Israeli questioned, FBI traveled to Tel Aviv, in Trump election probe — report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli questioned, FBI traveled to Tel Aviv, in Trump election probe — report

New York Times says ‘Israeli specialist in social media manipulation,’ emissary for Saudi, and Emirati princes met with Trump Jr. and others 3 months before election

Then-Republican nominee Donald Trump (R) standing with his son  Donald Trump Jr. after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

Then-Republican nominee Donald Trump (R) standing with his son Donald Trump Jr. after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Jewel SAMAD)

Three months before the November 2016 elections, senior members of the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump, including his son Donald Trump Jr., met with a small group of people from the Mideast who offered to help the controversial businessman win the race against Hillary Clinton. The group included “an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation,” an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes, and Erik Prince, a Republican donor and the former head of the private security firm Blackwater whose sister Betsy Devos is now secretary of education, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The August 3, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to the report, “was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.”

According to the report, the Israeli specialist, Joel Zamel, “extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign,” and his firm “had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.”

The company, PSY-Group, according to the NY Times report, “employed several Israeli former intelligence officers” and “specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.” Zamel is also founding director and CEO of geopolitical analysis and business consultancy group Wikistrataccording to Bloomberg.

This 1998 frame from video provided by C-SPAN shows George Nader, president and editor of Middle East Insight. (C-SPAN via AP)

The plan, according to the report which cited three people involved and a fourth briefed on the effort,” involved using thousands of fake social media accounts to promote Mr. Trump’s candidacy on platforms like Facebook.”

Meanwhile, the Gulf emissary was George Nader, a longtime close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi, who conveyed to Trump Jr. “that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.”

Nader allegedly said that the two crown princes “saw the elder Mr. Trump as a strong leader who would fill the power vacuum that they believed Mr. Obama had left in the Middle East, and Mr. Nader went on to say that he and his friends would be glad to support Mr. Trump as much as they could, according to the person with knowledge of the conversation.”

Trump Jr. “responded approvingly,” the New York Times said, citing “a person with knowledge of the meeting,” and following the initial offers for help, Nader “was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser.”

Nader was also reportedly “promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.”

After Trump won the election, Nader paid Zamel “a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million.” and while the NY Times said there were conflicting accounts for the payment, “a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.”

In this June 21, 2017, photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The August 3 meeting is a focus of the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, who was tasked last year with examining possible cooperation and coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the lead-up to the election.

The revelation of the meeting is the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign.

Nader also reportedly visited Moscow twice during the campaign and Zamel’s businesses have ties to Russia, which are “of interest” to the special counsel’s investigation, according to the report.

Zamel was already questioned by investigators for the special counsel, the report said, “and at least two FBI agents working on the inquiry have traveled to Israel to interview employees of the company who worked on the proposal.”

The Israeli police worked with US investigators to seize the computers of one of Mr. Zamel’s companies, which is currently in liquidation, according to the report.

Nader too has been cooperating with the inquiry, the report said, “and investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted, and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia, according to witnesses and others with knowledge of the interviews.”

Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A lawyer for Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, told the NY Times in a statement that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader, and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

A lawyer for Zamel, Marc L. Mukasey, told the NY Times, that “neither Joel Zamel, nor any of his related entities, had any involvement whatsoever in the US election campaign.”

“The DOJ [Department of Justice] clarified from Day 1 that Joel and his companies have never been a target of the investigation. My client provided full cooperation to the government to assist with their investigation,” he said.

“There was a brief meeting, nothing concrete was offered or pitched to anyone and nothing came of it,” he added.

The New York Times reported that though it is still unclear if any direct assistance was forthcoming from Saudi Arabia, or the UAE, “two people familiar with the meetings said that Trump campaign officials did not appear bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners.”

The August 3, 2016 meeting came two months after Trump Jr., Kushner, and others met with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Clinton.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released about 2,500 pages of interview transcripts and other documents tied to the New York meeting on June 9, 2016.

