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Islamic World News ( 13 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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First Hijab-Wearing Mayor of London, Rakhia Ismail, Quits Labour over Islamophobia, Racism

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 October 2020


Somalian-born Rakhia Ismail has resigned from the Labour party due to alleged “racism”, “discrimination”, and “white man opression.”


• UAE’s Mohamed Bin Zayed, Israeli PM Netanyahu Examine ‘Prospects for Peace’ In Region

• Mathura Mosque Case: Now an Appeal before a District Judge against a Civil Court Order for the Removal of Idgah Masjid

• Taliban Consider Ceasefire their Political Defeat: Saleh

• Pakistan Complies With Just two Of 40 FATF Directives

• Datuk Keramat: Penang Will Not Demolish Non-Muslim Places Of Worship Indiscriminately


• First Hijab-Wearing Mayor of London, Rakhia Ismail, Quits Labour over Islamophobia, Racism

• UK Terrorist Watched Daesh Videos in Jail before Trying To Kill Guard

• Bin Laden’s Former Spokesman Bound for Britain after US Release

• Tension between Turkey and Greece rise in crisis over eastern Mediterranean

• Incumbent president, Turkey-backed premier to vie in Northern Cyprus runoff

• Germany reiterates full commitment to Iran nuclear deal, regrets US withdrawal


Arab World

• UAE’s Mohamed Bin Zayed, Israeli PM Netanyahu Examine ‘Prospects for Peace’ In Region

• Hezbollah Official Calls On Lebanon Army to Do More in Shia Stronghold amid Violence

• Lebanon alters delegation for US-led talks with Israel after Hezbollah backlash

• Official UAE Delegation Trip to Israel Set for October 20: Source

• Lebanon’s ex-PM Hariri to meet parties over French rescue plan

• ‘We have to remain because one day we may finally disappear’: Jewish Egyptians

• World must press Saudi to implement IAEA Safeguards: Iran's envoy

• Iraqi militias say they have halted anti-U.S. attacks



• Mathura Mosque Case: Now an Appeal before a District Judge against a Civil Court Order for the Removal of Idgah Masjid

• Muslim Clerics Oppose Assam Government’s Decision To Close Down State-Run Madrasas

• Farooq Abdullah never said Article 370 will be restored with China’s help, clarifies National Conference

• BJP calls Farooq’s Art 370 remark ‘seditious’, says it compromises country’s sovereignty

• Indians abducted in Libya released, efforts on for their return home: MEA

• Pakistani Lashkar commander, aide killed in Srinagar encounter

• NIA arrests terror suspect from Budgam

• 3 Jammu and Kashmir teachers held under PSA, school faces terror scan


South Asia

• Taliban Consider Ceasefire their Political Defeat: Saleh

• Afghan Forces Kill Over 70 Taliban Militants, Detain Local Leader in Helmand: Officials

• Afghans: a Mercenary Martial Race or Misplaced Potential?

• Ghani: Helmand Battle will Cost Taliban Heavy

• Violence ‘Increased’ Amid Peace Negotiations: Abdullah

• Rakhine: Covid aggravates apartheid towards Rohingya Muslims



• Pakistan Complies With Just two Of 40 FATF Directives

• Pakistan PM’s top aide Asim Saleem Bajwa resigns following reports of corruption

• Safdar seeks pre-arrest bail over NAB asset inquiry

• ‘Gang of dacoits’ out to hide its corruption, says Imran

• Maryam predicts govt ouster before January


Southeast Asia

• Datuk Keramat: Penang Will Not Demolish Non-Muslim Places Of Worship Indiscriminately

• Malaysia's Anwar says he gave king proof of over 120 MPs' support

• China asks Malaysia to safeguard detained sailors’ rights

• Malaysia's Anwar summoned by police over complaints ahead of meeting with monarch



• Iran’s Judiciary to Establish Special Court to Prosecute US Crimes

• Israel court rejects call for immediate release of Palestinian prisoner

• Spokesman: UN Arms Embargos against Iran to Expire at Weekend to Inflict Historical Defeat on US

• Haniyeh: History will show no mercy for Arab traitors to Palestine

• Erdogan tells European Union that progress needed on improving Turkey-EU ties

• One fifth of Yemen’s population suffering from mental health disorders: UNFPA



• Israel Approves Plan for Immigration of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews

• Jordan’s King Abdullah swears in new government led by Khasawneh to speed reforms

• At least 11 migrants die as boat sinks off Tunisia’s Sfax

• At least five killed, 16 injured in Algeria gas blast


North America

• US Launches Airstrikes on Taliban in Afghanistan's Helmand Despite ‘Peace’ Deal

• Trump administration pushes the US war on Iran into high gear

• British-born Isis suspects plead not guilty over deaths of US hostages

• America needs to stop Iranian-controlled militias in our hemisphere

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 First Hijab-Wearing Mayor of London, Rakhia Ismail, Quits Labour over Islamophobia, Racism


October 12, 2020


Somalian-born Rakhia Ismail has resigned from the Labour party due to alleged “racism”, “discrimination”, and “white man opression.”


LONDON: The resignation of the UK’s first hijab-wearing mayor, and her leaving the main opposition Labour Party on grounds of racism and Islamophobia, highlight the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment across all British political parties, an interfaith expert told Arab News on Monday.

Rakhia Ismail, who was born in Somalia, left her post as mayor of the London Borough of Islington late last month, and on Sunday announced that she would resign from her position as a Labour Party councillor after eight years in service.

She said she stepped down because she felt she was marginalized as a woman of color and was not taken seriously by some male colleagues. She also cited incidents of Islamophobia from some Labour Party colleagues.

“I’m saddened deeply that the party I thought was for justice and fairness and ‘for the many’ is the opposite, from my personal experience,” she said.

“Therefore, I find it hard to represent Holloway Ward as a Labour councillor because I was battling with a party system that simply allows white men to have what they want, when they want.”

In 2019, Ismail said she received a letter inviting her to Labour’s first national women’s conference which, beneath her address, was printed the word: “Somalia.” She said: “What has my birthplace got to do with this invite? I was shocked.”

She also cited Islington Council’s failure to organize an Eid festival in 2019, despite the borough’s significant Muslim population, as an example of anti-Muslim sentiment within the council.

Muddassar Ahmed, a patron of the Faiths Forum for London, a group dedicated to fostering interfaith dialogue and relations, said Ismail’s experience highlights the ongoing issue of Islamophobia in British politics.

“Sadly, this incident shows that no political party is totally immune from anti-Muslim sentiment,” he told Arab News.

“The Labour Party has come a very long way in appointing women of color to senior positions, but clearly there’s more work to be done,” he said.

“I hope the Labour Party learns from this incident and ensures that there’s a thorough investigation to understand why this happened.”

A Labour spokesperson said the party “takes any allegations of discrimination received extremely seriously, which are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.

Ismail’s decision to resign “is disappointing, especially coming so soon after her term as mayor of Islington, having served the borough admirably through an incredibly challenging time,” the spokesperson added.


UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed, Israeli PM Netanyahu examine ‘prospects for peace’ in region

12 October 2020


Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, received a phone call Monday from the Israeli prime minister


Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu examined “prospects for peace” in the region during a phone call, and discussed bilateral cooperation.

“We discussed strengthening bilateral ties and examined prospects for peace and the need for stability, cooperation and development in the region,” the Crown Prince said in a statement on Twitter on Monday.

Read more: Open for business: How UAE-Israel peace is driving deals at breakneck speed

Netanyahu said in a tweet Monday that he invited Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince to Israel, and the Crown Prince extended a reciprocal invitation to Abu Dhabi.

In August, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited the Crown Prince to Jerusalem shortly after the announcement of peace between their two countries.

Israel’s cabinet officially approved the normalization agreement with the UAE on Monday, Netanyahu said.

“The government today unanimously approved the historic peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” the Israeli prime minister said in a tweet.

In the phone call, Netanyahu and the Crown Prince also expressed their appreciation for the vital role played by the US and President Donald Trump in reaching a peace accord, according to state news agency WAM.

The discussion came hours after the Crown Prince spoke with President Trump over the phone on Sunday.

Trump called on the Crown Prince “to seize this opportunity to urge leaders of other Middle East countries to follow the same path toward advancing peace and prosperity in the region.”

The American president also thanked the Crown Prince for leading the Abraham Accords, the landmark normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, which were signed at the White House last month.


Mathura Mosque Case: Now an Appeal before a District Judge against a Civil Court Order for the Removal of Idgah Masjid

Oct 13, 2020


The Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple and Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura.(PTIPHOTO.)


An appeal has been made before the court of a district judge, Mathura, against a civil court order of September 30 that dismissed a legal suit for the removal of Idgah Masjid, which the plaintiffs claim “was built on the land of Shri Krishna Janambhoomi.”

The district judge’s court has sought the records from the lower court and has fixed October 16 as the date of hearing, said Hari Shankar Jain, counsel for the petitioners.

The petitioners, who belong to other districts, had filed a case seeking removal of the mosque from the site, claiming that it was built after razing a temple by then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

The plaintiffs have sought a declaration that the land, measuring 13.37 acres, be vested in deity Sri Krishna Virajman.

Earlier, the civil court had dismissed the petition on September 30, after hearing arguments, said Bhagat Singh Arya, additional district government counsel.

The suit claiming ownership of the entire land of 13.37 acres land which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Sri Krishna, the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, was filed on September 25 through the next friend of the child deity, one Ranjana Agnihotri, an advocate and a resident of Lucknow. Six other devotees were also plaintiffs to the suit.

They had sought cancellation of a settlement entered into between the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan which is the governing body of the temple complex and the Committee of Management of Trust of Shahi Idgah (Idgah Trust) in 1968.

The suit stated that Lord Shri Krishna was born in a prison of King Kans and the entire area under dispute is known as ‘Katra Keshav Dev’. Katra Keshav Dev is sacred for the devotees of Lord Shri Krishna and the Hindu community. Hindu rulers have always paid homage to the birthplace of Lord Shree Krishna and from time to time they constructed/ renovated temple at the spot, the petition said.

It was submitted that the Idgah Trust with the help of some Muslims encroached upon the land belonging to Shri Krishna Janmasthan Trust and the deity and erected a superstructure at the place.

The birthplace of Lord Krishna lies beneath the structure raised by the trust, the suit added.


Taliban Consider Ceasefire their Political Defeat: Saleh

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

12 Oct 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan – First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the Taliban consider the ceasefire a political defeat, believing they make people thirsty for the grave-kind of peace like the one in 90s by incalculable killings.

According to Saleh, defeat of the Taliban is inevitable; because it is not possible to impose their method by force on people and the pluralistic society of Afghanistan, nor do the Taliban have a political agenda the people can rely on.

The main reason for increase in the Taliban’s “absurd and bloody” attacks on Afghan people is the group’s fear and ignorance of political developments, he said.

Saleh exclaimed the Taliban have underestimated the national will of the people; launched many attacks with a misconception of the peace process.

In many parts of Afghanistan, where violence has increased, the Taliban faced resistance by locals, Saleh said. Therefore, the Taliban will not reap any strategic or political benefits from the bloodshed; because violence as a political tool is hated and rejected.

Unfortunately, we will experience another phase of the crisis to break this mentality that is based on murder, he further said.

According to Saleh, the Taliban’s claim is unattractive and all their attention and investment is to keeping the society in darkness and ignorance so they can secure their proxy rule.

“The society has never shed tears for the death of any Talib and will never do so,” he said. “A Talib himself has never cried for his own death and will not shed tears, because the string of emotions in this group [Taliban] is neutral and suffocated.”

Saleh is known for his tough stance against the Taliban insurgents, as he has a several times escaped deadly attack by the group.


Pakistan Complies With Just two Of 40 FATF Directives

Oct 13, 2020

NEW DELHI: Taking note of the fact that Pakistan has improved its full compliance on only two of the 40 FATF recommendations to curb terror financing and money laundering, a regional affiliate of the financial watchdog has retained the country on its ‘Enhanced Follow-up’ list, according to Pakistani media reports.

A report in Dawn News on Monday said the first Follow-Up Report on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan released by the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) underlined that the country’s progress on the 40 FATF recommendations on the effectiveness of anti-money laundering and combating financing terror (AML/CFT) system largely remained unchanged — non-compliant on four counts, partially compliant on 25 counts and largely compliant on nine recommendations.

The APG report noted that Pakistan’s measures against money laundering and terror financing “is not yet sufficient to justify a re-rating”.

The APG’s report came ahead of the virtual FATF plenary scheduled for October 21-23 during which it would be decided if Pakistan should be excluded from its grey list, based on a review of Islamabad’s performance to meet global commitments and standards on fight against money laundering and terror financing. India has repeatedly stated that Pakistan has done nothing to check cross-border terrorism.

FATF had placed Pakistan on its grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Datuk Keramat: Penang Will Not Demolish Non-Muslim Places Of Worship Indiscriminately

13 Oct 2020


GEORGE TOWN, Oct 13 — The Penang state government will not indiscriminately demolish any illegal non-Muslim places of worship (RIBI), said state exco Jagdeep Singh Deo (DAP ― Datuk Keramat) at the state legislative assembly.

He said there is a state RIBI committee to look into issues related to RIBI.

The Local Government, Housing Development and Town and Country Planning Committee chairman said any enforcement action against RIBI can only be conducted after a decision is made by the state Land Committee based on consultation with the RIBI committee.

“The RIBI committee will then scrutinise the issue with related technical agencies and the assemblyman of the area,” he said in reply to a question by Gooi Zi Sen (DAP ― Pengkalan Kota).

Gooi had asked if the state has a procedure to prevent RIBI being indiscriminately demolished such as what happened in Kedah.

Jagdeep said the procedure to refer all cases involving RIBI to the committee was in place since 2019 and was to avoid indiscriminate demolition of RIBI due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Then Opposition assemblyman Mohd Yusni Mat Piah (PAS - Penaga) pointed out that there were 69 “haram” (illegal) RIBI in the state.

“What are the steps that the state took to ensure these places adhere to the local bylaws?” he asked.

Backbencher M. Satees (DAP ― Bagan Dalam) immediately objected to the term “haram” being used to refer to places of worship.

Jagdeep agreed with Satees that the term “haram” was inappropriate to be used for RIBI before assuring Yusni that the authorities will take action to ensure that all RIBI comply with local bylaws.

