Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid react after signing a memorandum of understanding at Britain’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office in London on Monday. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Israel’s Lapid urges world to keep up pressure on Iran

  • Negotiators were to convene in a last-ditch effort to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by the US
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Iran was only attending the talks because they wanted access to money

LONDON: Israel urged world leaders to keep up pressure on Iran and not lift sanctions as part of nuclear negotiations that were set to resume in Vienna on Monday, saying that tighter supervision of Tehran was needed.
Negotiators were to convene in a last-ditch effort to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned three years later by the United States under then-President Donald Trump, who then reimposed sweeping US sanctions on Iran. That led to breaches of the deal by Tehran, and dismayed the other powers involved.
Israel has warned that Iran, its arch-enemy, will try to secure a windfall in sanctions relief at the talks, without sufficiently rolling back nuclear bomb-making potential through its accelerating enrichment of uranium.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking in London alongside his British counterpart Liz Truss, said Iran was only attending the talks because they wanted access to money.
“This is what they have done in the past. And this is what they will do this time as well. The intelligence is clear, it leaves no doubt,” he told reporters after signing a Memorandum of Understanding on trade, technology and defense with Britain.
“A nuclear Iran will thrust the entire Middle East into a nuclear arms race; we will find ourselves in a new Cold War. But this time the bomb will be in the hands of religious fanatics who are engaged in terrorism as a way of life,” Lapid said.
“The world must prevent this and it can prevent this: tighter sanctions, tighter supervision, conduct any talks from a position of strength.”
In Jerusalem earlier on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cautioned world powers to beware of what he described as Iranian “nuclear blackmail.”
Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for civil uses.
Truss said Britain was “absolutely determined” to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.
“As far as I am concerned, these talks are the last opportunity for the Iranians to come to the table and agree the JCPOA...,” she said, referring to the 2015 deal. “We will look at all options if that doesn’t happen.”


Police report two fires in Abu Dhabi, early reports suggest parts found possibly from drones

Updated 24 sec ago

Police report two fires in Abu Dhabi, early reports suggest parts found possibly from drones

  • No significant damages or injuries reported as a result of both fires

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi Police have confirmed on Monday that a fire broke out in Abu Dhabi's Musaffah area near an ADNOC storage unit after an explosion in three petrol tankers, state news agency WAM reported. 

According to reports by the UAE capital’s police force, another minor fire occurred at a construction site at Abu Dhabi International Airport. 

Investigations indicate that fragments, possibly from drones, that fell into both locations may have caused the explosion and fire. 

The Saudi-lead Coalition said earlier that several booby-trapped drones had been launched from Sana’a International Airport in Yemen.

Authorities have launched investigations into both incidents clarifying that there were no significant damages or injuries reported as a result of both fires.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement later said it had carried out an attack on the UAE, Reuters reported.

 


Fears grow over Iran influence in Lebanon after Hezbollah, Amal Cabinet decision

Updated 16 January 2022

Fears grow over Iran influence in Lebanon after Hezbollah, Amal Cabinet decision

  • Ending of 3-month boycott serves an “external agenda,” analysts warn
  • Mikati said he would convene a Cabinet meeting as soon as Finance Ministry had sent through a draft budget

BEIRUT: A decision by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to end a boycott of Lebanon’s Cabinet has led to speculation that Iran is making moves to control Lebanon’s political system.

Lebanese Forces MP Ziad Hawat said: “The order came from Tehran, so the ‘disruption duo’ decided to set the Cabinet meetings free. These are the repercussions of external negotiations.”

He added: “The ‘disruption duo’ pawned the country to the outside will. But the parliamentary elections are coming and the hour of reckoning is upon us.”

The two parties said on Saturday that they would take part in Cabinet meetings after a three-month boycott.

The decision came as a surprise to many, and positively impacted the currency rate on Sunday.

Reacting to the announcement, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that he would convene a Cabinet meeting as soon as the Finance Ministry had sent through a draft budget.

He added that the decision “aligns with his personal repeated calls for everyone to participate in assuming the national responsibility in a way that preserves the national pact, especially during these critical times the country is going through.”

Mikati’s office noted the need “to set a recovery plan to launch the negotiation process with the International Monetary Fund.”

Some political observers said that the two parties are facing a political stalemate and popular pressure accusing them of escalating crises.

Parliamentary elections are around the corner and the two parties “want to absorb people’s resentment before the date of the said elections next May.”

Other observers linked the decision by the two parties to “regional developments regarding the Vienna talks.”

They believe that “the decision to disrupt the Cabinet meetings served an external agenda, specifically an Iranian one, and that perhaps they ended their boycott to demonstrate flexibility in the complicated negotiations.”

The two parties said in their joint statement on Saturday: “We announce our agreement to participate in Cabinet meetings to approve the national budget and discuss the economic rescue plan, and all that concerns improving the living conditions of the Lebanese.”

They claimed that the decision came “following the acceleration of events and the escalation of the internal political and economic crisis to an unprecedented level, with the collapse of the Lebanese pound’s exchange rate, the decline of the public sector and the collapse of citizen income and purchasing power.”