In a closed-door interview last year with the committee, Trump Jr., said he did not give much thought to the idea that the meeting was part of a Russian government effort to help his father in the presidential race.

AP contributed to this report

READ MORE:

Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move

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

 

Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move

Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – 11:00
Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Hamas chief Ismail Hanieh traveled to Cairo on Sunday a day before the United States is expected to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian movement has planned major rallies in Gaza in protest against Washington’s controversial move.

In Egypt, Hanieh and other Hamas members are set to meet with the head of Egypt’s security services, Hamas sources said, amid mounting speculation that Egypt is seeking to negotiate a deal with the movement to ease potential violence on Monday.

Hamas declined to comment on Hanieh’s departure.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel Monday to protest as the US opens its embassy.

Hamas leaders have voiced support in recent days for attempts to break the fence into Israel, despite the possibility of it leading to bloodshed.

Arab media have speculated that Egypt could ease border restrictions with Gaza and offer economic relief in exchange for protesters not trying to breach the fence.

Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured.

The moving of the embassy, a campaign pledge by US President Donald Trump, has infuriated Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the US as a Mideast peace broker.

Trump will not attend the embassy opening Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will.

Hanieh is expected to return to Gaza late Sunday ahead of the protests.

Last week, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, said international and regional mediators have come up with offers “to control” weeks of deadly protests.

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.

Hezbollah set to tighten grip in Lebanon vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hezbollah set to tighten grip in Lebanon vote

Almost no mention is made in election campaign of the Shiite terror group’s ties to Iran, role in the Syrian war or tensions with Israel

In this Friday, April 13, 2018 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hold a banner with his portrait and Arabic words that reads: 'All the loyalty to the man of nobility,' during an election campaign speech, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

In this Friday, April 13, 2018 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hold a banner with his portrait and Arabic words that reads: ‘All the loyalty to the man of nobility,’ during an election campaign speech, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT  — Few countries are as vulnerable to the Middle East’s mayhem as Lebanon, which has taken in a million refugees from the catastrophic war in neighboring Syria, seen the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group embroiled in that war and watched Saudi Arabia try to oust its prime minister.

Yet campaigning for Sunday’s parliamentary election, the first in nine years, has timidly sidestepped the big issues, leaving many Lebanese expecting more of the same. It’s especially galling for Lebanese concerned a still-dominant Hezbollah could drag the country into a looming Iran-Israel regional confrontation.

The vote is expected to be a test for the country’s Western-backed Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, and his Iran-backed Shiite opponent, Hezbollah, which is looking to tighten its grip and expand its presence in the 128-seat parliament — likely at Hariri’s expense.

Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk, a member of Hariri’s inner circle, said the election is not “a Sunni-Shiite conflict but rather a conflict between a group that believes in a state and a nation, and another that has regional and Iranian leanings.”

The sides, however, can hardly govern effectively without each other and are expected to recreate the unity government that currently exists, which incorporates members of the militant group.

In this picture taken on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who is a candidate for the parliamentary elections which will be held on May 6, addresses a speech during an elections campaign, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Most of the campaigning by more than 500 candidates has revolved around platforms of stability and economic growth, with many of Lebanon’s civil war-era political titans set to return, including Lebanon’s aging Shiite parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally who has held the post for more than 25 years and who is virtually uncontested. Some warlords are passing on their seats to their sons, including Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

“Divisive issues such as Hezbollah’s weapons and the controversy over its participation in regional conflicts are almost entirely absent from the electoral campaigns, indicating implicit acceptance of the party’s domestic hegemony,” wrote analyst Joseph Bahout in an article for the Carnegie Middle East Center.

A new election law agreed on last year has opened cracks through which rivals within the Shiite community could potentially challenge Hezbollah, and political newcomers and independents could try to break through the monopoly long enjoyed by the political dynasties.

It also promises to shake things up by reorganizing Lebanon’s electoral map, consolidating 23 districts into 15, and awarding seats by share of the vote received, rather than winner-takes-all. The law also allows Lebanese expatriates to vote abroad for the first time, adding a new level of unpredictability to the mix.