“This is a sensitive issue as it involves various religious sensitivities so there are other ways to manage this such as referring to the RIBI committee for resolution,” he said.

He added that the RIBI committee has a land bank for RIBI contributed by developers and this land bank could be used to relocate RIBI that were built without permits on state lands.





UK terrorist watched Daesh videos in jail before trying to kill guard

October 09, 2020

LONDON: A convicted terrorist in the UK who tried to hack a prison guard to death watched and transcribed smuggled extremist propaganda videos in the months leading up to the attack.

Brusthom Ziamani, 25, wore a fake suicide vest and used a makeshift knife during the attack on a prison guard in January this year.

He admitted to obtaining a memory card while in prison that had Daesh propaganda videos on it.

Ziamani was already serving a 19-year sentence for plotting to behead a soldier in 2015, and was on Thursday sentenced to life with a minimum of 21 years for the January attack and for obtaining extremist material.

Investigators found a four-page “martyrdom note” in his pocket, which featured comments from Daesh propaganda videos, after he was restrained following the attack.

He had used his cell’s DVD player to watch smuggled propaganda videos, and had transcribed at least one lecture by an Al-Qaeda preacher while in jail.

The Times newspaper reported that Ziamani had previously plotted to kill non-Muslims while in jail.

He is said to have converted to Islam after a youth spent as a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, and was radicalized following a stint committing violent robberies as part of a London gang.

According to The Times, a former inmate that encountered Ziamani in jail said he “knew everybody. They all loved him. He was like a hero to everybody: the drug-dealers, the murderers, the gang-members, the robbers, the thieves. He had charm.”

Ziamani is said to have presided over “Shariah courts” within the prison, and at one point ruled that two young Muslim inmates should be punished with beating for drinking alcohol.

His case is likely to further fuel concern that the UK’s prisons serve as a hotbed of radicalization and extremism.


Bin Laden’s former spokesman bound for Britain after US release

October 12, 2020

LONDON: Osama bin Laden’s former spokesman is due to return to the UK after being released early from prison in the US.

Adel Abdel Bary, 60, was convicted of terror offenses for his role in Al-Qaeda’s 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

He was responsible for transmitting Al-Qaeda’s claims of responsibility for the attacks to the media, and for disseminating threats of further violence against US citizens.

Abdel Bary was arrested a year after the 1998 attacks and extradited to the US after a protracted legal battle.

As part of a plea deal, he admitted to three charges, including conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad, and was sentenced to 25 years behind bars. Consideration was made for the 16 years he had already spent in custody.

The Times reported that Abdel Bary, who is asthmatic and obese, was released weeks early on compassionate grounds due to the high risks posed to him by COVID-19.

The Egyptian-born terrorist operated from a base in London, where he claimed asylum. He became head of the London cell of an Egyptian terrorist organization before it merged with Al-Qaeda in 1998.

While working for Al-Qaeda, he spread propaganda on its behalf, assisted with recruitment and provision of funds, and provided cover and support for its military activities.

The UK government is urgently reviewing Abdel Bary’s situation, and sources told The Times that he would be placed under priority investigation.

“This is not someone who will simply just be walking the streets of Britain again. We are very alive to the risk involved in his potential return,” a government source said.

He will be surveilled by the state for connections with former colleagues or other suspicious activities.

It is understood that he will not be deported from the US until the UK has adequately prepared for his arrival.

Abdel Bary’s son, Abdel-Majed Abdel, was arrested in Spain this year, having joined Daesh in Syria in 2013 and gaining notoriety for posing online with the severed head of a Syrian regime soldier.


Tension between Turkey and Greece rise in crisis over eastern Mediterranean

13 October 2020

A Turkish ship set sail on Monday to carry out seismic surveys in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting Greece to issue a furious new demand for European Union sanctions on Ankara in a row over offshore exploration rights.

France expressed its concern after the Turkish vessel, the Oruc Reis, began its voyage. It said Turkey must stick to commitments it has made in the dispute, refrain from provocative actions and show good faith.

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Greece’s foreign ministry described the new voyage as a “major escalation” and a “direct threat to peace in the region”. Turkey, meanwhile, accused Athens of fueling tensions.

The Oruc Reis intends to carry out work south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, which is close to Turkey’s coast.

Ankara had withdrawn the vessel from contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean last month to “allow for diplomacy” before an EU summit at which Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey.

“Turkey has proven it lacks credibility. All those who believed Turkey meant all it said before the European summit of Oct. 1-2 now stand corrected,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday.

At the summit, the EU said it would punish Turkey if it continued operations in the region and that sanctions could be imposed as soon as December.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Greece had no right to oppose its operations, which were 15 km (9.3 miles) from Turkey and 425 km from the Greek mainland.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also said that Ankara’s operations were within its continental shelf and it expected Greece to refrain from steps escalating tensions.

Navy escort

“They are doing everything to escalate tensions,” Akar said. “The Navy will provide the necessary escort and protection to our vessels as needed.”

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez wrote on Twitter that Turkey would “continue to explore, dig and protect our rights”.

Relations between Greece and Turkey are complicated by a range of disputes, from jurisdiction in the Mediterranean to ethnically split Cyprus.

Greek government spokesman Petsas said Turkey had done the opposite of what it should have and the EU did not need to wait two months before taking action.

“So the only issue here is to activate more drastic solutions, for Turkey to feel more stick and less carrot this time,” Petsas said.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in Paris: “We expect Turkey to meet its commitments, abstain from new provocations and show concrete evidence of good faith.”

In a phone call on Monday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel that progress was needed to improve ties between Ankara and the bloc.

“President Erdogan, who stated that Greece was continuing steps to escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean despite Turkey’s well-intentioned approach, said he expected concrete steps from the EU to realize an Eastern Mediterranean conference proposed by Turkey,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.


Incumbent president, Turkey-backed premier to vie in Northern Cyprus runoff

12 October 2020

Incumbent President Mustafa Akinci and Ankara-backed Prime Minister Ersin Tatar will go to a presidential run-off in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus following an election Sunday.

Northern Cyprus will hold a runoff to select a president as no one of the 11 candidates who contested in Sunday’s vote won a clear majority.

According to the election council, Tartar won 32 percent of the Sunday’s elections ahead of Akinci, a supporter of the reunification of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, who netted almost 30 percent. The two will compete in a runoff on October 18.

Akinci is tipped to overcome his 60-year-old challenger Tartar, who supports separate sovereign administrations in Cyprus, with the backing of Tufan Erhurman who won 21 percent in the vote.

"Akinci will probably win the second round with more than 55 percent," Mine Yucel, the head of Prologue Consulting which specializes in polling, said.

The presidential vote in the breakaway Northern Cyprus was held amid precautions against the spread of the new coronavirus.

It also took place three days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced alongside Tatar the partial reopening of Varosha, a beachfront resort abandoned for 46 years.

The move drew condemnation from Akinci and other candidates, who saw it as Turkish interference in the election, and sparked protests in the majority Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus.

It was also decried by the Republic of Cyprus, the European Union and the United Nations.

The island has been divided into Turkish Cypriot-controlled northern and Greek Cypriot-controlled southern territories since a brief war in 1974, which saw Turkey intervene militarily in response to a military coup backed by Athens to annex Cyprus to Greece.

Greek Cypriots run the island’s internationally recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north and say offshore resources belong to them too.

The latest United Nations-backed peace negotiations failed in 2017 and there has been no progress in talks since.

The election may also influence talks between Turkey and Greece over their contested maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and Greece, both of them NATO members, have been at loggerheads over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.


Germany reiterates full commitment to Iran nuclear deal, regrets US withdrawal

12 October 2020

Germany has reiterated its full commitment to a multilateral nuclear agreement signed between Iran and major world powers in 2015, saying the United States’ move to pull out of the agreement is "regrettable."

In a post on its Twitter page on Monday, Germany’s mission to the United Nations said Berlin “remains fully committed to preservation & full implementation” of the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the accord.

Germany remains fully committed to preservation & full implementation of #UNSC Res. 2231, incl. #JCPoA.

While US withdrawal from JCPoA & its re-imposed sanctions are regrettable, 🇩🇪 is deeply concerned over measures by Iran contrary to key nuclear-related provisions in JCPoA.

— German Mission to UN (@GermanyUN) October 12, 2020

It added that the US “withdrawal from the “JCPOA & its re-imposed sanctions [against Iran] are regrettable.”

The mission further expressed Germany's concern about measures by Iran "contrary to key nuclear-related provisions in JCPOA," referring to Tehran's suspension of some of its commitments under the deal, in response to the failure of the other signatories to live up to their obligations stipulated in the accord.  

US President Donald Trump, a hawkish critic of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany -- unilaterally withdrew Washington from the agreement in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism.

Following its much-criticized exit, Washington has been attempting to prevent the remaining signatories from abiding by their commitments and thus kill the historic agreement, which is widely viewed as a fruit of international diplomacy.

Iran remained fully compliant with the JCPOA for an entire year, waiting for the co-signatories to fulfill their end of the bargain by offsetting the impacts of American bans on the Iranian economy.

But as the European parties failed to do so, the Islamic Republic moved in May 2019 to suspend its JCPOA commitments under Articles 26 and 36 of the deal covering Tehran’s legal rights.

Iran took five steps in scaling back its obligations, among them abandoning operational limitations on its nuclear industry, including with regard to the capacity and level of uranium enrichment.

All those measures were adopted after informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) beforehand, with the agency's inspectors present on the ground in Iran.



Arab World


Hezbollah official calls on Lebanon army to do more in Shia stronghold amid violence

Jacob Boswall

12 October 2020

A Hezbollah official has called for a stronger presence from the Lebanese army in the Shia group’s stronghold of Baalbek-Hermel, near the border with Syria, after several days of clashes between local clans.

“The security situation in the Bekaa governorate and especially in Baalbek-Hermel is the responsibility of the state’s security agencies … who must do their job better and with greater regularity,” former Lebanese minister Hussein Hajj Hassan told local media at a press conference Sunday.

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Last week, members of two rival clans in the town circulated images and videos of their heavy arsenals of weaponry, including RPGs.

The Chamass and Jaafar clans’ parade of military strength came after four members of the Jaafar clan killed a member of the former family the previous week, provoking a series of retaliatory attacks.

The two warring clans have a long history of animosity and competition in the lawless region around the historic town of Baalbek.

Speaking alongside Baalbek’s mayor, Hajj Hussein emphasized that increased military action would be needed to ensure the governorate’s stability.

“The role that the security apparatus is currently taking on in Baalbek-Hermel is minimal when it is compared to the scale of the security problem,” he explained.

The former agriculture minister added that politics should be removed from the equation when it comes to security issues.

“We say to the security forces: do your part, and in politics, we receive all the space we want.”

Critics have called on Hezbollah to do more in the area, where it has significant influence. Baalbek-Hermel residents have long complained of negligence from the state in an area with little resources in agriculture, education, and healthcare.

The cultivation of cannabis has been a leading source of income for residents. Growing marijuana for medical use was approved by Lebanese lawmakers recently; however, disagreements remain over whether the sector should be state-run or privatized.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has advocated for it to be state-run. The Shia sect has a leading role in the state-run tobacco company, and opposition lawmakers fear similar corruption in any future cannabis sector.


Lebanon alters delegation for US-led talks with Israel after Hezbollah backlash

Joseph Haboush

12 October 2020

Lebanon announced its delegation Monday that will take part in US-led talks with Israel later this week to negotiate Beirut and Tel Aviv’s maritime borders, but removed a Foreign Ministry official after pressure from Hezbollah.

After the initial draft of names was revealed to Al Arabiya English last week, Hezbollah and pro-Hezbollah media outlets quickly criticized the inclusion of Lebanese diplomat, Hadi Hashem.

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The Iran-backed militant group has been the main obstacle to moving forward with any direct or indirect talks over disputed borders. But after softening its stance amid an aggressive sanctions program by Washington, Lebanon quickly announced an agreement, on Oct. 1, on the framework for beginning indirect talks with Israel.

An official Lebanese source told Al Arabiya English last week that representing the Lebanese army and heading the delegation would be Brig. Gen. Bassam Yassine. Col. Mazen Basbous, from the navy, was also to be present alongside Wissam Chbat, the head of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA). Maritime affairs expert Najib Masihi and Hadi Hashem, a senior official from Foreign Ministry, were also on the list.

But after an aggressive media campaign, the list of names announced Monday excluded Hashem, the diplomat. Hezbollah said any diplomatic representation would insinuate a political aspect to the talks, rather than strictly talks on the maritime borders.

Shortly after the Lebanese presidency announced the names, the office of caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab took a jab at the president, saying the names had not been consulted with the premier.

According to political analysts, although the talks appear likely to go ahead, the public disagreement weakens Lebanon’s position going into the negotiations.

On the Israeli side, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will head the delegation. Ehud (Udi) Adiri, director-general of the Energy Ministry, Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister Reuven Azar, and Brig. Gen. Oren Setter from the army will also attend.

As for the US delegation, Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker is expected to land in Beirut on Monday night. A statement from the State Department said UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis and Schenker would facilitate the opening session of the negotiations. Schenker will be joined by Ambassador John Desrocher, “who will serve as the US mediator for these negotiations.”

Desrocher is the US Ambassador to Algeria. Before his time as ambassador, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Egypt and Maghreb Affairs. He also spent time at the US Embassy in Baghdad.

“As announced on October 1, the framework agreement to commence discussions on the maritime boundary is a vital step forward that offers the potential to yield greater stability, security, and prosperity for Lebanese and Israeli citizens alike,” the State Department said.

The specific dispute on the maritime border is almost a decade old. US diplomat Frederick Hoff went to Beirut in 2011 in an effort to reach a solution after potential offshore oil, and natural gas reserves were discovered.

Hoff came up with what became known as the “Hoff Line,” which would have seen Lebanon get around 550 sq. km. out of the 860 sq. km. that is disputed.

Succeeding Hoff was Amos Hochstein, who was unable to make any notable progress.

The issue sat on the back burner for years until US President Donald Trump was elected and dispatched then-Secretary of State

Rex Tillerson to have a go at getting Lebanon and Israel to reach a deal.

