizen, Twitter-active politicians enjoy immunity.

Maj. Gen. Jamil al-Sayyid said that posting on Twitter was a simple daily habit he practiced with no expectations whatsoever for his account to pick up a following of over 300,000.

“In the past, I was obsessed with the notion of expression, and made frequent contacts with televisions and newspapers to convey my stances,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“But with Twitter, it’s like I have my own radio podcast, television broadcast and a newspaper right at home. It takes one sentence to make an impact,” he added.

In another muscle flexing Twitter spat, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib scolds Lebanese journalist Charles Ayoub over the latter’s prodding around affairs of the caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil.

In an Arabic tweet, Khatib tells Ayoub that his “harassment of great warriors will not take him any higher, and that Gebran Bassil will not stoop down to his level and grant him the privilege of response.”

“You need a mental hospital,” Khatib slams Ayoub.

Sociology Professor Dr. Talal Atrissi deplored double standards practiced in Lebanon that see to politicians getting off scot-free with blasting rivals, while the average citizen is dragged into investigations.

A politician posts whatever comes to his mind on Twitter with minimal accountability.

Unlike interviews and debates that are moderated by journalists, social media does not constrain the politician, Atrissi criticized.

“The Lebanese see Twitter as an escape, and simply don’t care about filtering what they say because they do not personally know the reader or responder,” he added.

“But if we assume that politicians are leaders and a role model for the public, then hearing an official cursing and using denigrate language makes way for others doing the same,” Atrissi said on the poorly, at times rudely, phrased tweets.

Atrissi remarked that a politician is responsible whenever he or she speaks, explaining that an elected representative is not an ordinary person that can act freely and in an unbalanced manner.

On social media, Lebanese politicians have not been shy in expressing hostility, brazenly lambasting their rivals.

“The issue with Lebanese behavior is facing each other edgily and aggressively on Twitter– as if there is hostility harbored against anyone who is not me,” Atrissi added.

“We need a lot of time to change this culture of resentment, through deliberate steps that contribute to eliminating provocation.”

2017: U.S. Embassy In Riyadh Saudi Arabia Issued More Than 106,000 Visas

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

 

US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch reaffirmed on Tuesday that the United States and Saudi Arabia share strong and positive relations that have been going on for decades, especially when it comes to consular affairs.

He revealed that there are ongoing discussions to develop and strengthen them in the coming years.

Responding to Asharq Al-Awsat, Risch revealed that more than 106,000 visas, 70 percent of which were granted to Saudi citizens, were issued in 2017. He stressed that restless efforts are spent on developing visa mechanisms and providing timely and reliable services for the embassy.

Risch expressed pride over strong and positive relations shared with Riyadh.

About 70 percent of US visas issued in Riyadh, Dhahran and Jeddah were for Saudi nationals. Some 77,910 visas issued to Saudis included visitation, work, and study passes.

Risch is on a tour to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Meeting with counterparts, Risch will discuss a range of consular issues. While in the region, the diplomat also plans to review consular operations at US Embassies and Consulates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Amman, and to meet with inter-agency partners.

Stressing that US national security is a priority when issuing visas, Risch said that a vetting system looks into applications, making sure the applicant is eligible.

On the time it takes to land a US visa, Risch said that some requests are completed quickly, while others take longer. “But we want to be a reliable source for those who want to get visas from our representations anywhere in the world.”

He pointed out that all types of US visas are issued to Saudi citizens, but the most common are tourist visas and work visas for attending meetings.

Requests to visit families or friends and visas issued to Saudi students stand to prove the long history between the two countries, Risch added.

Iran: Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’

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

 

Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’

Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 – 09:45
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
In the latest in a wave of criticism against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close associates, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb, describing him as “psychologically imbalanced” and not fit for the job.

He accused the judiciary and the IRGC of fabricating cases against his aides over political differences.

In a video, Ahmadinejad lashed out against Taeb, saying that all he does is “fabricate cases,” revealing that during his presidency, he was opposed to him assuming his current post.

The former president asserted: “All state officials know that he is imbalanced and everyone knows what he has been up to.”

Ahmadinejad said that “the fabrication campaign against him and his aides was launched by the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC Intelligence in 2011 under Taeb’s leadership.”

Furthermore, he also wondered whether “the use of state power is permissible in political disputes.”

Ahmadinejad also revealed that Taeb, who served as deputy intelligence minister under former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was removed from his post for sparking disputes among various officials.

“They kicked him out of the Intelligence Ministry, but they later violated the law and gave him a top post with full authority elsewhere,” said Ahmadinejad.