The last time elections were held in Lebanon was in 2009. Since then, members of parliament have extended their terms twice, citing security threats linked to the war in neighboring Syria.

In this Friday, April 13, 2018 file photo, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen during an election campaign in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanon is technically a parliamentary democracy but is shackled by a decades-old sectarian-based power-sharing system, and its politics are dominated by former warlords that have long exploited the system to perpetuate corruption and nepotism. All senior government positions are allocated according to sect, including the head of state, who should be a Christian, the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker, a Shiite. Parliament is divided equally between Christians and Muslims, with seats allotted according to religious sect.

The formula, based on outdated demographic data that does not account for nearly 200,000 Palestinians who are denied citizenship and a vote, allows people to vote according to their religious affiliations, not a political program.

A record number of first-time hopefuls are campaigning for change, urging voters to shun politicians who have drowned the country in corruption and debt. Many rose to prominence as organizers of protests over a 2015 trash collection crisis that left garbage in the streets for months and laid bare the extent of the public sector mismanagement plaguing Lebanon.

“It reflects a new mindset emerging among significant sectors of the Lebanese electorate, pointing in the direction of making a small dent in the religious sect-based political system,” said Randa Slim, an analyst with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

In this Sunday, April 29, 2018 file photo, a luna park wheel decorated by posters that show portraits of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his son the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri who is a candidate for the parliamentary elections which will be held on May 6, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Still, the biggest winner appears to be Hezbollah and its allies, who look set to scoop up at least some of the seats lost by Hariri’s coalition, largely because of the expected fragmentation of the Sunni vote.

Hariri now has the largest block in parliament, but is likely to lose seats to rival politicians. Some of Hariri’s supporters shifted their allegiance after the billionaire businessman, who also holds Saudi citizenship, laid off scores of employees in his development company, Saudi Oger, as well as in Hariri-owned charities and media outlets in Lebanon, largely because of Saudi spending cuts.

That loss of support has been compounded by what some see as a weak stance vis-a-vis Hezbollah, accusing him of catering to and giving political cover to the militant group, which a U.N.-backed tribunal has accused in the 2015 assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah offered its support to Hariri after he was detained in Saudi Arabia late last year during a visit to Riyadh in which he announced his resignation as prime minister, citing Iran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the region. The move was widely seen as Saudi coercion, although Hariri denies stepping down against his will and has since reversed his resignation.

Hezbollah now seeks, along with its allies, to win at least 43 seats in the 128-member legislature, which would enable the militant group to veto any laws it opposes.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad, and has cleared the vast region along the countries’ shared border of Islamic militants, leaving hundreds of its fighters killed and wounded. It is now campaigning heavily on those achievements.

Its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, called for a heavy voter turnout, particularly in the Baalbek-Hermel region in eastern Lebanon, traditionally a Hezbollah stronghold which now faces a challenge from rivals.

“You should protect with your votes your victories and achievements, for which you’ve paid a very high price,” Nasrallah said in an appeal to supporters at an election rally in the area on Monday.

Despite limited pushback from the Shiite community, Hezbollah has largely delivered on its promises in Syria as far as the Shiite community is concerned and will now be expected to deliver on the economic front, Slim said.

She expects a governing coalition between Hariri and Hezbollah to re-emerge from Sunday’s vote and says if the elections produce a weaker Hariri, it will be all the more reason for Hezbollah to push for him to be the next prime minister.

“In light of the talk of a looming Iranian-Israeli confrontation in Syria, Hezbollah will be more incentivized in not rocking the boat in Lebanon,” she said.

READ MORE:

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.

Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem

Israeli officials fear funds to ‘rescue’ Muslim holy sites could touch off Palestinian violence in run up to US embassy move to Israeli capital

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Less than two weeks away from the scheduled transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pumping a quarter of a billion dollars into the Islamic Waqf and a slew of Muslim organizations in East Jerusalem, Hadashot news reported Wednesday.