Tillerson’s efforts, like his tenure as the top US diplomat, were short-lived.

Nevertheless, Washington continued hammering away over the years, and Ambassador David Satterfield was handed the file.

Familiar with both countries and their officials, Satterfield spent significant time flying between Beirut, Washington and Tel Aviv mediating.

Before being appointed as the ambassador to Turkey, Satterfield made notable progress and laid down the initial text between Lebanon and Israel. His efforts were close to succeeding before his time ran out as acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, since 2017.

Schenker was able to push the final agreement forward in recent weeks but was quick to point out that the talks had nothing to do with normalization.


Official UAE Delegation Trip to Israel Set for October 20: Source

Emily Judd

12 October 2020

An official UAE delegation trip to Israel is being planned for October 20, an Emirati source told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday.

An Israeli delegation already visited the UAE’s capital city Abu Dhabi on August 31, taking the first direct flight in history from Israel to the UAE.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he invited Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Israel, and that the Crown Prince had extended a reciprocal invitation to the UAE capital.

The invitations were expressed during a phone call in which the two leaders discussed strengthening bilateral ties call and examined “prospects for peace” in the region.

The Israeli government officially approved the normalization agreement with the UAE on Monday. The plans for normalization were first announced on August 13 and culminated in a signing ceremony at the White House in Washington last month.

Israelis in the government and finance sectors have traveled to the UAE over the past two months to meet with their Emirati counterparts to set up collaboration.

The first visit to the UAE following the announcement by an Israeli official was the head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad, Yossi Cohen, on August 18. Cohen met with the UAE’s national security adviser.

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat then followed, arriving on a flight with American and Israeli officials, on August 31.

Ben-Shabbat met with the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash.

The first official Israeli trade delegation arrived in the UAE on September 8, including the CEO of the biggest bank in Israel.

Dov Kotler, the head of Bank Hapoalim, landed in Dubai and meet with government officials and the heads of the largest banks in the UAE.


Lebanon’s ex-PM Hariri to meet parties over French rescue plan

12 October 2020

Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, a former prime minister seeking a new term, said Monday he would meet all key parties to survey their commitment to a French rescue plan.

The country is bankrupt, but the ruling elite has so far failed to respond to calls by French President Emmanuel Macron for the rapid formation of an independent government.

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Hariri, himself one of Lebanon’s hereditary political barons, stepped down from the position of prime minister a year ago under pressure from a massive protest movement calling for an end to sectarian-based politics.

“I will send a delegation to talk with all the main political blocs, to ensure that they are still fully committed” to Macron’s initiative, Hariri said, after meeting President Michel Aoun.

Macron visited Lebanon two days after the August 4 Beirut port explosion that disfigured the city, and returned three weeks later to check on the status of reforms he conditioned international support on.

The roadmap Macron laid out for debt-ridden Lebanon included a two-week deadline for the formation of a tighter and independent government of experts, that would only stay in office a few months.

A new prime minister, Mustapha Adib, was designated – but he threw in the towel after meeting resistance from the top Shia parties that sought guarantees they would retain the finance ministry.

Hariri, who has already served two terms as Lebanese premier and has close ties with France, has since resurfaced as the most likely candidate to take over.

“I am convinced that President Macron’s initiative is the only and last remaining opportunity for our country to stop the collapse and rebuild Beirut,” Hariri said, according to a statement from his office.

Hariri on Thursday said he was a possible candidate to head a new government to stem the country’s economic collapse.


‘We have to remain because one day we may finally disappear’: Jewish Egyptians

Ismaeel Naar

10 October 2020

“In the Jewish sect, in 1945 no one could imagine that in 1948 there would be a war and Jews would emigrate. It was impossible to think, even after what the Muslim Brotherhood did, no one thought they would leave the country,” says Albert Arie, the oldest living Egyptian Jewish citizen.

Arie, one of the only remaining Jewish men still living in Egypt, was speaking to Al Arabiya as part of a special documentary on the lives of Jewish Egyptian citizens.

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“They would ride the train and stand by the iron doors at 10 a.m. so they could be there in Jerusalem by noon. They knew and saw that nothing would ever force them to leave Egypt,” he added.

Arie is one of the surviving Jewish Egyptians who still remembers the days of the Arab-Israeli conflict of the 1960s, given that he was born on June 25, 1930. The 90-year-old told Al Arabiya that the dwindling number of Jewish Egyptians began in 1948 and would go on through four stages.

“There were stages, in 1948, second in 1956, and then in 1961, and 1967 the tripartite aggression. These stages represented the elimination of the Jewish sect in Egypt,” he said.

The Jewish community of Egypt has struggled to keep the faith alive and maintain its culture after its numbers dwindled to a few dozen members in recent years from some 80,000 in the 1950s.

Most Jews fled Egypt due to attacks on the community during and after the 1956 war, when Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula along with Britain and France in an attempt to regain control of the Suez Canal.

The exodus began after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the first war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Jews were also prominent in the Egyptian Communist Party which was outlawed under President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1958.

Arie was one of three prominent Jews from Egypt who joined the national movement against British colonialism and refused to immigrate to Israel, and they merged with their new families in Egyptian society. The other two veteran figures being the two lawyers Youssef Darwish (who died in 2006) and the other being Shehata Haroun who passed away in 2001. He is the grandfather of Magda Haroun, the current president of the Egyptian Jewish Community.

“To commence prayer inside the synagogue under the Jewish faith requires a quorum of ten men. Because men are guardians of women even in the Jewish religion. So, women can’t be the majority, there has to be 10 men minimum,” Haroun said during her appearance in the documentary, explaining the history of synagogues in Egypt, especially those found in the historic Jewish Quarters in Cairo.

“We unfortunately don’t have the men so… if these women enter one day and prayed, as I said earlier, I don’t know the Jewish prayers. Our numbers are few and one day our presence will no longer exist in Egypt. But we have to keep and maintain these things,” she said.


World must press Saudi to implement IAEA Safeguards: Iran's envoy

13 October 2020

Iran has called on the international community to press Saudi Arabia to immediately implement the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in full.                           

Heidar Ali Balouji, Iran’s permanent envoy to the United Nations General Assembly First Committee (also known as the Disarmament and International Security Committee), said Riyadh’s failure to implement the IAEA safeguards regime comes as the Arab country’s ambitious program allows it to hide some of its nuclear activities and not be inspected by the IAEA.

“Concerns about Saudi Arabia’s leaked nuclear activities and identification of its nuclear sites hidden in desert require international collective efforts, so much so that Saudi Arabia be held accountable for the consequences of its behaviors,” he added.

Balouji said a “steady” rather than “selective” implementation of the Safeguards will serve the international community in the long run.”

“The international community must ask Riyadh to immediately implement the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements in full.”

He said a cessation of international nuclear assistance for Saudis would be the only way to allay these concerns.

“This lack of transparency in Saudi Arabia’s activities definitely violates the entire Safeguards regime,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s clandestine nuclear program, which had been revealed by whistle-blowers, was recently confirmed by satellite images showing a large compound, in a suspicious location in the middle of the desert, a checkpoint, towering security fences, a big building about 150 feet on a side and pools for the collection of uranium waste; a typical blueprint for yellow-cake mills.

The Wall Street Journal uncovered the facility constructed in a remote area in Saudi Arabia for extracting uranium yellow-cake from uranium ore. Ironically, the facility is located near a solar-panel production area.

Observers say such undeclared nuclear capabilities in the hands of the KSA are extremely worrying, in light of the abysmal Saudi human rights record, and that the last thing anyone would wish for is a nuclear armed KSA.

Western officials are now anxious about an unusual facility located near al-Ula, a small city in the Saudi northwest desert near a solar-panel production area.

Last month, the Guardian revealed that Saudi Arabia may be in possession of enough mineable uranium ore to produce nuclear fuel.

According to confidential documents prepared by Chinese geologists for the kingdom and seen by the Guardian, Riyadh now possesses so much uranium ore reserves that it can start domestic production of nuclear fuel.

The Chinese geologists have been reportedly rushing to help Riyadh map its uranium reserves at breakneck speed as part of their nuclear energy cooperation agreement.

The geologists identified reserves that would be able to produce more than 90,000 tons of uranium from three “major deposits” in the center and northwest of the country, the report said.

The documents have been prepared by the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (BRIUG) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), working with the Saudi Geological Survey.

The disclosure will intensify concerns about Saudi Arabia’s interest in an atomic weapons program.

Experts warn that if Saudi Arabia is able to mine sufficient uranium domestically, rather than relying on foreign providers, it could give the kingdom a boost toward creating its own weapons program.


Iraqi militias say they have halted anti-U.S. attacks

OCTOBER 11, 2020

By John Davison

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An array of Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups have suspended rocket attacks on U.S. forces on condition that Iraq’s government present a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, one of the groups said on Sunday.

A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq, said the groups were presenting no set deadline, but that if U.S. troops “insisted on staying” they would unleash much more violent attacks.

Washington, which is slowly reducing its 5,000 troops in Iraq, threatened last month to shut its embassy unless the Iraqi government reins in Iran-aligned militias that have attacked U.S. interests with rockets and roadside bombs.

The U.S. warning caused alarm in Iraq, where it was seen as a step towards air strikes, potentially turning Iraq into a battleground in a proxy war between the United States and Iran. A broad array of politicians called on the militia to stop provoking the Americans.

“The factions have presented a conditional ceasefire,” Kataib Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Mohi told Reuters. “It includes all factions of the (anti-U.S.) resistance, including those who have been targeting U.S. forces.”

On Saturday, militia groups calling themselves the “Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission” published a statement suggesting they would suspend attacks in return for a clear plan for U.S. troops to leave. Mohi did not specify which groups had drafted the statement.

He said the Iraqi government must implement a parliamentary resolution in January calling for foreign troops to withdraw.


Iraq is one of the few countries with close ties to both the United States and Iran, both of which provided military support to help defeat Islamic State fighters, who were beaten back in a three-year war after seizing a third of Iraq in 2014.

Iraqis have long feared their country could become a proxy battleground, especially since Washington killed Tehran’s military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike at Baghdad airport in January.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi leader of pro-Iran militias, was also killed. Factions that Soleimani and Muhandis commanded, including Kataib Hezbollah, swore to avenge them.

But pro-Iran militias have faced a popular backlash from Iraqis who accuse them of putting the country’s security at risk by attacking the Americans.

Mohi said there was no deadline for the government to expel foreign troops, but “if America insists on staying and doesn’t respect the parliament’s decision then the factions will use all the weapons at their disposal”.

He said rockets fired at U.S. forces and diplomatic compounds were a message, and worse attacks could follow.

U.S. officials blame Kataib Hezbollah for dozens of rocket attacks against U.S. installations in Iraq.

Kataib Hezbollah denies involvement, and some attacks have been claimed by smaller, little-known militias, though Iraqi officials believe these may be fronts for bigger groups.

A roadside blast hit a convoy in southern Iraq on Sunday delivering equipment to the U.S.-led military coalition in the country, damaging a tyre but causing no casualties, the military said. There was no claim of responsibility.





Muslim Clerics Oppose Assam Government’s Decision To Close Down State-Run Madrasas

Hemanta Kumar Nath

October 12, 2020

Muslim clerics in Assam have strongly opposed the state government’s decision to close down all state-run Madrasas. Urging the state government to think twice about its decision, the clerics said that general education is provided along with religious education in the Madrasas.

“The Madrasas are Running in Assam since before the independence of the country. Lakhs of students have enrolled in the Madrasas and many have already passed. If the government will close down the Madrasas, then these students' life will be spoiled. Hence, we request the government not to do it. If any change is needed in the syllabus, do it. Along with religious education, general education has also been taught there,” Imam Mofidul Islam said.

Recently, Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that the state government will close down all government-run Madrasas and Sanskrit tols (schools) in the state by November this year.

The state government will issue two separate notifications for Madrasas and Sanskrit tols soon.

Himanta Biswa Sarma had also said that public money "can’t be allowed to be spent on religious education".

“Our stand is clear. We had earlier announced in the assembly about our government’s policy. Government will not allow any religious educational institution to function with government fund. But, we have nothing to say about privately-run Madrasas. The government has no issue with normal Madrasas which are being run by individuals or organisations, [and] NGOs,” Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

The education minister also said that functioning of Sanskrit tols is not transparent.

“We will also take a decision over Sanskrit tols, But, tols and Madrasas are different and the state government will issue two separate notifications in this regard,” Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Md. Hasan Ali, a retired official of Assam Madrasa Board, said that he strongly opposes the state government’s decision to close down state-run Madrasas in the state.

Meanwhile, state's secondary education Department has recently sent a letter to the director of secondary education and stated that 148 Madrasa contractual teachers may be shifted to schools under general secondary education.

Assam has 614 government-run Madrasas including 57 for girls, three for boys and 554 co-educational, while 17 are Urdu medium. The state has over 500 recognised Sanskrit tols.

In February this year, the state government had issued an order to eliminate the Arabic term ‘Maktab’ from the government schools.

In Arabic, Maktab means school and there were 63 government-run schools in Assam that used the Arabic term ‘Maktab’.


Farooq Abdullah never said Article 370 will be restored with China’s help, clarifies National Conference

Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi

Oct 13, 2020

The National Conference (NC) has rubbished reports that its patron Farooq Abdullah said that Article 370 of the Constitution will be restored in the Kashmir Valley with China’s help. Abdullah made the remarks during a television interview.

The NC said that its leader’s comments were twisted. It said that Abdullah never justified the expansionist or aggressive intention, what is being claimed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Our patron was highlighting the anger of the people because of the abrogation of Article 370 last year. He has been doing that the past month. He said that nobody is ready to accept these changes in Jammu and Kashmir,” a spokesperson of the NC said, according to Hindustan Times’ Hindi language publication Hindustan.

“Our leader never said that Article 370 will be restored with the help of China, which was claimed by BJP leader Shambit Patra at a press conference. He also presented some earlier statements of Mr Farooq Abdullah in a wrong manner,” Hindustan further quoted the spokesperson as saying.

Abdullah said in a television interview on Sunday he wished that with China’s support, Article 370 of the Constitution, which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, will be restored.

In the interview, Abdullah noted that China was not happy with the nullification of Article 370, which was scrapped in August last year by Parliament.