In April 2011, the European Union included Taeb and 23 other officials on the sanctions list for “gross violation of human rights” of Iranian citizens. He is barred from entering EU countries.

Ahmadinejad’s stances and criticism of the Iranian regime, coupled with growing public discontent as a result of the deteriorating economy and living conditions, have sparked widespread debate in the country. His opponents accuse him of adopting “populist” positions.

In another part of the video, Ahmadinejad stated that what he says is “not an insult or a propaganda against the regime… we want to reform the situation… we say that this is bad and damaging the regime, the Iranian revolution, and the people.”

A few days ago, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, vice president, chief of staff, and senior aide to Ahmadinejad, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on charges of threatening national security.

In March, Mashaei protested in front of the British embassy and burned a court sentence against former vice president and close Ahmadinejad aide, Hamid Baghaei, in a symbolic reference to accusations of “links” between the Chief Justice and Britain.

Commenting on Mashaei’s charges, Ahmadinejad said it “distorts the image of the regime,” while also criticizing IRGC intelligence service for setting up its own prisons.

Last week, a group of Ahmadinejad supporters published a video of Mashaei in which he speaks of attempts to assassinate him in prison. He also accused Taeb of working to force confessions from Baghaei, who is serving a sentence in Evin prison.

IRGC intelligence service is a parallel organ of the Ministry of Intelligence. Khamenei appoints its chief, who is therefore considered one of the most powerful figures in the regime.

The Guards’ intelligence service is known for prosecuting senior officials accused of security violations. It is tasked with providing protection for the supreme leader and senior officials of state agencies, airports and nuclear facilities.

Ahmadinejad is not the first senior Iranian official to criticize the IRGC intelligence chief.

In recent years, current deputy speaker Ali Motahari and reformist opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi have sharply criticized Taeb and the IRGC intelligence service’s operation in parallel to the Ministry of Intelligence.

Among the most prominent arrests were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and brother of Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, Mehdi Jahangiri, on charges of corruption.

Prior to the 2017 presidential elections, Rouhani had criticized the arrest of a number of activists on his electoral campaign by the Guards’ intelligence.

Israel to Build Around Gaza World’s Longest Concrete Wall

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

 

Israel to Build Around Gaza World’s Longest Concrete Wall

Sunday, 16 September, 2018 – 10:30
Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel’s security fence in East Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ramallah – Kifah Zaboun
A “protective” wall that Israel has been building for months along the border with the Gaza Strip will become “the world’s longest concrete wall” and will extend over 65 kilometers to reach the Strip’s land and maritime border, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Israel decided to build the wall after the 2014 war, but its implementation began after three years of internal debate.

The wall is the third line Israel has constructed along the border to confront the Palestinians and prevent them from carrying out attacks.

Following the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s and after the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israel established buffer zones around Gaza and set up barbed wire, but these measures did not stop underground attacks.

The wall aims to provide underground and off-the-ground protection from infiltration through the coastal strip. It will also include physical barriers and sophisticated technological detection systems, according to the Israeli newspaper.

To date, Israel has used two million concrete blocks in the construction of the wall through five concrete factories that have been built along the border. The region employs 1,200 workers from different countries, including Romania and Brazil.

According to the newspaper, the land wall will include an underground barrier at a depth of tens of meters, equipped with sensors that can detect any drilling of tunnels by land or any movement of divers across the sea. The maritime wall includes intelligent waves for early warning.

The cost of building the concrete wall is 3 billion shekels, ($1=3.60 shekels).

Hamas uses military tunnels for various purposes, including carrying out operations and infiltrating into Israeli settlements.

Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends Prime Minister’s Membership

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

 

Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends Prime Minister’s Membership

Sunday, 16 September, 2018 – 11:00
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed talks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia, September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Tunisia – Almunji Suaidani
Tunisia’s ruling Nidaa Tounes party froze the prime minister’s membership.

“The party decided to freeze the membership of Chahed,” Nidaa Tounes said in a statement.

Following long discussions that lasted for hours on Friday, the party took that decision that might lead in a further phase to a temporary dismissal of Chahed. During his visit to one of the schools in the north of the capital, Chahed refused to comment.

Wafa Makhlouf, a founding member of Nidaa Tounes, expressed objection and other members’ rejection of the statement content – a stance that shows affection with the prime minister who aspires to play a key political role bigger than the one determined for him when he was first appointed a prime minister.

Makhlouf expressed concern regarding the current condition in the country.

A former leader in Nidaa Tounes Riad Alaziz expected the number of deputies from the National Coalition bloc to reach 55, and all of them would be supporting the political program of Chahed. This makes the bloc come second after Ennahda Movement and push Nidaa Tounes to the third place.

