Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talks about the upcoming convening of the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum, and points out that "the Russian military operation in Ukraine continues"

    Sunday, July 24, 2022   No comments

Today, Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian military operation in Ukraine is "continuing", noting that the door to negotiations is also "open to the Ukrainian side."


"The Russian operation in Ukraine will continue and we have not closed the door to negotiations," Lavrov said, during a speech before the League of Arab States, during his visit to Cairo, adding that the Russian side "presented draft proposals regarding negotiations to the Ukrainian government, but did not receive a response."


Lavrov stressed that "the Ukrainian regime is carrying out operations to bomb hospitals and civilian infrastructure," stressing that Russian forces "secure corridors across the Black Sea for the passage of grain ships, but Ukraine fails to do so due to the spread of mines."


On relations with the League of Arab States, the Russian Foreign Minister indicated that there is a proposal being discussed with the League of Arab States aimed at "identifying additional plans to strengthen joint relations."

He continued, "We agreed with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Aboul Gheit, to define additional plans to strengthen relations between the two sides in various fields," adding that "we plan to hold the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum soon, in its sixth session, after it was held 5 times."


Lavrov: The Arab position on the crisis in Ukraine is balanced and the West ignores our concerns

 

Lavrov praised the moderate position of the Arab countries towards the course of the Ukrainian crisis, stressing that Russia is open to dialogue with the Arab world and with all countries of the world.


The Russian Foreign Minister stressed that Russian-Arab relations are based on friendship and cordiality.


Lavrov also explained the reasons that prompted Moscow to start the military operation in Ukraine, explaining: "We had legitimate concerns about our security, and our concerns about NATO expansion and Ukraine's acquisition of a lot of Western weapons were ignored."


He continued: "The Minsk Agreement was violated, Kyiv bombed areas rejecting it with artillery, while the European Union completely failed to fulfill its commitments."


Lavrov pointed out that the Kyiv regime deliberately banned the Russian language in eastern Ukraine, spread racism, anti-Russianism and support for Nazism, recalling that "the West obstructed the negotiation process", stressing at the same time that Russia does not close the door to negotiations with Ukraine.


He pointed out that the Europeans considered that NATO had the right to dominate and do as it pleased, stressing that Moscow "rejects this policy, as the NATO countries cannot maintain their security by threatening the security of another country."


Regarding the grain transport crisis, the Russian minister commented, "The Russian forces have secured passages across the Black Sea for the passage of grain ships, but Ukraine has failed in this because of its deployment of mines in the waters of the ports on the Black Sea."

   

Lavrov: Moscow Not Asking to Lift Sanctions, But West Must Resolve Self-Created Food Supply Issues

 

Earlier today, Lavrov said that "Egypt and Russia have basic agreements on a number of regional and global issues," adding: "We discussed the situation in Libya and the need to support the UN mission."


The Russian Foreign Minister called on Ukraine to remove the mines it planted in the ports, and said that "the West seeks to export Ukraine's wheat and ignores Russia's."


For his part, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stressed the importance of reaching a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis, noting that the crisis "affected Egypt" with regard to food security.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Egypt accuses Qatar of providing sanctuary to individuals who financed the bomb attack on church in Cairo

    Friday, December 16, 2016   No comments
ISR comments: For the second time in days, Egyptian authorities accuse Qatar of a role in training groups threatening the security of the country. This time, the interior ministry explicitly stated that Qatar is providing sanctuary to individuals who are training and financing the terrorists who bombed the church in Cairo. Other Gulf Stated reacted by rejecting the charges against Qatar claiming that all Gulf States stand against terrorism.

____
Egypt's interior ministry Monday accused fugitive Muslim Brotherhood leaders who have fled to Qatar of training and financing the perpetrators of the bomb attack on a Cairo church that killed 25 people.

The ministry said investigations revealed the group was led by a suspect who received financial and logistical support and instructions to carry out the attacks by Brotherhood leaders residing in Qatar.