“As far as China is concerned, I didn’t bring {the} Chinese president here. Our Prime Minister invited him to Gujarat and even did jhoola sawari with him. He [PM Modi] even took him to Chennai and had food with him,” he had said.

The former chief minister of J&K said that China “never accepted” the nullification of Article 370. “They said till you restore Article 370, we won’t stop because it has now become an open issue,” he said.

“May Allah wish that our people get help from their might and our Articles 370 and 35-A get restored,” Abdullah said.

The BJP termed the comments “seditious”. “It is saddening as well as worrying. A sitting MP is using such words for the country. He thinks that China’s aggression is because abrogation of Article 370 has happened. He categorically states that since Indian Parliament abrogated Article 370, China is disturbed and that is why China’s aggression is justified. He seems to justify the expansionist tendencies of China,” BJP leader Sambit Patra said on Monday.


BJP calls Farooq’s Art 370 remark ‘seditious’, says it compromises country’s sovereignty

Oct 13, 2020

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: BJP sharply criticised former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for holding the decision to nullify Article 370 as responsible for Chinese aggression and suggesting it can be restored with Beijing's help as seditious and going against the unity and integrity of India.

"It is very objectionable that a sitting MP is speaking about the restoration of Article 370 with the help of China. Farooq Abdullah said that abrogation of Article 370 disturbed China and tried to justify China's expansionist thought,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said at a press conference. He said this is not the first time that Abdullah had made such a statement. "Compromising or making statements on the country's sovereignty, unity and integrity is very sad and against the nation.”

The BJP member said, "Both Rahul Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah are two sides of the same coin. This is the same Rahul Gandhi, who a few days ago said that the PM has gone into hiding, it is Congress that said that India has surrendered.”

"Now, Congress has started speaking in support of China while giving statements against Modi. Both Farooq Abdullah and Congress keep politics ahead and the country behind," Patra added.

He said on September 24, Abdullah said that if you go to Jammu and Kashmir and ask people if they are Indians, then they would say that they are not. “In the same statement, he also said that it would be good if we could join China,” the BJP spokesperson said.

In his comments to a news channel, Abdullah said China "never accepted" the nullification of Article 370, and hoped that it will be restored with Beijing’s support. “Whatever they are doing at LAC in Ladakh, it is because of the abrogation of Article 370, which they never accepted. I am hopeful that with their support, Article 370 will be restored in J&K," Farooq had said.

"I never invited the Chinese President, it was PM Modi who not only invited him, but did jhoola sawari with him. PM Modi even took him to Chennai and had food with him," Farooq Abdullah said.

Reacting to the National Conference leader’s statement, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, "With great respect, I will totally disagree. Irrespective of the merits of the Article 370 issue, it is completely wrong to even remotely refer to any foreign power, be it China or Pakistan. World's proudest democracy needs no interference from the world's largest and most hated dictatorship on the one side and a failed state like Pakistan on the other. Internal debates in India are a sign of vibrant democracy but they do not mean that responsible former Constitutional post holders can bring in such unconstitutional references."

Abdullah, his son and former CM Omar Abdullah and PDP chief and another former CM Mehbooba Mufti were put under detention under the Public Safety Act. Farooq Abdullah was, however, first to be released in February this year followed by Omar. But Mehbooba Mufti continues to be in detention under PSA at her official house which was declared as subsidiary jail.


Indians abducted in Libya released, efforts on for their return home: MEA

Edited by Sohini Sarkar

Oct 12, 2020

The seven Indian nationals kidnapped in Libya last month have been released by their abductors and handed over to their employer, the external affairs ministry said on Monday.

The seven men are in good health and formalities are being completed to facilitate their return to India, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry reiterated that a ban on the travel of Indians to Libya, irrespective of purpose, has been in place since May 2016 because of the security situation there.

The circumstances of the release of the seven Indians, including whether any ransom was paid to their abductors, couldn’t immediately be ascertained. It also couldn’t be ascertained who had kidnapped the men. No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility.

On October 8, the external affairs ministry confirmed the seven Indians had been abducted at Asshwerif in Libya on September 14, while they were travelling to Tripoli airport to catch a flight back to India. The men belong to Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, and were working for a construction and oilfield supplies company.

The men were released on Sunday and India’s ambassador to Tunisia, Puneet Roy Kundal, spoke to them on phone after they were handed over by the abductors to the company that had employed them, Al Shola Al Mudia.

“All of them are in good health and are currently staying in the company’s premises in Brega,” the ministry said.

“We convey our sincere thanks to the Libyan authorities and the tribal elders from the region for their steadfast cooperation in securing the release of our nationals unharmed,” it added.

The Indian embassy in Tunisia handles matters related to the welfare of Indian nationals in Libya. India’s relations with Libya were snapped after the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011, and both countries currently don’t have a representative in each other’s capitals.

India made an attempt to re-establish diplomatic ties when Union minister Kiren Rijiju made an official visit to Tripoli in May 2018. It was reported then that there were some 1,500 Indians who had stayed on in Libya despite advisories issued by the external affairs ministry.


Pakistani Lashkar commander, aide killed in Srinagar encounter

Oct 13, 2020

SRINAGAR: A Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba commander wanted for a string of terror attacks on security forces since mid-August was shot dead early Monday along with another terrorist after being trapped in Srinagar’s congested Rambagh locality for hours as a cordon-and-search team swooped in for the kill, taking care to avoid collateral damage.

Saifullah, not to be confused with his Pakistan-born Hizbul Mujahideen namesake “Dr Saifullah”, is the first Pakistani terrorist to be spotted and killed within Srinagar city since the resurgence of terrorism in Kashmir in 2016.

J&K DGP Dilbag Singh said Saifullah, who infiltrated the Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir earlier this year, had been masterminding one strike after another, including four consecutive attacks in which three CRPF and two police personnel were killed since August 14.

Shifting base from north to south Kashmir, the Lashkar commander and his slain aide — identified as Irshad Ahmed Dar, alias Abu Usama, from Trichal in Pulwama — had moved further to enter Srinagar around 15 days ago, IGP (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar told TOI.

Together, the duo carried out a terror attack at Nowgam on August 14 in which two IRP cops were killed and another injured; at Kaisarmullah in Chadoora on September 24, in which a CRPF man was killed and his rifle snatched; and on October 5 on the New Bypass in Taingam Nowgam, in which two CRPF personnel were slain and four injured.

Giving details of the operation against Saifullah and his aide, IGP Kumar said a joint team of Srinagar Police and the CRPF moved into the Rambagh area in the dead of night, based on intelligence inputs about the duo’s presence in a house there. The bodies of the two ultras, who had opened fire at the search party, were found in their hideout long after the first shots were fired.

The two bodies will be sent to north Kashmir’s Baramulla for burial after completion of medico-legal formalities, including DNA collection. If their kin want to participate in the last rites, they can come forward for identification of the bodies, police said.

DGP Singh said another terrorist known to be involved in a couple of attacks remains within Srinagar city. “He will be taken out soon,” the police chief said at a press conference here, adding that security forces had killed 180 ultras in 75 anti-terror operations so far this year. “All anti-terror operations conducted this year were clean,” he said, pointing out that only one civilian had died in the crossfire during an encounter in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area on September 17.

On whether ultras from Lashkar and other outfits were trying to set foot again in Srinagar, the DGP said eight encounters took place in the city this year alone in which 18 terrorists including a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander were killed. “Whenever any terror outfit tries to establish its base in Srinagar, we successfully act against them with the help of intelligence and other sources,” he said.

A total of 19 policemen and 21 CRPF personnel were killed in various terror attacks in Kashmir. “Army lost 15 soldiers and a majority of them were killed on the Line of Control,” DGP Singh said.

Responding to a question about the rehabilitation of misled youth, the police chief said 26 Kashmiri youngsters who had taken up arms were brought back and reunited with their families this year. Asked whether these youth were being sent outside J&K, the DGP replied in the negative. On the topic of a rehabilitation policy for them, he said, “Officially, there is no policy as yet. Details would be shared when there is one.”


NIA arrests terror suspect from Budgam

Oct 13, 2020

SRINAGAR: National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday arrested Tafazul Hussain Parimoo, a resident of J&K’s Budgam, in connection with its probe into suspended J&K deputy superintendent of police Davinder Singh’s alleged connections with terror groups.

“Tafazul played a key role in supplying arms and ammunition to accused Tariq Mir — former sarpanch of Maldera in Shopian who was arrested in April — who further supplied them to Hizbul terrorists active in Shopian,” the spokesperson added.

DSP Davinder Singh was arrested in January while travelling in his car with Hizbul Mujahideen’s Naveed Babu. The NIA had said he had provided shelter to the terrorist on multiple occasions.


3 Jammu and Kashmir teachers held under PSA, school faces terror scan

Oct 13, 2020

SRINAGAR: Three teachers of a CBSE-affiliated school in south Kashmir's Shopian that has allegedly produced 13 terrorists, including a teenager involved in the Pulwama attack, were arrested on Monday and booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for "indoctrinating and inducing their students to wage war against the state".

IGP (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar said the Jamia Sirajul Uloom Secondary School, a well-known institution that retained its seminary roots even as it transitioned to formal education, had been under the scanner for some time because of its alleged association with the banned Jamiat-e-Islami.

Sajjad Bhat, the terrorist whose car was used in the February 2019 Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel, had studied in this school before he went missing. The 17-year-old was killed in an encounter a few months later.

The three teachers accused of trying to turn the school into a terror factory have been identified as Abdul Ahad Bhat, Rouf Bhat and Mohammad Yusuf Wani. Besides the PSA, they have been slapped with cases under Section 107 of the CrPC, which deals with breach of peace.

"Five to six other teachers of the school are under surveillance for their conduct," the IGP said. "Right now, we are taking action against individuals, but if the need arises, we will also initiate steps against the school."

Muhammad Yousuf Matoo, the chairman Jamia Sirajul Uloom, contested allegations about the school functioning under the radar as an indoctrination centre for future terrorists. Disowning the arrested trio, he said none of them was a teacher at the school.

On alumnus Sajjad being named among the main accused in the Pulwama bombing, Matoo said the institution should not be blamed for a former student's wrongdoing. "We had no role in it. Sajjad, who the police say was involved in the attack, had been a student here only for some months. He was working as a mechanic before joining the terrorist ranks. How can one assume that we made him do that?"

Most students at the institution are from the terrorist-infested districts of Kulgam, Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian. IGP Kumar said several terror outfits had recruited local cadres through a section of teachers at the school.

Challenging the police to prove the allegations, the school's chairman said, "Our institute is recognised by the J&K government. The NCERT syllabus is taught here. Our oriental college is affiliated to Kashmir University. We are open to answering every question. Any media group can come and check our teaching methods and other affairs. Anyone can check our finances and syllabus resources. We are registered with the income tax department."



South Asia


Afghan forces kill over 70 Taliban militants, detain local leader in Helmand: officials

12 October 2020

Afghan military forces have carried out an attack on a group of Taliban militants in Helmand, killing scores of them and arresting the group’s local governor days after an escalation of fighting in the southern province.

In an operation, involving air force commandos, “71 Taliban” militants were killed in Nawa and Nahr-e-Saraj districts on Monday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Tariq Arian told TOLO News.

Arian did not provide information on possible Afghan casualties.

Security forces also managed to detain the Taliban's deputy governor for Helmand, Mawlawi Ghafoor, according to Helmand governor's office.

The fighting also resulted in the destruction of a power substation, leaving Kandahar and Helmand with power cuts.

Heavy clashes erupted between Afghan security forces and the Taliban over the weekend on the outskirts of Lashkargah, prompting local residents of the Nad-e-Ali District to seek refuge in the provincial capital Lashkargah.

The fighting resulted in the fall of city police district to the militants.

Some parts of a highway that connects Lashkargah to Kandahar Province also fell to the Taliban, according to the head of Helmand's provincial council, Ataullah Afghan.

The highway has remained closed to traffic since then.

At least eleven security forces were killed in the fighting on Thursday.

The bloodshed comes as the two sides are engaged in intra-Afghan talks in the Qatari capital Doha in an effort to end nearly two decades of war in the country.

The first round of talks began last month in the wake of a deal reached between the United States and the Taliban earlier this year in Doha.

Under the deal, Washington promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban to stop their attacks on US-led occupation foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government was a party neither to the negotiations nor to the deal, but it has been acting in accordance with its terms, including by agreeing to free the Taliban prisoners.

Official data, however, shows that Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent since the militant group signed a deal with Washington.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled a Taliban regime in 2001.


Afghans: a Mercenary Martial Race or Misplaced Potential?

By Samiullah Doorandesh

12 Oct 2020

History pages of no other country are filled with so much the narration of unabated bloodshed, horrific dynastic feuds, plundering, internecine conflicts and gruesome military engagements as they are of the Afghans­—a historic multi-ethnic nation whose largely unfortunate fate have overshadowed so many great things about it. Historically, a nation of marvelous conquests and unprecedented resilience has been the hot topic, frequently featuring despairing news, of 21st century regional and global politics due to its role, hosting the War on Terror and decades-long Afghan War. The nature of their distinctive traits and reasons of their unfortunate fate can be rightly associated with the description of artist and Lieutenant, James Rattray, 1790-1862, who served in the British Army and studied the Afghans comprehensively. He describes them as “naturally a restless and independent people, and according to one of their own proverbs, ready to bear hunger, thirst, cruelty and death, but never–a master.” However, on a careful historical analysis, one reach the conclusion that their frequent military entanglements and sacrifices have not prospered them a lot due to their ignorance of peripheral dynamics and long-term implications.

This essay attempts to highlight the engagement of Afghans in incessant domestic and foreign conflicts, underlining the reasons of bogging in inessential quagmires. Moreover, it explores how religious ideologies have been employed to manipulate their natural restlessness and religious enthusiasm for the pursuit of other gains.

In retrospect, India, a natural ally of the Afghans, has been home to individuals and families from around the globe. Apart from the Turk, French, Arab, Persian and Central Asian soldiers of fortune, India embraced the Afghan families and warriors, escaping poverty in their polities and embarked on a new destination to make a living for themselves, mostly through engaging in trade and selling their fighting services. The Afghan warriors, renowned for their bravery and ruthlessness, were sought after by many local chieftains and warlords who were keen to cement and expand their powerbase and rule. In modern Indian history, the Afghans have been credited as a formidable fighting force who went on to take control of Delhi, the Mughal capital, and ruled the city for around a decade at the expense of grave losses to this once marvelous city.