This parliamentary bloc works on ensuring positive outcomes of Chahed government during the upcoming voting over the financial law 2019, also through voting in favor of Chahed carrying out a partial amendment in the government, as well as conducting huge reforms and implementing a development program.

Yemeni Government Adopts Currency-Reviving Economic Measures

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

 

Yemeni Government Adopts Currency-Reviving Economic Measures

Monday, 10 September, 2018 – 11:00
An employee counts stacks of Yemeni currency at Yemen’s central bank in Sanaa. (AFP)
Aden – Asharq Al-Awsat
In an effort to save the war-torn nation’s faltering currency and to address a diminishing economy, the Yemeni government announced executive measures on reforms approved by the national Economic Committee.

The government said it will withhold docking permits for luxury cargo, while reassuring that licenses for fuel shipments and five food commodities – wheat, rice, sugar, milk and edible oil– and medicine will continue being issued.

As head of the legitimate government, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi had ordered forming a national Economic Committee presided by presidential adviser and economic and financial expert Hafez Moayad.

Barring the entry of non-basic shipments comes in an effort to reduce hard currency depletion lost through the import of luxury goods.

Economic Committee Head Moayad, in an official statement, confirmed that the committee has devised a mechanism for import processes relevant to five main commodities (wheat, rice, sugar, milk and edible oil), as well as means to resolve the problem facing the oil derivatives market– both with domestic consumption and the export of surplus.

He said that the committee handed a detailed briefing to authorities on Saturday.

In the document, the committee recommended establishing a workshop with traders and concerned parties to discuss mechanisms to be implemented and clarify them to commercial sector parties.

The mechanisms are claimed to be able to stabilize the currency and keep it from collapsing.

Moayad revealed that the Economic Committee, which consists of seven members, including the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank, has completed its research functions and will be ready to assume other duties.

He added that it will follow up with bodies responsible for implementation.

In the meantime, the Yemeni Ministry of Transport began implementing procedures prohibiting the import of luxury goods.

According to the ministry, the government decided to restrict imports to basic commodities and oil derivatives by means of appropriations, collections and remittances based on Economic Committee mechanisms.

The mechanisms took effect on Sunday.

The government had decided earlier to raise salaries of government employees by 30 percent and production capacity in oil and gas fields after providing security guarantees for the resumption of export.

Practices of Iran-backed Houthi coup militias in Yemen, such as looting and pillaging of Sanaa Central Bank assets, have played a huge part in the national currency’s collapse.

Africa: Padding Bank Accounts Of A Few, Freedom Will Be Lost For A Couple Billion?

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

 

Djibouti on the Rise as Hub for Foreign Military Bases in Africa

Monday, 10 September, 2018 – 10:15
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh meet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 23, 2017. (Reuters)
Djibouti – Sahwqi al-Rayyes
Last year, China launched its first overseas military base in Djibouti, positioning its base only 10 kilometers away from a sophisticated US base with a crew of over 6,000 marines. France, Italy and Japan also boast bases in the neighborhood.

Situated on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean, at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, Djibouti controls access to the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

In short, Djiboutian ports overlook waters that account for 25 percent of the world’s exports that flow into Asian and Mediterranean markets.

Since launching its military base, Beijing has not stopped displaying military ambitions on the African continent.

In late June, it hosted the first forum on security and defense cooperation between China and African countries. It lasted over three weeks and highlighted a growing Chinese presence in the continent.

The Chinese military role on the international arena has also been on the rise.

The forum, which will be held once every three years, aims to deepen China’s strategic partnership with Africa, meet mutual security and defense requirements and bolster the preparedness of its armed forces.

Beijing says Djibouti is ideally placed for China to resupply peacekeeping and humanitarian missions and combat piracy off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia.

Joining the scores of military bases, Saudi Arabia is about to complete its first-ever foreign military base in Djibouti.

A base off the shores of Djibouti will reduce war costs spent by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen. The base will able to detect and intercept Iranian supplies to the Houthi militias passing through the Somali coast.

A Djiboutian defense official welcomed Saudi Arabia’s military presence in his country, saying that “brotherly relations exist between the two countries, and the military cooperation agreement is overseen by a joint committee.”

Getting approval for opening military bases is not an easy task, however.

The official told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country had previously rejected a Russian request to establish a military base “so that is not used in the conflict in Syria.”

In addition to hosting many Western military bases, Djibouti has also become a focal point for counter-terrorism activities on the African continent and the training of special forces in neighboring countries.