The Muslim Brotherhood have denied any involvement with the explosion at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church on Sunday.

The incident was the deadliest attack in recent memory on the Christian minority, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population.

The Interior Ministry said late Monday that Mustafa belonged to a terrorist cell founded by an Egyptian doctor and funded by Muslim Brotherhood leaders living in exile in Qatar, long accused by Egypt of supporting militants groups. It said the cell was tasked with staging attacks that would lead to sectarian Muslim-Christian strife. source

Monday, December 07, 2015

London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, says allies should join Assad and Russia against Isis

    Monday, December 07, 2015   No comments
London’s mayor says doubts about there being 70,000 ‘moderate’ fighters means allies cannot be picky if they want to defeat jihadis

Britain and its allies should accept that Bashar al-Assad’s forces are best placed to lead a ground assault against Islamic State in Syria because David Cameron’s claims about 70,000 moderate opposition forces are “exaggerated,” Boris Johnson has said.

On Wednesday MPs will vote on whether to extend the UK’s air campaign against Isis to Syria. Here are the issues that should inform their decision
Read more

In remarks that may be seized on by Labour opponents of the airstrikes in Syria, Johnson says that “Assad and his army” may be the allies’ best chance of removing Isis because the 70,000 figure includes groups that are ideologically little different from al-Qaida.


The prime minister faced intense pressure in the House of Commons last week after claiming that 70,000 “moderate” fighters in Syria are prepared to join the UK and its allies in attacking Islamic State. Jeremy Corbyn questioned the figure as he spoke of a lack of “credible ground forces”.

Johnson waded into the row by saying that Britain and its allies, which cannot overthrow Isis without ground forces, cannot be picky about their allies in light of doubts over the 70,000 figure.

London’s mayor wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “We have the estimated 70,000 of the Free Syrian Army (and many other groups and grouplets); but those numbers may be exaggerated, and they may include some jihadists who are not ideologically very different from al-Qaida. Who else is there? The answer is obvious. There is Assad, and his army; and the recent signs are that they are making some progress.”
source

Saturday, November 28, 2015

UK could be prosecuted for war crimes over missiles sold to Saudi Arabia that were used to kill civilians in Yemen

    Saturday, November 28, 2015   No comments
Advisers to the Foreign Secretary step up legal warnings that the missile sales may breach international humanitarian law


Britain is at risk of being prosecuted for war crimes because of growing evidence that missiles sold to Saudi Arabia have been used against civilian targets in Yemen’s brutal civil war, Foreign Office lawyers and diplomats have warned.

Advisers to Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, have stepped up legal warnings that the sale of specialist missiles to the Saudis, deployed throughout nine months of almost daily bombing raids in west Yemen against Houthi rebels, may breach international humanitarian law.

Since March this year, bombing raids and a blockade of ports imposed by the Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Gulf states have crippled much of Yemen. Although the political aim is to dislodge Houthi Shia rebels and restore the exiled President, Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed, with schools, hospitals and non-military infrastructure hit. Fuel and food shortages, according to the United Nations, have brought near famine to many parts of the country.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOs, claim there is no doubt that weapons supplied by the UK and the United States have hit Yemeni civilian targets. One senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) legal adviser told The Independent: “The Foreign Secretary has acknowledged that some weapons supplied by the UK have been used by the Saudis in Yemen. Are our reassurances correct – that such sales are within international arms treaty rules? The answer is, sadly, not at all clear.”


Monday, October 26, 2015

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that the invasion of Iraq helped the rise of ISIS

    Monday, October 26, 2015   No comments
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If48iG-CPjk
Speaking to CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired on Sunday, Blair said, "Of course you can't say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation [in Iraq] in 2015."

"There are elements of truth" in the fact that the invasion is responsible for the rise in ISIS, he said.

Asked whether the invasion was wrong, Blair failed to give a direct apology, saying that he could "apologize for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly our mistakes in our understanding of what would happen when you remove the regime. But I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there."

