Netherlands And Australia Hold Russia Partly At Fault For Downing Of Malaysian Jet

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

(FLIGHT MH17 WAS SHOT DOWN WITH A RUSSIAN MISSILE FROM A RUSSIAN HELD MILITARY LOCATION)

Friday – 9 months of Ramadan 1439 H – 25 May 2018 m
Joint investigation team in Malaysia plane crash offers a shattered missile (Reuters)
Amsterdam: Middle East Online
The Netherlands and Australia have taken responsibility for the downing of the Malaysian plane over Ukraine during its flight MH17 in 2014, officials said on Friday, in a move that could trigger a judicial move.
In a statement, the Dutch government said the two countries “hold Russia partly responsible for the downing” of the Malaysian plane, a day after investigators found that a Bock missile hit the plane while it was flying, moving from a Russian military unit in Kursk. All 298 passengers, mostly Dutch, were killed.

Egypt: Military Trial for 278 People on Terrorism Offenses

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

 

Egypt: Military Trial for 278 People on Terrorism Offenses

Monday, 14 May, 2018 – 10:45
A soldier stands next to an armored personnel carrier (APC) near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Sept. 17, 2013. Reuters
Cairo – Asharq Al-Awsat
Egypt’s prosecutor general, Nabil Sadeq, referred 278 suspected Muslim Brotherhood members to military trial Sunday on “terrorism” charges.

Of the 278 people referred for trial, 141 are already in detention.

The suspects are facing charges including joining Brotherhood-linked militant groups Lewaa al-Thawra and Hasam.

They are also accused of carrying out 12 “terrorist operations” including targeting and killing police officers and personnel.

Sunday’s announcement comes after 555 people were referred to military trial last week, accused of belonging to a branch of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula.

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.

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem

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

 

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem

Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – 11:30
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (Reuters)
Cairo, Ankara – Sawsan Abu Hussein and Asharq Al-Awsat

Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi denounced on Saturday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s recent statements about the US relocating its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The minister had stated from Istanbul that there was a “decline and hesitation” within the Muslim world, especially within the Arab League, regarding the decision to relocate the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem.

“We need to take a common stance against this wrong decision. We are seeing some hesitance within the Arab League recently, which is a mistake,” Cavusoglu stated.

Afifi expressed regret at the Turkish minister’s “insistence on negatively targeting the Arab League.”

The statements once again raise real questions about Turkey’s real stance on the regional Arab system, which the Arab League reflects, especially in wake of Turkey’s intervention in Arab territories, which was recently condemned by the Arab Summit in Dhahran, he said.

“Those issuing belligerent statements on the Palestinian cause should have first followed up the matters in a more balanced way to recognize the intense efforts made by the Arab League and its member states,” Afifi added.

He added that these efforts have been ongoing since the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Council of the Arab League, which was held in December in wake of the US administration’s announcement that it was relocating its embassy.

At the end of his statement, Afifi noted that “such Turkish statements certainly do not serve the goal of establishing normal relations between the Arab League and Turkey during this stage.”

Cavusoglu had criticized on Saturday the US move on Jerusalem, saying it was wrong and that Ankara will continue to defend the Palestinian cause.

Further Hawaii Volcano Eruptions after Major Quake

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

 

Further Hawaii Volcano Eruptions after Major Quake

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 – 08:30
Lava is seen coming from a fissure in Leilani Estates subdivision on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 4, 2018. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Hawaii’s Big Island on Friday, prompting fresh eruptions of the Kilauea volcano that has been spewing lava into residential areas, and forcing hundreds of people to flee amid a high alert.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:32 pm and was centered on the south flank of the volcano, which first erupted on Thursday after a series of tremors on the island.

“This is in almost exactly the same location as the deadly 1975 M 7.1 quake,” USGC said in a tweet.

Another 5.7-magnitude tremor hit the island earlier on Friday and authorities said they expect more seismic activity.

The quakes have prompted the volcano, one of five active on the island, to erupt.

Drone and video footage showed orange magma gushing up from cracks in the ground and snaking through a wooded area.

Molten lava could also be seen bubbling up through cracks on streets in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhood where residents were ordered to evacuate on Thursday.

The area is home to about 1,700 people and 770 structures. The broader district potentially impacted by the threat is home to some 10,000 people.

No injuries have been reported but several homes were said to have been destroyed or badly damaged on Friday, authorities said.

Officials urged any remaining residents to evacuate and warned of extremely high levels of toxic fumes.

“Elderly, young and people with respiratory issues need to comply with the mandatory evacuation order and leave the area,” a statement from the mayor’s office said.

Governor David Ige said residents were being housed in community centers until the danger from Kilauea has passed.

Ige signed an emergency proclamation releasing disaster funds to the Big Island.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in an alert that a total of six lava fissures had occurred. Although no significant lava flows have yet formed, additional outbreaks of lava, which can reach temperatures of about 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1,150 Celsius), were expected, the agency said.