The first major military engagement of Afghans in India was when Shah Waliullah, a Muslim reformist, after being shrugged by other Muslim nobles and Mughal princes to help him implement his reformist agenda wrote a letter to the founder and ruler of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani, to invade and stop the growing influence of ‘infidels’—Jats, Marathas and Sikhs. Durrani fought a bloody battle with the Marathas at Panipat and broke down their power in India. The narrow-sightedness of both Shah Waliullah and Durrani significantly turned the tables in favor of British forces who saw the Marathas as a check to their expansion. It has been one of the greatest myths in Afghan historical discourse to believe that Durrani invaded India at the behest of a prominent Muslim scholar and at the intention of saving Islam from further threats. The former could be verified by the historical sources but the latter can’t be substantiated by the prevalent dominant discourse in Afghan history books because a neutral reading of multiple history sources suggest the fact that Durrani was more interested in the gold and jewels of India rather than the revival and predominance of Muslims in India.

In analysis of an another event from history, it is quite interesting to note how a prominent Indian Muslim leader, Tipu Sultan of Mysore, in a letter addresses and requests the Afghan ruler, Shah Zaman, to assist him in his political and military campaigns against the British and rival Marathas, despite the fact that the two polities did not have any established relations: the only commonality was their religion. Tipu seeing his downfall of military prowess deftly uses the expressions of ‘infidels’ and ‘holy war’ to lure him into accepting his requests of sending 20,000 Afghan cavalry in return of 3 crore rupees. The Afghan ruler responds by showing great ambition in the pursuit of engaging in ‘holy war’. However, the superiority of British diplomacy overcame the prospects of joint Tipu-Zaman venture into battlefield against the British. 

In contemporary politics of Cold War, Afghans and Afghanistan proved to be the perfect match to employ in eradicating the menace of communism once and for all. This CIA was in charge of the mission to train, sustain, fund and arm the Afghan guerillas settled in Pakistan. The objective was to trap and wound the Soviet bear which was dexterously completed at the expense of millions of Afghan casualties and complete destruction of Afghanistan. The CIA, knowing the social and religious sensitivities of Afghans, was keen to do whatever tactics they had to employ in order to activate the indigenous enthusiasm of Afghans for fighting to keep the flame of resistance hot and burning. The project of publishing religious textbooks, funded by USAID and assisted by ISI in circulation in refugee camps, glorified violence in the name of religion. Ironically, the books were published in University of Nebraska, Omaha which nurtured a generation of young refugee Afghans which glamorized violence and bloodshed. The guerillas who were romanticized as liberators of Afghanistan from the godless creatures were no less than Western or to be precise American mercenaries who vied for the sole purpose of making fortunes and consolidating power: their actions after the Soviet withdrawal proved it right. The Afghans in general, sacrificing whatever they had for the revival of sovereignty,  earned nothing consequential instead of misery, destruction, violence and dire poverty while the Mujahideen leaders went on to become the most powerful figures in Afghanistan who continues to dominate key political positions even today.

The conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has once again intensified. The Afghans having been occupied by their own pains might not know much about the conflict but there are some Afghans who have participated in the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 1990s. It is reported that nearly 5000 Afghan fighters, belonging to Hezb-i-Islami faction of Gulbaden Hekmatyar, were flown from Iran to Azerbaijan to fight alongside the Azeri soldiers. A local Afghan news have reported the leader of the faction, Hekmatyar, proudly taking credit to have sent his followers to defend the Muslim Azeris against the infidel Armenians. It is interesting to relate to one soldier who recalls his memories of the war by saying that when I went there I had only $250 but upon returning it had reached $1700.

On the Middle Eastern front, the Afghan Shia Hazara refugees in Iran have been reported to be actively fighting alongside the Iranian Shia militias in Iraq and Syria. They were flown on the pretense to carry out their Islamic duty of protecting the shrine of the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad in Damascus. The Afghan Fatemiyoun brigade has been used as cannon fodder in Iran’s geopolitical power games.

When it comes to the manipulation of Afghan human force and fighting capabilities, nowhere else can it be seen more evident than in Pakistan’s political games with the United States and India. The Pakistani military and intelligence agency, the ISI, have been at the forefront since the inception of War on Terror to wear the mighty American military to withdraw the region and take over the Afghan affairs vis-à-vis India. The Taliban have been surprisingly successful to resist the highly trained and technologically-advanced forces of United States, despite their significant losses throughout the years. The fighting capabilities of Taliban, who originally are Afghans, have surprised the international community by not giving up on their cause. The motivational force behind such steadfastness is none other than the miraculous powers of Islamic ideology, especially that of holy war. However, one cannot neglect the strategic and military support of a nuclear power at their disposal.

After analyzing some historical events, some relations can be found to unearth the reasons and the dominant inclinations of Afghans towards military adventures. It must be noted that successive Afghan rulers have been unable to consolidate their powers over the entire population. History approves James Rattray’s description of Afghans as Independent people who have been largely unrestrained in their individual decision-making. In addition, the Afghan society is ultraconservative which is sometimes easily carried away by injuring or manipulating their sentiments attached to the notions of religion and ideology. This trait has been mainly manipulated by various countries of the region who under the guise of religion pursues other political, economic and political ends. Moreover, Afghan rulers have not been successful in uniting every section of society under one roof in pursuit of a unified cause. Afghans with their instinctive military prowess can emerge as a challenging force in the future only if their potential is rightly accumulated and utilized. The Afghans have proved time and gain that to overcome any force you need not necessarily the numbers but the spirit and courage to fight till the end. These assets must not be wasted on fighting foreign wars. The Afghan intelligentsia and political elite must prioritize the need to stop the manipulation of Afghans as cannon fodder for the interests and agenda of other countries. Afghan potential must not be misplaced any further. If they fail to act in the right direction, a section of this great nation will be considered as a brutal mercenary force for the polities of the region which is not a desired recognition for any civilized nation.


Ghani: Helmand Battle will Cost Taliban Heavy

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

12 Oct 2020

President Ashraf Ghani told Helmand Governor Gen. Mohammad Yasin that the Taliban would make the fighting in Helmand difficult.

Yasin wrote on his Facebook page that President Ghani had spoken to him a few minutes ago about the situation in Helmand and assured him that he had ordered the security agencies to take Helmand seriously.

“The war in Helmand will be very difficult for the enemies of the country,” he posted.

This comes as fierce fighting broke out between Afghan security forces and the Taliban in the center and districts of Helmand province on Sunday morning, which is still ongoing and both sides are claiming inflicting heavy casualties on each other.


Violence ‘Increased’ Amid Peace Negotiations: Abdullah

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

13 Oct 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan – Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah Monday said historic steps have been taken for peace and the time has come to reduce violence, according to sources, urging negotiators to push through the deadlock that halted peace process for weeks.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Zamzam Foundation, a charity body created to support war victims, Abdullah said Afghans expect negotiators to reach a conclusion that will determine peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

“The talks are underway, the steps which are taken are preliminary and historic steps, but the Afghan people expect these talks to be accelerated and violence to be reduced, because in the view of current circumstances, violence has not only reduced, but it has increased compared to the past,” said Abdullah, according to report.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of Zamzam Foundation Neelofar Ibrahimi said the independent body will provide help to the victims and their families of war, as she called for a swift end to the bloodshed.

“We decided to lay the foundation of an organization that could help those affected by the dark shadows of the war,” said Neelofar Ibrahimi, chairperson of Zamzam Foundation.

The remarks came a time the contact groups of each, the Afghanistan and Taliban delegations, have come together Monday night to push thought the deadlock, but once again failed to unite thoughts on forming the ground rules for peace negotiations.

While the Afghan team believe an agreement on the procedural rules might be reached within the next few days, critique suggests an unpredicted timeline for the negotiations if the contact groups remain cold about the disputed points.


Rakhine: Covid aggravates apartheid towards Rohingya Muslims


Yangon (AsiaNews) - The Covid-19 pandemic in Myanmar, considered the new hot front in Southeast Asia together with Malaysia, has once again highlighted the conditions of serious fragility of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the western state of Rakhine.

For years targeted by the Buddhist majority, the local community is still subject to threats, forced to live in conditions of overcrowding, denied aid, subject to travel restrictions that end up increasing the risk of transmission of the virus. This is the complaint in a recently published report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), according to which the Rohingya are also subject to extortion, harassment and hate speech by the authorities.

Entitled "An open prison without end", the study highlights how since 1982 and with an acceleration in 2012 by the military leadership, the Muslim minority has been increasingly the target of attacks and violence. An escalation that, according to some experts, would have resulted in a real policy of "genocide" - an accusation rejected by the democratic leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi - or of forced flight abroad in precarious humanitarian conditions.

HRW experts report that Rohingya children are denied the right to education. About 70% of the 120,000 school-age children in refugee camps in Rakhine State have no access to education. The restrictions on movement imposed by the pandemic have exacerbated the problem and most can only attend makeshift lessons set up by makeshift masters.

The denied right to education becomes an instrument to prolong the policy of segregation and marginalization for the Muslim minority, denying them "a future of self-confidence and dignity". This situation, the report continues, "ends up fuelling a vicious circle in which the conditions and services available worsen".

Many say that life in the camps is comparable to "continuous house arrest", in which "the right to freedom of movement, dignity, access to employment and education, certainty of access to food, water, health services is denied." According to some complaints, a system of apartheid similar to that seen in the past in South Africa against the black population is being applied to the Muslim minority; there would also be laws and governmental provisions to prevent the Rohingya from participating in the nation's political, social and economic life.

This set of factors has contributed to increasing morbidity and mortality, including Covid-19, in refugee camps, where there were already situations of malnutrition, diseases transmitted by polluted water and a much higher infant mortality rate than in Rakhine Buddhists.

The government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Suu Kyi, has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not want to improve the conditions of the Rohingya, concludes the HRW report, dampening the enthusiasm that arose in the aftermath of the victory at the polls in 2015. "How can we hope for the future?" points out Ali Khan, who lives in a refugee camp in Kyauktaw. "The local authorities could help us if they wanted to improve the situation, but they only end up denying us all rights."





Pakistan PM’s top aide Asim Saleem Bajwa resigns following reports of corruption

12 October, 2020

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Lt Gen (retd.) Asim Saleem Bajwa resigned on Monday, amid allegations that he used his offices to help family set up several off-shore businesses.

“I requested the honourable prime minister to relinquish me from the additional portfolio of SAPM on Info & broadcasting. He very kindly approved my request,” Bajwa, the former Pakistan Army spokesman who also served as Commander of the Southern Command, tweeted.

However, he would continue working as chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, Dawn newspaper reported.

The development comes more than a month after Bajwa submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Khan following a report on a website that alleged that he had used his offices in setting up off-shore businesses of his wife, sons and brothers.

However, Khan rejected his resignation at the time and asked him to continue working as his special assistant.

The report alleged that Bajwa’s younger brothers opened their first Papa John’s pizza restaurant in 2002, the year he started working as a Lieutenant Colonel on the General Pervez Musharraf’s staff.

It claimed that his brother Nadeem Bajwa, 53, who started as a delivery driver for the pizza restaurant franchise, another three brothers, his wife Farrukh Zeba and three sons now own a business empire which set up 99 companies in four countries, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated USD 39.9 million.

Out of the total 99 firms, 66 are main companies, 33 are branch companies of some of the main companies while five firms are dead now.

The Bajwa family’s companies spent an estimated USD 52.2 million to develop their businesses and USD 14.5 million to purchase properties in the United States, according to the website report.

His wife was a shareholder in all the foreign businesses and also associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies including 82 foreign companies (71 in United States, seven in UAE and four in Canada).

The report said that some of these American companies (all jointly owned by Zeba) also have investments in the real estate sector and own 13 commercial properties in the US, including two shopping centres.

Interestingly, Bajwa after joining the Cabinet declared his assets in June this year which did not mention his wife’s foreign assets.

Following the publication of the report, Opposition parties had called for Bajwa to face the allegations against him.

A newly formed alliance of 11 opposition parties – the Pakistan Democratic Movement – passed a resolution in September, saying that claims made in the news report regarding Bajwa’s assets and family business should be probed. The forum said that he should be removed as the chairman of CPEC Authority until the investigation is completed.

On Monday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz vice-president Maryam Nawaz said that the resignation from SAPM’s position “means nothing”.

She demanded that Bajwa resign from his post of CPEC Authority’s chairperson and “surrender to law.


Safdar seeks pre-arrest bail over NAB asset inquiry

13 Oct 2020

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader retired Captain Mohammad Safdar on Monday moved the Peshawar High Court seeking pre-arrest bail over an ongoing inquiry of the National Accountability Bureau, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, against him for allegedly holding assets beyond means.

Mr Safdar, who is a son-in-law of former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, filed the bail petition with the court saying the NAB inquiry against him was based on mala fide intent as he had appeared before its combined investigation team on multiple occasions and produced all the information sought by investigation officers but even then, warrants for his arrest were issued by the NAB chairman.

He said he had appeared before the NAB investigation team on different occasions, while a call-up notice was issued to him on Sept 17, 2020, along with a questionnaire and he’d returned it with a detailed reply.

The petitioner said he visited the NAB regional headquarters in Peshawar on Oct 8 in compliance with the call-up notice and was given a notice regarding the issuance of warrants for his arrest.

Insists probe based on mala fide intent, meant to humiliate him

The petitioner, who is a former MNA, said he feared imminent arrest and humiliation by the NAB and therefore, he invoked the constitutional jurisdiction of the high court to secure the pre-arrest bail over the asset inquiry against him.

The petition was filed through a panel of lawyers comprising Abdul Lateef Afridi, Barrister Syed Mudasser Ameer, Manzoor Khan Khalil and Barrister Yaseen Raza Khan.

The NAB’s executive board had approved in 2018 the start of probe into a citizen’s complaint that Mr Safdar possessed assets disproportionate to the known sources of his income, a crime under the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

The petitioner contended that Section 24 of the NAO empowered the NAB chairman to allow the arrest of a person during inquiry or investigation but that power, which had been vested in him to ensure proper inquiry and investigation, had to be exercised within the parameters provided by the law.