"I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because, even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought," he said.


Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded by tweeting that Blair's comments were part of a "spin operation" ahead of the release of the long-awaited Chilcot Inquiry, which looks at the UK's role in the Iraq war. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed

    Monday, July 13, 2015   No comments

"The road to imperial glory is always paved by the blood, sweat, and skulls of the vulnerable and oppressed"

The past has a disconcerting habit of bursting, uninvited and unwelcome, into the present. This year history gate-crashed modern America in the form of a 150-year-old document: a few sheets of paper that compelled Hollywood actor Ben Affleck to issue a public apology and forced the highly regarded US public service broadcaster PBS to launch an internal investigation.

The document, which emerged during the production of Finding Your Roots, a celebrity genealogy show, is neither unique nor unusual. It is one of thousands that record the primal wound of the American republic – slavery. It lists the names of 24 slaves, men and women, who in 1858 were owned by Benjamin L Cole, Affleck’s great-great-great-grandfather. When this uncomfortable fact came to light, Affleck asked the show’s producers to conceal his family’s links to slavery. Internal emails discussing the programme were later published by WikiLeaks, forcing Affleck to admit in a Facebook post: “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed.”


It was precisely because slaves were reduced to property that they appear so regularly in historic documents, both in the US and in Britain. As property, slaves were listed in plantation accounts and itemised in inventories. They were recorded for tax reasons and detailed alongside other transferable goods on the pages of thousands of wills. Few historical documents cut to the reality of slavery more than lists of names written alongside monetary values. It is now almost two decades since I had my first encounter with British plantation records, and I still feel a surge of emotion when I come across entries for slave children who, at only a few months old, have been ascribed a value in sterling; the sale of children and the separation of families was among the most bitterly resented aspects of an inhuman system.

Slavery resurfaces in America regularly. The disadvantage and discrimination that disfigures the lives and limits the life chances of so many African-Americans is the bitter legacy of the slave system and the racism that underwrote and outlasted it. Britain, by contrast, has been far more successful at covering up its slave-owning and slave-trading past. Whereas the cotton plantations of the American south were established on the soil of the continental United States, British slavery took place 3,000 miles away in the Caribbean.

That geographic distance made it possible for slavery to be largely airbrushed out of British history, following the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. Many of us today have a more vivid image of American slavery than we have of life as it was for British-owned slaves on the plantations of the Caribbean. The word slavery is more likely to conjure up images of Alabama cotton fields and whitewashed plantation houses, of Roots, Gone With The Wind and 12 Years A Slave, than images of Jamaica or Barbados in the 18th century. This is not an accident.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hadi: A hollow president whose masters in Riyadh are killing us

    Sunday, April 12, 2015   No comments
by Hossain al-Bokheiti

My country, Yemen, is under attack by an autocratic monarchy whose campaign of airstrikes is fuelled by a desire for regional domination. The nine Arab states currently bombing Yemen with the aim of restoring Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi as president are headed by Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich kingdom that lashes activists for tweeting and imprisons women for driving.

The airstrikes they launched last month are crippling Yemen. Airports, bridges, wheat silos, power plants, gas stations, food trucks, schools, a football field, and a camp for the displaced have all been hit. Hundreds of people have been killed, including women and children. And an air and naval blockade has brought the economy to its knees.

Reading the op-ed published in the New York Times on Monday by Hadi, it is hard to tell if he is talking about the same country. Perhaps this is because he abandoned Yemen last month and fled to Saudi Arabia. His masters in Riyadh command Yemen’s skies but have no grasp of what is happening on the ground. The column speaks to his desperate lack of leadership: with Yemen facing its most grave crisis in decades Hadi did not address his own people, he wrote to America.

Accusing the Houthis of being “backed by Iran” and of “committing acts of aggression”, Hadi made several references to the people of Yemen. But who are the Yemeni people Hadi is talking about? If they are behind him, as he says, would he be fleeing from one place to another like a criminal?