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and one of five on the island, has been in constant eruption for 35 years.

Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq

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

 

Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq

Thursday, 3 May, 2018 – 11:15
Residents look at wreckage at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters file photo
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa
A militant commander, held in Baghdad, confessed on Wednesday having been in direct contact with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He added that he met Baghdadi in the summer of 2017 for the last time.

Iraq’s judiciary announced that the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, or CCCI, has upheld confessions given by the detained ISIS official, whose name was not disclosed.

He was first arrested in Turkey and then handed over to Iraq following extensive Iraqi intelligence efforts.

Judge Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, in an official statement, said the CCCI has issued the documented confessions of the detained suspect, in which he admits affiliation with ISIS and meeting with Baghdadi.

Baghdadi disappeared after ISIS’ defeat in its main Syria and Iraq strongholds. Many reports claimed his death, but none were confirmed.

“The arrest was made by virtue of joint efforts of Iraqi intelligence service and the Turkish security services,” Birqdar declared.

“The suspect confirmed that the last meeting between them (Baghdadi and the suspect) was in July last year,” Birqdar said.

He added that the detainee was a member of the general committee overseeing ISIS affairs after dividing the organization into five “caliphates” in Iraq, the Levant, Africa, Europe and the Gulf.

The suspect also claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack which targeted Iraq’s Al Tarmia town, located north of Baghdad, in the hopes of shaking up national security prior to elections scheduled for next week.

Strategic and military experts told Asharq Al-Awsat that what happened in Al Tarmia is a clear breach of security.

“There is an imbalance, whether in the nature of investigating intelligence efforts or the speed of response by the security services,” said Dr. Moataz Mohieddin. “There are still sleeper cells in these areas.”

Iran: Khamenei Refuses to Abandon Iran’s Regional Role

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

 

Khamenei Refuses to Abandon Iran’s Regional Role

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 – 08:15
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (Reuters)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei closed the door to any international attempts to negotiate Tehran’s regional role and ballistic missile program, accusing the US administration of waging an economic war against his country run by the US Treasury Department.

Khamenei criticized the positions of US President Donald Trump without naming him, pointing out that years ago he addressed a letter to former US President Georges Bush, in which he said that the “hit-and-run era is over.”

“They know that if they get into a military conflict with Iran, they will be struck multiple times over,” he stated.

Commenting on the international move aimed at containing Iran’s regional threats, Khamenei said the Middle East wars were “the result of the American presence.”

“The United States, not Iran, should withdraw from West Asia,” he stressed.

According to Khamenei, Iran is engaging in an “economic and cultural” confrontation with the United States, claiming that the Treasury Department was leading the war against Iran, in a tacit reference to the possibility of imposing new international sanctions if Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told state media that his country was “fully prepared” for any scenario in case Trump decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal.

“Iran [is] fully prepared for any US scenario on the 2015 nuclear deal,” he said.

Iran’s nuclear chief said that Tehran was technically ready to enrich uranium to a higher level than before, Reuters reported.

According to the agency, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran was able technically to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before it signed the 2015 deal designed to curb its nuclear program.

Kuwait, Philippines Move to Defuse Domestic Worker Row

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

 

Kuwait, Philippines Move to Defuse Domestic Worker Row

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 – 09:00
Overseas Filipino Workers from Kuwait gather upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines in February. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Kuwait announced on Monday that it will set up a special commission to address the employment of housemaids in the Gulf state, in what was interpreted as an olive branch extended to the Philippines over the migrant labor row.

Manila announced on Monday that it was prepared to dispatch a delegation to Kuwait to contain the escalating dispute over domestic foreign workers in Kuwait.

The development stood in stark contrast to President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement over the weekend that Manila’s ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait was permanent.

Duterte in February prohibited workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in her employer’s freezer.

The resulting row deepened last week after Kuwaiti authorities ordered Manila’s envoy to leave the country over videos of Philippine embassy staff helping workers in Kuwait flee their employers.

During its weekly meeting, the Kuwaiti government on Monday said it was opposed to any move “aimed at undermining its sovereignty and its laws”, the official KUNA news agency reported.

The government added however that it will set up a special commission chaired by the minister of social affairs and labor to follow up “on cooperation with friendly states” on the employment of housemaids in Kuwait.

“This is largely a misunderstanding and exaggeration of some minor or one-off cases,” Deputy Foreign Minister Nasser al-Subaih told reporters in Kuwait City.

“We have taken a serious stance … but we do not believe in escalation and want to remain in direct communication to resolve the problem,” Subaih added.

Kuwait and the Philippines had been negotiating a labor deal that could have resulted in the lifting of the ban on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.

The Philippines on Tuesday welcomed Kuwait’s olive branch in the migrant labor row.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: “This gesture on the part of Kuwait, a country with which we have a shared history and strong people-to-people ties, will allow us to move forward.”