He added that once all the records had been provided to the investigation team and the inquiry/investigation had been completed, there was no need for his arrest.

The PML-N leader said the power of arrest under Section 24 of the NAO was neither absolute nor unfettered and it had to be exercised fairly and judiciously within the parameters provided by the law.

He further said Article 9 of the Constitution declared that the ‘petitioner will not be deprived of his liberty save in accordance with the law’.

Mr Safdar said it was by now settled in light of the superior court judgments that in the absence of some solid and cogent evidence or complaint, the NAB had no authority to harass and torment citizens through vague call-up notices and unwarranted arrests.

He claimed that during the course of his political career, he had also filed the asset declarations with the Election Commission of Pakistan, with the one made in July 2018, before the general elections.

The PML-N leader said he belonged to a respectable family and had held very respectable positions in the service of the country and his arrest would result in his humiliation in the eyes of the people.


‘Gang of dacoits’ out to hide its corruption, says Imran

Syed Irfan Raza

13 Oct 2020

ISLAMABAD: Allowing the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to hold its rally in Gujranwala on Oct 16, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said people would judge for themselves how ‘strong’ the opposition was.

He directed the authorities concerned to allow the public gathering during the meeting of the special committee formed to deal with the opposition’s anti-government movement.

Talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, a participant of the meeting said: “The prime minister was of the view that the opposition be allowed to hold its public meeting as it (opposition) will expose itself by doing so.”

The meeting, however, insisted the organisers should ensure that standard operating procedures were observed as the country was experiencing resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The source said Prime Minister Khan termed the joint opposition “a gang of dacoits”, which was starting an anti-government campaign just to hide its corruption, adding that the public would see the opposition’s ‘show of power’ itself.

The opposition, on the other hand, has objected to the prime minister’s statement of allowing it to hold the gathering, saying it did not require the government’s permission for it.

The PDM was scheduled to hold its first public rally against the government in Quetta on Oct 11 but due to ‘security’ reasons, the plan was dropped. Later, the main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — decided to hold separate rallies on Oct 16 in Gujranwala and in Karachi on Oct 18, respectively, but this too did not work out, with the PDM finally deciding to hold a grand gathering in Gujranwala on Oct 16.

A few days ago, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, in a statement, had said the government should not allow the opposition to hold the rally, whereas Information Minister Shibli Faraz, after the federal cabinet’s meeting last Tuesday, declared that the government would permit the opposition to go ahead with its programme.

Meanwhile, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said, politically, the government did not fear the opposition’s movement against it, but as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19 chairman he was concerned about the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking at a TV show, Mr Umar said data showed that Covid-19 infections, which had declined a couple of months ago, were rising again.

He appealed to the opposition parties to avoid holding huge gatherings and follow SOPs like social distancing and wearing of masks during their protests, adding that “if the opposition wants to launch a movement against the government, it does not need to fill up grounds”.

The minister said 10 deaths each were reported on four different days this month throughout the country.

He said the opposition could not topple the government and would never resign from the assemblies.

On the other hand, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said Imran Khan did not have the power to obstruct PDM’s public meeting.

She said people had become frustrated from facing one crisis after another brought on them by who she called “looters” in the government.

The prime minister’s statement of allowing the opposition to hold its public gathering was a “desperate attempt” to mask his embarrassment, she added.

“This is just like how the government had earlier allowed airing of Nawaz Sharif’s speech and then asking Pemra to ban it,” Ms Aurangzeb said.

PM meets NCM delegation

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said there was a need for everyone to unite and defeat anti-state elements who were striving to spread disorder in society on the pretext of religion.

He was talking to a delegation of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), led by its chairman Chela Ram Kewlani, that called on him at the Prime Minister’s House.

The delegation comprised Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, Maulana Syed Mohammad Abdul Khabir Azad, Mufti Gulzar Ahmad Naeemi, Jiapal Chhabria, Vishnu Raja Qawi, Dr Sarah Safdar, Archbishop Sebastian Frances Shaw, Albert David, Dr Mampal Singh, Sarup Singh, Roshan Khurshid Bharucha, Dawood Shah, Islamic Ideology Council Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz and Parliamentary Secretary Shanila Rath.

Matters relating to further strengthening NCM’s role were discussed in the meeting.

The prime minister said the government was committed to protecting the constitutional and legal rights of citizens belonging to the minority community and would take all measures in this regard.

Covid-19 meeting

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday feared the country might face a second wave of the pandemic in winter and directed the Centre and provinces to devise an effective strategy to deal with it.

“Reports of the second wave of the virus coming from different countries are evident of the fact that chances of the spread of coronavirus increases in winter,” he said while presiding over a meeting on Covid-19.

The meeting was told that data from the last six months had shown that the virus was re-emerging due to which smart lockdown was imposed in Islamabad, Karachi and Azad Kashmir.

It suggested banning all public gatherings, except educational institutions and economic activities.

An official statement of a separate NCOC meeting said the number of active cases in the country as of Monday was 8,552 after 385 more people tested positive.

According to the latest update, 10 patients died on Sunday, including six in hospitals,

Around 26,951 tests were conducted throughout the country on Sunday - 8,497 in Sindh, 11,082 in Punjab, 3,141 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2,855 in Islamabad Capital Territory, 661 in Balochistan, 232 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 483 in Azad Kashmir.

So far 304,185 people have recovered from the virus, making it a significant count.


Maryam predicts govt ouster before January

13 Oct 2020

LAHORE: PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz says the government can’t win war against the masses as people are standing by Nawaz Sharif and soon they will get rid of this ‘incompetent and incapable prime minister’ following the protest drive.

She told a private TV channel that the Imran Khan’s government would be sent packing before January following Pakistan Democratic Movement’s protest campaign.

Meanwhile, she also demanded resignation of retired Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa from the CPEC chairmanship.

“Resignation from the post of the special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting is not enough. Mr Bajwa should also resign from the chairmanship of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC is a game changer for Pakistan and a person who is facing allegations should separate himself from it,” she told reporters in Model Town on Monday where she had come to meet party leaders and workers to review the Gujranwala rally on Oct 16.

In a statement, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the entire city of Gujranwala and people would come to attend the public meeting on Oct 16.

She said Imran Khan never had the power to obstruct the PDM rally.

Responding to Imran’s statement, Marriyum said these public meetings were a resolve of the people of Pakistan frustrated by the ‘theft’ of sugar, flour, medicine and fuel by the ‘looters’ in this government.

“These public meetings are an outrage against the robbing of their mandate and the desecration of the sanctity of their vote”, she said.

The former Information minister said these statements by Imran were a desperate effort to mask his embarrassment.

“The flood of Pakistanis is ready to break all barriers and to express their will, they don’t need Imran’s permission. The true leaders don’t need Imran’s advice or permission to arrive as all they need is the love of their people which they already have more than the selected prime minister can imagine”, Marriyum said.

BAIL: An anti-terrorism court on Monday extended the interim pre-arrest bail of PML-N MNA Rana Sanaullah Khan, retired Capt Muhammad Safdar and others in a case of allegedly attacking a police team outside the office of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) where PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz had gone to appear in an inquiry about land allotment.

Mr Khan along with his legal counsel appeared before the court, while an application for one-time exemption from personal appearance was filed on behalf of Mr Safdar.

Presiding Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta allowed the application of Safdar and extended the bail of the PML-N leaders till Oct 15.



Southeast Asia


Malaysia's Anwar says he gave king proof of over 120 MPs' support

October 13, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday said he presented the country's king with documents proving he has majority support in the lower house of parliament, as he strives to topple the current government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

A statement from the palace, however, suggested the evidence was not quite as airtight as Anwar made it out to be.

Anwar, speaking to reporters after an audience with King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, said the ruler would now take his time to personally confer with the party leaders who he claims are in his corner.

"One thing is clear -- that Muhyiddin's government has fallen and he must resign," said Anwar, flanked by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as well as Saifuddin Nasution, secretary-general of his People's Justice Party.

Anwar, 73, said he presented legitimate documentation showing that more than 120 lawmakers support him to form a new government. He would only need 112.

Anwar said the king assured him that he would go through the papers diligently before making a decision. Anwar declined to give a time frame for when that decision can be expected, but said party leaders would be receiving calls in the next two days.

Shortly after Anwar's news conference, the National Palace released a statement acknowledging the meeting but denying that Anwar had presented detailed proof of a lower house majority.

"Anwar Ibrahim presented the total number of lawmakers who he claims to support him," the palace said. "He, however, to strengthen his claim, did not furnish names and details of the members of parliament who he claims to support him."

The palace added that at the end of the 25-minute audience, the king advised Anwar to abide by and respect the legal processes as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

In his media briefing, Anwar vowed that if he can form a government, it would take an inclusive approach for the benefit of all Malaysians; would be committed to institutional reform; and would not compromise with any politicians currently facing numerous criminal charges in court.

"What I assured them [the charged politicians] was there will be no political vendetta and they will have to go through the due process with an independent judiciary," he said.

Anwar has been fighting to become prime minister for the past 22 years. Last month, he jolted the country with his claim that he commands a "formidable, strong and convincing" parliamentary majority, further destabilizing Muhyiddin's shaky government.

At the last official count, the Muhyiddin-led National Alliance had the support of 114 MPs, a razor-thin majority over the minimum 112 needed to form a federal government. Anwar controlled 91 MPs via the Hope Pact comprising his People's Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party and the National Honest Party, while former premier Mahathir Mohamad held sway over 15 MPs including independents and members of the Sabah Heritage Party.

Anwar was twice Mahathir's heir apparent during the latter's terms as prime minister.

But Anwar's leadership hopes first fizzled in 1998, when Mahathir sacked him as his deputy over allegations of corruption and sodomy, for which he was jailed from April 1999 to 2004. Muslim-majority Malaysia criminalizes homosexuality and offenders can be imprisoned for up to 20 years, as well as whipped.

Anwar was charged again in July 2008 for alleged sodomy involving a personal aide and was sentenced to five years. He and his supporters blame all his legal troubles on a political vendetta.

Mahathir and Anwar appeared to mend fences when they teamed up to defeat Najib Razak in the May 2018 election, ending the 61-year rule of the National Front. Anwar was soon released on a full pardon by the king, while Mahathir became prime minister for the second time.

Anwar was expected to eventually take over, but Mahathir resigned earlier this year following an internal coup by a Muhyiddin-led faction. Ties between Mahathir and Anwar have been uneasy since.

While Anwar has long been perceived as a leader-in-waiting, there are also questions about the breadth of his support in Malaysia, where many conservative Muslims consider him to be very liberal.


China asks Malaysia to safeguard detained sailors’ rights

12 October 2020

China’s foreign ministry said Monday the country had asked Malaysia to safeguard the rights of Chinese nationals it had detained for trespassing in its waters, and investigate the case according to the law.

Malaysia’s maritime authorities said on Saturday they had detained 60 Chinese nationals and six Chinese-registered fishing vessels.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily news briefing in Beijing that officials from China’s embassy in Malaysia have visited the sailors, and that the vessels were in Malaysian waters when they were detained.

Malaysia reported 89 intrusions by Chinese coastguard and navy ships between 2016 and 2019, amid escalating tensions between the United States and China over Beijing’s claims to most of the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also a major trade route.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has said the fishing vessels and crew were detained on Friday and that they were believed to have been en route to Mauritania but had to stop due to some malfunction.


Malaysia's Anwar summoned by police over complaints ahead of meeting with monarch

12 October 2020

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been summoned by police in regard to complaints by a number of lawmakers about his claim to have their support for the country's premiership.

This is as Anwar is preparing for an audience with Malaysia’s monarch on October 13 to present evidence of the legislators’ support for his bid to be prime minister.

Last week, Anwar confirmed the news of an audience with King Al-Sultan Abdullah. But in recent days, his claim that he has a “formidable” number of lawmakers putting their weight behind him to form a new government has reportedly been denied by some of the MPs.

In a statement on Monday, police said they had received unspecified complaints over a widely circulated list of 121 federal lawmakers who supposedly were backing Anwar's bid.

Police specified that one of the complaints was lodged by a member of parliament; however, they did not disclose the identities of other complainants.

"The police urge the public not to be concerned by the spread of the news, and advise all interested parties against spreading news that has yet to be verified," noted Criminal Investigations Department Director Huzir Mohamed.

Huzir noted that police had initially asked Anwar to give his statement on Monday morning, but due to scheduling conflicts, a new date was to be set.

In the meantime, Anwar asked members of his People's Justice Party not to hold any gatherings while he attended his audience with the king on Tuesday.

"I also call upon all Malaysians to keep calm as this audience session takes place, and to remain calm for any subsequent process that takes place thereafter," Anwar said.

The senior politician, who had been convicted of corruption and sodomy, spent nearly 10 years behind bars, before he was granted a royal pardon in 2018 and returned to politics.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had promised Anwar that he would support him to be his successor.

However, following Mahathir's sudden resignation early this year, the monarch surprisingly appointed former interior minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the new prime minister.





Iran’s Judiciary to Establish Special Court to Prosecute US Crimes

Oct 12, 2020

Iranian Deputy Judiciary Chief Ali Baqeri, who also heads the country High Council of Human Rights, made the proposal to set up a special branch to prosecute the US crimes resulting from sanctions against Iran judicially so that the supporters of embargoes will be forced to pay a heavy price.

Baqeri’s proposal was welcomed by Iran’s Judiciary Chief Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi and he ordered establishment of a special court to prosecute the US government for its crimes, saying that Tehran’s prosecutor office has already formed a special branch to investigate the US administration’s crimes.

Addressing the judiciary officials in Tehran on Monday in the presence of Rayeesi, Baqeri said that the US regime’s recent sanctions against the state and private banks in Iran is an obvious instance of crime against humanity and can be prosecuted at the national and local courts based on the international laws.

He said that the US policy of maximum pressure against Iran has now been displayed within the framework of “madness for crime”.

In relevant remarks earlier today, the Iranian foreign ministry blasted the US embargoes against the country’s banking system, and said the American officials' sanctions policy against Iran is driven by madness.

“These are really theatrical shows. We do not say that they are not effective. They have left serious damage,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday.

“All measures adopted by the US are driven by the fact that they have failed in any step they have taken and now they are suffering from a sanction madness,” he added.