The Waqf (Muslim Trust) administers the Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, as well as a slew of schools, orphanages, Islamic libraries, Islamic courts and other properties. The mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the ancient temples. Israel maintains overall security control at the site.

The three countries are describing the move as an act of “rescue” to finance renovations at holy sites, but Israeli officials fear their involvement will go beyond money and could spark violence in the run-up to the ribbon-cutting on May 14, the TV report said.

On Sunday, Hadashot News reported that US President Donald Trump was looking increasingly likely to come to the ceremony and was mulling allowing convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard to come too by lifting restrictions that prevent him from travelling to Israel.

Jonathan Pollard (left), and his lawyer Eliot Lauer leave federal court in New York following a hearing, July 22, 2016. (AP/Larry Neumeister, File)

Pollard served nearly 30 years for spying for Israel, and since being paroled in 2015 has been prohibited from leaving US soil, barring him from moving to the Jewish state as he wishes.

Trump’s announcement late last month that “I may go” to the ceremony reportedly surprised Israeli officials who had received no indication from the Americans that he might be attending.

It had been previously reported that Trump had considered but decided against attending the inauguration.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is currently set to lead the 250-member delegation for the event, which will include 40 members of Congress and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. Other media reports have suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could lead the delegation, in lieu of a Trump arrival.

Welcomed by Israel, the Palestinians have seen the embassy move as a provocation, and have said it effectively negates the possibility of the Trump administration serving as an honest broker in peace talks. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have refused to meet with anyone on Trump’s team since he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The opening of the embassy will take place just two days after the deadline for Trump’s decision on whether or not to scrap the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, under then-president Barack Obama.

The agreement curbed Tehran’s controversial nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

Trump has termed the agreement the “worst deal ever” and has called on the other signatories to “fix it.”

He has threatened to tear up the deal unless new restrictions are imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program and other military activities by May 12.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning for the deal to be fixed or nixed.

On Tuesday, he revealed that the Mossad intelligence agency had obtained 100,000 documents from Iran’s own secret nuclear weapons archive proving, he said, that the 2015 deal was based on “Iranian deception.”

READ MORE:

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.

The History Of The United Arab Emirates (UAE) (Antiquity)

(This article is courtesy of Wikipedia’s web-site)

Antiquity[edit]

It appears that the land of the Emirates has been occupied for many thousands of years. Stone tools recovered from Jebel Faya in the emirate of Sharjah reveal a settlement of people from Africa some 127,000 years ago and a stone tool used for butchering animals discovered at Jebel Barakah on the Arabian coast suggests an even older habitation from 130,000 years ago.[22] There is no proof of contact with the outside world at that stage, although in time it developed with civilization in Mesopotamia and Iran. This contact persisted and became wide-ranging, probably motivated by trade in copper from the Hajar Mountains, which commenced around 3000 BCE.[23] In ancient times, Al Hasa (today’s Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) was part of Al Bahreyn and adjoined Greater Oman (today’s UAE and Oman). From the second century AD, there was a movement of tribes from Al Bahreyn towards the lower Gulf, together with a migration among the Azdite Qahtani (or Yamani) and Quda’ah tribal groups from south-west Arabia towards central Oman. Sassanid groups were present on the Batinah coast. In 637, Julfar (in the area of today’s Ra’s al-Khaimah) was an important port that was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of the Sassanian Empire.[24] The area of the Al Ain/Buraimi Oasis was known as Tu’am and was an important trading post for camel routes between the coast and the Arabian interior .[25]

The earliest Christian site in the UAE was first discovered in the 1990s, an extensive monastic complex on what is now known as Sir Bani Yas Island and which dates back to the 7th century. Thought to be Nestorian and built-in 600 AD, the church appears to have been abandoned peacefully in 750 AD.[26] It forms a rare physical link to a legacy of Christianity which is thought to have spread across the peninsula from 50 to 350 AD following trade routes. Certainly, by the 5th century, Oman had a bishop named John – the last bishop of Oman being Etienne, in 676 AD.