“We affirm our friendship with the government of Kuwait and its people. The strength of that friendship will withstand this misunderstanding,” he added.

Around 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers, according to the Philippines’ foreign ministry.

Duterte said workers returning from Kuwait could find employment as English teachers in China, citing improved ties with Beijing.

The Philippines has sent millions of its people to work abroad, seeking salaries they cannot get in their relatively impoverished nation.

The money they send back home accounts for about 10 percent of the Philippine economy.

Algeria Court Sentences Israel-Linked Spy to Death  

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

 

Algeria Court Sentences Israel-Linked Spy to Death

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 – 10:00
Algerian troops. (Reuters)
Algiers – Asharq Al-Awsat
A criminal court in Algeria sentenced a man of Lebanese origin to death over charges of collaborating with Israel in order to harm Algerian national interests.

An official statement posted on the Algeria Press Service on Tuesday identified the suspect as A.D.F., adding that he holds the Liberian nationality.

The criminal court of Ghardaia ordered that he be sentenced to death on charges of “espionage for the benefit of a foreign force [Israel] and for forming a criminal group … that aims to infringe on Algeria’s security and threaten it.”

In addition to A.D.F, six other suspects of various African nationalities were charged in relation to the case and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

They were also ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.

Armenia Thrown into More Turmoil as Soldiers Join Protests

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

 

Armenia Thrown into More Turmoil as Soldiers Join Protests

Monday, 23 April, 2018 – 09:00
Law enforcement officers disperse protesters at a rally against the appointment of ex-president Serzh Sarkisian as the new premier in Yerevan, Armenia. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A group of Armenian soldiers joined on Monday anti-government protests that have swept the capital Yerevan and other cities for almost two weeks.

Images of hundreds of men wearing military uniforms marching with protesters had earlier appeared on a live stream of the demonstrations being broadcast on the Internet.

The Defense Ministry condemned the soldiers who took part in the illegal protests, vowing that “harsh legal measures” will be taken against them.

Earlier opposition supporters staged more protests in the capital, a day after protest leader and lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan was detained by authorities.

On the eleventh day of the protests, hundreds of students, some medical students in white coats, marched arm-in-arm through the streets, holding Armenian flags.

Young men in small groups briefly blocked roads and shouted slogans such as “Join us!” and “Victory” and Pashinyan’s name as drivers beeped their horns in support.

The demonstrations, which drew tens of thousands in Yerevan over the weekend, are protesting the rule of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the country’s former president.

The whereabouts of Pashinyan, the leader of the Civil Contract Party, were unclear after he was detained. As a lawmaker, Pashinyan is protected by parliamentary immunity and cannot be arrested without the approval of fellow MPs.

His lawyer Rustam Badasyan wrote on Facebook: “There is no answer to the question where he is.”

The speaker of the country’s parliament, the National Assembly, met Pashinyan and the other detained politicians overnight, however, the parliament’s spokesman told AFP, without giving details.

The speaker Ara Babloyan was quoted as saying that he urged Pashinyan and the others “to take part in real talks.”

Pashinyan and two other opposition politicians “were detained as they were committing socially dangerous acts”, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement on Sunday.

Sarkisian earlier on Sunday stormed out of tense televised talks with Pashinyan, accusing him of “blackmail.”

“I am telling you: you have no understanding of the situation in the country. The situation is different to the one you knew 15-20 days ago,” he told Sarkisian.

“The situation in Armenia has changed, you don’t have the power of which you are told. In Armenia, the power has passed to the people,” he said.

Pashinyan last week announced the “start of a peaceful velvet revolution” in the landlocked country of 2.9 million people.

Nearly 200 people were detained at protest rallies held across Yerevan on Sunday, while on Monday the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said that 26 had been detained on suspicion of “hooliganism” and use of violence against police.

In a statement, the European Union’s foreign policy arm called for more dialogue and a peaceful resolution.

“All those who have been detained while exercising their fundamental right of assembly in accordance with the law must be released immediately,” it said.

“It is of utmost importance that all parties involved show restraint and act responsibly.”

Sarkisian was elected prime minister by lawmakers last week under a new parliamentary system of government that transfers power from the presidency to the premier, while the president becomes largely a ceremonial role.

Sarkisian, a shrewd former military officer, was first elected as president of the impoverished Moscow-allied country in 2008.

After that poll, 10 people died in bloody clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.

He was reelected in 2013, with his second and final term ending April 9.

The protests, though peaceful so far, threaten to destabilize a key Russian ally in a volatile region riven by a long low level conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and would, if successful, be a rare example of people power delivering reform in the former Soviet Union.

Critics accuse Sarkisian of ruling the South Caucasus nation for too long, of being too close to Russia which has military bases inside Armenia, and of doing too little to root out corruption.

Sarkisian says his country needs him and that his party enjoys large-scale popular support.