Khatibzadeh described the new US sanctions as psychological warfare, and ensured the Iranian nation that the government will make the US make up for the harms inflicted on Iran.

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Thursday imposed sanctions on 18 Iranian banks and financial institutes in a move to bring the Iranian people to their knees.

The Trump administration decided to impose new sanctions on Iran's financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on the country.

In relevant remarks, Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Vienna-Based International Organization Kazzem Qaribabadi condemned the latest round of the US sanctions against Iran’s banking system, and said the US economic terrorism against the Iranian nation has no limit.

"The criminal moves of the US regime in threatening the lives of ordinary people through economic terrorism seem unending," Qaribabadi wrote in an Instagram post on Friday.

“On the one hand, they [the Americans] claim that the import of medicine and food is not subject to sanctions, but on the other hand, they completely block the channels for the payment of the import of these items," he went on to say.

“By now, this pervert American game should be revealed to everyone," Qaribabadi added.

The Iranian diplomat urged the European governments to take actual steps against US unilateralism and warmongering instead of merely expressing regret.


Israel court rejects call for immediate release of Palestinian prisoner

12 October 2020

Israel’s Supreme Court has refused to order the immediate release of Palestinian prisoner Maher al-Akhras, who has been on hunger strike for 78 days.

The Islamic Jihad’s Muhjat al-Quds Foundation for Prisoners said in a press statement on Monday that the Israeli Supreme Court had contented itself with issuing a recommendation to release Akhras on November 26th despite calls for his immediate emancipation due to his deteriorating health conditions.

Akhras rejected this recommendation and confirmed his determination to continue his hunger strike until his definite release and freedom.

The 49-year-old Palestinian prisoner faces extremely dangerous health conditions after entering the third month of his strike as he is unable to move and refuses to take supplements.

Akhras was detained on July 27, and was held under the administrative detention, with no charge. This has led him to start a hunger strike in an attempt to seek justice against the unfair detention.

Last week, the Commission of Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees said Akhras would only end his strike if he was released immediately.

Akhras’ wife also announced a hunger strike and sit-in outside the hospital in support of her husband, calling for his immediate release.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are under administrative detention, in which Israel keeps the detainees for up to six months, a period which can be extended an infinite number of times. Women and minors are among these detainees.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes in an attempt to express their outrage at the detention. Palestinians hold Israeli authorities fully responsible for any deterioration of the circumstances in jails.

More than 7,000 Palestinians are reportedly held in Israeli jails.

In May 2019, a study revealed that Israel had arrested some 16,500 Palestinian children since the outbreak of the Second Intifada (uprising) in late-2000.

In recent months and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, several Palestinian prisoners have been infected in an Israeli detention center amid mounting concerns about medical negligence by Israeli authorities.


Spokesman: UN Arms Embargos against Iran to Expire at Weekend to Inflict Historical Defeat on US

Oct 12, 2020

“The arms restrictions stated in resolution 2231 will expire at 3:30 morning of October 18 (Tehran time),” Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

He described it as a historical defeat for Washington, saying despite all its bullying, tricks and illegal measures, the US has failed to attain its goal to extend the UN arms embargoes against Iran to indicate that Washington has lost its power.

“The inadmissible arms restrictions which had been imposed will be removed and Iran will act within the framework of a responsible government in a defensive position and its international and regional responsibilities,” Khatibzadeh said.

Earlier this month, Khatibzadeh had said that his country would start arms deals with other countries once the UN embargoes expire on October 18.

“Iran will act based on its right and needs and will start its interactions on the same day that the arms restrictions end,” Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran.

He said that despite the difficulties posed by arms sanctions against Iran in the past 40 years, the country’s young experts and specialists have been able to produce different weapons and military equipment.

Asked about military trade between Iran and Russia, Khatibzadeh said, “Certainly, the defense ministry will act based on its needs.”

His comments came after Russian Ambassador to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan said that his country recognizes expiration of UN arms sanctions against Iran on October 18 and is ready to supply the country with its S-400 air defense system.

“We have said since the very first day that there will be no problem for selling weapons to Iran from October 19,” Dzhagaryan said in an interview with the Persian-language Resalat newspaper on Saturday.

He underlined that Russia does not fear the US threats and will remain committed to its undertakings, adding that Moscow is ready to study the Iranian side’s proposals on purchasing weapons from Russia after October 18.

“As you know we have provided Iran with S-300. Russia does not have any problem to deliver S-400 to Iran and it did not have any problem before either,” Dzhagaryan said.

After the removal of pre-nuclear-deal sanctions against Iran, Russia delivered S-300 air defense systems to the country under the existing contract.

Iran designed and developed its own version of the S-300 missile shield, named Bavar 373, after the Russians shrugged off delivery of their advanced missile defense system to Iran on the pretext of the UN Security Council sanctions.

The Iranian version has superior features over the original Russian model as it enjoys increased mobility, agility and reduced launch-preparation time.

Iranian commanders had earlier said that Bavar 373 is similar to its original Russian model and traces and intercepts high-altitude targets.


Haniyeh: History will show no mercy for Arab traitors to Palestine

13 October 2020

The head of the Hamas resistance movement’s political bureau has once again condemned the US-brokered deals that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain signed last month to normalize ties with Israel, warning that history will show “no mercy” towards the Arab states that betrayed fellow Palestinians.

In an interview with the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal published on Monday, Ismail Haniyeh said that the Arab countries that made peace with Israel will be losers as the occupying regime will eventually threaten them.

“The Zionist project is an expansionist project. Its objective is to create a greater Israel. We don’t want to see the Emiratis or the Bahrainis or the Sudanese being used as vehicles for this project. History will show no mercy, the people will not forget, and humanitarian law will not forgive,” he said.

In mid-September, US President Donald Trump presided over the signing of the normalization pacts between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Manama. During a ceremony at the White House, Trump said “five or six” other countries were close to making similar agreements with Israel, but did not name them.

Reports say Sudan and Oman could be next in line to normalize with Israel.

“We know Israeli leaders better than them. We know how they think. We would like to tell our brothers in the United Arab Emirates that they will lose as a result of those agreements because Israel’s only interest is to seek a military and economic foothold in areas close to Iran,” Haniyeh said.

“They will use your country as a doorstep. We don’t want to see the UAE being used as an Israeli launchpad,” he added.

Breakthrough in Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Hamas leader reported a breakthrough in reconciliation talks aimed at forming a national unity government with Ramallah-based Palestinian faction Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We witnessed positive changes on the ground. I do not want to sound over-optimistic and pre-empt events but there are positive things. The challenges are enormous and we are still at the beginning of the road,” he said.

Haniyeh also referred to recent closed-door sessions between Hamas and Fatah, saying, “What we hear from them in closed meetings is that they stress the importance of Hamas taking part, because Hamas has a right to be involved in the day-to-day running of the government.”

Hamas and Fatah are considering running a joint list in Palestinian elections set to take place next year for the first time since the 2006 vote that left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, he added.

Oslo Accords ‘failure from day one’

Meanwhile, Haniyeh stressed that Hamas had been vindicated by the collapse of the 1990s Oslo peace process between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel.

“From the day it was announced, Oslo bore the seeds of its own destruction… Oslo was a failure from day one because it was a security agreement, not a political one,” he said.

Oslo died when both its signatories, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, were killed, he noted.

“Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) himself, who engineered Oslo, has announced abandoning Oslo and therefore, yes, we feel vindicated,” Haniyeh said. “We could have saved time had the PA [the Palestinian Authority] recognized early this disaster. Had it been overturned early on, we would have saved our people from the miseries they endured. But better late than never.”

‘Nothing left for Abbas to bet on’

Additionally, the Hamas leader enumerated the factors that had forced Abbas to rethink his approach towards the resistance group and deliver a “positive response to the initiative by Hamas.”

“Firstly, nothing is left for Abu Mazen (Abbas) to bet on. Secondly, Abu Mazen feels personally insulted by the Americans and the Israelis. Thirdly, there was a decision by the Arab League to bypass the PLO and make peace with Israel," he said.

Last month, the Arab League refused to approve a draft resolution put forth by the Palestinian Authority that would condemn the UAE-Israel normalization deal.

“In other words, the Palestinian Authority was no longer necessary as a bridge for the Israelis to make peace with the Arabs, while at the same time the PA felt abandoned by its Arab brothers, both politically and financially,” he underlined.

Hamas ready for any Israeli war

Moreover, Haniyeh said Hamas was prepared in case of a fresh Israeli attack on Gaza, warning that any future war would be costly for the Tel Aviv regime.

“In six years [since the last major conflict in 2014], Hamas’s capabilities are a lot better and we have surprises for the enemy. So waging war is not an easy decision for Israel. It is going to be costly,” he pointed out.

Touching on the seizure of Palestinian territory by Israeli settlers, Haniyeh said, “The land belonged to us long before them.”

“We are talking about a land engraved in our history, we are talking about Jerusalem (al-Quds), which was the first Qibla [direction in prayers] for Muslims and was the place to which the Prophet Muhammad was taken on a nightly journey [when Muslims believe he ascended to heaven]; we are talking about the Palestinians who belonged to the land long before the Zionists arrived from Europe,” Haniyeh said.

He also expressed the Palestinians’ resolve to liberate their homeland from the Israeli occupation.

“We will never give up our homeland or concede any part of it. We will spare no effort to liberate it, and what we cannot liberate we will leave for future generations to liberate,” he explained.

“Even with Oslo, Israel showed it was not … in pursuit of peace. The nature of the Zionist movement is to promote itself through force. It does not respect human rights or the norms of international law. Might is right for them,” he added.

US policy won’t change

Furthermore, Haniyeh described US President Donald Trump as the worst leader in the American history, adding, however, that Hamas was not holding its breath for a Joe Biden victory in the November election.

“US foreign policy does not change with the change of the President. It's deeply entrenched in the US deep state. US foreign policy is an institutional, not an individual matter,” he said.

IRGC forces kill 3 terrorists in western Iran along Iraqi Kurdistan border

Monday, 12 October 2020

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forces have killed three terrorists during two “complicated” operations in the western province of Kordestan, which borders Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

A statement by the IRGC’s Hamzeh Seyed al-Shohada Base said on Monday that three terrorists were also injured in those operations, which were carried out last week, in the cities of Kamyaran and Marivan.

It added that the IRGC forces also arrested one terrorist of foreign nationality.

According to the statement, large quantities of weapons, ammunition, and communication equipment were also seized from terrorists.

The IRGC Ground Force said in September that it had carried out a series of large-scale multi-pronged military operations against positions of terror groups along the country’s northwestern borders.

Drones, artillery fire and smart missiles were used in the operations, which killed and wounded a large number of key counter-revolutionary elements active in the area.

IRGC forces regularly engage in clashes with terrorists attempting to infiltrate the borders and carry out acts of sabotage across the country.

Over the past years, the country’s Kordestan Province has seen numerous cross-border incursions by Iraq-based terrorists.

A statement by the Hamzeh Seyed al-Shohada Base said several “counter-revolutionary’ terrorists were killed during clashes in Divandarreh County in May, without providing a specified number.


Erdogan tells European Union that progress needed on improving Turkey-EU ties

12 October 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told European Council President Charles Michel on Monday that progress was needed on improving ties between Ankara and the bloc, the Turkish presidency said, amid renewed tensions between Turkey and Greece over the eastern Mediterranean.

In a statement, the presidency said Erdogan told Michel in a phone call that Turkey expected "concrete steps" from the EU on holding a regional conference with eastern Mediterranean states, and that Greece was "continuing steps to escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean despite Turkey's well-intentioned approach".

The phone call comes after a Turkish ship set sail to carry out seismic exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting Greece to issue a furious new demand for EU sanctions on Ankara in a row over offshore exploration rights.

The European Union's executive said last week that Turkey's government was undermining its economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts, leaving Ankara's bid to join the EU further away than ever.

Blaming "excessively" centralized presidential power for deteriorating conditions in freedom of speech, prisons and the central bank, the European Commission said the government was also exposing Turkey to "rapid changes in investors' sentiment".

"The EU's serious concerns on continued negative developments in the rule of law, fundamental rights and the judiciary have not been credibly addressed by Turkey," the Commission said in its annual report on the country.

"Turkey's (EU) accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill," it said.

A NATO ally, Turkey has been negotiating its EU membership since 2005 after economic and political reforms that made it an important emerging market economy and trade partner.

Although never easy because of disputed Turkish claims over Cyprus, talks rapidly unraveled after a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016 and President Tayyip Erdogan's ensuing crackdown on perceived opponents.

"In Turkey, the serious backsliding observed since the 2016 coup attempt continued," the Commission said.

There was no immediate comment from Turkey. Ankara has said in the past that EU criticism is unfair and disproportionate.

Turkey has since faced several years of harsh Commission reports, and the EU executive once again intensified its criticism, citing monetary policy, public administration and widespread corruption as failures of the Turkish government.

While the EU, Turkey's biggest foreign investor, relies on the country to house some 4 million Syrians fleeing civil war rather than let them proceed to Europe, Brussels also reiterated its threat to impose economic sanctions on Ankara over an energy dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean.


One fifth of Yemen’s population suffering from mental health disorders: UNFPA

12 October 2020

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Yemen says twenty percent of the population in the war-ravaged Arab country suffers from mental health disorders, amid the ongoing Saudi-led military onslaught and tight blockade.

The fund, in a statement released on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, said that the number is based on a study carried out by the Family Counseling and Development Foundation back in 2017, noting that the figure is likely to have soared due to the coronavirus pandemic and incessant Saudi-led airstrikes.

The statement added that the proportion of psychiatrists per population is insufficient, while some of the few existing mental health services have shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UNFPA then called for “greater investment” in mental health, noting it is “most timely and opportune for Yemen as humanitarian actors tackle the reduction of funding and challenges imposed by COVID-19 that are hampering the scaling up of quality and specialized services for mental health.”

Last December, Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights warned that the ongoing Saudi-led military onslaught against the impoverished and conflict-ridden Arab country had taken a heavy toll on Yemeni children's mental wellbeing, saying tens of thousands of minors suffer from persistent trauma and psychological disorders there.

The ministry announced in a report at the time that years of continuous conflict in Yemen have left a devastating impact on the mental health of children, and that 80,000 kids suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related issues.