And where is this Iran Hadi speaks of? Here in Yemen we only see American drones and now foreign war planes destroying our country. Has Iran ever attacked Yemen? Sent troops? Bombed Yemeni factories? Ask a Yemeni what Hadi achieved during his two years in office and the answer will invariably be the same: nothing. Instead of building institutions, Hadi allowed the government to rot, the old regime to resurface, and his allies to loot what remained of the country’s resources.

A hollow president, Hadi has called on foreign powers to do his fighting for him, destroying Yemen’s infrastructure and army in the process. In 1994, when civil war broke out between north and south Yemen, Hadi betrayed his fellow southerners and fought alongside former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the north. On 25 March 2015 when he fled to Riyadh, Hadi betrayed the entire country.

In contrast to Hadi, the Houthis, a politically ambitious movement from north Yemen, have decided to fulfil the goals of the 2011 revolution and deliver on their promises: removing and bringing corrupt criminals to justice, stopping US drone strikes and forming a new government. At the same time they have continued fighting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a violent group that flourished under the rule of Saleh.

As a movement led by Abdulmalik al-Houthi, a man in his early thirties, the Houthis have gained popular support among young people. In al-Houthi’s calls for a new Yemen, people see a way to turn the failed 2011 revolution into a successful example for change.

Looking at the failed "Arab spring" in Syria and Libya, the Houthis succeeded in providing public services and security in areas they controlled. Most Yemeni cities, including the capital Sanaa, have barely any electricity. People have to buy water privately and use generators to provide their business and home with electricity. In Houthi-controlled areas, electricity is provided by generators which are funded and built by the people. According to the Ministry of Interior, the Houthis’ stronghold of Sadaa has the lowest crime rates and some of the highest tax revenues in Yemen.

With wars raging in Libya, Iraq and Syria and terrorist groups declaring their own states, Yemen has been a different story with AQAP losing control of the towns of al-Jowf, Arhab, Ibb, Radaa as well as Bayda city.

Many people in Yemen believe the US is at least partly to blame for the failure of the Arab spring. Especially in Syria and Libya, America’s allies - Qatar and Saudi Arabia - have funded terrorist groups with the aim of destroying armies and infrastructure and crushing hope for change. The Houthis are here to turn this counter-revolution around so that the demands of 2011 can finally be realised.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gulf States side with Qatar in its dispute with Egypt; Is the new Saudi King charting a new path?

    Thursday, February 19, 2015   No comments
Qatar recalls ambassador from Egypt in dispute over Libya strikes

Qatar has recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the state news agency QNA said late on Wednesday, in a dispute over Egyptian air strikes on Islamic State targets in Libya.

The diplomatic row came just two months after a thaw began in relations between the two.

Egyptian jets bombed sites in Libya on Monday hours after Islamic State militants there released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing Cairo directly into the conflict across its border.


Qatar expressed reservations over the attack at a subsequent meeting of the Arab League, angering Cairo.

Saad bin Ali al-Muhannadi, a Qatari foreign ministry official, cited misgivings on "unilateral military action in another member (state) in a way that could harm innocent civilians".

Despite Qatar's concerns, the Arab League put out a statement on Wednesday expressing its "complete understanding" over Egypt's air strikes and threw its weight behind Cairo's call for a lifting of the arms embargo on the Libyan army.