Hezbollah and Amal also mentioned in their mutual statement that their boycott was due to “the unconstitutional steps undertaken by Judge Tarek Bitar in the Beirut Port blast case — the gross legal infringements, flagrant politicization, lack of justice and lack of respect for standardization.”

Instead of Bitar presiding over the case, the two parties have requested that a parliamentary panel should look into the matter.

This requirement, however, has not been executed yet, as the prime minister has refused to “interfere with judicial operations,” with his party firmly backing Bitar.

Phalanges Party MP Samy Gemayel said that Hezbollah and Amal “think they owe us a favor by ending the boycott.”

He added: “They paralyzed the country for a year to form the government they wanted and they boycotted it to prevent justice from prevailing in the ‘crime of the century.’

“The Lebanese people are the ones paying the price. There’s no work, no electricity, no heating, no bread and no medicine,” said Gemayel.

He added: “Accountability for humiliating people will be achieved through the elections.”

In his Sunday sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi commented on the latest development regarding Cabinet sessions.

“In the democratic system, the procedural authority shall operate according to the powers conferred upon it by the constitution, without being subject to any illegal pressure or condition,” he said.

He warned against “resorting to the disruption of parliamentary and presidential elections — scheduled for next October — for suspicious personal objectives.

“The Cabinet disruption, the political escalation, the continued provocation, the use of justice to undermine the opponents and the inversion of priorities reassure neither the Lebanese people nor Lebanon’s brothers and friends.”

Internet services were disrupted in Lebanon on Sunday because of diesel shortages, adding another essential service to the list of casualties of the country’s economic crisis.

The Energy Ministry, however, categorically denied an Israeli Channel 12 report entitled “Washington approves an agreement to supply Lebanon with Israeli gas.”

The ministry said that “the gas supply agreement between the Lebanese government and the Egyptian government clearly states that the gas must come from Egypt, which owns large gas quantities.

“This gas will pass through Jordan, and then into Syria, which will in turn benefit from it.”


Jeers as Iran officials blame Asadabad blasts on thunderstorms

Updated 17 January 2022

Jeers as Iran officials blame Asadabad blasts on thunderstorms

  • The governor of Asadabad had ruled out the possibility of thunderstorms as the source of the blasts
  • Over the past two years, numerous mysterious explosions and fires have occurred at military, nuclear and industrial sites in Iran

JEDDAH/DUBAI: Iranian authorities invited widespread ridicule on Sunday by insisting that large explosions in several areas in the west of the country were caused by thunderstorms.

Majid Mirahmadi, an official at the Interior Ministry, insisted: “After liaising with the relevant security and military agencies, it was determined that the sounds were caused by thunder and lightning and no special incident occurred.

However, the governor of the western town of Asadabad ruled out the possibility of thunderstorms as the source of reported loud blasts heard in several Iranian cities and towns.

One blast in the town of Asadabad caused panic among residents. “The intensity of the sound in some places was such that doors and windows of houses shook and people left their homes,” the Rokna news website said on its Telegram channel.

FASTFACT

Over the past two years, numerous mysterious explosions and fires have occurred at military, nuclear and industrial sites in Iran.

After several similar explosions in recent months, authorities said the Iranian military was holding unannounced air defense drills amid rising tensions with Israel and the US over Iran’s nuclear program.

Over the past two years, numerous mysterious explosions and fires have occurred at military, nuclear and industrial sites in Iran.

Two explosions at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility were clearly the result of sabotage.

Other explosions have taken place at missile sites, petrochemical plants, power stations and medical clinics. Previous explanations by the Tehran regime have included faulty safety procedures, human error, and, in one case, an earthquake.

Nevertheless, many analysts believe Iran is the target of a campaign of sabotage attacks by Israel as part of a “shadow war” between the two countries linked to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Most recently, in late 2021, there was a major explosion on an Iranian vessel docked at Latakia port in Syria, a fire broke out at an Iranian petrochemical factory on Khark Island in the Gulf, three people were injured in a fire at an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps research center west of Tehran, and a cyberattack crippled gas stations across Iran.

Israel has long threatened military action against Iran if indirect talks with Washington and Tehran fail to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact that then-US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

(With Reuters)

 

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Sudan doctors protest state violence in post-coup rallies

Updated 16 January 2022

Sudan doctors protest state violence in post-coup rallies

  • “During every protest they fire tear gas inside the hospital where I work,” one doctor, Houda Ahmad, said
  • “They even attack us inside the intensive care unit,” she added at the rally