The report added that 9,835 civilians, including 800 children, have been paralyzed as a result of direct targeting of their houses and places of residents by Saudi-led military aircraft.

The Yemeni ministry further highlighted that while 24 million and one hundred thousand people are in dire need of assistance, including food, healthcare, water, accommodation and education, more than 70 thousand civilians, who are suffering from conditions that cannot be treated inside Yemen, cannot receive required medication as the Saudi-led coalition does not allow the opening of a humanitarian air bridge from Sana'a International Airport.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives for over the past five years.

The Houthi Ansarullah movement, backed by armed forces, has been defending Yemen against the Saudi-led alliance, preventing the aggressors from fulfilling the objectives of their deadly campaign.





Israel approves plan for immigration of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews

12 October 2020

Israel’s government on Monday approved immigration plans for 2,000 Ethiopians whose desire to move to Israel has stirred controversy and faced extended delays.

The group are members of the Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity – many under duress – in the 18th and 19th centuries.

They are not recognized as Jews by Israel’s Orthodox rabbinical authorities, but claim the right to immigrate under family reunification rules.

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The government approved about 9,000 claimants in 2015 but then rescinded the decision the following year, citing budgetary constraints.

Some groups in Israel, including members of the Ethiopian community, have opposed immigration of the Falash Mura, citing doubts over their claim to be Jewish.

Netanyahu told his cabinet on Monday that it was time to bring “2,000 of our people, our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia.”

“We will also act to bring all of the rest,” he said.

Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian Jewish woman elected to Israel’s parliament, praised the government’s “unanimous vote to bring 2,000 people to Israel who are waiting in Ethiopia to be united with their families.”

The bulk of Ethiopia’s Jewish community was brought to the country between 1984 and 1991 under the Law of Return, which guarantees Israeli citizenship to all Jews.

The Ethiopian-Israeli community has since grown to 140,000-strong, including 50,000 born in Israel.

Many say they faced racial discrimination, notably abuse by Israel’s police.


Jordan’s King Abdullah swears in new government led by Khasawneh to speed reforms

12 October 2020

Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday swore in a new government led by veteran diplomat Bisher al-Khaswaneh that will seek to accelerate IMF-backed reforms as the economy faces its sharpest contraction in decades due to the coronavirus crisis.

British-educated al-Khasawneh, 51, was appointed on Wednesday to replace Omar al-Razzaz, at a time of rising popular discontent about worsening economic conditions and curbs on public freedoms under emergency laws to contain the pandemic.

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The new premier, who comes from a family that has long held senior political posts, has spent most of his public career as a veteran diplomat and peace negotiator with Israel with a last stint as palace adviser.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Finance Minister Mohamad al-Ississ, who oversees the country’s reform program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), kept their posts in a 32-member cabinet dominated by a mix of technocrats and conservative politicians who held sway in previous governments.

The new government faces an uphill task to revive growth in an economy that is expected to shrink by around 6 percent this year as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in many years, with unemployment and poverty aggravated by the pandemic.

Khasawneh will oversee parliamentary elections due on November 10. The contest will take place under an electoral law that marginalizes the main Islamist opposition and independent political parties to maintain a majority of pro-government deputies.


At least 11 migrants die as boat sinks off Tunisia’s Sfax

12 October 2020

At least 11 migrants from Africa died when their boat sank off Tunisia on Sunday, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a Tunisian security official said.

Tunisia’s coast guard recovered the bodies of eight women and three children off the coast near Sfax late on Sunday, he said.

About 30 people had set out on the boat, aiming to reach Italy, officials said.

The coast guard is searching for the other missing people.

Last year, about 90 African migrants drowned after their boat capsized en route to Europe from Libya, one of the worst such accidents in Tunisian waters.


At least five killed, 16 injured in Algeria gas blast

10 October 2020

A gas explosion on Saturday killed five people and injured 16 others in the western Algerian city of El Bayadh, the civil defense said, adding that two houses were destroyed.

Rescuers sifted through the rubble of the two houses levelled by the blast to search for other possible casualties, it said, adding that six other homes were damaged.

Local media, citing an official from the electricity and gas authority, said the explosion occurred when a pipeline delivering gas to the area was damaged during construction work.

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The explosion caused a fire, according to footage broadcast on television stations.

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune sent the ministers of health, energy and transportation to travel to El Bayadh, and ordered an investigation into the blast, the APS news agency reported.



North America


US launches airstrikes on Taliban in Afghanistan's Helmand despite ‘peace’ deal

13 October 2020

The United States military has launched airstrikes against Taliban positions in southern Afghanistan following a major offensive by the militant group in the area and despite a “peace” deal between the two sides.

“Over the past two days, US Forces-Afghanistan has conducted several targeted strikes in Helmand to defend the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) under attack by Taliban fighters, consistent with the US-Taliban agreement,” said the spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), Col. Sonny Leggett, on Monday, referring to a southern Afghan province.

He added that the US military would continue to “provide support” to defend Afghan forces under attack by the Taliban.

The commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, demanded an immediate halt to the Taliban offensive.

“The Taliban need to immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country. It is not consistent with the US-Taliban agreement and undermines the ongoing Afghan peace talks,” Miller said.

The US struck the deal with the Taliban in February, after almost two decades of fighting the militants in Afghanistan. The deal provides for the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the militants, and a pledge that they hold talks with the Kabul government to find a peaceful settlement to their own war.

Fighting has, however, continued despite several rounds of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government in the Qatari capital of Doha over the past month.

Commenting on the clashes in Helmand, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in a Twitter post on Monday that the areas captured by the group during their new offensive had been snatched from them a few months earlier. “No new changes have occurred,” he claimed.

The latest fighting came just two days after at least five people were killed in a Taliban roadside bomb attack in the Gereshk district of Helmand.

According to local reports, clashes were still continuing on the outskirts of the provincial capital city of Lashkargah, forcing the displacement of hundreds of families.

‘Taliban not after enduring peace’

Reports also said that Afghan security forces had retreated from their positions in the face of the Taliban offensive. Helmand Police Chief Khalil-Ur-Rahman Jawad confirmed the reports, saying, “It was a tactical retreat, but the Taliban has suffered casualties.”

Jawad said Afghan fighter jets had conducted airstrikes against Taliban positions, killing 170 militants in the past 24 hours. He said security would be restored soon.

Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said during a Monday press conference in Kabul that reinforcements were being deployed to Helmand to suppress the Taliban attack.

“Increase in attacks reveal that the Taliban unfortunately is not accepting the demand of the people of Afghanistan, which is an enduring peace,” he said.



Trump administration pushes the US war on Iran into high gear

13 October 2020

By Kevin Barrett

The Trump administration is pushing the US war on Iran into high gear with these new ramped-up sanctions that are more extreme than just about any sanctions anyone has ever applied anywhere.

These sanctions are now stopping basic medical equipment from getting into Iran such as the Mepilex dressings from Sweden that are used to treat wounds, serious wounds. Apparently, Trump and his Zionist backers want Iranians to be wounded and not to heal. They want to inflict horrific pain on ordinary Iranian people.

Why would they do that? Well, the Zionists obviously have a sadistic personality disorder. They've perpetrated by far the worst Holocaust ever in modern history by not only destroying Palestine but also dragging the US into wars that have killed well over 10 million people. It's 27 million, according to Dr. Gideon Polya who's a Jewish scientist operating out of Australia.

So this worldwide holocaust that was launched by the Israeli-designed 9/11 false flag operation consisting of the murder of 3,000 Americans to trick the United States into using its military to destroy the Middle East on behalf of Israel.

And again this is a holocaust far beyond anything Hitler even dreamed of. And it's being perpetrated by Zionists. And yet, we're not allowed to say that here in the United States, where all of the media essentially is dominated as Philip Weiss, the former New York Times journalist another Jewish fellow who tells the truth like Gideon Polya points out, is under the control of Jewish Americans who have a soft spot in their hearts for Israel, and skew all the news towards the Israeli perspective.

So Trump is acting under Israeli orders. He's acting under Netanyahu's orders. He's trying maybe to get back in the good graces of Netanyahu's biggest backer, the Kosher Nostra kingpin Sheldon Adelson and get money for his reelection efforts.

So the US is really an Israeli occupied territory. It’s waging a worldwide holocaust, and these criminal sanctions on Iran are the latest and perhaps in some ways most extreme example.

I suppose Iranians can take heart in the fact that Trump is not only killing Iranians by stopping basic medical care there and worsening the crisis caused by the COVID pandemic among other things, but he's done the same thing here in the United States and elsewhere.

The United States right now is on the brink of a new Civil War thanks to both the crazy policies of Trump and the Zionist Kosher Nostra that put him in office, and also the so-called opposition to Trump which is also Zionist - the liberal Zionist opposition, consisting of the billionaires who own the Democratic Party, who have been funding rioting and arsons all over the country, among other things, working on a divide and conquer strategy.

And so the US is going down too. Americans are going to be suffering. And I suppose many people will say it's their karma, or it's the retribution of God for what they've done. And I only pray to God that He will have mercy on not just the criminals here; frankly—I'm not so interested in that— but on all of the 300 million-plus Americans who've gone along with the worst holocaust ever in human history, and who are just going about their lives paying no attention as the US now forces Iranians with wounds to go without bandages and stops other medical equipment from getting into Iran.

Ordinary Americans are responsible for this. It's not just the Zionists who now occupy the United States. It's the ordinary Americans who allowed them to take over the United States and turn it into Israeli occupied territory. They are guilty too.

Dr. Kevin Barrett is an American author, journalist and radio host with a Ph.D. in Islamic and Arabic Studies. He has been studying the events of 9/11 since late 2003.


British-born Isis suspects plead not guilty over deaths of US hostages

9 Oct 2020

Two British-born men accused of belonging to a notorious Islamic State kidnapping cell have pleaded not guilty in a US court to charges of conspiring to murder four American hostages.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Kotey, 36, were flown to the US from Iraq on Wednesday to face trial for involvement in the murders of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and relief workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.

Appearing from prison by videolink, they both pleaded not guilty during a hearing in US district court in Alexandria, Virginia, and waived their right to a speedy trial.

Judge TS Ellis described the case as “complex and unusual” and set the next hearing for 15 January.

“Time is required in order to achieve the ends of justice in this case,” Ellis said.

Besides the deaths of the four Americans, Elsheikh and Kotey are also suspected of involvement in the killings of two Britons, Alan Henning and David Haines, and several other hostages including two Japanese nationals.

The two former British nationals had been in the custody of US forces in Iraq since October 2019 after being captured in January 2018 by Syrian Kurdish forces.

Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member Isis cell was dubbed the “Beatles” by their captives due to their British accents.

They allegedly tortured and killed their victims, including by beheading, and Isis released videos of the murders for propaganda purposes.


America needs to stop Iranian-controlled militias in our hemisphere



Iranian-controlled Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) are coming to the Western Hemisphere. According to Radio Farda, Iranian military commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, the former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is helping Venezuela to form PMUs and transferring Iran’s experience to Venezuela to stand “against America.” In 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s  Mary Anastasia O’Grady reported that the “West underestimates the growing threat from radical Islam (Iran) in the Americas,” through an Iran-Cuba-Venezuela nexus, with the help of regional allies Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador.

PMUs are multinational Islamist militias under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which have helped Iran project its power and influence beyond its borders and to dominate Iraq. They have helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah, the model Iranian militia, have had decades-long involvement in finding the soft underbelly of the United States’s South American neighbors through narco-terrorism and support of anti-U.S. regimes.

According to Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, “Hezbollah continues to have our hemisphere squarely in its sights today.” For decades, Iran and Hezbollah have used Latin America to transit drugs and support their terrorist activities. These activities have contributed to the U.S. opioid epidemic but have been off the radar of most Americans, who think Iran and its proxies’ nefarious activities are confined to the Middle East.

Iran has nurtured and supported like-minded revolutionary regimes, including Venezuela, and has a long history of terrorist activity in South America going back to its bombing of the Israeli embassy and Jewish center in Argentina in the early 1990s. A nuclear Iran will feel even more emboldened to act in Central and South America, which is another reason for the United States not to allow Iran to develop an industrial-size nuclear weapons program.

If Iran is now trying to create real militias in South America, as it has in the Middle East, this would be another escalation in its war against America — this time in our own backyard. Iran has used Hezbollah, especially since 9/11, to recruit and train terror cells in South America, but militias are different and, over time, would add to their terrorist armamentarium. Iran also has used nations such as Venezuela to help it bypass American sanctions, receiving gold shipments in exchange for Iranian gasoline shipments, such as arrived in Caracas in late September.

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, testified before Congress in 2016 on sanctions and illicit finance. He has warned: “Drug trafficking, trade-based money laundering, and terror financing in Latin America have merged as a single threat to the national security of the United States. … Hezbollah plays a central role in this new landscape. … Tehran leverages connections with anti-American regimes and movements to gain a foothold in the region, and to indoctrinate local Muslims in its brand of revolutionary Islam.” In Venezuela alone, there are about 200,000 Lebanese Shiite expatriates, fertile ground for Iranian recruitment. 

PMUs in the Middle East target American soldiers in Iraq; support the Syrian government’s genocide of its civilians; attack American allies such as the Iraqi Kurds; prevent the Iraqi government from trying to remove the tentacles of Iranian dominance; and now may be on their way to set up bases in our hemisphere. The idea of PMUs in our backyard should be of great concern to U.S. national security experts.

Last year, the Organization of American States’ (OAS) secretary general, Luis Almagro, said that “Iran and Hezbollah have a solid base of operations in South America in alliance with the narco-dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. … If we fail to reign in Iran and Hezbollah in Venezuela, it will represent a victory for terrorism, transnational organized crime, and anti-Semitism.” 

Iran is a revolutionary Islamist regime that will not stop trying to probe any area of weakness to undermine American national security interests. Although we have no appetite for overseas adventures, economic sanctions may not be enough over time to stop Iran — especially if the next U.S. administration follows former Secretary of State John Kerry, who declared the death of the Monroe doctrine in 2013. The United States does need the resolve to develop and enforce a modern-day Monroe doctrine, and must not allow a foreign enemy nation such as Iran to radicalize the Western Hemisphere and flood the Americas with terrorism.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides on the geo-politics of the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter @MepinOrg.



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