read more >>

Saturday, September 13, 2014

David Cameron needs a new approach in Syria if he wants to destroy ISIL

    Saturday, September 13, 2014   No comments
 RC: A year ago, Mr.
David Cameron was prepared to bomb Syria to enable the armed oppositions to overthrow Assad. Lawmakers refused to give him that authority. They were right and he was wrong. Had he bombed the Syrian army and weakened it further, the self-proclaimed caliph, al-Baghdadi would be seating in Damascus, the seat of the Umayyad caliphate, and ordering the beheading of more people. Today, the so-called "Friends of Syria" are paying the price of supporting murderers and genocidal groups who committed war crimes for three years. Yet, these governments are yet to acknowledge their shortsighted policies of siding with the devil to overthrow one authoritarian leader, in a region full of them. It is time that they do this right this time around.
____________
David Cameron to seek UN approval for air strikes against Isil as another aid volunteer is threatened with death
 ...  
The Prime Minister described Isil as an “evil” and “callous” organisation and added: “They are not Muslims, they are monsters. They are killing and slaughtering thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, minorities – across Iraq and Syria,” he said. “They boast of their brutality; they claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace.”


A growing number of Tory MPs who opposed military intervention in Syria last year said they are now backing military strikes.

Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said that military action must be taken against Isil “before it’s too late”. He said: “I think there’s a clear imperative we deal with Isil, deal with the threat, ensure the stability of the region itself. There is a clear need for us to act internationally against this group before it’s too late.”

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, who voted against air strikes in Syria last year, said she now supported military intervention and wanted Parliament recalled.

She said: “We should now as a matter of principle join the US in targeted air strikes.”

Boris Johnson, writing in The Telegraph, says: “We would be mad not to use our defence capability, where we can, to make the world a better place.”


read more >>

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Libya in Chaos: Vijay Prashad on Rise of Islamist Militias & Bloody Legacy of 2011 U.S. Intervention

    Wednesday, September 03, 2014   No comments


Islamist militants in Libya say they have solidified control of the capital Tripoli after taking over the main airport and ousting rival militias. Libya is facing its worst violence since the U.S.-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. To talk more about Libya, we are joined by Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College. He is the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Islamist militants in Libya say they’ve solidified control of the capital Tripoli after taking over the main airport and ousting rival militias. Libya is facing its worst violence since the U.S.-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

To talk more about Libya, we’re joined by Vijay Prashad in part two of our interview. Professor of international studies at Trinity College, he’s the author of a number of books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and his most recent, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Vijay. Talk about what’s happening in Libya today.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

James Foley 'beheading': West condemns 'barbaric' murder

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014   No comments
UK, France and other Western governments implicitly and explicitly supported jihadists in Syria, or looked the other way as Gulf rulers supported Nusra and ISIL to expedite the overthrow of Assad. They also looked the other way when their own citizens traveled to Syria to join ISIL. Nusra, and other violent groups. Listening to a likely British citizen carrying out this horrible crime highlights the gravity of that policy. We can now see the fruits of that short-sided, foolish policy. However, it is journalists, civilians, women, and minorities who are paying the heavy price. It is clear now that the West cannot fight ISIL in Iraq and support it or ignore it in Syria. It is about time that they develop a comprehensive strategy to overcome this global threat.


James Foley 'beheading': West condemns 'barbaric' murder

The US, UK and France have expressed abhorrence at the apparent beheading of American journalist James Foley by an Islamic State (IS) militant.

The jihadist group released a video of Foley, missing in Syria since 2012, saying his killing was revenge for US air strikes on its fighters in Iraq.

France said, if confirmed, it was barbaric; the UK said it was depraved.

Foley's mother Diane said he "gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people."

President Barack Obama is due to give a statement later. But White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist."

Foley, 40, has reported extensively across the Middle East, working for US publication GlobalPost and other media outlets including French news agency AFP.

In a statement, GlobalPost asked for "prayers for Jim and his family", adding that it was waiting for the video to be verified.
British accent

In the video, titled A Message to America, a man identified as James Foley is dressed in an orange jumpsuit, kneeling in desert-like terrain beside an armed man dressed in black.

He gives a message to his family and links his imminent death to the US government's bombing campaign of IS targets in Iraq.

Clearly under duress, he says: "I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality."