KHARTOUM: Sudanese doctors protested Sunday against violent attacks by security forces targeting medical personnel during pro-democracy rallies following last year’s military coup.
“During every protest they fire tear gas inside the hospital where I work,” one doctor, Houda Ahmad, said at the rally in Khartoum.
“They even attack us inside the intensive care unit,” she added at the rally, where medical personnel carried pictures of colleagues they said had been killed.
The demonstration was the latest in the crisis-hit north-east African country, where protesters in the north also blockaded roads to vent their anger against an electricity price hike announced last week, and that has since been frozen.
Sudan’s October 25 coup led by military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule, that had started with the 2019 ouster of strongman Omar Al-Bashir following youth-led mass protests.
The military power grab has sparked an international outcry and triggered a new wave of street demonstrations, with another rally expected on Monday.
During the turmoil of recent months, prime minister Abdulla Hamdok was detained and later reinstated but then quit, warning that Sudan was at a dangerous crossroads threatening its very “survival.”
Deadly crackdowns have claimed the lives of 64 protesters, according to pro-democracy medics. A police general has also been killed in the street violence that has rocked Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries.
The UN World Health Organization said last week there had been 11 confirmed attacks on Sudanese health facilities since November.
The WHO said it was “also aware of the interception of ambulances, medical personnel and patients during their attempts to seek safety.”
It called for the attacks to “stop now,” pointing out that they threaten health care services needed more than ever during the Covid pandemic.
Covid-19 is a “grave threat” for Sudan, where 94 percent of the population has not been vaccinated, said the WHO.
Sudan has confirmed 93,973 coronavirus infections and about 4,000 deaths. In September, it said 64 percent of about 1,000 health workers tested had been found to be Covid-positive.
Sudan’s 45 million people have also been dealing with a severe economic crisis and inflation approaching 400 percent.
On Sunday, hundreds blocked key roads in the Northern Province, 350 kilometers (229 miles) from the capital, angered by recent news electricity prices would double — a move that was then frozen, but not officially abolished.
“No vehicle will pass until the authorities have canceled this increase, because it signs the death certificate of our agriculture,” protester Hassan Idriss told AFP by phone.
The protests that led to the 2019 ouster of Bashir had started after the government decided to triple the price of bread.
During the recent protests, Sudan has also often shut down the Internet and moved to limit reporting on the unrest.
In the latest move it revoked the license of Al Jazeera Mubasher, the live TV unit of the Qatar-based network, accusing it of “unprofessional” coverage of protests, the channel said.
The United Nations is now seeking to organize talks involving political, military and social actors to resolve the crisis.
UN special representative Volker Perthes announced the bid last week saying it was “time to end the violence and enter into a comprehensive consultative process.”
The mainstream faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the leading civilian pro-democracy group, said Sunday it would accept the offer of dialogue if it were to revive the transition to civilian rule.
Sudan’s military in April 2019 put an end Bashir’s three-decade rule, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of the autocrat and many regime officials.
Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
An imprisoned former foreign minister under Bashir, Ibrahim Ghandour, has begun a hunger strike along with several ex-regime officials, his family said Sunday.
They will only end it “once they have been freed or brought before an impartial tribunal,” his family said in a statement.
The public prosecutor’s office had recently ordered the release of several ex-officials, but Burhan instead ordered they stay in detention.
Ghandour’s family decried the “interference in judicial affairs.”
The protester movement however accuses Burhan, who was Bashir’s ground forces commander, of helping old regime figures come back to power.


Houthis reject UN call to release hijacked UAE-flagged ship

Updated 16 January 2022

Houthis reject UN call to release hijacked UAE-flagged ship

  • Houthis seized the vessel carrying medical supplies from Yemeni island of Socotra to Jazan
  • Arab coalition announces killing over 300 Houthis, destroying 37 militia vehicles in 60 airstrikes

AL-MUKALLA: The Houthis on Saturday criticized the UN Security Council for demanding they release a hijacked UAE-flagged ship.

Militia official Hussein Al-Azzi Houthi rejected the UN’s calls to free the ship and repeated claims it had been carrying weapons for the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen.

“The ship was also not loaded with dates or children's toys, but was loaded with weapons,” he tweeted, accusing the UN of “misleading public opinion.”

The Houthis seized the vessel, which was carrying medical supplies from the remote Yemeni island of Socotra to the Saudi port of Jazan, on Jan. 3. 

Their defiance came as government troops, backed by coalition air support, on Friday and Saturday took control of new mountainous locations south and west of the city of Marib.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry and local media reports said there were intensified attacks on pockets of Houthis fighting in Hareb district, south of Marib.

Troops also pushed almost 10 km into Houthi-controlled territory in Juba district, mainly in the Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range.

The Houthis have suffered massive setbacks since the start of this year, when troops took control of three districts in the oil-rich province of Shabwa and later advanced into Hareb district.

The coalition on Saturday urged Yemenis not to drive through main roads linking Marib and Al-Bayda with Hareb, Bayhan and Ouselan districts, declaring them “areas of operations” amid fighting on the ground and coalition airstrikes.

The coalition also announced killing at least 345 Houthis and destroying 37 militia vehicles in 60 airstrikes over the past 24 hours in the provinces of Al-Bayda and Marib.

Yemeni Landmine Records, which documents victims of mines or unexploded ordnances, said Friday that Houthi landmines had killed 38 government fighters and civilians since earlier this month in Shabwa and Marib provinces.

Landmine specialist Musa Abdullah Al-Harethi was killed on Saturday while defusing a device planted by the Houthis in Ouselan district. Two children were killed in a blast caused by a landmine in Al-Khoka, south of Hodeidah province, the organization said.