Then the masked militant, who speaks with a British accent, delivers a warning to the US government: "You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide.
Jump media player
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The apparent murderer speaks with a British accent, as the BBC's Frank Gardner reports. Some listeners may find parts of this audio disturbing.

"So any attempt by you Obama to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people."

read more >>

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Chancellor has criticised Lady Warsi's decision to resign over Britain's "morally indefensible" policy on the conflict in Gaza

    Tuesday, August 05, 2014   No comments
The Chancellor has criticised Lady Warsi's decision to resign over Britain's "morally indefensible" policy on the conflict in Gaza

 George Osborne has condemned Baroness Warsi’s “disappointing and frankly unnecessary” decision to resign over the situation in Gaza.

Lady Warsi, Britain's first female Muslim Cabinet minister, announced her resignation on Twitter on Tuesday morning, calling Britain’s policy on Gaza “morally indefensible”.

In her resignation letter, she was also highly critical of David Cameron’s recent reshuffle, making reference to the sackings of Ken Clarke, the former minister without portfolio, and Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general.
read more >>

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Saudis, UAE, Bahrain withdraw envoys from Qatar in security dispute: the move will further undermine the coherence of the support that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing rebels groups in Syria

    Thursday, March 06, 2014   No comments
A long-simmering row between Qatar and other Gulf states over its links with the Muslim Brotherhood and the role of its television station, Al-Jazeera, has exploded into the open with an angry shouting match and the withdrawal of ambassadors.
A joint statement by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said they were withdrawing ambassadors from the Qatari capital Doha because it had failed to stick to an agreement by the six Gulf states not to interfere in each others’ affairs.
The statement was released after a meeting in Riyadh of foreign ministers of the six Gulf countries - the other two are Kuwait and Oman - broke up in acrimony on Tuesday night, according to reports in the local media.

...
Qatar has said it “regretted” the decision but would not retaliate. It said it was committed to GCC agreements but admitted to "differences” over unspecified “issues".
David Roberts, author of a recent book on Qatari foreign policy, said that the other Gulf states had previously entertained unrealistic expectations that Qatar’s approach might change when the new ruler, Emir Tamim, came to power last year after the abdication of his father.
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in such a security-focused state of mind at the moment that it is the only lens they can see things through," he said. “Qatar’s approach is thus seen as deeply, deeply unhelpful.”
The rift is unlikely to have knock-on effects immediately, despite the importance of the region’s oil and gas supplies.
But it will further undermine the coherence of the support that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing rebels groups in Syria.
Each has supported different rebel militias, and the lack of co-ordination and in-fighting on the ground has frustrated the rebels' western backers.
The US and UK had hoped that the two Gulf powers would more closely align their strategy after Emir Tamim took over, but those hopes look set to be dashed.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar

    Wednesday, March 05, 2014   No comments
GCC states
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar on Wednesday in an unprecedented public split between Gulf Arab allies who have fallen out over the role of Islamists in a region in turmoil.

Qatar's cabinet voiced "regret and surprise" at the decision by the fellow-members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, but said Doha would not pull out its own envoys and that it remained committed to GCC security and stability.

The Saudi-led trio said they had acted because Qatar failed to honor a GCC agreement signed on November 23 not to back "anyone threatening the security and stability of the GCC whether as groups or individuals - via direct security work or through political influence, and not to support hostile media".

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are fuming especially over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule.

They also resent the way Doha has sheltered influential Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi and given him regular airtime on its pan-Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera.

The GCC, which normally keeps its disputes under wraps, is a pro-Western alliance of monarchies set up in the 1980s to counter Iranian influence in the Gulf, and includes several of the world's biggest producers and exporters of oil and gas.

Kuwait and Oman did not join the diplomatic rebuke to Qatar. Kuwait's parliament speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim said he was concerned by its implications. Oman has not commented.

read more >>

Monday, March 03, 2014

President Barack Obama talks about Iran, the Middle East, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and U.S. foreign policy in general

    Monday, March 03, 2014   No comments
President Obama sitting down for an extensive interview
Obama to Israel -- Time Is Running Out

By Jeffrey Goldberg

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future -- one of international isolation and demographic disaster -- if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.

In an hour long interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach." He added, "It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week -- the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I've ever heard him. His language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

...

I returned to this particularly sensitive subject. “Just to be clear,” I asked, “You don’t believe the Iranian leadership now thinks that your ‘all options are on the table’ threat as it relates to their nuclear program -- you don’t think that they have stopped taking that seriously?”

Obama answered: “I know they take it seriously.”

How do you know? I asked. “We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” he replied. “And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”

I asked the president if, in retrospect, he should have provided more help to Syria’s rebels earlier in their struggle. “I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there,” Obama said. “When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict -- the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

He portrayed his reluctance to involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war as a direct consequence of what he sees as America’s overly militarized engagement in the Muslim world: “There was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”

...
 We also spent a good deal of time talking about the unease the U.S.'s Sunni Arab allies feel about his approach to Iran, their traditional adversary. I asked the president, “What is more dangerous: Sunni extremism or Shia extremism?”

I found his answer revelatory. He did not address the issue of Sunni extremism. Instead he argued in essence that the Shiite Iranian regime is susceptible to logic, appeals to self-interest and incentives.

“I’m not big on extremism generally,” Obama said. “I don’t think you’ll get me to choose on those two issues. What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”

This view puts him at odds with Netanyahu's understanding of Iran. In an interview after he won the premiership, the Israeli leader described the Iranian leadership to me as “a messianic apocalyptic cult.”

I asked Obama if he understood why his policies make the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries nervous: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard,” he said. "I think change is always scary."

Below is a complete transcript of our conversation. I’ve condensed my questions. The president’s answers are reproduced in full.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Egypt: protesters killed on anniversary of anti-Mubarak revolt; at least 54 reported dead in clashes across the country as thousands also rally in support of army-led authorities

    Sunday, January 26, 2014   No comments
At least 54 people have been reported dead in clashes with anti-government protesters in Egypt on the third anniversary of the uprising that culminated in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as president.

Thousands of Egyptians also rallied in support of the army-led authorities, underlining the country's deep political divisions.

The majority of the deaths were in Cairo, according to the health ministry. Security forces lobbed teargas and fired in the air to try to prevent anti-government demonstrators from reaching Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising, where government supporters called for the head of the military, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to run for the presidency.

Armoured personnel carriers were deployed to try to keep order and anyone entering Tahrir had to pass through a metal detector.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Sinai Peninsula is both a vacation paradise and a haven for jihadists and gangs of thugs. The military and the police are trying to regain control over the region. But a new class of haughty warlords and a resentful public mean the state's chances are remote

    Sunday, October 20, 2013   No comments

On the day of his departure, warehouse manager Hussein Gilbana packed his five best shirts and pairs of pants into a black suitcase, together with books and photos. He embraced his wife and kissed his five-year-old son, Omar, and his little boy, Assar.

He told the children that he would return soon, and that he would come to get them and take them to a new home as soon as possible. Then he got into his old Fiat and drove away. He was leaving his home in al-Arish, on the Sinai Peninsula, which he had grown to hate.

Gilbana and his wife had recently taken to calling their city "signa," or "prison." Al-Arish, a city on the northern coast of Sinai, had been sealed off militarily.

Gilbana and his wife had looked on as outsiders invaded al-Arish: petty criminals, Islamists and former felons. They had seen how these people tried to take over the city, and how the Egyptian government had responded with brute violence. They had become familiar with two types of murderers, says Gilbana, "murderers with long beards and murderers in polished military boots."

Gilbana, 32, is a slim and energetic man. He's a Sinai native, and a member of a Bedouin tribe called the Aulad-Suleiman. Life in al-Arish wasn't bad. He worked as a warehouse manager in a cement factory and made a good living. But then his city turned into a war zone, says Gilbana.

The entire country has descended into violence since the military coup in July, but nowhere in Egypt is the fight being waged as bitterly and violently as on the Sinai Peninsula, which is roughly the size of the Republic of Ireland.

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Israel: A powerful Middle Eastern axis of Sunni states has taken form in the region, which “does not view Israel as a sworn enemy”

    Monday, September 09, 2013   No comments
Speaking before the Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s international summit in Herzliya, Amos Gilad, who is director of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau at the Defense Ministry, said that Israel “won’t ever be accepted as a formal member” of the Sunni axis, but that the states that make it up all view the US as the sole superpower and that their regional policies are indirectly beneficial for Israel.

...
Had the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in its plot for regional domination, a ring of hostility would have been formed around Israel, Gilad noted. From the perspective of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, there are two threats to his country: Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
This was reflected in the billions of dollars donated to Egypt by Saudi Arabia and the UAE after Sisi took power, Gilad argued.

“Sisi didn’t act against them [the Muslim Brotherhood] on behalf of the West or Israel, but only for the good of Egypt. He simply saw that Egypt was falling into the abyss, in terms of repression and the economy...

He wishes to save Egypt,” Gilad said.

Jordan, for its part, excels at counter- terrorism due its own interest in combatting radical Islamist interests.

As a result, there are no terrorist attacks in Jordan or attacks from Jordan on Israel, Gilad said. “Their existence as an independent kingdom is impressive,” he added.


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John Kerry gives Syria a week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack

    Monday, September 09, 2013   No comments
The US secretary of state has said that President Bashar al-Assad has one week to hand over his entire stock of chemical weapons to avoid a military attack. But John Kerry added that he had no expectation that the Syrian leader would comply.

Kerry also said he had no doubt that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in east Damascus on 21 August, saying that only three people are responsible for the chemical weapons inside Syria – Assad, one of his brothers and a senior general. He said the entire US intelligence community was united in believing Assad was responsible.

Kerry was speaking on Monday alongside the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, who was forced to deny that he had been pushed to the sidelines by the House of Commons decision 10 days ago to reject the use of UK force in Syria.

The US Senate is due to vote this week on whether to approve an attack and Kerry was ambivalent over whether Barack Obama would use his powers to ignore the legislative chamber, if it were to reject an attack.

The US state department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. In an emailed statement, the department added: "His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment."

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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Emboldened Mr Putin changed the G20 agenda – which was originally focused on trade and tax matters – to include a dinner discussion about Syria

    Thursday, September 05, 2013   No comments
... His move brought the conflict to the heart of the summit, possibly in the hope that Mr Obama would be seen to have no majority support for military strikes on the Assad regime, which he favours in retaliation for the chemical attack on the Ghouta suburb of Damascus on 21 August.

Mr Putin – who has supported President Assad throughout the two-year civil war – was judged to have won the first round of his showdown with Mr Obama. A number of leaders sounded cool, and in some cases hostile, to the US President’s call for action. China’s Deputy Finance Minister, Zhu Guangyao, told a briefing: “Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on oil prices.”

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is at the G20, added: “A political solution is the only way to end the bloodshed in Syria.” Even the Pope appealed for G20 leaders to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution”, writing in a letter to Mr Putin that there should be a renewed commitment to seek … a peaceful solution … unanimously supported by the international community”.

The emerging positions left the Russian President looking pleased as he waited outside the ornate Constantine Palace to greet guests who together represent two-thirds of the world’s population. None of the guests was more eagerly anticipated than Mr Obama, who emerged from of his armour-plated limousine and extended a stiff handshake. Looking stern at first, Mr Obama praised the beauty of the palace and then grinned for the cameras as he and Mr Putin shook hands vigorously. The Russian President smiled, but the 20-second exchange was anything but warm. The White House went out of its way to say that Mr Obama would not be holding any one-on-one sessions with the Russian leader at the summit.
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